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April 30, 2009

Reckless Endangerment By ABC News

Via the Mark Levin Show, I hear that three ABC reporters, Brian Ross, Matthew Cole, and Joseph have published a piece called "The CIA's $1,000 a Day Specialists on Waterboarding, Interrogations The New Focus on Two Retired Military Psychologists Called the 'Architects' of the CIA's Techniques"

As with Levin, I will not link to the piece. If you like you can google for it yourself. Suffice it to say that it is a hit piece. They not only publish the names of the retired military psychologists but their photos as well.

The words of Mark Steyn come to mind:

"Well, I think when we listen to terrorists talking about the new caliphate, and there are a bunch of guys sitting in the cave, we think they're nuts. When a guy is sitting in the cave listening to Bill Keller explain proudly why he betrayed America's national security interests, that guy in the cave would rightly conclude that we're the ones that are nuts. And it's hard to disagree with him."

Replace Bill Keller with the guys from ABC and Steyn has it exactly right.

The left has never understood the truism of what George Orwell meant when he said that:

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. "

What we have is more reckless endangerment of honest Americans who struggled with how to exact information from some of the world's most dangerous terrorists and gave their best assessment of how to do it. Now every nutjob jihadist will be gunning for them, not to mention the American left who will no doubt seek to make their lives miserable, if they haven't already.

Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard has the scoop on one of the ABC reporters, Matthew Cole, as well as some other on-target comments:

ABC runs a report showing the names and faces of two CIA contractors who may have had a role in the waterboarding of KSM and Abu Zubaydah. The network apparently outsourced this report to a freelancer named Matthew Cole, whose record in Nexis includes just three bylines -- two stories for Salon (one of which about "how Bush administration aid to Pakistan helps fund insurgents who kill U.S. troops"), and one for the San Jose Mercury News just two days after 9/11 reporting "anxiety about a backlash" among Muslims, who assure the reporter that the attack "has nothing to do with Islam."

In other words, Cole is a left-wing partisan with questionable reporting chops. This is obvious from the quality of the story tonight. Cole repeats the now throughly debunked claim that Zubaydah and KSM were waterboarded 83 and 183 times respectively. He posts video of the two refusing to answer questions in what is staged as a faux perp walk with no discernible news value other than to portray them as criminals. And, most amazingly, Cole indicts the two men for not having any experience prior to their work for the CIA -- as though being "previously involved in the U.S. military program to train pilots how to survive behind enemy lines and resist brutal tactics" isn't relevant.

ABC's conduct here, exposing two men who will now become obvious targets for terrorists and left-wing extremists, is deplorable. Will the Obama administration investigate who leaked their identities? Or is it now open-season on Americans who were only doing what their government asked of them in order to protect their country from attack?

It is open season, Michael, and it's only going to get worse. Obama has opened a Pandora's box that he'll find difficult if not impossible to close. He and his fellow liberals are recklessly endangering our national security. By doing so, he is sowing the seeds of his own destruction. America finally woke up to Jimmy Carter, and we'll do the same with Obama and his ilk.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Lila Rose Takes On Planned Parenthood of Tennessee

Part 1 of 3: Full Footage of Planned Parenthood Tennessee Investigation

At the end of the video you'll see where to click to view parts 2 and 3.

Following the video, Live Action has released this response letter to Tennessee lawmakers:

Dear Tennessee Legislator:

My name is Lila Rose and I am the young woman who went undercover in to the Memphis Planned Parenthood and created the YouTube video of the sexual abuse cover up I found at the clinic.

You can read about more about this here.

I am very pleased to hear that the Tennessee legislature has moved to reduce taxpayer subsidies to Planned Parenthood. However, I would like to respond to a number of points raised in an email by Barry Chase, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Greater Memphis Region, disputing the relevance of the results of my organization's undercover investigation. It is my hope that both the footage of Planned Parenthood covering up the sexual abuse of young girls and the organization's subsequent denial and indifference will assist you and inform you as you work on behalf of the residents of your state.

To begin with, let me clarify two issues:

First, while Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis claims they have "asked, unsuccessfully" for "unedited" copies of our footage, we have never received a request for the raw footage by Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis. They have been making this false assertion since the start of our media release.

Second, last Monday, we sent the full undercover footage to the Shelby County District Attorney's office. They will determine whether laws were broken and confirm the veracity of our recording. You can view the unedited footage, the original video, and press documentation on our website, LiveAction.org.

In his email, Mr. Chase tries to pass blame by claiming that the employee in the video, who identifies herself as "Marie," was not properly trained. The question at hand, however, concerns not whether some or any employees at Planned Parenthood are properly trained, but whether they are practicing, in private counseling sessions, the same policies that they profess to the public.

In our undercover video, "Marie" demonstrates a clear knowledge of the legal boundaries to abortion. The video shows that she is familiar with the process for obtaining a waiver from a judge to the parental consent requirement for abortion (which Mr. Chase incorrectly calls a parental notification law). Marie then deliberately uses her familiarity with the system to forestall the judge from finding out about the statutory rapist. The Planned Parenthood counselor has created a perfect storm for ensuring that the statutory rapist is never found out: the parents will never find out about the pregnancy, the judge will never find out about the statutory rapist, and Planned Parenthood will never again mention either.

It is all the more troubling to think that even a supposed novice counselor at Planned Parenthood would know to recommend this law-evasion strategy. How prevalent must law-evasion be at Planned Parenthood clinics when even the "interpreters" are implicated? We have taped employees, mostly counselors, from six clinics covering up the sexual abuse of children in exactly the same manner. Previous studies have found over 90% of Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide willing to do so as well. This is an ingrained pattern in the operations of Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.

With this in mind, consider the response of citizens without special training or prerogative upon learning about statutory rape situations. Responsible citizens automatically know to tell proper authorities about even their slightest suspicions of sexual abuse of young girls, because the crime is too deplorable to overlook. However, when Planned Parenthood employees have a professed victim reveal abuse explicitly, they not only fail to report it, but proactively take measures to hide it. The problem, it follows, is not from an absence of training, but the presence of a more fundamental perversion, a blind tolerance of statutory rape in the service of a careless abortion-first mentality.


Lila Rose
President, Live Action

Go, Lila Go. You are one of the bravest women there is.

Let's hope that Tennessee lawmakers and prosecutors do the right thing and at the very least investigate Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood gets some $272 million per year from the federal government. Certainly there should be a congressional investigation into this organization. Preferably all payments to them should be ended immediately.



I read of 4 objections to what Rose does

1) Her undercover work is illegal in itself as you cannot tape someone without their knowledge
2) These incidents are aberrations at Planned Parenthood, and you'll get a few bad apples in any large organization, and
3) Her real motive is to ban abortion, so all this is just a smokescreen

Alan Colmes makes all three of these charges in an Hannity and Colmes show.

Let's go through each of the objections.

I don't know enough about the law to say whether or not was Rose was doing was legal or not. Her tape may not in fact be admissible in court. But as a guest in the segment says, it is admissible in the court of public opinion. Further, Alan's charge that Rose is engaged in entrapment seems patently silly. This and other tapes make it clear that the PP employees do not care about her age.

On the second charge, according to Wikipedia, Planned Parenthood has some 880 clinics nationwide. The aberration defense is plausible, but we're not talking about a sales clerk misquoting the store refund policy. At the very least you'd think there should be a congressional inquiry.

Third, of course the ultimate goal of Lila Rose and all pro-life organizations is to overturn Roe v Wade and make at least most abortion illegal. That hardly justifies what PP is doing now.

Here's the analogy; suppose members of an anti-gun group went undercover into gun stores, posing as minors who wanted to purchase firearms. And suppose the dealer helped them falsify the background check. If this happened I would want the dealer prosecuted, and I'm a staunch member of the NRA.

Go, Lila, Go!


Lila Rose Rocks Planned Parenthood's World Again
Lila Rose - Exposing Planned Parenthood and the Culture of Abortion

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April 29, 2009

Arlen Specter Leaves the GOP

Here is is a portion of Sentator Specter's statement:

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans....

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

Translation: "I'm behind in the polls and just want to stay in office"

An April 24 Rasmussen poll has him down by a whopping 21 points to former Rep Pat Toomey. 51% of Pennsylvania Republican voters said they would support Toomey, with just 30% supporting Specter.

Assuming Al Franken wins in Minnesota, which is virtually certain, this will give Democrats their 60 seat filibuster proof majority

The joke making the rounds is "I read that Specter was switching parties, but I was disappointed to learn he's still a Democrat."

The editors of National Review have it about right

Arlen Specter belongs to a type familiar to Congress: the time-serving hack devoid of any principle save arrogance. He has spent three decades in the Senate but is associated with no great cause, no prescient warning, no landmark legislation. Yet he imagines that the Senate needs his wisdom and judgment for a sixth term. He joined the Republican party out of expediency in the 1960s, and leaves it out of expediency this week.

I don't buy idea that the GOP has moved to the right, or "too far" to the right The reason we've lost elections recently is 1) Iraq, and 2) We didn't hold true to our own principles. It's the Democrats who have moved steadily to the left. President Obama makes Bill Clinton look positively Reaganesque.

So It's not that Republicans need to become more or less conservative. What they need to do is adhere to their principles, whatever they are. The one thing the public will not tolerate is saying one thing and doing another. Authenticity is valued more than anything.

Specter is mostly without principles. A politician with principles would have run in his parties primary anyway, and then if he lost either retired or do what Joe Lieberman did and simply become an independent.

Further, Specter's contention that the GOP abandoned him does not stand up.

When Toomey lost to Specter in the GOP primary in 2004 he endorsed Specter

In 2004 President Bush and other Republicans campaigned for Specter.

Barely two weeks ago National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn released a letter endorsing Specter in his primary race against Toomey.

Despite this, Specter is so unpopular in the GOP that he figures he has a better chance in the Democrat primary. He will already have one declared opponent, businessman Joe Torsella, and Rep. Joe Sestak may run as well. It would be ironic, not to mention sweet justice, if he lost this one as well. If he does, though, I'm sure he'll file to run as an independent.

Senator Olympia Snowe wrote in The New York Times today that "it was when we began to emphasize social issues to the detriment of some of our basic tenets as a party that we encountered an electoral backlash," but that's nonsense. The GOP hasn't made social issues the centerpiece of it's message since 2002 or 2004 at the latest. They were mostly ignored in the last campaign. When it was brought up, it was by the media or liberals who wanted to bash Sarah Palin. To be sure, there are conservative groups that hit Obama on his pro-abortion record, but those were independent groups, not Republican candidates themselves.

Snowe also writes that

It is for this reason that we should heed the words of President Ronald Reagan, who urged, "We should emphasize the things that unite us and make these the only 'litmus test' of what constitutes a Republican: our belief in restraining government spending, pro-growth policies, tax reduction, sound national defense, and maximum individual liberty." He continued, "As to the other issues that draw on the deep springs of morality and emotion, let us decide that we can disagree among ourselves as Republicans and tolerate the disagreement.

But she's no fiscal conservative, having voted for President Obama's massive stimulus bill.

On the other side, Republican Senator Jim DeMint is wrong too when he said

I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don't have a set of beliefs.

Sorry, but I'd rather have 60 Republicans of just about any stripe, as long as maybe 30 of them were true conservatives. If you have a majority you control the agenda because you control the committees.

Big Tent Or No?

In the end I'm pretty much a big-tent conservative. So I won't fall to temptation and say "good riddance" to Senator Specter. I'd just as soon he had stayed. That said, I'm not at all sad to see him go, and I would have rooted for Pat Toomey to beat him in the primary. As it is, I think Toomey stands an excellent chance to win this November in the general.

You should not want your party to be purist because if you do you'll never get a majority. That said, there are limits to what can be tolerated. In 1988 William F. Buckley Jr. famously organized "BucPac" to defeat liberal Republican Senator Lowell Weicker (it worked and Joe Leiberman won that year). There have been other liberal Republicans I've been happy to see leave too.

Democrats who are welcoming Specter into their fold ought to be cautious, for he'll turn on you just as well when it suits his purposes.

Larger, I've followed and more recently participated in politics for over 30 years. I've seen numerous turns and twists. I've seen a lot of party switches. Each time a party wins big they proclaim that theirs is a permanent majority and the other party will soon wither away. Of course it never happens. Within a few short years the other party reorganizes and starts winning again. So while I'm certainly not happy with the current political landscape, neither am I demoralized. After all, we've got an election to win in Virginia this year, and it's time to get on with it.

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April 26, 2009

"Obama Administration's Assault on the American Warrior Commences"

This post by Steve Schippert at NRO's The Tank is so good and I agree with him so completely I'm just going to quote the whole thing. I don't think he'll mind.

The assault is relentless. It is enraging. And today, the Obama administration's assault on those who dare to defend America from terrorist thugs who rejoice in publicizing beheadings, mass murder, and pure evil are on notice: "You will be punished. We're coming after you."

The target audience now includes the American Warrior. The Obama administration has abdicated the Warrior's defense, refusing to appeal the 2nd Circuit's decision that more photos should be released from investigations of the detention of enemy fighters from the battlefield. The Obama administration has sided with the ACLU and abandoned our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. This cannot stand.

Brace yourselves for the Obama administration's full on assault on the American psyche, while we in the Warrior Class gear up, strap up, and engage in our defense and our nation's defense by taking the fight right back to its source.

Earlier this week, it was the Bush administration's legal advisers, who had the audacity to write opinions on the legal limits of "enhanced interrogation techniques." They dared to include as legal for use against terrorists procedures that are part of our own Special Forces' training. Then yesterday the Obama administration could not resist its instinctive temptation to renege on its original pledge that it would not go after CIA and military interrogators who, as the administration put it, were simply following orders and guidelines determined from above.

Today, the very legacy of the American Warrior is directly under assault as part of that same process.

The Obama administration agreed late Thursday to release dozens of photographs depicting alleged abuse by U.S. personnel during the Bush administration of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 44 pictures will be released by May 28, making public for the first time images of what the military investigated at facilities other than the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Defense Department officials would not say exactly what is contained in the photos but said they are concerned the release could incite a Mideast backlash.

A Mideast backlash? The Obama administration -- and those at the Pentagon not standing up in vociferous defense of its warriors -- had better buckle up for an American backlash. Pay attention here.

The photos, taken from Air Force and Army criminal investigations, apparently are not as shocking as the photographs from the Abu Ghraib investigation that became a lasting symbol of U.S. mistakes in Iraq. But some show military personnel intimidating or threatening detainees by pointing weapons at them. Military officers have been court-martialed for threatening detainees at gunpoint.

The photos are not egregious. Not even rising to the level of panties on heads. But no matter. The assault is on. And your president -- your Commander in Chief -- supports it.

The release of these images serves no practical purpose, except perhaps for "enhanced prosecution techniques" against our own. Understand clearly that the purpose of the release -- and the Obama administration's decision to do so willingly if not energetically -- is to denigrate the American Warrior and to further the assault on the American psyche.

Those we were detaining (rather than summarily executing in the field, mind you) were being locked away at a time when beheadings were commonplace, men were being killed by slowly lowering them into 55-gallon drums of acid, and teens refusing to join al-Qaeda in Iraq were being crucified -- literally crucified -- in the public square and given just enough water to keep them alive and their public suffering great enough to serve as AQ's example to the rest. The children of resistant families were baked in ovens, folks.

And our boys are the evil ones? Not on your bleeping life. Not on my watch. Not on our watch.

From the indispensable Jake Tapper of ABC News, consider this context.

The photographs are part of a 2003 Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU for all information relating to the treatment of detainees -- the same battle that led, last week, to President Obama's decision to release memos from the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel providing legal justifications for harsh interrogation methods that human rights groups call torture.

Courts had ruled against the Bush administration's attempts to keep the photographs from public view. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh tells ABC News that "the fact that the Obama administration opted not to seek further review is a sign that it is committed to more transparency."

No. It is a sign that the Obama administration holds no perceived loyalty to the American Warrior and is, in fact, putting them under assault in a display of loyalty instead to the ACLU. Is your mind calculating this?

Where is our Secretary of Defense?

The Department of Defense announced in a letter addressed to the federal court on Thursday that it would release the photos.

In a copy of the letter posted on the ACLU's Web site, acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin said that 21 photographs would be released and that the government "also is processing for release a substantial number of other images."

Mr. Gates, if you cannot muster the principle and courage to stand against this, then our support for you as the remaining adult on the newly formed children's playground may well have been misplaced. You have instantly become indistinguishable from the rest.

This has me so angry I'm practically spitting out my own teeth. I've had enough. Apologizing to Europe and the Muslim world for America, the warm reception of Chavez, blaming America for Mexican drug cartels' murderous rampages, and the threat of prosecuting Bush administration officials because of their legal opinions on what does and does not constitute torture.

And now, the American warrior class is openly and clearly in the crosshairs in a media campaign to denigrate them and cast dishonor upon them and, once again, America.

The aim of the release is to assault America in the court of public opinion, using the wholly owned media PR subsidiary as the armored assault vehicle. And the administration, through its acquiescence, is at minimum enabling this, choosing consciously to end the public defense of the American warrior class and its very legacy. Perhaps the administration is acting with willful disregard for them by taking direction from the ACLU/Soros/Moveon.org hard Left in a form of electoral quid pro quo. At worst, the administration is directly aligned with them and acting in concert rather than taking direction from them.

Either way, the principled defense of the warrior is over, by choice of the Obama administration in directing the Pentagon to end the defense short of SCOTUS. It is an outright abdication.

I say no. Not now, not ever. The Left got away with an all-out assault on the American veteran and military service during Vietnam. It will not happen again. And most certainly not from the military's own Commander in Chief. Not without a bold, determined, and passionate challenge the likes of which have never been seen.

For the exodus of good men and women from a military under assault from its own administration is likely to begin as service commitments come to an end. Retention just took a hit, as officers and NCO's alike begin to understand that they have been left in the wind. Recruiting just got more difficult.

The next logical step for this anti-military administration is to submit the American Warrior to the jurisdiction of a kangaroo International Criminal Court. Don't think the American Warrior isn't watching and thinking. International law, rather than American sovereignty, is all the rage these days in the White House after all.

The Warrior will begin to question precisely what it is that he risks all to defend. And when faced with the fact that he may remain undefended in doing so, his risk expands and the once-booming clarion call to service reduces to distant whispers.

And that will be . . . the end.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The release of the CIA memos

I'm not going to have time to do a proper post on this, but there's no need to when so many others are saying what I think almost exactly. As we all know President Obama has ordered the release of some memos detailing our interrogation of terrorists.

Former Director of the CIA Porter Goss (September 2004 to May 2006) in The Washington Post (h/t The Western Experience)

Since leaving my post as CIA director almost three years ago, I have remained largely silent on the public stage. I am speaking out now because I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets. Americans have to decide now.

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned. It must be hard for most Americans of common sense to imagine how a member of Congress can forget being told about the interrogations of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. In that case, though, perhaps it is not amnesia but political expedience.

Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

-- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

-- We understood what the CIA was doing.

-- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

-- We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

-- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately -- to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser -- and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted.

Another former Director of the CIA, General Michael Hayden (2006 to 2009), along with former Attorney General Michael Mukasky (2007 to 2009), in the Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them....

Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny....

...public disclosure of the OLC opinions, and thus of the techniques themselves, assures that terrorists are now aware of the absolute limit of what the U.S. government could do to extract information from them, and can supplement their training accordingly and thus diminish the effectiveness of these techniques as they have the ones in the Army Field Manual.

Moreover, disclosure of the details of the program pre-empts the study of the president's task force and assures that the suspension imposed by the president's executive order is effectively permanent. There would be little point in the president authorizing measures whose nature and precise limits have already been disclosed in detail to those whose resolve we hope to overcome....

Disclosure of the techniques is likely to be met by faux outrage, and is perfectly packaged for media consumption. It will also incur the utter contempt of our enemies....

Which brings us to the next of the justifications for disclosing and thus abandoning these measures: that they don't work anyway, and that those who are subjected to them will simply make up information in order to end their ordeal. This ignorant view of how interrogations are conducted is belied by both experience and common sense....

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself....

Indeed, as Steve Shippert explains, all this is part of Obama's assault on the American warrior.

Wesley Pruden, former Editor in Chief of The Washington Times

We're on unfamiliar ground now. No president before has sought to punish his predecessor for policy decisions, no matter how wrong or wrong-headed. Lyndon B. Johnson's management of the Vietnam War was often ham-handed, as anyone who was there could tell you, and his policy makers sometimes verged on criminal incompetence. But Richard Nixon was never tempted to send LBJ or any of those presidential acolytes to prison. Abraham Lincoln, by his lights, would have had ample opportunity to hang Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, but even the rabid Republicans who survived the assassination stopped short of putting Davis in the dock, finally releasing him from imprisonment at Fort Monroe when judgment overcame lust for revenge. Lee was never touched.

Over the past few days, it seems that Obama has realized that he's opened a can of worms that threatens to get out of control. As Andrew McCarthy explains at National Review, it is unlikely he'll be able to close this Pandora's box.

...as George W. Bush might have warned his successor, anti-American ideologues are emboldened, not mollified, by concessions. The Left doesn't want Bush officials exposed -- they want blood, and anything less than that will be cause for revolt. Simultaneously, Obama has raised the ire of the Right. In his solipsism, the president failed to foresee that the "torture" memos -- memos that, as Rich Lowry shows, in fact document an assiduous effort to avoid torture -- would not support his overblown rhetoric or substantiate the allegations of misconduct raised by politicized leaks from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Critics were not cowed. That, combined with Obama's disingenuous strategy of exposing our tactics while suppressing the trove of intelligence they produced, ensured that the Right would push back aggressively.

So now the president has chaos on his hands and no one but himself to blame for it. From the Left's perspective, he has validated their war-crimes allegations. You can't expect to do that and then just say, "never mind." Senator Leahy was already agitating for an accounting before Obama's high-wire act, as was the ACLU. Obama opened the door to prosecutions only 48 hours after his chief of staff assured a national television audience that there would be no prosecutions; having proved it can push around the weak-willed president, the Left is not going away.

Neither are Obama's political opponents on the right. Many of us spent years frustrated by the Bush administration's failure to defend its national-security policies effectively. President Bush's determination to do what he thought necessary to protect America, regardless of media carping and the consequent sag in his popularity, was his most endearing trait. But his unshakable conviction that the rightness of his actions would be borne out by history, and that he therefore didn't need to justify himself, was foolish. Yes, history will be detached, and perhaps more accurate, decades hence, but it starts being written right now. Bush ceded to the Left the narrative-writing for the War on Terror, which is why the public remains in the dark about the intelligence haul from the CIA's interrogation program for high-level detainees, as well as from the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, whom antiwar activists have effectively portrayed as hapless shepherds mistakenly plucked from the fields of Afghanistan and shamefully consigned to a "legal black hole."

We'll end with Bill Kristol, who writes in The Weekly Standard that Obama and his fellow Democrats are "throwing those who guard us while we sleep to the wolves."

"We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history," President Obama said when he ordered the release of the Justice Department interrogation memos. Actually, no. Not at all. We were attacked on 9/11. We responded to that attack with remarkable restraint in the use of force, respect for civil liberties, and even solicitude for those who might inadvertently be offended, let alone harmed, by our policies. We've fought a war on jihadist terror in a civilized, even legalized, way. Those who have been on the front and rear lines of that war--in the military and the intelligence agencies, at the Justice Department and, yes, in the White House--have much to be proud of. The rest of us, who've been asked to do little, should be grateful.

The dark and painful chapter we have to fear is rather the one President Obama may be ushering in. This would be a chapter in which politicians preen moralistically as they throw patriotic officials, who helped keep this country safe, to the wolves, and in which national leaders posture politically while endangering the nation's security.

The preening is ridiculous, even by the standards of contemporary American politics and American liberalism. Obama fatuously asserts there are no real choices in the real world, just "false choices" that he can magically resolve. He foolishly suggests that even in war we would never have to do anything disagreeable for the sake of our security. He talks baby talk to intelligence officers: "Don't be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we've made some mistakes. That's how we learn."

Yup. I do believe that Obama is taking us down a long dark path from which it will be difficult, or even impossible, to recover from. Never this century has an American president done so much damage so fast to his own country.

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April 25, 2009

The Democrat "Truth Commissions"

Yesterday I lambasted President Obama for deciding to allow prosecution of Bush Administration officials who approved harsh interrogation techniques. I also quoted from several news stories that showed that congressional Democrats knew full well years ago what was happening, but for political reasons are choosing to lie about it now.

Today I've got a few additional thoughts on the matter.

If this actually goes forward, Obama will have gone too far, and all in less than 100 days. His 'stimulus' program will set us on the road to long-term economic ruin. Using the economic crisis as an excuse to effectively take over businesses sets us on the road to socialism. Cutting spending for the Navy and Air Force is dangerous. His serial apologies, insults to our country really, while overseas are disgraceful. That he refuses to even use the term "war on terror" is a scandal in and of itself. But these truth commissions, inquiries, whatever you want to call them, put us on the road to becoming a banana republic.

These prosecutions are nothing more than politically motivated witch hunts. Obama is throwing a bone to the kook left. It's not really even about guilt or innocence in any meaningful sense. It's about the criminalization of policy differences.

This is about intimidating any future advisers into only issuing the most bland, politically correct opinions. Anyone who seriously considers anything in an opinion other than the liberal party line risks prosecution. It's an attempt to shut down discussion on certain matters, sort of like what happened recently to Carrie Prejean and the Miss USA pagent.

This is what goes on in a banana republic; the guy who seizes power, or wins an election immediately sets about bringing the losers to trial.

I think the Democrats are also doing this because they think it's politically popular. Kind of like when they supported the invasion of Iraq when that was popular, and then opposed the war when the opinion polls turned south.

As a candidate, and until last week, Obama said that he was against these prosecutions. Apparently he has caved to political pressure. So much for his being a strong leader able to introduce a new type of politics. Whatever happened to "looking to the future?" This seems like concentrating on the past to me. The editors of the Wall Street Journal:

One major concern here is what Mr. Obama's decision to release these memos says about his own political leadership. He claims that one of his goals as President is to restore more comity to our politics, especially concerning national security. He also knows he needs a CIA willing to take risks to keep the country safe. Yet Mr. Obama seems more than willing to indulge the revenge fantasies of the left, as long as its potential victims served a different President. And while he is willing to release classified documents about interrogation techniques, Mr. Obama refuses to release documents that more fully discuss their results.

Apparently civility will have to wait.

All of this also shows the pernicious influence of groups like Movon.org. If they don't want to like Bush Administration policies, fine. What's going on here though is a policy dispute dressed up as criminal acts. This is similar to calls by environmentalists for prosecution of anyone involved in contributing to "global warming," or anti-gun groups or cities suing gun manufactures because their products allegedly violate consumer safety laws.

This makes what Obama and the Democrats are doing just the opposite of what happened to President Clinton. Whether you think his perjury rose to the level of an impeachable offense or not (and it is debatable), it was not a simple policy dispute and it wasn't the popular thing for the Republicans to do (the media at the time warning darkly that they would pay in the next election).


If you want to get down to it, it's no different than what any other president has done in times of war. They all do things that are later said to be 'going too far'

President Lincoln suspended habeus corpus three times during the Civil War. Here's one

Lincoln suspended habeas corpus in the confederate border state of Maryland (also a slave state) due to the fear that Maryland might secede from the Union. If secession occurred, it would result in Washington DC being completely surrounded by Confederate states.

His action was challenged in the U.S. Circuit Court in Maryland and overturned, but Lincoln ignored the court's ruling. In 1866 (5 years later), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to suspend habeas corpus since the President did not have that power.

Well that sounds pretty serious. Shall we demolish the Lincoln Memorial?

Now revered by almost all Americans, at the time Lincoln was lambasted by critics for what the liberals today call "shredding the Constitution. "

During World War I, Woodrow Wilson's Postmaster General was given the authority to refuse to deliver any publication he deemed seditious, and there was no appeal to his decision. At least seventy-five periodicals were effectively banned when the post office refused to deliver them.

FDR is worshiped by liberals and yet he "interned" some 110,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.

My message here again is that during time of national emergency American leaders all do what seems right at the time. We have never prosecuted any of them. We must not start now.

So these "truth commissions," investigatations, or whatever the Democrats want to call them represent childishness and naivete on an unparalleled level. The only people who will be impressed are the ones who don't really matter; the Europeans, who have refused to help us in Afghanistan and are in the process of surrendering their nations to Islam.

Our enemies, on the other hand, are laughing at us.

They also know that Obama has done nothing, and I mean nothing, to actually fight terrorism, let alone jihadism. This despite that for the past several years the mantra from the left was "Bush has done nothing to make us safer" or "We aren't any safer now than on Sept 10."

Perhaps it's time for Mark Steyn to update the pronouns in what he said a few years ago:

I think when we listen to terrorists talking about the new caliphate, and there are a bunch of guys sitting in the cave, we think they're nuts. When a guy is sitting in the cave listening to (editor of The New York Times) Bill Keller explain proudly why he betrayed America's national security interests, that guy in the cave would rightly conclude that we're the ones that are nuts.

They must think we're nuts right about now.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 24, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Changing his position, President Obama has now decided to open the door to prosecution of Bush Administration officials who approved harsh interrogation techniques. From the New York Times on Wednesday:

President Obama left the door open Tuesday to creating a bipartisan commission that would investigate the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects, and did not rule out action by the Justice Department against those who fashioned the legal rationale for those techniques.

Obama is caving to pressure from his fellow Democrats. On March 4 Marc A. Thiessen reported this on National Review:

In an interview last week with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that she "absolutely" supports the criminal investigation and potential prosecution of Bush officials, stating: "We have to have the facts. . . . We are unhappy about certain things; we anecdotally know about certain things....

The investigative train leaves the station this morning, as Sen. Whitehouse and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy hold the first hearing on Leahy's proposal for a "Truth Commission" to investigate the Bush administration. Leahy presents his commission as a "middle ground" between those "who resist any effort to investigate the misdeeds of the recent past" and those "who say that, regardless of the cost in time, resources, and unity, we must prosecute Bush administration officials to lay down a marker."

I hear they've selected their chief prosecutor, er, "investigator:"

Andrey Januaryevich Vyshinskiy

Andrey Januaryevich Vyshinskiy (Russian: Андре́й Януа́рьевич Выши́нский, Andrej Januar'evič Vyšinskij) (December 10 [O.S. November 28] 1883, Odessa, Imperial Russia -November 22, 1954, New York), was a Russian and Soviet jurist and diplomat. He is mostly known as a state prosecutor of Stalin's show trials. He served as the Soviet Foreign Minister from 1949 to 1953. Vyshinsky was of Polish and Russian descent and spoke some English and excellent French...

In 1935 he became Prosecutor General of the USSR, the legal mastermind of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge. He is widely cited for the principle that "confession of the accused is the queen of evidence". His monograph that justifies this postulate, Theory of Judicial Proofs in Soviet Justice, was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1947. He was the prosecutor at the Moscow Trials of the Great Purge, lashing its defenseless victims with vituperative, sometimes cruelly witty rhetoric.

Democrats are full of moral righteousness these days, imagining themselves to be as pure as the wind driven snow.

They're not. They're in on this too. A Dec 9, 2007 story in the Washington Post is most revealing

In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange....

Yet long before "waterboarding" entered the public discourse, the CIA gave key legislative overseers about 30 private briefings, some of which included descriptions of that technique and other harsh interrogation methods, according to interviews with multiple U.S. officials with firsthand knowledge.

With one known exception, no formal objections were raised by the lawmakers briefed about the harsh methods during the two years in which waterboarding was employed, from 2002 to 2003, said Democrats and Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter. The lawmakers who held oversight roles during the period included Pelosi and Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Sens. Bob Graham (D-Fla.) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), as well as Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan).

Well well. They knew all along.

A story this past Thursday in The Washington Times reports much the same thing:

The CIA briefed top Democrats and Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees more than 30 times about enhanced interrogation techniques, according to intelligence sources who said the lawmakers tacitly approved the techniques that some Democrats in Congress now say should land Bush administration officials in jail.

Between 2002 and 2006, the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees "each got complete, benchmark briefings on the program," said one of the intelligence sources who is familiar with the briefings.

"If Congress wanted to kill this program, all it had to do was withhold funding," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the closed-door briefings.

Those who were briefed included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia and Rep. Jane Harman of California, all Democrats, and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, all Republicans.

The Democratic and Republican staff directors for both committees also were briefed, according to the intelligence source and to a declassified memo released Wednesday that detailed some of the Senate committee briefings.

Speaker Pelosi is in full backtrack mode. In a press conference on Thusday she said

"It is not appropriate for me to talk about what happens at briefings. It is very interesting that people are talking so freely. But I can say this: they have been talking about it for a while. At that or any other briefing, and that was the only briefing that I was briefed on in that regard, we were not -- I repeat, we were not -- told that water boarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.

"What they did tell us is that they had some legislative counsel -- the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would. And they further -- further, the point was that if and when they would be used, they would brief Congress at that time, A.

This is hotly disputed by Republicans. As reported today in the Times

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, currently the ranking Republican on the House intelligence panel, described her comments as the "lamest of lame excuses," saying she could have gone to then-Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt to discuss her concerns.


House Minority Leader John A. Boehner on Thursday chided Democrats for seeking an investigation of the Bush administration's treatment of captured terror suspects, noting a long list of lawmakers from both parties were briefed about the use of harsh interrogation methods years ago.

"Not a word was raised at the time," said Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, adding that he has seen a partial list of Democrats and Republicans briefed on CIA interrogation techniques as far back as 2002.

"There is nothing here that should surprise them," he said.

Very simply, I think Pelosi is lying through her teeth.

It is all very fine for her to say these things to reporters at a press briefing. If she allows her party to push forward with this, our attorneys will supoena her, get a deposition, and under oath she'll have to tell the truth. She'll be confronted with the records, statements of the CIA officers who briefed them, and the Republicans who were also present.

These Democrats were in on this from the beginning. Now they are trying to pretend that they didn't know.

They are playing to the polls. Their policy is whatever the latest poll or focus group shows. After 9-11 the polls said to be tough, so they were tough. Like everyone else, they were scared of another attack, and pulled out all the stops to prevent it. But not that the memory of that awful day has faded, they look at the polls and they show a public that doesn't like George W Bush, ignoring that it's for reasons other than actions taken fighting the GWOT. So they get ontheir moral high horse and sanctimoniously cry "torture!"

It's all like the Iraq war; they were for it when it was popular, and turned against it when the war went south and support sank in the polls.

They allowed kook groups like Movon.org to exert undue inlfuence over their party, and we are seeing the result; the criminalization of foreign policy differences. This is what banana republics do; the winner puts his defeated opponents in jail.

And the vast right-wing conspiracy, which is waiting for all this to unfold, will be out in full force. We've got the finest legal minds in the country lined up around the block to defend anyone they dare put through their show trials.

Stay tuned. More to come.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 21, 2009

Carrie Prejean: True Character

Here is the exchange that started it all

Perez Hilton: "Vermont recently became the 4th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?"

Carrie Prejean: "Well, I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that's how I was raised and that's how I think it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you very much."

Myself, I can't see what all the fuss is about. Her answer was polite and non-confrontational. She did not denigrate or insult anyone. All she did was state her belief, and can hardly be accused of "forcing her morals" on anyone.

But of course it did raise a fuss.

Demonstrating that he us utterly without class, Hilton called Perjean a "dumb bitch" in an interview following the incident. Here's the video blog he made where he says it, if you can stand to watch

What a guy.

But if this was just one loser asking a question then making a video about it we could let it go and I wouldn't be posting this. But it goes farther. A lot farther. Fox News reports this

In an exclusive interview with Pop Tarts on Monday night, Miss USA contestant Brooke Werner said that she was shocked by Miss California's controversial response on Sunday evening.

"Everyone has the right to their own actions," Werner said. "But I totally disagree with Carrie. I have a very different perspective on gay marriage and I would never have said what she said."

The remaining 45 pageant princesses watched the competition from backstage and after Prejean's anti gay marriage answer, apparently the room fell pretty silent.

"A lot of people were shocked," the Vermont beauty queen said. "We were all kind of giving each other those eyes, we couldn't believe it."

And even though Prejean herself as no regrets about her answer, Werner said the pressure of the moment probably made her speak before thinking things thru thoroughly.

"Under the stress, you can't answer at a level you normally would, it is a lot of pressure," she added. "But I thought it was a great question, its a very hot topic right now and was totally appropriate."

"Shocked?" Have we gotten to the point where even politely stating that you personally believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman is "shocking?"

And the condescending statement from Werner that Ms Prejean was under stress so didn't answer as she normally would is pretty revealing about the hollywood mindset.

But it gets better

Keith Lewis, who runs the Miss California competition, tells FOXNews.com that he was "saddened" by Prejean's statement.

"As co-director of the Miss California USA, I am personally saddened and hurt that Miss California believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman," said Lewis in a statement. "I believe all religions should be able to ordain what unions they see fit. I do not believe our government should be able to discriminate against anyone and religious beliefs have no politics in the Miss California family."

Apparently we have gotten to the point where for the liberal Hollywood types at least, no dissent on this issue is allowed.

As for Ms Prejean, she's sticking to her guns

In an exclusive interview with FOXNews.com's Courtney Friel, Miss California says her phone has been ringing off the hook with people offering her support after she took on a question about gay marriage on Sunday night's Miss USA telecast.

"I have no regrets about answering [judge Perez Hilton] honestly," she said in one of her first interviews following the show, where she answered that she was against gay marriage becoming legal in California. "He asked me for my opinion and I gave it to him. I have nothing against gay people and I didn't mean to offend anyone in my answer."

In her interview, Prejean talks about being "tested" by God, the outpouring of support, and the first thing she and her family did after the show. (Hint, it involves ketchup and mustard.)

FOXNews.com: How are you feeling today?

Carrie Prejean: Honestly, happy. This happened for a reason. By having to answer that question in front of a national audience, God was testing my character and faith. I'm glad I stayed true to myself.

Read the whole thing.

I say God bless Carrie Prejean. Let me explain why

This is about resisting the forces of political correctness that seek to enact their policies by eliminating debate. It is about standing up for decency, for your beliefs in a society where the mockers get the headlines.

What's going on here is a full fledged frontal attack on traditional values. What they're trying to do is make certain subjects undiscussable. We saw the attacks on the Mormon Church in the wake of the defeat of Proposition 8 in California. We are not at all there yet, but we are moving in the direction of the soft-totalitarian state taking shape across the pond.

Some years ago I saw an editorial in one of our local newspapers, congratulating a young man for "standing up" to then-Senator George Allen over the issue of gay rights (or marriage, I forget). The editorial lauded the person for his "courage" in the matter.

At the time I thought, "courage?" About the least courageous thing you can do in America today is speak out for gay rights or marriage in a public forum. You're guaranteed favorable press coverage, and will be extolled by almost all of the talking heads on TV. Speak out against the gay agenda, however, and watch out. You'll be denounced as a bigot, homophobe, on and on.

Carrie Prejean has courage. Real courage. The type of courage we need a lot more of.

I harbor no animosity towards gays themselves. No I do not believe you are automatically going to hell if you are gay (it's not for me to decide anyway. Only God gets to make that judgment). I'm all for tolerance as properly defined; no legal penalties, government discrimination, or personal insults. I'm against gay marriage and having it taught in our schools as an equal lifestyle, that's all.

Political correctness and attempting to end debate are what it's mostly about, but it goes farther. It's about what you do in your daily life. It is not just about big public events/interviews or even political issues.

It's about resisting peer pressure from workmates who want to to go to the bar and have a dozen drinks after work and look at you like you're weird when you demur. It's about situations like when you're on a business trip, and some of the guys want to go to a nudie bar, and having the courage to stand up and say no, that does not comport with your values. It's about standing up when a mocker makes fun of Christianity or tells a dirty joke.

I am sure that Carrie Perjean is the type of person who would stand up when challenged in a personal situation as well.

Not that I've always done the right thing in these circumstances. Like all of us I am a fallen creature, so if you want to make the charge of hypocrisy, then I plead guilty. Peter denied Christ three times after promising not to do so, and likewise I've failed to stand up for things I've believed in at times. But I try, and do think I'm getting better. As with Peter, I'm confident that I'll be reinstated.

Many are blogging about this, but some of the better posts are by Jason over at The Western Experience andProfessor Donald Douglas at American Power. Be sure and pay both a visit.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

April 20, 2009

At War with General Jack Keane

National Review TV's Uncommon Knowledge has a must-watch series of interviews with General Jack Keane (Ret.), Vice-Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army at the time Operation Iraqi Freedom was initiated in March of 2003. Having retired later that same year, as a civilian he was instrumental in convincing President Bush to initiate what has become known as the "surge" plan, which saved Iraq from a brutal insurgency.

In the Fall of 2006, I started to follow events in Iraq in much more detail, and became very concerned that we were badly off course. I was much relieved when it became known that a new plan was in the works, and as such blogged about it fairly extensively. Listed at the bottom of this post are some of my initial posts on the surge plan, or just see Iraq under Categories at right. The Wikipedia listing for Keane and the surge plan seem fairly accurate too.


Keane does not whitewash our bad assumptions, initial failures, or his role in them. Given his role in turning things around, it's a shame that he is not more widely known.

You'll have to follow the links to view the five interview segments, as unlike YouTube there's no way to post them here. Each is only 7-8 minutes long, but there will add to your understanding of our war in Iraq.

Without further ado, here are the interview segments, preceded by a short bio posted on NRO:

"During his 37 years in the U.S. Army, Jack Keane earned four stars. Beginning his career as a paratrooper in Vietnam, he rose to command both the 101st Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps. In his final post he served as the Army's vice chief of staff. Gen. Keane retired from active duty in 2003. In 2006, he and military historian Frederick Kagan helped to develop a new approach to the Iraq War which would become known as "the surge." In 2007, Gen. Keane served as an informal advisor to his Army colleague Gen. David Petraeus, as Petraeus put the surge into effect."

At War with Gen. Jack Keane: Chapter 1 of 5
Retired Gen. Jack Keane outlines the origins of the surge in Iraq -- the successful military strategy he helped design.

At War with Gen. Jack Keane: Chapter 2 of 5
Jack Keane describes why changing the U.S. war strategy in Iraq was such a difficult process.
Me - how did a small group of civilians succeed in changing U.S. strategy where the entire military establishment had failed?

At War with Gen. Jack Keane: Chapter 3 of 5
Jack Keane says President Obama's plan to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq is a good one. And was the war in Iraq worth it? Keane says, "Absolutely, yes."

At War with Gen. Jack Keane: Chapter 4 of 5
Can the U.S. military win in Afghanistan, just as it is winning in Iraq? Jack Keane is optimistic -- strategy depending.
Me - Obama still will not use the word "victory" with regard to Afghanistan. Keane isn't bothered by this.

At War with Gen. Jack Keane: Chapter 5 of 5
Jack Keane discusses the multiple challenges facing the U.S. military, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, and more.
Me- Keane says that we should be able to fight both counterinsurgency and traditional war, but our Army cannot because our ground forces are still too small. We have mortgaged the future of the Air Force and Navy to pay for Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite this, morale in today's military is "sky high."

Another Interview

This June 2007 interview with Gen. Keane is also a must-watch. He admits that the insurgency came as a total surprise

Initial Surge Plan Posts

Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq - Phase II Report
The New Plan for Iraq - AEI Update I
New Plan for Iraq VI
New Play for Iraq V
New Plan for Iraq IV
New Plan for Iraq III
New Plan for Iraq II
Here's the New Plan for Iraq

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2009

Doctors Without Borders: Running Cover for Terrorists

Years ago I gave substantial amounts of money (for me, anyway, these things are of course relative) to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres. They seemed to be doing good things in extremely bad parts of the world and supporting them seemed the natural thing to do. In recent years I've given a lot less as I've changed where I send my charitable dollars, but still send them enough for them to send me their booklet/magazine once or twice a year.

Despite what I'm about to write, I want to make clear that they are still doing good things in extremely bad parts of the world.

But despite that, I'm not giving them any more money, and the reason is that this is what I saw in their recent "Alert" booklet (it's also on their website):

Gaza: A Devastating Disregard for Civilians

Attacks on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army during three weeks in December 2008 and January 2009 made medical action extremely difficult. The vulnerability of civilians sparked humanitarian outrage and widespread criticism.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works in some of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world, but in most cases, civilians have the ability to flee to safer areas. Inside the locked-down borders of Gaza, one of the world's most densely populated areas, there was no way out. From December 27 to January 19, the number of wounded people grew to 5,450 and the dead totaled 1,300, according to the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). Shelling destroyed an estimated 17,000 homes and reports spread about bombing of locations considered safe zones and used for shelter by civilians....

..."Despite official statements from the Israeli government, there are serious obstacles to providing humanitarian aid and, specifically, medical aid. Bombs and bullets do not spare ambulances, hospitals, or health workers," said Dr. Marie Pierre Allie, president, MSF France, during a January 16 press conference. MSF attempted several times to reopen its pediatric clinic in Beit Lahia to relieve Kamel Edwan Hospital. But each time, the attempt was cut short; a January 1 bomb attack forced the MSF team to suspend its work only two hours after starting. Two MSF clinics for post-operative care, where patients from Al Shifa hospital are usually referred, were empty: patients in Gaza City could not reach the clinic, and no one could enter the south of the territory from the north after the Israeli army effectively cut the 140-square-mile Gaza Strip in two....

The safety of medical facilities, protected under humanitarian law, was not respected, according to Dr. A: "Buildings near Al Shifa hospital were hit with missiles. And when a building is bombed, the neighbors are immediately affected. The hospital windows that were broken in the explosions caused cuts and wounds, mainly to the children who were sleeping." Over three weeks, 34 facilities were destroyed or damaged, including 8 hospitals, according to the WHO....

MSF expressed strong criticism of the Israeli army's assault on Gaza and of the international community for standing by while the incursion continued for 22 days.

"How far can the Israeli army go before the international community mobilizes to stop it?" asked Cécile Barbou during a press conference on January 16. "It's hell here. Even people carrying white flags are being shot at. It's high time for the international community to organize, position itself, make decisions, and take the measures required to stop this conflict. This passive stance is unbearable, intolerable! This has got to stop. We are outraged."...

"Today, 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip--almost half of them children--are the victims of incessant shooting and bombing," said MSF head of mission Franck Joncret. "How can anyone believe that such a steamroller attack would spare civilians, who are prevented from fleeing and are crowded in a densely-populated enclave?

The idea that Israel exhibited a "disregard for civilians" is outrageous and insane.

I urge you to give no more money to this organization, despite the good work that they do around the world. The piece cited above makes accusations completely out of touch with reality.

Of course Israel does not do everything right, and I've said this time and again on this blog. But if one adds up the moral scales the difference between Israel and Hamas is that of the United States and Nazi Germany. We were wrong to fire bomb Dresden as we did in February of 1945, but that didn't change the moral calculus of that war either.

I first began to question the integrity of Doctors Without Borders in the immediate aftermath of our invasion of Afghanistan after 9-11, when I heard one of their officers testify on Capital Hill. He was objecting to U.S. Military airdrops of food aid, saying that only private organizations such as his should do such things. I forget his exact reasoning, but it struck me as pretty specious at the time.

But Doctors Without Borders has gone too far this time. I was able to forgive their earlier transgressions, but not this one. This article (and probably others) whitewash the situation in Gaza to the degree where they are effectively acting as a Hamas propaganda agent. I looked on their website for a section on Israel, but the country is not even mentioned as an area of concern. Because Israel does such a good job at protecting it's citizens, they are not worthy of aid. The Palestinians, on the other hand, deliberately put their people in harms way hoping they will be killed, the better to use them as propaganda. This is bad enough, but organizations such as Doctors Without Borders should not be assisting them in crafting their message.

Sample Previous Posts on the subject of Israel, it's 2007/8 war with Hamas, and Moral Clarity:

Of Moral Idiots and War Crimes
The Israeli War on Hamas and the Moral Bankruptcy of the "International Community"
The Israeli War on Hamas and Personal Responsiblity

August 19 2009 Update

Apparently I wasn't the only one who criticized them, because now we see this on the same page:

Editor's Note
To our Supporters:

It has been brought to our attention that a number of our supporters were upset by the article, "Gaza: A Devastating Disregard for Civilians," on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict published in the spring 2009 edition of the Alert newsletter.

At Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), we pride ourselves on transparency and accountability to our donors and to an open and constructive dialogue with those who believe in supporting the principles of providing assistance to victims of violence and disease regardless of political, religious, or economic affiliations.

Upon further reflection, we recognize the legitimacy of the concerns expressed that the Alert article was too one-sided in its presentation of the Gaza conflict. The article, as it was written, did not sufficiently contextualize the Israeli incursion into Gaza as a response to the longstanding and indiscriminate rocket attacks being launched by Hamas from the Strip into Israel. In no way was the omission of the broader context intended to diminish the suffering caused by these attacks on Israel. Human suffering is deplorable in all its magnitudes.

As MSF, we pride ourselves on a constant reflection of our medical humanitarian action and speaking out. This is a daily engagement playing out in our headquarters and among our field teams around the world. As our supporters, you are a vital part of this reflection. Just as MSF is an association composed of medical and non-medical field staff from across the globe, bound by independent, impartial, and neutral medical action, we are a movement supported by millions of individuals like you.

We thank you for the vitality of your engagement in our collective endeavors, and in difficult economic times need your continued support more than ever. Please continue to challenge us, in all aspects of our work, in the days ahead.

I'll give them credit for this, and most of these organizations wouldn't have even gone this far. They still don't take back the most offensive and factually incorrect charge, that Israel showed a "a devastating disregard for civilians."

It's not clear whether they live in a fantasy world whereby a military can act with fewer civilian casualties, whether they don't realize that Hamas deliberately puts Palestinian civilians in harms way hoping they'll be killed so they can be exploited for propaganda purposes, or they're pacifists who don't believe in any military action no matter what. Annoyingly, they don't address these hard issues.

As such, I'm still not giving them any money.

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

Book Review - Liberty and Tyranny

Liberty and Tyranny - by Mark Levin

I don't normally read or review books by TV news people or radio talk show hosts, but I'd heard so much about Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto that I decided to make an exception. Most of them are simply extended newspaper editorials, and it's like riding a roller coaster; a whole lot of fun but something you can only take in small bites. And while it's a thrill it's not the type of thing that changes your life.

Levin's Liberty and Tyranny is better than most in this genre, which is probably why at the time of this writing it has been #1 on the New York Times best seller list three weeks in a row. Ok, that and the fact that the excesses of Barack Obama have energized the conservative base. Levin benefits from timing.

Besides his career as a radio talk show host, Levin is president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, and a contributing editor to National Review. Prior to these he was an attorney in the private sector, chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General, Edwin Meese, deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education, and deputy solicitor of the U.S. Department of Interior. He holds a J.D. from the Temple University School of Law.

It's a relatively short book, at 245 pages including footnotes. But his writing is succinct, so I found myself marking many pages for this review. Without further ado, I will summarize several of the arguments that Levin makes in his book.

The difference between the Conservative and Modern Liberal(his capitalization) is that for the former, "the civil society has as its highest purpose its preservation and improvement," whereas for the latter it is "the supremacy of the state." Because people and society do not fit his view of how things should be, the Modern Liberal uses the power of the state to force change, resulting in a soft tyranny. In order to not confuse the Modern Liberal with classic liberalism, Levin uses the term "Statist" throughout the book. Levin capitalizes the word, and I will follow his convention in this review.

The Statist seeks as much control as he can get, and is never happy with what he has. He is constantly agitating for yet another government program to solve some supposed social ill. Productive members of society are demonized so that their money can be taken to fund his schemes. His message is cloaked in a tone of high moral indignation.

It's not that conservatives reject change, as is the cartoon view most Statists have of us. Rather, we should go about it slowly and deliberately, not rushing as the Statists want and President Obama is doing today. Levin uses the words of Edmund Burke to explain

I knew that there is a manifest, marked distinction, which ill men with ill designs, or weak men incapable of any design, will constantly be confounding, that is, a marked distinction between change and reformation. The former alters the substance of the objects themselves; and gets rid of all their essential good, as well as of all the accidental evil, annexed to them. Change is novelty; and whether it is to operate any one of the effects of reformation at all, or whether it may not contradict the very principle upon which reformation is desired, cannot be certainly known beforehand. Reform is, not a change in the substance, or in the primary modification, of the object, but, a direct application of a remedy to the grievance complained of. So far as that is removed, all is sure. It stops there; and, if it fails, the substance which underwent the operation, at the very worst, is but where it was.

All quotes are used in the book. Link provided for reference only

Good change, then, is that which preserves and improves the basic institutions of the state. Change as innovation or as a radical departure from the past is destructive of existing institutions and usually results in more damage than good.

The Statist can brook no challenge, and uses the power of the state to end it. We hear some in congress want to bring back the so-called Fairness Doctrine. It was the left on college campuses that drafted the infamous "speech codes" (fortunately most of which did not survive legal challenge). They are the ones behind PBS, which has completely outlived its original usefulness. You don't have to go far on the Internet to hear the one and only conservative news outlet, Fox News, denounced in the most vicious manner by liberals apparently oblivious that all other TV outlets, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and of course MSNBC, slant to the left.

In the end, we do not get our rights from the Constitution but from Natural Law. After all, the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights starts out as "Congress shall make no law...." which presupposes that the right already exists, and Congress simply cannot take it away. Natural Law is a complicated subject, but essentially comes from God. The Athiest left will argue that they can arrive at the same result through the application of human reason, but the history of our planet argues against it. The worst tyrannies of modern times have come from atheism, not religion.

Conservatives are originalists with regard to the Constitution, while Statists want a "living Constitution" so they can manipulate it to suit their political program. But if we go to the founders, they make clear that they intended for it to be interpreted by later generations in the manner in which it was written. James Madison explained in a letter to Henry Lee,

I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that be not the guide in expounding it, there can be no security for a consistent and stable, more than for a faithful exercise of its powers. If the meaning of the text be sought in the changeable meaning of the words composing it, it is evident that the shape and attributes of the Government must partake of the changes to which the words and phrases of all living languages are constantly subject. What a metamorphosis would be produced in the code of law if all its ancient phraseology were to be taken in its modern sense. And that the language of our Constitution is already undergoing interpretations unknown to its founders, will I believe appear to all unbiased Enquirers into the history of its origin and adoption.

The problem with seeing the Constitution as a "living and breathing document" is that it allows the Statist license to pursue his every fantasy completely unchecked by the law. The law, in fact, becomes meaningless, as it can be "reinterpreted" by whoever is in power to suit their political goals of the moment.

The Statist is not interested in what the framers said because he views them as getting in the way of his political objectives. Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall said that his judicial philosophy was "you do what you think is right and let the law catch up." Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg mirrored that sentiment when he said that his approach was to determine "what is the just result." In other words, ignore the Constitution and law and make it up as you go along.

The Statist President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not happy with the Bill of Rights, because they simply protected the individual from the power of an overreaching state. He proposed a Second Bill of Rights, which went like this:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

But these are not rights at all as properly understood. It is tyranny in disguise, an excuse to take from A to give to B in the name of a utopian goal. The Second Bill of Rights makes the individual the ward of the state rather than the free men and women we are.

Rather than surrender our liberty to self-anointed elite do-gooders, the conservative agrees with William F. Buckley Jr's quip that "I would rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston telephone directory than by the two thousand people on the faculty of Harvard University." Indeed.

Conservatives are federalists, which means that we think that more decisions and power should be granted to states and localities. This does not mean that we think all decisions and power should be granted to the state (as is the cartoon caricature by the left), simply more of it than do the Statists.

Of all the parts of the Constitution abused by Statitsts to achieve their goals, few have been tortured as much as the interstate commerce clause. Originally intended for just that, regulating trade between the states, it is now pulled out to justify just about any expansion of federal power. Indeed, in the infamous case of Wickard v. Filburn, the Supreme Court ruled that a farmer growing wheat on his own land and for his own use was still subject to federal laws regarding it, even though none of his wheat left the state. The reasoning was that by withholding his wheat from interstate commerce, he (and other farmers, since it was assumed he was not the only one doing it) was affecting interstate commerce (look it up if you don't believe me). By this logic, just about anything can be regulated under this clause, which it usually is.

Conservatives do not object to graduated, or "progressive" income tax rates, to finance the legitimate functions of government. The problem today is that government has grown beyond all reasonable bounds. If one compares the inflation adjusted cost of past programs with what Obama and the Democrats are proposing today, one sees the magnitude of the problem. Following are a few programs, their cost at the time, and their inflation adjusted cost:

Louisiana Purchase - $15 Billion - $217 Billion

Marshall Plan - $12.7 Billion - $115.3 Billion

Apollo Program - 36.4 Billion - $237 Billion

Korean War - $54 billion - $454 Billion

The New Deal - $32 billion - $500 Billion (est.)

By today's standards, these programs were pikers. They hardly even merit a raised eyebrow.

But for all the money Roosevelt spent, his New Deal didn't even work. As his own Treasury Secretary, Henry Morganthau admitted in 1939

"We are spending more money than we have ever spent before and it does not work. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get jobs. We have never made good on our promises. I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started and an enormous debt to boot."

So why, then, are New Deal programs held in such high regard by Statists? In 1976, economist and reporter for the Washington Post wrote an article critical of Social Security. The result:

I was deluged by calls and letters from the guardians of the social security system--you know, from Wilbur Cohen on down--saying, "Gee, Jodie, we always liked you, but how could you say this?" I acted very politely, and I said, "Well, what's the matter with this; isn't it true?" And they said, "Oh, yes, it's true, but once you start saying this kind of thing, you don't know where it's going to end up." Then I came to perceive that social security was not a program; it was a religion.

The modern environmental movement got its start with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962. In the book, Carson alleged that the insecticide DDT was a "silent killer" that must be banned. As a result of her efforts and the movement it spawned, it was. DDT had been instrumental in ending the scourge of malaria that killed or disabled tens of millions a years. As the result of it being banned, deaths from malaria have gone up dramatically. The issue is complex, but DDT can be safely used in some circumstances. The problem had been not with DDT per se, but that it was used improperly in an uncontrolled fashion. Rather than an outright ban, simple regulations regarding its use would have sufficed. But because the banning of DDT is so important to environmentalists, rational discussion of it has become all but impossible.

Perhaps nothing so illustrates the Statist's desire for control than global warming. Everything is said to be caused by global warming, from hurricanes to unusually warm weather to unusually cold weather. The "carbon credit" trading schemes being proposed are breathtaking in their audacity. The Statist thinks nothing of imposing all manner of rules and regulations, all to combat something for which their is no scientific consensus.

One can and should be able to debate levels of legal immigration, but sadly this has become all but impossible. Current levels were set in a 1965 law partially drafted by Senator Ted Kennedy. The Statist acts as if these levels are carved in stone, and any attempt to even discuss them is met with charges of racism.

Worse, illegal immigration is an area where the Statist openly flouts the law. One the one hand they don't want to remove the immigration laws from the books, but on the other they resist all attempts to enforce them.

Current levels of immigration are changing our society, and they are coming in faster than we want to absorb them. The conservative is not against immigration, he just wants to make sure that immigrants are properly absorbed. We are in danger of creating a divided United States, with two languages, two cultures, and two peoples. The Statist wants seemingly unlimited numbers of immigrants, and makes no distinction between legal and illegal status.

"Certainly America cannot export democracy everywhere simultaneously, not should it attempt to...however there are occasions when democracy building is prudent." Europe after World War II was one time when it was prudent. We used the Marshall Plan and the presence of U.S. Troops to make sure our portion of Germany and the rest of Western Europe took the democratic path. It was right that we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, there are times when we must make alliances with non-democratic regimes. Conservatives rightly view the United Nations with distain.

The Statist, however, talks of "global citizenship" and sees the UN as a positive force for good. He does not see American as a uniquely good nation but as one nation among many, and perhaps a more flawed one (witness President Obama's speeches and op-eds while abroad). He advocates multilateral power sharing and conducting foreign policy through coalitions and international organizations.

The Statist would also have us sign onto treaties that would limit our sovereignty. These include but are not limited to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, The Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the International Criminal Court.

To remedy all this, Levin says we on the right must work to build "a new generation of conservative activists, larger in number, shrewder, and more articulate than before, who seek to blunt the Statist's counterrevolution - not imitate it - and gradually and steadily reverse course."

In his final chapter Levin presents a short conservative manifesto; basically a party platform type document. All are solid conservative positions, and few if any are unusual or unexpected. A few of his goals will surely never be realized, such as making federal income tax increases require a supermajority vote of three-fifths of Congress, but the idea is solid.

All in all a decent book for the beginner activist or someone who simply doesn't have time to wade through a weighty 400 page tome. It's no God and Man at Yale, but Levin wouldn't claim to be a William F. Buckley Jr. anyway. You won't learn a whole lot that's new, but many people just need a short and sweat book that summarizes conservative positions and how they differ from liberal, or Statist, ones. If that is what you are looking for then this is a good book to get.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

April 15, 2009

Iraq Briefing - 14 April 09 - Mini-Surge in Mosul

This briefing is by Col. Gary Volesky, Commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Multinational Division-North. Col Volesky spoke via satellite from Forward Operating Base Marez with reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday, providing an update on ongoing security operations in Iraq.

MND-North is also known as Task Force Lightning. Responsible for an area including the cities of Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul, and Samarra, MND-North is headquartered by the 25th Infantry Division from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Col Volesky's brigade deployed to Iraq in December of last year. The rest of the1st Cav headquarters Multi-National Divison-Baghdad.

Col. Martin reports to Major General Robert L. Caslen Jr, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division. Caslin, in turn, reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Austin reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, who on September 16 of last year replaced Gen. David Petraeus. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

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

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

Col. Volesky speaks about how his team pacified Mosul, the last holdout of Al Qaeda in Iraq. From his opening remarks:

COL. VOLESKY: ...I'd like you all to know that this is the third time in the last five years this brigade's deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In fact, many of my soldiers just left the Diyala province 15 months ago.

We assumed control of Nineveh province on the 19th of January. And as all you know, that's when we were really ramping up to start the elections series here in Nineveh.

And our focus was really at that point to build strong relationships with our Iraqi counterparts and really support them in the establishment of secure locations for the elections. And as you all know, the elections went very well and were a great success.

After the elections, we started to look at the problem set in Mosul and rest -- and the rest of Nineveh province. And our predecessors here did a great job, as you can tell, or as you know. The last six months attacks and violence have decreased significantly lower than they have been in a number of years.

But the insurgencies still were able to conduct operations in Mosul, and there are really three reasons why -- more than three, but three primary reasons.

The first was that there was an ineffective provincial government that didn't represent the majority of the population in Nineveh. And they did nothing, really, of any measure to improve the people's quality of life.

The ISF, all the Iraqi security forces, they were still developing, getting more and more capability, but they were unable really to handle the threat that AQI and the other insurgents were able to do while attacking Mosul. And then finally there were fewer coalition forces here in Mosul. When I was here 18 months ago, the focus was clearly on Baghdad, and we had to win in Baghdad. And so there was not as many forces as there are currently in Mosul to get at the problem with AQI and the other insurgents.

So what we've done is we've really done what I would call our own little surge up here in Mosul. We focused on Operation Nineveh Resolve, which is a subset of the division's Operation New Hope.

And I've got almost twice as many coalition forces in Mosul as my previous -- as the previous unit did. But it's not really how many forces we have; it's really the ability for us to partner with our Iraqi counterparts. And I don't really like using the word "partnering." I prefer "embedding," so that we embed with those Iraqi forces.

As you know, the security agreement changed how we operated here in Iraq in January. We are no longer in the lead. We support the Iraqi security forces, and that's what we're doing here.

The strategy for Nineveh Resolve really focuses on clearing neighborhoods that the enemy has had freedom of movement in and a large amount of influence. But what's different about this operation to past operations is the control and retain or the holding force that we're leaving in these neighborhoods as we clear them. That hasn't really been done before at the level that we're doing it now.

So as we go into a neighborhood to clear it, once that is cleared -- the insurgents are killed, captured or they move out, we leave a holding force there. And we really focus at that point on getting after those drivers of instability in those neighborhoods, which is really the quality of life and the unemployment in those neighborhoods.

So we'll hold it and start immediate projects in those neighborhoods, employing people that live there to do what we're calling "quick wins" in the brigade. And right now, for example, we're doing multiple trash projects, hiring, at times, a hundred people in one neighborhood to collect trash, to give them some employment and get that recruiting pool that the insurgents have reduced.

And how we tie this in to the local government is we brought them in and said, what are their priorities for Mosul? In the past, when I was here in 2004, we just developed the projects on our own and really did not take into account what the true needs of the population were. So we brought in the local officials as well as the director general from the province and had them help us develop these projects so that they get buy-in. And as we move these projects further and further, they take more and more responsibility for them so that we have a sustained system versus just a project that ends and then everyone's unemployed.

In these neighborhoods that we've cleared, we see very rare attacks in those areas, and the people are taking more and more ownership of their neighborhoods. The security forces that are in each of those neighborhoods -- and we've got Iraqi army as well as national police -- they're perceived as the force who's providing security, not the coalition. And that is really what we want to achieve.

To summarize, Col. Volesky first gave hree reasons why the insurgents were successful in Nineveh even after the surge had cleared them from most of the rest of Iraq

1. Ineffective local government that did not represent the people
2. Iraqi Security Forces were unable to handle the threat on their own
3. Too few coalition forces

To resolve those problems, what we did was

1. Assign twice as many U.S. troops to Nineveh
2. Clear and hold areas where the insurgents were strong - "oil spot" theory in action
3. "Quick wins" to win over the population; improvement of basic government services based on the true needs of the people.

Q Hi, Greywolf Six. This is Laura Jakes from the Associated Press. It's nice to see you again.

I was wondering if you could give us a general assessment of the ISF in the province, whether they'll be ready to -- when you all redeploy, and whether they'll really be capable to fight AQI on their own at some point.

COL. VOLESKY: The Iraqi security forces -- again, I was here in 2004 -- and they're 100 percent better than they were. In fact, there are over 25,000 members of the Iraqi security forces in Mosul. And they conduct independent operations every day.

And as I said earlier, these insurgents have focused their attacks on the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqis have not -- have not wavered at all. So we see continued improvement day by day. And as I said, they're conducting independent operations now.

What I really offer them is a lot of what we call enablers -- the aviation, that -- the military working dogs, those kinds of things that really augment their operations. But they're all in the lead right now. I don't own a base and I coordinate all my operations with them.

I'm not quite sure where the "six" comes from, since this is the 3rd Brigade, but if you watch the video Col. Volesky seemed to get it.

3rd Brigade, 1st Cav

Commanders stressing that the "Iraqis are in the lead" has been a theme of briefings.

The journalists do not passively accept whatever they're told, but will challenge briefers if they don't think they're getting the straight scoop. To be sure, it's all done politely, as all involved are professionals. Having watched and reported on dozens of these briefings since early 2007, I've come to respect the Pentagon journalists. They're not like the pretty talking heads (men or women, I stress), who as often as not don't have a clue as to what they're talking about.

Indeed, Laura Jakes does just that in her follow up:

Q If I could just follow up, when I was doing some of the market walks with your guys, there would be a platoon of 20 coalition forces or actually your battalion and then it would be four or five Iraqi security force officers, whether it was IA or whether it was Iraqi police. It was very clear that it was the American forces that were -- even if you were in a support role, that you were doing most of the security. Do you think that the ISF is going to be ready by the time you-all leave, less than a year from now?

COL. VOLESKY: I don't know who you walked around with. I know that if you were walking with a patrol that was with Iraqi police, that is a challenge, because as I think you heard when you were here, they're about 5,000 Iraqi police short. But if you went up to the northern part and saw 7 Nissan, you'd see an Iraqi battalion there. In fact, that's one of the areas we're calling our model neighborhoods and that we want to transition to the Iraqis, because the security there is really good. Attacks there are very rare, and the Iraqi security forces are doing that patrolling pretty much independently of us.

So my assessment is I am optimistic in the progress that the Iraqis are making, and we'll continue to support them. But again, I see great indications that they are well on their way ahead to take over security when we eventually leave.

Q Thank you.

Here Jeff Schogol of Stars and Stripes isn't happy with Col. Volesky's initial comments about their ability to clear and hold areas:

Q And I have a quick follow-up question. My understanding is, Mosul has been cleared several times. If you have to clear someplace more than once, that implies that you're not really holding it. Am I not seeing something?

COL. VOLESKY: Well, that's exactly right. And that's what's different about Nineveh Resolve, is that we've got -- once we clear it, we're leaving, you know, a formation in there to hold that. We are doing night patrolling with our Iraqi counterparts. And as I mentioned, 7 Nissan, you know, that Iraqi army battalion's up there, working with our Steel Dragons that own that or have responsibility to work that partnership with them. And they're -- they are holding that neighborhood.

And again, in the neighborhoods that we have cleared and are holding and have projects ongoing, the attacks are very rare. The enemy has shifted now into going to areas that we have not yet cleared or are going on the main avenues between those because they can't -- they don't have access into those neighborhoods right now.

The problem may be due to a shortage of Iraqi Police, as we heard the Colonel admit to in a later exchange

COL. VOLESKY: ...the Iraqi police are about 5,300 short of what the provincial director of police believes he needs to take over primacy in Mosul. About 4,000 of those are policemen that have died or have gone AWOL. And, you know, about 1,300 are new hires that he needs. So those -- you know, 4,000 was currently on the rolls; 1,300 are more -- additional police that he needs. So there's really a 5,300-police deficiency in Mosul right now....

...the issue becomes the hiring and vetting. I mean, as you know, we want to make sure that the police that come in are ready to be policemen and they have all the qualifications required of them. There has been a vetting program so that we're getting good policemen and rooting out all the bad police. That's the first piece and that takes a while.

The second piece ... is the oil prices have gone down and so there have been some budget issues.

As the Prussian general and military theorist Karl von Clausewitz said, "Everything in war is very simple. But the simplest thing is difficult."

Once again classic wisdom has proved prescient.

Then Lt. Gen. David Petraeus knew this when he led the team that wrote U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24, published in December of 1996. From the Field Manual comes this reminder:

6-29 Training HN (host nation) security forces is a slow and painstaking process. It does not lend itself to a "quick fix".

No kidding.

FM-3-24 formed the theoretical basis for the change in strategy that accompanied the surge in troops to Iraq in 2007.

The question is not as important in this exchange as is part of the answer that I want to highlight.

Q Yeah, this is Daphne Benoit again, with the Agence France- Presse. Are you expecting any extra U.S. troops in your province any time soon to help you clear and hold the area, in Mosul particularly?

COL. VOLESKY: Yeah, again, it's not important to focus on how many soldiers I have. What's important is our partnership and embedding with our Iraqi counterparts. I mean, again, we're not in the lead of these operations. We want to make sure we're partners and support what their operations are. Again, then it will resolve as an Iraqi-led operation. We're just supporting it.

So to say how many more, or do I think more coalition forces will come in, frankly, I've got my brigade here and we're going to partner with as many Iraqi counterparts as we have to get at the solution. And, you know, as I walk through neighborhoods, the people are very happy to see their Iraqi forces in the streets.

And that's what we want to continue to reinforce: getting them more -- out there more in the cities with the people and talk to the people and be recognized as the ones that are in charge of security for their area.

Of the many sections of FM 3-24 that I could cite to back up what Col Volesky says here at the end I'll use this one, from the famous "zen-like" section

1-154 THE HOST NATION DOING SOMETHING TOLERABLY IS NORMALLY BETTER THAN US DOING IT WELL. It is just as important to consider who performs an operation as to assess how well it is done. Where the United States is supporting a host nation, long-term success requires establishing viable HN leaders and institutions that can carry on without significant US support....

The Iraqis will never be as good as we are, but they don't have to be. All they have to do is convince the people that they are for real and can protect them.

We should remember these lessons now that the focus is in Afghanistan. Although the insurgency there is different from Iraq, the overall principles of how to win remain the same.

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

April 14, 2009

Somali Pirates Not Deterred

Big surprise, but the Somali pirates have not been deterred. This from the AP at 9:15 PM EST tonight

Somali pirates were back to business as usual Tuesday, defiantly seizing four more ships with 60 hostages after U.S. sharpshooters rescued an American freighter captain....

The brigands grabbed more ships and hostages to show they would not be intimidated by President Barack Obama's pledge to confront the high-seas bandits, according to a pirate based in the Somali coastal town of Harardhere.

"Our latest hijackings are meant to show that no one can deter us from protecting our waters from the enemy because we believe in dying for our land," Omar Dahir Idle told The Associated Press by telephone. "Our guns do not fire water. I am sure we will avenge."

On Monday, Obama vowed to "halt the rise of piracy" without saying exactly how the U.S. and allies would do it.

Over the past few days I've presented several ideas. Steve Shippert says hire private security companies to put ex-military types aboard armed with up to .50 cal machine guns. Charles Krauthammer suggested something pretty similar. The New York Daily News cites unnamed sources saying that our Special Ops guys are ready to hit them ashore. Yesterday I threw out everything from sinking their "mother ships" to nation building lite.

Writing in the New York Post earlier today, Ralph Peters argues for a more muscular approach:

* Attack their harbors with land, sea and air power. Kill pirates, sink their vessels (including those dual-use fishing boats) and wreck their support infrastructure. The clans behind the pirates must feel sufficient pain to rein in their young thugs. The price for piracy should be stunning.

And we don't need to stay to rebuild Somalia. End the fix-it fetish now. We need to leave while their boats are still burning down to the waterline.

* Congress must forbid any shipping company or maritime insurer that pays pirates a ransom from doing business in American ports.

Our cargo trade is the most lucrative in the world. Force shippers to choose between us and the pirates. In the short term, it may make life uncomfortable for a few foreign crews. In the long term, a hard line will save money and lives.

Surely, if Congress can sanction those who do business with North Korea or Iran, we can punish those who fund pirates with millions of dollars in US currency.

* Train and arm crews. This would help somewhat, but we need to have realistic expectations. An armed crew can deter or defeat amateurs of the sort who attacked the Maersk Alabama last week. But skilled pirates will simply upgrade to rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine-guns and other weapons that can do severe damage to ships and create carnage.

We can't fix this problem on the cheap by giving merchant sailors a few shotguns and rifles -- although they need such arms for self-defense. Again, this is a military problem. Piracy always was. We're not exceptions to history.

We could shatter these bands of pirates, if we had the guts. But Obama would have to stop campaigning and start leading. He might even have to do something that his foreign fans wouldn't like.

I have to say I like his approach. A few strikes here and there won't work. Arming merchant ships is necessary, but defensive measures alone provoke the measure-countermeasure game Peters warns about. As I pointed out yesterday, Obama has the political capital now which he can use to take serious action. It's use it or lose it.

Yesterday I also congratulated President Obama, which I thought the decent thing do do. My rationale was that from what I could tell he set overall policy and then let the military carry it out, which is the right way to do things. Peters disagrees

Instead of standing tall, our just-vote-present president refused to make a statement reinforcing our principles during this ordeal. Rather than confirming that the United States won't be intimidated by pirates and won't pay tribute money, he ducked.

Obama's politics were clever: He positioned himself so that he could distance himself from a military operation that went wrong, while taking credit for any success. And what was that nonsense about authorizing deadly force "if the hostage's life is in danger"?

Deadly force should always be authorized against pirates. These aren't shoplifters at K-Mart. We're dealing with murderous terrorists. Can't we please be serious?

When asked by a reporter what was "most likely to blow governments off course.", British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously responded "Events dear boy, events."

Obama seems to think that he can control events by the magnetism of his persona. He's busy with a domestic agenda designed to change us into a European-style dirigiste government and doesn't want anything to get in his way. This is understandable, but unrealistic. Whether further incidents with Somali pirates force his hand or not, he's going to discover that events will shape his presidency as much as anything he plans.

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

April 13, 2009

Somali Piracy - Now is Not The Time to Stop

It is with gratitude that I type these words in the wake of the successful resolution of the hostage standoff with the Somali pirates. It was a job well done by all involved.

I am thrilled that President Obama had the fortitude to give the necessary orders so that Navy SEALs could kill the pirates. Congratulations are due to him. From what I can tell he did the correct thing; set overall policy and let the military carry it out as they saw fit. He didn't interfere in the specifics, or during ongoing operations. This is how it should be. When he was elected I promised myself I would be fair; both criticize and praise when deserved. As such, I will not be petty and refuse to congratulate him, as are some. The same people who are acting this way would be the first to blame him if the situation had turned out badly.

Just as good, we have this

French commandos have stormed a yacht held by Somali pirates in an operation that left one French hostage and two gunmen dead, hours after an American skipper held in a separate ransom battle narrowly failed in a dramatic escape bid, officials said.

As a US force built up off Somalia, French forces staged their rescue six days on Friday after the yacht, the Tanit, was seized in the pirate infested Gulf of Aden, French officials said.

One male hostage and two pirates were killed in the assault on the yacht and three other adults and a three-year-old child were rescued, the officials said.

Congratulations are also due the French and President Sarkozy.

These episodes send a message to the pirates that we will not passively sit back and let them run the show.

But the pirates will not stop just because of these two actions. They come from a desperately poor nation, where the life expectancy is only 49 years. Most of them figure that they have little to lose by their pirate actions, and much to gain. They will only stop once we convince them that piracy is a quick way to die.

As such, this is no time to sit on our laurels. We must take bold action now.

Right now President Obama has the attention of the American people on this issue. He has, as they say, some political capital. He can either squander it or use it wisely. Obama is primarily a domestic policy president, so his inclination will be to put the issue in the history books, assign a staffer to work on it further, and move on to his next domestic policy agenda. This would be a mistake.

Although our crew is free, the pirates hold some 18 ships and 250 prisoners (the number varies slightly by news story).

Somali Pirach

Further, we may be entering an age in which the "primitive regions" can reach out and do us real damage, which would be a turn from the last two hundred or so. As Mark Steyn points out, "Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief." In other words, a hundred or even few dozen years ago we didn't have to worry about such places. Now, as we have seen, great damage can be done to us by people in far-away places...such as Afghanistan.

The question is whether we follow up with bold action, or whether it is back to business as usual. Apparently we are considering striking their land bases. Last week we saw a report that our Special Ops guys were ready to go, which doesn't surprise me.

Word is that the Somalis are not just using speedboats, but have gotten to the point where they are using larger "mother ships" to extend the range of their operations. An AP story just out says that President Obama might be considering going after them.

There are dozens of options we could exercise. All of them are risky. Our Special Operations guys are good, but this isn't a Chuck Norris movie, and the history of commando raids is that quite a few go horribly wrong. The pirates are mixed in with civilians, and telling the two apart will be terribly difficult. As such, any action will inevitably cause civilian casualties which will be gleefully reported both by jihadist outlets like al Jazeera and other organizations which just don't like the United States. Our allies talk tough but will offer little concrete help. President Obama will discover that his charm is mostly good for crowd applause.

We must also not let the transnationalists confuse the issue. The U.S. Constitution and federal penal code are very clear on the matter; piracy is to be punished by life in prison.

My study of the situation concludes that actions will not "feed the piracy" or "create new pirates," which makes it quite different from fighting terrorism,where callous actions against terrorists does just that. This said, if during strikes on the pirates land bases we kill civilians, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups will use this as a recruiting tool because the Somalis are Muslims. Therefore, we must be careful not to give our genuine terrorist enemies a propaganda coup.

Recently a spokesman for the pirates (we've come a long way from the 18th century!) says that they will seek revenge for their three dead men. For three, they probably will. Adm Gortney said as much in his briefing. But this braggadocio will cool if we go after them in a determined manner.

We can and must take out their "pirate mother ships" and strike at pirate bases, but until Somalia becomes a viable nation governed by a single entity the problems will continue. I am not advocating Afghanistan or Iraqi level nation building, but we do need to push for something to be done. The Somali pirates will continue their actions as long as the probability that they will succeed, or at least not be killed, is relatively high. Right now it's a relatively risk-free occupation. If we increase the risks we should be able to end it somewhat. However, given where Somalia is on a map the enticement and opportunity will remain. Until there is a stable government in Somalia piracy will continue

So we are at a decision point. It is well and good that the current crisis turned out well, but we all know this was not a one-time affair. Every day there are pirate attacks. Ending this scourge will not be easy, and it will take a lot more than a handful of raids. But the public would be supportive of such actions if taken now, so the ball is in President Obama's hands. I hope he does the right thing, and quickly.

For Additional Reading

- Washington Post: "How SEALs Carried Out Their Mission"
- DOD Briefing by Vice Admiral from Bahrain, transmitted via satellite to the Pentagon. Video and transcript.

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April 11, 2009

Easter Sunday

For the past few years, my church rents a huge tent for our Easter service. There was too much rain today for good pictures, and I'll be busy to blog tomorrow. These photos are from a three years ago, but no matter:



I'm sure the service at Cornerstone Chapel tomorrow will be inspiring, with the music and Pastor Gary Hamrick at their best. It is good, however, to preview the message so as to be in the right frame of mind.

Let's quote from Luke this year

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

There it is. What of it?

Let's go to Matthew 16:13-15

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"

They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

Now then, dear reader, who do you say he is?

In the next verse, Peter answers correctly:

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

I made my decision many years ago to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. You never know which hour will be your last. Decide now, before it's too late.

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American Dominance of the Seas Under Threat

It's worth revisiting the issue of China as a potential adversary in the wake of this week's release of President Obama's first defense budget. One of my biggest problems with the budget is that it seems to be focusing around building a military that's mostly suited to fighting insurgencies. While surely this is something we will need to do, we need to be ready for all contingencies.

A military force that's out of balance can get itself into trouble. I remember years ago reading Chaim Herzog's account of the 1973 Yom Kippur War in his book The Arab-Israeli Wars (1982 edition). One reason the Israelis had gotten into so much trouble during the early days of the war was that they "overlearned" the lessons of the 1967 Six Day War. Airpower had been so decisive in 1967 that they cut back on traditional gun artillery and thought they could use their new American aircraft as "flying artillery." What they didn't count on was the effectiveness of of the Egyptian AA system, recently bolstered by Soviet SA-2 and SA-3 surface to air missiles. Soviet made AT-3 Sagger anti-tank missiles were also more deadly against Israeli tanks than had been imagined. They lost many aircraft and tanks before recouping and eventually winning the day. But for awhile it was a near run thing.

We pretty much knew how a conventional and even nuclear war with Soviet Russia would turn out. We knew what weapons we'd need. We weren't well prepared for Vietnam, not having quite the right weapons to fight it.

The lesson of today is that we just don't know who we might have to fight. But one adversary we may well have to fight is China, and while we're cutting back on our air and naval forces, they're building aircraft and ships like there's no tomorrow.

Let's start out with an excerpt from an article in Wednesday's Weekly Standard by Michael Mazza, a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.

The future of America's long-running dominance of the seas is under threat. The Department of Defense reported recently that the Chinese navy is continuing to modernize at a rapid clip. It is adding guided missile destroyers and nuclear and diesel-electric attack submarines to its fleet, and is developing over-the-horizon radars and next-generation anti-ship cruise missiles, and possibly even the first ever anti-ship ballistic missile. Not only have Chinese ships recently harassed unarmed U.S. naval vessels in the South China Sea, but according to reports emanating from Japan, China will likely complete construction on two conventional aircraft carriers by 2015, and will begin construction on two more nuclear carriers in 2020.

...it is important to consider the downsides of China's future naval plans. Protection of China's merchant fleet is certainly not the PLA Navy's only reason for building carriers and deploying ships far outside its territorial waters. China is acting to alter the balance of power in Asia and working to diminish U.S. presence in the region. The PLA has engaged in a significant build-up over the past twenty years. China's Air Force is on pace to have the largest air fleet in the region within the next decade. Their navy is developing blue-water capabilities, deploying new submarines at an unparalleled rate, and, now, is determined to add aircraft carriers to its fleet. And the PLA has modernized and grown its strategic conventional and nuclear missile force. In short, China is developing considerable power projection capabilities at a time when it faces no discernable external threats.

Right now only the U.S. and French navies possess serious aircraft carriers, and the latter only has one. As noted in the article, aircraft carriers are used for power projection. Other surface combatants are force protection with limited projection capabilities. So if all China wanted to do was protect their merchant marine fleet and petroleum supplies from Somalia, destroyers and frigates would be sufficient.

The Chinese goals are simple; one, achieve hegemony in the south-western Pacific, and two, acquire Taiwan. There are many reasons they want to dominate the area, but they include national pride, dislike of America as the world power, and to acquire and secure economic assets. Indeed, it was in late December that for the first time in modern history, China sent warships abroad to secure their interests in Somalia. They are a nation on the move.

Why Should We Care?

It is in our national interest that Chinese influence not spread. The reason for this is that one of if not our prime foreign policy goals should be to the spread of liberty. Under the current Chinese government, the values that they will spread are antithetical to ours. As such, they should be resisted.

We must also protect our friends. Countries must know that an alliance with the United States means more than just words. If they go out on a limb for us we have to be there to help them as well. It's not that we should foot everyone's defense bill, more that we cannot abandon allies to the mercies of powerful nations like China.

In addition there is old fashioned protection of our various economic interests, which yes include petroleum from the Middle East and elsewhere. No matter what we do on the alternative energy front, we're going to need foreign oil for a long time. Further, it is in our economic interests to protect general shipping from everything from pirates to unfriendly nations.

FAS and More

One of the best overviews of the Chinese military is at the Federation of American Scientists. Their page on the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN)is not to be missed. See, for example, their page on the new Type 039 Wuhan C, or "Song," class submarine, in which they state that it

...is said to be as quiet as the American Los Angles nuclear submarines. But its overall performance is constrained by the use of 1980s technology, and the fact that the PLAN purchased the Russian Kilo-class submarines suggests that there are problems with the Song-class. Various upgrades to the Song are reported under development, and an improved version may have already entered service.

So while we shouldn't overrate PLAN forces, neither should we ignore them. As with Iranian and North Korean missiles, they're not there yet, but not for want of trying.

Almost as good is StrategyPage, which has an excellent database of navies from around the world.

I've gone over China's military in much more detail elsewhere so won't repeat it all here; see "China / Taiwan" under "Categories" at right.

Winning Without War

Finally, like any nation, China can achieve it's objectives even if there is no war. Bill Gertz, writing in the Washington Times, tells us the inside story of what happened with the harassment of the USNS Impeccable last month:

A U.S. defense official said the recent confrontation between five Chinese military vessels and the USNS Impeccable, an ocean survey ship, in the South China Sea resulted in the setting of a bad legal precedent for the Navy's freedom of navigation in international waters.

According to the official, who spoke on condition that he not be named because of the political sensitivity of the issue, the Impeccable's captain withdrew from the area rather than hold fast and assert the ship's freedom-of-navigation rights. Worse, the captain also radioed one of the five Chinese naval vessels to ask permission of the Chinese navy to exit the area.

Both steps were viewed as weakening U.S. Navy efforts to assert the right to transit international waters freely and to counter Chinese claims to a 200-mile economic exclusion zone claimed by Beijing as sovereign territory.

Beijing claims the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters.

The U.S. defense official said the Chinese harassment was part of what has been termed legal warfare, or "lawfare," the use of international laws to try to deny access to areas near coasts by foreign ships and aircraft.

The official said it is important for the Navy not to give in to such harassment because of the risks of limiting freedom of navigation, which is a vital interest for both the United States and its allies in Asia.

Remember that the Chinese are students of their own Sun Tzu, who about 2,500 years ago said

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

And as Karl von Clausewitz said

"When one force is a great deal stronger than the other, an estimate may be enough. There will be no fighting: the weaker side will yield at once. . . Even if no actual fighting occurs . . . the outcome rests on the assumption that if it came to fighting, the enemy would be destroyed."

The military budget proposed by President Obama and SecDef Gates sacrifices our Navy for counterinsurgency weapons, while both are important and needed. They would reduce our aircraft carrier fleet from 11 to 10, and 11 is way too low as it is. The next generation cruisers would be delayed, and the overall number of ships reduced to below 300. No more F-22 Raptors will be produced. All of this sends the wrong message to China.

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April 10, 2009

Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution Part II

This was going to be an update to the post I wrote yesterday, but it just got too big. Following are some informed thoughts I found today on the issue.

First up I think it's important to know how the pirates are getting away with all this. From David Freddoso, writing at NRO's The Corner:

Vice Admiral William Gortney described:
"If the coalition is out there with ships, airplanes and helicopters, there aren't any pirates. If they see us, they're 'fishermen.' If they don't see us, they are potentially pirates...

The pirates' skiffs are exactly the same as the fishing boats in the area. And even when apparent pirates are identified -- out "fishing" without fishing gear -- the U.S. military releases them unless they are caught in the act.

When we get on top, either with maritime patrol or with helicopters, or with a ship, and we look inside these skiffs, and we determine that they don't have nets or baskets, and they have AK-47s, RPGs and ladders, we know that they're not involved in fishing. And that's when we take them, we disarm them, we take their pictures, we fingerprint them, biometric them, and then we release them if we did not catch them in the act.

Gortney described their modus operandi:

If we're not around, they will attempt to attack a type of vessel that is susceptible to attack, which is based on the speed of a vessel and the freeboard - the height of the first deck from the water...We see the attacks in the morning and with a sea-state of less than three feet. If it's less than three feet, in the morning, then we watch for these 'fishermen' to become pirates.

"Low and slow" invites the attack -- a low freeboard doing 13 knots or less. The pirates use grappling hooks and rope ladders to board them. But ships with high freeboards doing over 15 knots tend to get away. More:

"[The pirates] will get in their skiffs and pull up alongside and intimidate either with AK-47s or rocket-propelled grenades, in some cases shooting both to get the captain to stop...The time from the initial attack to on-board the vessel is about a 15-minute window of opportunity. If we're not there to prevent them from getting aboard in that 15-minute window of opportunity, and they're successfully on board and they stay on board, then we're in a hostage situation, and the pirates take it to the East Coast of Somalia and work the negotiation process with the shipping company that's responsible for that vessel."

The pirates belong to well-coordinated and hierarchical clans, not unlike commercial militaries, and clan leaders call the shots during negotiations. Our government does not involve itself in this "arbitration," witnesses testified. The average hostage situation lasts for 45 days, and the average ransom is anywhere from $1.5 to $2 million. It makes sense that most shipping companies would pay ransoms for their crew and cargo, yet at the same time this heightens the incentive for more pirate activity.

This, then, is why nothing serious is being done; there's not enough pain. Of course, it also means that you, me, and all other consumers are paying for it through higher prices or lower corporate profits, which affects our investments, as all these companies do is pass it on. When they're feeling financial pain they'll complain to the politicians, but until then my guess is not much will be done.

And if right now you're complaining about how our Navy releases these guys unless they're caught in the act... after all the grief the U.S. took over Guantanamo Bay it's a suicidal politician indeed who'd do anything less than give them full Miranda rights and offer a full battery of ACLU attorneys to anyone we arrested. Anything less and the "human rights" crowd would scream bloody murder.

Yesterday we discussed putting armed private contractors on ships. Here's another idea, from the New York Daily News (via Ann Althouse):

U.S. military commanders have already prepared battle plans for ending the scourge of piracy on the high seas off Somalia if President Obama pulls the trigger, sources told the Daily News Wednesday....

Retired U.S. Ambassador Robert Oakley, who was special envoy to Somalia in the 1990s, said U.S. special operations forces have drawn up detailed plans to attack piracy groups where they live on land, but are awaiting orders from the Obama national security team.

"Our special operations people have been itching to clean them up. So far, no one has let them," Oakley told the Daily News.

This would avoid the problems associated with putting private contractors on board ships for defense as was suggested in yesterday's post. Even so, any "collateral damage" will be played by anti-American elements for all it's worth. On the plus side, last December we did get a UN Security Council Resolution that authorizes such actions. Not that I think we need it.

I'm all for land operations by special ops, but let's remember that these guys aren't invulnerable. I've read more than a bit of the history of these types of raids, and the truth is that they're extraordinarily risky, and I remember reading somewhere that they have about a 50-50 chance of success. This isn't a Chuck Norris movie, and a lot of special ops guys get killed in failed raids, or they survive but have to abort the mission without accomplishing the objective. When things go wrong, it's usually because of inaccurate intelligence, which, try as you might, is hard to get right.

All of which brings us to the concept of "international law" and "rule of law," terms that get thrown around a lot. The invaluable former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review, explains what they really mean as applied to the problem at hand:

But as the hearts-and-minds game goes on, the "international community" on the receiving end stands unimpressed as ever. Turns out it's a jungle out there. What impresses, as all America's enemies from the Barbary pirates through Osama bin Laden have always known, is the strong horse against the weak horse. What makes possible global trade, which turns into American wealth, which turns into unparalleled American largesse, is American might -- American might and an American commitment to use that might as necessary to ensure a civilized global order.

"Civilized" is a much-misunderstood word, thanks to the "rule of law" crowd that is making our planet an increasingly dangerous place. Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn't recede willingly before the wheels of progress.

There is nothing less civilized than rewarding evil and thus guaranteeing more of it. High-minded as it is commonly made to sound, it is not civilized to appease evil, to treat it with "dignity and respect," to rationalize its root causes, to equivocate about whether evil really is evil, and, when all else fails, to ignore it -- to purge the very mention of its name -- in the vain hope that it will just go away. Evil doesn't do nuance. It finds you, it tests you, and you either fight it or you're part of the problem.

The men who founded our country and crafted our Constitution understood this. They understood that the "rule of law" was not a faux-civilized counterweight to the exhibition of might. Might, instead, is the firm underpinning of law and of our civilization. The Constitution explicitly recognized that the United States would have enemies; it provided Congress with the power to raise military forces that would fight them; it made the chief executive the commander-in-chief, concentrating in the presidency all the power the nation could muster to preserve itself by repelling evil. It did not regard evil as having a point of view, much less a right to counsel.

That's not our position anymore. The scourge of piracy was virtually wiped out in 19th century because its practitioners were regarded as barbarians -- enemies of the human race (hostis humani generis, as Bret Stephens recently reminded us in a brilliant Wall Street Journal essay). They derived no comfort from the rule of law, for it was not a mark of civilization to give them comfort. The same is true of unlawful enemy combatants, terrorists who scoffed at the customs of civilized warfare. To regard them as mere criminals, to assume the duty of trying to understand why they would brutalize innocents, to arm them with rights against civilized society, was not civilized.

I've heard some conservatives absurdly insist that the pirates are not criminals but are terrorists. Please. They are neither criminals not terrorists as properly defined. They are pirates; barbarians if you will.

They used to hang such barbarians from the yardarms of ships when they caught them, without all the niceties of a trial complete with Ramsey Clark as chief defense council.

I'm not advocating that we go to such lengths. Whether we arm the merchants with private contractors, send our special ops guys ashore to clean them out, or just conduct "aggressive offensive operations against pirates at sea" is fine with me. But patrolling with scarce multi-million dollar destroyers is ridiculous. Most of all, we do need leaders with the political courage to do what has to be done and who can take the heat and not back down when the so-called human rights crowd goes nuts.

Posted by Tom at 9:50 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 9, 2009

Piracy - The Simple Yet Impossible Solution

The recent seizure of the US flagged ship Maersk Alabama off the horn of Africa has brought the issue home. Most of us who follow the news have been aware that there was a serious problem with piracy in the area, and have read about this or that nation sending a ship or so to help with patrols. But there's nothing like having your own citizens seized to make you sit up straight.

The solution is both simple and impossible. Steve Shippert, military affairs writer for National Review's The Tank blog and Threatswatch, explains

The only tenable solution is to put the prevention at the point of risk: Aboard the vessel.

It is the only solution -- sans magical liquidation of all pirates and their havens -- that is fast-reacting enough or cost effective enough. (Have you ever checked the expense tab of operating a US Navy destroyer for a 24-hour period of steaming? It's an expense only a stimulus's mother could love.)

What does the security team look like? Pretty simple, actually. 4-6 men from the contracting outfit, with small arms with enough reach and punch to introduce a speedboat to the ocean floor. There is an array of potent automatic rifles available. The team should possess at least one .50 caliber weapon for both range and punch. Certainly no 5.56mm M-16's. As well, some form of grenade weapons should be on hand (RPGs, grenade launchers and/or other shoulder-fired explosive weapons suitable for maritime use.) Night scopes and night vision goggles are essential as well. There are plenty of arms experts who know what would and would not work best. Point is, it isn't rocket science. Get it done.

There's more, but that's the gist of it. And it would work. It'll also never be done.

Not sure why it won't work? Consider this tidbit from a story in the Wall Street Journal from last November:

Last April the British Foreign Office reportedly warned the Royal Navy not to detain pirates, since this might violate their "human rights" and could even lead to claims of asylum in Britain. Turning the captives over to Somali authorities is also problematic -- since they might face the head and hand-chopping rigors of Shariah law. Similar considerations have confounded U.S. government officials in their discussions of how to confront this new problem of an old terror at sea.

Then there's the story of the navy that did shoot to kill:

One of the most controversial cases so far is the Indian navy's sinking of a suspected pirate vessel in November. India said at the time it had come under attack from a pirate "mother ship," ordinarily a vessel pirates have captured to use to travel long distances that their speedboats cannot. The International Maritime Bureau and the Thai owner later reported that the vessel was a fishing trawler with civilian sailors on board. The trawler had been hijacked by pirates hours before it was sunk by the Indian navy.

If nation-states are afraid to capture obvious pirates, and a fuss is made then they actually kill them and sink their ships, imagine what would happen to private contractors. At least nations have the protection of sovereignty. Even they are under assault, as consider the cas of the Spanish court which wants to indite former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on five other Bush Administration officials, charging that they "violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay." The issue of this court is not the work of a bunch of nuts we can ignore, but rather part of a determined effort . We're told that we have nothing to worry about from the International Criminal Court, as it's charter makes it seem so innocuous, but given all that I know color me skeptical.

Googling for "blackwater human rights violations" gets 167,000 returns, and the first two that come up are Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

So call me cynical but if Shippert's solution is employed it won't be long before there is shooting and before long there will be accusations that innocent people were killed. Before lone someone will be paraded before the cameras who will tell the world that he was just out for a pleasure cruise and had his boat sunk and friends killed. You know the rest of that story.

The solution, then, is not really technical, but political. Private firms need political cover.

We need leaders who can take decisive action and have the will to withstand the inevitable assaults from the "human rights" crowd. George W. Bush didn't have that willpower. President Obama doesn't, and I don't see anyone in Europe with the moxie either. I'm happy that the Indians sank that pirate ship, but as Shippert explained it's like swatting flies with a sledgehammer; great that we got one but there are a zillion more swarming around.

I am wondering why Shippert didn't mention special operations troops instead of private contractors. I know that ours are tied up fighting the GWOT(it's still that despite what Obama says) around the world. The Europeans, Indians, Canadians, and other have some, but maybe not enough. I tried to leave a comment asking him this at Threatswatch but got an error message, so sent an email instead. If I get a response I'll post it or a summary of what he says here.

Folks, I really hope I'm wrong here. I'd like nothing more than to see dozens or hundreds of these security teams from dozens of nationalities put onboard ships, have them shoot up some pirates, and have the "international community" give a hip hip hurrah. I just doubt any of it will happen. And if you have your own ideas as to how do deal with the problem I'm all ears.

What Won't Work

One, relying on traditional naval forces. The pirates are coming out in large speedboats and the like, and even the smaller naval vessels are expensive to operate, meant for high-tech warfare, and as Shippert put it using them would be like "swatting mosquitoes with a sledgehammer."

Along with this, "international cooperation" and UN resolutions are most certainly not the answer. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton typifies this attitude.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Wednesday for world action to "end the scourge of piracy" as U.S. warships raced to confront the pirates.

"Specifically, we are now focused on this particular act of piracy and the seizure of a ship that carries 21 American citizens. More generally, we think the world must come together to end the scourge of piracy," she said.

This sounds like something out of one of those sentence generators that paste together stock phrases. Note to Hillary; "the world" doesn't care enough to do anything.

The Barbary Coast Pirates

We've dealt with the issue or piracy before. If you're like me, you've often heard that the Barbary Coast pirates were attacking ships, the Europeans paid tribute, and we refused. President Thomas Jefferson sent the Navy and Marines and they took care of business. "To the shores of Tripoli" and all that.

In the end that's true, but it's all a bit more complicated and didn't go down quite that easy.

In the late 18th and early 19th century, pirates ("corsairs") operating Algiers were raiding ships in the Mediterranean. The entire story is long and complicated, but essentially Europeans powers were paying tribute to avoid having their ships seized. Nevertheless, some were seized, including some American ships, holding their crews as slaves for several years. After years of debate, we finally decided to build a navy to deal with this and other problems. We fought two wars with the pirate nations, the first lasting from 1801 to 1805 and the second in 1815. After much fumbling we eventually won and the pirates mostly ceased their actions, though it wasn't until the French invasion in 1830 that the problem was finally ended.

My guess is that the current problem will take the same route. It'll take more than the incident with the Maersk Alabama to provoke serious action. Until then we'll dither.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 8, 2009

More On The Obama-Gates Defense Budget

On Monday I wrote specifically about how further production of the F-22 Raptor would halt under Obama's new defense budget in a piece called "Obama's B-1A?".

Today I'm going to examine some of the rest of the budget. Because I don't have time to go through the budget myself and analyze it line by line, I'm really just going to copy from some trusted sources. I'm putting it up mostly for informational purposes; it's an important issue, and it makes it easier for me to refer to it in later posts. The first is a piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal Following are excerpts as the authors discuss some of the proposals:

- The termination of the F-22 Raptor program at just 187 aircraft inevitably will call U.S. air supremacy -- the salient feature, since World War II, of the American way of war -- into question.

The need for these sophisticated, stealthy, radar-evading planes is already apparent. During Russia's invasion of Georgia, U.S. commanders wanted to fly unmanned surveillance aircraft over the region, and requested that F-22s sanitize the skies so that the slow-moving drones would be protected from Russian fighters or air defenses. When the F-22s were not made available, likely for fear of provoking Moscow, the reconnaissance flights were cancelled.

As the air-defense and air-combat capabilities of other nations, most notably China, increase, the demand for F-22s would likewise rise. And the Air Force will have to manage this small fleet of Raptors over 30 years. Compare that number with the 660 F-15s flying today, but which are literally falling apart at the seams from age and use. The F-22 is not merely a replacement for the F-15; it also performs the functions of electronic warfare and other support aircraft. Meanwhile, Mr. Gates is further postponing the already decades-long search for a replacement for the existing handful of B-2 bombers.

- The U.S. Navy will continue to shrink below the fleet size of 313 ships it set only a few years ago. Although Mr. Gates has rightly decided to end the massive and expensive DDG-1000 Zumwalt destroyer program, there will be additional reductions to the surface fleet. The number of aircraft carriers will drop eventually to 10. The next generation of cruisers will be delayed, and support-ship projects stretched out. Older Arleigh Burke destroyers will be upgraded and modernized, but at less-than-needed rates.

The good news is that Mr. Gates will not to reduce the purchases of the Littoral Combat Ship, which can be configured for missions from antipiracy to antisubmarine warfare. But neither will he buy more than the 55 planned for by the previous Bush administration. And the size and structure of the submarine fleet was studiously not mentioned. The Navy's plan to begin at last to procure two attack submarines per year -- absolutely vital considering the pace at which China is deploying new, quieter subs -- is uncertain, at best.

- Mr. Gates has promised to "restructure" the Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, arguing that the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan have called into question the need for new ground combat vehicles. The secretary noted that the Army's modernization plan does not take into account the $25 billion investment in the giant Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles. But it's hard to think of a more specialized and less versatile vehicle.

The MRAP was ideal for dealing with the proliferation of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in Iraq. But the FCS vehicle -- with a lightweight yet better-protected chassis, greater fuel efficiency and superior off-road capacity -- is far more flexible and useful for irregular warfare. Further, the ability to form battlefield "networks" will make FCS units more effective than the sum of their individual parts. Delaying modernization means that future generations of soldiers will conduct mounted operations in the M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles designed in the 1970s. Finally, Mr. Gates capped the size of the U.S. ground force, ignoring all evidence that it is too small to handle current and future major contingencies.

- The proposed cuts in space and missile defense programs reflect a retreat in emerging environments that are increasingly critical in modern warfare. The termination of the Airborne Laser and Transformational Satellite programs is especially discouraging.

The Airborne Laser is the most promising form of defense against ballistic missiles in the "boost phase," the moments immediately after launch when the missiles are most vulnerable. This project was also the military's first operational foray into directed energy, which will be as revolutionary in the future as "stealth" technology has been in recent decades. The Transformational Satellite program employs laser technology for communications purposes, providing not only enhanced bandwidth -- essential to fulfill the value of all kinds of information networks -- but increased security.

The authors point out that although SecDef Gates justifies the cuts as a "hard choice" brought on by a desire for "fiscal discipline," this seems hard to maintain given the huge spending increases in the rest of the budget. Further, cutting Navy ships and USAF F-22 is not a temporary action "to get us over a fiscal bump in the road," but will have consequences for decades. The reality of current weaponry is an ever increasing timeline from concept to production. If an emergency arises, we indeed must go to war with the military we have.

The second piece is an editorial in today's Washington Times. I thought some of the points quite good, so following are excerpts:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' 2010 defense budget proposal is markedly out of step with the times. Coming in at $534 billion, it represents a mere 4 percent increase over the previous year, which is an inflation-adjusted flatline, and slightly below 4 percent of gross domestic product. An additional $130 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be requested in a later supplemental, which is down from $136 billion in the last cycle. Other than a deep-seated lack of appreciation for the country's defense needs, there is no explanation for why the Defense Department is required to be parsimonious when the rest of the government is swimming in money....

The Defense budget released Monday by the Pentagon confirms the image of America as a declining power. In an administration that is spending record amounts of money on just about everything, it is dangerous to force the military to have to choose between today's resource demands and preparing for tomorrow's threats.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' 2010 defense budget proposal is markedly out of step with the times. Coming in at $534 billion, it represents a mere 4 percent increase over the previous year, which is an inflation-adjusted flatline, and slightly below 4 percent of gross domestic product. An additional $130 billion to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be requested in a later supplemental, which is down from $136 billion in the last cycle. Other than a deep-seated lack of appreciation for the country's defense needs, there is no explanation for why the Defense Department is required to be parsimonious when the rest of the government is swimming in money.

Belt-tightening at the Pentagon is best seen in context with the $787 billion stimulus bill, an off-budget exercise in congressional profligacy, and the $3 trillion and counting in Troubled Asset Relief Program funds. Given these vast sums, it is inexplicable that Mr. Gates is objecting to spending $143 million for each new F-22 fighter plane.

For an administration that preaches that Federal spending is the way out of the current economic crisis, the Gates budget proposal is slightly schizophrenic. Shifting defense priorities away from big-budget weapons systems will translate into immediate job losses in highly skilled sectors.....

Mr. Gates' budget is reactive and backward looking. This is because he is trying to correct a resource imbalance between conventional and unconventional forces that should have been dealt with five years ago, when it would have had greater impact. In his hyper-concentration on special forces and lighter more mobile forces, the defense secretary seems intent on building the ideal force for Iraq circa 2004, a transformation that then-Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld shrugged off when he said, "you go to war with the Army you have." Five years of painful evolution have brought us the forces and doctrine we need to win unconventional wars, but that does not mean it is the right force for every war....

The most glaring disconnect in the new budget is cutting funding for the Missile Defense Agency by $1.4 billion. This reduction was presented without apparent irony only days after North Korea's missile test and months after a more successful test in Iran. Given these and other missile program developments around the world, we would expect that the United States would be making defensive systems a priority instead of cutting them. Missiles, particularly those armed with nuclear warheads, are the emerging threat from the developing world, and national security demands that its defensive technology be perfected before it is needed.

Ditto to everything in both articles.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 6, 2009

Obama's B-1A?

Will this be Obama's B-1A?


If you're not aware, it's the F-22 Raptor, and Secretary of Defense Gates announced today that production would be stopped at 187 airplanes. This from a planned force of 339 aircraft to have been completed in 2013. However even this 339 figure is down from the 648 the Air Force had originally requested in 1991 Follow the link for the full story on how the figure has gone steadily down.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that I think this was a bad decision.

I'm not going to set up links to every weapons system mentioned here. If you want information I find the Federation of American Scientists the best source, but Wikipedia is good also.

In 1977 President Carter canceled the B-1A. Because he didn't want to look weak, he justified his decision by revealing that we were working on a "stealth" bomber that would perform better than the B-1A anyway. Partially because he canceled the B-1a, and partially because he revealed the existence of a stealth bomber program, the entire affair was very controversial. As a candidate for president, Ronald Reagan used the incident against Carter to great effect. It ended up hurting Carter, and was one of many things that contributed to his looking weak on defense.


After he was elected, Reagan resurrected the B-1 program. As technology had advanced, Rockwell updated the design and 100 B-1B bombers were built, all of which (except for a few which were destroyed in accidents) 66 are in active status today with another 24 in mothballs.

Will Obama's cancellation of the F-22 be his B-1A? Maybe I'm getting carried away, but maybe I'm not. Of course parallels are never exact, which is why they call them analogies.

Our Current Inventory

This section consists of stuff that I've written before and am just going to copy and paste

Let's not be overconfident or arrogant with regard to our own capabilities. This attitude got a lot of US pilots killed during the early days of the Vietnam War, when we discovered that the MiG-21 was the equivalent of our F-4 Phantom, and their pilots nearly as good.

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

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

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

Everything new goes through growing pains. Every roll out a new software platform at work and not have it go perfectly? Build a WAN and not have everyone be able to talk to each other the first time 'round? Years ago I bought a book on the X-planes. What struck me is that there seemed to be at least one crash in every single program.

There was criticism of the B-1A, and also the B-1B about various things that didn't work right. I'm sure if you dig you can find something on the F-22. Remember that the P-51 was a failure with it's early Allison engine, and didn't perform as the superior fighter we remember it to be until upgraded with the Rolls Royce engines.

Some will say that the "real question" is bang for the buck. Yes, I understand.

But there's a certain group who are against every weapons system that comes down the pike. They're always in favor of some future program that's still in development, or yet to be conceived. We see this especially with regards to Missile Defense, where it's "research forever, build never." There comes a point where you just have to freeze research and development and just build the thing. As you'll see below, our potential enemies are building new weapons.

Potential Enemies

It is said that "generals always want to refight the last war," but in this case I think it's the civilians. It is said that all we'll have to worry about is insurgencies and counter-terrorism. This I believe is a mistake. There are plenty of places where we could get into a traditional air-to-air shootout. China primarily comes to mind, but Chavez in Venezuela is intent on arming his country, and the Iranians or even North Korea could even acquire more advanced aircraft. Recall also that we sold Pakistan F-16s and that country could fall apart at any moment.

Russia and China are building new aircraft like there's no tomorrow. See this list at the Federation of American Scientists. The newer aircraft are very good, and are being exported to many countries around the world. Besides the Russian and Chinese aircraft, the ones coming out of Europe are very good and they hope to sell them to countries that, who knows, we may have to fight one day.

Mig-29 "Fulcrum"


Supporters of the decision to cut further production of the F-22 need to hope that we don't get into any shooting wars in which our planes are shot down, and ex-pilots start going on TV saying "if only we'd had the F-22..." No matter how good Obama's diplomacy, events can spiral out of control. Right or left I think we can all agree that there are a lot of crazies running countries right now.

These past 10 years or so the entire USAF has centered around the F-22. I know people who have worked as civilian contractors and as civilian DOD employees, and they've told me that the entire message from on high was that their future as a fighting force depended on this weapon.

I remember throughout the 1980s all of the weapons systems developed under Reagan were derided as "gold plated," too expensive, wouldn't work as advertised, and too complicated for our troops to handle. The B-1b was one of them. Then came the Gulf War and what do you know but most all of them worked as well or better than expected. The only shortfall was the Patriot Pac3, and that was a rushed early ABM system anyway.

Potential adversaries aren't just building new aircraft, but new ships, subs, and anti-aircraft systems as well. I don't have time here to detail it all now.

Relying on the F-35 Lightning II

I don't have specifics, but it looks like President Obama has been persuaded that the F-35 Lightning II "Joint Strike Fighter" can hold the fort for the next few decades. It's a good aircraft, but is to the F-22 what the F-16 was to the F-15; not designed as the primary front-line fighter meant to take on the best the world could throw at us.


The Dangers

The danger is not just a traditional shootout with ad adversary like China, though that is a possibility. It's also the message it sends; we're not serious about remaining the world's superpower. It sends a green light to our adversaries that they can poke us and get away with it.

Our adversaries are testing Obama, and they're looking at what he's doing with our defense budget. The incident with the Chinese harassment of the USNS Impeccable was a test. If they see weakness, they'll pounce.

I think we're seeing weakness from Obama.

SecDef Gates announced cuts in Missile Defense. More on this later, but it strikes me as incredibly bad timing to cut back on efforts there just after North Korea tried to intimidate us with the recent launch of their Taepo Dong-2, and when Obama wants to open negotiations with Iran. In both cases the clear message to each is that we're not serious about stopping or even countering them. Diplomacy only stands a chance if backed by military force.

Of course, this budget has to get through Congress. Lawmakers whose districts are impacted will not want their constituents thrown out of work. My guess is that Obama won't get all of the cuts he wants.

More to come.

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

Comment Policy and Thoughts on Commenting

Unless you have been specifically directed to read this policy you don't need to. You can go back to the blog.

In other words, if you agree with me comment away and have fun.

But if you have been directed to read this, you should, because you've violated the policy and I'm close to deleting your comments or have already done so.

If you disagree with me, fine, but know that I have a limit to what I tolerate and reserve the right to delete your comments and ban you from the blog.

Our First Amendment gives you the right to speak, but it doesn't give you the right to be heard. You do not have a right to comment on this or any other blog. To make the point I'm shutting off comments on this post. Let's not, then, have any silly talk about restricting democracy or free speech.

If you can't deal with that then go away. .

On most blogs anything goes, while a few go to great lengths to maintain decorum. I fall somewhere in between the two.

I've been blogging since April of 2005, have written well over a thousand posts, and have received thousands of comments. Throughout that time I've banned less than 4 commenters and deleted less than a dozen comments. That's pretty tolerant, I think.

In fact, if you have time to wade through a few posts, you'll see that I have regular commenters who regularly disagree with me. Study their technique, emulate it, and you'll be fine.

My blog is not your playground, and I reserve the right to delete a specific comment or ban you entirely.

Things that will get your comments deleted include, but are not limited to, foul language, troll-like drive-by behavior, attempts to bait me with questions, and a condescending attitude.

If you make an an actual argument as to why I'm wrong, and use Dale Carnegie techniques while doing so, I'll likely respond. Please also stick to the subject of the post, and don't obsess on tangential issues.

That said, know that while I will respond to most disagreements I don't have time for long-winded never-ending debates. I also like to give commenters the last word. If you want to entertain yourself with the notion that if I don't answer your questions it's because you've stumped me, or if I don't respond to all of your points it's an admission that I'm wrong, just go away right now. I've got a million other things to do in life and it's amazing i get as much posted as I do.

If you have a question or want to discuss this further please contact me by email

Thank you for visiting.

Posted by Tom at 8:32 PM

April 5, 2009

The Coming Entitlements Crunch

We in the West have created a system of old-age entitlements that we're just not going to be able to pay for much longer. Don't get me wrong; I'm not against Social Security type programs. And I do think the government has an obligation to help our citizens as they reach their golden years. It's rather that I don't think the current structure of our programs is going to hold.

Government Social Security type programs worked when the worker to retiree ratio was 16.5 - 1 (figures via ssa.gov), when Social Security was first instituted by FDR. It worked at 10 and even 5 to 1. 3.3 to 1, which is what it is today, is barely sustainable. According to the Social Security Administration website referenced earlier, in 40 years it will be 2 to 1, and they say straight up that "At this ratio there will not be enough workers to pay scheduled benefits at current tax rates."

A piece in the Financial Times (via Mark Steyn at NRO) goes on about our current financial crisis, and how some of the measures the G20 had taken to resolve it. Good so far, but then comes the zinger

As the IMF says, "in spite of the large fiscal costs of the crisis, the major threat to long-term fiscal solvency is still represented, at least in advanced countries, by unfavourable demographic trends".

What's that again?

Until only a few years ago I not read much on demographics. Oh sure, I knew that our Social Security system was in trouble, but who didn't? Beyond that though I didn't really give it much thought as a major force that could change the world. Indeed, upon seeing a book or article on the subject my inclination would have been to cast it aside as horribly boring.

Then I read Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. I looked at the issue further, and discovered that the birthrate figures he cites are correct. Demography may in fact be destiny. But you don't have to buy into all of his conclusions to know that the West is in big trouble.

Back to the Financial Times, and how "unfavorable demographic trends" are

Unfavourable from a treasury's point of view, that is. Increased human longevity is otherwise hardly a bad thing. Fewer people are dying young, in industrial accidents or from disease. If they make it to old age, retirees live ever longer on their pensions. Birth rates are often low, however - leaving fewer children to look after parents in their dotage and a smaller workforce to pay the taxes that also support them.

Officials in many countries are prone to talking about the problem in terms that hide its immediacy: the impact of ageing on the world in four decades' time is more commonly discussed than the weight of the problem in just 10 years. But demographic phenomena can have a significant impact on a society within a short time-span.

Across much of the developed world, the end of the second world war was greeted by a jump in the number of births - the "baby boom". That increase, a working lifetime ago, is suddenly being felt ever more acutely now, as workers drop out of the labour market in large numbers and start to claim pensions.

In the UK, for example, the government expects the extra annual costs imposed by ageing to reach 1.6 per cent of GDP by 2017-18. That is an increase in spending equivalent to the cost of servicing a rise in the national debt burden of about 37 per cent of GDP, according to FT calculations. That outstrips the 29 percentage point rise that the financial crisis and economic downturn are expected to inflict.

France, Germany and the US are among other countries set to see a sudden deterioration in demographic costs in the next decade after a long period of relative placidity. According to the United Nations , the number of working-age adults for each person aged over 65 in advanced economies will decrease in the next 10 years by as much as they have in the previous 30 years. The number of workers per pension claimant will fall from 4.3 to 3.4 in the next decade alone.

Some countries are already much further down this road. It will take another 20 years of greying for Europe to become as elderly as Japan's population is today. The rest of east Asia is in a race to get rich before its people get too old to work. South Korea is currently well placed, with six citizens of working age for every pensioner. Yet thanks to a collapse in its birth rate, it will be one of the greyest countries on earth by 2050.

For societies, even if not always for individuals, it is possible to offset and mitigate many of the problems of ageing. Employment law is changing in order to keep people in work for longer. Nevertheless, the latest explosion in public debt - difficult enough on its own - is exacerbating the impact of an ageing that was always going to be expensive. Together, they promise to make the next decade rather tough for taxpayers.

Yikes. As if this wasn't bad enough, President Obama and his friends in Congress want to increase our debt with their "stimulus" package. I attacked President Bush and the Republicans in Congress for their prolifigate spending (see "Conservatives Gone Bad" under "Categories" at right, or just go here) so I'll do the same to Obama and the Democrats.

The worst thing is I don't know what to do about the problem. You can call me a hypocrite for not having any children of my own, but I don't see how this means I can't bring it up as a problem (see my thoughts on the issue of hypocrisy here if you care).

We're going to have to reform our old-age programs, which in the United States means Social Security. President Bush tried and met a brick wall of political opposition. I don't see it on President Obama's agenda. And from what I see I certainly don't see anyone in Europe addressing it.

As bad as our situation is here we in the United States have it pretty good; we're at 2.1 live births per woman, which keeps our population even (growth is from immigration). Throughout Europe the figure is lower, in some cases dramatically so. The issue, as Steyn concludes, is that

...for Japan, Russia and Europe, we're no longer talking about demographic-economic catastrophe just beyond the horizon - say, mid-century - but within ten years. If you're not talking about this, you're not serious. Which is why the O-man and the G-20 aren't serious.


Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 4, 2009

U.S. Military Spending Is Not Starving Domestic Programs

Just when President Obama and the Congressional Democrats are spending untold levels on domestic programs, it looks like they're getting ready to cut one of the few things actually authorized in the Constitution, the military. From The Weekly Standard on Friday:

Just days after Chinese warships harrased an unarmed U.S. naval vessel, the USNS Impeccable, in international waters off the coast of China, Barack Obama's Secretary of Defense is set to announce massive cuts to the U.S. naval fleet.

Just days before the expected launch of a North Korean missile in violation of the spirit if not the letter of every agreement Pyongyang has ever signed with the international community, Barack Obama's Pentagon will release a budget that guts the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

This according to a report from InsideDefense.com (the article is behind a firewall) citing sources "close to the budget process." According to those sources, Gates will essentially terminate the Missile Defense Agency and with it Boeing's Airborne Laser System which was considered particularly well suited to the missile threat from North Korea.

Gates will further announce that the United States will have to make do with just nine aircraft carrier battle groups. The Navy currently has eleven, already considered a shortfall by the Senate Armed Services Committee which objected when the Bush administration decommissioned the USS John F. Kennedy in 2006 due to fiscal constraints. The shovel-ready, already under construction USS Gerald Ford, the first of the Navy's new class of supercarriers, will be delayed.

On the upside, Gates is expected to announce an increase in the end strength of the F-22 fleet from the current 183 to 250, keeping the production line open for at least another three years. The Army's deservedly maligned Future Combat Systems program will also be restructured and the massively over-budget program to replace the president's fleet of helicopters will be terminated.

Barack Obama is spending billions on this country's infrastructure, but he's shortchanging the United States military and undermining its ability to project power overseas and mitigate the missile threat from rogue regimes. Obama will also be eliminating tens of thousands of high-tech and union jobs in the process.


I'm going to wait until the cuts are actually announced before commenting on specifics. My purpose here is to knock down the idea that we spend a huge amount of money on our military, because we don't.

As noted below, some charts and numbers are from Truth and Politics, and other charts from Heritage. Unfortunately most of the charts and numbers don't cover the past few years. If I can find more tomorrow I'll fill in the gaps.

My apologies that the charts are not totally clear. I could make them larger but then they'd be blurry. Follow the links to see them more clearly.

Military Spending as a Percent of GDP

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics

US military spending as a percentage of GDP, 1940--2003

This chart from Heritage is pretty up to date

Another chart from Heritage showing National Defense Spending as a Percentage of GDP, 1962-2007


Defense Budget as a Percent of GDP

Then, the actual numbers from Truth and Politics

After the year is the amount we spent as a percentage of GDP

1940 1.7
1941 5.6
1942 17.8
1943 37.0
1944 37.8
1945 37.5
1946 19.2
1947 5.5
1948 3.5
1949 4.8
1950 5.0
1951 7.4
1952 13.2
1953 14.2
1954 13.1
1955 10.8
1956 10.0
1957 10.1
1958 10.2
1959 10.0
1960 9.3
1961 9.4
1962 9.2
1963 8.9
1964 8.5
1965 7.4
1966 7.7
1967 8.8
1968 9.4
1969 8.7
1970 8.1
1971 7.3
1972 6.7
1973 5.8
1974 5.5
1975 5.5
1976 5.2
1977 4.9
1978 4.7
1979 4.6
1980 4.9
1981 5.1
1982 5.7
1983 6.1
1984 5.9
1985 6.1
1986 6.2
1987 6.1
1988 5.8
1989 5.6
1990 5.2
1991 4.6
1992 4.8
1993 4.4
1994 4.0
1995 3.7
1996 3.5
1997 3.3
1998 3.1
1999 3.0
2000 3.0
2001 3.0
2002 3.4
2003 3.7

So excluding World War II, spending peaked during the 1950s but has mostly fallen since.

As a Percentage of Discretionary Outlays

US military spending as a percentage of discretionary outlays, 1962--2003

First, as a chart from Truth and Politics


Then from Heritage

Defense v Entitlements

Wikipedia has it as

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Budget Outlays

U.S. Defense Spending as a Percent of Total Outlays

Then, the numbers from Truth and Politics; US military spending as a percentage of discretionary spending, 1962--2003

1962 72.9
1963 71.3
1964 69.5
1965 65.6
1966 65.4
1967 67.6
1968 69.6
1969 70.5
1970 68.1
1971 64.5
1972 61.7
1973 59.1
1974 58.4
1975 55.5
1976 51.2
1977 49.5
1978 47.8
1979 48.7
1980 48.7
1981 51.3
1982 57.0
1983 59.4
1984 60.1
1985 60.9
1986 62.4
1987 63.6
1988 62.6
1989 62.2
1990 60.0
1991 59.9
1992 56.7
1993 54.2
1994 52.1
1995 50.2
1996 49.9
1997 49.6
1998 48.9
1999 48.2
2000 48.0
2001 47.1
2002 47.5
2003 49.0

Again, we see the same pattern.

Operation Iraqi Freedom as compared to past wars. The chart is via National Review and as of January 23 2006. Of course we've spent more since then but even so it wouldn't really change the chart that much.



The lesson from the data is clear; no matter how you measure it, the amount we spend on the military has been going down for decades. Those who talk about how military spending starves domestic programs are simply wrong. If anything, the opposite is the case, especially with the advent of Obama-level budgets. Spending on Iraq and Afghanistan has of course produced a recent uptick, but not really enough to make a big difference.

None of this is to necessarily argue for a particular level defense outlays. I've made the case for more defense spending elsewhere (see "National Defense" under "Categories" at right) and will do so again after the budget is actually announced.

December 16, 2010 Update

Looks like I was wrong, folks. While defense spending has been going down as a percentage of GDP and the federal budget, you get a different result if you measure it in terms of inflation-adjusted dollars ("real dollars")

via The American Maxim


Measured in terms of inflation adjusted dollars, then, we see more ups and downs, all of which are explained by various historical factors. The recent uptick is, of course, due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I don't think this changes the premise of the post, though, which is that defense spending is not starving domestic programs of money. The reason defense spending has gone down in terms of percent of GDP and the federal budget is in the first case to a GDP that increased faster than defense spending, and in the second that domestic spending increased faster than defense spending.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 3, 2009

President Obama Disgraces Himself in Europe

I really don't like doing these sort of posts.

You don't really have to believe me on this, and I can't make you. The truth is that I much prefer geeky stuff about strategy in Afghanistan or Iraq, foreign policy, or discussion domenstic issues such as tax rates and the budget or abortion. I think a fair reading of this blog is that I don't do "outrage of the day" stories, but that's your call.

Either way, there come times when I have to take a break because something has just set me off in a big way. Today I heard clips of President Obama in Europe and I went over the edge.

Without further ado, here he is, from London's Telegraph

When I first heard this my thoughts were "You b*#$%^&d"

I'll have to ask the good Lord for forgiveness on this one.

Here are excerpts from the story in the Telegraph:

President Barack Obama has offered an apology for the Bush era, declaring that America had "shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive" towards its allies.

President Obama said the US had "failed to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world".

His speech in Strasbourg went further than any United States president in history in criticising his own country's action while standing on foreign soil.

But he sought to use the mea culpa as leverage to alter European views of America and secure more troops for the war in Afghanistan.

He declared that there had to be a fundamental shift on both sides of the Atlantic. "America is changing but it cannot be America alone that changes," he said.

Addressing a crowd of some 2,000 mainly students from France and Germany, Mr Obama said: "In America, there is a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world.

"Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."

He then balanced this striking admission with a tough message to Europeans that blaming America was foolish.

"But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual, but can also be insidious. Instead of recognising the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what is bad.

"On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated. They fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth that America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America."

Earlier, Mr Obama had thrown down the gauntlet to his European counterparts, saying: "We want strong allies. We are not looking to be patrons of Europe. We are looking to be partners of Europe."

Ok that's enough. I've quoted enough so no one can play the out of context game.

President Obama is beyond disgraceful. I don't care if he does think that President Bush was wrong, for him to go and call his own country, under whatever president, "arrogant" in front of a foreign audience is beyond the pale.

This is Andrew Young and Jimmy Carter all over again.

I think that Obama is genuinely embarrassed by the United States, and that this is not just a reaction to George W. Bush. He would have disapproved of President Clinton as well, who at times was very aggressive in foreign policy, invading Haiti and attacking Kosovo/Bosnia, both without UN approval.

The President of the United States should never publicly criticize past U.S. foreign policy, especially while abroad, period. This simply gives aid and comfort to our enemies, makes us look weak, and thus encourages our enemies to become more aggressive. No doubt the jihadists are enthused about our new president. As is, Hugo Chavez, the Castro brothers, whatever communist is running China....

The Europeans love Obama not because they are ready to do more to defend Western values but because they are looking for an excuse to do less. All of NATO can barely come up with 23,000 troops for Afghanistan, the war we're told everyone supports. They don't want to confront Islam or even radical Islam as they are being absorbed by it.

Anyone who thinks the Europeans are going to dispatch more than a token number of troops to Afghanistan is living in a dream world. I've covered this issue in detail for years and have written extensively about how 1) they send very few troops and 2) most of the countries who do send troops put them under such restrictive Rules of Engagement that they're essentially useless (hence the split command, OEF v ISAF).

As for the "balance" in his speech, please. The only thing that will be remembered or acted on is the apology. "Mere words" as Obama once said, none of the rest of it will be acted on.

The AP reported this part not in the Telegraph story

Welcomed with thunderous cheers, President Barack Obama pledged on Friday to work repair damaged relations with Europe, saying the world came together following the 2001 terrorist attacks but then "we got sidetracked by Iraq."

Once more: You b*#$%^&d."

If you want to think Iraq was a distraction fine. I disagree, but reasonable people can disagree. But you do not by god go to another country and say it to them in a public speech.

For liberals who think I'm an unregenerate wingnut; I've defended the foreign policies of President Clinton many times on this blog. Search for his name at right if you don't believe me. I never, and I mean never, remember him going this far. And just earlier this week I praised Obama for his new Afghan policy, as I try and be fair. I also criticized President Bush on numerous occasions. Search again if you don't believe me.

President Bush, whether you want to agree with his policies or not, was a man of class. He spent no time criticizing President Clinton. Indeed, in 2004 he invited him to the White House and "warmly paid tribute to Bill Clinton and even plugged his forthcoming memoirs at his formal White House portrait unveiling." I remember when it happened and hearing Bush's remarks on the radio, much to the amazement of whatever right-wing talk show host I was listening to at the time. The host remarked that such tribute would not be repaid by the next Democrat president, and as it is such a prediction was all too accurate. Obama seems to go out of his way to blame everything on his predecessor.

President Obama needs to stop this behavior now.

Saturday Update

This just in from the AP

European leaders enthusiastically praised President Barack Obama's new Afghan strategy at a NATO summit Saturday but held their ground on a central disagreement and offered only military trainers and extra security forces for upcoming elections.

Violent anti-war protests that marred the alliance's 60th anniversary celebrations were a stark reminder that much of Europe has no appetite for the other, costlier half of Obama's Afghan equation: more combat troops.

"I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy," Obama said. "We'll need more resources and a sustained effort to achieve our ultimate goals."

Just what I said would happen. Europe loves Obama because he praises them even when they refuse to do anything to help us.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Iraq Briefing - 01 April 2009 - Final Thoughts by Lt. Gen. Austin

This briefing is by Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, Commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, who on Wednesday spoke with reporters in Iraq, providing his final update on ongoing security operations.

Gen. Austin assumed command of Multi-National Corps - Iraq in February of 2008. The job of the corps commander is to implement the policies of the commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq. The divisional commanders, each of which headquarters one of five regions, all report to General Austin.

However, Austin is nearing the end of his current tour, so as mentioned this is his final briefing. Given the continued improvements in Iraq, it is a job well done and all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude.

As the second-highest commander in Iraq, Austin reports Gen. Odierno, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq. Odierno reports to the commander of CENTCOM, General Petraeus. Petraus, in turn, reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Prior to his present duties, Austin served in Iraq as the deputy commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division from March to May of 2003. This is his fifth briefing that I have covered.

This video and others can be seen at DODvClips. In cases where the briefing was not transmitted back to the Pentagon, I've found a transcript is not provided. As such, I'll not analyze the briefing in my usual manner.

Austin mostly stressed the enormous progress that has been made from the time he arrived. There were a number of questions from the assembled American and foreign journalists, and as always I encourage readers to view the video and judge for themselves.

Posted by Tom at 9:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 2, 2009

The Coming War on American Sovereignty

What do these stories have in common?

One: The New York Times reports that a Spanish court wants to indite former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez on five other Bush Administration officials, charging that they "violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay." If this evokes a response of "oh these are some kooks and nothing will come of it," think again.

Two: The Times also reports that President Obama has appointed Yale law school dean Harold Koh has to head the legal adviser's office in the State Department. Ed Whelan at NRO says that "Koh is a leading proponent of transnationalism."

Three: There's a new push for the United States to ratify something called the innocuous sounding UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Last month I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Michael Farris in which he explained why it's not so innocuous.

The answer is that they're signs of what is coming down the pike and fast; a determined attack on the concept of national sovereignty in general, and American sovereignty in particular.

These may seem isolated incidents, and in a way they are. What's important is that we recognize is that there is a large and well organized effort by the internationalist left to destroy traditional concepts of sovereignty. Now that President Obama is in office with large Democrat majorities in each house of Congress, they're determined to strike while the iron is hot.

Their plan is laid out for all to see. You can find it at the website of The Brookings Institution, one of the largest and most influential liberal think tanks in Washington DC. It's part of their Managing Global Insecurity (MGI) project. The MGI is a cooperative effort between them, tanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, and New York University's Center on International Cooperation.

Rolled out last November, the full title is A Plan for Action A New Era of International Cooperation for a Changed World: 2009, 2010, and Beyond. There's a link where you can download it from the aformentioned page.

I did, and what I found concerns me greatly.

This document is the worst of the worst regarding the plans of the internationalist left. If this represents anything like what the Obama Administration wants to do, then America as we know it will come to an end. It would represent a victory for second and third-world dictators and statists, and jihadists, and a defeat for traditional notions of liberty.

At the end of the Cold War it seemed that liberty and democracy (not quite the same thing) were on the ascendancy, and indeed the 90s seemed to bear that out if one didn't look to hard at demographic figures.

After 9-11 many of us woke up to the jihadist threat. We realized that we were in a World War IV (or War of Ideas, Clash of Civilizations, choose your term) and that a new long era of struggle awaited us. Those who looked more closely at our traditional allies in Europe saw problems that we had ignored for too long

Let's look at some of the American members of the Advisory Group who contributed to this document

  • Madeleine Albright - President Clinton's Secretary of State. 'Nuff said
  • Richard Armitage - Who undercut the Bush Administration and leaked the information about Valerie Plame to Robert Novak
  • Samuel Berger - who stole top secret documents from the National Achives
  • Lawrence Eagleburger - how he was duped into this business I'll never know
  • John Podesta - big lib
  • Brent Scowcroft - champion of stability uber alles in foreign affairs to the point where all action is forbidden as "destabilizing"
  • Strobe Talbott - one-world goverment guy. He was famously wrong about Soviet IRBMs in the 1980s, urging President Reagan to abandon his insistence on a "zero-zero" solution.

Some of the International Members

  • Wu Jianmin - former Ambassador of China to the UN. I'm sure he has our best interests in mind.
  • Igor S. Ivanov - former Russian Foreign Minister. Ditto to what i said about Jianmin
  • Salim Ahmed Salim - Former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Their Recommendations

Let's just go straight to the end of this document and see what it says

Under "TRACK 1 GOAL: America restores its standing internationally--a necessary foundation for credible U.S. leadership across this action agenda" we see

Deliver Consistent and Strong Messages on International Cooperation
  • High-level consultations conducted to promote global dialogue
  • Presidential speeches in the lead-up to the G8, UNGA, and in strategic international capitals;
  • message delivered on U.S. leadership to build a 21st century international security system
  • U.S. shifts rhetoric away from a general GWOT and towards a specific war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates
  • Demonstrate Respect for a Rules-Based System
  • U.S. upholds Geneva Conventions, Convention Against Torture and other laws of war
  • U.S. President closes Guantanamo and works with Congress on a sustainable detainee policy

As with everyone who insists that we close Gitmo they never say what we're supposed to do with the prisoners there. Obama, we now know, is shipping some of them to prisons in the United States. Ok... but how many? What about the foreigners? We know that their countries won't take them, or we won't extradite them because we're afraid they'll torture them. This itself could be the subject of an entire post. What bugs me is the self-assured arrogance of these people that all they have to do is say "close Guantanamo" and presto problem solved.

Of course, there is the general wrongness of moving " away from a general GWOT and towards a specific war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates" which completely misunderstands our current struggle.

Under "TRACK 3 GOAL: Utilize enhanced international cooperation and international institutions to tackle key global threats" we have, among other things

Negotiate Two-Track Agreement on Climate Change Under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) auspices
  • Track 1 is emissions abatement: major emitters agree on global 2020 and 2050 emissions targets, price carbon, and legislate/coordinate national measures
  • Track 2 is investment: investment in technology, adaptation, and rainforests to manage the impacts of climate change on the developing world
  • Negotiations led through a G16 climate group under UNFCCC auspices

Man-made climate change is at best debatable, and possibly outright fiction. I'm fine with a scientific debate, but what what bothers me is how this is being used by internationalists to dilute American power, increase the power of second and third-world dictators, and control the citizens of developed countries such as the United States. That their schemes will drive us to economic ruin is oddly the least of our worries.

Revitalize the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime
  • Nuclear states re-pledge commitment to disarmament: initiate a joint study of reducing their nuclear weapons to zero

Which will allow countries from China to Iran to blackmail us, because only a fool would think they'll give up their nukes.

Under "TRACK 4 GOAL: Internationalize crisis response in the broader Middle East to address regional conflict and transnational threats" we have this fantasy

Improve International Strategy and Increase Investments for Afghanistan
  • Seek further troop commitments to secure volatile regions

The Europeans have made it clear they're not interested in contributing more than a token number of troops, and many of those who do have troops there have imposed such strict rules on what they can do that they're largely useless.

There's the usual blather about a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, but that's an idea so stupid that only an intellectual could think it possible (with apologies to Orwell).

Worst of all, perhaps, is this

Improve Relations Between Islam and the West
  • (The) West focuses on messages that build bridges rather than alienate, including avoiding phrases such as Islamic terrorism
  • U.S. focuses on respect for international law, and avoiding double standards on democratic principles in the Muslim world

Grrr. There are so many things wrong with these two sentences one hardly knows where to start.

The entire problem is that Islam is a Medieval religion that has never undergone a Renaissance, Reformation, or Enlightenment. Pandering or ignoring the problem will not help bring this about. We must confront Islam and encourage true reformers, not blather about "building bridges" and the like. Most of all, we must use terms like "Islamic Terrorism" because that's what it is.

Further, the "double standards" are almost entirely on the Muslim side. Everyone has some hypocrisy in them, but the Muslim world takes the cake.

Most importantly, this talk about "international law" is really just an attempt by the hate-America crowd to limit American power. This is wrong because all values and cultures are not equal, some are better than others. Sorry relativists, but "the West is Best."

The entire document is only 42 pages so please download and read it, but what I have quoted is representative and if anything other quotes would be even worse.

Better than I could say it, though, is John Bolton. In an article in Commentary titled The Coming War on Sovereignty (yes I stole his title and just added a word, and h/t Andy McCarthy at NRO) he outlined what is happening and why it is so nefarious. Money quotes:

...the authors provide a brief for what they call "responsible sovereignty." They define it as "the notion that sovereignty entails obligations and duties toward other states as well as to one's own citizens," and they believe that its application can form the basis for a "cooperative international order." At first glance, the phrase "responsible sovereignty" may seem unremarkable, given the paucity of advocates for "irresponsible sovereignty." But despite the Plan's mainstream provenance, the conception is a dramatic overhaul of sovereignty itself.

"Global leaders," the Plan insists, "increasingly recognize that alone they are unable to protect their interests and their citizens--national security has become interdependent with global security." The United States must therefore commit to "a rule-based international system that rejects unilateralism and looks beyond military might," or else "resign [our]selves to an ad-hoc international system." Mere "traditional sovereignty" is insufficient in the new era we have entered, an era in which we must contend with "the realities of a now transnational world." This "rule-based international system" will create the conditions for "global governance."...

Diplomacy is a tool, not a policy. It is a technique, not an end in itself. Urging, however earnestly, that we "engage" with our enemies tells us nothing about what happens after concluding the initial pleasantries at the negotiating table...

For the authors and signatories of A Plan of Action, sovereignty is simply an abstraction, a historical concept about as important today as the "sovereigns" from whose absolute rights the term originally derived. That is not the understanding of the U.S. Constitution, which locates the basis of its legitimacy in "we the people," who constitute the sovereign authority of the nation.

"Sharing" sovereignty with someone or something else is thus not abstract for Americans. Doing so by definition will diminish the sovereign power of the American people over their government and their own lives, the very purpose for which the Constitution was written. This is something Americans have been reluctant to do. Now their reluctance may have to take the form of more concerted action against "responsible sovereignty" if its onward march is to be halted or reversed. Our Founders would clearly understand the need.

More To It Than Even This

If you think all this is just about Iraq and Bush's GWOT think again. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child cited above is only the tip of the iceberg. We know how bad the climate change stuff will be. The internationalists are also working to destroy our Second Amendment as well. Just as bad, they're working to take away our free speech, ostensibly through a "Combating defamation of religions" resolution, this latter pushed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

If you don't believe me google around and see for yourself.

My Plea to Liberals

If you want to hate George W. Bush and all Republicans fine. If you think that our country needs to be reformed from within fine. We can debate issues such as foreign policy, the role of the armed forces, health care, taxes, the mimimum wage, a maximum wage for executives or whatever. If you want to take a hard liberal position on each of them fine.

And maybe you'll win. Maybe you'll get a majority of Americans to agree with you.

But let's debate and decide these things ourselves. Let's make our own decisions amongst ourselves.

I ask; do you really, really and truly, want to give the theocrats in the Middle East a say in what we've traditionally considered our internal decisions? The kleptocrats of Africa? The timpot dictators of Central and South America?


A Radical Perspective has linked to this post. He makes some good points, so go checkit out.

Posted by Tom at 9:45 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

April 1, 2009

Afghanistan Briefing - 30 March 2009 - Will the Afghan National Army be Large Enough?


Much is made, and quite rightly, about when the Iraqi or Afghani army can take over security operations themselves and relieve U.S. forces of the effort. Many or most Americans are willing to shoulder the burden for awhile, but as time goes on public approval lessens if it is perceived that the host nation us unable or unwilling to shoulder the burden.

Earlier this week President Obama laid out his new plan for Afghanistan, to which I gave two thumbs up, with the caveat that the future will tell how serious he is about implementing it. One of his key orders was to send an additional 4,00 advisers to help train the Afghanis. In this briefing, the general in charge equipping and training this army provides a progress update.

The Briefing

This briefing is by Major General Richard Formica, Commanding General of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan(CSTC-A). On Monday he spoke from Camp Eggers, Kabul, to reporters at the Pentagon via satellite, providing an update on security operations.

The order of battle is not at all well defined for our operations in Afghanistan, comparing very poorly to that of Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Much of this is because many (but not all!) of our "allies" do not want their troops to fight, and insist on a command structure that does not run exclusively through the United States. Fortunately, Kimberly Kagan's Institute for the Study of War has an excellent Order of Battle that was published in February. Their document only tells us that "CSTC-A is commanded by Maj. Gen. Michael Formica. Its mission is separate from ISAF's advisory mission" and that it us under American command. The CSTC-A website tells us that "A military strength of more than 1,000, CSTC-A is under the control of United States Central Command (CENTCOM)" so perhaps Maj. Gen. Formica reports directly to Gen. Petraues but I'd imagine there's at least a strong dashed line to Gen. McKiernan, commander of ISAF.

The mission of CSTC-A is essentially to "organize, train, equip, employ and support" the new Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF).

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 at DefenseLink.

From Gen. Formica's opening remarks:

GEN. FORMICA: ...CSTC-A is a joint and coalition command under the operational control of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. We have servicemen and -women from all three components, active, Guard and Reserve; from all of the services, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines; and from coalition partners, all supported by a professional civilian workforce.

We have been charged with the responsibility to build the sustainable capacity and capability of the ANA and the ANP, so that they can bring stability and security to the Afghan people.

To build this sustainable capacity and capability, we're looking at three areas. First: to develop systems. We've identified three for our current focus -- personnel management, logistics and financial management.

Second, we must continue to develop the institutional base, the training base, medical, logistics, communications, and the ministries, both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior.

And third, we want to build the corps of noncommissioned officers in both the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. Our current program builds the ANA to a size of 134,000, accelerated to December of 2011, and reforms the ANP at a size of 82,000. Our approach is to sustain the momentum that has been established with the growth and development of the ANA while we add focus to the ANP. Last year, the ANA expanded its capacity by just over 22,000 soldiers, and it's on track to achieve 134,000 in 2011....

Before I close, I'll comment briefly on the president's recent announcement concerning the strategic review in Afghanistan. With his announcement, the president has reaffirmed our commitment to accelerate the growth of the Afghan National Army to 134,000 and to accelerate the reform of the Afghan National Police force at 82,000.

The decision to send 4,000 U.S. trainers is a demonstrable and significant commitment to the development of the Afghan national security forces. And when coupled with the arrival of the additional U.S. forces, which will have embedded mentor responsibilities, and the provision of Operational Mentor Liaison Teams and police mentor teams by our coalition partners, we will be able to meet the established training requirements for the current year for the first time. And the president has clearly left the door open for potential growth of the Afghan national security forces as we move towards the eventual transfer of security responsibility to the Afghans.

The key to winning a counterinsurgency war is to establish the government as legitimate in the eyes of the people. One way this is done is to train and equip national security forces so that they can protect the people themselves while being relatively free of corruption and human rights abuses. It is generally acceptable for foreign forces to do some or most of the fighting at first, but as time goes on the people want their own military to do the job.

Note that this is not Tom the Redhunter talking, but is straight out of then-Lt. Gen Petraeus' U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24, published in December of 2006. If you're not familiar, FM 3-24 provided the theoretical basis for the change in strategy that accompanied the increase in troop levels (5 additional brigades) in Iraq.

The progress outlined by Gen. Formica is all very fine, but is the army big enough? Andrew Gray goes to the heart of the matter with the opening question:

Q General, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters.

As you know, in the runup to the announcement of the new strategy, there was discussion about higher figures, higher numbers for both the army and police. Ambassador Holbrooke said those numbers had been kicked around but not quite scrubbed yet.

What's your estimate of how much bigger the forces need to be? How quickly do you need a decision to start preparing to increase the size, beyond the current targets?

GEN. FORMICA: Yeah, thank you for the question.

First, we, as I said in my statement, we're on track to grow the Afghan national army to 134,000 by December 11th. It's important that we continue to progress towards that significant milestone, while at the same time consider the potential for further growth.

So I don't need a decision anytime soon. But obviously the sooner that you have a commitment to grow, if there is going to be one, then we can put programs in place and start allocating funding against it.

We have made an initial assessment of the requirements, to grow the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police. I know lots of numbers have been batted around, upwards of potentially doubling the size of the Afghan national security forces, with growth in both the army and police.

We have provided our initial analysis back to Washington. As you indicate in your question, these have not been fully vetted. Nor have they been scrubbed with our coalition partners. And I think that's the work that's got to continue in the weeks ahead on that point.

And again I'd bring you back to; the president has left that door open. He has acknowledged the need to continue, to grow to 134 and to reform at 82, and acknowledged that we will need to look at the size of the Afghan national security forces, as we get ready to transfer security responsibility.

Q Just to follow up, General, I mean, is that idea of a doubling, is that about right? Is that the kind of ballpark that you've looked at in your initial assessments?

GEN. FORMICA: There's all sorts of numbers floating around out there. We've looked at numbers that come close to nearly doubling, not quite doubling, both the army and the police. But again that was based on our initial assessment. It's not been vetted by the -- in Washington, nor by our coalition partners. It's something that we'll want to completely scrub, with all of those with a stake in this, and to include with the Afghan -- with the MOD and the MOI.

Q (Off mike) -- that would be -- and I understand that this is not a final figure, but it'd be a doubling of the current targets, roughly, the 134 and the 82

GEN. FORMICA: You -- you're -- first you asked me what the rough order was in our analysis, and I agreed that it -- that one of the things we'd -- we had considered in our analysis was nearly doubling. And now you're trying to pin me down to a number, and I won't get pinned.

While I don't blame Gray for asking, I hope he didn't really expect a direct answer. having watched dozens of these briefings from Afghanistan and Iraq, I've learned that commanders never answer questions based on future needs, as the situation are just too fluid. If decisions have not already been taken, they don't comment. Further, such an answer would be above his level of authority, probably only one that could be answered by Secretary of Defense Gates. Andrew Gray being a veteran of many briefings, my guess is he knew this but decided he had nothing to lose by asking anyway.

Later in the briefing another reporter tried:

Q (Ann Tyson with The Washington Post) It's just a clarification on Andrew's question about the doubling issue, because we don't want to get the wrong impression that you somehow could be talking about doubling from the current size, such as 90,000 for the ANA, versus doubling from the 134,000 size. Now, the phraseology was "further growth," so, you know, you don't want us to walk out of here with that big of a misunderstanding.

GEN. FORMICA: Actually, I'd like you to walk out of there without a number at all. You asked the question. What I -- the first answer is, the president has reasserted and reaffirmed the decision to go forward with 134,000 in the Afghan national army, accelerated to 2011, and the reform of the police at 82,000. The question that was posed to me suggested that Ambassador Holbrooke and others had bantered around numbers upwards of doubling. We have, in fact, done some initial analysis. We have looked at the size of the ANA and the ANP. Doubling from the current program is one of the considerations.

But again, that's not been -- as I said before, it's not a vetted number, it's not an improved number, and it may or may not turn out to be the direction we go. But it's been our assessment, and we have provided that analysis back to Washington.

One thing I've noticed is that our commanders are well trained themselves on how to handle these questions and in all the briefings I've watched I've never seen one give up information after being pressed. They all seem to know exactly what they can and cannot say.

There was much of interest, and I encourage everyone to watch the video and read the transcript, as it is important to understand the situation in Afghanistan. But so this doesn't run on too long we'll only cover one more issue

Q And just the quick follow-up was on ethnic breakdown of the security forces. How much is that something you're concerned about? And if you can, talk about what the breakdown is. Are units one particular ethnic group? Are there units that are mixed? And how does that look, going forward?

GEN. FORMICA: Yeah, specific to the Afghan national army, they are recruited nationally and employed nationally, and the units in the Afghan national army are in fact ethnically diverse and representative of about the ethnic population of the country. And so you'll find in any unit, down to battalion and company level, the ethnic mix that's representative of the ethnic population here in Afghanistan. And that's something that's worked very, very hard, even at the ministerial level, to maintain that ethnic diversity.

This is not political correctness at work. Common sense says that your law enforcement has to somewhat at least be representative of the populations they serve. It is not different in Afghanistan than anywhere else. Counterinsurgents straddle the line between law enforcement and traditional military warfare. National forces must be accepted by the populace.

Further, integration, or diversity, in military units I would think would go a long ways towards breaking down barriers. While I'm not expecting overnight miracles, it's all part of a long term effort. It would also seem to me that while organizing units by ethnic breakdown might have short-term benefits it would be counterproductive towards instilling a sense of nationhood in the long run.

As for the how large the Afghan National Army ultimately needs to be, we're just going to have to wait.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack