September 30, 2009
Both Extremes Wrong on Counterinsurgency
As President Obama faces his moment of truth on Afghanistan, we again hear differing views on how the war should be fought. There are two extremes that are both wrong and need to be corrected.
The error made by some on the right is that our forces are hampered by overly restrictive Rules of Engagement, and if we only "took the gloves off" our military would win.
There are two errors made by some on the left. One group says that we can adopt the "small footprint" strategy or reducing our forces and fight the war through targeted raids and precision airpower. The other group says that military progress can only come after political progress.
In addition to the links provided below, my source is everything I've written on this blog from early 2007 on, so for background go to "Categories" at right and see the posts for Afghanistan and Iraq.
I'm also not going to argue the case for winning in Afghanistan here, as that is a subject for another post. As such, I would ask commenters to restrict their remarks to a discussion of strategy and tactics.
Error on the Right
You don't have to go far on the Internet to find a conservative complaining that our forces are hampered by restrictive Rules of Engagement. ROEs "determine when, where, and how force shall be used." They determine when troops can shoot on their own and when they cannot, and when they need to ask for permission from above, and when not. They might say, for example, that troops cannot shoot at anyone they see carrying an AK-47 but can shoot at someone carrying an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher). They may say that troops can keep a round in the chamber, or not.
No doubt some of the concern comes from our experiences in Vietnam. There, we will recall, pilots were prevented from attacking anti-aircraft sites while under construction, having to wait instead until they were fully operational. They were forbidden from attacking shipments of war material being offloaded from Soviet ships in Haiphong harbor where they were still easy targets, instead being made to wait until the war material was transported and dispersed in warehouses much harder to find and hit. On and on.
Whatever the rightness or wrongness of these ROEs, what is almost always forgotten is why they were put into place. The reason was the fear of killing Soviet nationals and thus starting World War III, which in turn might have led to a nuclear Armageddon. The experience of the Korean War was fresh in our minds, where we turned an eight month victory into a three year slugfest because Gen. MacArthur foolishly ignored warnings not to move our troops too close to the Yalu river despite repeated warnings from the Chinese that doing so would force them to enter the war. When they did the U.S. military suffered one of it's worst defeats, and in the end we were barely able to hold on to the south.
The "surge" in Iraq was about two things; the first was sending more troops and extending their stay in theater. Specifically, five additional brigades were sent and everyone's stay was extended to 15 months. The second part was a change in strategy. It is this second part that is of importance to us here.
In October of 2005, then-Lt.Gen. David Petraeus was brought back from Iraq to take charge of a new group that was charged with developing a new counterinsurgency strategy. In December 15, 2006 they released their finished product, the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. It is a public document, and can be purchased from Amazon or other booksellers, or if you google for it you can find sites wher eit can be downloaded as a pdf document.
FM 3-24 was the culmination of an intense study by many scholars, both military and civilian, of all insurgencies in the past few hundred years. Perhaps it's most commented on section was the Zen-like "Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency" that start on page 47. Those on the right would do well to reflect on them:
1-149 SOMETIMES, THE MORE YOU PROTECT YOUR FORCE, THE LESS SECURE YOU MAY BE. Ultimate success in COIN (counterinsurgency) is gained by protecting the populate, not the COIN force. If military forces remain in their compounds, they lose touch with the people, appear to be running scared, and cede the initiative to the insurgents. Aggressive saturation patrolling, ambushes, and listening post operations must be conducted, risk shared with the populace, and contact maintained...These practices endure access to the intelligence needed to drive operations. Following them reinforces the connections with the populace that help establish real legitimacy.
1-150 SOMETIMES, THE MORE FORCE IS USED, THE LESS EFFECTIVE IT IS Any use offeree produces many effects, not all of which can be foreseen. The more force applied, the greater the chance of collateral damage and mistakes. Using substantial force also increases the opportunity for insurgent propaganda and to portray lethal military activities as brutal. In contrast, using force precisely and discriminately strengthens the rule of law the needs to be established. As note above, the key for counterinsurgents is knowing when more forces is needed - and when it might be counteproductive....
1-151 THE MORE SUCCESSFUL THE COUNTERINSURGENCY IS, THE LESS FORCE CAN BE USED AND THE MORE RISK MUST BE ACCEPTED This paradox is really a corollary to the previous one. As the level of insurgent violence drops, the requirements of international law and the expectations of the populace lead to a reduction in direct military actions by counterinsurgents.
1-152 SOMETIMES DOING NOTHING IS THE BEST REACTION Sometimes insurgents carry out a terrorist act or guerrilla raid with the primary purpose of enticing counterinsurgents to overreact, or at least to react in a way the the insurgents can exploit - for example, opening fire ion a crowd....
1-153 SOME OF THE BEST WEAPONS FOR COUNTERINSURGENTS DO NOT SHOOT. ...While security is essential to setting the stage for overall progress, lasting victory comes from a vibrant economy, political participation,and restored hope. Particularly after security has been achieved, dollars and ballots will have more important effects than bombs and bullets. There is a time when "money is ammunition." Depending on the state of the insurgency, therefore, Soldiers and Marines should prepare to execute many nonmilitary missions to support COIN efforts. Everyone has a role in nation building, not just Department of State and civil affairs personnel.
The reason that these doctrines are successful is also spelled out in FM 3-24; that the only way to beat an insurgency is to get the population on the side of the counterinsurgents. You cannot shoot your way of an insurgency, as you cannot kill insurgents faster than the enemy can recruit them.
Again, FM 3-24:
A-26 Once the unit settles into the AO (Area of Operations), its next task is to build trusted networks. This is the true meaning of the phrase "hearts and minds," which comprises two separate components. "Hearts" means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success. "Minds" means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless. Note that neither concerns whether people like Soldiers and Marines. Calculated self-interest, not emotion, is what counts. Over time, successful trusted networks grow like roots into the populace. They displace enemy networks, which forces enemies into the open, letting military forces seize the initiative and destroy the insurgents. (much more here)
A-60 ...Whatever else is done, the focus must remain on gaining and maintaining the support of the population. With their support, victory is assured; without it, COIN efforts cannot succeed.
The point of ROEs, therefore, is to keep civilian casualties to an absolute minimum, and thus keep the population on our side. Whether anyone likes it or not, people today are far more sensitive to civilian casualties than they were in the past. Long gone are the days of World War II where on or shortly after D-Day, the allies could kill 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians, and no one raised an eyebrow.
Note that I am not arguing for or against the specifics of what General McChrystal has put into place in Afghanistan. It is possible that the more restrictive rules that he has instituted go too far and need to be loosened. My point here is that most of what I hear in this vein is mindless blather from people who have no idea what they're talking about.
Aaron MacLean, writing at The Weekly Standard, sums it up:
...counterinsurgency is a difficult and brutal business of convincing the local population that the monopoly on violence belongs to you, the counterinsurgent, and you alone, that only you can protect them, and that it is in their interest to identify the insurgents to you. Then, based on that intelligence, the counterinsurgent kills. In situations where killing one or two insurgents risks civilian casualties or -- frankly, more importantly -- the perception of civilian casualties, then it is often in the counterinsurgent's interest to hold fire and break contact, and bide time for a better situation. This remains true even when friendly troops are at risk.
Errors on the Left
Some today say that we should bring most American troops home from Afghanistan and fight the war through targeted raids and precision airpower. What these people evidently do not realize is that this is exactly the losing strategy we employed in Iraq in 2004-6.
During that time we kept our troops on five large bases and sent them out on raids. This earned them the contempt of the population, because as often as not the raid hit the wrong house and terrified innocents. As discussed above, whether anyone likes it or not people are very sensitive to this sort of thing, and we an rationalize it all we want with "well do you like al Qaeda better," but it is what it is and we have to deal with it.
This was studied by Gen Petraeus' team as they developed a new counterinsurgency strategy, and one of their conclusions was that
A-24 The first rule of COIN operations is to establish the force's presence in the AO (area of operations).... This requires living in the AO close to the populace. Raiding from remote, secure bases does not work.
In addition, I have watched just about every press briefing by a U.S. combat commander from Iraq and Afghanistan, and they hit on these principles time and again. In particular, see
Living among the population builds credibility, as the counterinsurgents are seen as sharing the same risks that are faced by the people. "Are you staying this time?" was the question asked of our troops when they arrived as part of the surge. When they said "yes," the people opened up and provided the quality intelligence that is required to root out the insurgents without harming innocent civilians.
The other thing we heard from the left was that the surge wouldn't work because political progress had to come first. Petraeus' study of insurgencies proved that just the opposite was correct; that political progress could only come after the population was secured. The reason for this is pretty simple; in the hierarchy of needs, people always put their physical safety first. When you're in danger of being killed, things such as the ability to elect your leaders, or even what we in the West call "essential government services," pale in significance.
A related fallacy is the idea that the way to defeat a strong insurgency is not through American troops but through building up the local indigenous security forces. While in the long run this is surely the answer, in the short term it doesn't work. From 2005-6 the Rumsfeld/Abizaid/Casey strategy was to build up the Iraqi security forces and for American troops to keep as low a profile as possible. Indeed, Gen. Casey's theory was that it was the presence of U.S. forces that was fueling the insurgency and that getting them out of theater as soon as possible was one of the keys to success.
This essentially set up a race, because while we were recruiting and training a new Iraqi security force the insurgents were recruiting and training forces themselves. By late 2006 it had become clear that the we had lost the race, as the insurgency was getting out of hand and the country slipping into civil war (or there already, according to some).
The fact is that once an insurgency has gotten to a certain point it is impossible for the government to tamp it down without outside help. Insurgencies almost always catch everyone by surprise, and this one proved no different. Foreign forces allow the government breathing space to get its act together. The goal during this stage is to "stop the bleeding." Again, FM 3-24
INITIAL STAGE: "STOP THE BLEEDING" 5-4. Initially, COIN operations are similar to emergency first aid for the patient. The goal is to protect the population, break the insurgents' initiative and momentum, and set the conditions for further engagement.
We often hear that the political progress and the development of indigenous security forces is taking too long. And indeed we must do everything we can to speed the processes up. More, it is certainly recognized that in the end, foreign forces cannot win the war:
6-1 Success in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations requires establishing a legitimate government supported by the people and able to address the fundamental causes that insurgents use to gain support. Achieving these goals requires the host nation to defeat insurgents or render them irrelevant, upholding the rule of law, and provide a basic level os essential and security for the populace. Key to all these tasks is developing an effective host-nation (HN) security force.
In the end, counterinsurgency is a difficult process that takes many years to successfully pull off. It's often a frustrating progress, and our commanders occasionally say so. The problems, however, are all part of the standard "friction of war" that Cautzwitz spoke of, and there is nothing that is an insurmountable obstacle.
And again as I and our commanders have said so often, we are not out of the woods yet in Iraq and the country can still fail. But the important lesson is that without the surge Iraq would certainly have failed, with it the country stands a chance.
As I wrote so often in early 2007, what was done was done. The mistakes of the past are behind us and cannot be undone. Arguing about past strategy is useless if one's only objective is to score political points.
I sincerely hope that President Obama does the right thing and sends the additional troops to Afghanistan that General McChrystal has apparently requested. Doing so won't guarantee success, but not doing so guarantees defeat.
It might make sense to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan using special forces and airpower alone of it was a simple terrorist group. However, it is not a simple terrorist group like the PLO, ETA, IRA, or even Hamas, but an insurgency. Rather than explain why myself please go to the experts who can do it better than I can:
How Not to Defeat al Qaeda by Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan
Countering Global Insurgency by Lieutenant Colonel (Dr.) David Kilcullen
September 25, 2009
Obama v Netanyahu at the United Nations
United States President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu each gave major speeches at the United Nations this week. One was a profile in moral cowardice, the other in courage.
Profile in Cowardice
Obama's speech was, or should be, a national embarrassment. The man is stunningly naive, with a child-like view of the world that is breathtaking. He insults his own country again and again. He is more narcissistic than any politician I've known. And he is a moral coward because he hides behind politically correct pieties and refuses to address, let alone acknowledge the villains and evil nations in the world.
A few excerpts
I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this was due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.
I'm disgusted with him already. Lucky I didn't see him on TV or I'd have thrown my shoe through it.
Now, like all of you, my responsibility is to act in the interest of my nation and my people, and I will never apologize for defending those interests. But it is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 -- more than at any point in human history -- the interests of nations and peoples are shared.
"more than at any point in human history" any point? More than at any time in thousands of years of recorded history? The ignorance is staggering.
On my first day in office, I prohibited -- without exception or equivocation -- the use of torture by the United States of America.
We never tortured, you pathetic excuse for a president. And thank you for giving our enemies a propaganda point that they will use against us again and again.
We've also re-engaged the United Nations. We have paid our bills. We have joined the Human Rights Council. (Applause.)
Of course they're applauding, you idiot. The UN Human Rights Council serves to protect dictators and human rights abusers. Sitting on it now are among other human-rights -abusing countries China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Bahrain, and the Russian Federation. They're on the council so they can prevent it from condemning and taking action against abusers such as themselves. The council spends most of it's time bashing Israel. Who in their right mind thinks that this council is capable of anything good?
The cooperative effort of the whole world. Those words ring even more true today, when it is not simply peace, but our very health and prosperity that we hold in common. Yet we also know that this body is made up of sovereign states. And sadly, but not surprisingly, this body has often become a forum for sowing discord instead of forging common ground; a venue for playing politics and exploiting grievances rather than solving problems. After all, it is easy to walk up to this podium and point figures -- point fingers and stoke divisions. Nothing is easier than blaming others for our troubles, and absolving ourselves of responsibility for our choices and our actions. Anybody can do that. Responsibility and leadership in the 21st century demand more.
What meaningless drivel.
In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold. The traditional divisions between nations of the South and the North make no sense in an interconnected world; nor do alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War.
The time has come to realize that the old habits, the old arguments, are irrelevant to the challenges faced by our people. They lead nations to act in opposition to the very goals that they claim to pursue -- and to vote, often in this body, against the interests of their own people. They build up walls between us and the future that our people seek, and the time has come for those walls to come down. Together, we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides -- coalitions of different faiths and creeds; of north and south, east, west, black, white, and brown.
Unreal. As I said, a staggering level of naivete.
But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East -- then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear
Really? And what exactly will you do when they ignore your words and forge ahead with their nuclear programs? The most you're going to get Russia and China to agree to is to ban the export of number two lead pencils to Iran. The truth, Obama, is that you don't do a blasted thing. You'll give more fine speeches but "the world" isn't interested in stopping Iran or North Korea.
These principles cannot be afterthoughts -- democracy and human rights are essential to achieving each of the goals that I've discussed today
Oh but it most certainly is an afterthought, coming at nearly the end of the speech.
I've had enough. On to a man of courage.
Profile in Courage
It took the leader of one of the smallest nations in the world, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, to speak the truth. His was the speech Obama should have given Excerpts:
Yesterday the President of Iran stood at this very podium, spewing his latest anti-Semitic rants. Just a few days earlier, he again claimed that the Holocaust is a lie.
Last month, I went to a villa in a suburb of Berlin called Wannsee. There, on January 20, 1942, after a hearty meal, senior Nazi officials met and decided how to exterminate the Jewish people. The detailed minutes of that meeting have been preserved by successive German governments.
Here is a copy of those minutes, in which the Nazis issued precise instructions on how to carry out the extermination of the Jews. Is this a lie?
A day before I was in Wannsee, I was given in Berlin the original construction plans for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Those plans are signed by Hitler's deputy, Heinrich Himmler himself. Here is a copy of the plans for Auschwitz-Birkenau, where one million Jews were murdered. Is this too a lie?
This June, President Obama visited the Buchenwald concentration camp. Did President Obama pay tribute to a lie? And what of the Auschwitz survivors whose arms still bear the tattooed numbers branded on them by the Nazis? Are those tattoos a lie?
One-third of all Jews perished in the conflagration. Nearly every Jewish family was affected, including my own. My wife's grandparents, her father's two sisters and three brothers, and all the aunts, uncles and cousins were all murdered by the Nazis. Is that also a lie?
No they are not lies, Mr. Prime Minister. But I'm sure that many in the room listening to you think that they are. Anti-Semitism has a home at the United Nation.
Yesterday, the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come here and to those who left this room in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries.
But to those who gave this Holocaust-denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere: Have you no shame? Have you no decency? A mere six decades after the Holocaust, you give legitimacy to a man who denies that the murder of six million Jews took place and pledges to wipe out the Jewish state. What a disgrace! What a mockery of the charter of the United Nations!
Truth. The emperor has no clothes.
Perhaps some of you think that this man and his odious regime threaten only the Jews. You're wrong. History has shown us time and again that what starts with attacks on the Jews eventually ends up engulfing many others.
This Iranian regime is fueled by an extreme fundamentalism that burst onto the world scene three decades ago after lying dormant for centuries.
Indeed those who think that it's a small terrorist problem of al Qaeda that we can solve through police type actions and "international cooperation" are dead wrong. Radical Islam will consume us all unless we recognize it for what it is and take action to stop it.
That is why the greatest threat facing the world today is the marriage between religious fanaticism and the weapons of mass destruction, and the most urgent challenge facing this body is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Are the member states of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront a despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom?
A real challenge, unlike the PC nonsense Obama spouted.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the jury is still out on the United Nations, and recent signs are not encouraging. Rather than condemning the terrorists and their Iranian patrons, some here have condemned their victims. That is exactly what a recent UN report on Gaza did, falsely equating the terrorists with those they targeted.
Yes, and the real problem with the UN is not that it won't address "climate change," as Obama said, but because it will not call evil for what it is and take firm concrete action. Instead of taking action against Iran and North Korea for their nuclear programs, they spend their time condemning Israel.
But it gets better
For eight long years, Hamas fired from Gaza thousands of missiles, mortars and rockets on nearby Israeli cities. Year after year, as these missiles were deliberately hurled at our civilians, not a single UN resolution was passed condemning those criminal attacks.
We heard nothing - absolutely nothing - from the UN Human Rights Council, a misnamed institution if there ever was one. In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis. We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare.
You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent. Finally, after eight years of this unremitting assault, Israel was finally forced to respond. But how should we have responded? Well, there is only one example in history of thousands of rockets being fired on a country's civilian population. It happened when the Nazis rocketed British cities during World War II.
During that war, the allies leveled German cities, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. Israel chose to respond differently. Faced with an enemy committing a double war crime of firing on civilians while hiding behind civilians - Israel sought to conduct surgical strikes against the rocket launchers.
That was no easy task because the terrorists were firing missiles from homes and schools, using mosques as weapons depots and ferreting explosives in ambulances. Israel, by contrast, tried to minimize casualties by urging Palestinian civilians to vacate the targeted areas. We dropped countless flyers over their homes, sent thousands of text messages and called thousands of cell phones asking people to leave.
Never has a country gone to such extraordinary lengths to remove the enemy's civilian population from harm's way. Yet faced with such a clear case of aggressor and victim, who did the UN Human Rights Council decide to condemn? Israel. A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.
By these twisted standards, the UN Human Rights Council would have dragged Roosevelt and Churchill to the dock as war criminals. What a perversion of truth! What a perversion of justice!
Delegates of the United Nations, will you accept this farce? Because if you do, the United Nations would revert to its darkest days, when the worst violators of human rights sat in judgment against the law-abiding democracies, when Zionism was equated with racism and when an automatic majority could declare that the earth is flat.
A devastating indictment of the UN.
I believe such a peace can be achieved. But only if we roll back the forces of terror, led by Iran, that seek to destroy peace, eliminate Israel and overthrow the world order. The question facing the international community is whether it is prepared to confront those forces or accommodate them.
For all Obama's strong words today about Iran's secret enrichment facility the way things are going now it's going to be accommodation.
In an normal world Netanyahu would have received the applause and Obama the silence. Of course it was just the opposite.
Netanyahu has moral courage for speaking the truth. Obama is a moral coward for refusing to do so.
September 23, 2009
Barack Obama - "Worst Foreign Policy Ever"
President Barack Obama has proven to be Jimmy Carter on steroids. It took Carter four years to do what Obama has has done in nine months. His speech before the General Assembly at the United Nations was a disgrace, displaying stunning levels of naivete. The Washington Times calls it right:
EDITORIAL: Worst foreign policy ever
Tomorrow, President Obama will chair a special nuclear-disarmament meeting by the United Nations Security Council. The White House bills this as a historic first, but it is typical of Mr. Obama's emphasis on style over substance. He will appear before the body with the weakest foreign-policy record of any new U.S. president in recent memory. An around-the-world tour of international hot spots shows that for all the president's lofty rhetoric, he can point to precious few accomplishments.
In the Middle East, Mr. Obama's unprecedented obsequiousness in dealing with the Muslim world has generated no tangible returns. The leading Arab states repeatedly have declined to budge toward compromise to push the regional peace process forward, and they show no signs of normalizing relations with Israel. Palestinians refuse to talk to Israelis until they agree to a settlement freeze on the West Bank, and Israel has reportedly responded to Mr. Obama's call for a freeze by saying it will go ahead and build 2,500 new housing units.
Nor has Mr. Obama's outreach effort translated into a general sense of good will. A May 2009 University of Maryland survey of the Middle East showed that those with a very or somewhat favorable view of the United States increased only 3 percent between 2008 and 2009, from an anemic 15 percent to 18 percent.
In Afghanistan, the president has hit turbulence within his own party, and as the going gets tough, he seems ready to repudiate his "stronger and smarter" strategy after only six months. He is balking at supplying the troops necessary to stave off disaster, and the growing discussion in Washington is now how the administration can minimize the political damage of a defeat in Afghanistan.
North Korea has continued to be openly belligerent, testing a nuclear weapon and long-range missile, withdrawing from the 1953 armistice agreement with South Korea, and declaring it will weaponize its plutonium stocks. In response, the United States unilaterally conceded to long-standing North Korean demands for bilateral talks.
North Korea's success has encouraged Iran to move forward with its own nuclear program. The Islamic regime has agreed to talks Mr. Obama requested, but the mullahs refuse to negotiate the nuclear issue. The United States finds itself to the left of the United Nations and France on the question of acknowledging that Iran even has a nuclear-weapons program, which is quite an achievement.
Wary of Iran, other Middle Eastern states are gearing up for nuclear programs, unconvinced by U.S. promises of extending a defensive umbrella. The Eastern European umbrella was abruptly closed when the Obama administration abandoned the missile-defense deployment in Poland and the Czech Republic last week. This move drew plaudits from Moscow, which had registered strenuous objections and was not asked to make any reciprocal concessions to match the U.S. surrender. Russia continues militarily to occupy a significant part of Georgia, an American ally, and conducts business as usual with Iran and other troublemaking states.
Actions in Mr. Obama's world are consequence-free. The only country the Obama team has tried to strong-arm is Honduras, which is desperately trying to stave off a socialist takeover by an anti-American autocrat whom the State Department has concluded is worthy of full U.S. support. This has delighted Cuban dictators Raul and Fidel Castro and Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, who are very willing to let the United States carry their water. Venezuela, meanwhile, has signed a major arms deal with Russia, continues to build the anti-Gringo "Bolivarian" bloc, bullies U.S. ally Colombia and plans to launch its own nuclear program.
Then there is the catalogue of Mr. Obama's embarrassing moments on the world stage, a list which includes: giving England's Queen Elizabeth II an iPod with his speeches on it; giving British Prime Minister Gordon Brown a collection of DVDs that were not formatted to the European standard (by contrast, Mr. Brown gave Mr. Obama an ornamental desk-pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slaver HMS Gannet, among other historically significant gifts); calling "Austrian" a language; bowing to the Saudi king; releasing a photo of a conference call with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the president was showing the soles of his shoes to the camera (an Arab insult); saying "let me be absolutely clear. Israel is a strong friend of Israel's"; saying the United States was "one of the largest Muslim countries in the world"; suggesting Arabic translators be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan where Arabic is not a native language; sending a letter to French President Jacques Chirac when Nicolas Sarkozy was the president of France; holding a town-hall meeting in France and not calling on a single French citizen; and referring to "Cinco de Cuatro" in front of the Mexican ambassador when he meant Cinco de Mayo. Also of note was Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a "reset" button with the Russian word for "overcharge."
Progress toward an international agreement on global climate change has stalled, an administration failure which we applaud. We also approve of the highly effective expanded attacks by drone aircraft against terrorist targets in Pakistan, a policy implemented by President George W. Bush in August 2008. Mr. Obama was likewise successful in ordering the taking out of three teenage Somali pirates by Navy snipers in April after the outlaws took an American ship's captain hostage. In other words, President Obama's most successful policies thus far have been his selective killings. It's not exactly a program he can build on.
September 22, 2009
Obama's Moment of Truth on Afghanistan
From 2003 on we were told by the left that Iraq was the wrong war but boy oh boy they wanted to fight the 'real war' in Afghanistan. Yessiree, they were itching to fight the terrorists in the country that had attacked us. Then-Senator Obama, as we'll all recall, joined in the chorus.
Now that they're in power suddenly their war ardor has cooled.
As we all know the war in Afghanistan has not been going particularly well. Just as I said with Iraq in late 2006, what's done is done and now is not the time to spend our time pointing fingers and assigning blame. Let's leave that to the voters in the next election and the historians of the future. For now can we please just win this thing?
I was right then and I am right now. In late 2006 and early 2007 I was a proponent of a new strategy that came to be known as "the surge." Despite much political opposition it was implemented and it worked. Iraq is not out of the woods yet but it at least stands a good chance of success and it's people have a future.
We are that point of decision for Afghanistan. Back in March I congratulated President Obama in a post titled Obama's New Plan for Afghanistan Gets It Right...I Think. He seemed to be on the right track, but seemed half-hearted about it, so I wasn't ready to commit.
It would now appear that my hesitation was well founded. General McCrystal needs additional resources to properly implement his new strategy and now is President Obama's Moment of Truth.
The Washington Post reports that General Stanley McChrystal, our top commander in Afghanistan,
...warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure," according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible." ...
McChrystal concludes the document's five-page Commander's Summary on a note of muted optimism: "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable."
But he repeatedly warns that without more forces and the rapid implementation of a genuine counterinsurgency strategy, defeat is likely.
The Post story doesn't specify how many troops, but the New York Times says that it could be "from 10,000 to as many as 45,000."
So now President Obama has a decision to make. How important is this? I think Michael Goldfarb has it right when he says that "Health care reform won't make or break Obama's presidency. The way he conducts the war in Afghanistan will."
When the surge for Iraq was first proposed opponents said that we had to have political progress before we could have military progress. They were wrong for reasons which I have gone over a zillion times on this blog, and they will be wrong for the same reasons if they propose it for Afghanistan. The short version is that the lesson of counterinsurgency is that you cannot have political progress unless you first secure the polulation.
General George Casey, the man who preceded Petraeus as commander in Iraq, thought that the way to victory was to build up the Iraqi army and draw down American troops, who he thought were fueling the insurgency. Some now say the same thing with Afghanistan. They were wrong then and they're wrong now.
When American troops are among the people in force they can protect the population. When the population feels safe they will trust the troops and will give them intelligence, and we can defeat or tamp down the insurgents. This gives us breathing space to build up the indigenous army to the point where they can hold on their own.
Drawing down troops and only sending them in for hit-and-run raids is foolish and won't work. We tried it in Iraq in 2005/6 by keeping our troops on five large bases and sending them out only on raids. It didn't work because the only way to win an insurgency is to get the people to trust the counterinsurgents, and the only way that will happen is if the counterinsurgents live among the people. "Commuting to work" doesn't work.
Illustrating the difference with an example, Aaron MacLean posits two futures for Afghanistan over at The Weekly Standard.
Scenario One - Raiding From Afar
It is 2014, and in places like Helmand province most people have not seen a Coalition serviceman in years. When they do come, they come at night, break down someone's door and take away someone's father or brother, who is usually never seen again. This is, however, a much less common occurrence than the sudden descent of incredible destruction from the sky. Again, this usually happens at night, and in the morning the news spreads of how many women and children were killed, how there were no militants in the area, et cetera. The national government fell in 2013, and what was left of the Afghan army retreated to the north, where it achieved some level of dominance and where the situation has come to resemble the pre-9/11 struggle between the Northern Alliance and the Pashto-dominated Taliban. In the south and the east, a loose confederation of militant groups under the aegis of the Taliban vie for control, and a pre-modern theocratic totalitarianism is the daily situation in most villages and cities: beheadings, stonings, and other manifestations of divine justice are conducted regularly and in public to maintain what order there can be. As foreigners from America and Europe withdrew, foreigners from places like the Caucuses, Arabia, and North Africa have come in increasing numbers, and locals hear rumors of training camps located in remote areas. The most significant consequence of the Coalition's draw-down in 2010 actually has little to do with Afghanistan at all: the Pakistani government is now about to fall, having been fully destabilized by attacks based across the Afghan border. In the highest militant circles, liaisons are being sought with the Pakistani intelligence service to discuss the future of that country's nuclear arsenal.
Scenario Two - Counterinsurgency
In one future, the United States and NATO are beginning to draw down troops from the levels they reached in 2010. That was a bloody year, as were the two that followed it, but the level of violence has been dropping steadily since then as the sense of order and stability improves. As happened in Iraq, Coalition forces have come to be respected as the best guarantor of stability and security in most of the country. In some regions this is because the legitimacy of the Afghan government is fully accepted, and in others it is due to bilateral arrangements made by Coalition troops with local tribes. Terrorist attacks are still a regular occurrence, and a low level of cross border violence from Pakistan-based militants--who are harassed but not significantly hampered by the government in Islamabad--seems to be irreducible. But in general the widespread violence which spiked in the later part of the last decade is fading into memory, and the "safe-havens" within Afghanistan where the Taliban and al Qaeda could trade poppy, train, and operate, are eliminated. There are still such places in Pakistan, but our robust presence along the Afghan border gives us options for dealing with them, and leverage over the Pakistani government.
The real experts are Frederick and Kimberly Kagan. This husband-wife of scholars are probably the smartest military analysts on the planet.
In January of 2007 Frederick Kagan and retired Army Vice-Chief of Staff Jack Keane released an AEI report called Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq. They got the ear of President Bush and the plan eventually morphed into the surge. Frederick Kagan can therefore be considered one of the intellectual architects of the surge.
Kimberly Kagan, a former professor at West Point, now has her own think-tank, the Institute for the Study of War. All of her reports are must-reading.
They are to be listened to. Yesterday they released their plan for Afghanistan, A Comprehensive Strategy for Afghanistan: Afghanistan Force Requirements. I haven't read it, but hope to do so here shortly and will report on it when I do. From their introduction:
To inform the national discussion, therefore, we have produced a report that argues for an addition of 40,000-45,000 US troops in 2010 to the 68,000 American forces that will be there by the end of this year. The report illustrates where US, NATO, and Afghan forces are now and where additional forces are needed to accomplish the mission. It links the US force requirements to the growth of the Afghan National Security Forces on an accelerated timeline. It explains the methodology for assessing the adequacy of a proposed force-level. This product, and our recommendations and assessments, are entirely our own--they do not necessarily reflect the views of General McChrystal or anyone else." - Fred and Kim Kagan
President Bush failed to continue to make the cases for Afghanistan and Iraq once the initial invasions were over. President Obama is on track to make the same mistake with regard to Afghanistan. I understand that he has a domestic agenda that he considers important, but instead of going on Letterman he needs to get serious and address the American people about Afghanistan. If he does not, he will lose what support he has left.
Charles Krauthammer rips Obama for his lack of leadership Fox News All-Stars last night:
I think what's really important here are two dates. The first is August 30. That's when the McChrystal report was sent to Washington. That is three weeks ago. Obama has had a single meeting [on that report] since then.
He says he hasn't reached a conclusion -- I suppose because he is spending all his time preparing for Letterman and speeches to schoolchildren -- to focus on a war in which our soldiers are in the field getting shot at and, as the president himself is saying, without a strategy.
Now, the other date is the 27th of March, when Obama gave a speech in the White House flanked by his Secretaries of Defense and State, in which he said, and I will read you this, because it is as if it never happened, "Today I'm announcing a comprehensive new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan."
So we for six months have been living under the new Obama strategy, of which he says today we have none. And his next sentence is, again in March, "This marks the conclusion of a careful policy review" -- not the beginning, the end of the policy review.
So it has been his policy, and now he tells us we don't have a cart and we don't have a horse.
What's happening here is he announced the strategy of counterinsurgency in March. He said at the time that we "cannot afford" an "Afghanistan that slides [back] into chaos."
He said "My message to the terrorists who oppose us -- We will defeat you," And now he's not sure he wants to defeat them.
Swell. Obama needs to get on the ball and fast or this will consume him. We must win in Afghanistan or we face multimple 9-11s and a resurgent jihadist threat around the world.
Unbelievable Video of Obama Telling ACORN They Will Help Shape His Presidential Agenda
I think that by now everyone in the universe except those in the msm are aware of the videos by James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles and which are posted at Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com exposing ACORN as a criminal organization.
But hey, it's no big deal, we're told, ACORN doesn't mean anything and President Obama only had an indirect relationship with them years ago.
Uh, not exactly. On this video Obama is caught saying ACORN and friends will shape his presidential agenda.
...before I even get inaugurated during the transition we're going to be calling all of you in to help us shape the agenda. We're going to be having meetings all across the country with community organizations so that you have input into the agenda for the next president of the United States of America."
Of course, this should be investigated to high heaven, and the WaPo and NYT should be all over it. But they'll yawn and move on because it doesn't suit their agenda.
September 20, 2009
More on the Missile Defense System Obama Canceled
On Thursday I explained how Obama betrayed our allies who had gone out on a limb for us, reduced our ability to defend against Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and weakened us in the eyes of the world. The system Obama canceled would have put a powerful radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. cancelled
Before we get going today, a reminder from Jim Geraghty about how all promises from Obama come with an expiration date. Here's Obama this past April 5:
So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.) If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed. (Applause.)
As I explained in my previous post, Poland and the Czech Republic were under tremendous amounts of pressure not to accept the anti-missile system. n 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.
They therefore went out on a limb for the United States. Now that the system has been canceled, they're without as much protection from Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and they've still got Russia mad at them.
But that's no big deal, as I'm sure the liberals will say. "Circumstances have changed."
Except that they haven't.
Thomas Joscelyn has the scoop in a post over at The Weekly Standard
First, note that the Obama administration, in its fact sheet on missile defense, does not currently intend to deploy a missile defense system capable of intercepting Iran's long-range missiles until 2020. Phase Four of Obama's plan, which is "in the 2020 timeframe," reads (emphasis added): "After development and testing are complete, deploy the SM-3 Block IIB to help better cope with medium- and intermediate-range missiles and the potential future ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) threat to the United States." All three of the previous phases deal with short to intermediate-range interceptors.
That is, Obama's plan does not envision the deployment of a missile defense capable of countering Iran's long-range missiles until the tail end of the current estimate of when the mullahs will have that capability. The current estimate is that Iran will have an ICBM capability between 2015 and 2020. Obama is therefore assuming the best-case scenario (for us) with respect to long-range missiles within that range. So, the current plan does not envision deploying long-range interceptors in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019, which are all possibilities in the current estimate. The Obama plan says things may change, of course, but for now they've assumed the best-case scenario from the West's perspective.
Second, as I discussed earlier, it is still very likely that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) does not really have a firm grasp on when Iran will deploy ICBM's. Just as with the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program, the IC has once again modified its views within a relatively short period of time. The previous estimate said that the mullahs "could" have a long-range missile capability by 2015. This estimate was cited as recently as President Obama's inauguration day, January 20 of this year. 2015 is still apparently a possibility, but the IC has now pushed back the tail-end of its range of possibilities. This means that it could be in 2015, or in 2020, some time in between, or whenever.
Of course, Iran continues apace with its satellite program (e.g. Iran launched its first satellite into space in February 2009), which can be used to push along its development of ICBM's. So, it is not clear why the IC now thinks, on average, it will take longer than previously anticipated for Iran to develop a long-range missile capability.
Third, the timing of the news of this revised NIE is certainly inauspicious. An IAEA document reportedly showing that Iran has the capability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system capable of carrying it has been leaked to the Associated Press. The IAEA responded by issuing a statement saying it "has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran." This is transparently false as the AP's account makes it clear that the IAEA's document says Iran has mostly likely worked on both the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon as well as the capability to deliver it.
Thus, at the precise moment the Obama administration is telling us there is less to worry about with respect to Iran's long-range missiles, a leaked IAEA document is telling us that there is more to worry about with respect to Iran's nuclear program in general. The Obama administration's entire rationale for its missile defense plan rests on the assumption that Iran will not be able to deliver such a weapon with a long-range missile for ten more years.
The Concept of Layers
Our ships in World War II had a multi-layered defense against enemy aircraft. Farthest out were our own fighters. The ship itself had three types of guns; 5 inch with proximity fused shells to fire long distance, Quad-mount 40mm Bofors for medium range, and 20mm Oerlikon as a last ditch defense. Modern aircraft carriers have a similar arrangement but with missiles and the Phalanx gun system for terminal defense.
It's the same with ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) defense. In the ideal system you set up a variety of radars and detection systems, then you have different types of missiles to intercept the threat during boost-stage, mid-course, and terminal phase. We have AEGIS ships, ground-based interceptors, and finally the THAAD system as terminal defense.
The reason for all this is pretty simple; no one layer will get all of the threats.
By canceling the system that would have been set up in Poland and the Czech Republic Obama has removed one layer.
MAD Won't Work
We could deter the Soviets and Chicoms (nice Cold War term there) because they were atheists and as evil as they were and are at the end of the day wanted to live. Communism has no meaning if everyone is dead. Mutual Assured Destruction thus had a perverse logic to it that worked during the Cold War.
Not so with religious fanatics, especially of the Muslim variety. Through dozens if not hundreds of statements it should be pretty clear by now that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are not at all shy about sacrificing perhaps millions of their countrymen if it means destroying an enemy.
This said, they indeed hesitate before pushing the button when they get nuclear weapons and the means by which to deliver them. Even fanatics will have last minute doubts. But weakness on our part will encourage them to "risk it" and encourage their fanaticism. Osama bin Laden and others saw the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan as a sign from God that He was on their side and that they should continue their jihad. No doubt the mullahs and Ahmadinejad see the same thing from Obama's weakness. .
Same Old Song From the Democrats
I have been observing Democrats for almost 40 years, and they're all the same on National Defense. Their mantra is "develop forever, deploy never." They're always against current weapons systems, but in favor of some future system. President Carter canceled the B-1a in favor of a future stealth bomber (which eventually turned out to be the B-2). President Clinton forever delayed the deployment of anti-missile systems in favor of future ones. Democrats in Congress are just the same.
Folks, I know these Democrats. I know how they think. What's going on now is the latest stanza in the same old song. I guarantee you that when it comes time to deploy the system(s) in and around Turkey that Obama now claims he wants, they'll want to cancel them too. Do not be fooled.
What Have We Learned?
- All promises from Obama come with an expiration date
- Our allies went out on a limb for us and we sawed it off
- Obama will not deploy any system capable of countering ICBMs until 2020, "the tail end of the current estimate" as to when Iran will have ICBMs.
- We should not be confident of current estimates on Iranian capabilities.
- Anti-missile defenses should be set up in layers
- MAD won't work
- History tells us that Obama's future system will be opposed anyway by Democrats as their motto is "develop forever, deploy never."
The prudent thing is to have multiple layers of defense against all types of missile threats; short range, IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Misslies),and ICBMs. These defenses should be deployed well ahead of when we currently think our adversaries might deploy their missiles. To do anything less is to toy with the security of the United States.
September 17, 2009
Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield
Barack Obama is turning into Jimmy Carter Part II with frightening speed. It's bad enough that he apologizes to foreign offices for perceived U.S. offenses, that he let's Latin American thugs lecture him without response, admonishes Israel while ignoring Palestinian offenses and that he cuts vital weapons systems like the F-22 Raptor, but in his latest act he has both betrayed key allies and left Europe defenseless all at once. All that and we're barely eight months into his presidency. Not even Carter got this bad so fast.
In case you haven't seen it, here's the story as it appeared in today's Washington Times
President Obama on Thursday said he is scrapping current plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic that was intended to protect against the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, but said he is doing so in order to deploy a more flexible system, possibly in those same countries, that his administration said is an "enhancement."
Mr. Obama, in a statement at the White House, said that his "new approach" will "best address the threat posed by Iran's ongoing ballistic missile defense program."
He and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates emphasized that the new system was based on a determination that the Iranian threat has shifted, for now, away from long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) delivery systems for potential nuclear weapons and toward short- and medium-range missiles.
We'll deal later with why the explanation is a load of bunk, but for now let's make sure we understand the magnitude of the betrayal of our allies.
Poland is right on the doorstep of Russia. The Czech Republic is father away, of course, but still vulnerable. Poland is most vulnerable to direct military assault, and both to economic pressure. Russia is the world's largest exporter of natural gas. In 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.
A few years ago Russia put a lot of pressure on Poland and the Czech Republic to not accept their parts of the missile defense shield, but they bravely resisted and threw in their lot with the U.S. They did so knowing that they were vulnerable to Russian pressure, but they did it anyway. And now Obama pulls the rug out from under them. They now have the worst of both worlds; no defense against missiles but still having annoyed Russia for having accepted it in the first place.
An Iranian Nuke
For the past few years I've listened to liberals tell us there was no worry because the Iranians had either stopped their nuclear program or were years off. Today we see this from Fox News
A secret report from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warns that Iran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system to carry it -- an assessment that could call into question the Obama administration's claim on Thursday that the biggest threat from Iran comes from its short- and medium-range missiles....
The report, which says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on developing a delivery system, appears to be the so-called "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program that Washington has said is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.
But the IAEA pushed back hard against that allegation, saying the charge is baseless.
"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran," the IAEA said in a written statement.
An IAEA spokesman told FOX News that the next formal report on Iran's nuclear capabilities is expected in November. He said the evidence suggesting Iran has a nuclear weapons program has not been verified.
I tried to quote enough to be fair.
Ok, so it's not definitive or verified. And my instinct tells me that they won't have a nuke until next year. And it'll be awhile after than before they have more than one or two, and longer still before they can put them atop missiles.
But maybe not. The simple fact is that we don't know, and seems to me that it is only prudent to assume that they are relatively far along in development.
Missiles in Turkey Not Sufficient
The White House put out a "fact sheet"on their alternative to the canceled missile defense system in Europe, which says in part:
Starting around 2011, this missile defense architecture will feature deployments of increasingly-capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors, primarily upgraded versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), and a range of sensors in Europe to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. This phased approach develops the capability to augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats, and to offer more effective defenses against more near-term ballistic missile threats. The plan provides for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems.
But as Michael Goldfarb points out over at TWS:
The White House has put out a "fact sheet" on their policy of Russian appeasement/missile defense surrender. The fact sheet says that the new approach -- focusing on SM-3 and sea-based systems (presumably in Turkey) -- will "augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats." That is a lie. This system will provide zero, nada, zilch protection to the U.S. homeland, providing only defense against short- and medium-range missiles to Europe.
The fact sheet says this system will protect "our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems." That is a lie. The system that was being placed in Poland is already operational in Alaska. These new plans will now take years of negotations to implement and will necessarily be less survivable as they will not be underground.
The fact sheet says that "The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat." That is a lie. The Czechs and Poles get a midnight phone call from the president while Tauscher is already in the air. They were not consulted with and have been given no assurances -- because the president is selling them out.
The fact sheet says, "We also welcome Russian cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests." If that's true, our president is totally clueless about Russian capabilities and intentions -- even Bush, who looked into Putin's soul, was not so delusional as to think U.S. missile defense could be dependent on Russian good will and cooperation. How long til the Russians threaten to throw us out of our "joint" missile defense facilities in order to coerce us into staying out of an attack on Georgia or some other democratic state in their near abroad.
This is a decision based purely on ideology and the good soldiers on the JCS and and at the Pentagon have no choice but to go along for the ride. At least the president ought to be honest about what this means and stop the smears of missile defense.
Yup, what we have here is pure left-wing ideology in action. It is the mindset of Jimmy Carter; screw our friends and talk nice to our enemies. Obama is all set to talk to Iran next month, yet the latter have shown absolutely no inclination that they will even consider giving up their nuclear program. Both Russia and China have said that they are dead set against any more sanctions.
Betraying Friends and Rewarding Enemies and Adversaries
Obama ignored the massive human rights abuses committed by the mullahs in the wake of the last election there, and only spoke out after intense pressure. He's a fool if he thinks that Russia will give us anything in return for this massive U.S. concession. Obama has betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic, two allies, and is being nicey-nice to our enemies and adversaries, Iran and Russia.
So today Iran and Russia are happy, and Poland and the Czech Republic disappointed. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
Perhaps the most insightful words, though, were spoken by Mirek Topolanek, who was the Czech prime minister when Prague agreed to co-host the shield, said that Obama's decision to cancel it was
"not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence".
Yes, the future of Czech freedom and indepdence are more in question today than they were yesterday
Iraq Briefing - 10 September 2009 - AQI is Testing the Iraqi Security Forces
his briefing is by Lieutenant General Charles Jacoby, Junior, commanding general of Multinational Corps-Iraq. Last Thursday he spoke via satellite from Camp Victory in Iraq with reporters at the Pentagon.
From the website of Multi-National Force - Iraq, MNC-Iraq is "the Tactical Unit responsible for command and control of Operations in Iraq." Iraq is divided into four major areas of responsibility, Multi-National Divison - North, Multi-National Divison - Baghdad, Multi-National Force - West, and Multi-National Divison - South. Each is headquartered by an American division, commanded by a major general. Each reports to MNC-Iraq, and thus Gen. Jacoby. Essentially, the job of the corps commander is to implement the objectives of the Multi-National Force commander, who is currently General Raymond Odierno. The corps commander plans the various military operations and assigns units to specific locations.
Lt. Gen. Jacoby reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, commander of CENTCOM, the regional command. Petreaus in turn reports directly to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The transcript is at DefenseLink.
From his opening statement
GEN. JACOBY: Currently, our enemies are resorting to a campaign of sensationalism through suffering, by directing attacks against Iraq's most vulnerable targets in an attempt to discredit the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces. We are seeing determined extremists, insurgents and terrorists employ IEDs against markets, shrines and other places where families gather and civilians go about their daily lives....
Sons of Iraq is another critical area that has seen success. The government of Iraq, which took over the responsibility of paying the Sons of Iraq in May, is now current on pay in all provinces. In addition, more than 5,500 Sons of Iraq have now been transferred into ministerial jobs, with more scheduled to come....
There is a real chance for success here in Iraq, but it's very important to remember our mission is not complete. Our enemies will continue to attack our progress, and they will do it by killing and injuring innocent Iraqis. They will test Iraqi security forces as we move toward the elections and as the new government is seated. But I am confident that Iraqi security forces will pass this test. And now, I'm happy to take your questions.
Indeed for counterinsurgents to succeed the government must be seen as legitimate. There are many factors involved in establishing legitimacy, but the most basic is the ability to provide security.
The Sons of Iraq (SOI) program (originally Concerned Local Citizens) has been a subject in many briefings. Briefly, it was mostly a Sunni operation designed to get "buy in" from the citizens on legitimacy and to provide jobs for men who might otherwise become insurgents. A sort of "super neighborhood watch," the U.S. did not provide them weapons, but everyone in Iraq seems to have an AK-47. When the insurgency was (mostly) defeated, the objective turned to getting jobs for SOI. Originally the mostly Shia government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki balked and dragged it's feet, but consistent and firm U.S. pressure has persuaded them to honor their obligations.
On to the Q & A. In this first exchange Daphne Benoit asks for more detail about the attacks that General Jacoby mentioned:
Q Good afternoon, sir. This is Daphne Benoit with Agence France-Presse. According to your intel, is al Qaeda-Iraq behind most of the spectacular attacks we've seen lately, and if you have a percentage in mind of the attacks perpetrated by al Qaeda? And how big are its -- their network today in Iraq? And are there many foreign fighters, or Iraqis?
GEN. JACOBY: Yeah, thank you for that question. We think al Qaeda in Iraq remains a big problem, and they are greatly diminished since the days of just a few years ago. But they are still able to generate these high-profile attacks that we're concerned about. The frequency of attacks, the scale of the attacks -- not like we've seen in the past -- but the ability to generate a high-profile attack now is causing concern, and I would say it's the targeting of the attacks which causes us the most concern.
And as I said in my opening statement, clearly they're going after targets like civilian population centers, where civilians are meeting, where they're conducting their daily lives. They're doing that to discredit the Iraqi security forces. They're doing that to try to incite sectarian violence...
In the period that we're looking at right now, post-30 June, I consider most of the attacks, the high-profile attacks that you are seeing and that are getting the publicity, are al Qaeda attacks.
Next we have a discussion about AABs, or Advisory assistance brigades. This is the first time they've been mentioned in a briefing. We have heard much about civilian Human Terrain Teams and Provisional Reconstruction Teams, but AABs are new. After googling around a bit they seem to be just what they sound like, specially constructed military units whose specialty is training, advising, and mentoring the Iraqi security forces. They will advise on not just combat but on all aspects, such as logistics, medical, intelligence, etc.
Q Sir, it's Donna Miles with the American Forces Press Service. I'm curious about what you see -- the role of these new AABs that will be flowing into Iraq. Where do you plan to concentrate them? And how will what they're doing support what your goals are?...
GEN. JACOBY: Okay. Thank you. Yeah, the advisory assistance brigades -- it's a concept we believe in. We think it's the right way to go as we move from counterinsurgency and full-spectrum ops to our strategy of being done with combat operations for U.S. forces in August 2010. And then we'll be reliant on our advisory assistance brigades.
I think that the important part about an advisory assistance brigade is, it's -- that it's a mission and it's a mind-set. And it's a series of tasks that we do, and I ran through them earlier. They're advise, assist, enable, train, those kinds of tasks that are clearly within the stability ops realm. We believe Iraqi security forces will be fully capable of conducting the combat operations and other leads in security operations that will be required at that time.
Advisory assistance brigades should be fully on line by August 2010. We're having some good work with brigades right now that have been able to transition into stability ops, learning a lot of lessons, sending those kinds of observations back to the field or back to the training base as we continue to develop the advisory assistance brigades. Great exchange of information between theater and back home in the training base.
We'll look at one last exchange, this time on the all-important issue of whether the Iraqis can maintain stability when U.S. troops are gone
Note that their is no false optimism, and Gen Jacoby does not look at the situation through rose-colored glasses and try to spin us that things will definately get better etc. Lest you think this is a characteristic only of this briefing, I assure you that having watched every briefing by a combat commander for two and a half years briefers without exception are cautious to the point of paranoia about making predictions about the future.
Q General, it's Mike Mount with CNN. If I could approach the drawdown -- the troop drawdown question again. Both Secretary Gates and General Odierno have said that bringing out an extra brigade by the end of the year would be based on security levels. At the beginning of this briefing, you kind of gave a mixed-bag approach on security. Do you think security is going to be stable enough by the end of the year to bring out an extra brigade?
GEN. JACOBY: I think we're headed in a good direction. We are seeing Iraqi security forces, as I said in my opening statement, meet some testing, and some really tough testing, head on. It's too early, really, to say right now whether the operational environment is going to support accelerated troop withdrawals. We'll be ready to do that if we're asked to and if we think that the security environment has improved.
One of the questions is how much longer al Qaeda can continue these types of high-profile attacks. They're -- they are not frequent. The -- al Qaeda and other insurgent forces such as JRTN and a few others cannot sustain this kind of an operational tempo, and we will see if they punch themselves out.
I will tell you, Iraqi security forces are taking the initiative and working hard to sustain security. And so I'm optimistic in the sense that they are going after the problem and they're not backing down. And so we'll see how the environment improves as we head toward the election.
But I will tell you that it's a volatile time period, and I think the testing will continue. And I think we should expect it to. If the environment is looking at the end of the year like we can accelerate, then I'm sure my superiors will have us take a look at that, and we'll figure out whether we can get it done as the year closes out.
September 16, 2009
Iraq Briefing - 08 Sept 2009 - Insurgent Weapons Say "Made in Iran"
This briefing is by Major General Richard Nash, commanding general of the 34th Infantry Division and Multinational Division-South. The 34th ID is also known as the Red Bull Divisionand is from Rosemount, Minnesota. Last Saturday he spoke via satellite from Iraq with reporters at the Pentagon
From the MNF-Iraq website, MND-South, "assists Iraqi Security Forces with security and stability missions in the area south of Baghdad ranging from Najaf to Wasit provinces extending to Basrah."
General Nash reports to Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Jacoby reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
The transcript is at DefenseLink.
Issues surrounding the Iranian nuclear weapons program have been in the news recently, and the only reason it hasn't received more attention is that the nation's attention is focused on the healthcare debate and more recently the ACORN videos. These latter domestic issues deserve our primary attention at the moment, but before long we'll have to face the music regarding Iran again. As we learn in this briefing, Iran is busily at work trying to destabilizing Iraq. This, of course, is not a good thing.
From Gen Nash's opening remarks:
GEN. NASH: ...Since we spoke last month, the Iraqi security forces have had tremendous success in establishing security throughout the nine provinces of southern Iraq. I'd like to highlight a good-news story in the Dhi Qar and Maysan provinces, and a productive mission that resulted in a significant capture of weapons and ammunition.
During recent operations, the 10th Iraqi Army Division captured dozens of explosively formed penetrator plates, magnetic car sticky bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, hundreds of machine guns, assault rifles, and thousands of small-arms rounds. Additionally, over a hundred rockets, artillery rounds and mortar shells were collected from cache sites between the arid dunes of northern Maysan and the marshes in the south of the province. Among the recently confiscated items were rocket rails, radios and gas masks.
The Iraqi army is cementing its reputation with the citizens of southern Iraq as a catalyst for peace and adding to their security.
Most of these caches were exposed by tips from the concerned citizens, who refuse to let criminals and terrorists erode security and economic opportunity in their country....
A pretty short opening statement overall and nothing remarkable or new in it. On to the Q & A. Here is where things get interesting, and it's obvious that the reporters know what they're looking for in their questions:
Q: ...Good morning, general. This is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. I don't know if you could give us more details about the captured munitions that the Iraqi divisions have found lately in the south. Do you know, what's the source of these weapons, these rockets?
GEN. NASH: ...As I mentioned, the caches that they were able to find, the munitions that I mentioned, certainly have markings on them. And they come from a variety of places. And I'll be quite frank with you; some of the rockets have "made in Iran" on those rockets, but -- as well as some other countries that -- munitions. And they certainly can be munitions that are left over from the previous war, the Iranian-Iraq war in the '80s. Some of them are rather new. But again, they're marked with certain country markings. And those are the things that we try to exploit, look at, find out how new those weapons are, how new those munitions are, as we continue to exploit the networks that are doing harm here in southern Iraq.
Q General, Bill McMichael, Military Times. You said the other munitions, aside from the rockets that were stamped "made in Iran," have come from a variety of places. Could you please be more specific, or tell us why you can't be?
GEN. NASH: Bill, again, you know, if I talked about names that were on there, I'd be pointing fingers. And again, we really don't have information or intelligence that would directly pinpoint it back to a particular supplier. So needless to say, the bulk of what we see would have a stamp on a particular munition that would say "Iran." ...
Q Barbara Starr, from CNN. Well, now I have to follow up and then ask my other -- my real question. On the Iranian weapons, you have seen this for many years now, and you understand the date stamps on the Iranian weapons. So what is the most recent-manufacture Iranian weapons you have seen? And then I would like to just ask a question I need to ask.
GEN. NASH: Follow-up on that, I believe I'll be able to answer it. I believe probably "07" was the latest stamping of a date on a munition that I personally saw and have heard about.
The weapons Nash that we have found have been in Iraq for a few years, but this does not preclude the possibility that there are weapons of more recent manufacture that we simply haven't found. And just because they're stamped "2007 doesn't mean that they weren't brought to Iraq in 2009.
How much of an effect these weapons are having is not stated in this briefing, and as we shall see below Nash says that in his area in recent months "the number of IED attacks has gone down dramatically." However, with American troops due to withdraw from operations more and more, having these weapons around and possibly still being shipped into the country will make the job of the Iraqi security forces all the harder.
The best thing would be to convince Iran to stop supplying the insurgency. A few years ago our ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, held a series of meetings with the Iranians to try and do just that. As I recall they were partially successful but obviously not completely so. President Obama hasn't shown any strength with regard to dealing with the Iranian nuclear question so it's hard to see his administration getting serious about this issue either.
Continuing with the brieving, there was much Q & A about the death of PFC Wilhelm. Wilhelm was either killed by other soldiers or committed suicide, and an investigation by the CID is ongoing. Apparently there was mistreatment of the soldier which of course is a concern to all. Four soldiers have been arrested and an Article 32 hearing will take place shortly to see if there is enough evidence for a courts martial. I won't cover that here as you can watch the video and read the transcript for details.
The final Q & A that we'll look at concerns the overall level of violence, a sign of whether the insurgency is ramping up again or whether we still have things under control. What we have is generally good news and is not challenged by the reporters.
Q Sir, can I come back to that? This is Gordon Lubold at the Christian Science Monitor. But can you give us kind of a -- some sense of the amount of violence across your area of responsibility -- (audio break) -- and also, just kind of characterize what are your troops doing?
GEN. NASH: Okay, let me answer the -- sort of a two-part thing, what my troops are doing and the level of violence. We average a little over 1.3 attacks per day, and that's throughout all nine provinces. And I mentioned earlier in my opening statement, you know, landwise, it's probably the size of Wisconsin geographically. Primarily all Shi'a.
Now, you have to keep that in mind, and the fact that we probably have close to 10 1/2 million people in those nine provinces. So we're averaging a little over 1.3 attacks per day, and this is less than in Baghdad, less than in Multinational Division-North, in the Mosul area, Tikrit area, but slightly more than in Multinational Force-West in the Anbar province.
Since June, the attacks, generally, have dropped slightly in our area. The number of IED attacks has gone down dramatically. The highest month was the month we got here, in May. But that was the highest in eight months, and each month since then, the IED attacks have gone down.
Now, have said -- have -- saying that, in direct-fire attacks on bases in COBs and in our FOBs have increased slightly since June 30th, since out of the cities, since we've complied with the security agreement.
But in general the attacks against the coalition forces -- on the roads, doing their missions, partnering with the Iraqi security forces, going out to the training, to advise and assist, to be part of their operations, as I mentioned -- has gone down slightly.
Now, talking about our soldiers, what are they doing? They're engaged each and every day, like they have been. It's sort of like, now we're commuting to work. Whereas before we were out and about, not so much here in the south, because we were really not part of the -- embedded in the major cities that were part of the security agreement.
September 15, 2009
Iraq Briefing - 20 August 2009 - "Frustrated" by Pace of Progress
This briefing is by Lieutenant General Frank Helmick, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq, also known as MNSTC-I (pron "min-sticky"); and also, NATO Training Mission-Iraq. He spoke via satellite from Forward Operating Base Prosperity in Baghdad with reporters at the Pentagon.
From the MNF-Iraq website, "MNSTC-I is responsible for organizing, training, equipping and mentoring Iraqi Security Forces throughout the country."
I am not sure of the exact chain of command here, whether Gen. Helmick reports to Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, directly to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq, or to someone else. Either way, Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The latest Order of Battle can be found at The Institute for the Study of War.
The transcript is at DefenseLink.
Yes, I'm a bit behind on my briefings, but this one is important. I hope to post more briefings later today or tomorrow.
In 2006 progress in Iraq was "one step forward, two steps back." With the success of the surge we heard "two (or three) steps forward, one step back." Either way, progress was difficult and reverses constant. Clearly, the Iraqi Army was ineffective in 2006. The influx of American troops, coupled with a new strategy, gave them breathing room. They're improving, but we are after all talking about a third world country with all the attendant problems.
Last month Gen Helmick expressed some of the frustration that comes with building a new army in such a country. From his opening statement:
GEN. HELMICK: Dave, thank you very much. And good morning to all of you. I just want to say up front I'm very happy to be here today to talk to you about the situation in Iraq and the role of the Multinational Security Transition Command and NATO in Iraq. But first, I must address the horrific attacks that took place yesterday in Baghdad...
One attack in Iraq is one too many, but we must remember where we've been. The Iraqi security forces have demonstrated their increased capability, and the declining number of attacks over time is proof of that. Yes, we have much work to be done, and the U.S. forces will continue to work with the people of Iraq to improve the capabilities of their security forces.
What do I mean by institutional capacity? In short, I mean helping the government of Iraq develop the capacity to train, equip, employ and supervise their security forces. Iraq has come a long way in these last couple of years in being able to field tactically proficient soldiers and police.
But supporting these soldiers and police in the field remains a challenge. The government of Iraq still needs help in establishing fully functional maintenance and logistics systems, as well as help in things like effectively managing the personnel actions required in a nation-wide police system which employs today over 400,000 policemen.
Along with other improvements, the government of Iraq is also making positive strides in the professionalization of their security institutions. Iraq's security forces are visibly proud to serve their nation. Unlike the past, security forces are effectively resisting sectarian and other negative influences. This is in stark contrast from a few years ago when some units refused to follow lawful instructions, or simply melted away.
Here are the relevant Q & A exchanges:
Q Gordon Lubold, with the Christian Science Monitor. So what was the scope of what you provided on the ground to the Iraqis yesterday in the aftermath? But also, are you frustrated -- you've mentioned that -- by request, by request, and that's subject to the security agreement, but I mean, are you guys at all frustrated that the requests haven't been more forthcoming, more requests from the Iraqis?
GEN. HELMICK: No, I don't think we are frustrated because the requests are not forthcoming. If you look -- again, if you take this incident in isolation -- and again, I do not want to discount this, but if you look at the past 18 months, the security trends have been very, very good -- again, at an all-time low. And this clearly is a spike, and there was a breakdown in security.
So I don't think that we are -- or at least I am not frustrated with the lack of requests.
What I am personally frustrated with is that, again, we must continue to develop the capabilities inside the Iraqi military. And we are doing that as fast as we can. My frustration is we -- I am not doing it fast enough. And we want to continue to do that as we move to the timeline of 50,000 in August of 2010 and down to zero in December 2011.
Q Point of view, from that standpoint, what are some of the things that you want to work on with them from where you sit?
GEN. HELMICK: Right. You know, what we have done so far to date is the -- I don't want to say the easy things, but the less difficult things. It's easy to build an infantryman and an infantry unit; it's very, very difficult and it takes time to build an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technician to build a platform for the Iraqis. In other words, airplanes with qualified crews, Iraqi crews that can fly them and analyze the data; for example, in the ISR platform.
In the police side of the house, it's easy to build a policeman; it's very, very difficult and it takes time to build forensics labs for the Iraqis, where they have scientists that are trained, where they can secure a site and exploit the evidence on that site to convict someone vice a confession to convict someone.
All of these things are very, very difficult to do, and it takes time. Another frustration, of course, is building a logistics system for the Iraqis. It is very, very difficult and very time-consuming to build a national logistics system, something that just doesn't happen overnight.
So those are the kinds of difficult things as we move forward into the rest of 2009 and '10 that we really have to focus on and accelerate. That is my personal frustration with where we are today.
As I have said before, I'm certain that our generals use these briefings to send messages; sometimes to the Iraqis, sometimes to the Iranians, mostly of course to the American people. This one was a loud and clear message to the Iraqi government: Get your act together because we are not going to be here forever.
And sure enough, the media picked up on this. Fox News had an article out the same day:
U.S. Training Commander 'Frustrated' By Pace of Progress in Iraq
Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick told a Pentagon news conference that he is not certain he can complete some of the high-tech training -- including for Iraq's Air Force -- by the time U.S. troops are scheduled to leave at the end of 2011.
"What I am personally frustrated with is that ... we must continue to develop the capability inside the Iraqi military," said Helmick. "We are doing that as fast as we can. My frustration is we, I, am not doing it fast enough."
For those who are interested in the details of what's going on in Iraq, and want an excellent primer on building security forces in difficult situations, see Building Security Forces and Ministerial Capacity: Iraq as a Primer, by ieutenant General James Dubik (ret.), who served as the commander of Multi-National Security and Transition Command - Iraq (MNSTC-I) from mid-2007 to mid-2008, over at Kimberly Kagan's Institute for the Study of War.
Finally, for the naysayers, yes building an army in a third world country is hard. But it can be done. In the 1980s we retrained several Latin American armies so that they coulddefeat communist insurgencies, and recently our advisors have been helping countries around the world defeat various jihadist insurgencies. Gen. Helmick isn't saying we're losing in Iraq, or that the Iraqis aren't "stepping up to the plate" or whatever. He is simply stating the obvious; that it's hard and that we can do better.
This passage is approvingly quoted in Gen Petraeus' U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24
"It is a persistently methodical approach and steady pressure which will gradually wear the insurgent down. The government must not allow itself to be diverted either by counter-moves on the part of the insurgent or by the critics on its own side who will be seeking a simpler and quicker solution. There are no short-cuts and no gimmicks - Sir Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency: The Lessons of Malaya and Vietnam, 1966
Previous by Maj. Gen. Nash
September 14, 2009
Selective Outrage at the New York Times and Their New Call for "Civil Discourse"
I've written on the selective outrage of the left regarding the issue of when they had no problem calling President Bush a Nazi, but suddenly get all indignant when someone on the right does likewise with Obama. Today, Victor Davis Hanson nails it with regard to the selective outrage of New York Times columnists
Maureen Dowd wrote another unfortunate, poorly argued, and thinly researched column yesterday. She alleges that racism is behind the growing suspicion of the Obama administration and its initiatives. But almost everything we've seen so far has a parallel with liberal attacks on George W. Bush. By 2005, Democrats were booing him openly during his State of the Union address. Rep. Pete Stark called him a liar on the House floor. In fact, the response so far to Obama is mild in comparison to what Bush endured. That does not excuse the boorishness of Joe Wilson, but his tirade is symbolic of our loss of decorum since 2002/2003.
As we all remember, novels were published outlining dreams of killing Bush; a film on that theme won an award. Al Gore, John Glenn (of all people!), and Robert Byrd compared Bush to a brownshirt or Nazi, and they were echoed in the popular culture by the likes of Linda Rondstadt and Garrison Keiler ("brownshirts in pinstripes"). There was no liberal outcry in response.
The Guardian published a sick column by one Charles Brooker, who asked out loud, "John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. -- where are you now that we need you?" Howard Dean, head of the Democratic party, raged, "I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for." I think it was The New Republic that published Jonathan Chait's infamous "Why I Hate George W. Bush" article -- imagine the outcry should anyone now do the same reprehensible thing with Obama substituted for Bush (e.g., "Why I Hate Barack H. Obama"). A play ran in New York called "I'm Gonna Kill the President."
Michael Moore was not censured by Democratic grandees for his horrendous comments (such as describing the insurgents in Iraq as modern-day Minutemen), but was instead rewarded with invitations from top Democrats, presumably because he was deemed useful. So far, unhinged Republican senators have not blasted Obama and suggested that our troops are akin to Nazis, terrorists, Khmer Rouge killers, and Baathists (in the manner of Senator Durbin or the late Senator Kennedy).
When an Iraqi threw shoes at President Bush, there was plenty of undisguised delight among liberal columnists and bloggers. I can imagine the response had a Bush-appointed green-jobs czar said that 9/11 was a government inside job, that Democrats were "a--holes," that Obama was like a crackhead, and that black people were more prone to shoot people and pollute. He would be fired on the spot, and his insanities cited as proof of larger social pathologies.
Joe Wilson was boorish and absolutely wrong to have yelled out during a presidential speech. And a few of the signs at Saturday's march in Washington were, like their counterparts on the left during their marches, way over the top. But so far, we have seen in the opposition to Obama none of the hatred and sickness that characterized a wide swath of opinion on the left during the Bush years -- hatred and sickness that were mainstreamed by the likes of Alfred Knopf, the Guardian, and the Democratic party.
So far, the New York Times has not offered a discount to run a politicized ad like "General Betray Us" attacking Obama. I don't remember Ms. Dowd herself complaining about the tone of any the above, but I do recall her own mean-spirited offerings, like her recent silly admission that "In the past week, I've twice been close enough to Dick Cheney to kick him in the shins. . . . I didn't. It's probably a federal crime of some sort. But a girl can fantasize." Write about Obama in the manner Dowd did about Cheney, and one would of course be called a racist. This is all puerile and shameless.
The present poisoned atmosphere began in the 1980s and 1990s with virulent partisan attacks on Reagan and Clinton. But it was between 2004 and 2008 that the Left introduced a particularly sick sort of hatred to the political give-and-take, reminiscent of the lunatic right during the mid-1950s.
So far the opposition to Obama has not followed the Bush-hating exemplar, and let us pray that it does not. But there is a growing public perception that a Left that used every means to achieve its ends is suddenly terrified that others as crass might follow its own unfortunate lead. One of the most surreal developments of the last nine months has been to see Times columnists who were particularly unfair and vicious in their 24/7 attacks on the prior administration now call for more civil discourse and impugn the motives of Obama critics, apparently in bewilderment that anyone would question the president's competence or sincerity. This is all quite amazing, really.
September 12, 2009
Tea Party 9-12-09 March on Washington DC
Are you Taxed Enough Already?
If not, just wait, because Obama will Tax You More!
Yes, yours truly was downtown Washington DC today for the March on Washington
Starting at 9am, people gathered at Freedom Plaza, which is about two blocks east of the White House, and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol building. Pennsylvania runs straight so you can see the beautiful dome of the Capitol building the entire route. Freedom Plaza was chosen as the start because is very close to two metro stops, and so people could just get right off the metro and then start walking down Pennsylvania Ave until they got the the Capitol. I forgot to note the time but think we got downtown at about 10:30.
Here is the scene down Pennsylvania Avenue
Yes, it was mobbed. You know, that dastardly right-wing "mob" that Nancy Pelosi and the others do dislike.
For anyone who needs it, here is a short explanation of the Tea Party Movement from Matt Kibbe, the President of FreedomWorks.org
The Tea Party Movement
April 15th was a historic day for those who love freedom. Hundreds of thousands of Americans came out to protest the massive government spending that is burdening our country with huge debt and future tax increases. From main streets in small towns, to county courthouses and state capitols, your voice was heard loud and clear. The sight of over 15,000 freedom-loving Americans protesting in downtown Atlanta was incredible. I was thrilled to be a guest at that "tea party" and was inspired by the local organizers who put it together.
People came out of their homes and into the streets to stand together and say "Enough!" But the liberal media and some pundits would have you believe only a few people showed up, and that those who did were not representative of the American people. Of course you and I know the truth and we know that April 15th, 2009 was just the beginning of something huge.
We must keep our momentum going, and keep the pressure on our elected officials as they vote on how much more of our money they will spend, and how much more of our money they will confiscate. Congress in session and the champions of big government will be working to pass a massive budget, a new national energy tax, government-run health care, and other policies that would cripple our economy even further.
Many of you have been discussing the next steps for the "tea party" movement. I've heard some great ideas about how to follow up on our historic day. I'd like to share some of those with you, and ask you to save the date for another big day: 9-12-2009.
FreedomWorks will be partnering with other like-minded grassroots organizations and local organizers to plan a massive, historic March on Washington on September 12, 2009 at the U.S. Capitol. Please sign up today, and keep checking our website for updates and travel information for the March on Washington. We have been inspired by your involvement in this cause, and we believe that we can work together to send a message to the politicians in Washington that we've had enough of the wasteful spending, trillion dollar deficits, bailouts, and taxes.
Together, we can write our own history as a people, and take our country back.
On Friday John Hood had an excellent post over at National Review's The Corner on the background of some of the organizations behind the Tea Parties.
Here are some more scenes of us marching down Pennsylvania Avenue
In this photo you can see the Capitol dome in the distance
Turning 180 degrees, here's the view back along the march
This sign summed up much of the sentiment behind the rally, and was no doubt widely shared by all participants
Although of course everyone at the event was on the right politically and would describe themselves as conservatives, many would tell you they are disgusted with both parties. This doesn't mean that they'll vote Democrat, far from it, but that they're not going to give their time or money to the Republicans until they earn their support. I saw not a small number of Ron Paul shirts and slogans in support of his point of view, so there was not universal agreement on all things foreign policy, for example.
After arriving at the area in front of the Capitol, marchers spread out to find a place to stand or sit. Many sat around the Capitol reflecting pool or stayed back on the mall field, while others gathered around base of the Capitol building itself where a stage was set up.
Here are some folks at the reflecting pool, which is just out of view in this first photo to the right
Here you can see the reflecting pool clearly
We walked around the pool a few times. Here are some photos of the stage in front of the Capitol
Formerly of National Review, Byron York of the Washington Examiner was there
I briefly said hi to him and thanked him for his work. Very cool.
Update - here's his piece in the Examiner: Inside the 9/12 protest
And here are some other photos from around the event
During all this I was even interviewed by Japanese Public Television, if you can believe it. If I'd have been thinking I'd had handed my camera to one of my friends to photograph it, but of course that's the type of thing you only think of later. He asked me why I was there and I said because it was to send a message to President Obama that he needed to change his policies, most specifically on healthcare. The interviewer asked me a series of questions and in honesty I had the facts well in hand and so gave convincing, knowledgeable answers. Which means I won't be the guy they use when it gets broadcast.
Left v Right at Rallies/Protests
Having been to a dozen or so major rallies/protests in Washington DC (see Rallies and Protests under Categories at right) I think I can make some comments regarding similarities and differences.
The biggest similarity is that all are largely peaceful. If you don't make an effort to get in someone's face you can wear an opposing Tee shirt and walk amongst the other side mostly unmolested. I've done it among the most hard-core leftists and came out unscathed.
The biggest difference is in family-friendlyness. There are of course exceptions, but you simply do not see vulgarity on the right , whereas it is endemic on the left. The left loves curse words and sexual innuendos, which you see none of on the right. A very few of the signs that I saw today (and have seen at other conservative events) went too far, but they are a drop in the bucket compared to what you see on the left.
The other difference is that all of the signs that I saw today were originals made by their owners. At protests organized by some leftist group like International ANSWER they will have hundreds if not thousands of signs pre-made that marchers pick up at the event. Often their marches are a sea of the same signs. The reason they do it, I am sure, is to control the message.
We also said the Pledge of Allegiance today. Everyone I saw had their hand over their heart and was reciting it. You certainly won't see that at a leftist event.
As stated above, I saw none of the vulgarity that is a regular feature of leftist protests. Not one F-word or sexual innuendo on a sign. I saw one sign that had a Hitler-mustache on Obama but that was it. There were several calling him a communist, and one placing him in company with Soviet leaders, but even these were few and far between.
The overwhelming majority of the signs were simply protests against Obama and the his programs. Few were inappropriate and attempts to say otherwise are just plain wrong.
How Many People?
Allahpundit over at Hot Air has surveyed some news reports and thinks it was at around 60 - 75,000, which sounds about right based on what I saw. That said, he is also surely right when he concludes that
I think using protest size as a gauge of popular sentiment is stupid -- witness the huge turnouts against the war in early 2003 when public support was in the neighborhood of 65 percent -- but it's a fun talking point, so let's have fun.
Update - There was a mistaken report by ABC News that there were 2 million people in attendance in Washington DC. This was quickly corrected, but unfortunately seems to have been taken as gospel by some on the right.
I'm also now thinking that were were more than 75,000 there based on some photos. In the end though the numbers at the rally don't mean so much as what is done afterwards. Which leads me to my next topic...
What Does It all Mean?
Following up on Allahpundit's comment above, this and other Tea Parties won't mean much if all the participants do afterward is go home and watch TV and listen to talk radio.
Get out of the house and get active in local politics, people!
Yes I know many of you have children who consume huge amounts of your time, and correctly so. And so not everyone can be terribly active. I do know lots of people though with children who still find time to do some volunteer work for their favorite candidate.
If you live in Virginia or New Jersey, please contact the candidates or the Republican Party in your state and volunteer some time or send some money.
Going back to that message from Matt Kibbe, here's some of what I left out above:
While you plan for the March on Washington on 9-12-2009, you should also remain active in this movement in your own community. Here are some ideas to do just that:
1. Stay active and organized. Don't let the momentum fade away by becoming dormant. Keep the fire lit with regular meetings, and regular online communications.
2. Get some political training. Take advantage of institutions like FreedomWorks and The Leadership Institute that offer grassroots leadership training. Read books about organizing, and apply the best practices to your own group.
3. Recruit new people to the cause. Take advantage of the national media attention and find people that want to get involved in the movement. Focus on getting all of your volunteers to bring new people to each meeting, and motivate the new members to get involved in specific activities right away.
To which I would add
1. Find a candidate for public office you can support and contact him or her 2. Find your local Republican organization and contact them
Don't complain about your politicians or the GOP unless you are involved in trying to change things.
Marching is all fine and good, but unless you go out and campaign, try and persuade others that your cause and candidates are right, the Tea Parties will have little effect.
All of my Photos for that day are on my Photobucket site. Feel free to use with attribution.
May as well post some of the videos and pics that have been going around the Internet for the record here
This is the time-lapse
And this is from the corner of 14th and E St NW
September 11, 2009
Walter Reed FReep 230 - September 11, 2009 - The Big 2009 9-11 Freep
Last Friday, September 11 2009, somewhere around 500 patriots gathered outside of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. It was the largest number of people that we have had there since Free Republic started holding vigils there in early 2005. Certainly also a lot more than the dozen or so we usually get on a Friday night!
I am just going to go straight off to the photos you are interested in the most; the ones from when the crowd was at it's maximum:
The whole event had a festival atmosphere. We set up tents in the small parking lot where we usually set up, and had some food and drinks. A few of the FReeprs had secured event buttons and posters that we gave out for a donation of your choice.
One of earlier in the evening just so you can see the MOAB
Who was there?
Everyone, it seemed. I ran into people from states as diverse as Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, all across this great land of ours. Some drove and some flew. Everyone had their unique story to tell. It was a very interesting crowd and quite inspiring to be among so many like-minded people. All of course were going to the 9-12 March on Washington
Talking about the issues of the day, everyone of course has their own take on events and a slightly different motivation for being there. All however share an intense dislike for where Obama is taking this country.
The weather also turned out to be perfect. We had some slight rain between 5 and maybe 6:30, but it ended and it was pleasantly cool without being cold.
At exactly 8:46pm Mr Trooprally addressed the crowd using a bullhorn so everyone could hear. 8:46am is when the first plane hit the North Tower.
First he led us in the Lord's Prayer
Then he read Red Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance. Here is Red saying it if you haven't see it before
Afterwards everyone said the Pledge together. There was certainly no shortage of flags to face
We then sang God Bless America.
Finally, everyone turned to face the hospital and said three times "WE THANK TROOPS"
The Tennessee Gang
One group drove all the way from Tennessee with these fantastic signs on their pickup trucks. They had two trucks with the same sign/poster, and as you can see they invited people to sign them. Definitely a message to Obama: Don't destroy our country!
I am pleased to report that I have not one but two co-writers on this post. The first one I give to you is by kburi, who sends this:
Walter Reed, Week 230, 9/11/09 Huge Crowds , High Energy and Enthusiastic Support
FRONT GATE NOTES
September 11, 2009 Walter Reed Support the Troops Rally
[Mr] and [Mrs] Trooprally, and several DC Chapter Freepers started setting up early on 9/11 in anticipation of large crowds joining the DC Chapter of Free Republic on this Friday night. They weren't disappointed as approximately 800 people from around the country, Freepers and troops supporters alike, joined us in droves. Hollering "we love our Troops, God Bless America, USA, singing God Bless America, waving flags, and thanking the Troops and families as they drove by. What a great night.
Memories of this will warm us regulars through the Friday nights ahead this winter.
In addition to Freepers , members of The Band of Mothers and its Founder, Beverly Perlson, Larry Bailey of Gathering of Eagles, Col Riley of Eagles Up,Patriot Guard, Gold Star Mothers and many others joined us. John and Carla Fleming of NJ were back with us for a second time. They are very active in Supporting the Troops and their families.
The Meaning of it All
Trust me, the troops in the hospital all know we're out there, and they appreciate it. See at bottom BufordP's BIG LIST of all Walter Reed FReeps for details in past After Action Reports.
Most every Friday they take a busload of wounded warriors and their families out to a dinner at a nice Washington Restaurant, arriving back at Walter Reed sometime between 9 and 10pm. We are there to greet them every time, and they wave back at us from the bus (we've also had the bus stop and had them speak with us - all a long story). Anyway, imagine tonight they were greeted by 500 people instead of a dozen!
Sorry, but none of us thought to get photos of the bus that night. I guess we were all too caught up in the moment.
WRAMC Anti War Protester News
We were too busy to pay much attention to the moonbats but they slightly increased their numbers in anticipation of our crowds. But if you really do want a few pictures of them here are two from "loser lane:"
The moonbats are maybe 200 feet down Georgia Avenue from the main entrance.
Honor roll of "regulars" for September 11, 2009 Mr and Mrs Trooprally, Tom the Redhunter; Cindy_True_Supporter; Lurker Bill, Rongkirby, Fraxinus, BufordP, Kburi, 3D Joy, Chief, 2nd Class Citizen, Sensei Ern, Tolerance Sucks Rocks, TrueBlackMan, GunsAreOK, VirginiaFlagWaver, Jimmy Valentine's Brother, PleaDeal, TankerBabe,FreeAngel, Mr FreeAngel, CDFinger,Brytani,RightAlien, and many other Freepers. Apologies to those Freepers I didn't name.
Thank you, Kburi! Your report is much appreciated.
Our other co-author is Mr Trooprally, who sends this:
MESSAGE FROM TROOPRALLY
On behalf of the DC Chapter, I would like to humbly say THANK YOU to all of the FReepers, Lurkers, Eagles and patriots that came to Walter Reed this Friday. The average of the estimates for the number of those who came is 800.
THANK YOU for the generous donations to the DC Chapter. Having this extra money allows us to better show our appreciation to the Silver Spring and 14th St, DC, Recruiter Stations during Recruiter Appreciation Week, to make more posters for our Support the Troop Rallies and for our counter-protests of the moonbats, to have cold drinks and pizza during the warmer Fridays and to have plenty of hot coffee at the winter Walter Reed FReeps, and for the Chapter web site fees.
And THANK YOU to those who brought items for our troops. Several FReepers regularly get to go into Walter Reed, so be assured, they will be bringing your gifts for the troops into Walter Reed.
And a special THANK YOU to all those who helped make up the special buttons, took time out to buy the snacks & drinks, helped organize this Friday, who shuttled FReepers from Takoma metro station to / from Walter Reed, who worked the tent area and are writing this AAR. They are Lurker Bill, 2ndClasscitizen, 3DJoy, BufordP, CDFingers, Cindy-True-Supporter, Fraxinus, Kburi, Nina0113, Plea Deal, Rlmorel, TankerBabeLC, Tom the RedHunter, Veeram, [Mrs] Trooprally. And anyone I missed, sorry.
Again, thanks to everyone involved in this special 9/11 Walter Reed Support the Troops Rally.
Come join us every Friday night between the hours of 6:30pm to approx 9:30pm.
* You can find all of Mrs Trooprally's photos for this Freep on her Photobucket site.
* You can find all of Plea Deal's photos for this Freep on her Photobucket site.
* You can find all of Tom the Redhunter's photos for this Freep on his Photobucket site.
* Thank you to BufordP for maintaining the BIG LIST of all Walter Reed FReeps.
* Thank you to all FReepers who transport and store our many signs and banners every week.
* Plea Deal blogs at Semper Gratis
September 9, 2009
President Obama's Big Health Care Speech
Ok, so President Obama flattered himself by giving a big speech to a joint session of Congress tonight on one of his signature pieces of legislation. Since no one is going to read a post about Iran or the cost of energy anyway I may as well do the obligatory post.
Text of speech here.
Text of Republican response here.
The short version is that Obama told one whopper after another. He told so many that I simply don't have the time to set up links swatting all of them down. Let's go through some of them.
I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.
Please. If Obamacare passes every president and congress from now until eternity will fiddle with health care. But he's probably arrogant enough to think that if his bill passes it will take care of us from here on out.
We are the only advanced democracy on Earth the only wealthy nation that allows such hardships for millions of its people
Who cares what they do in other democracies? Every other democracy on the planet denies their citizens their natural law rights to own firearms mostly unencumbered by government regulation. I don't' want to emulate Europe or anyplace else for that matter.
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canadas, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.
I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesnt, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.
No, you have tried to completely revamp our system. And as I pointed out a few weeks ago, you do indeed want a single-payer system. You just lie about it now.
Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:
First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.
Lie. His plan creates incentives designed to move people off of their work plan onto his government option.
And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies - because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.
Preventative care might be a good idea, but the idea that it saves money has been disproven.
Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most.
Presto, free ice cream for everyone! Hope he doesn't hurt his elbow patting himself on the back.
The power of government to regulate is a fearful thing. Amazing how the same people who freaked out over the Patriot act see no problem with the president issuing such regulations. All for your own good, of course.
Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those - particularly the young and healthy - who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people's expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don't provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek - especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions - just can't be achieved.
That's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance - just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers.
You either believe in freedom and liberty or you don't. Obama and the liberals don't. It is flat out wrong to force people to take part in such a program. I don't even think people should be forced to take part in Social Security. There should almost always be an opt out.
He has no business telling people that they must buy health insurance. This line about "otherwise we all pay for it" is a crock because it's not their real argument. The motivation is not cost accounting, it's the arrogant "we know what's best for you so listen to your betters you dumb little people!"
People must be free to make dumb decisions. Not wearing a seatbelt is dumb, but you must be free to take that decision. If you get in an accident and are hurt where in a situation where you'd otherwise be fine then it's your problem. Am I a meanie? No, I'm in favor or personal responsibility.
Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable.
Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.
Actually, the charge is true. Universal coverage always means care gets rationed. And what they'll do is start denying treatments to old people with stage four cancer, and stop allowing the most expensive treatments in situations when they figure you're going to die in a few months anyway.
There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false - the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
Lie. There are no provisions to verify citizenship. Democrats voted down amendments offered by Republicans that would have incorporated verifications. If there is nothing to verify whether you're a citizen or not, of course illegals are going to sign up. I would if I was an illegal, and so would you.
And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up - under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.
Sigh. Obama just repeats the same old falsehoods again and again. Even Factcheck concludes that the house bill "would allow both a "public plan" and newly subsidized private plans to cover all abortions."
Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies dont like this idea. They argue that these private companies cant fairly compete with the government. And theyd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they wont be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects
Lie. If you believe that the government won't subsidize the "public option" so as to drive private insurance companies out of business I've got a bridge to sell you.
But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers.
Profit is what is left over after overhead expenses are met, you idiot. But I guess this is what happens when you spend your entire life living off of the taxpayer dole and not being involved in making a real living.
First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits either now or in the future.
My g_d he really does think we're stupid if he expects anyone to believe this. YOU CANNOT INCREASE DEMAND AND HOLD PRICES DOWN... unless you plan on withholding care. I.E. rationing. It's that supply and demand thing we're supposed to have learned in high school.
Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system a system that is currently full of waste and abuse.
I don't believe any politician who says they'll save money through introducing efficiencies, because they never comes to pass. This applies to Republicans as well as Democrats.
In fact, I want to speak directly to Americas seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that's been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.
Demagugue? Stop talking about yourself so much.
he only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care.
There's a name for bashing the profits of companies that don't do the government's bidding.
Finally, many in this chamber particularly on the Republican side of the aisle have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.
In other words, no tort reform.
I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that its better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent whats in the plan, we will call you out.
Gee that sounds like a call for bipartisanship. Guess what? We'll call you out too.
Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing.
Another lie to insinuate that conservatives want to do nothing. Google around for "Republican health care plans" or some such if you're some lib who actually believes Obama. If you don't like Republican or conservatives plans fine, but don't lie and say that the other side isn't proposing anything.
A very partisan speech. it was full of threats and attacks on conservatives for allegedly misrepresenting Obamacare. If he thought he was going to bring in any Republicans he's going to be sorely disappointed. Sure, he'll get an Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins, but I hardly count them as Republicans anyway.
So the battle lines are drawn. His main problem is holding his own party together. With a 60 - 40 lead in the Senate and 256 - 178 advantage in the House, they should be able to pass whatever they want. That they can't shows how incompetent Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are.
We now come off of August recess, after all the rucus over the town halls, demonstrations and such. It's clear that at least Obama doesn't think they were representative of the majority of the American people. I think otherwise, and hope I right. Obama may get his proposals through Congress mostly unscathed, and it may well doom his party.
September 7, 2009
Book Review - The Confrontation: Winning The War Against Future Jihad
All wars have their center of gravity, that one vital thing that determines victory or defeat. During the American Revolution it was whether the colonists could stop bickering and form a continental army commanded by a competent general. From the North's perspective during the Civil War, it was whether Lincoln could find a general who would fight before anti-war sentiment forced a negotiated peace. After the initial stages of World War II it was mostly just a question of firepower. The Cold War was more complicated, but it and the others all had one thing in common; everyone agreed that we were at war, and they no one had any difficulty identifying the adversary (this excepting domestic anti-American leftist elements during the Cold War).
The situation is different today because so many, including the administration in power in the United States, do not even see their country as being at war. Last month John Brenna, President Obama's top homeland security and counterterrorism official, said that the administration will no longer use the terms "war on terror," "jihadists," or "global war." The only acceptable formulation, he said, was to say that "we are at war with al Qaeda."
It's not just President Obama, either. This has been the position of American liberals and European leftists since 9-11. To their way of thinking, President Bush wildly overreacted to a simple, if large, terrorist incident. They supported the invasion of Afghanistan (though are having second thoughts now), but beyond that think that the problem can be addressed as a criminal matter through the legal system.
Walid Phares says that this is completely wrongheaded. We are in a long term war with a worldwide Jihadist movement that aims to completely destroy us and has the means to do so. In The Confrontation: Winning The War Against Future Jihad, Phares lays out his case in well-organized format and in easy to read prose.
In Phares first book on the subject, Future Jihad (2005), he explained the basics of who the Jiihadist enemy was, where they came from, what they believed, and what their goals were. In his next book, War of Ideas (2007), he explained the competing strategies of the two camps; one dedicated to democracy and the other to global jihad and the reestablishment of the Caliphate. The Confrontation builds on these two and as the title implies adds his ideas on how to fight and win the war against the Jihadists. While it is not an absolute prerequisite to read the first two books before tackling this one, it would be helpful to read Future Jihad so as to have a good grasp on the history and structure of the jihadist movements.
Professor Phares himself has the scholarly background to speak with the authority that few can muster. A native of Lebanon, he obtained a degree in law and political science from St Joseph and the Lebanese Universities of Beirut. Phares emigrated to the United States in 1990 and obtained a Masters degree in International Law from the Université de Lyon in France, and a Ph.D. in international relations and strategic studies from the University of Miami. He has testified before the US Congress, the European Parliament and Commission, and the UN Security Council, and has appeared on most major news outlets around the world, including NN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC, PBS, Discovery Channel, C-Span, BBC TV (English-Arabic), Sky News, France 24 (English, Arabic, French), CTV, CBC, Canada Global TV, al Jazeera, al Hurra, Abu Dhabi TV, al Arabiya, LBCI, Russia Today TV, Voice of America TV, as well as local ABC, CBS, PBS, NBC, and others. He has taught at taught at Florida International University and at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, and is currently a Senior Fellow and the director for Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington. He has published numerous books and magazines in Arabic, French and English.
Outline of the Problem
A brief recap for new readers unfamiliar with the situation; Jihad means holy war against infidels, with the objective of reestablishing the Caliphate which lasted from the seventh century to 1923. The two branches of the Sunni Jihad are the Wahabists based in Saudi Arabia, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which started in Egypt but is a broad based movement with branches in many countries. On the Shi'ite side are the Khumeinists, based obviously in Iran but with branches in Syria and Lebanon(Hezbollah). Their objective is to establish a regional Imamate.
The method Jihad is about more than just using terrorism, which to them is a military action. They aim to undermine the West through a variety of means, including massive immigration, disinformation about their religion and goals, and spreading their culture through a sort of "creeping Sharia."
The Goal of the Jihad
One of Phares' most important points is that the essential goal of the Sunni Jihad is not to spread Sharia law internally in existing nations. Rather, they reject the current world order in it's entirety, and want in it's place a worldwide Caliphate. There is simply no room in their world for infidels in other than dhimmi status, let alone our current nation-state system complete with modern concepts of international law and everything that goes with it.
To them, there is no break from ancient or medieval times and today. They see what they are doing today as directly linked to and descended from the seventh century beginnings of the spread of Islam. They don't see themselves as starting anything new but as continuing an ancient battle against the infidels.
This rejection of the modern nation-state system and desire to reestablish the Caliphate is in fact the central difference between the Jihadist Muslims and those who accept the modern world.
As a step along the path of reestablishing the Calphiate, he objective of the Jihad is to force the United States to withdraw from the world politically, economically, and most important, militarily. In short, they wish to weaken our resolve and force us into isolationism. U.S. withdrawal will make it easier for the jihadists to bring down secular governments in the Muslim world.
Since 9-11 many in the West have started to sense the danger of radical Islam, even if they don't fully understand it. In the Muslim world, most people see the danger and experience the oppression of the radicals full well, but do not understand why, because for all their talk of human rights Westerners do not try to help them.
9-11 also saw the start of the third War of Ideas. Our conflict with the Salafists and Khumeinists is not just on the battlefield of bombs and bullets; it is also in the intellectual world of books, newspapers and the Internet. The side that convinces the next generation that it's ideas are better is winning.
The key to winning the War on Terror is understanding the nature of the threat. If we miss it, we will lose because we will fail to resist. If we grasp it's essence, we stand a chance.
One of the biggest problems facing the West is that most of our own elites and intellectuals misunderstand the nature of the threat. As such, the public at large is misinformed.
Today we are at a crossroads; either the jihadists will undermine and destroy the democracies, or the democracies will defeat the jihadists.
The party that defines a conflict enjoys a huge advantage. Because this is in large extent a war of ideas, propaganda, or the message, is hugely important. The tactics of the jihadists reflect a saying in the Arab world; "They hit me and cried, beat me to court, and sued me." In other words, strike the other guy first, then cry that you're the real victim, and trumpet this in the media. Be the first to define the conflict and paint the other side as the aggressors.
Behind the Jihad
The Jihad requires money, and 90 percent of it comes from the oil revenues of the gulf states. As such, the whole "root causes" of terrorism line is completely manufactured. It is the wealthy elites who are pushing Jihad, not the poor and downtrodden. If these elites really cared about poor Arabs, they would spend their oil wealth on improving their lives, not on promoting the Jihad. Instead of insisting that the money they send to Gaza be spent on weapons, they ought to insist that it be spent on improving infrastructure and building an economy. Instead of providing an eduction that would help young people get practical jobs, , they send them to madrassas where they learn Jihad.
The Effects of Oil Money
The effect of oil money is something Phares calls Economic jihadi Imperialism, or EJI for short. It is, he says, a sort of economic imperialism which starts with a hard core Jihadist idiology and ends with attempting to use that money to influence the West. Rather than spend money improving the lot of their own people, these elites would rather spend it undermining Western liberal democracies.
One effect of oil money has been to prevent the West from coming to that aid of the oppressed peoples of the Middle East. When the Middle East Studies Departments at major Western universities are funded by Saudi Arabia, no one at them is going to criticize the human rights record of their benefactors.
The oil embargo of 1973 sent a huge shock through the West. We realized that our economies were dependent on a steady flow of petroleum, and that our Middle Eastern suppliers had the ability to do significant damage to us when they so choose. The consequence is that we did not wish to examine too closely, let alone criticize, the human rights records of Arab countries.
The problem we face is that as long as oil dollars go to funding jihadist movements, the world will be at risk. Phares identifies several strategies that we should use to break this link. Most involve obtaining oil from other, non-jihadist countries, investigating alternative energy sources, promoting liberalism in their lands, and insisting that they spend their money on humanitarian needs and not on Jihad. The latter can be done through regulation that would prevent companies that do business in the U.S. from, say, building luxury hotels in Muslim country X until said country A) gets out of the business of funding Jihad, and B) spends more of it's own money on the poor and oppressed in Muslim countries.
One of the primary objectives of the jihadi networks is to prevent the West from focusing on human rights abuses in Muslim countries. They do this by constantly attacking our foreign policies and alleged human rights problems and thus manage to keep us on the defensive. One of their tactics is to exploit Western guilt over our colonial days and use that to paralyze us into inaction on the human rights front.
Liberty or Sharia
We do not have the choice of sealing our borders and ignoring the Muslim world, or any other part of the world, for that matter. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Neither in this day and age can we say "that part of the world is none of our business." This might have worked two hundred years ago, but modern travel and economic ties ensure that what happens in other parts of the world will affect us. More, it is simply impossible to "seal the borders" against (legal) immigration and business travel, so Europe and the United States will be influenced by the Middle East whether we like it or not.
Further, the idea that if we just kill or arrest enough terrorists we can make the problem go away is wrongheaded also. There is a "root cause" of jihadi terrorism, but it is not either the economic poverty or "legacy of colonialism" that some imagine. Rather, it is political and religious oppression coupled with the control of propaganda organs by radicals that breeds the extremism that is the danger.
The solution, Phares says, is political and economic liberty for Muslims. As the historian Bernard Lewis said, "bring them freedom or they will destroy you." By "them" Lewis mean the Arab and Iranian victims of the jihadists. By "they" he meant the jihadists themselves. Stated another way, either we bring democracy to the them, or they will bring Jihad to us.
Seen through this lens the American invasion of Afghanistan and especially Iraq make perfect sense. The strategy was at once to bring the war directly into the enemy camp, to contain the terrorists, and plant the seeds of liberty and democracy.
Of all the strategies we adopt to win the war, at the top of the list must be the liberation of the peoples of the Middle East. We must state this forthrightly and purse this goal openly. It would be arrogant and indeed immoral of us to think that only Westerners (and a few select others like the Japanese) are deserving of liberty, when all peoples, including those of the Middle East, are just as deserving.
As mentioned earlier, the two arms of the Sunni Jihad are the Saudi-based Wahabists and the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood (although the latter has branches in many countries). Both, however, share the same goal of reestablishing the Caliphate. They aim to do this by first weakening the Western democracies and our will to intervene in the Middle East. Their greatest fear is that we will start to support domestic democracy movements which threaten existing regimes as well as the Jihad itself.
Russian foreign policy with regard to the Jihad has been ambiguous. On the one hand they seem to recognize the problem of terrorism and Muslim fundamentalism. On the other they sell weapons to Iran an Syria, two state sponsors of terrorism.
It is in the long-term interests of Russia to work vigorously to defeat Jihadism. Unfortunately, for the most part they are pursuing the short term goal of seeking financial gain by working with Iran. Oddly, they seem to recognize the problem to a greater extent than Europe or America, but are unable to use their intellectual knowledge to see past the short-term economic benefits. Phares believes that we can influence Russia to change their policies, and offers several suggestions.
The jihadists saw the collapse of the Soviet Union as divinely inspired as well as a message from God that He was on their side. It was for this reason that there was a split in the Jihad in the early 90s after a series of meetings in Khartoum, Sudan. The hotheads wanted immediate terrorist action against the United States and secular Arab regimes, while cooler heads argued for a long-term strategy of infiltration. Phares calls the hotheads "Combat Salafists" and the latter "Realist Salafists." They share the same ideology and goals and differ only on methodology. The hotheads went into al Qaeda and the rest, as they say, is history.
The United Nations and Alliances Among Nations
The United Nations is at best useless. Kofi Annan has said that the UN "stands neutral between and those fighting it." The UN criticizes democracies when it believes it sees them doing wrong, but largely ignores human rights abuses in Muslim countries. This must change if progress is to be made.
However, the end the U.S. cannot do it alone. We must use every tool at our disposal to recruit other nations to create a united front against the jihadists. As such, the solutions Phares proposes involve alliances outside of the UN structure.
Phares has several ideas for a diplomatic offensive against the jihadists. One is to hire and put into place a new generation of diplomats who are educated in the ways of our enemies. Second is for Congress to "set the guidelines for a new foreign policy based on suporting human rights, self-determination, pluralism, and democratization on the one hand and a confrontation with the regimes, movements, and ideologies that promote threats to international law, security, peace, and liberty on the other." Third is to use the first to to actively support democracy movements and combat the jihadists.
The Middle East as "Middle East"
Phares calls the Middle East and surrounding areas a "Middle Earth." Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman are constitutional monarchies. They are mostly at peace and are moving, albeit slowly, towards pluralistic societies. Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Mauritania are republics moving from authoritarianism to pluralism. Syria and Libya are ruled by nationalist socialist dictators. Saudi Arabia and Iran are Islamist theocracies. Iraq is a fragile democracy. Qatar is a constitutional monarchy but harbors an Islamist al Jazeera. Lebanon is a battlefield. Israel and Palestine are in conflict, with the latter divided between factions with varying ideologies.
In general the region is plagued with extremist ideologies and violent groups. What characterizes all of the countries is that after the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate all failed to liberalize and turned authoritarian to one degree or another. Almost all of the people are oppressed and persecuted, with civil liberties being almost nonexistent.
One often hears the term "the Arab street" with regard the the "righteous anger" that would "spontaneously" erupt in response to this or that action by the United States. In reality, the term was created by Jihadi propagandists with the express purpose of manipulating the West. Scenes of protesting militants are as often as not manufactured. It is, after all, just about impossible to know what the average Arab wants when he or she lives under a dictator.
The Vital Need for Democracy
Before 9/11 Western elites excused the lack of democracy in the Middle East because of our support for authoritarian governments. Western governments were criticized as being hypocritical; we wanted democracy for ourselves but denied it to others. After 9/11 these same people now oppose American attempts to spread democracy, especially in Iraq. The argument is now that we are "imposing" democracy on them and "interfering in their internal affairs."
Democratization will be opposed and moving toward liberty will not be easy. Both Western elites and Jihadist Muslims will create roadblocks.
But all people deserve freedom, and we must develop a more humane policy towards the people who live in these oppressive countries. Middle Easterners are no less deserving of liberty than Europeans, Americans, Asians, or Africans. More, these peoples have a natural right to learn about democracy and liberty.
Certainly we cannot "force democracy on other people," but this is a slogan, not a policy. But by the same token, freedom and liberty must be options before anyone can choose to adopt them. We can and must work to create the conditions where they can grow.
The War of Ideas
Information, or propaganda, is a large part of our fight against the jihadists. They try hard to get out their message, and we must be ready at all times to effectively counter their misinformation. We can start by exposing the lie that Jihad' does not mean "an internal spiritual journey" or "spiritual experience," but rather means conflict and war. Unfortunately, their deceptive messages are spread not only by Muslim jihadists, but by their apologists in the West as well.
The Salafists do not represent the majority of Muslims, and indeed there are many Muslim dissidents. The struggle between the jihadists and the reformers is in it's early stages. The forces of reaction currently favor the status quo.
We in the West must educate our citizens about the dangers of the Jihadist movement. We must confront not only the forces of Jihad, but their Western apologists as well. Finally, we must identify and support Muslim dissidents who are working for reform.
Vast numbers of Muslims live in poverty and are politically oppressed, yet oil money is used for Jihad rather than to relieve their suffering. Education, jobs, scientific advancement, infrastructure, everything is subordinated to the Jihad.
Of the many domestic threats we face, one that Phares discusses that I have not seen elsewhere is that of "Urban Jihad." His study of various sources, including training manuals and other documents is that the Combat Salafists wish to establish "urban armies who, when the signal was given, attack and create widespread chaos. Their objective would be to turn our cities into Beirut in the 1970s/80s or Baghdad in 2006. We have already seen small-scale examples of this attempt with the Virginia "Paintball jihadists" and the Fort Dix cell in New Jersey, as well as at various training camps in places from Oregon to Florida.
Right now, domestic jihadists/terrorist cells must rely on militants who come into the United States legally or otherwise. The "breaking point," Phares speculates, will come when they are able to recruit enough militants from domestic sources, and can from there grow exponentially. At that point they may pull the trigger and launch the "Urban Jihad" scenario.
The existence and indeed expansion of Jihadism in Europe has been an embarrassment to European leaders. When Phares visited them in the 1980s and 90s they dismissed that such a thing could happen in their countries. After 9/11, and with the extremism of many Muslim leaders in Europe now undeniable, they are taking a second look at the situation and now admit that they too are vulnerable.
The objectives of the jihadists in Europe vary from one part of the continent to another. In the south their claims are mainly territorial, as they wish to reclaim "lost" lands such as the Spain and parts of what was Yugoslavia. In the rest of Europe the initial objective is a change in foreign policy, and following that the establishment of self-governing enclaves. They wish to neutralize and then convert Europe.
Both the Wahabists and Muslim Brotherhood are also spending tremendous resources in trying to spread Islam, not just through immigration into Europe (and to a lesser extent America) but by converting the natives.
Phares describes his travels though out Europe, and concludes that the younger generation "gets it" to a greater extent than older people, and that more people overall "get it" in eastern Europe than in the western part of the continent. The east-west dichotomy is probably do to the former's more recent experience with totalitarianism; they are able to recognize the approaching danger because they just experienced a form of it.
As in America, 9/11 and to a greater extent 3/11 and 7/7 "woke up" many ordinary people and security experts. But elites, particularly those who inhabit the Brussels bureaucracy, still speak the language of political correctness. To them, as with the newly installed Obama administration, words such as "Islamic terrorism," "War on Terror," and "War of Ideas," to say nothing of "Jihad," are completely banned.
The first thing Europeans need to do to defeat the jihadists, Phares says, it to properly describe and label the problem. The second step is to pass legislation that will "equate Jihad with racism because it "calls for a forcible sectoral division of existing democratic societies, and identifies Salafi and Khumeini Jihadism with terrorism on the ground that it calls for violence against segnmemts of these societies."
9-11 And Beyond
The American reaction to 9/11 was unexpected. As Phares explains in Future Jihad, bin Laden thought that the United States would
1) Lash out incoherently, killing tremendous amounts of civilian Muslims
2) Descend into domestic chaos
3) Be paralyzed into inaction
That numbers one and two are somewhat contradictory tells us more about the mindset of the Combat Salafists than anything else.
However, the United States executed a precise strike into Afghanistan which deprived al Qaeda and the Taliban of a base country from which to conduct operations. As such, they have shifted priorities to contain and ultimately reverse U.S. interventions in the Middle East.
While the West was debating our reasons for invading Iraq, the jihadists knew perfectly well what the threat was; the establishment of a democracy within "their" realm. They knew that a successful democracy venture would lead to the overthrow of dictatorial Arab regimes (through slow evolution if not immediate revolution) whether they be secular or theocratic. Thus, the battle for Tehran and Damascus was and is taking place inside Iraq.
Middle East Roots
The Arab League was formed in 1945 and adopted surprisingly democratic goals. It failed to achieve them for the following reasons
1) They put Pan-Arabism ahead of democracy
2) They adopted a frankly racist attitude towards non-Arabs, freezing Kurds, Berbers, Copts, Assyrians and other minorities out of any steps toward progress
3) They focused on destroying Israel, which spawned extremism in and of itself
4) They allowed Jihadism to spread freely
Understanding these will allow us not to make these same mistakes again.
Despite the importance of Europe and the United States, the war against Jihadism will be won or lost in the Greater Middle East. Two factors will determine who wins; one, whether the Western democracies have the willpower to stay the course, and two adopt a strategy of liberation and promoting democracy. Their are numerous battlefields, and sometimes the fighting is military and sometimes in the realm of ideas, but it all depends on whether the Western democracies will stay the course and adopt the appropriate policies.
The conflict is a global one, and the most important battleground in the Pacific region is in the Philippines. The separatist movement on the large southern island of Mindanao was not originally Islamist, but was transformed into one by the efforts of Salafi-Wahabists from Saudi Arabia and Libya.
In Central and South America, the key nation is Venezuela. Hugo Chavez has allied his nation with the Khumeinists of Iran. The worrysome part is that this is not just the result of Chavez, but is the culmination of years of Venezuelan ties to radical movements.
State of the Confrontation
Phares ends his book with a summary of the state of the conflict. Following are his main points:
1) We are in a war, not a series of isolated terrorist incidents
2) It is a war with a known entity
3) The enemy, whether Salafist, Wahabi, Takfiri, or Khumeinist, has actively declared war on us.
4) The jihadists are ahead
5) It will be a long war, more along the lines of the Cold War than World War II
Critics will say that the people of the Middle Est "are not ready for democracy." The truth, Phares says, is that they would like to move in this direction but have been prevented from doing so by our own policies of supporting the status quo. Radicalism is something that has grown worse in recent decades, so if we had supported the existing democracy movements when the Middle East came out of colonialism we could already have a relatively free region.
In contrast to obsessing about "finding bin Laden," which Phares likens to "looking for Waldo," we need to understand that we are fighting a movement, not a person or single organization. The emphasis on personalities, while understandable, can only impede progress, because it causes us to focus on the storyteller, not the story. Likewise, Saddam was not the problem in Iraq, Ba'athism was, and Ahmadinejad not the problem in Iran, Khumeinism is.
Phares hits a home run with this book. It is well written, and does not require specialized background information to read. Light-years from a rant, his prose is calm and dispassionate. The chapters are well organized he lays out his argument in a logical fashion that makes his argument easy to follow.
I am in agreement with Phares in his overall view of the world situation. We are not fighting a limited terrorist network but a war against a global Jihad. It is a restart of the old on-again/off-again war between the Caliphate of old and the West that lasted a millennia. It is a war, not a police action. We have been seriously negligent in pursuing a human rights agenda. Leaving millions to live under tyranny and oppression is counterproductive.
Our war on Jihad is more like the Cold War than any other recent conflict. It will require at least decades to fight, and will run both hot and cold. Actual fighting will be more of what the military calls "low intensity" than World War II style "high intensity." Much of the conflict will be in the realm of ideas and as such will take place in the media. At the center of gravity is the West's ability to recognize and identify the problem, and willpower to stick it out in the face of opposition at home and abroad.
One of the primary things that separates this book from Future Jihad and The War of Ideas is that in this one he offers many concrete proposals to fight the war. The first two books were mostly proscriptive, this one mostly prescriptive.
What most impresses me is Phares' commitment to human rights and insistence that people deserve to live in a pluralistic society. His is the opposite of realpolitik and the m"it's none of our business" isolationism that is found on both the right and left.
We are simply not going to be able to switch to alternative sources of energy as a means to stop buying Middle Eastern oil anytime soon. At best we can slow down the pace, but even so I rather doubt we can do enough to seriously put a financial damper on revenues. As such, we are better off working to influence where and how Muslim regimes spend their money. We need to get them to spend their money to help their own people, and liberalize their societies. How we should go about this can be debated, but the necessity of the goal seems clear.
All of Phares' recommendations should be acted up. Unfortunately few will be. We have an administration in the United States with it's head firmly in the sand regarding this problem. President Obama is pandering to the Europeans' worst instincts. The Jihadists will have at least four years to advance their agenda unencumbered. Let's hope that they do not get much farther during this time before we can turn things around at home.
Van Jones and the Invisible Mainstream Media
Andrew Breitbart is quickly turning into one of my favorite columnists. I haven't covered the controversy surrounding Van Jones, recently Obama's "Green Jobs" czar, mainly because I don't have the time, but the situation is entirely insane. Here we have a guy who's nuttier than a fruitcake, and it took a radio talk show host like Glenn Beck to expose who he was. Major media outlets like the Washington Post have run story after story on Virginia gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell's 20 year old college thesis but can't find time to even take a cursory glance at the people President Obama has appointed (yes McDonnell's thesis is a story. But not at it's obsessive level and not at the expense of completely ignoring appointees like Jones).
I'm not going to bother to set up a series of links to prove it, but from what I can tell almost no one on the left sees a problem with Van Jones. The most I can get was that they see him as a bit ardent but overall not a bad guy, and this whole affair is much ado about nothing. We even see the usual (and boring) charge of "McCarthyism" thrown at people who call him what he is; a communist. The question of how in the world such a person got past the White House vetting process seems to concern no one.
It goes beyond vetting however. Does Barack Obama share Van Jones' philosophy? The former got an undeserved pass on his long association with Jeremiah Wright, and I don't see any media types clamoring to ask the president about the specifics of what he thinks about Jones. More, who in the White House chose Jones and why? What does this say about them? What does this say about an administration that would choose such a person?
But on to Mr Breitbart. From his column today:
Now that White House "Green Jobs Czar" Van Jones has resigned, what's next?
Inevitably, the American mainstream media - ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, et al - must be held to account for sitting on the sidelines as this major story kept building without them, went viral on YouTube, and then became so large that a key appointee of President Obama was forced to step down.
But with their decision to ignore the Jones story, they may have actually done Mr. Obama far more harm than good: Who vetted this guy? How did he get past the FBI? What did he say, and how did he answer the infamous seven-page questionnaire that all Obama appointees were required to fill out? Inquiring Freedom of Information Act minds want to know.
For most people in this country, the resignation was the first they had heard of Van Jones. For this sin of journalistic omission, there's institutional media blame. Bias is too tame a word for the utter shamelessness on display: Only Republican scandals - real and imagined - matter.
And it's not just those the Democratic-Media Complex dub as "mobs" or "tea baggers" that are taking notice. Diminishing audience and evaporating subscribership reflect widespread consumer dissatisfaction. Eventually, the money will run out.
But until then, the growing alternative media of Internet and talk radio and a burgeoning mass of justifiably angry Americans will make every effort to expose the sham that is mainstream journalism.
Obviously, it's not that the Jones story wasn't newsworthy. His racist rants, his radical background and his membership in a 9/11 "truther" group made for heavy-rotation YouTube viewing that would have immediately destroyed other mere mortals if the shoe were on the right - or white - foot.
Compounding the problem, the Jones narrative hurts Mr. Obama because it underlines how the mainstream media helped elect the president by glorifying him instead of vetting him.
Just as Mr. Obama was not even cursorily investigated, Van Jones, a fellow "community organizer," was not given the slightest media attention when named as an unaccountable "czar" selected to oversee billions in taxpayer money for the ambiguous purpose of "green energy." And that despite having a body of damning evidence that could be found with a single Google search by an ADHD-addled high-school journalism student.
Instead, talk-radio host Glenn Beck and Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit, as well as Breitbart.tv editors Scott Baker and Liz Stephans, led the charge forcing the mainstream media's hand while the usually reliable George Soros-funded "netroots" media defense mechanism couldn't fend off the growing body of charges.
Calling Mr. Jones' critics "racist" was their best play, and that gruel gets thinner with every passing scandal cycle. In this case, the Jones "Swift Boat" already had left the harbor.
Much of America has started to realize that not only was Mr. Obama not vetted before he became president, he and his fellow unvetted cohorts continue to be given a pass by the Fourth Estate.
Two more stories demonstrate how the Democrat-Media Complex, the natural alliance of the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, is more concerned with trying to figure out how to destroy Glenn Beck - "he's nuts!" - than to follow his methodical, accurate reporting. This dynamic - used against all potent critics and off-the-reservation journalists - shows that not only is the media ignoring all the negative things coming out about the Obama administration, it is acting like President Richard Nixon's henchmen, making life difficult for its whistleblowers.
One of the stories is that ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, a massive radical organization, is poised to receive billions from the Obama "stimulus."
ACORN's voting division is currently under investigation in multiple states for fraud. And its housing division exists to fulfill an unclear mandate that has been accused of using funds to pay for political protests. If the alternative media digs further and finds out ACORN is guilty as charged, and as corrupt as its ample critics say it is, the onus is those who didn't question when the Obama team decided to allocate billions to expand the group's reach.
Brian Williams, the ball is in your court.
Another story not making the evening news is that of artist Patrick Courrielche, who has shown that the National Endowment of the Arts is seeking to use government funds to promote Obama administration initiatives. On Sunday's "This Week," George Will pierced the mainstream media veil.
"Recently there was a conference call arranged by the National Endowment for the Arts, with a representative of the White House, for potential grantees or actual grantees of the federal government, getting subsidies - the theme of it was how the arts community could advance the president's agenda. Now I don't know how many laws that breaks, but I am sure there are some."
What are you waiting for, Katie Couric?
If the mainstream media continues down the path of covering up the sins of the Democratic Party and the Obama administration, in particular, while it continues to exert its still powerful weapons to destroy those who would dare do their jobs for them, then eventually, perhaps in the near future, those "mobs" that have befuddled the Democratic Party at health care town halls and at tea parties will take their pitchforks to media row.
When the next big scandal hits - and it will, and it most certainly won't come from traditional journalism - all eyes will be on "Pinch" Sulzberger to see if he does his job.
All eyes are on the media. We are judging them by the standard they taught us during Watergate: "The cover-up is worse than the crime."
September 4, 2009
Iraq Briefing - 01 September 2009 - Too Much Party Line
This briefing is by Colonel Col. Joseph Martin, Commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who on Monday spoke via satellite from Camp Liberty in Iraq with reporters at the Pentagon.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team is also known as the Dagger Brigade, which is currently detached from the 1st ID and is now assigned to Multi-National Division - Baghdad. MND-Baghdad is headquartered by the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. Their area of responsibility is the city of Baghdad.
Col. Martin reports to Major General Daniel P. Bolger, commanding general of the 1st Cav. Bolger, in turn, reports to Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq. Jacoby reports to General Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq. Odierno reports to Gen. Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The latest Order of Battle can be found at The Institute for the Study of War.
The transcript is at DefenseLink.
All in all this was a lousy interview in which we got little detail but lots of party line from Col Bolger. It is distressing to report this because in the dozens of briefings from commanders in both Iraq and Afghanistan that I have covered from early 2008 on, only two or three were of poor quality. It's also distressing because the other briefing of Col Martin's that I covered, Iraq Briefing - 23 February 2009 - Still A Third World Country, was quite good. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for this one.
The only reason I am posting this briefing, then, is that one, I am committed to covering all briefings by our combat commanders, and two, it relieves me of the accusation that all I is fawn over and praise our military.
First, this excerpt from Col Martin's opening remarks, which are actually quite decent and informative:
COL. MARTIN: Dagger soldiers are serving as part of Multinational Division-Baghdad under the leadership of 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, and we're assigned to northwest Baghdad and areas to the west of Baghdad, totaling a square mileage of about 352 miles, just larger than the city of Dallas, Texas. ...
The fact remains, though, that since 2004 violence is at all-time low. Since our arrival last October, attacks have decreased by almost 40 percent, with an average per-day attack of less than two, and that's in an area that used to experience 30 attacks per day just two years ago. This achievement is due to the hard work of the soldiers and the partners at the company level and below who relentlessly attacked the enemy, then stood watch to protect the people they came here to protect. ...
Secondly, in the area of partnership, the brigade has attained new levels of confidence with our Iraqi security partners, who are the 6th Division of the Iraqi army and the 6th Brigade of the Iraqi federal police, and of course the local police districts. They are prepared to carry forward, you know, the gains in the security that we've combined to achieve. Dagger units and leaders weren't just satisfied with normal types of partnerships -- patrols, raids, cordons, searches, training. So we took it upon ourselves to develop counter-IED capabilities and tackled the difficult task of assisting to improve the Iraqi army's logistics capabilities and other areas.
In the area of reconciliation, the Dagger Brigade and our embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team-West led by Mark Powell has assisted in the return of over 23,000 families, who were forcibly displaced from their homes previously, which caused tensions within the northwest Baghdad area and frankly beyond.
So again we see that overall violence is at a low since 2004.
On to the Q & A. The fist question was from Joe Tabet, a veteran Pentagon reporter and a fixture at these briefings. Unfortunately, the answer by the colonel completely evades the question and annoyed me.
Q Colonel Martin, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra. I have two questions for you. Based on the
information that you have, do you agree that August was the bloodiest month in Iraq since a year, maybe more than a year? ...
COL. MARTIN: Well, Joe, that's a great question. First thing I'll tell you is, I think that security is continuing to improve. The attacks that occurred before are an example that there is an enemy out there, but it's an enemy that is decreasing in capacity and is rejected by the people. But the enemy still has the ability to act, and that's why we and our security partners continue to focus together to improve conditions here to eliminate the possibility of a like attack to occur again....
It was mostly downhill from there. In this one Colonel Martin acts annoyed that the reporter asked him a multi-part question:
Q This is Nancy Youssef with McClatchy Newspapers.. You spoke earlier about the attacks at the ministries. And you said that it was a sign of their decreasing their capacity. And I'd like to know if you could elaborate on that.
I'm not clear as to why that's a signal of their decreasing capacity, given that they were some of the largest explosions to strike Baghdad, in quite some time, and the closest that these attackers have ever gotten at those ministries or any ministries for that matter.
And also after those attacks, Maliki announced that the blast walls -- there would be a freeze on bringing down blast walls. Is that still happening in your area? And have any Iraqi officials that you work with asked for any blast walls to go up or expressed any concern about further blast walls coming down?
COL. MARTIN: Okay. Nancy, thanks for the multiple questions. I'll try to attack them all one at a time if I could.
What I meant by decreasing capacity is, the number of attacks continue to go down. The terrible attack that occurred on the 19th of August is an example of an enemy that has the ability to continue to strike. But it is in a limited fashion.
And the Iraqi security forces as a result of that have done a great deal of introspective assessing, to make sure that they understand how they can mitigate that from every happening again, number one.
And number two, they continue to assess the overall security situation as a whole, in order to mitigate any attacks, not just vehicle-borne IED attacks but just any attacks that can occur here. ...
His answer isn't bad and does address the issue, but the "thanks for the multiple questions" was unnecessary. As you'll see in a moment, the reporters picked up on it too.
It isn't like multi-part questions are new, either. Reporters typically only get called on once, and many will use the chance to get off as many questions as they can. Many of the briefers do forget all of the questions, and after answering one or two just ask for the rest to be repeated. Some use humor to defuse the situation. Col Martin frankly seemed uncomfortable during the entire briefing. He might be a good military leader, but he's got to learn to interact better with the media. The simple fact is that public relations are a vital part to winning a war whether anyone likes it or not
Overall, I found Col Martin's answers uninformative and party-line.
The bottom line is that warfare is about a lot more than bombs and bullets. This isn't World War II, and whether anyone likes it or not public relations and the information battle is vitally important. It is therefore imperative that our briefers do a good job of presenting themselves and their case before the public. My experience is that this is the case 95% of the time and this briefing was the exception.
Unfortunately the rest of the briefing wasn't any more enlightening. Here's the part where veteran reporter Al Pessin takes what I think is a slight dig back at Col Martin:
Q Colonel, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America. Two questions, but I'll ask them one at a time for you. First of all, do you feel like the Iraqis were overconfident when they first took security responsibility and that that is why they need to do this introspection that you mentioned earlier?
Ouch. My guess is that Col Martin got an earful from his superiors after the briefing.