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November 29, 2009

Iran to World: Bugger Off!

Looks like talking Iran out of it's nuclear weapons program is going to be more difficult than our president imagined. From the Times of London (via Powerline) dateline November 30:

Iran plans to build ten new uranium enrichment plants in a gesture of defiance to the West.

The escalation of its nuclear programme was announced yesterday, two days after world powers ordered Iran to halt construction of a plant near Qom and to adhere immediately to five United Nations resolutions demanding it stop uranium enrichment.

The censure from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with rare backing from Russia and China, provoked anger in Iran where members of parliament demanded the withdrawal of co-operation with UN inspectors.

President Ahmadinejad announced last night that his Cabinet had ordered the building of ten new plants aimed at producing up to 300 tonnes of nuclear fuel a year, with construction to begin on five within two months....

Robert Gibbs, President Obama's press spokesman, said that if confirmed the plan would be "yet another serious violation of Iran's clear obligations under multiple UN security council resolutions, and another example of Iran choosing to isolate itself . . . Time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns."

A senior US official said that the plan constituted the boldest public violation of Iran's international obligations to date, and underlined its unwillingness to reach a peaceful compromise. Western powers have said they will consider new sanctions if Iran has not shown signs of good faith by the end of the year.

They'll "consider new sanctions," eh? I'm sure the mullahs are quaking in their boots.

But er, wait; on Friday International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) diplomats threatened Iran with sanctions, and the Iranians evidently aren't impressed.

The Associated Press:

In a blow to Iran, the board of the U.N. nuclear agency on Friday overwhelmingly backed a demand from the U.S., Russia, China and three other powers that Tehran immediately stop building its newly revealed nuclear facility and freeze uranium enrichment.

Iranian officials shrugged off approval of the resolution by 25 members of the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency. But the U.S. and its allies hinted of new U.N. sanctions if Tehran remains defiant.

The West said some time remained for Tehran to come around and accept a specific offer that would delay its ability to make a nuclear weapon as well as engage in broader talks with the ultimate goal of persuading it to mothball its enrichment program.

But that window of opportunity would not stay open indefinitely, officials said.

"The next stage will have to be sanctions if Iran doesn't respond to what is a very clear vote from the world community," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

So now they're going to what, ban the sale of number two lead pencils to Iran? Hair spray? Russia and China have said several times that they are not interested in serious sanctions. If we've learned anything from the past eight years or so it's that the Iranians don't feel threatened by the sort of sanctions the "world community" has the stomach to impose.

The fact is that Iran is on the fastrack to obtaining nuclear weapons and all the talk in the world won't stop them. No sanctions that anyone is likely to impose will do any good either. President Obama staked his diplomacy on "engagment" and all that. He'd better engage himself soon or military strikes by Israel or us will be the only options left.

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

November 28, 2009

Let's Split More Atoms: Our Electricity Future Requires More Nuclear Power Plants

An article in last week's Washington Post (via Powerline) got me thinking about the future of electricity production in the United States. We are fine right now, but unless we increase capacity we are going to face a crunch.

Wind and geothermal are a joke, solar only works for roof-top howt water heaters, and then only in the southwest, and no a "smart grid" won't do much to help us. People who talk about these tings as if they're going to do much for us aren't being serious. The fact is that no matter what our conservation efforts, our electricity needs are growing, and only traditional sources will provide the power we need.

We do have enormous reserves of coal, but even "clean coal" has it's problems. We could increase our use of natural gas, but ditto that. I'm no global warming greenie, but even we conservatives understand that maybe it's not a good idea to dramatically increase the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere. Importing more petroleum from the Wahabists, and in turn jacking up the worldwide demand for oil and thus price, only provides funds for those who wish us ill.

I've always seen energy through the lens of national security as much as anything else. As with investing your money, it's good to diversify. We are currently not diversified with regard to electricity production, and that is not a good thing. Right now we are behind the eight ball with regard to nuclear power plants.

My argument, that we need to build more nuclear power plants, is one that should appeal to environmentalists as well. They tell us that CO2 and greenhouse gas production are bad things, and need to cut back.

The question is not so much "is nuclear safe?" for that question has been answered by the safe operation ofhundreds of power plants in the affirmative. The question is, "how does nuclear stack up against other options?" The purpose of this post is not ro provide a comprehensive answer to either question, but is rather to show that 'the res of the world" is ahead of us and increasing the distance between them in us in nuclear power production.

From the Post article referenced above:

Nuclear power -- long considered environmentally hazardous -- is emerging as perhaps the world's most unlikely weapon against climate change, with the backing of even some green activists who once campaigned against it.

It has been 13 years since the last new nuclear power plant opened in the United States. But around the world, nations under pressure to reduce the production of climate-warming gases are turning to low-emission nuclear energy as never before...

From China to Brazil, 53 plants are now under construction worldwide, with Poland, the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia seeking to build their first reactors, according to global watchdog groups and industry associations. The number of plants being built is double the total of just five years ago.

Not that all, or even most, liberal-left environmental groups have embraced nuclear power. Far from it. The Post story quotes David Hamilton, director of the Global Warming and Energy Program for the Sierra Club, as saying that "our base is as opposed to nuclear as ever." Greenpeace, perhaps more predictably, is also dead set against it.

In the United States, even liberals as President Obama talk about nuclear power as an option. Yet so far it has been all talk and no action. For the most part the left remains wedded to their "renewable energy" mantra, and the right focuses on "drill, baby, drill."

Where We Are Now

This chart of nuclear power plant orders in the U.S. tells the tale
Nuclear Plant Orders

Yet, as the Post story indicates, other developed and developing nations forge ahead.
But how much electricity do we need? The Department of Energy tells us that rate of increase in demand is at least slowing

Electricity demand fluctuates in the short term in response to business cycles, weather conditions, and prices. Over the long term, however, electricity demand growth has slowed progressively by decade since 1950, from 9 percent per year in the 1950s to less than 2.5 percent per year in the 1990s. From 2000 to 2007, increases in electricity demand averaged 1.1 percent per year. The slowdown in demand growth is projected to continue over the next 23 years (Figure 54), as a result of efficiency gains in response to rising energy prices and new efficiency standards for lighting, heating and cooling, and other appliances.

Where do we get our electricity now?

U.S. Electricity Generation by Source

Source: Energy Information Administration

Nuclear Power Plants Worldwide February 2009

Nuclear Power Plants Worldwide Feb 2009

Nuclear power plants world-wide, in operation and under construction, as of September 2009

Nuclear power plants world-wide, in operation and under construction, as of September 2009

Apologies that these graphs may be hard to read. Follow the link below to the source for details.

Nuclear Share in Electricity Production 2008

Nuclear Share in Elecricity Production 2008

Nuclear Reactors Under Construction Worldwide

Nuclear Reactors Under Construction Worldwide

Source: European Nuclear Society

All this said, power plants are not static. They can and are being upgraded. From the World Nuclear Association:

Numerous power reactors in USA, Belgium, Sweden and Germany, for example, have had their generating capacity increased. In Switzerland, the capacity of its five reactors has been increased by 12.3%. In the USA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved 124 uprates totalling some 5600 MWe since 1977, a few of them "extended uprates" of up to 20%.

Spain has had a program to add 810 MWe (11%) to its nuclear capacity through upgrading its nine reactors by up to 13%. Some 519 MWe of the increase is already in place. For instance, the Almarez nuclear plant is being boosted by more than 5% at a cost of US$ 50 million.

Finland Finland boosted the capacity of the original Olkiluoto plant by 29% to 1700 MWe. This plant started with two 660 MWe Swedish BWRs commissioned in 1978 and 1980. It is now licensed to operate to 2018. The Loviisa plant, with two VVER-440 (PWR) reactors, has been uprated by 90 MWe (10%).

Sweden is uprating Forsmark plant by 13% (410 MWe) over 2008-10 at a cost of EUR 225 million, and Oskarshamn-3 by 21% to 1450 MWe at a cost of EUR 180 million.

Further, there are applications for plants that are not reflected in the graphs above. Again, from the World Nuclear Society:

In the USA there are proposals for over twenty new reactors and the first 17 combined construction and operating licences for these have been applied for. All are for late third-generation plants, and a further proposal is for two ABWR units.

You can also browse by country at the Nuclear Training Center for more details.

How Did We Get Here?

Ian Murray, in a story titled Nuclear Power? Yes Please (paid NR subscription required to this and other stories in this post), which appeared in the June 16, 2008 print edition of National Review, outlines some of the history of the anti-nuclear movement. He shows how opposition started well before the Three-Mile Island in 1977, the the chart above bears this out. The reason was pretty simple; environmentalists exploited fears and convinced people to turn against nuclear as a power source. How did they succeed?

By creating a global zeitgeist -- an appropriately German word -- holding as an article of faith that nuclear power is a severe danger in all sorts of ways. Their arguments revolved around three main propositions: that nuclear plants are dangerous because they can blow up or melt down; that nuclear waste is extremely and persistently dangerous; and that nuclear power and nuclear weapons are intrinsically linked. All these arguments are overstated.

As to the safety of nuclear power stations, there is now a significant history to demonstrate that these concerns are no longer justified, even if they may have had some precautionary legitimacy in the 1970s. It has long been recognized that the Chernobyl accident was caused by features unique to the Soviet-style RBMK (reaktor bolshoy moshchnosti kanalniy -- high-power channel reactor). When reactors of that sort get too hot, the rate of the nuclear reaction increases -- the reverse of what happens in most Western reactors. Moreover, RBMK reactors do not have containment shells that prevent radioactive material from getting out. The worse incident in the history of nuclear power, Chernobyl killed just 56 people and made 20 square miles of land uninhabitable. (The exclusion zone has now become a haven for wildlife, which is thriving.) There are suggestions that hundreds or thousands more may die because of long-term effects, but these estimates are based on the controversial Linear Non-Threshold (LNT) theory about the effects of radiation.

A bigger problem is nuclear waste, but that's quite solvable too:

Nuclear waste is a stickier problem, but one that can be safely managed. In most American reactors, fuel rods need to be replaced every 18 months or so. When they are taken out, they contain large amounts of radioactive fission products and produce enough heat that they need to be cooled in water. Radioactivity declines as the isotopes decay and the rods produce less heat. It is the very nature of radioactivity that, as materials decay, they become less dangerous and easier to handle. The question is what to do with the waste when space runs out.

In most of the rest of the world, fuel reprocessing extracts usable uranium and plutonium. The highly radioactive waste that remains is not a large amount. By 2040, Britain will have just 70,000 cubic feet of such waste. This volume could be contained in a cube measuring 42 feet on each side. Moreover, most of Britain's waste is left over from its nuclear-weapons program. The British government has determined that "geological disposal" -- burial deep underground -- provides the best available approach to dealing with existing and also with new nuclear waste, arguing that "the balance of ethical considerations does not rule out the option of new nuclear power."

The best thing we could do here domestically is open up Yucca Mountain. Yes I know there are arguments on both sides, but in the end the ones fin favor of opening up the mountain for storage weight more heavily.

A Green Alternative?

China, Japan, and Germany are touted as models for "green" energy. Turns out that's not exactly true. Alex Alexiev explains:

China, (Obama) said (in his address to Congress), "has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient." True enough, but that effort has nothing to do with renewable energy, and it's not even clear that it's working. To the Chinese, energy efficiency means more efficient coal-burning equipment, co-generation, coal liquefaction, and other improvements of their primarily coal-based energy industry. Despite marginal improvements in this area, China is now the largest carbon-dioxide emitter in the world and can, at best, slow down but not stop carbon-emissions growth for the foreseeable future. As far as renewable energy proper is concerned, its share of total energy production not only is minuscule, but has actually declined over the past two years, according to Beijing's State Electricity Council. There is, however, one clean-energy sector in which China is making a lot of progress and has even more ambitious plans for the future: nuclear power.

What about Japan? It does produce a lot of solar panels for export and subsidizes rooftop solar installation, but its renewable-energy production target for 2010 is only 3 percent. Instead, Tokyo plans to boost the share of nuclear power to 41 percent from the current 30 percent in less than a decade.

This leaves Germany as a model for our green future. At first glance, it is a renewable-energy success story and, to no one's surprise, it has become the poster child of the green fantasy universe. In just a few years, the country has become the world's powerhouse of green energy, currently generating nearly 15 percent of its electricity from wind power and solar energy, which already exceeds the EU target of a 12.5 percent renewable share for 2010. A heartwarming story, it seems -- until one starts asking questions as to how a country that has neither much sun, nor much wind, got there; how much it cost; and where it is going from here.

Alexiev goes on to relate how Germany only achieves it's "success" through massive government subsidies. In other words, "green" energy is ridiculously inefficient and cannot pay for itself so taxpayers pick up the slack.

If there were truly no alternative government subsidy might be a good idea. I am not saying that each and every thing that we do must be economically self-sufficient. What I am saying is that "green renewable energy" is not the best use of our energy dollar, and I mean this both int terms of efficiency power watt and for reducing pollution.

The answer, or at least one big answer, is nuclear.

As related above, nuclear offers many advantages; it's relatively clean, takes up little space, yes waste can be safely stored, doesn't pump CO2 or other pollutants into the atmosphere, and best of all we don't need to send any money to regimes that don't like us.

No we shouldn't put all of our eggs into the nuclear basket, but we do need to end the environmental hysteria, reduce the roadblocks, and start building lots and lots of nuclear power plants.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 23, 2009

FPI Fact Sheet: The case for a fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan

I've long advocated "the full McChrystal" as our strategy for winning in Afghanistan. I sincerely hope President Obama agrees. My fear is that he will adopt a halfway measure that ensures both that we do not win and that Americans will continue to be killed.

The reason for our being in Afghanistan is ultimately pretty simple; do you want more 9-11s? If we pull out it is only a matter of time before the Quetta Shura Taliban and Haqqani network take over the country, which they would most likely do in a few short years. When they do, they will invite back al Qaeda. If we learned anything from 9-11 is is or should be that you cannot let terrorists have an entire nation as a home base and sponsor, even one as backward as Afghanistan. Fifty years ago it didn't matter what happened in these countries, but with the advent of modern technology all that has changed. Now the most backward of third world nations can reach out and touch us.

In many posts I've outlined what the full McChrystal would entail and why it alone is the only chance for success. The Foreign Policy Initiative has helpfully summarized the case for a fully resourced counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Following is the entire piece:

FPI Fact Sheet: The case for a fully resourced counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan:
During the time that President Obama has been mulling the way forward in Afghanistan, a number of politicians, advisors, and analysts have put forth various arguments against a significant increase in troop strength and a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy. The arguments, when closely considered, expose a default resistance to completing the mission, not a thoughtful dismantling of the pro "surge" case. Below you'll find a list of the most popular critiques of General Stanley McChrystal's COIN strategy and resource request, each followed by clear refutations from relevant experts.

Charge: The illegitimate election of Hamid Karzai means failure for any stepped up effort in Afghanistan.

Response: "[C]onsider the analogous case of Iraq over the last three years," write Richard Fontaine and John Nagl in the Los Angeles Times. "At the time [of the surge of forces to Iraq], Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shiite-led government was widely viewed as weak and sectarian. An overwhelming number of Sunni Arabs -- who formed the center of gravity of the insurgency -- rejected its legitimacy and had boycotted the December 2005 elections that brought it to power. The Maliki government had done little to allay these feelings; on the contrary, elements of its security forces participated in sectarian violence against Sunnis through 2006." Yet Gen. David H. Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy was able to protect populations, restore order, and make room for the political reconciliation that would not have otherwise been possible. "Prospects for such an outcome in Afghanistan actually look better now than they did in Iraq in early 2007," write Fontaine and Nagl, "unlike Iraq -- where success hinged on persuading a critical mass of the Sunni Arab community to accept the bitter reality of a Shiite-led government -- no deep existential issue drives Afghans (primarily Pashtuns) into the arms of the insurgents." In fact, all polls and other data indicate that "the national government in Afghanistan almost certainly retains greater legitimacy among the people than did the Iraqi government before things began to turn for the better there." -- Los Angeles Times

Charge: Afghanistan is too "naturally" tribal and backward for a COIN strategy to work.

Response: In reality, Afghanistan "has been a state since the 18th century (longer than Germany and Italy) and has been governed by strong rulers such as Dost Mohammad, who ruled from 1826 to 1863," writes Max Boot, in Commentary. "Afghanistan made considerable social, political, and economic progress during the equally long reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah from 1933 to 1973. The country was actually relatively peaceful and prosperous before a Marxist coup in 1978, followed by a Soviet invasion the next year, triggered turmoil that still has not subsided. . . . Afghanistan has not always been as unstable and violent as it is today. . . it is hard to know why Afghanistan would be uniquely resistant to methods and tactics that have worked in countries as disparate as Malaya, El Salvador, and Iraq." -- Commentary

Charge: Al Qaeda is our real enemy. COIN focuses unnecessarily on defeating the Taliban and other related groups.

Response: "Al Qaeda does not exist in a vacuum like the -SPECTRE of James Bond movies. It has always operated in close coordination with allies," write Frederick and Kimberly Kagan in The Weekly Standard. "The anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s was the crucible in which al Qaeda leaders first bonded with the partners who would shelter them in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden met Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose network is now fighting U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, as both were raising support in Saudi Arabia for the mujahedeen in the 1980s. They then fought the Soviets together. . . Bin Laden and al Qaeda could not have functioned as they did in the 1990s without the active support of Mullah Omar and Haqqani. The Taliban and Haqqani fighters protected bin Laden, fed him and his troops, facilitated the movement of al Qaeda leaders and fighters, and generated recruits. They also provided a socio-religious human network that strengthened the personal resilience and organizational reach of bin Laden and his team. Islamist revolution has always been an activity of groups nested within communities, not an undertaking of isolated individuals. . . There is no reason whatever to believe that Mullah Omar or the Haqqanis--whose religious and political views remain closely aligned with al Qaeda's--would fail to offer renewed hospitality to their friend and ally of 20 years, bin Laden. Al Qaeda's allies "provide them with shelter and food, with warning of impending attacks, with the means to move rapidly. Their allies provide communications services--runners and the use of their own more modern systems to help al Qaeda's senior leaders avoid creating electronic footprints that our forces could use to track and target them. Their allies provide means of moving money and other strategic resources around, as well as the means of imparting critical knowledge (like expertise in explosives) to cadres. Their allies provide media support, helping to get the al Qaeda message out and then serving as an echo chamber to magnify it via their own media resources." -- Weekly Standard

Charge: We can defeat our enemy in Afghanistan with a more limited counterterrorism strategy, using drones and increased intelligence gathering.

Response: "If the United States should adopt a small-footprint counterterrorism strategy, Afghanistan would descend again into civil war," Frederick Kagan testified before the House Armed Services Committee. "The Taliban group headed by Mullah Omar and operating in southern Afghanistan (including especially Helmand, Kandahar, and Oruzgan Provinces) is well positioned to take control of that area upon the withdrawal of American and allied combat forces. The remaining Afghan security forces would be unable to resist a Taliban offensive. They would be defeated and would disintegrate. The fear of renewed Taliban assaults would mobilize the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras in northern and central Afghanistan. The Taliban itself would certainly drive on Herat and Kabul, leading to war with northern militias. This conflict would collapse the Afghan state, mobilize the Afghan population, and cause many Afghans to flee into Pakistan and Iran. Within Pakistan, the U.S. reversion to a counterterrorism strategy (from the counterinsurgency strategy for which Obama reaffirmed his support as recently as August) would disrupt the delicate balance that has made possible recent Pakistani progress against internal foes and al Qaeda." -- House Armed Services Committee

In Commentary, Max Boot notes, "it is hard to point to any place where pure [counterterrorism] has defeated a determined terrorist or guerrilla group. This is the strategy that Israel has used against Hamas and Hezbollah. The result is that Hamas controls Gaza, and Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon. It is the strategy that the U.S. has employed in Somalia since our forces pulled out in 1994. The result is that the country is utterly chaotic and lawless, and an Islamic fundamentalist group called the Shabab, which has close links to al-Qaeda, is gaining strength. Most pertinently, it is also the strategy the U.S. has used for years in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The result is that the Taliban control the tribal areas of Pakistan and are extending their influence across large swathes of Afghanistan." -- Commentary

Charge: Our army is already stretched too thin. A troops surge in Afghanistan is unsustainable.

Response: "This fear, heard often about Iraq in 2004-06, is no truer now than it was then," writes Tom Cotton in the Weekly Standard. "At the 2007 peak, the United States had 200,000 troops deployed to Iraq (170,000) and Afghanistan (30,000). Currently, there are 110,000 troops in Iraq and 68,000 in Afghanistan, well below that peak. And 60,000 troops are expected to leave Iraq by next August as more troops flow into Afghanistan. Thus, overall deployed troop levels in 2010 will remain the same or fall. The Army has also grown to accommodate repeated deployments. It expanded over the last two years from 512,000 to 547,000 soldiers and now plans to add another 22,000 troops by 2012. Further, it just exceeded its annual recruitment and retention goals, hardly the stuff of a broken Army." -- Weekly Standard

Charge: The American public believes we have no need to stay in Afghanistan after eight years of fighting.

Response: "Barack Obama has yet to talk about America or its ideals as being worth the fight. It's no wonder public support for our commitment in Afghanistan is lower today than at any point during the Bush administration," writes Foreign Policy Initiative Policy Advisor Abe Greenwald at the American Spectator. "The disconnect between rhetoric and mission is stark. Since taking office, President Obama has continuously spoken of the United States as a country that 'all too often...starts by dictating,' a place that 'has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive' toward allies, where 'our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight, [and] all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.' America, in Mr. Obama's words, 'is still working through some of our own darker periods in our history.' What kind of dupe would rally behind that place? To make matters worse, while the situation deteriorated in Afghanistan and loose speculation abounded the president went silent on matters of war. . . If the president wants to boost morale on Afghanistan, he is going to have to drink from the well of American exceptionalism." -- American Spectator

Charge: Dealing with the problems in Pakistan is more important than finishing the fight in Afghanistan.

Response: "The debate over whether to commit the resources necessary to succeed in Afghanistan must recognize the extreme danger that a withdrawal or failure in Afghanistan would pose to the stability of Pakistan," writes Frederick Kagan in the Wall Street Journal. the fight against the Taliban must be pursued on both sides of the border. Pakistan's successes have been assisted by the deployment of American conventional forces along the Afghanistan border opposite the areas in which Pakistani forces were operating, particularly in Konar and Khowst Provinces. Those forces have not so much interdicted the border crossings (almost impossible in such terrain) as they have created conditions unfavorable to the free movement of insurgents. They have conducted effective counterinsurgency operations in areas that might otherwise provide sanctuary to insurgents fleeing Pakistani operations (Nangarhar and Paktia provinces especially, in addition to Konar and Khowst). Without those operations, Pakistan's insurgents would likely have found new safe havens in those provinces, rendering the painful progress made by Pakistan's military irrelevant. Pakistan's stability cannot be secured solely within its borders any more than can Afghanistan's." -- Wall Street Journal

Charge: Afghans view coalition forces as "occupiers" and want us to leave.

Response: "In fact repeated polls have shown that majority of Afghans want the U.S. and NATO there," writes Brian Glyn Williams in Foreign Policy. "As they watch Indian soap operas on televisions the Taliban once smashed, send their girls to school, and drive on newly paved roads, millions of Afghans are experiencing the direct benefits of the U.S. presence in their country. This is the work we could have been doing in 1991 and, for all its obvious flaws, it is a tentative sign of progress in the long journey to rebuild civil society in this long suffering land. In other words, compassionate, global-minded Democrats who supported President Bill Clinton's humanitarian interventions in places like Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and Somalia owe it to the Afghan people to be patient and do the same for Afghanistan." -- Foreign Policy

Charge: Afghanistan is the "graveyard of empires."

Response: "This refrain belongs, as they say now in the military, in the graveyard of analogies," writes Tom Cotton in the Weekly Standard. "The Soviets, in particular, teach us how not to win in Afghanistan. A heavily mechanized force, the Red Army was ill-suited for Afghanistan's treacherous terrain, and it was dependent on long, vulnerable supply lines. It also discouraged innovative junior leadership, which is critical against an insurgency. To compensate, the Soviets employed vicious, massively destructive tactics that inflamed the Afghan people and still scar the country with depopulated valleys and adult amputees maimed as children by toy-shaped mines. Our present way of war couldn't be more different. We deploy light and wheeled infantry to Afghanistan, making our tactics more flexible, our supply lines shorter, and our soldiers more engaged with the locals. We also radically decentralize decision-making authority to our junior soldiers and leaders, who increasingly can draw on years of combat experience. In short, America has a counter-insurgency strategy, whereas the Soviet Union had a genocide strategy. Afghans I spoke with always recognized the difference, reviled the Russians, and respected our troops." -- Weekly Standard

Max Boot makes a similar point in Commentary, "The two most commonly cited examples in support of this proposition are the British in the 19th century and the Russians in the 1980s. This selective history conveniently omits the military success enjoyed by earlier conquerors, from Alexander the Great in the 4th century b.c.e. to Babur (founder of the Mughal Empire) in the 16th century. In any case, neither the British nor the Russians ever employed proper counterinsurgency tactics. The British briefly occupied Kabul on two occasions (1839 and 1879) and then pulled out, turning Afghanistan into a buffer zone between the Russian Empire and their own. In the 1980s, the Russians employed scorched-earth tactics, killing large numbers of civilians and turning much of the country against them. Neither empire had popular support on its side, as foreign forces do today." -- Commentary

Charge: We can manage Afghanistan by focusing on the training of Afghans.

Response: "The Afghan Army is reasonably effective. It is too small, with roughly 90,000 total soldiers," writes Michael O'Hanlon in the Wall Street Journal. "But by most accounts, the Afghan Army is fighting well, and cooperating well with NATO forces. Gen. McChrystal's new approach to training Afghan troops will greatly strengthen and deepen this cooperation." Here is the key point as it relates to a troop build-up. "Not only will NATO finally field enough personnel to embed with each Afghan unit in mentoring teams, but its combat units will partner with Afghans at every level on every major operation - living, planning, operating, and fighting with each other in one-to-one formal partnerships." In order for that partnering to be fully implemented, a large troop surge is required. -- Wall Street Journal

Charge: There is no rush to get all of the requested resources to Afghanistan.

Response: "We face both a short and long-term fight," wrote Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his comprehensive assessment of the war. The long-term fight will require patience and commitment, but I believe the short-term fight will be decisive. 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."

Many Americans are understandably resistant to the amplification of war after eight years of combat in Afghanistan and other taxing military deployments. But distaste for combat cannot supersede obligations of national security. Those who seek to sidestep those obligations must be challenged head-on, so that the illogical bases for their claims can be exposed and America can get about the business of winning a war and bringing our soldiers home in victory.

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

November 22, 2009

See, I Told You So

The Associated Press, via Powerline:

A lawyer for one of five men facing trial for the Sept. 11 attacks says the men plan to plead not guilty and use the trial to express their political views.

Attorney Scott Fenstermaker says his client Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali and the others will not deny their role in the 2001 attacks but will tell the jury "why they did it."

He says the men will explain "their assessment of American foreign policy."

Fenstermaker met with Ali last week at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. He says the men, including professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, have discussed the trial among themselves.

See, I told you more than once they were going to use the opportunity to put the United States on trail. Think that what KSM and his fellow jihadists have to say won't be reported with glee in half the world? The hate-America press will be in overdrive.

Giving your enemies a stage on which to express their views is always a bad idea. Only the naive think that "the world will turn against them once they see who they are." The reality is that much of the world either hates the West and/or agrees with the jihadist mindset that we risk turning KSM and his fellow jihadists into heroes for their performance during this trial. And no, they don't hate us because of Israel, the settlements, or George W. Bush. What we are seeing is simply the latest battle in a centuries old war.

Posted by Tom at 9:53 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 21, 2009

Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) Runs the Numbers on Reidcare

Orrin Hatch

On the Senate floor a few hours ago Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told us how expensive and flawed the current bill is:

I am going to spend my time before this historic vote to highlight some very important numbers, so every member of this chamber understands what they are voting to advance. Make no mistake, our actions today will not be without consequences. History and our future generations will judge us on this. Here are some numbers:

· 0 - the number of provisions prohibiting the rationing of health care.

· 0 - the number of government-run entitlement programs that are financially sound over the long-term.

· 10.2 percent - our national unemployment rate, the highest in 26 years.

· 70 - total number of government programs authorized by the bill.

· 1,697 - times the Secretary of Health and Human Services is given authority to determine or define provisions in this bill.

· 2,074 - total pages in this bill.

· 2010 - the year Americans start paying higher taxes to pay for this bill

· 2014 - the year when this bill actually starts most of the major provisions of this bill

· $6.8 million - cost to taxpayers per word

· $8 billion - the total amount of new taxes on Americans who do not buy Washington-defined health care.

· $465 billion - Cuts in Medicare at a time when it faces a $38 trillion unfunded liability to finance more government spending.

· $494 billion - total amount of new taxes in this bill

· $2.5 trillion - the real cost of the bill

· $12 trillion - our total national debt

These numbers are facts. They are undisputable.

Let me finish by reading an excerpt from a letter from one of my fellow Utahans from Provo, who is worried just like me about what this bill will mean for our country:

"I am writing out of deep concern over the increasing expansion of government. I moved here from Germany 20 years ago. I love America because it is free - freer than Germany in that I have the freedom to choose, among other things, how I want to insure my family (we have six children). I'm all for affordable health insurance which requires affordable health care. I am self-employed and have been hit hard by the economy.

There is a good chance that we would actually benefit from [this bill]. Business has been so bad that we would qualify for free school lunches if we asked for it. But I don't want more government handouts.

I don't want the government telling me what kind of insurance I need to have. I don't want the government telling me what services I can receive when I need them. I don't want them taking an ever greater part of my income to help finance government programs such as the 'public option' and the army of government employees it will take to administer such a program. I do not want more government. I want less. A lot less."

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Iraq Briefing - 17 November 2009 - The First Advise and Assist Brigade Reports

This briefing is by Colonel Mark Stammer, commander of the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division-West. He spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday November 17, providing an operational update on progress in his area of responsibility.

MNF-W is headquartered by the U.S. II Marine Expeditionary Force. Their area of operations include the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. Col Stammer's 1st Brigade assumed it's current duties in August. Because of it's current role, it is called the 1st Advise & Assist Brigade.

Col. Stammer reports to Major General Richard T. Tryon, commanding general of the II MEF. Tryton 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, commanding general of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

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

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

I'll this

COL. STAMMER: Thank you very much, Dave, for that kind introduction.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Colonel Mark Stammer, commander of the 1st Advise and Assist Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, and I'm speaking to you today from al Asad Air Base in Al Anbar province, Iraq. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today. Going to be a real pleasure.

I have the honor to lead almost 5,000 of the finest paratroopers and soldiers in the armed forces today in a unit that traces its lineage to World War II and the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

When I introduce the brigade to our Iraqi partners, I tell them that we offer all the features of a light infantry brigade capable of full-spectrum operations, combined stability operations, route clearance, intelligence, information operations, even civil affairs.

I tell them that what makes us an advise and assist brigade, or AAB, is a complement of specialized officers to help build civil capacity, specialized partnership training to help our troops increase Iraqi security force professionalization, and a whole new mindset that says everything we do is by, with and through our Iraqi counterparts.

Anbar is Iraq's largest province, roughly the size of North Carolina, with a primarily agrarian economy. Most of its 2 million predominantly Sunni residents live within the Euphrates River corridor as it travels from the Syrian border southeast to Baghdad. Our mission is to partner with Iraqi security forces and conduct combined stability operations. Our goals are to improve Iraqi security forces' capabilities and capacity, deny violent extremists opportunities for resurgence and support the growth of political -- I'm sorry, support the growth of provincial governance and economic capacity in order to achieve sustainable security. By accomplishing these tasks, we will enable effective governance, political reconciliation, political and economic development, and the advancement of the rule of law.

With the recent passage of the Iraqi election law, we appear to be only two months away from yet another historic election. The brigade will be there to assist the Iraqis, as they ask us to do so and in accordance with the security agreement.

Finally, during all of this activity, we do everything with an eye on leaving Iraq in a responsible manner. Every relationship I make here, I make with the big picture in mind, because ultimately advise and assist is not an entity so much as it is a mindset and process. That process is our mission and, by its execution, we will ensure an enduring strategic partnership and friendship with our Iraqi counterparts.

Unfortunately the introduction was the best part of the briefing. Col Stammer tended to give short, pro forma answers to the questions, didn't expound on basic points. The entire briefing was only 18:40, which is the shortest I can remember, most lasting just over a half hour. As such, this briefing was not as informative as most.

Nevertheless, we'll cover some of the Q & A, as it does touch on topics of interest.

With the transition from counterinsurgency to stability operations, American forces have been stepping back and assuming a more advisory role. As such, the U.S. Army has created the Advise and Assist Brigade (AAB). From a May 2009 story on the U.S. Army's website

The "advise and assist" brigades will assist Provincial Reconstruction Teams in their missions, will work directly with Military Transition Teams to train Iraqi Army units and with the teams that train the Iraqi Border Patrol and police. The brigades will also work closely with the State Department, U.S. Aid and other government agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations in their area....

BCT stands for Brigade Combat Team. A BCT is how Col. Stammer's brigade would normally operate.

Q Colonel, Luis Martinez again. The AABs, General Casey characterized them as being, in how they're different from the BCTs, in the sense that they have 50 additional officers. Is that -- is that an accurate assessment? And if so, what are those officers -- how do they -- how are they -- what jobs do they carry out that are separate from what a BCT would undertake?

COL. STAMMER: Well, there's -- there's a lot of goodness in being the first of anything, but the first AAB -- you know, we didn't get quite 50 additional officers; we, in fact, got 16. But we organized those 16 professionals in three stability transition teams, and we partnered them with the three most important nodes in Anbar: the Anbar ops command, the provincial government council and the Department of Border Enforcement.

And they serve as the eyes and ears and liaison officers for the commanding general, Multinational Force West, and the principal conduits for me to coordinate with those three entities as well. And to date this -- those 16 men and the techniques that we're using have proven very fruitful.

Q Do you anticipate the arrival of an additional 34 to get your full complement in the future?

COL. STAMMER: No, I do not.

Q Well, if the tasking is for 50, doesn't that complicate your efforts, then, for additional advising and assistance?

COL. STAMMER: Well, I think the future AABs will be filled to -- closer to the 48 or 50 number that's been promulgated in D.C. The 16 officer I -- the 16 officers I have right now I have complemented with additional capability from within my brigade combat team, and right now that is working just fine for us out here.

As you know, the AAB construct will have to be manipulated to the contextual environment it finds itself. So while we all may start from common ground, we'll all depart rather quickly once we get over here into Iraq, depending on where you operate from. The construct that we have is working quite well for our situation here in Anbar at the time.

Of course a big issue is whether the insurgency has ramped up again now that we're withdrawing. The point of the surge was to tamp it down and give the enough Iraqis breathing space to build their security forces and government. The big question was always whether the Iraqis would then be able to take over when we left. From what we've heard here and in other briefings, it so far so good.

This next exchange tells the tale:

Q Colonel, this is Joe Tabet, with Al Hurra. Could you... give us an update on the -- on the presence -- or if there is any presence of AQI in the Anbar province, any activities related to al Qaeda in that -- in that province?

COL. STAMMER: Could barely hear you, but I think your first question had something to do with the border with Syria. We partner with the Department of Border Enforcement, the Iraqi army -- and the Iraqi army along the border with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia throughout Al Anbar province. And my experience to date has been very professional with all those organizations.

With regards to your question with AQI, AQI in Al Anbar, again, in my first three months over here, can be best characterized as a group or a -- disparate groups coming together to achieve some short- term common interests, cellular in structure, but nothing that will pose significant challenges to the Iraqi security forces or the provincial government as they continue to mature in Al Anbar


This comports with what else we know, which is that the insurgency per se has been mostly defeated in the Anbar province. As with most all other insurgencies, elements remain around, often for years. The key is to whether they can cause serious disruption or not.

In a later exchange with Louis Martinez, Col Stammer explains the drawdown of American troops. When Col. Stammer's 1st Brigade arrived, they replaced two two Marine regimental combat teams. Marine combat units are now mostly out of Anbar, though their combat logistics regiment, the Marine aviation regiment, and the Multinational Force-West headquarters, remain in Anbar.

After the election, the Multinational Force-West HQ unit will leave. Although the 1st 1st Advise & Assist Brigadewill remain in Al Anbar, they will be assigned to U.S. Division- Central.

The 1st 1st Advise & Assist Brigade is assigned to stay in Iraq until August 2010.

AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) and other insurgents are for the most part defeated and reduced to small gangs, but what about the all-important threat of sectarian violence?

Q Colonel, it's Luis Martinez again. Do you see any incidence of sectarian violence, any uptick, or any significant actions involving securing groups that rise to your level of concern? COL. STAMMER: To date, with my time in Al Anbar, I have not experienced any sectarian violence. While there has been some violence, it has been criminal in nature, and not necessarily sectarian. Q Any violence resulting from -- within Sunni separate -- Sunni factions in Anbar? As there's obviously the political debate going on towards the -- and the ramp-up towards the elections, there are rival groups. Are you seeing any of those groups actually taking violence for their ideas?

COL. STAMMER: No, I would -- I would like to characterize the violence that I have witnessed to date in Al Anbar as predominantly criminal in nature.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 19, 2009

On the Business of Conservatives Being "Afraid" of New York Terror Trials

I don't normally devote a whole blog post to silly liberal arguments, but the huge problems surrounding the decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his fellows in civilian court in New York City have persuaded me otherwise. The issue is too serious, and the fallout too deadly.

It would seem the liberal response to conservative arguments is to simply call us "fraidy cats," "cowards," and "sissies." Really. I am indebted to Sister Toldjah to these first three clips.

First up is Attorney General Eric Holder, defending his decision before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is....I'm not scared of what (Mohammed) will have to say at trial and no one else needs to be either....We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.

Next is Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of said committee:

I don't think we should run and hide and cower. Let's use our system.

Uberblogger Markos Moulitsas, founder of the Daily Kos, this time posting at The Hill, in a post called "Conservative Cowards:"

American liberals are tough on terrorists and secure in their knowledge that the Sept. 11 conspirators are guilty of mass murder. American conservatives are timid cowards who fear that the U.S. government can't actually prove that the Sept. 11 killers committed their heinous crimes. Sound weird?

Maybe. But what else can be concluded after watching conservatives collectively lose their heads over President Barack Obama's easy decision to try Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other co-conspirators in U.S. District Court in New York City? Seems that macho conservatives are terrified of shackled terrorists in orange jumpsuits and the United States Constitution.

These are remarkably silly arguments.

More, they miss the point of our objections, perhaps deliberately so. I think it's a way of avoiding debate more than anything else. Technically, it's known as the "straw man" argument.

What is Fear?

Are you afraid of your boss? Of your spouse? Are you or were you afraid of your parents? Lets assume normal relationships here. The answer is yes... and no. You should be afraid of being fired if you don't do your work, of having your spouse divorce you if you cheat on him or her, and of punishment by a parent if you were a bad child. But you don't cower and shrink back when one of them approaches you.

So yes, in a sense we are and should be afraid of KSM and his fellows in a civilian trial. But no, it's silly and stupid to resort to the "macho conservatives are terrified of shackled terrorists" line of attack.

Legitimate Concerns

Running through a few of the issues conservatives have raised, in no particular order, they are

  1. Security concerns. Security is not a matter of beating one's chest and trumpeting that you are not afraid. It will be hard to protect the defendants and citizens of New York. Further, the security concerns are not limited to New York City. Such a public trial will encourage terrorists to strike all over the world "to send the United States a message."
  2. The trial could become a circus. All major trials draw massive media coverage and the tabloids go nuts, but in most of them a firm judge keeps the proceedings under control. Judge Lance Ito famously let the O.J. Simpson criminal trail descend into farce, whereby Judge Hiroshi Fujisaki kept the civil trail quite orderly. In this case we have a unique circumstances that may be beyond the capability of any judge to control. The defendants have a right to represent themselves, and by definition they can grandstand and get away with all manner of things before being restrained or stopped (we could deny them the ability to represent themselves, but this opens up the possibility of a guilty verdict being overturned on Sixth Amendment grounds).
  3. The government on trial. The way the far left will look at this trial is not letting terrorists free, but pronouncing the United States guilty. They will do this because these five have no real defense. They're obviously guilty, and when you're obviously guilty you do one of or both of two things; tie up the court in legalisms, and/or put the government on trial. They will put the Bush Administration on trial for renditions, waterboarding, the whole thing. Liberals may revel in this sort of thing, but it's not the purpose of the trial.
  4. A soapbox for al Qaeda. Partially because the defendants can represent themselves, and partially because very Lynne Stewart-Ramsey Clark type hate-America lawyer will be drawn to this trial like moths to a lamp, they will do their utmost to use the trial as a forum to get out the radical Islamic view of the world, and why the United States is a bad, evil nation. These leftist attorney's do not sympathize with al Qaeda so much as they hate the West in general and United States in particular.
  5. National security secrets could be revealed. There is no way you can hold this trial without revealing national security secrets. As such, it will prove a bonanza for our enemies. They will learn and/or be able to deduce many of our sources and methods. As such, many methods won't work anymore and many sources will face capture, torture, and execution. To those who think that the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) will prevent this from happening, former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy says that is not exactly the case.
  6. The law of unintended consequences. President Obama and his followers think he is great because he "dares to do big things." Ok, I get it, this is not in and of itself bad. But he has a habit of not thinking things through, failing to imagine worst case scenarios and ignoring contingency planning.
  7. "The world" isn't impressed. There is no "the world" anyway, and such thinking shows a simplistic view of the world that is almost childlike. There are different peoples with different perspectives on what constitutes truth, justice, reality, and one's purpose for being on this earth. Many or most Muslims accept Sharia law as the only legitimate governing force for humanity. They won't be impressed. Chinese who think a strong authoritarian government necessary for maintaining order and ensuring economic process won't be impressed. Latin American dictators and dictators-wanna-be and their many followers won't be impressed. Europeans are of two minds. Many will be impressed, this is true. But there is and has been an implicit agreement between them and the United States since WWII that we would do their dirty work for them around the world. Norway can be Norway because the United States is the United States.
  8. A propaganda coup for the other side. Following up on the above, ma around the world will use things revealed during the trial to show that the U.S. is indeed a bad, evil nation, and thus proves that they were right all along. They will ignore the obvious hypocrisy in such an argument (if we're so bad,how can we air our own laundry?) but the fact is this how how may people think whether we agree with the logic or not.
  9. "Tainted" evidence tossed out. It's not too hard to imagine a judge throwing out lots of evidence, claiming it was illegally obtained. What does this them do to the government's case?
  10. A prelude to inditing Bush Administration officials. The other day former Secretary of Homeland Defense Tom Ridge said he feared the trial could descend into a big "fishing expedition" with the real goal being to release enough information for the international left to start war crimes trials against George W. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. Again, this may warm the hearts of liberals but it is not the reason why Obama/Holder say we need a civilian trial.
  11. There could be some not-guilty verdicts. Although I don't have time to find the link, I believe AG Holder has said that we'll keep the defendant's in "preventive detention" anyway if any are found not guilty, or if the judge dismisses the trial. Unlikely, to be sure, but not impossible. How will we look then if we keep not-guilty defendants in jail?
  12. The defendants are not "criminals." Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his fellows are not "criminals" as properly understood, but are illegal or unlawful combatants. This differing understanding of the status of KSM and other terrorists goes to the heart of the dispute between right and left on this entire matter.

If you want to disagree with me on any of these please do, and state your case. But Holder, Leahy, and Moulitsas, and many liberal bloggers don't even address these issues seriously. As such, we can dismiss their argument as at best intellectually dishonest, at worst ad hominem.

Posted by Tom at 8:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 18, 2009

Obama's Fake "Saved or Created" Stimulus Jobs

If you're not reading Mike's America every day, you should be. I am indebted to him for most of the articles that follow.

From the beginning we know that the entire "saved or created jobs" business was a crock. No one can measure something like this so it was obvious that they were pulling the numbers out of the air, knowing that at least for a time the gullible would buy it. As unemployment has crept upwards to it's current level of 10.2 percent, it became harder and harder the media to go along.

Finally, ABC did some investigating, and guess what they found:

Exclusive: Jobs 'Saved or Created' in Congressional Districts That Don't Exist
Human Error Blamed for Crediting New Stimulus Jobs to Nonexistent Places By JONATHAN KARL
ABC News
Nov. 16, 2009

Here's a stimulus success story: In Arizona's 15th congressional district, 30 jobs have been saved or created with just $761,420 in federal stimulus spending. At least that's what the Web site set up by the Obama administration to track the $787 billion stimulus says.

Discrepancies on government web site call into question stimulus spending.
There's one problem, though: There is no 15th congressional district in Arizona; the state has only eight districts.

And ABC News has found many more entries for projects like this in places that are incorrectly identified.

Late Monday, officials with the Recovery Board created to track the stimulus spending, said the mistakes in crediting nonexistent congressional districts were caused by human error.

"We report what the recipients submit to us," said Ed Pound, Communications Director for the Board.

Pound told ABC News the board receives declarations from the recipients - state governments, federal agencies and universities - of stimulus money about what program is being funded.

"Some recipients clearly don't know what congressional district they live in, so they appear to be just throwing in any number. We expected all along that recipients would make mistakes on their congressional districts, on jobs numbers, on award amounts, and so on. Human beings make mistakes," Pound said.

Right, and if you believe that I've got a bridge to sell you. I'll tell you what I think happened: They put immense pressure on their Democrat buddies to come up with the "right" numbers, and sure enough they did. They just hoped that nobody would check. Oops.

But it gets better.

Stimulus dishonesty
Job numbers keep proving to be exaggerated
Union-Tribune Editorial
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

First it was The Associated Press refuting the Obama administration's claims for jobs saved or created nationwide by February's $787 billion economic stimulus measure. Then it was The Sacramento Bee refuting the claims that state agencies had made for California. Then it was the Chicago Tribune refuting the claims that state agencies had made for Illinois.

The errors were not of a minor or technical nature. They were egregious.

AP reported that "some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two, three, four or even more times." The Bee reported that California State University said "the $268.5 million it received in stimulus funding through October allowed it to retain 26,156 employees" - more than half its statewide work force. The Tribune reported that Illinois education officials grossly inflated job-saved numbers, sometimes saying school districts had saved more jobs than their total number of employees.

This is a scandal and should be treated as such. It's not government as usual. Instead, it appears to reflect a decision to distort government data collection to support explicitly political agendas.

With U.S. unemployment now topping 10 percent, the Obama administration is struggling more than ever to fashion credible counterarguments to the assertion made by this editorial page and many pundits and economists that the massive stimulus measure was a poorly thought-out pork fest that wouldn't work. What's the easiest way to defend the stimulus? Make up claims about its glorious results.

Politics also appears to be driving state agencies in their willingness to prop up this bogus narrative. It helps them make the case that they should get even more borrowed money from the federal government that they never will have to repay.

Such dishonesty should be completely unacceptable - especially at the federal level. We trust the Office of Management and Budget to provide honest figures on the size of the deficit and the national debt. We trust the Labor Department to provide honest statistics on unemployment and job gains and losses by sector. We trust the Commerce Department to provide honest numbers on monthly imports and exports and the gross domestic product. We trust the Environmental Protection Agency to provide an honest accounting of air and water pollution levels.

All of these statistics end up helping shape the public debate on the most crucial issues of the day. If these numbers can't be trusted, we can't have an honest debate. When it comes to the economic stimulus package, it sure looks like the Obama White House doesn't want an honest debate. Instead, it is going to relentlessly push the very dubious claim that the stimulus was a huge success - no matter what.

We are struck yet again by the contrast between the hopeful and idealistic tone of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and the bare-knuckles Chicago-style politics of his White House. If this hardball approach goes beyond the usual arm-twisting to the routine twisting of government statistics for political purposes, that will be a grim day for America.

Meanwhile, let's revisit the Democrat projections for they insisted would happen if we passed their gargantuan stimulus bill:

Unemployment: Obama v Reality

Obama: The Coming Object of Ridicule

The invaluable Charles Krauthammer sums up the implications for the Obama Administration:

The effect, ultimately -- and the danger for any administration -- is to be an object of ridicule.

Look, this whole discussion has had an Alice-in-Wonderland quality from the very beginning. You can't measure saved jobs. Arguing over the precision or imprecision of the numbers, which are fictional at the beginning, is like arguing that there are twelve angels on the head of a pin and only ten ...

And when you hear these reports, as we're hearing now with the fictional congressional districts, the risk for the administration is that it becomes an object of ridicule. And once that happens, it's hard to actually stop.

And the issue will become competence. There have been ideological objections against this administration -- it's left-wing, it's radical, and all that. But now we're starting a new kind of meme, that it is an administration that really can't get things done...

Once the meme starts, it becomes the subject of late-night comedy. ... When they speak seriously about this - 640,329 jobs saved, comical precision -- and then it turns out a lot of these are fictional jobs in fictional districts, what happens is the administration, already satirized on "Saturday Night Live" as do-nothing, is now going to be seen as an administration that cannot even do nothing competently.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2009

Steven Crowder goes to Gitmo

Via Hot Air: Watch it, love it, and learn the truth about Guantanamo Bay:

Posted by Tom at 10:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 16, 2009

The KSM/Terrorist Trial in NYC: Part of Obama's War on The Bush Administration?

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge (h/t American Power):

If we discover later that it's really just a facade to delve into a fishing expedition, I would find that just unacceptable, outrageous and a further distortion of the system...if it's subterfuge for the fishing expedition, that's just wrong and unconscionable.

I don't think the primary objective of President Obama and AG Holder is to put the Bush Administration on trial, but I do think that they're hoping it happens. I think that they will be pleased if or when revelation of alleged "torture," "mistreatment," call-it-what-you-like come out. I don't think they'd even mind too much if national security secrets were revealed such as Patriot Act-wiretaps.

Further, Ridge is wise to worry that the whole thing could turn into a fishing expedition. As I wrote about KSM and his cohorts on Saturday, "They're obviously guilty, and when you're obviously guilty you do one of or both of two things; tie up the court in legalisms, and/or put the government on trial. They will put the Bush Administration on trial for renditions, waterboarding, the whole thing."

The question is whether the Obama Administration balks when the defense demands all sorts of information, or whether they just hand it right over. Given their behavior thus far, I think the latter is the stronger possibility.

Anthony Dick, writing at NRO's The Corner, makes other points along this line:

The strange thing about the Obama administration's decision to hold these civilian al-Qaeda trials is that the project is flawed even based on the premises of its staunchest defenders: They talk about due process and the rule of law, but the trials can't possibly provide anything close to the level of objectivity that applies in an ordinary criminal-law setting. There is no way the defendants will get an impartial jury in New York, and there is no way the government will actually release the terrorists if they are acquitted. Thus the courtroom proceedings in Manhattan will be, in a very real sense, show trials. They are designed purely for PR purposes, so that the Obama administration can pay lip service to the ideal of due process while implicitly rebuking the Bush administration for failing to respect the rule of law.

Meanwhile, it is the Obama administration that is truly making a sham out of the rule of law, by politicizing the trial process and pretending that these enemy combatants will be getting normal, neutral, dispassionate trials, as if the larger strategic context of the War on Terror will not affect the judge, the jury, or the actions of the government, which is sure to retain custody of the defendants in the off chance they are acquitted.

This reflects the fundamental unseriousness of the Obama administration in the face of terrorism. We saw the same thing with the foolish announcement that Gitmo would be closed by January, which was the first iteration of the administration's fantasy-land effort to sidestep one of the core dilemmas of the post-9/11 world: We have a significant number of detainees whom we know with operational certainty to be dangerous terrorists, but, for various reasons, we can't prosecute or convict them according to normal procedures. This is another way of saying that there is no way we can prosecute the War on Terror while providing the full panoply of ordinary due-process protections to enemy combatants. And no amount of hope can change this reality.

"Show trials" indeed is what they'll become, and from all sides. From the Obama Administration, the show will be: To to show the world we respect the rule of law, are a wonderful country, George W. Bush and the neocons were evil, and now that Obama is in charge everybody should love us now.

From the vantage of KSM and his fellow jihadists: To show the world that they are brutally serious about destroying Western civilization and replacing it with a modern-day caliphate governed by Sharia law. They aim to bolster the standing of like-minded Muslims and demoralize moderates and reformers.

The third perspective is that of the left, who will rejoice in every revelation of classified information and anything we did to KSM and his fellows along the lines of enhanced interrogation.

The left, both international and here at home, will jump all over anything that they think makes the U.S. look bad. Any rough treatment, severe questioning, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, bright lights or loud music all will be trumpeted to the heavens in an attempt to show that the U.S. in general and the Bush Administration in particular, is evil.

In their stupendous naivete they'll think that the world will love us because we have the "courage" to face up to our own (alleged) misdeeds, and give these "criminals" a "fair trial."

Every day brings forth a new insult to our nation from the Obama Administration. Just when I think it can't get any worse, it does.

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

November 14, 2009

Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Four Other Sept 11 Plotters to be Tried in New York

Yesterday the Obama Administration hit us with this stunner:

The nation's top law enforcement officer announced Friday that he is returning the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and his accomplices to the scene of their alleged crimes -- a decision that drew immediate outrage from some lawmakers and victims' families.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four others now detained in Guantanamo Bay will be moved to a prison facility near the Brooklyn Bridge and stand trial in a civilian federal courtroom down the street from the World Trade Center buildings that Mohammad takes credit for demolishing on Sept. 11, 2001.

This is madness, and for a whole host of reasons. If you're not sure why, consider the case of this lady:

Judith Coplon

Judith Coplon was the first major figure tried for spying as a result of the Venona project (although, for reasons of security, the Venona information was not revealed at her trial). Her disclosures to the Soviet intelligence agencies were the first information to alert them to the size of the U.S. counter-intelligence operation against them.

She worked in Foreign Agents Registration section of the Department of Justice, where she had access to counter-intelligence information during World War II. She was first brought to the attention of the FBI as a result of a Venona message (she was known in both Soviet intelligence and the Venona files as "SIMA"). An extensive counter-intelligence operation then investigated her, and planted secret documents for her to purloin.

FBI agents detained Coplon in March 1949 as she met with Valentin Gubitchev, a KGB official employed by the United Nations, carrying secret U.S. government documents in her purse. In her trial, FBI Special Agent Robert Lamphere testified that suspicion had fallen on Coplon because of information from a reliable "confidential informant" that was not a wiretap. She was convicted in two separate trials, one for espionage (by herself), and in another for conspiracy (along with Gubithchev).

Her conviction was later over-turned on a technicality relating to the arrest (which been on probable cause, as she was observed meeting her Soviet contact, not as a result of a warrant). Her complicity in espionage was further corroborated by information found within the KGB archives in the 1990s.

Both convictions were overturned, and to this day Coplon is a free woman. She still denies her guilt, despite enormous evidence to the contrary.

Of course the parallel is not exact. Coplon was a spy, and deserved a trial. KSM and the others are illegal combatants, and do not deserve trials.

What the Judith Coplon story illustrates is that even someone caught "red handed" in the act of handing secrets to a known Soviet agent can get off if they have clever attorneys. It also illustrates the dilemma faced by the government; if it revealed the existance of Venona a conviction that could not overturned was assured, but doing so could tell the Soviets that we had (partially) broken their diplomatic code.

For decades the far left used the cases of Alger Hiss and Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg as soapboxes to attack the United States (not so much Coplon). Although at the time the Rosenberg's seemed guilty to most people, the government and judge behaved badly much of the time with provided them fodder. Again, the parallels are not exact as Hiss and the Rosenbergs deserved trials and the Sept 11 terrorists do not, but bringing them up does illustrate some good points.

My Time as a Juror

Many years ago I was called to be a juror in which a guy had passed a bad check for something like $5,000. The prosecution's case was so airtight I wondered for a time what in the world the guy could possibly say say in his defense. As the case proceeded it became clear that the defense attorney's strategy was to challenge every statement and bit of evidence he could, hoping to get something significant thrown out. He managed to get one or two minor statements by prosecution witnesses retracted, but they were so minor as to be laughable. When the prosecution had finished it's case I waited anxiously for the defense to have it's turn. Much to my surprise, the defense attorney simply said "it's the burden of the government to prove my client guilty...." and then them moved right into closing arguments. The defense argument was to try and confuse the matter. We convicted the guy in nothing flat, but it was a lesson in what defense attorneys do when they have no case.

Back to Khalid Sheik Mohammed

The way the far left will look at this trial is not letting terrorists free, but pronouncing the United States guilty. They will do this because these five have no real defense. They're obviously guilty, and when you're obviously guilty you do one of or both of two things; tie up the court in legalisms, and/or put the government on trial. They will put the Bush Administration on trial for renditions, waterboarding, the whole thing.

Also consider the entire issue of waterboarding and whatever else we did to Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the others. It will be discussed in excruciating detail ad nauseum in court, the objective being to make the Bush Administration, and by extension the United States, look as bad as possible. For our enemies overseas this will be a propaganda bonanza. The international left will use this as a justification to oppose everything else the United States does or wants to do. And the domestic left will salivate over the details, confirming as it will in their minds that the United States in general, and the Bush Administration in particular, is an evil, bad, nation.

The idea that "if we expose these guys the world will rally to our side" is ridiculous. Much of the world hates us and will rejoice in every revelation that embarrasses the U.S. Some of the Muslim world sympathizes with the terrorists. Certainly many Islamic leaders will loudly proclaim their support for them, and as is so often the case they'll intimidate many others into silence. They will use this as a forum to attack the U.S.

Just as when Holder announced the investigation of CIA agents, Obama was conveniently out of the country. The reason is that he wants to distance himself in case the thing explodes in their face. He'll throw Holder under the bus so fast it'll make your head spin.

There is no way you can hold this trial without revealing national security secrets. As such, it will prove a bonanza for our enemies. They will learn our methods and be able to deduce at least some of our sources, who themselves will face capture, torture, and execution.

Andy McCarthy sums it all up in better language than I can muster:

We are now going to have a trial that never had to happen for defendants who have no defense. And when defendants have no defense for their own actions, there is only one thing for their lawyers to do: put the government on trial in hopes of getting the jury (and the media) spun up over government errors, abuses and incompetence. That is what is going to happen in the trial of KSM et al. It will be a soapbox for al-Qaeda's case against America. Since that will be their "defense," the defendants will demand every bit of information they can get about interrogations, renditions, secret prisons, undercover operations targeting Muslims and mosques, etc., and -- depending on what judge catches the case -- they are likely to be given a lot of it. The administration will be able to claim that the judge, not the administration, is responsible for the exposure of our defense secrets. And the circus will be played out for all to see -- in the middle of the war. It will provide endless fodder for the transnational Left to press its case that actions taken in America's defense are violations of international law that must be addressed by foreign courts. And the intelligence bounty will make our enemies more efficient at killing us.

This is a disaster in the making.

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Iraq Briefing - 10 November 2009 - Security is Not Possible without the Support of the People

This briefing is by Colonel Gregory Lusk, commander of the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Multinational Division-Baghdad. He spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday November 10.

Multi-National Division-Baghdad is also known as Task Force Baghdad. Its major area of responsibility is the city of Baghdad. MND-Baghdad is headquartered by the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. The 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team is a modular heavy brigade of the United States Army National Guard. Most of the brigade is from North Carolina, but also comprises elements from West Virginia and Colorado.

Col. Lusk reports to Major General Daniel P. Bolger, commanding general of the 1st Cav. Bolger 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, commanding general of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

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

The transcript is at DefenseLink.

From Col. Lusk's opening remarks:

COL. LUSK: ...Our mission here in Iraq is to secure the population of those that reside within our operating environment, in order to support and enhance the continued development of Iraqi civil capacity.

Since we assumed responsibility for our area in May of this year, from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division -- who had returned back to home station after 15 months of successful operations in support of the surge -- we have set out to accomplish our mission by focusing primarily along two main lines of effort. The first being our partnership with the Iraqi security forces and the combined security operations that we do together, as well as civil capacity.

And we see both of these lines of efforts being inextricably linked to the goal of securing the population. One complements and indeed facilitates the progress in the other.

An important component of our overall campaign plan is indeed partnership, and we do partner in all that we do, whether it be with the Iraqi security forces, local/provincial government or governors and officials, tribal leaders, or with the everyday citizens of Iraq.

Now we recognize that the responsible drawdown of U.S. forces is forthcoming, and partnering is a vital component in order to allow us to continue these efforts long after U.S. forces have either been reduced or redeployed from the region.

So if I could address Iraqi security force partnership for a moment, "by, with and through our Iraqi partners" has been the mantra that this brigade has followed since their arrival here in Iraq....

Now our Iraqi security force partners include the 17th Iraqi Army Division, which comprises about 10,000 jundi, or soldiers; the 2nd Iraqi Federal Police Division, comprised of approximately 3,000 shurta, or police officers; another 2,000 local Iraqi police; as well as about 20,000 members of the Sawa, or the Sons of Iraq; totaling of about 35,000 members of the Iraqi security forces....

In summary, hundreds of projects have been aimed at increasing access to water, primarily drinking and agriculture; have been implemented; as well as dozens of schools have either been built or renovated in order to enhance or improve the educational opportunities for future generations of Iraqis. Dozens of essential service projects, such as roads, sewers and electrical repairs have been undertaken....

By the time we redeploy, we project that we will have committed to over 200 projects and about $20 million total towards this effort, with approximately a million dollars of it being targeted to small, independent business owners throughout our area of operation. ...

Now despite the seemingly large numbers of security forces, the maintaining of hard-earned security gains would not be possible without the support of the people. Many have become our good friends and indeed they often invite us into their homes in order to share a meal, a cup of chai or just simply casual conversation.

And if I could civil capacity for a moment, early on it became evident that enhancing and supporting the expansion of civil capacity would be a vital cornerstone to our mission.

To this end, we have committed a vast amount of our resources in terms of effort, time, money and resident expertise such as engineers, agricultural experts and law-enforcement professionals, just to name a few.

In terms of security gains, you know, our primary mission, as stated before, is to protect the people of Iraq.

As I have said many tiimes on this blog, the all-important task of protecting the population is straight out the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24, written by then-Lt. Gen. Petraeus and published by his team of military and civilian specialists in December of 2006. Successful counterinsurgency strategy focuses on protecting the population as the means toward winning their "hearts and minds."

And it is exactly why the counterterror strategy advised for Afghanistan by people such as Vice President Biden will not work. As FM 3-24 says directly, "raiding does not work."

On to the Q & A

Q Yeah, this is Kernan Chaisson with Forecast International. You mentioned one of the things that is going on is clearing IEDs. Could you give a little bit of a feel for how that is working now? ...

COL. LUSK: Okay. And I think I heard Jay, and you were talking about the clearance of IEDs and how we go about doing that. And I think you were particularly interested in the -- in the technology.

...I will say that it's my observation, again, inside of the operating environment that we have, that most IEDs, if indeed are found, are found by the population, which is probably even more evidence of what I've said in my opening statements, that most people have indeed -- are denouncing the violent ways of the past and indeed as an IED -- they consider that as an attack against their neighborhood and potentially a threat to their future stability. So they're very much involved in the process, and therefore they take advantage of tip lines for contacting the Iraqi security forces, or perhaps even if us if they see us going down to -- to let us know that something's going on. So probably more so than anything, it's the population that's helping find any IEDs that are out there.

Section A-60 of Field Manual 3-24: "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." So we see from the above answer that the people will help us if we protect them and gain their support.

The Sons of Iraq (SOI) program (originally Concerned Local Citizens) has been a subject in many briefings and discussed much on this blog. 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 mostly persuaded them to honor their obligations.

Unfortunately, from the Colonel's answer we see that problems remain:

Q Otto Kreisher again. You mentioned you had 20,000 sons of Iraq in your area. There's been some concern/frustration particularly in Anbar province that the government has not, you know, offered jobs or any future for the sons of Iraq.

What's your experience with how those people are responding to what the government is doing for them?

COL. LUSK: Okay, I think, your question was primarily along the SOI or the sahwa, the transition to government jobs. And I think I could probably summarize by saying that indeed this has got to be a very challenging decision that they're weighing through on a daily basis or considering.

Since our arrival, of course, there was a great deal of skepticism up front, as to whether any transition of the sahwa would indeed take place.

And indeed, the government of Iraq, through the IFCNR and other agencies here in Iraq, has gone through a lot of efforts in order to make that transition occur. And there have been approximately 3,000 in our area that have transitioned to government jobs already.

Now, the balance -- of course, though, the challenges that they have before them, I would think, is the need to fulfill this obligation of transitioning some of the other -- the Sons of Iraq into government jobs, versus when to do so; especially keeping in mind the security needs leading up to the elections. And while I have absolutely no insight as to what they're -- what they're deciding now, I can only imagine that it's got to be a pretty daunting decision that they're getting ready to go through.

Lastly, on the all-important issue of Afghanistan, which has been much in the news lately. The question is, what lessons of Iraq are applicable to Afghanistan?

Q: I just wanted to go back to my question on -- that so much assessments and meetings are going on as far as how to deal and have victory in Afghanistan. What can they learn from Iraq as far as situation in Iraq is now different than in Afghanistan? ...

COL. LUSK: ... there's -- probably about the only thing I can think of that would be -- that would be some continuity between this. ... And indeed it's the importance of relationships and indeed the genuine commitment that you make, to your partners, and your partners not only being the security forces of the respective areas but also the population.

And indeed if the genuine rapport and the relationships are built then I think from that, anything else is possible. So that's probably the one key lesson that probably could -- that could transfer from here to Afghanistan. And other than that, I would just have to say that I'm absolutely ignorant as far as things in Afghanistan personally having not ever been there.

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November 12, 2009

The Cost of Obama's Dithering on Afghanistan

We sometimes hear from the left how wonderful it is that we have a president who takes issues of war so seriously that he takes his time to gather all the facts and consult with all the experts before coming to a decision. He doesn't rush, we are told, but thinks through everything carefully.

It's a crock, of course. The real reasons for the delay are simple. President Obama doesn't really care about Afghanistan, and all of his promises to fight and win there as Senator were just so much hot air.

What he really does care about is his healthcare bill. He knows that if he adopts Geneeral McChrystal's full set of recommendations it will make the anti-war left very mad at him, so much so that it could jeopardize his healthcare initiative. Given that it is priority number one, he's delaying a decision on Afghanistan as long as he can, hoping that Pelosi and Reid will get something, anything, passed.

The problem is that there are real costs to this delay. Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the former the intellectual author of the surge in Iraq and the latter his scholar-wife, lay them out in The Weekly Standard. Following are excerpts:

General Stanley McChrystal's assessment and force-requirement studies were largely complete by the beginning of August. The White House has stated that the president will not be announcing a decision until the end of November at the earliest. White House officials claim that the delay does not affect the movement of U.S. forces or our prospects for military success next year. These claims are inaccurate. The delay in White House decision-making is protracting and complicating the campaign in Afghanistan and has reduced General McChrystal's ability to prepare for and conduct decisive operations next year.

When McChrystal took command of the Afghan war in June, the White House made it clear that he was expected to make dramatic progress within a year--by the summer of 2010. McChrystal worked quickly both to understand the situation and to develop an appropriate course of action that would meet the goals of the White House strategy. His concept of operations aimed to reverse the enemy's momentum and address important problems in Afghan governance. At the same time, he oversaw the establishment of a new three-star headquarters, the deployment of the last of the additional forces his predecessor had requested for election security, the securing of the elections themselves, and major operations in Helmand and elsewhere. He also made the painful decision to pull U.S. forces back from isolated outposts that required too much manpower and were in danger of being overrun. He sought to create conditions for decisive operations.

in time to meet the expectations of the White House. He was supported in that effort by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen and by CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus.

The White House has not done its part to allow General McChrystal to meet its own deadline. It was slow to receive and act on the assessment he sent, and it deliberately refused even to review his force recommendations for weeks after they were complete. In the intervening months the White House has held a series of seminars on Afghanistan and the region that should have been conducted before the new strategy was announced in March.

If the White House had immediately received and acted on General McChrystal's recommendations--which were specifically tailored to meet the objectives described in the president's March 27 speech--the following critical initiatives could already be underway:

* Expanding the Afghan National Security Forces as rapidly as possible toward the goal of 400,000 total, a figure agreed-upon by the Afghan Ministers of Defense and Interior and by the U.S. military's own reviews;

* Preparing infrastructure within Afghanistan and the region to accommodate a large and rapid surge of U.S. forces;

* Sending more forces immediately to support ongoing operations in Helmand;

* Issuing orders to deploy all of the forces McChrystal requested as rapidly as possible.

The White House could have begun all of those initiatives and still conducted a thoughtful review over the ensuing weeks.

White House preoccupation with troop levels has also hindered the development and implementation of a coherent political strategy to improve Afghan governance to match McChrystal's military strategy. The administration's response to the predictably flawed elections has been reactive and defensive. Even now that the election crisis has ended, the White House appears more intent on micromanaging the deployment of forces down to the last soldier than on developing a coherent approach to improving Afghan governance. The White House is now considering three, four, or five different force-level options, depending on the (official or anonymous) source. It has yet to show that it has developed any serious options for political strategy.

But the administration must also buy more time for its commander. The White House cannot sit on the general's proposals and requests for months and still expect him to meet a deadline set when he took command. It is still possible, if the White House sends General McChrystal the forces he needs, to see a significant improvement in Afghanistan in a year--but the year begins when the additional resources start flowing. That, in turn, means that Afghanistan may not seem to be doing that well next summer when both the Taliban fighting season and the congressional campaign season are at their heights. The president has a responsibility to keep Washington politics from derailing the effort in Afghanistan at a critical moment next year.

Unfortunately, it seems to be Washington politics that is keeping the Administration from taking a decision on Afghanistan.

Worse, if news reports turn out to be accurate, Obama will "split the difference," that is, given General McChrystal only some of what he requested. The result will be the worst of both worlds; not enough to win but enough to get more Americans killed.

I do sincerely hope that our president does the right thing and adopts General McChrystal's entire recommendation. I think we'll know soon.

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November 11, 2009

Veterans Day 2009

This pretty much says it all

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November 10, 2009

A Comprehensive Strategy: Afghanistan Force Requirements
Part II: The Number of Troops Required

As President Obama nears a decision on Afghanistan, I will look at the force requirements for winning the war. Then, when he announces his decision, I will compare that to what is really needed, and grade him accordingly.

The case for fighting and winning in Afghanistan is pretty simple; preventing more 9-11's. Large, well funded, terrorist groups can wreck enough havoc when they have regions such as Waziristan, or parts of Lebanon, Ireland or Spain to themselves. But when they have an entire country, even one that is backward by third world standards, the results are devastating even by "normal" terrorist-attack standards.

In other posts I have explored the details of counterinsurgency strategy, and why other options than a full surge of troops into Afghanistan will fail. It is time to lay out exactly what troops are required to win.

I do not have the ability to do that myself, but I know who does; Frederick and Kimberly Kagan. Frederick was the "intellectual architect" of the successful surge in Iraq, and his wife Kimberly has been a professor at West Point and is president of her own think tank, the Institute for the Study of War. On September 21 they laid out the force requirements for victory in Afghanistan and although I've touched on it before it's high time I went into more detail on it here. The full study is called A Comprehensive Strategy: Afghanistan Force Requirements. You can download the entire thing as either a pdf file or as Powerpoint slides, take your pick.

Before we get to the details of what forces are required, their bottom line assessment:

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

Now for the specifics:

• As of June 2009, the Afghan Ministry of Defense had 103,475 authorized
personnel, with 89,521 actually assigned. Of those, Afghan National Army
operational units had 66,406 soldiers authorized with 53,417 assigned in around
80 kandaks (battalions). The remaining MoD personnel were assigned to
headquarters, infrastructure, ministerial and general staff positions, and training
and transfer accounts. The AWOL rate is running at around 9%. The official
capability ratings of Afghan kandaks puts about 66% of them in operational status
(CM1 or CM2).

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) Expansion

• Current plans call for expanding the Afghan National Army (ANA) to 134,000 by the end of 2011
• This expansion can be accelerated to meet that goal by October 2010
• Assuming the current ratio of combat forces to end strength of around 60%, the ANA can probably have around 80,000 troops in combat formations by October 2010, an addition of 30,000 over June 2009
• Adding that many troops requires recruiting and training even more to account for significant casualty rates among the combat forces

Bottom line: The ANA can add around 30,000 counter‐insurgents by October 2010, for total of 80 000--but 9/21/2009 Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan 14 a 80,000--only if decisions to accelerate ANSF expansion and resources necessary for it are made and committed at once

US Forces

• US Forces in Afghanistan currently number around 64,000
• Of those, roughly 34,000 are combat formations assigned to counter‐insurgency roles; the rest are support elements, trainers, and classified forces
• US COIN formations include roughly 17 maneuver battalions and as many as 12 combat support battalions remissioned to function as counter‐insurgents
• The US contingent therefore can put about 23,300 soldiers on the ground doing counter‐insurgency
- In Iraq, by contrast, the 15 US brigades before the surge could put around 72,000 counter‐insurgents on the ground; at the height of the surge, it was more like 105,000.

• ISAF and ANA forces are generally deployed in accord with the threat and theater priorities--there are no excess forces in any areas to be moved around

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF i.e. NATO) Forces

• 42 countries now contribute military forces to the NATO mission in Afghanistan
• 11 of them provide battalion‐sized maneuver formations that can participate in COIN operations

Available Counter‐Insurgents

• US: 23,200
• Non‐US ISAF: 16,000
• Afghan National Army: 50,000*
• TOTAL: 89,200
• ANA expansion can add 30,000 more by October 2010, bringing the total to 119,200

Bottom Line: Additional Requirements
• Helmand: 1.5 brigades
• Kandahar: 1‐4 brigades (depending on assumptions about Kandahar City)
• Greater Paktia: 1 brigade
• Total: 3.5‐6.5 brigades
• NB: The Dutch battalion in Oruzgan will not be replaced in 2010 and the two Canadian battalions in Kandahar will not be replaced in 2011
• Either the US or NATO will thus have to find an additional brigade to offset those departures within the next two years

Priority Areas

Priority Areas

Previous for this Series
A Comprehensive Strategy: Afghanistan Force Requirements

Part 1: The Legitimacy of the Afghan Government

Red Teaming Afghanistan: Strategic Options and Enemy Responses

How to Win in Afghanistan: Kimberly Kagan and Jeffrey Dressler

Key Facts on Afghanistan

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November 9, 2009

U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan

Last Thursday, November 5, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 and wounding 30. Reports have it that he used two handguns; a FN Five-seven and a .357 Magnum Smith & Wesson. He was shot and seriously wounded by civilian police officers. Hasan is an American-born Muslim of Palestinian descent. Oddly, he's a psychiatrist.

U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan

Such a pleasant looking fellow, isn't he? You'd never imagine him capable of such a thing.

So what about it? Is this something we should be concerned about?

As this Washington Post story illustrates, officials are busily searching for links to al Qaeda. This is fine and good, but what if we don't find any? Are we then not to worry? Can we lean back and say that the attack was all very terrible, but since there are no links to al Qaeda it was the work of a lone gunman, probably mentally deranged, and let it go at that?

This works if you think that we are simply fighting an organization similar to the Mafia. I don't know for certain if it's happened, but it's easy to imagine an unstable individual acting out a scene from one of the Godfather movies. There is no "Mafia ideology" per se , so while we do need our FBI to keep tabs on them no one is concerned that they'll ever be anything other than a criminal entity.

My take is that we are not up against a criminal entity, or really up against an organization at all, in the truest sense of the term. al Qaeda represents an ideology that already existed, it didn't create one. Ditto for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Khomeninsts. You can read my entire argument, made in a series of posts in the Jihadism and the War of Ideas category of this blog.

So was Major Hasan's a terrorist attack? If not what was it? Jonah Goldberg mused that

Much of the chatter over the weekend was whether or not the Fort Hood shooting can be classified a "terrorist attack." It seems to me this reveals one of the shortcomings of the language of the war on terror. I know there are all sorts of legalistic definitions about what constitutes terrorism and what doesn't. But it seems to me a case could be made that this was, variously, an act of war, an act of treason, or a war crime, but not an act of terrorism.

Terrorism is, by conventional definition, an attack on civilians intended to strike fear in the non-military population in order to advance a political or ideological agenda. Hasan didn't attack civilians, he attacked uniformed members of the U.S. Army in advance of their deployment to the frontlines. It was an evil act, but was it an act of terrorism?

Ultimately, if we're going to call the violent acts of Jihadis "terrorism" wherever and whenever they occur, then I guess I'm fine with calling it terrorism. But I can't help but think this illuminates some blind spots in the way we think about these questions.

Indeed. If we cannot properly define our conflict we can hardly win it. Obama and liberals want to define it as narrowly as possible; just al Qaeda, and we should just fight them in... Waziristan?

Lone Jihad

In May 2006, a story in the Washington Post described the career of one Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, who in January of 2005 posted a treatise called "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance" under the pen name Abu Musab al-Suri on the Internet (I can't find an exact link for the work, but see a description here). From the Post story:

Nasar, 47, outlines a strategy for a truly global conflict on as many fronts as possible and in the form of resistance by small cells or individuals, rather than traditional guerrilla warfare. To avoid penetration and defeat by security services, he says, organizational links should be kept to an absolute minimum.

"The enemy is strong and powerful, we are weak and poor, the war duration is going to be long and the best way to fight it is in a revolutionary jihad way for the sake of Allah," he said in one paper. "The preparations better be deliberate, comprehensive and properly planned, taking into account past experiences and lessons."

But wait, there's more.

The Creeping Sharia blog has a long compilation of information on the concept of individuals taking it upon themselves to commit acts of jihadi violence without any ties to a larger organization. Of particular interest is this

Written by Al-Hakaymah, the "Guide for Individual Jihad" suggests ways to kill the enemy when one is fighting alone...The recommended methods include...assassination with guns...

Can't say if Hasan read either of these works, but if you think that "lone jihad" is an isolated phenomenon, read the entire post over at Creeping Sharia; they list dozens of attacks and attempted attacks. What's the matter, didn't you read about them in the mainstream media?

Now, obviously most Muslims want nothing to do with the jihadi ideology. By the same token, the vast majority of terrorism comes from Islam. More, the problems is less terrorism than a creeping sharia. But all that are subjects of other posts.

What Did We Know and When Did We Know It?

The facts are not all quite in, but it's looking more and more that officials knew that Hasan sympathized with the Jihadists but refused to do anything about it. As Rich Lowry says, it was a case of a "better screwed than rude" thought process among officialdom.

We suspect these things because of what we've learned. First up is our Commander-in-Chief, who lectured us that

"We don't know all the answers yet. And I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts,"

Funny how that didn't stop him when when Henry Louis Gates was arrested at Harvard.

Of course, this has nothing to do with "jumping to conclusions." It has everything to do with political correctness and misunderstanding the Jihadist threat to the West.

Next,ABC News published this shocking story today:
U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.

U.S. intelligence agencies were aware months ago that Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan was attempting to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda, two American officials briefed on classified material in the case told ABC News.

According to the officials, the Army was informed of Hasan's contact, but it is unclear what, if anything, the Army did in response...

Investigators want to know if Hasan maintained contact with a radical mosque leader from Virginia, Anwar al Awlaki, who now lives in Yemen and runs a web site that promotes jihad around the world against the U.S.

In a blog posting early Monday titled "Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing," Awlaki calls Hasan a "hero" and a "man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people."

According to his site, Awlaki served as an imam in Denver, San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Major Hasan attended the Falls Church mosque when Awlaki was there.

The Telegraph of London reported that Awlaki had made contact with two of the 9/11 hijackers when he was in San Diego.

He denied any knowledge of the hijacking plot and was never charged with any crime. After an intensive investigation by the FBI , Awlaki moved to Yemen.

People who knew or worked with Hasan say he seemed to have gradually become more radical in his disapproval of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Then we have this, courtesy of the Weekly Standard

Pete Hoekstra, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, released a statement this morning calling for the heads of all relevant US intelligence agencies to preserve all intelligence related to the case of Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter. Hoekstra made the request after talking to intelligence community leaders over the weekend.

President Obama said people should not jump to conclusions about what happened at Fort Hood, but the administration is in possession of critical information related to the attack that they are refusing to release to Congress or the American people. I intend to push for intense review of this and other issues related to the performance of the intelligence community and whether or not information necessary for military, state and local officials to provide for the security of the post was provided to them.

I have requested this information be preserved because I believe members of the full committee on a bipartisan basis will want to scrutinize the intelligence relevant to this attack, what the agencies in possession of that intelligence did with it, who was and wasn't informed and why, and what steps America's intelligence agencies are taking in light of what they know. At some point, it becomes necessary for us as a nation to address the uncomfortable threat of homegrown terrorism and radicalism, and Congress has an obligation to review how federal agencies are handling and disseminating information related to the threat.

The horrific shootings at Fort Hood are a tragic reminder of the potential deadly consequences of the threat posed by homegrown jihadism and the failure of the government to adequately respond to it.

If Obama thinks he's got trouble over healthcare he may want to order a few stiff drinks, because this could get ugly real fast.

Victims of Political Correctness?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, let's see how our top officials are responding. First up is U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Casey. By way of introduction, he was commander in Iraq from June 2004 to February 8, 2007. He screwed things up and Generals Petreus and Oderno had to come in and pull his fat out of the fire. But don't let that influence your opinion of what follows:

The U.S. Army's top general expressed concern on Sunday that last week's mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, blamed on a Muslim Army officer, could fuel a backlash in the military against Muslim troops.

General George Casey, U.S. Army chief of staff, cautioned against jumping to conclusions about whether religious beliefs motivated the accused gunman, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim born in the United States of immigrant parents.

"I'm concerned that this increased speculation could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. And I've asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that," Casey told CNN's "State of the Union."

Yes, yes, wouldn't want to tell them to be on the lookout for radical Muslims who may be infected with Jihadist ideology or anything useful like that.

Let's move on to our Secretary of Homeland Security, and see what she was up to the day after the massacre:

Guantanamo Bay was used as a "recruiting tool" for terrorism more than anything else, US homeland security chief Janet Napolitano said Friday, during a visit to the European parliament.

"Guantanamo has been used more as a recruiting tool than anything else," she told members of the European parliament's civil liberties committee in Brussels.

Therefore "it needs to be closed and the individuals dealt with appropriately," she added.

Napolitano stressed President Barack Obama's commitment to close down the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba in January.

"The president's executive order that it be closed remains in effect . . . we are working through individual by individual," she said.

Yup, glad to see she's got her priorities straight too. We are to be concerned with a backlash against Muslims and closing the prison at Guantanamo, but terrorism? Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Posted by Tom at 10:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 8, 2009

Pelosicare Passes the House

So the Democrats narrowly passed their massive healthcare bill in the House with a vote of 220-215. One Republican voted in support, Louisiana Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao. 39 Democrats voted against the bill, as did 176 Republicans.

This makes it a partisan bill with bipartisan opposition. How unique.

Otherwise, I think that Mark Steyn has it about right:

I don't like to say I told you so, but I've been saying for months now that the trick is to drag this thing across the finish line with 50.0000000000001 percent of the vote as soon as possible. From my "Happy Warrior" column in NR back in July:
Obama believes in "the fierce urgency of now", and fierce it is. That's where all the poor befuddled sober centrists who can't understand why the Democrats keep passing incoherent 1,200-page bills every week are missing the point. If "health care" were about health care, the devil would be in the details. But it's not about health or costs or coverage; it's about getting over the river and burning the bridge. It doesn't matter what form of governmentalized health care gets passed as long as it passes. Once it's in place, it will be "reformed", endlessly, but it will never be undone.
Right now, they can trade anything -- abortion, death panels, whatever. The trick is to plant the seed and let the ratchet effect of Big Government take care of the rest. I said on Rush's show on Friday that if Barack Obama had been Bill Clinton he'd have woken up on Wednesday morning and begun triangulating. Instead, Obama woke up and figured that he needed more fierce urgency, and right now. The short-term hit in 2010 is worth it for the long-term benefits: Obscure congressmen will be just as happy as obscure ambassadors or obscure chairmen of obscure agencies. And the prize of permanent irreversible statist annexation merits the risk: Governmentalized "health care" puts us on the fast track to Euro-sclerosis and redefines the relationship between citizen and state in ways that make genuine conservative politics all but impossible.

Will the Senate stop it? And, if they don't, will a post-2010 GOP Congress reverse it? The way they reversed, say, the federal Department of Education?

Yesterday was a tragedy for America. Hence, the Bard in the headline. And while I'm quoting Macbeth, let me cite Mrs. Thatcher on who gets stuck with the tab for all of this:

'To borrow and to borrow and to borrow' is not Macbeth with a heavy cold. It is Labour Party policy. Most people do not want to mortgage the future and leave their children to pick up the bill.

"Most" people? We'll see about that.

Indeed you don't have to be too familiar with groups like the AARP to know that they really couldn't care less about the generation that follows as long as they get theirs. Ditto for many of the other groups the agitate for more and more government benefits.

But I think that the average Obamabot on the street actually believes the spin about how their healthcare bill will be deficit neutral. They'll whistle a different tune in a few years, but most have invested too much in Obama to abandon that ship just yet.

Sure, the finances of this bill are important, but as Steyn points out, who are we kidding? This thing is going to be changed every year from hear on out, and in one direction only; more and more and more and more spending which will increase the deficit more and more and more and more. Once these government programs are in place they're almost impossible to reverse.

For those unfamiliar with another reference above, Jimmy Carter created the Department of Education as a payoff to the teachers unions. President Reagan came into office promising to eliminate it. It's still around. In the 1990s Newt Gingrich and his cohorts promised to end federal funding of the arts. They're still being funded.

It's also why I'm not at all impressed with the Stupak amendment, which bans spending on abortion as part of this bill. Either the Democrats will reverse it at the first opportunity and we'll fight this battle every single year, or Obama will pack the Supreme Court with leftists who will declare it unconstitutional.

All of this is why it's so important to stop Obamacare, Pelosicare, and Reidcare. Some on the right may think that if it passes it'll be the deathknell of the current Democrat party are probably right, but by the same token we'll still be stuck with most of their healthcare bill for the rest of our lives and then some. Even a Repubican president and a GOP majority in each house won't be able to get rid of it entirely.

The battle is joined.

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November 7, 2009

"Undermining Sri Lanka"

One of the most infuriating things about the modern left is that they spend almost all of their time criticizing democratic governments on their conduct of military action, while letting the most blood-thirsty murderous terrorists and insurgents off scot-free. We've seen it with the recent Israeli wars against Hezbollah and Hamas. The Goldstone Inquiry on Israel's Operation Cast Lead, for example, is an absolute travesty.

Some months ago the forces of the Sri Lankan government finally defeated the Tamil Tigers insurgency. It was difficult and bloody, but they did it. In the end the people of Sri Lanka are much better off. Leave it to idiot leftists in the U.S. Congress to engage in their usual moral equivalence:

Undermining Sri Lanka

America takes the wrong side in anti-terror fight

Sri Lanka is joining Israel as a country facing a war crimes investigation for effectively fighting back against terrorism. America should support the Sri Lankan government or keep its nose out of Colombo's business.

Last week, Stephen Rapp, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, filed a report to Congress on incidents during the recent conflict in Sri Lanka that "may constitute violations of international humanitarian law or crimes against humanity." The report focuses in particular on January to May 2009 when, after 12 years of conflict, the Sri Lankan military surrounded and destroyed the major armed formations of the Tamil Tigers and killed the terrorist group's leaders.

The report chronicles allegations of war crimes by both Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat whose subcommittee on the State Department and foreign operations requested the report, is calling for "a full and independent investigation" so those responsible can be "held accountable."

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights joined in the call for an investigation of Sri Lanka's war, saying there are "too many questions" left unanswered. U.N. Human Rights Spokesman Rupert Colville drew a direct comparison to the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission overseen by South African Judge Richard Goldstone. Sri Lanka and Israel are both pursuing internal investigations and have rejected the idea of international involvement in the process.

The Rapp report is not comprehensive, more a list of allegations than a fully documented indictment. Most of the offenses listed are either directly attributable to the Tamil Tigers, such as forcibly recruiting children to fight for them, or the consequence of terrorist activities, such as Sri Lanka shelling hospitals being used by the Tigers as command posts.

The tone of moral equivalence in the Rapp and Goldstone reports is most objectionable. War is by its nature violent, complex and tragic. Rules exist to mitigate war's suffering but can never eliminate it. Terrorist groups like the Tamil Tigers, Hamas and al Qaeda do not consider themselves bound by the rules of war and violate them as a matter of doctrine by targeting noncombatants, using civilians as human shields, torturing and executing prisoners, and by using hospitals and religious sites as headquarters and sniper platforms.

Any war against such an enemy will impose a degree of tragedy on people who under other circumstances would be spared war's horrors. But this is part of the terrorist tool kit, and reports such as these play into their hands. By placing the terrorists' systematic offenses against human dignity on par with the unintentional or otherwise regrettable actions of the regime trying to defeat them, such reports level a moral playing field that by rights the terrorists have no right even to set foot on.

Mr. Leahy should control his zeal to pursue what he views as justice in Sri Lanka. Any objective comparison of Sri Lanka's war against the Tamil Tigers or Israel's offensive against Hamas to America's struggle against al Qaeda would cast the United States in the same light, and elevate our enemies to a status they do not deserve. It hands the enemies of freedom unearned victories even as they are being defeated.

Posted by Tom at 10:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

"Green World Government"

While I was out campaigning for Bob McDonnell and other Republicans, this editorial in the Washington Times struck me as particularly relevant now that Barack Obama, the most leftist president in our history, seems intent on pushing cap 'n trade through Congress:

Green World Government
The U.N. uses environmentalism to seize control

Environmental alarmism is being exploited to chip away at national sovereignty. The latest threat to American liberties may be found in the innocuous sounding Copenhagen Climate Treaty, which will be discussed at the United Nations climate-change conference in mid-December. The alert was sounded on the treaty in a talk given by British commentator Lord Christopher Monckton at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn., on Oct. 14. Video of the talk has become an Internet sensation.

The treaty's text is not yet finalized but its principles are aimed at regulating all economic activity in the name of climate security, with a side effect that billions of dollars would be transferred from productive countries to the unproductive.

The control lever is the regulation of carbon emissions, which some purport are causing global warming. The treaty would establish a Carbon Market Regulatory Agency and "global carbon budget" for each country.

In effect, this would allow the treaty's governing bodies to limit manufacturing, transportation, travel, agriculture, mining, energy production and anything else that emits carbon - like breathing.

Treaty supporters market the agreement through fear. Even though mean global temperatures have been on a downward spiral for several years after peaking in 1998, we are told that catastrophe is imminent. "The world has already crossed the threshold beyond which it is no longer possible to avoid negative impacts of anthropogenic climate change," says proposed treaty language being circulated by Greenpeace, the World Wildlife Fund and other groups. It is critical that they cultivate a sense of impending doom to justify the sweeping restrictions and new powers enshrined in the treaty. The sky is falling and they want us to act now, act swiftly, act before it is too late - but don't read the fine print.

The governing authority envisioned by the document reads like a bad George Orwell knockoff. The treaty establishes a body called the Conference of the Parties (COP), which is given ultimate authority over administering and enforcing the treaty. Its executive arm is something called the Adaptation Fund Board, under which is the Copenhagen Climate Facility, also known as "the Facility." The Facility is necessary because in order to save the planet, "the way society is structured will need to change fundamentally." This change would be impossible under the "fragmented set of existing institutions," so the Facility will step in with "such legal capacity as is necessary for the exercise of its functions and the protection of its interests." That's the Facility's interests, not yours.

The Facility will be run by an executive committee, the membership of which "may include representation from relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental stakeholders." So left-wing pressure groups, animal rights fanatics, tree-huggers, Al Gore or any other part of the environmentalist fringe would be eligible for executive committee membership. Naturally, global-warming skeptics like Lord Monckton need not apply.

A "massive scaling up of financial resources" will be required to fund the COP's activities. The United States and others will be required to transfer $800 billion over five years, with additional funding requirements assessed on an as-needed basis. The COP will have taxing authority "including, but not limited to, a levy on aviation and maritime transport." The ability to tax aircraft and shipping is bad enough, but as careful readers of the elastic clauses of the U.S. Constitution know, the phrase "including but not limited to" authorizes any tax they can imagine.

Signatories of the treaty will be required to file reports to the Committee for Reporting and Review ("the Committee"), and if found not in compliance with the treaty's terms, they may have to face "the Facilitative Branch." If this branch finds that a country is violating the terms of the agreement, it will "undertake the measures necessary" to bring the country back into compliance.

The treaty language would be farcical but for the fanaticism of its proponents. The environmental movement is driven by a millenarian determination to save humanity from itself, regardless of its impact on real people. President Obama reportedly will skip the Copenhagen meeting unless the treaty language is finalized. We urge him to resist the urge to pander to the international community at the expense of the United States.

We look forward to headlines about record cold temperatures during the December climate summit, and to hearing desperate speeches about stopping irresistible global warming during the signing ceremony, held during a blizzard.

Posted by Tom at 10:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Iraq Briefing - 27 October 2009 - The Brownwater Navy in Iraq

Note - I'm a bit behind on my briefings due to campaign activities in Virginia. Now that they have been successfully concluded I should be back to blogging as usual.

Major General Richard Nash, Commander of Multi-National Division-South and Major General Abdul Aziz, Commander of the Iraqi Army 14th Division spoke via satellite with reporters at the Pentagon on October 27.

Multi-National Division - South, also known as the Red Bull Division, assists Iraqi Security Forces with security and stability missions in the area south of Baghdad ranging from Najaf to Wasit provinces extending to Basrah. MND-S is headquartered by the 34th Infantry Division from Rosemount, Minnesota.

Maj. Gen. 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, commanding general of CENTCOM. Petreaus reports to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

This is the first time I have seen the briefers in anything other than a studio setting.

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

We'll start, as we usually do, with their opening remarks:
The transcript is at DefenseLink.

GEN. NASH: Good morning....We provide command and control for approximately 14,000 U.S. servicemembers. And today, we're speaking to you from the banks of the Shatt al-Arab here in Basra.

Our ongoing mission is to help support the Iraqi security forces, as they increase their security capabilities, to build civil capacity, to improve the lives of Iraq's citizens and to set the conditions for a full transition to our Iraqi partners....

GEN. AZIZ: Good morning....If you look at the scene behind General Nash and I, you will notice military boats. This backdrop is significant, as these boats belong to both U.S. Navy and Iraqi Navy Forces. Working together, they patrol our rivers and marshes, help to guard our borders and intercept, deter and interdict smugglers and criminals from crossing into our country. They are a small part of a larger partnership picture, as my division has ongoing partnerships with not only the U.S. 17th Fires Brigade and the 34th Infantry Division, but also with our own police and Department of Border Enforcement.

By working with our American friends in some areas, such as logistics and training, and with our internal partners in all matters of local security, we are achieving very good results here in our beautiful Basra.

As boats behind us represent our respective forces' working together, our local checkpoints illustrate another successful ongoing partnership between the army and our police.

Many of our checkpoints are now manned jointly by members of both Iraqi forces. The training both sides have received and the trust built between them has been very positive.

As Basra province is home to the second-largest city in Iraq, Basra City it is, along with our only deep-water port and vital oil-tanker facilities, in addition to an abundance of active oil wells.

These aforementioned partnerships all play a very significant role in securing not only our people but the economic interests of the entire nation of Iraq. Working with our American friends, our respective forces have made great progress by complying with the provisions and in carrying out the security agreement plan in southern Iraq.

As Iraqis, we are very confident that the security gains we have made since last year to date will continue in a positive trend and direction and cannot be turned back by criminals or terrorists.

Thank you. And I look forward to any questions that you may have.

On to the Q & A. As is appropriate, the first question is on the nature of the enemy in their region

Q Generals, this is Jim Garamone with American Forces Press Service. Al Qaeda is obviously a problem still, what -- but would you discuss who the threat is in your region? ...

GEN. AZIZ: All I can say, for almost a year and a half since the end of the Charge of the Knights operation, the people in Basra are enjoying a normal life and a secure life, except for some skirmishes, skirmishes or some minimal incidents here and there.

GEN. NASH: From our point of view, in all of southern Iraq, we have multiple areas that we're concerned about, not only just in the Basra province. Recently we've seen an uptick in some violence in the northwest area of our -- of our area of operation up in the northwest Babil area and Karbala area.

And again, as you addressed the question, we're looking into an AQI connection and Sunni extremist groups that possibly could be causing strife up there, tried to get sectarian violence started again. But at this point, the Shi'a in the south have been able to resist that urge to reach violent levels again, as has been done in the past, in 2006 and 2007.

Again, I think it's a tribute to the Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi army, the Iraqi police, and the DBE is to keep those levels of violence from getting to the point of causing sectarian violence.

The next exchange is on the all-important issue of Iranian influence in Iraq. The Iranian mullahs do not want a democracy on their border, least of all one friendly to the United States. Since the invasion they have been doing all that they can to destabilize Iraq, by doing everything from shipping in weapons, to Quds force agents, to harboring insurgents themselves. Maj Gen Nash himself discussed this in his last briefing:

Iraq Briefing - 08 Sept 2009 - Insurgent Weapons Say "Made in Iran"

Q General Abdul Aziz, not long time, I mean, it's been maybe a few weeks. General Odierno accused Iran that some Iranian elements -- groups keep supporting extremist groups inside Iraq and especially in the south.

How do you respond on that?

GEN. AZIZ: As I said before, the ISF has a full control in Basra. And every now and then -- every now and then, we capture some bad elements and some outlaws and criminals. And what we do with those after we capture them, we bring them before the judge so they can -- they can be punished by the judge. And every citizen in Basra know(s) exactly how those foreign elements work and operate. And they also know and feel and sense how the security forces, the Iraqi security forces, is entitled to protect them and is protecting them from any bad elements. And they know that the ISF, the Iraqi security forces, is working to build a new Iraq. And I thank you.

GEN. NASH: ...we track very closely those networks; share that information. And together, the Iraqi security forces and the U.S. forces attack those networks and bring to justice those that have warrants, to bring them to the rule of law to find justice.

With the transition from counterinsurgency to stability operations, American forces have been stepping back and assuming a more advisory role. As such, the U.S. Army has created the Advise and Assist Brigade (AAB). From a May 2009 story on the U.S. Army's website

The "advise and assist" brigades will assist Provincial Reconstruction Teams in their missions, will work directly with Military Transition Teams to train Iraqi Army units and with the teams that train the Iraqi Border Patrol and police. The brigades will also work closely with the State Department, U.S. Aid and other government agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations in their area....

The battalion headquarters will not "boss" the PRTs, Newell said, but will have a primary mission of supporting the provincial reconstruction teams.

This next question is about the AABs:

Q Sir, this is Jim Garamone again. The last time we were there, you discussed the advise and assist brigade. And I'm just wondering if you can -- you've got a little more experience in how that works now -- if you could share some of the lessons learned from that experience.

GEN. NASH: Jim, I'd be -- I'd be happy to. We have the first AAB -- which is Colonel Pete Newell's 4th Brigade, 1st BCT, is now an AAB here in southern Iraq. And they have responsibility for three of our provinces. We're in the process of having the third of the 3rd come in under Colonel Pete Jones. The 3rd ID also has now been trained as an AAB; has picked up the lessons learned from Colonel Pete Newell's 4-1, and has employed those in their training. And in the middle of November -- (audio break) -- assist brigade.

Again, here in the south we've been operating as an AAD, if you will, an advise and assist division. And so there's a lot of lessons learned, both from the 10th Division and now the 34th, that we're able to pass along to our AABs, in terms of them coming in, working with our Provincial Reconstruction Teams with governance and economics. And again, they're bringing in specialists, field-grade officers and NCOs, to work with our Iraqi counterparts, whether it's Iraqi army, Iraqi police, or the border enforcement....

The closing statements of each general are worth reading:

COL. LAPAN: Generals, thank you again for joining us. I will send it back to you, General Nash and General Aziz, for any closing comments you'd like to make.

GEN. AZIZ: Thank you again for the opportunity to talk about the good things that are happening here in Basra and the future for us and our American friends...

We will continue to provide security to our people, through an army and police force that are capable, competent and nonsectarian. And we will support U.S. forces as they draw down their military and depart Iraq. We are in the lead, ready and prepared for the next step.

On behalf of all my general officers, my soldiers and their families and all the families in Basra, I would like to finish my modest word by giving my most sincere, heartfelt thanks and gratitude -- to my friend, General Nash, and to all the U.S. general officers, soldiers and their families -- as a token of appreciation for all the sacrifices they have made, on and off the battlefield, especially for those who have offered their ultimate sacrifice at the altar of freedom and democracy, to help and assist my beloved country, Iraq.

If I forget -- I cannot forget great historic leaders. Allow me to say openly and in my customary frankness, I am honored, proud and fortunate to meet and serve with and to learn from such great commanders as General Petraeus, General Odierno and Lieutenant General Jacoby. These commanders have contributed diligent efforts and have sacrificed a lot to establish and build this professional Iraqi army that we have talked about today.

GEN. NASH: I'd like to give a special thanks to our Iraqi partners for their assistance in holding this joint press conference. Without their location, their security and resources, this opportunity would not have been possible. I'd also like to thank Staff Major General Aziz for his friendship and hard work as we work together toward a safe, secure and bright future for the Iraqi people.

Americans can be proud of their sons and daughters and the sacrifices that they are making to forge a peaceful Iraqi future. I continue to be inspired by the exceptional hard work and commitment by all the soldiers, sailors, airman, Marines, Coast Guard men -- Guardsmen, and the civilians working diligently to achieve our nation's mission here in Iraq. Thank you

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November 4, 2009

Victory in Virginia, Republicans Sweep State
Washington Post, Loudoun Independent, Concede Defeat

A tremendous victory, and one of the largest in modern Virginia history

Bob, Bill, Ken, victory

As of this writing, the State Board of Elections unofficial results shows that with 99.76% of precincts reporting, former Attorney General Bob McDonnell received 1,158,871 votes, for 58.65%, with Senator Creigh Deeds taking 814,582 votes, for 41.23%

For Lieutenant Governor, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling has 1,102,159 votes, for 56.41%, with Jody Wagner at 849,958, for 43.50%.

In the race for Attorney General, Senator Ken Cuccinelli won with 1,118,287 votes for 57.53%, and former Delegate Steve Shannon was at 823,734 votes for 42.38%

In Loudoun County where I live, with 100% of the precincts reporting, Tag Greason defeated Delegate David Poisson, receiving 14,520 votes for 57.45%, to Poisson's 10,723 and 42.42% to become the new delegate for Virginia's 32nd District.

Tag Greason

The entire 32nd district is within Loudoun. Four other districts carry over into Loudoun. Three were occupied by incumbent Republicans, and they all won handily, one being unopposed. The other was occupied by a Democrat who was also defeated.

For what it matters, yes, I campaigned for all of these Republicans. Long and hard, in fact. This year it paid off, big time.

The media defeated

The Washington Post went after McDonnell from the outset, mostly after a thesis he wrote twenty years ago in which he speculated as to whether it was best for women to work outside the home, etc. A few days before the election they called Cuccinelli a bigot; and yes they used that word. A local paper published an old charge against Greason that had been dismissed by the prosecutor without ever having gone to trial. I'm not going to set up links to all these because they don't deserve the attention.,

The Deeds campaign made much of the thesis, and the Post obsessed over it for weeks.

None of it worked in the slightest. Voters were interested in jobs and the economy, and solving our transportation problems. They voted for the candidates that offered solutions.

A bit of Virginia and Loudoun voting history

In 2000, Bush/Cheney won Virginia with 52.5%, and Loudoun with 56.12%

In 2001, Democrat Mark Warner (now a U.S. Senator) won the governor's race with 52.16%, though he lost Loudoun with 45.84%

In 2004, Bush/Cheney won Virginia with 53.68%, and Loudoun with 55.69%

In 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine won the governor's race with 51.72%, and Loudoun with 51.64%

In 2008, Obama/Biden won Virginia with 52.62%, and Loudoun with 53.66%

This year, McDonnell won Virginia with 58.65%, and Loudoun with 61.05%, a tremendous achievement by any measure.

Before you conclude too much from the above, a few caveats are in order. I ignored the House of Representatives and Senate, mostly because I don't have all night to write this. Also, Loudoun is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, having almost doubled in population every ten years for the past few decades. This makes it hard to tell how much of the swings are due to people voting differently or new blood in the county. Again, I just don't have time to do a complete analysis.

What does it all mean?

I found the insights that follow are exactly right:

At National Review:
Kirstin Soltis

The big lesson from last night's election results is this: Creating a majority coalition matters. Both McDonnell and Christie won independent voters by large margins. Christie presented himself as an electable alternative. McDonnell ran a positive campaign that emphasized concrete ideas to solve problems confronting Virginians. He gave voters something to vote for. He was a thoroughly conservative candidate who, rather than focusing on "firing up his base," emphasized modern ideas and fiscal responsibility in order to attract independent voters. His model should inspire Republican campaigns across the country. In the end, we live in a center-right nation, and it is critical that we remember to bring together both the "center" and "right."

Rich Lowry on what the Democrats need to do to assure continued GOP victories

If you're a Republican campaign official, you have to be thinking tonight, please, Democrats, keep doing what you're doing. Please, keep governing like you can't pile up enough debt fast enough. Please, keep exposing Obama's faux moderation from the 2008 campaign for what it was. Please, keep trying to jam through an unpopular, utterly unwieldy health-care bill sold on serial dishonesties. Please, keep dismissing your opposition as irrational and illegitimate. Please, keep up with the prickly arrogance. Please, keep sweeping Democratic ethics problems in Congress under the rug, making a mockery of your talk of reform. Please, keep piling on the initiatives to increase the middle-class cost-of-living, with huge, broad-based tax increases inevitably to come. Please, keep focusing on health care and global warming when what people care about most is jobs. Please, please, please, keep doing what you're doing right now -- all the way to November 2010.

Ramesh Ponnuru, after speaking with a political consultant:

He pours cold water on the idea that the elections were a referendum on Obama. "Obama's numbers in Virginia are not that bad. He's not upside-down, that's for sure." (That is, more people rate him favorably than unfavorably.) "I guarantee you that McDonnell got a lot of votes from people who approve of [the job Obama is doing]." He takes the vote to be a rejection of many of Obama's policies. But he adds, "I don't think that Republicans should come away from this and think that all that we have to do in 2010 is run against Obama. McDonnell had a very vigorous policy agenda."

The key, then, is to run against Obama's policies but not the man itself. As reprehensible as it is for Barack Obama to have associated with Bill Ayers and to have been a member of Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United church for twenty years, they don't matter to independent voters. May a hundred Bob McDonnells shine.

The White House doesn't seem to understand any of this, though, if this story in the Washington Post is to be believed, anyway:

As they woke up this morning on the one-year anniversary of President Obama's historic election, senior West Wing aides proclaimed themselves largely unconcerned about what last night's Democratic losses might portend for their boss or his agenda.

White House officials rejected what they said was over-hyped conclusions about the impact on Obama of losing the governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, and instead sought to focus attention on the Democratic victory in New York's 23rd Congressional District.

"We won a congressional seat that's been in Republican hands since Ulysses S. Grant was president, in part because of the disunity in the Republican Party," senior adviser David Axelrod said in an early-morning phone interview. "That was the only truly national
contest on the ballot."

Axelrod said the intervention of national conservatives in pushing the moderate GOP candidate out of the New York race will be the only lasting impact of the night.

"The most portentous thing that happened yesterday was that the right wing of the Republican Party ran a moderate Republican essentially out of the race, and lost a seat they had held for more than 100 years," he said. "I don't take that as discouragement."

I do hope this is an accurate story, because if it is these Democrats are digging their own graves.

Note - one more issue to resolve but it'll be back to blogging again very soon.

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