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June 30, 2010

McDonald v. City of Chicago: Upholding the Constitution

In McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Supreme Court does the right thing:

In its second major ruling on gun rights in three years, the Supreme Court Monday extended the federally protected right to keep and bear arms to all 50 states. The decision will be hailed by gun rights advocates and comes over the opposition of gun control groups, the city of Chicago and four justices.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the five justice majority saying "the right to keep and bear arms must be regarded as a substantive guarantee, not a prohibition that could be ignored so long as the States legislated in an evenhanded manner."

The ruling builds upon the Court's 2008 decision in D.C. v. Heller that invalidated the handgun ban in the nation's capital. More importantly, that decision held that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was a right the Founders specifically delegated to individuals. The justices affirmed that decision and extended its reach to the 50 states. Today's ruling also invalidates Chicago's handgun ban.

It always struck me as bizarre that anyone would claim that the Second Amendment could not be applied to the states. I know we went through this with the rest of the Bill of Rights, and I had thought that the issue was pretty much settled.

The issue is that liberals want to treat the Second Amendment like they treat immigration laws; as "fake" laws that ok are on the books but aren't meant to be enforced.

Some on the left will also claim that this decision represents "conservative activism," but this is not a serious argument.

Activism is when you're making things up that aren't in the constitution. Harry Blackmun found a right to abortion in the due process clause Constitution, but this was pure imagination. Likewise, the commerce clause has been stretched to the point where it's meaningless. But the Second Amendment is there in plain sight, and any study shows that it means an individual right to own firearms. So it's not judicial activism when you're striking down laws that blatantly violate the constitution.

Gun prohibition is dead, at least for now. Jurisdictions such as Chicago will have to obey all of the Constitution, and are rewriting their laws as I type this. Whether their rewritten laws pass muster will be determined in innumerable court cases. The McDonald decision correctly left open some gun control, the question will be how much is acceptable.

What is scary is that as with DC v Heller, this was a 5 - 4 decision. This shows the importance of winning elections, and of getting originalists on the Supreme Court. Four justices actually do not believe the Second Amendment means what it plainly says, or what the Founders meant it to mean. Now that is judicial activism.

Writing in The Washington Times, author and attorney David Kopel explains how the McDonald decision has implications for the current hearings on Elena Kagan's bid to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court:

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the Supreme Court opinions in McDonald v. Chicago was the dissenters' assault on District of Columbia v. Heller. Not only did Justice Stephen G. Breyer vote against extending the Second Amendment to state and local governments, he also argued forcefully and at length for overturning Heller and, therefore, for turning the Second Amendment into a practical nullity. Ominously, Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined the Breyer dissent - contradicting what she told the U.S. Senate and the American people last summer.

Regarding the key issue in McDonald - whether the 14th Amendment makes the Second Amendment enforceable against state and local governments - Justice Sotomayor resolutely refused to tell the senators how she might vote. So in voting against incorporating the Second Amendment, Justice Sotomayor was not inconsistent with what she had told the Senate. But regarding Heller, her actions as a justice broke her promises from last summer.

The Breyer-Sotomayor-Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissent urged that Heller be overruled and declared, "In sum, the Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self defense."

Contrast that with her Senate testimony: "I understand the individual right fully that the Supreme Court recognized in Heller." And, "I understand how important the right to bear arms is to many, many Americans."

Yet her McDonald opinion shows her "understanding" that those many, many Americans are completely wrong to think they have a meaningful individual right.

To the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Sotomayor repeatedly averred that Heller is "settled law." The Associated Press reported that Sen. Mark Udall, Colorado Democrat, "said Sotomayor told him during a private meeting that she considers the 2008 ruling that struck down a Washington, D.C., handgun ban as settled law that would guide her decisions in future cases."

They're looking to overturn Heller, folks.

Posted by Tom at 7:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 27, 2010

Yes We Can... Win in Afghanistan

It took me several years after the invasion of Iraq to find people who were reliable in their analysis and accurate in their prescriptions. I listened to and read retired generals, civilian academics and ex-government types, journalists, and websites. By 2006 it was clear that many or most were getting it wrong. I stopped paying attention these pundits.

Two who got it right were the husband and wife team of Frederick and Kimberly Kagan. Academics and Ph D.s both, Frederick W. Kagan is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. Kimberly Kagan is president of the Institute for the Study of War. In December of 2006 Frederick Kagan and retired General Jack Keane developed a plan for turning Iraq around that eventually became the surge. I have read much of Kimberly's analysis of the situation in Iraq since then, including her book on the siubect, The Surge: A Military History, and found her quite accurate as well.

Bottom line is that despite all the naysayers, the surge worked and despite all the problems Iraq is headed in the right direction (though it is still not quite out of the woods). As such, when they write something about Iraq or Afghanistan, it is best to take it seriously.

Last October Kimberly Kagan's Institute for the Study of War produced a comprehensive strategy for victory in Iraq, which I covered in two posts:

A Comprehensive Strategy: Afghanistan Force Requirements
Part 1: The Legitimacy of the Afghan Government


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

Bottom line is that they recommended a change in strategy and an additional 40,000 troops, which is similar to what General McChrystal requested. President Obama ended up sending 30,000 troops. Imagine Roosevelt and Churchill giving Eisenhower 117,000 troops for D-Day instead of the 156,000 that actually landed and you'll get the point.

Today team Kagan has an article in The Weekly Standard in which they lay out their case for why we can win in Afghanistan. Excerpts follow, but be sure to read the whole thing:

A Winnable War
With a new commander and a renewed commitment from the commander in chief, we will make military progress in Afghanistan
by Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan
The Weekly Standard
July 5 - July 12, 2010

Success in Afghanistan is possible. The policy that President Obama announced in December and firmly reiterated last week is sound. So is the strategy that General Stanley McChrystal devised last summer and has been implementing this year. There have been setbacks and disappointments during this campaign, and adjustments will likely be necessary. These are inescapable in war. Success is not by any means inevitable. Enemies adapt and spoilers spoil. But both panic and despair are premature. The coalition has made significant military progress against the Taliban, and will make more progress as the last surge forces arrive in August. Although military progress is insufficient by itself to resolve the conflict, it is a vital precondition. As the New York Times editors recently noted, "Until the insurgents are genuinely bloodied, they will keep insisting on a full restoration of their repressive power." General David Petraeus knows how to bloody insurgents--and he also knows how to support and encourage political development and conflict resolution. He takes over the mission with the renewed support of the White House.

Neither the recent setbacks nor the manner of McChrystal's departure should be allowed to obscure the enormous progress he has made in setting conditions for successful campaigns over the next two years. The internal, structural changes he made have revolutionized the ability of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to conduct counterinsurgency operations.

While undertaking these enormous tasks of internal reorganization, he has also taken the fight to the enemy. The controversies about his restrictions on the operations of Special Forces and rules of engagement that limit the use of destructive force in inhabited areas have obscured the fact that both Special Forces and conventional forces have been fighting harder than ever before and disrupting and seriously damaging enemy networks and strongholds.

Iraqi sectarian actors did not suddenly see the light and embrace diversity. They changed their behavior in response to a wide array of pressures brought on them and their patrons by the entire American team, from General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker down to soldiers in the streets. Petraeus and Crocker in particular adopted a highly nuanced approach to the problem.

There are never any guarantees in war. But the fact that efforts now will be led by General David Petraeus, with his record of judgment and creativity, is grounds for confidence that we can succeed.

The contributions of Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and his team are not as widely recognized as that of General Petraeus, Odierno, and the other military leaders, but they were just as important. As such, President Obama ought to use the current change in military command to change the entire civilian State Department team as well. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry ought to be replaced with a man of Petreus' selection of approval.

The president also ought to abandon his silly timeline for withdrawal. As soon as his speech announcing the Afghan surge got out, Afghanis assumed that we'd abandon them in 2011 regardless of the situation. Those who claim that timelines force or incent the Afghanis (or Iraqis) to "get their act together" are ignorant of counterinsurgencies in particular and human behavior in general.

But for these and more details follow the links above. We can win, and President Obama should commit us to that goal.

Posted by Tom at 9:15 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 23, 2010

Afghanistan: McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

We've got a new top dog in Afghanistan:

President Obama said Wednesday he feels no "personal insult" from Gen. Stanley McChrystal but accepted his resignation as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan because he couldn't abide scathing comments by McChrystal and his aides that appeared in an article out this week in Rolling Stone magazine.

"The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general. It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system. And it erodes the trust that's necessary for our team to work together to achieve our objectives in Afghanistan," Obama said.

In Rose Garden remarks, Obama nominated Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command and the former commanding general in Iraq, to replace McChrystal. Petraeus' confirmation hearing in the Senate could come as early as Thursday.

The president said he had no disagreements with McChrystal's policy or conduct in the war in Afghanistan, and the change in personnel does not mean a change in policy. He said the two were on the same page in terms of war strategy, but no "diversion" to the mission was acceptable.

President Obama absolutely did the right thing. We simply cannot have the military publicly criticizing their civilian bosses.

Yesterday, in Yes, Gen. Stanley McChrystal Should be Fired, I wrote that Obama should fire him but probably wouldn't. This is one instance in which I am glad I was wrong.

The most famous incident in which a president fired a general was, of course, when Truman dismissed Douglas MacArthur. The general had criticized the president's limited war strategy, particularly his desire to avoid involving China.

Forty years ago, in another incident that caused much controversy at the time, President Carter fired General john Singlaub over comments the latter publicly criticized the President's decision to withdraw troops from Korea.

More recently, in 2008 President Bush essentially fired Admiral William Fallon, commander of CENTCOM. Fallon had made comments to a reporter from Esquire in which he indicated that if it wasn't for him Bush would be at war with Iran. The story that came out was that Fallon retired, but there is no doubt that it was a case of "retire or be fired."

In all three cases the president did the right thing. Whether the general or admiral was right in some existential sense is irrelevant.

In the case of Afghanistan, the war effort will be in good hands with Petraeus. If anyone can put us on the path to victory, it is him.

To be sure, most liberals and liberal media outlets are being completely hypocritical about generals who criticize their president. But of course.

All in all, I'm in agreement with Rich Lowry that Obama hit a home run:

I'm not sure how Obama could have handled this any better. He was genuinely graceful about McChrystal and his explanation of why he had to go made perfect sense. He called for unity within his adminstration in pursuing the war and sounded quite stalwart about both the war and about the strategy. More importantly, his choice of Petraeus as a replacement for McChrystal is a brilliant move: He gets a heavy-weight, an unassailable expert in this kind of warfare, and someone who presumably can step in pretty seamlessly. He also picked someone who has expressed (very diplomatic) misgivings about the July 2011 deadline and who will have the clout and credibility to tell the president that he can't afford to go down in troops when July comes, should circumstances warrant. (It should also be noted that this is a step down for Petraeus and he can't relish directly managing another war -- that he will do so speaks to his selfless patriotism.) In short, Obama has made the most of a rotten situation.

There, can't say I never said anything good about our president.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 22, 2010

Yes, Gen. Stanley McChrystal Should be Fired

An excerpt from excerpts from the Rolling Stone article

Even though he had voted for Obama, McChrystal and his new commander in chief failed from the outset to connect. The general first encountered Obama a week after he took office, when the president met with a dozen senior military officials in a room at the Pentagon known as the Tank. According to sources familiar with the meeting, McChrystal thought Obama looked "uncomfortable and intimidated" by the roomful of military brass. Their first one-on-one meeting took place in the Oval Office four months later, after McChrystal got the Afghanistan job, and it didn't go much better. "It was a 10-minute photo op," says an adviser to McChrystal. "Obama clearly didn't know anything about him, who he was. Here's the guy who's going to run his [expletive] war, but he didn't seem very engaged. The Boss was pretty disappointed." ...

One aide calls Jim Jones, a retired four-star general and veteran of the Cold War, a "clown" who remains "stuck in 1985." Politicians like McCain and Kerry, says another aide, "turn up, have a meeting with Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it's not very helpful." Only Hillary Clinton receives good reviews from McChrystal's inner circle. "Hillary had Stan's back during the strategic review," says an adviser. "She said, 'If Stan wants it, give him what he needs.'

McChrystal reserves special skepticism for Holbrooke, the official in charge of reintegrating the Taliban. "The Boss says he's like a wounded animal," says a member of the general's team. "Holbrooke keeps hearing rumors that he's going to get fired, so that makes him dangerous."

Certainly inappropriate and impolitic, but not as big a deal as some of the stories would suggest. That said, ifPresident Obama fired McChrystal I'd support the decision

The President will meet with the general tomorrow, and has said that he won't make any decision until after they talk: "I think it's clear that the article in which he and his team appeared showed a poor -- showed poor judgment, but I also want to make sure that I talk to him directly before I make any final decisions."

The most famous incident in which a president fired a general was, of course, when Truman dismissed Douglas MacArthur. The general had criticized the president's limited war strategy, particularly his desire to avoid involving China.

Forty years ago, in another incident that caused much controversy at the time, President Carter fired General john Singlaub over comments the latter publicly criticized the President's decision to withdraw troops from Korea.

MacArthur and Singlaub deserved to be fired. McChrystal's offense is different, but he deserves to be fired nonetheless. However, my guess is he'll probably survive with a reprimand. Most likely the story we'll hear is that McChrystal offered his resignation and the President refused it. Obama will calculate that he simply cannot afford for things to go any more wrong in Afghanistan.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit said that:

McChrystal's greatest crime is speaking the truth -- that the White House is unserious about this war, and that its foreign policy team isn't up to the job. And if he were saying this about a Republican administration, the press would be hailing him as a great hero, speaking truth to power.

Nonetheless, serving generals aren't supposed to speak this way about their civilian masters, and so if the Rolling Stone reports are true, he should probably be sacked.

Exactly correct. Singlaub was right and he still deserved to be fired. Truman was right with regards to China. Whether McChrystal is right or not is irrelevant because we simply cannot have generals criticizing their civilian bosses in public. The editors of National Review make the point that firing McChrystal will not advance us towards victory in Afghanistan. Undoubtedly true, and also irrelevant.

That said, Reynolds makes another point that is dead on correct:

Under a Republican President, it's listen to the generals. Under a Democratic President, it's all about civilian control of the military.

As always, Victor Davis Hanson has wise things to say, so I'll close with him:

Many have commented on the unfairness of it all, and made good points:

a) Obama, having demagogued the Iraq war, and campaigned on a "let me at 'em" in the "good" war in Afghanistan, has done his best to renege on his 2008 chest-thumping (e.g., not meeting with McChrystal for months; setting arbitrary withdrawal dates that turn the war into a "wait them out" process; publicly rebuking in embarrassing fashion the Karzai government; insulting the British enough so that they and other European countries will soon be leaving -- not wishing to stay on when they also know we're going to pack it up soon, and so on).

b) McChrystal has not said anything more defamatory than what Obama himself, as a U.S. senator, said about the surge or Predators, and nothing that approaches the slanders of a Sen. Durban, Kerry, or Reid.

c) We don't always fire generals who mouth off -- especially those so closely identified with the current efforts at the front. Patton was given several chances; Arleigh Burke was saved by Truman despite his campaign against the Pentagon's civilian head.

d) Obama is in a terrible dilemma. If he doesn't fire McChrystal after a second indiscretion, he perhaps looks weak. If he does, it endangers the current effort in Afghanistan and looks like he's silencing an officer for having legitimate worries.

e) The howling media is hypocritical. Yesterday's officers who took on Bush in the "revolt of the generals" were deemed courageous. Today's critics are slandered as near-treasonous when they dare reproach Him.

f) It would be very frustrating for a gifted and devoted general like McChrystal to work for Obama, given the latter's indifference, contradictions, and clear anti-war stance as a senator.

No matter, nonetheless. The issue is not whether McChrystal is a great officer (he is), but one of judgment. One does not openly criticize civilian overseers to the press, however justified (and there are plenty of justifications). Nor does one allow a climate in which subordinate officers feel emboldened enough that they loosely trash an administration to the press. If one really wishes to warn the public about a growing crisis in Afghanistan brought on by ignorance, egos, and duplicity in the administration, one surely does not talk to the likes of Rolling Stone. The proper way is to send warnings in private channels up the chain of command to the Pentagon and then to the White House. And when one feels the level of ignorance is overwhelming the chances of success, then one resigns and goes public to warn the nation. One cannot otherwise have it both ways.

No one wants to see McChrystal go, but senior officers and their staffers simply cannot ridicule civilian overseers, even if casually and in jest. We don't know all the details or the veracity of the journalists involved, so it would be foolish to rush to judgment, but something will have to be resolved within the next 48 hours or so.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 20, 2010

The World is Catching On to Obama the Incompetent

How's that hope and change working out now?

Pretty lousy, and that from the perspective of the "international community" that we were told Obama would woo and have in his back pocket.

Via Mark Steyn over at NRO (emphais added):

World Sees Obama as Incompetent and Amateur
The president is well-intentioned but can't walk the walk on the world stage
By Mortimer B. Zuckerman
Posted June 18, 2010

The reviews of Obama's performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America's role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world's leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America's foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one's own tribe while in the lands of others.

Even in Britain, for decades our closest ally, the talk in the press--supported by polls--is about the end of the "special relationship" with America. French President Nicolas Sarkozy openly criticized Obama for months, including a direct attack on his policies at the United Nations. Sarkozy cited the need to recognize the real world, not the virtual world, a clear reference to Obama's speech on nuclear weapons. When the French president is seen as tougher than the American president, you have to know that something is awry. Vladimir Putin of Russia has publicly scorned a number of Obama's visions. Relations with the Chinese leadership got off to a bad start with the president's poorly-organized visit to China, where his hosts treated him disdainfully and prevented him from speaking to a national television audience of the Chinese people. The Chinese behavior was unprecedented when compared to visits by other U.S. presidents.

What did they expect from a "community organizer" who never held a real job or had any executive experience?

In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama's meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with. ...

The end result is that a critical mass of influential people in world affairs who once held high hopes for the president have begun to wonder whether they misjudged the man. They are no longer dazzled by his rock star personality and there is a sense that there is something amateurish and even incompetent about how Obama is managing U.S. power. For example, Obama has asserted that America is not at war with the Muslim world. The problem is that parts of the Muslim world are at war with America and the West.

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

No kidding.

"But he's so smart" we are told by the smart set, so easily impressed they are by degrees.

Well how have those academic smarts helped him deal with the oil spill in the gulf? Mark Steyn quotes our Commander-in-Chief:

"Just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our nation's best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge - a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our nation's Secretary of Energy. Scientists at our national labs and experts from academia and other oil companies have also provided ideas and advice.

"As a result of these efforts, we've directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology."

Excellent. The president directed his Nobel Prize-winning Head of Meetings to assemble a meeting to tackle the challenge of mobilizing the assembling of the tackling of the challenge mobilization, at the end of which they directed BP to order up some new tackle and connect it to the thingummy next to the whachamacallit. Thank you, Mr. President. That and $4.95 will get you a venti oleaginato at Starbucks.

I've got a bachelors degree in history from Radford University and I could have figured out in 3 seconds that I should direct BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology.

And the "international community" is catching on that they, too, could have figured that out. We may sit back, wag our fingers, and say "see, I told you so," but there are real-world consequences. The good guys and bad guys alike have figured out Obama is both weak and incompetent. The former will be tempted to either strike deals with the bad buys or or just strike them period. And the bad guys will be tempted to cause much trouble. The change I'm hoping for in 2012 can't come too soon.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 12, 2010

Book Review - The Surge: A Military History

The Surge by Kimberly Kagan

Kim Kagan's book is just what the title says it is; a military history of the Surge. It does not cover the political aspects in Washington DC, or the formation of the Surge plan. Nor does she discuss the politics in Iraq or Iraqi society. Most important to note for commenters, she does neither weighs in on whether it was a good idea to invade Iraq in 2003 or on whether the surge itself was a good idea. What she does is simply discuss the military aspects of what happened in Iraq.

Dr Kagan is very well qualified to write on military topics. After taking her Ph. D. in history from Harvard, she taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Yale University, Georgetown University, and American University. She is currently president of the Institute for Understanding War in Washington DC. She has traveled many times to Iraq, interviewing people from General Odierno himself down to lower ranking officers and soldiers. This is not to suggest that such qualifications make her right by definition in her analysis, rather that she has the background to write intelligently on the topic.

Kagan is married to Frederick Kagan, a military scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He has been described as one of the "intellectual authors" of the surge. His brother is foreign policy analyst Robert Kagan. Their father is Donald Kagan, who is a professor at Yale and a fellow at the Hudson Institute. A more distinguished family is hard to find.

Those who are opposed to our involvement in Iraq will be tempted to dismiss Kimberly Kagan's book because she and her husband did speak out in favor of the surge plan, and as mentioned earlier Frederick's work at the AEI was one of, if not the, impetus behind it (more on that below). But again, this book is not about whether the invasion or surge were good ideas, but is rather a history of what did happen.

Introduction: The Players

The Insurgents

  • Al Qaeda in Iraq - AQI - Sunni - Commanded by Abu Ayyub al-Masri just before and during the years of the surge. Based in Falluhah.
  • Mahdi Army, also knows as Jaysh (or Jaish) al Mahdi (JAM) - Shiite - created and led by the Iraqi Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003
  • Special Groups - Shiite - Small, cell based groups created and sponsored by Iran
  • JAM and Special Groups were primarily based in the northeast neighborhoods of of Baghdad, called Sadr City
The Sunni and Shiite insurgents fought each other as much as they did the Coalition. JAM and AQI fought each other for control of Baghdad and it's environs throughout 2005 and 2006 because if you controlled the capital you effectively controlled the government. There was in effect several insurgencies taking place at the same time: Sunni v Coalition, Shiite v Coalition, Sunni v Shiite, Awakening Movement v AQI, and insurgent group v insurgent group. Sometimes the insurgent groups cooperated and sometimes they didn't.

Key Events Leading to the Adoption of the Surge Strategy

  • Mid-term Elections - November 7, 2006 - Democrats capture the House and Senate, having run partially on an "end the war" platform
  • Iraq Study Group - December 6 2006 - Report released which recommended major changes in war strategy
  • New Strategy - December 15, 2006- Team led by then-Lt. Gen. Petraeus releases U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24
  • American Enterprise Institute report - December 14, 2006 - Report by Frederick Kagan, Gen Jack Keane (ret) "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq" outlines many of the concepts that eventually make up the Surge plan
  • Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno - December 2006 - The Corps commander told his boss, Gen. Casey, that his approach of fewer American troops and handing off responsibility to the Iraqis as soon as possible will not work and recommends to President Bush that he needs at least 5 addition U.S. brigades

Announcement of Surge - January 10, 2008 - The surge plan is announced by President Bush in a nationally televised address

U.S. Personnel Changes 2006-7

  • Multi-National Corps - Iraq - December 14 - Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli. is replaced by Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno
  • U.S. National Intelligence Director- January 5 - John Negroponte resigned and was replaced by retired Admiral John M. McConnell will take his place.
  • CENTCOM commander- March 16 - Navy Admiral William Fallon replaced General John Abizaid as CENTCOM commander.
  • Commander of Multinational Force Iraq - February 10 - Counter-insurgency expert General David Petraeus replaced General George Casey as Commander of Multinational Force Iraq.
  • U.S. Ambassador to Iraq - March 26 - Bush U.S. diplomat Ryan C. Crocker replaced Zalmay Khalilzad, as the new ambassador to Iraq.

The Iraqi Leader

Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki or Nouri Kamil al-Maliki - Prime Minister of Iraq, Islamic Dawa Party. Elected PM May 20, 2006.

U.S. Military Unit Definitions

Division - typically commanded by a major general (two star) - 17,000 to 21,000 troops - a division typically consists of four brigades. A division is the smallest permanent unit in the United States military

Brigade (Regiment in the Marine Corps) - typically commanded by a Colonel - 2,500 to 4,000 troops - A brigade is important because it is the smallest unit that consists of all of the "parts" typically needed for a ground unit to fight a war; infantry, armor, artillery, medical, intelligence, helicopters, logistics, etc

Book Summary

The Background

The situation in Iraq was dire by the late summer of 2006. Coalition forces were not able to put down the insurgency that had started shortly after the invasion of March 2003. The death toll among Iraqi civilians and military personnel had been going up. The bombing of the Al-Askari Mosque (the "Golden Mosque"), a Shiite Muslim holy site, by al Qaeda in Iraq on February 22, 2006 and again on June 13, 2007 fueled the fire that was already raging. Some analysts that Iraq was in or headed towards a civil war, and whether that was correct or not from a technical aspect, it was starting to become clear that the insurgents were winning.

As insurgencies vary in nature, the center of gravity varies with each one. Sometimes control of the countryside is all-important, in others it's control of the capital, in still others a key industrial or crossroads. With the war in Iraq, the key to victory was controlling the capital city.

With violence was spiraling out of control in and around Baghdad, General Casey, along with his Iraqi counterparts, devised Operation Together Forward I in the summer of 2006. OTF I kicked off on July 13 and concluded on August 6. It was mostly reactive in nature, responding to insurgent attacks as they occurred.

Because sectarian violence continued to rise, Operation Together Forward II started immediately following OTF I. As with it's predecessor, it involved all elements of the Iraqi security forces as well as American troops.

The plan failed because although we could clear the neighborhoods we could not hold them. There were neither enough Iraqi or American troops. Further, many Iraqi units had been infiltrated by militia members who simply used the offensive to pursue the very violence it was supposed to stop.

Worse, the operation actually increased violence. Coalition troops would clear a Shiite neighborhood of JAM forces, but because they could not stay, AQI would move in and kill residents. Or, in Sunni neighborhoods, we would clear out AQI, only to have JAM move in as soon as we left. Commanders stopped the OTF II in mid-October precisely for this reason. Because coalition forces concentrated on clearing Sunni neighborhoods, they ended up suffering more than the Shiites.

American and Iraqi military leaders operated under fundamentally flawed concepts in 2006 and before. One was that their objective was not to secure the population, but to chase after the terrorists in a series of raids. They could not have made their primary objective to protect the people even if they had wanted to for two reasons. One, they simply didn't have enough troops, and two, the ones they had were based on large Forward Operating bases (FOBs) and thus were separated from the population.

General Casey thought that it was the presence of American troops that was fueling the insurgency, a concept that would turn out to be utterly mistaken. He wanted to get our troops out from responsibility for areas in Iraq and out of the country, thinking that if only we could train the Iraqis fast enough they could take over. This set up a race between the trainers and the insurgents; could we train Iraqis fast enough to defeat the insurgency before it won? The answer proved to be a resounding no.

As such, after we had secured an area, rather than keep our own troops there to make sure the insurgents didn't come back, we rushed to get the Iraqi Army and police in and us out. The Iraqis could not maintain control and before long the area was back in insurgent hands. The average time Iraqi forces could control a neighborhood before insurgents took it over again was 2 weeks, and this despite constant U.S. assistance.

Cart Before the Horse

From 2003 until Gen Petraeus took over, we operated under the premise that if we could get the Iraqi economy going again, and a legitimate government in place, security would follow. Readers will recall that it was primarily the Democrats in Congress who insisted on a series of political "benchmarks." The Iraqi government had to pass certain laws by certain dates or aid would be cut off and the troops brought home.

While there was a certain benefit to the benchmarks, by themselves they would have had no effect on ending the insurgency. Insisting on political progress before security had been established was putting the cart before the horse.

One of the main conclusions of Field Manual 3-24, mentioned above, was that political and economic progress can only occur after security is established. The authors of the work studied the history of insurgencies looking for trends, and it became clear that the path to victory lay in establishing security first.

The Genesis of the Surge

Commanders offered different plans to correct the situation. As mentioned above, Generals Casey and Abizaid believed that it was the presence of American troops that was fueling the insurgency, so favored plans that stressed recruiting and training more Iraqi troops. Lt. Gen. Odierno argued in favor of an increase of 5 to 10 brigades as a way of transforming the military situation. In response, Casey and Abizaid argued that an increase would only have a temporary effect because of the infighting among Iraqi politicians.

In Washington, the Iraq Study Group released a paper arguing for the plan Casey and Abizaid had put forth. The ISG was a ten person non-partisan appointed in 2006 by Congress, having first been suggested by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA-10).

Meanwhile, over at the American Enterprise Institute, scholar Frederick Kagan and retired Army Vice chief of Staff General Jack Keane presented a plan that involved sending 5 Army brigades and 2 Marine regiments to Iraq to support a new strategy of protecting the Iraqi population.

At the end of 2006 President George W. Bush adopted a new strategy for our war in Iraq, which was announced in a televised speech on January 10, 2007. As discussed above, there was a concurrent a change in commanders, the most important of which was the replacement of General George Casey with David Petraeus. The new strategy was explained by Lt Gen. Odierno as military operations designed:

...to create stability and security to protect the Iraqi people, first and foremost in Baghdad. The population and the government of Iraq are the center of gravity. Creating a stable environment in Baghdad should provide time and space for the Iraqi government to continue to mature as a government and continue to guild its capacity.

The team of Petraeus and Odierno considered two strategies to implement this new strategy of protecting the people of Baghdad. One was to attack the enemy in their safe havens outside of Baghdad, the other was to patrol the city's neighborhoods, clearing them of insurgents and then staying to ensure they didn't come back.

The answer came from Petraeus' new counterinsurgency doctrine, as ___ in the U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24. FM 3-24 had been written by a team led by then-Lt Gen Petraeus starting in October 2005, and was released on December
15, 2006.

As explained in FM 3-24, the path to victory lay in securing the population (or "populace," the term used in the book), not in chasing insurgents around the countryside. As such, as one element of the new strategy Odierno deployed his new surge brigades to Baghdad itself with the objective of clearing them of insurgents and keeping them from returning.

The other thing Odierno died was to assign other units to the belts around Baghdad to destroy AQI safe-havens, which extended 20 to 30 miles outside the city. OTF I & II only concentrated on security within the city, the new effort would secure the capital as well as its environs.

Surge Units

via Wikipedia, the 5 additional Army brigades sent to Iraq were:

  1. 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Infantry): 3,447 troops. Deployed to Baghdad, January 2007
  2. 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Infantry): 3,447 troops. Deployed to Baghdad, February 2007
  3. 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Heavy): 3,784 troops. Deployed to southern Baghdad Belts, March 2007
  4. 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker): 3,921 troops. Deployed to Diyala province, April 2007
  5. 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Heavy): 3,784 troops. Deployed to the southeast of Baghdad, May 2007

This brought the number of brigades in Iraq from 15 to 20.

In addition, Marines in al Anbar province from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 1st Battalion 6th Marines and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines had their tours extended. All troops had their 12 month tours extended to 15 months.

From FOB to COP and JSS

p 32
Before the surge, most U.S. troops were stationed on one of five large well-protected Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), and only ventured out to patrol or take part in specific operations. They tended to be reactive rather than proactive, and reinforced Iraqi operations rather than leading the way themselves. Because the Iraqi forces were not able to conduct offensive operations effectively, they tended to rely on checkpoints. The strategy didn't work.

The first of the oft-cited Zen-like "Paradoxes of Counterinsurgency" in the first chapter of FM 3-24 was that "Sometimes, the more you protect your force, the less secure you may be." In other words, keeping our troops on well-protected bases most of the time made them less safe, not more so.

The reason for this was that by staying on their FOB most of the time the troops weren't as familiar their patrol area as they should have been, and because they obviously weren't sharing the same risks as the Iraqi people, the latter weren't going to take the risk of overtly helping our effort. As such, the troops were at a high level of risk from insurgent attack when on patrol or on an operation.

Odierno dispersed the troops from the FOBs into the neighborhoods, where they established Combat Outposts, or Joint Security Stations. The COPs were American only, the JSSs were set up in concert with the Iraqi security forces.

Whether stationed at a COP or a JSS, being in the neighborhood eliminated the problems they faced earlier. As has been reported many times, when the troops arrived in the neighborhoods, the Iraqis asked "are you staying this time?" When our answer was "yes," the Iraqis responded "then this time we will help you." In addition, our troops became intimately familiar with their assigned Area of Operations (AO). From FM 3-24:

7-7 ...Effective commanders know the people, topography, economy, history, and culture of their area of operations (AO). They know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance within it...

"Will you stay this time" was the question Iraqis asked American commanders when they saw our units coming into their areas. When the answer they got was "yes," the Iraqis decided they could safely support the Americans. With that support came timely, accurate, and actionable intelligence, not to mention more and more Iraqis signing up to serve in their own security forces.

Preparing the Battlefield

It is important to understand the difference between operations designed to prepare or "shape" the battlefield, and "prepare the conditions" for victory, from decisive operations themselves. The former three involve deploying forces to the area nearby or in the area where they willll eventually fight the decisive battle, and getting set up in their bases. This involved setting up the COPs and JSSs, getting supply lines set up, getting to know the neighborhoods, meeting the people, developing intelligence, etc. As part of establishing these neighborhood bases, our commanders became intimately familiar with their AO, and used that information to prepare for the fight ahead.

To be sure, preparing the battlefield involved much fighting. As most of these neighborhoods, towns, and cities were controlled by the insurgents we had to fight our way in. Insurgents then attacked our new bases. We sent out scouts to reconnoiter the area and they fought battles. But these were not decisive actions, but rather getting the troops in place and set for what would become the decisive action later.

So that the fight for Diyala province and eastern Anbar were preparatory operations. Indeed, even clearing operations in Baghdad as late as April and May were preparatory operations for the decisive battles that occurred in the second half of 2007.

Going After the Militias

The additional American troops gave Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki the strength and confidence to go after the militias. On January 11 he ordered them to disarm or face attack. Within a few days many Jaysh al Mahdi (JAM) commanders had ordered their troops to stand down. Just as or even more importantly, Moqtda al Sadr issued a cease-fire, ordering his JAM forces not to fight American or government forces.

Not all JAM members complied. American and Iraqi forces went after them, arresting or killing rogue commanders and their troops. In addition, Moqtada al Sadr left the country for Iran, which left the organization leaderless and its commanders confused. As a result, JAM fractured and ceased to function as a coherent fighting force.

The result was that JAM was effectively neutralized, at least for the time being. This had am immediate and positive effect on the political scene, because without their militia Sadrist politicians ended their boycott of parliament, and became part of the political process.

The Baghdad Security Plan: Operation Fardh al Qanoon

The Baghdad Security Plan, or Operation Fardh al Qanoon ("Enforcing the Law") began on February 14, 2007. It was not the first true offensive operation, which would not come until June with Operation Phantom Thunder. Rather, it was part of what is called "preparing the ground" for the main battles that lie ahead.

Major General Joseph Fil, Commanding General of Multi-National Division-Baghdad and the First Cavalry Division, explained the operational concepts behind the plan:

This new plan involves three basic parts: clear, control and retain. The first objective within each of the security districts in the Iraqi capital is to clear out extremist elements neighborhood by neighborhood in an effort to protect the population. And after an area is cleared, we're moving to what we call the control operation. Together with our Iraqi counterparts, we'll maintain a full-time presence on the streets, and we'll do this by building and maintaining joint security stations throughout the city. This effort to re-establish the joint security stations is well under way. The number of stations in each district will be determined by the commanders on the ground who control that area. An area moves into the retain phase when the Iraqi security forces are fully responsible for the day-to-day security mission. At this point, coalition forces begin to move out of the neighborhood and into locations where they can respond to requests for assistance as needed. During these three phrases, efforts will be ongoing to stimulate local economies by creating employment opportunities, initiating reconstruction projects and improving the infrastructure. These efforts will be spearheaded by neighborhood advisory councils, district advisory councils and the government of Iraq.

In short, the main difference between the Fardh al Qanoon and OTF I & II was that this time we had more troops, and they would remain in the neighborhoods after they had cleared them of insurgents to ensure they didn't return.

The Anbar Awakening

Some people would have us believe that it was the Anbar Awakening alone that turned Iraq around, or that it was developed and was successful apart from the Surge. Neither assertion is true. Kagan

The truth is that (the Awakening) began emerging in 2006 thanks to the hard and skilful fighting and negotiating of Army colonel Sean MacFarland and a number of Marine officers and their subordinates. General Odierno met with Sheikh Sattar abu Risha in December 2006 and encouraged U.S. soldiers in Anbar to continue fighting and negotiating in support of Abu Risha's efforts.

She further explains that

"The presence of U.S. forces conducting counterinsurgency missions to secure the population made the local rejection of al Qaeda possible and effective. The leadership and example of the sheikhs of Ramadi inspired sheikhs in neighboring cities to cooperate with U.S. and Iraqi forces. As a result of their efforts, especially in late 2006 and early 2007, al Qaeda no longer controlled Ramadi or Fallujah"


The awakening started when in the summer of 2006 Sunni Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu al-Risha grew weary of al Qaeda brutality against is family and decided to fight back. He enlisted other sheiks in the fall of that year formed the Anbar Salvation Council. Sattar and the other sheikhs encouraged their men to join the Iraqi police, which in Anbar had been basically non-existent.

For U.S forces, securing Baghdad was the primary objective in 2007. We concentrated on what are called "shaping operations" in Anbar and Diyala that year. Shaping operations "create and preserve conditions for the success of the decisive operation...they may occur before, concurrently with, or after the start of the decisive operation."

One objective of our operations in Anbar in 2007 was to integrate all levels of government; central, provincial, and local. De-Baathification had kept many Sunnis out of government, the insurgency frightened many into staying home, and Sunni leaders had boycotted the 2005 election. In 2007 the process of turning this around was started.

Concerned Local Citizens - Sons of Iraq

As in Anbar and elsewhere, Concerned Local Citizens groups were formed in Diyala. They complemented the Iraqi Security Forces, and protected villages when our forces were absent. Some of the CLC members were former insurgents. Having enemy troops join your side is better than killing them because it demoralizes and fractures the enemy. It also gives you another soldier.

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Concerned Local Citizens (CLC, later called Sons of Iraq), as they were discussed during many of the press briefings of this time. Essentially, the CLCs were an organization formed by the U.S. as a sort of "super-neighborhood watch." They were paid, but not armed (at least by us, everyone in Iraq seems to own an AK-47), by t he United States. The objectives were several. One, to give a job to unemployed young men who might otherwise fight a job planting IEDs. Another was to turn around former insurgents and bring them into the process. Because they worked in their own neighborhoods, CLC members provided the Coalition with valuable intelligence. Finally, it was a means of combating al Qaeda and other insurgent groups.

In order to be effective Iraqi police had to be recruited from the neighborhoods they would patrol, otherwise they'd be considered "outsiders" and not trusted by the people. Worse, "outsiders" would themselves engage in sectarian cleansing.

AQI Reacts to the Surge

"In war the will is directed at an animate object that reacts."

Carl von Clausewitz

AQI reacted to the surge by attempting to undermine the credibility of Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces by escalating its vehicle bomb campaign. They also hoped to spark the very sectarian violence we were trying to tamp down. Their car bomb campaign was well organized and thought out. The attacks were not at random but targeted specific locations and people. The campaign started in January of 2007 and persisted in intensity through March.

For a time it was act and react. Reacting to their campaign, Coalition and Iraqi forces took actions such as erecting barricades around populated areas such as markets. Denied these targets, AQI went after locations such as bridges. The Coalition, in turn, redoubled efforts to take out the AQI networks that made and distributed the vehicle bombs. Eventually, though the walls and Coalition attacks took their toll and AQI vehicle bombs slowed down.

Operation Phantom Thunder - The Decisive Battle Begins

Operation Phantom Thunder, the start of decisive operations, kicked off on June 15, 2007. It was a highly coordinated corps-wide offensive across all of Iraq that involved all commands and many sub-operations. It was followed by Phantom Strike on August 15, and finally, Phantom Phoenix on January 8, 2008.

Planning for Phantom Thunder had actually begun in December of 2006, even before President Bush announced the "surge" of troops. "Generals Petraeus and Odierno had determined...that securing Baghdad would require a major campaign to dislodge Qaeda from the belts around Baghdad."

By June, Baghdad was encircled by Coalition troops. Not literally, of course, but circled in the sense that we had control of all major road intersections and such.

Phantom Thunder was a corps-level offensive in that it was it was coordinated with all units in the country. Unlike previous operations, in which each division or brigade operated more or less without concern for the others, this time everyone would be working in concert.

The intent, again, was to protect the Iraqi population. Doing so would allow economic and political activity to start again, buying time for the government. Negotiations among political parties and factions only work when security has been established, not the other way around.

Phantom Thunder was the largest counterinsurgency operation in history. While previous operations had degenerated into a game of "whack-a-mole," this time the insurgents were separated from the population. We were also aggressive in avoiding civilian casualties and collateral damage, which built all-important trust among the people.

Phantom Thunder and Phantom Strike in Diyala Province

Kagan: "The overarching objective of Phantom Thunder was to stop insurgents in the provinces from supporting violence in Baghdad. Controlling Baqubah (the largest city in Diyala), advanced U.S. forces toward that objective."

Following Phantom Thunder was Phantom Strike. General Odierno explained the objectives of Phantom Strike:

"This week, we launched Operation Phantom Strike, a series of targeted operations designed to intensify pursuit of extremist elements across Iraq. With the elimination of safe havens and support zones due to Phantom Thunder, al Qaeda and Shi'a extremists have been forced into ever-shrinking areas, and it is my intent to pursue and disrupt their operations. ...Over the coming weeks, we plan to conduct quick strike raids against remaining extremist sanctuaries and staging areas, carry out precision targeting operations against extremist leadership and focus missions to counter the extremists' lethal accelerants of choice, the IED and the vehicle-borne IED. We will continue to hunt down their leadership, deny them safe haven, disrupt their supply lines and significantly reduce their capability to operate in Iraq" (DoD Press Briefing, August 17, 2007).

Diyala illustrated the benefits of the strategy of securing the population first. (p141) Our primary objective was to control territory, and killing or capturing the enemy was second. (p 116) After eliminating enemy safe-havens, we were able to convince some tribal leaders to join our side, or at least turn against the insurgents. Tribal reconciliation followed the establishment of security.

Although al Qaeda attempted to reconstitute itself, we were able to fragment them into small groups. They were not allowed safe havens, as this time the Coalition had enough troops to secure all critical areas of the country.

In 2006, the Iraqis were supposed to control territory through checkpoints after we had cleared an area. The problem with this approach is that it froze units in place where they could not respond to anything that happened save in their immediate area. More, operations in 2007 and 2008 were successful precisely because their primary objective was not immediate transition to Iraqi control, a control that was beyond their capability. Rather, their objective was simply that of establishing security.

To be clear, combat ("kinetic operations," in U.S. military parlance) operations were not second or subordinate to non-combat ("non-kinetic," i.e. nation building) operations, as has sometimes been charged. Rather, the purpose of combat operations was to allow non-combat operations to take place. Indeed, the two took place simultaneously. The goal of kinetic operations was to separate the insurgents from the population and defending those Iraqis willing to work with us and their new government. Only when they felt safe would Iraqis work with Americans and their new government. To facilitate this, the American strategy was a carrot-and-stick approach, with protection and financial benefits only going to tribal leaders who rejected violence.

Iran's Proxy War in Iraq

Iran began planning operations against American forces in Iraq in 2002, some months before the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom that started on March 20, 2003. While their overall strategy and goals are not completely clear, it is clear that they have supplied weapons, fighters, and advisers to the insurgency in Iraq. Iran has supported both Sunni and Shia groups throughout all of Iraq. Iran also supported Ansar al Islam, a Sunni terrorist group tied to al Qaeda, as well as AQI itself. Iranian support increased with time. At the start of the insurgency, Iranian influence was relatively low. By August of 2007 Iranian influence accounted for half of all attacks on Coalition forces.

As such, Coalition attention to the problems posed by Iran was relatively low at first, and only after achieving success against AQI and other insurgent groups did we turn our attention to Iran.

It didn't take any deep intelligence or decryption of encoded documents to detect the Iranian influence. It was stamped on weapon after weapon captured by the Coalition. Everything from the special copper disks on Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFP) to the tail fins of mortars told the tale.

The organizing force in Iran was the Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods(or "Quds") Force (IRGC-QF)(also known as "Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution" or "Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps"). The Qods Force is part of the Revolutionary Guards, and they report directly to the Supreme Leader, who as of this writing is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. From what I can tell, the IRGC is roughly equivalent to the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel). The Qods Force is responsible for exporting the Iranian revolution. Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example, is probably the most important group formed by the Qods Force.

Qods Force and Hezbollah personnel teamed to train Iraqis in groups of twenty to sixty in Iran so that they would function as a unit; hence the term "Special Group," a term given to them by the U.S. military. Hezbollah training of Iraqis in Iran began in 2005. Special Groups usually remained separate, but possibly teamed with JAM for some operations.

Special Groups functioned alongside and in cooperation with JAM and other militia groups. Some of them came from JAM and other militia groups, being their more extreme members. Perhaps the best description is that Special Groups are an "outgrowth" of JAM and other similar groups

It's possible that Iranian support for insurgent groups was simply to create a "quagmire" for U.S. forces so as to divert attention from their operations elsewhere, rather than militarily eject us from the country. It's also possible that they thought they could infiltrate the democratic Iraqi government and get people more sympathetic to their idea of a theocracy in place. Likely they also simply did not want a successful Western-style democracy on their doorstep. Or perhaps they simply had the more limited goal of ensuring that the Baghdad government could not control the southern portion of their country. Most likely of all is some combination of the above. Either way, it was clear that Iranian influence served to undermine the nascent democracy.

The U.S. countered Iranian influence with both a diplomatic and military response. Ambassador Ryan Crocker discussed the situation in direct talks with high ranking Iranian officials, including the Iranian ambassador to Iraq. The military response targeted JAM and Special Forces directly, capturing or killing leaders, breaking up networks, and intercepting arms shipments. These operations met with some success, but Iranian influence continues to be a problem.

Final Thoughts by Kagan

The last of the surge brigades left Iraq in the summer of 2008.

As can be seen by the following chart, the surge clearly worked

Iraq Security Incidents May 2009

As the surge progressed, violence decreased. By late 2007 it was half that of mid-2005. Attack trends dropped 60 percent in Baghdad in 2007. Civilian deaths dropped 70 percent. Iraq dropped off the media's radar, itself a sign of success.

Three U.S. operations were responsible for the success. The first was Faradh al Qanoon (Baghdad Security Plan), in which Gen. Odierno placed surge units in and around the capital. Next came Phantom Thunder, which cleared AQI from the belts around Baghdad. That was followed by Phantom Strike, in which Coalition forces pursued AQI as they fled and attempted to reconstitute.

Iraqis ended up rejecting AQI and other extremist groups. The "Awakening" in Anbar and elsewhere was evidence of this. However, despite what some in the media insinuate, the"Awakening" was not independent of Coalition efforts and did not turn Iraq around by itself. The Awakening would have failed had U.S. leaders such as U.S. Army Col. Sean McFarland, some Marine officers, and Gen Odierno not seized the moment and encouraged and supported it.

Another criticism one hears is that American forces simply bribed insurgents into laying down their arms. While this is true in some cases, it overlooks the larger picture. Most of those insurgents who took money to change sides or go back to civilian life were also "encouraged" to do so by aggressive and successful American military operations.

Gen. Petraeus' U.S. Army / Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 provided the overall theory on how to win, but it didn't get into specifics of what units should be deployed where or precisely how they were to be used. That task was left to Lt. Gen. Odierno, who drew up and oversaw the execution of what was know as the Surge. As Kagan concludes

It was Odierno who creatively adapted sophisticated concepts from conventional fighting to the problems in Iraq, filling gaps in the counterinsurgency doctrine and making the overal effort a success. For all the sophistication of this integrated political-military and kinetic/non-kinetic approach to the conflict, Odierno is likely to be remembered in military history as the man who redefined the operational art of counterinsurgency with a series of offensives in 2007 and 2008.

My Take

One book, and one author, cannot and should not cover everything. Those who may complain because this book does not discuss the domestic or Iraqi politics, or whether it was a good idea to invade Iraq in 2003 or execute the surge miss the point. The fact is that the surge plan worked, and Kagan explains why in this book.

The strongest part of the book is simply that Kagan explains clearly why we failed before the surge, and how the change in strategy coupled with additional troops worked. Although she does not get into the details of counterinsurgency, she discusses it well enough from a higher level so that one gets the idea. If you want to know why we once failed and then succeeded, this is the book for you.

Kagan also does a good job at outlining the various insurgent groups, and how they fought both one another and Coalition troops. Al Qaeda in Iraq, Jaysh al Mahdi, Special Groups, they are more are all there.

This is not to say the work is not without its flaws. There is not much on the commanders, and their decision making process, whether at the division or brigade levels. Discussing units without their commanders seems an omission to me. As someone who watched and blogged on every briefing by a combat commander in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2007 on, I was hoping for more names to appear.

There is also not enough about small-unit counterinsurgency strategy, but perhaps Kagan just decided to concentrate on the "big picture." There are also some grammatical and I think a few errors in word use, no doubt the result of a work rushed into print without enough editing.

All in all, this is a must-read if you want to understand the war in Iraq, especially the surge and why it was successful.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 9, 2010

More Useless Santions on Iran

Haven't we been down this path before? Here we go again:

After nearly half a year of tough negotiations, the United Nations Security Council has endorsed a U.S. sponsored sanctions resolution against Iran over its suspect nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing atomic weapons. ...

The resolution imposes an arms embargo against Iran, blacklists entities controlled by the Islamic Republic Shipping Lines, and freezes the assets of certain individuals and organizations tied to Iran's nuclear program and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It also calls for tighter restrictions on Iranian banks, asking countries to avoid transactions that could be connected to Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

yada yada yada.

resolution here

Even the Washington Post seems to know it's an exercise in futility:

A resilient Iran shields itself from pressure by building alliances
By Thomas Erdbrink and Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010; A01

TEHRAN -- A year ago Iran was on its way to becoming a pariah state. Dozens of governments accused Iranian leaders of stealing the presidential election and condemned the brutal crackdown on protesters that followed. The country faced sanctions and international scorn over its controversial nuclear program.

Now, even as the U.N. Security Council prepares to impose its fourth round of sanctions on Iran with a vote slated for Wednesday, Tehran is demonstrating remarkable resilience, insulating some of its most crucial industries from U.S.-backed financial restrictions and building a formidable diplomatic network that should help it withstand some of the pressure from the West. Iranian leaders are meeting politicians in world capitals from Tokyo to Brussels. They are also signing game-changing energy deals, increasing their economic self-sufficiency and even gaining seats on international bodies.

Iran's ability to navigate such a perilous diplomatic course, analysts say, reflects both Iranian savvy and U.S. shortcomings as up-and-coming global players attempt to challenge U.S. supremacy, and look to Iran as a useful instrument.

I've no time to write my own analysis, but Michael Rubin gets it right and asks the salient question at the end:

Many supporters of Obama's approach to diplomacy are applauding the president for the careful diplomacy that got China and Russia on board for the latest U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Iran. Rather than show the strength of Obama's diplomacy, however, it appears to show its weakness. In order to win Russia's support, for instance, Obama gave the Kremlin concessions involving Georgia, Poland, and the Czech Republic, and also gave Tehran months more to enrich; the Islamic Republic now has enough low-enriched uranium to make sufficient high-enriched uranium for two bombs.

While George W. Bush is lambasted in many quarters for his allegedly Manichean attitudes toward diplomacy, the fact of the matter is that Bush achieved unanimity several times on the Security Council on the Iran issue at far less cost.

Sure, all of the previous U.N. Security Council resolutions were weak: It is near impossible to get a strong, biting resolution out of the Security Council. But it is also clear that this latest resolution won't be enough. So, with Obama already giving up so many U.S. chits, what do we have left to bargain with as we move forward?

The answer is that we have nothing except a preemptive military strike, and it's hard to imagine Obama ordering that. Israel can strike, but they don't have the capabilities to do the damage that needs to be done in order to seriously set back or destroy Iran's nuclear program.

It might not be 1939 yet ,but it's getting close.

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

June 8, 2010

Obama Flails

In this interview our president inadvertently makes clear hehas no idea what he's doing

No doubt the lefties don't see it that way, because he's going to stick it to those evil oil companies! And it's all Bush's fault anyway! Yeah! And Dick Cheney! And probably Halliburton!

President Obama's response has been all politics and no management. He and his followers seem content to blame Bush and use the incident to attack BP, who we are now to believe is the worst company in the world, apparently surpassing Halliburton. Those with long memories, and these days that means over a few weeks, will recall that it wasn't too many years ago that the pharmaceutical industry was public enemy number one. But their usefulness as whipping boys diminished when the Democrats passed ObamaCare, starting us on the road to socialized medicine.

It's not that I think Obama should dive down 5,000 feet and cap the thing himself. Or that he has the technical expertise to figure out how to do it. It's more that the man has shown no real concern for anything other than using the crisis to get in a few good photo ops for himself and bashing the GOP. He's adept at holding White House parties and being serenaded by washed up rock stars but not at taking care of a serious crisis.

Instead of fixing the problem first and afixing blame later, the Obama Administration has proceeded in typical leftist fashion, taking Rahm Emanuel's advice of "never let a serious crisis go to waste." Robert Alt & Brian Walsh have the story:

As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, what the region needs most is the nation's best experts to plug the well and clean up the mess. It doesn't need Justice Department prosecutors threatening criminal charges. Yet that's exactly what it's getting.

The Obama administration has launched a criminal investigation and may prosecute BP and others for their roles in the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig disaster. At best, this is premature. It is also predictable and disturbing.

Buffeted by accusations that President Obama has failed to take decisive action, his administration is seeking shelter from the real issues raised by the oil spill by playing up to the call to "do something." After all, there's nothing like prosecuting someone to show that you are "doing something."

The catastrophe in the Gulf must be taken seriously, which is why the Justice Department shouldn't float the idea of criminal punishment unless and until there's good evidence of actual criminal wrongdoing. The potential civil fines and liability for financial damages alone could be crippling for BP. Dangling the Damocles sword of criminal liability over the heads of those who are now trying to contain the spill only multiplies the difficulties of the tasks they face. It puts the fear of incarceration and personal destruction upon people who, so far as anyone knows, have tried hard to comply with the (often conflicting) requirements of the thousands of federal laws, rules, and regulations that govern oil exploration.

As the Wall Street Journal reported recently, Attorney General Eric Holder "declined to specify the target of the investigation because he said authorities aren't 'clear on who should ultimately be held liable.'"

This is criminal prosecution as fishing expedition -- scouring the federal code to find anything that might possibly work to provide criminal penalties. That's counterproductive to the number-one priority, which must be stopping and containing the oil spill. Announcing criminal investigations to score political points or stave off political damage is an abuse of one of the most awesome powers of the state, the power to deprive an individual of his or her personal liberty."

The purpose of the Obama-Holder investigation is not to find fault as traditionally defined. It is to 1) divert attention from Obama's own incompetence, and 2) use this crisis as an excuse to over-regulate the hated oil industry. Of course Obama and Holder are abusing the Department of Justice to achieve a political goal; it's who they are.

And let's be clear by what I mean "over-regulation." We're not talking safety, folks. That's not what the Obama Administration has in mind. We're talking de facto control of private enterprise, government ownership in everything but name. Obama has made clear his utter contempt for the private sector, and his desire for redistribution of wealth to anyone who bothers to listen to him. This is just one more step towards his goal.

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

June 4, 2010

Let There Be No Doubt...

... as to where I stand

Israel Flag House June 2010

This shouldn't surprise any of my neighbors, who from yard signs know I'm a conservative Republican. And generally I'm not "in your face" about things, and I don't bring up politics at work or when around people when I'm not familiar with their sympathies. I take candidate bumper stickers off my car when the election is over. But there come certain issues where the situation is so out of hand that you have to take a stand and let everyone know what you see as right and wrong. Now is one of those times

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June 3, 2010

Whatever Happened to Turkey?

It wasn't that many years ago when I thought Turkey might play an important role in a Muslim Reformation. Alone among Muslim nations, it was secular, almost militantly so. I'm no expert on Turkish history, but I know enough to know that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk moved the country away from what we today call Islamism and towards a European model. Seeing how the Arab secular alternative was Ba'athism, Kemalism, for all it's faults, looked pretty good to me.

No more. While I only follow Turkish politics peripherally, scanning the occasional blurb in the newspaper or website, what I did read was disturbing. There was no mistaking the rise of Islamism. The current ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP in the Turkish initials) was usually described as "conservative" in the press, which for most of the msm means "we don't like them."

So while I've been disturbed by what's happening in Turkey for awhile, never did I imagine that it's leaders would bring themselves to approve or even encourage the organization of the "peace flotilla." But that is exactly what happened. And although I figured they might tut-tut over Israeli actions, I never thought that they'd condemn Israel the way they have. Silly me.

So when I read thatTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan describes the interception of the "peace flotilla as "This bloody massacre by Israel on ships that were taking humanitarian aid to Gaza deserves every kind of curse," and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto─člu says "Psychologically this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey because Turkish citizens were attacked by a state, not by terrorists, with an intention, a clear decision of political leaders of that state," I was somewhat taken aback.

Robert Pollack has a must-read piece in the Wall Street Journal about Turkey's "national decline into madness." Excerpts follow, but read the whole thing:

Israeli special forces and their commanders were apparently shocked to find their boarding attempt on the Mavi ("Blue") Marmara met with violence. They should not have been. I have no doubt that the Turkish "peace activists" aboard the ship regarded Israeli troops as something akin to the second coming of Hitler's SS.

To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness. Imagine 80 million or so people sitting at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. They don't speak an Indo-European language and perhaps hundreds of thousands of them have meaningful access to any outside media. What information most of them get is filtered through a secular press that makes Italian communists look right wing by comparison and an increasing number of state (i.e., Islamist) influenced outfits. Topics A and B (or B and A, it doesn't really matter) have been the malign influence on the world of Israel and the United States.

For example, while there was much hand-wringing in our own media about "Who lost Turkey?" when U.S. forces were denied entry to Iraq from the north in 2003, no such introspection was evident in Ankara and Istanbul. Instead, Turks were fed a steady diet of imagined atrocities perpetrated by U.S. forces in Iraq, often with the implication that they were acting as muscle for the Jews....

There can be little doubt the Turkish flotilla that challenged the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza was organized with his approval, if not encouragement. Mr. Erodogan's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is a proponent of a philosophy which calls on Turkey to loosen Western ties to the U.S., NATO and the European Union and seek its own sphere of influence to the east. Turkey's recent deal to help Iran enrich uranium should come as no surprise.

The obvious answer to the question of "Who lost Turkey?"--the Western-oriented Turkey, that is--is the Turks did. The outstanding question is how much damage they'll do to regional peace going forward.

Considering this article, Gabriel Schoenfeld at The Weekly Standard concludes that

The reaction of the democratic world to the Gaza flotilla debacle suggests that the barbarians are making impressive headway. The outpouring of condemnation from Europe--so outsized, so hypocritical, so ready to ignore the plain truths evident in the videos of the incident, so ready to pounce on embattled Israel--truly does reveal a world gone mad--the headline of a Jennifer Rubin post over at Contentions. One hopes that we are not yet in 1939. But we are unquestionably somewhere in the 1930s, a decade in which few and lonely voices were willing even to recognize the looming catastrophe.

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June 2, 2010

Israel and the Big Lie of the "Peace Flotilla"

This was predictable:

U.S. urged Israel to use caution and restraint with aid boats heading to Gaza
The Washington Post
By Scott Wilson and Glenn Kessler
Thursday, June 3, 2010; A01

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it had warned Israel's government repeatedly to use "caution and restraint" with half a dozen aid boats bound for the Gaza Strip before Israeli commandos raided the flotilla this week in an operation that killed nine people.

"We communicated with Israel through multiple channels many times regarding the flotilla," P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement issued in response to a question from The Washington Post. "We emphasized caution and restraint given the anticipated presence of civilians, including American citizens."

Yes yes, Israel must "exercise restraint." You could have written this before anything had ever happened. Israel must always "exercise restraint." No one ever asks the terrorists Palestinians or their terrorist enabling supporters to "exercise restraint."

Richard Fernandez' post at the Belmont Club seemed to sum up the moral confusion of the anti-Israel crowd nicely:

Never mind what the press or the diplomats say happened, the above is what happened. The Times Online reports that "Security Council members, who had broken off from their spring holiday to hold an emergency session prepared a draft document calling on Israel to lift its blockade and immediately release the ships and hundreds of international activists arrested on board them. " That some of the "peace activists" were members of the Islan Haklary Ve Hurriyetleri Vakfi, itself an organization of ill-repute, is irrelevant. Nothing must get in the way of the narrative, the facts least of all. But the reason anyone should care about the gap between reality and conventional wisdom has nothing to do with what one may think of Israel. The main reason to worry is that it illustrates the Western addiction to fiction, an addiction which sooner or later will have practical consequences. That addiction was also being pandered to on the other side of the world. ...

As a result, any moderately well informed individual knows that there is no Islamic extremism, nor even terrorism. There are only man made disasters. Everybody knows that we can borrow our way out of debt, that the welfare state is the sustainable wave of the future; that Egypt has no border with Gaza through which it can provide supplies if it wanted; that the UN has kept Hezbollah from importing hundreds of missiles into Lebanon; that the thought of a handful of Jews has kept hundreds of millions of oil-rich Muslims from attaining prosperity; and that Global Warming is the main danger facing the planet Earth. That these assertions are untrue hardly matters; that they are indisputable is what seems to count. For who shall dispute them?

Reality might. And therein lies the problem.

Here's what is going to happen with one hundred percent certainty. All of these lies will explode with considerable force in the faces of political establishment. Nothing can prevent it. Just as reality eventually exposed the hollowness of the financial bubble and showed that nothing was "too big to fail," eventually it will demonstrate to our extreme cost, that no lie can be maintained forever. That is the real reason anyone should really care about what happened on the "peace flotilla." We are as corrupt as a preacher in a whorehouse. It ain't what we don't know that will hurt us, it's what we know that ain't so that will drive the dagger into our hearts.

Indeed they will all be exposed as lies sooner or later. I just hope not too much damage is done before they are.

Call me biased if you will, but I'm going to take the rest of this post with videos and commentary from the website of the Israeli Defense Forces. Just as I would take commentary from the Allies over the Nazis during World War II.

Video Footage: Flotilla Activists Getting Ready to Attack IDF Soldiers

02 June 2010 , 22:17

The Mavi Marmara's security camera recorded a video displaying the "peace activists" getting prepared to welcome IDF soldiers.

While the soldiers of the Shayetet Naval Special Forces are approaching the Mavi Marmara ship, the "peace activists" are getting prepared to welcome them. In this special video recorded by the ship's security camera, we can see the way they equip themselves: clubs, pipes, glass and metal bottles. This was recorded a few minutes before they started attacking the IDF soldiers in a violent and uncontrolled way.

Breaking Footage from Mavi Marmara interception

02 June 2010 , 14:53

Video shows what took place as IDF soldiers intercepted the Mavi Marmara ship and were attacked by its passengers

Video footage shows Shayetet Naval Special Forces attempting to intercept the Mavi Marmara ship which is part of the Gaza flotilla. Passengers on board are seen throwing chains, metal pipes and a stun grenade at the soldiers while attacking them with water hoses. The passengers later use the same metal pipes to beat the soldiers who boarded the Marmara. The soldiers can be seen armed with paintball guns, to be used as a means of riot dispersal.

Five other ships arrived to the area with the flotilla, however IDF interception took place with no incident. The passengers on board these other ships cooperated nonviolently with IDF soldiers and there were no injuries

Hamas Refuses to Allow Flotilla Aid into Gaza Strip

02 June 2010 , 20:42

CoGAT reports that Hamas did not allow today the transfer of the cargo brought on the flotilla to Gaza's residents

As of right now, the State of Israel has loaded 25 trucks with various types of aid found onboard the flotilla. Expired medication, clothing, blankets, some medical equipment and toys were among the aid found on the ships. Some humanitarian aid is still waiting at the port of Ashdod. The CoGAT is acting in coordination with international aid organizations operating in the Gaza Strip which are waiting for the transfer of the cargo on the other side of the border.

Unfortunately, the Hamas terror organization is unwilling to accept the cargo and the trucks filled with humanitarian aid have not been allowed to enter the Gaza Strip. It appears that Hamas is in fact stopping the transfer of the humanitarian aid. Hamas did not explain his opposition to the transfer of the aid.

The Ministry of Defense and the IDF allow the crossing of goods and equipment in a routine and frequent manner, and enable the transfer of people for medical, religious, welfare, business or diplomatic reasons. About a hundred of trucks containing aid are delivered everyday by the IDF. In the first quarter of the year 2010, 95,000 tons of supplies and 1068 tons of medicines and medical equipment were transferred in about 4,000 trucks. Also, at the time of swine flu epidemic fear, three Israelis hospitals were designated to treat patients from Gaza and 44,500 vaccinations were delivered into the Gaza Strip.

The State of Israel seeks to achieve regional stability and protection of her citizens. It is not in the interest of Israel to harm the people of Gaza and the state does its utmost to assist aid efforts, so as not to harm the quality of life for the residents of Gaza. Hamas, in its continued efforts to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip, harms the people of Gaza and undermines further development. Despite these ever-present security threats, the IDF continues to allow the transfer of commercial goods, building materials, and medical equipment into Gaza.

Supply of weapons discovered on board Mavi Marmara ship

01 June 2010 , 01:15

After passengers on board the Mavi Marmara departed the ship at the Ashdod port, security forces began checking the boat and found a cache of weapons on board.

Arnon Ben-Dror

After IDF soldiers succeeded in stopping the attack against them by passengers on board the Mavi Marmara ship, the ship was brought to the Ashdod port and arrived in the late hours of Monday evening (May 31). Flotilla participants were brought off the ship and taken for questioning.

Once the activists left the ship, security forces began a thorough search and found a supply of weapons, including knives, Molotov cocktails, detonators, wood and metal clubs, slingshots and rocks, large hammers and sharp metal objects. In addition, gas masks were found, pointing to the prior intention of the ship's passengers to use violence against IDF soldiers who would then be forced to use riot dispersal methods.

The IDF has gotten a lot better over the past few years with it's information campaign. They did lousy in the war against Hizbollah in 2006, but much better in 2008-9 against Hamas in Gaza. This time they've added much more video, and to anyone interested in the truth the effect is devastating. Sadly, much of the world prefers a lie.

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"Humanitarian" Relief Flotilla My Foot

The "international condemnation" of Israel's stopping the "humanitarian relief flotilla" is driving me nuts. There is nothing that so illustrates the moral bankruptcy of so many people as just about any confrontation between democratic Israel and terrorist-jihadist Muslims.

I've been so busy I haven't had time to blog much, but a few quick notes are in order because this situation is so insane.

This situation, like so many others, was a no-win for Israel. If they had not stopped the ships, it would have been portrayed as a victory for Hamas by all those who hate Israel. Even if these first six ships weren't carrying weapons, the next ones would be. But since they did stop the ships, there is an "international outcry" against Israel's use of "disproportionate force" blah blah blah.

One of the primary organizers behind the "relief ships" is the Turkish organization Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH, must be Turkish initials). Among other things, the IHH was identified by the CIA in 1996 as being tied to terrorism through linkis to Iran. French magistrate Jean-Louis Brugiere determined that the IHH played an "important role" in the 1999 Los Angeles "millennium plot" organized by al Qaeda that thankfully failed. But you've read all this elsewhere by now so none of that is a big surprise.

You've also read that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is quite true. Israel allows anyone who wants to send humanitarian supplies to Gaza if they simply dock their ship in Israel, allow the goods to be inspected, and then sends them to Gaza by truck.

But of course these six ships weren't about relief. They were about the destruction of Israel. The goal was to delegitimize the state of Israel by creating the no-win situation described above.

Thankfully, most Democrats as well as Republicans in the United States see this for what it is, a shameful attempt by Islamists so destroy Israel. In January 2009 both houses of Congress issued strong bipartisan statements of support for Israel in their current war with Hamas. I'm sure President Obama will support Israel. A few on the far left and far right will say otherwise, but they're in the minority.

Unfortunately we cannot say the same for many in the rest of the world. They seem to be afflicted with either outright anti-Semitism, moral blindness, or both.

A few quick excerpts from various articles and then I've got to run off to work. First up is a post over at Powerline that's got some great links:

Those manning the Turkish Hamas flotilla seeking to run the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza were no fools. They knew exactly what they were doing -- see Jonathan Schanzer's "The terror finance flotilla" -- and they accomplished their mission in part.

The fools weren't on the ship. The fools are on dry land, as can be deduced from the ship-of-fools quality to the response to Israel's encounter with the flotilla. See Wesley Pruden's "A shocking story of Israeli survival" and Caroline Glick's "Ending Israel's losing streak." See also Mona Charen's "Flotillas and falsehoods" (query: "Don't members of the press ever resent being so used?") and David Hornik's "World regrets death of jihadists, vilifies Israel." For a footnote involving the New York Times, see Seth Lipsky's "Mavi Marmara and the Exodus."

Claudia Rosette has more on the Turkish IHH:

For details on what led a French magistrate in the 1990s to explore IHH connections to terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, a piece of required reading is a working paper released in 2006 by the Danish Institute for International Studies: "The Role of Islamic Charities in International Terrorist Recruitment and Financing." The entire report is illuminating, but for the section on the IHH, scroll to pages 10-14. When this report was written, the IHH was active in providing "charitable donations" to what were then "rebel-dominated areas of restive Sunni central Iraq."

Not too long ago I naively thought that Turkey could lead the way, or at least play a role, in the reform of Islam that is so desperately needed. But the Turkey of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is going, going..... It is dying a death of demographics (his secular supporters in the cities are being out-babied by those more inclined towards radicalism) and the general rise of Islamism around the Muslim world.

Victor Davis Hanson has more:

The virulent worldwide reaction to Israeli's handling of the Gaza flotilla has been quite instructive. The bankrupt Greeks, for example, are taking a holiday from railing at the Germans to demonstrate in solidarity with the Turkish-organized Gaza effort, which puts them on the same side as those whose government supports the occupation of much of Greek-speaking Cyprus and its divided capital.

No one in Europe worried much about the constant shower of missiles from Gaza in the past. No one in Europe said a word when North Korea torpedoed and slaughtered South Koreans on the high seas. No one objected when the Iranians hijacked a British ship and humiliated the hostages.

We ourselves seem to be getting a sort of novel pass for executing scores of suspected terrorists -- and anyone in their vicinity -- in our new, stepped-up Predator drone assassinations.

But the Western and Islamic worlds have a preexisting furor at the Jewish state that can be tapped at will by almost any pro-radical-Palestinian group clever enough to do proper P.R. after a desired asymmetrical confrontation. The fallout from Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, the distortions around the 2002 terrorist storming of the Church of Nativity, the 2006 Lebanon war -- over time, these incidents do their part, in weird fashion, to incur hatred for a liberal democracy while creating sympathy for a theocratic thugocracy like Hamas.

What explains this preexisting hatred, which ensures denunciation of Israel in the most rabid -- or, to use the politically correct parlance, "disproportionate" -- terms? It is not about "occupied land," given the millions of square miles worldwide that are presently occupied, from Georgia to Cyprus to Tibet. It is not a divided capital -- Nicosia is walled off. It is not an overreaction in the use of force per se -- the Russians flattened Grozny and killed tens of thousands while the world snoozed. And it cannot be the scale of violence, given what we see hourly in Pakistan, Darfur, and the Congo. And, given the Armenian, Greek, and Kurdish histories (and reactions to them), the currently outraged Turkish government is surely not a credible referent on the topic of disproportionate violence.

Perhaps the outrage reflects simple realpolitik -- 350 million Arab Muslims versus 7 million Israelis. Perhaps it is oil: half the world's reserves versus Israel's nada. Perhaps it is the fear of terror: Draw a cartoon or write a novel offending Islam, and you must go into hiding; defame Jews and earn accolades. Perhaps it is anti-Semitism, which is as fashionable on the academic Left as it used to be among the neanderthal Right.

Perhaps there is also a new sense that the United States at last has fallen into line with the Western consensus, and so is hardly likely to play the old lone-wolf supporter of Israel in the press or at the U.N.

At this point, it doesn't much matter -- as this latest hysterical reaction reminds us, much of the world not only sides with Israel's enemies but sides with them to such a degree as to suggest that, in any existential moment to come, the world either will be indifferent or will be on the side of Israeli's enemies.

Quite frightening, when you think of it.

Indeed. I feel a big war coming on in the Middle East, one that will make the recent ones against Hizbollah and Hamas look like small potatoes. No matter how it starts or proceeds, the "international community" will be against Israel. Any U.S. president will support Israel, but whether he does so strongly or tepidly remains to be seen. Even Reagan criticized Israel for it's 1981 attack on the French-built nuclear power plant in Osirak, Iraq, even though it should have been clear at the time that Saddam Hussein was going to use it to build nuclear weapons.

I have relatives of Greek extraction, and they are very worried about Turkey, a worry that wasn't quite as intense not too many years ago. The forces of evil are aligning in a very malign way. The growing influence of radical Islam in Europe, Ahmadinejad's bogus reelection and the coming Iranian bomb, Hugo Chavez' consolidation of power in Venezuela, the Turkish-Brazilian-Iranian nuclear agreement, even the incessant Chinese military buildup seem part of an aligning of forces against the United States and Israel. Is it 1939 again?

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