Saturday, August 31, 2002

Screwed Up Priorities

Germany has told the United States it will withhold evidence against Sept. 11 conspiracy defendant Zacarias Moussaoui unless it receives assurances that the material won't be used to secure a death penalty against him, Germany's justice minister said in remarks released Saturday.

This article is nice, isn’t it? Moussaoui is part of a conspiracy that killed 3,000 people, toppled the Twin Towers, smashed into the Pentagon, and only saw failure over Pennsylvania.

The Germans are upset this charming fellow could die as punishment.

What kind of scum are the Germans to balance his life against the lives we lost? And then judge his superior?

I strive mightily to convince myself that the Europeans are our friends. I try to keep in mind all that we have in common. I try to remember our shared struggles in the past. I try. I really do. But then somebody does something like this to just slap me in the face and remind me of how alien their minds are. More and more, as they just screw us over, I begin to think of them more as non-enemies. I enlisted in the military believing I might be needed to fight in Europe to protect them (I use the term "fight" loosely as I was just a radio operator). My faith in their friendship for us is eroded every time a politician speaks or I read an editorial column from there. I try to hope that ordinary Europeans think better of us. Won’t somebody over there at least try to show us you think us worthy of being a friend?

Friday, August 30, 2002


The September 11 killers began planning their attacks in 1999 and settled on their targets in early 2000. I hope this ends the ridiculous accusation that somehow the “disengagement” of the United States in the Palestinian issue drove the bombers to attack us in despair that we would ever solve the problem. Indeed, as the United States desperately sought to bring the Israelis and the PLO together in a deal that even now Arafat says he would accept, nobody raised a motion to cancel the plans given the unprecedented engagement of the United States as it sought to compel an agreement before 2000 ended.

Their hate had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue except as a useful means of whipping up already existing hatred even further. So let us at least agree that solving the Palestinian problem before we take on Iraq is hardly necessary. Certainly, Saddam thinks so, which is why he pays the families of suicide bombers a princely sum to kill civilians. Why support his plan to stall us and support his incitement to murder by agreeing with him? Our enemies (and I am not talking about the entire Islamic world here) hate us and nothing we can do will make them like us. Kill the Islamist terrorists and take down the terror states. Maybe if we put out our own counter proposal that we will only deal with the Palestinian issue until Iraq is freed of that Tikriti madman, we would get the support the current “PLO-firsters” insist on getting.

On to Baghdad.

Why We Fight

One author comes out against showing the images of September 11 on the one-year anniversary of the attacks. He wants us to move on and heal ourselves:

[D]rifting away might be the psychological distancing that is a natural and essential part of the painful process of grieving and healing. Mr. Brokaw said viewers could be warned that the coverage might be upsetting. That's not all the networks and cable news stations could do; they should make the editorial decision not to use this footage, which is still profoundly disturbing. Replaying those scenes does not serve a news purpose. There is no reason to think that anyone has forgotten what happened in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania a year ago.

The author goes on to say that the constant replaying of the impact “brutalized” viewers in the days after September 11 and served no journalistic purpose.

Perhaps journalistically, he has a point. But if he thinks there is no purpose at all, I disagree strongly. Should the networks display some restraint? Sure, there is probably no reason to show it over and over, all day. There is obviously some dividing line between appropriate and awful. But I’ll personally cut them some slack if they make a mistake as to where that line is. I won’t be watching the news channels that day lest my young son see all this. But refuse to use the footage? No, the networks should use it. Remind Americans why we are fighting and why it is outrageous to complain about the well being the al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners held in Cuba by our Armed Forces. We treat them nicely and far more compassionately than they deserve.

Remind Americans why we must continue to seek out and attack our enemies until they are dead or imprisoned. Or until they give up in the knowledge that it is hopeless to fight our power. Remind Americans and our allies overseas of what horrible carnage terrorists could inflict using nothing but box cutters and limitless hate for us. What weapon would they not use if they could get their hands on it; and is it really over-reacting to prevent them from getting such weapons?

The author says that one day it may be appropriate to look at the images again, after we have healed. But I think the time to view those images is now. The time to move on and heal is after we have won. After we can take our children to a public place or large event and not worry that we might be attacked, then we can move on. After our airports are places where we eagerly anticipate our vacation or feel at home returning from a trip, rather than places of apprehension, then we can move on.

We can move on when our enemies are dead and defeated.

One day, it will be appropriate to distance ourselves from the memories of that horrible day and grieve and heal. We are far from that day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002


Some opponents of war against Iraq, and perhaps some who favor it, are adamant that America can strike only if the UN Security Council authorizes the attack and if Congress authorizes war.

As a general principal on the Iraq question, I think we can still take action under the original Security Council authorization to eject Iraq form Kuwait and restore peace. Likewise, Congress authorized war and we have never formally ended that war. For both Congress and the Security Council, the ceasefire has only suspended hostilities.

If Congress wishes to, and if they have the cojones, they can exercise the power of the purse and forbid the President from spending money to fight Iraq. Or Congress can repeal the act authorizing military action against Iraq. If opponents of waging war are serious, they don't have to wait for the President to request a declaration of war. Nor does Congress have to sit and wait for the President to launch an attack before objecting. Congress has options it can initiate right now. The Security Council, on the other hand, is helpless to repeal its authorization due to our veto. Oh well.

That said, we can ignore the UN and still work diplomacy to gain as much support as we can. Congress is another matter. Though I do not believe we need Congressional authorization from a legal standpoint, Congress should declare war to demonstrate our resolve and to steel us for battle. As has been said, we don't do sneak attacks. We can't get strategic surprise in any case so why worry about it? (And it might do wonders to cripple Iraqi troop morale if they see the Green Machine coming months in advance of an invasion)

My main point is to object to the incomprehensible fetish for the legal niceties that so many insist we follow before we can so much as say "boo" to the Iraqis. Why should Iraq get the protections of the international community when Iraq has flouted those rules? Did Iraq get Security Council approval for their invasion of Kuwait in 1990? That was quite the regime change, if temporary. And what did Kuwait do to deserve this? They failed to submit to the shakedown for their lunch money that Saddam demanded. And what of 1980? Again, Iraq hardly sought Security Council approval before they invaded Iran and attempted to dismember Iran. Here at least, Iraq had a case to make. Iranian subversion, terrorism, and murder in Iraq were certainly hostile acts. Yet Iran was hardly about to invade Iraq. And the Iranians loudly proclaimed their support for the Palestinians while condemning the Iraqis as a lesser "Satan." And the Arab world quietly backed Iraq (except for Syria and, for a while, Libya) against Moslem Iran.

Hey! I think we can cite the Iraq precedent of 1980 for our invasion! Thanks Saddam! You're a gem! See you in Baghdad. We're coming.


Is the Chancellor not listening to us? What on earth is he talking about when he proclaims his surprise that it seems it is no longer American policy to pursue futile UN inspections and instead we want to overthrow Saddam Hussein? Schroeder and the other Euros have been protesting an invasion so much that they seem to have forgotten why they are protesting so much. Yes, we will attack and overthrow Saddam Hussein.

But Euro hope springs eternal. According to the article:

European governments, including America 's closest ally, Britain , have emphasized international pressure, including the threat of force, to make Iraq comply with United Nations resolutions and to allow unfettered arms inspections.

But the constant surrender offers by the Euros tell Saddam that the threat of force will always be just that—a threat. And given the enthusiasm of Euros protesting our planned invasion, the threat is not even taken seriously. At least not a European threat. What are they going to do to the Iraqis, bleed on them? Honestly, for a continent that likes to lecture us on our simplicity, their ignorance of the basic requirements of making somebody believe your threats is mind boggling. I’d sooner expect bunnies and kittens to drop from C-130s and topple Saddam.

Our threat is real because we will invade. The Euros would convene a conference or something and maybe, after 6 months of study, mildly reproach Iraq. And then sign a ten-year, $20 billion trade agreement.

For the last time, no, we will not be satisfied with sham inspections that rely on the good will of UN inspectors and the good will and cooperation of Saddam Hussein.

Are we clear on this? Remember Euros,you are protesting because you are unhappy we will invade Iraq. Understand? Oh, and we will win and save your hides too. You will be possibly even more unhappy about that development. We are clear on that point.

Oh, and one more thing: we will remember that you seem more concerned about Saddam’s fate than ours.

On to Baghdad.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Our Soldiers

I watched "We Were Soldiers" last night. My son is safely asleep upstairs. Mister is only 5-1/2. I know others younger than him know about September 11, but I have hid that from him. I never watch news of the war when he is awake. I never let him see the images of planes slamming into the World Trade Center. He loves planes and airports and I can’t take that innocent joy away from him and replace it with questions about how somebody could do that. Once, when Mister was playing, he showed me on the globe where his trains went—it was Afghanistan. I paused when I saw where he pointed. I just matter-of-factly told him that American soldiers were there getting some bad guys that had hurt us.

And as I shield my son from this war, I noted a couple months ago a certain Army officer taking command of a parachute battalion in Italy. I met him in 1997. We were both presenting papers at an Army convention. We showed each other our pictures. Me of my son and he of his children. His wife was there in the audience to watch him. My son was nine months old and I’d never been away from him up until then. Now this officer is in Italy, during war, probably away from his children for the Nth time since I saw him. It is routine for him and his children. I have no words to thank him for what he is doing for me, and for letting my child sleep in peace, unaware of the danger. That officer and so many other soldiers. Ours is a married military and children losing fathers and mothers will be routine. Yet still they go!

And when I think of our military and what it has done so far and what it will do in Iraq and elsewhere, my disgust for the Europeans grows. We are protecting them as we protect ourselves, and they haven’t the decency to hang their heads in shame for standing aside as we do the dirty work. As our soldiers die, leaving their children to grow up with a folded flag in the place of their father or mother, the Europeans equate what we our doing in our own defense with the inhuman pieces of living garbage who have sworn to kill us and who have already sent 3,000 to their graves.

Europe is nothing to me. After decades of standing beside them in the face of the threat of nuclear devastation, now they walk away. They cried for us when we were victims in the days after September 11, but now that we fight and win they have dried their tears and condemn us. Europe would die at the hands of our enemies and still apologize for offending the hands that killed them, even in their last breath. We shall fight. And we shall win.

And in fifty years, we will fight and beat the European Union bureaucratic dictatorship that will evolve. In so many ways, they are declaring loud and clear that they are against us and not with us. Shoot, we’re the only evil they see worthy of fighting. I’m just getting tired of fighting for them. And we will beat them too. I hope the British will be with us in that war. I trust they will be with us in this one.

I hope the European friends we do have can rouse their fellow Europeans from their fear-induced inaction before they are too far gone to recover. I cannot understand how they can refuse to fight for a good cause. Our cause! And if fighting these barbarians is not a good cause, what is? Are they incapable of anger over anything more significant than the Kyoto Treaty?

In regard to the Europeans, Andrew Sullivan put it well and I can do no better than to post his letter to Europe in full:

Memo to Europe:

Grow up on Iraq

This summer of phony war looks even weirder when you compare the European and American press. In London and Paris, Berlin and Brussels, the papers are full of speculation about war with Iraq. There are demands that parliament be recalled; there are rumors of potential cabinet resignations; there are secret polls showing the enormous unpopularity of George Bush among Britons. In Germany, the Chancellor is even making opposition to war a key plank of his re-election campaign. But in the imperial capital, thousands of miles away, a strange calm prevails. The Senate has just held hearings on a potential war against Saddam, but the administration says it is not yet ready to give testimony. Congress is in recess. The president has gone to Texas. Many Americans are on vacation. Newspapers are covering the issue, but it has yet to rise to an actual, impassioned, substantive debate. And there's little mystery why. Despite the efforts of anti-war newspapers such as the New York Times, polls consistently show somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of Americans support war. The president has rhetorically committed himself to such an outcome. Privately no one close to the administration doubts it will take place - probably this winter. Americans are not blithe about this war: it will be their sons and daughters who die in it. But neither are they prepared to ignore a threat to the West as dangerous as any we have faced.

And American response to European panic and resistance? It's perhaps best summed up by a slightly impatient sigh. "Europeans Queasy About American Power" is not exactly a shocking headline any more. It simply isn't news that the Guardian opposes the use of arms to pre-empt the re-emergence of one of the most evil and dangerous regimes in the world. It isn't news that the EU, as represented by Chris Patten, prefers to subsidize Palestinian terror rather than fret about the possible Iraqi use of biological weapons. American eyes simply glaze over at this habitual pattern of European denial and protest. If Europeans opposed even the war in Afghanistan, what chance is there they will support war against Iraq? Americans have seen it before. They'll see it again. Meanwhile, they have work to do.

But, at a deeper and more worrying level, it's increasingly true that many Americans simply don't care any more. They are used to Europeans instinctually opposing any use of military force; and they are used to reflexive (and often hypocritical) anti-Americanism from the European center and left. But added to this is a relatively new and unanswerable factor: why on earth, apart from good manners, should Americans care about what Europe thinks? Yes, diplomacy demands courtesy and "listening." But it's not at all clear what else it requires. Militarily, Europe is a dud, and well on its way to becoming a complete irrelevance. With the sole exception of Britain, the Europeans have contributed a minuscule amount of the money and manpower to defang (but not yet defeat) al Qaeda. They couldn't even muster enough initiative and coordination to prevent another genocide in their own continent in the 1990s. They have cut their defense spending to such an extent that, with the exception of Britain, they are virtually useless as military allies. And these cuts in military spending are continuing - even after September 11. If a person who refuses to lock his door at night starts complaining about the only cop on the beat, sane people should wonder what has happened to his grip on reality. Does he actually want to be
robbed or murdered? Similarly, it is one thing for Europeans to say that they are ceding all military responsibility to maintain international order to the United States. It is quite another for Europeans to then object when the United States takes the Europeans at their word and acts to defend that world order.

And the need for such order has not been abolished in the last decade. The world is still a terrifyingly dangerous place - perhaps, with the advance of destructive technology, more dangerous than at any time in the past. It was once impossible to conceive that radical terrorists could acquire the capacity to destroy an entire city like New York or Rome. But they are now on the verge of that capacity, and last September demonstrated to the world that they would show no hesitation in using it. An average, bewildered American therefore feels like asking of nervous Europeans: just what about September 11 do you not understand? These murderous fanatics could not have been clearer about their intent and capabilities. They want to kill you and destroy your civilization. This must change the prudential equation when faced with a menace like Saddam Hussein. When a tyrant like Saddam is doing all he can to acquirre biological, cehmical and nuclear weapons, when he has already invaded a neighboring state, when he has used chemical weapons against his own people, when he is subsidizing terror elsewhere in the Middle East, when he has extensive ties to Islamist terrorist groups around the world, doesn't the benefit of the doubt shift toward those who aim to disarm and dethrone him? And doesn't the mass grave of 3,000 Americans in the middle of New York City change the equation just a little?

This is the core of Americans' puzzlement about not just European vacillation but passionate opposition to taking on Saddam. When religious leaders actually argue that the United States is more moraly troubling than a butcher who has gassed his own people and waged wars of incalculable human cost, then you know some moral bearings have been lost. You know that the forces of appeasement and moral equivalence are as powerful today as they were in the 1970s when faced with Soviet evil and the 1930s when faced with Nazi evil. In this regard, it is useful to compare the response of Russia and Britain, with the official EU and widespread European hostility to the use of American force in the world. Both Russia and Britain provided key aid in the Afghanistan mission and both governments have been supportive of American concerns over Iraq. Both countries are acting as if they too have a responsibility to counter international terrorism and to sever its umbilical link to rogue states like Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Russia, Britain and America may disagree on some matters - their interests won't always coincide. But they share a common understanding of the threat we all face and have found a practical response to it. This is the difference between cooperating and mere whining. And it's a difference Washington appreciates.

In contrast, the Europe-wide hostility to American power and ingratitude for the Afghanistan campaign are bewildering. It's worth repeating an obvious fact: If it were not for America, al Qaeda, with support from Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Hamas, would still be ensconced in Afghanistan, planning new and more deadly attacks against the West. If it weren't for America, it is a virtual certainty that London and Paris would have by now experienced similarly catastrophic events as September 11. If it weren't for America, militarized fundamentalist Islam would, with the help of millions of Islamist immigrants, be gaining even more strength in Continental Europe. Yet European response to America's world-saving Afghanistan mission has not been thanks, appreciation or support. It has been increased criticism of the United States for seeking to continue the job in Iraq and elsewhere. At times, it even seems that Europeans believe that America's self-defense is more of a problem for world order than terrorist groups, aided by local tyrants like Saddam, coming close to acquiring weapons of mass destruction. On this score, many Americans don't just differ with many Europeans, they are repulsed by their inverted logic and moral delinquency. And they have a point. In a recent essay in National Review, a conservative magazine, Victor Davis Hanson summed up a common American view toward European complainers:

"Iraq? Stay put — we don't necessarily need or desire your help. The Middle East? Shame on you, not us, for financing the terrorists on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority and Israel? You helped to fund a terrorist clique; we, a democracy — go figure. Racism? Arabs are safer in America than Jews are in Europe. That 200,000 were butchered in Bosnia and Kosovo a few hours from Rome and Berlin is a stain on you, the inactive, not us, the interventionist. Capital punishment? Our government has executed terrorists; yours have freed them. Do the moral calculus."

Israel, of course, plays a central role in this divide. It is still shocking to read, say, the BBC's accounts of what is happening in Israel and the West Bank, compared with even the most pro-Palestinian of major media in America. It is almost a given in the European media that Israel is the problem, Israel the aggressor, Israel the immoral protagonist in the conflict. To read the Independent or the Daily Mirror is to see a world where Israel is always guilty until proved innocent - in Jenin, for example, where the Independent declared a war crime before any real evidence had been presented. The fact that Israel is a democracy, while there is not a single democracy in the entire Arab world, is ignored. The fact that Israel exists in part because of Europe's legacy of genocidal anti-Semitism is also conveniently forgotten. The fact that Israel occupies the West Bank out of self-defense in the 1967 war is also expunged from memory. The incidental killing of civilians in Israel's acts of military self-defense are routinely regarded as morally equivalent to the deliberate targeting of civilians by Palestinian terrorists. And the routine, vile, Nazi-like hatred of Jews, an anti-Semitism that is now a key part of the governing ideology of the Arab states, is simply ignored, or down-played or denied.

When Americans see these double-standards, when they witness reflexive hostility to Israel in the European media, they naturally wonder if anti-Semitism, Europe's indigenous form of hate, isn't somehow behind it. And when Europeans respond with outrage toward this inference, it only compounds the problem. We're not anti-Semitic, we're anti-Israel, they claim. But while the slightest infraction of civilized norms by the Israelis is trumpeted from the mountaintops, the routine torture, despotism, intolerance and corruption that is the norm among Israel's neighbors barely gains a column inch or two. And the mis-steps and human rights violations of other countries - China in Tibet, Russia in Chechnya, Sri Lanka against the Tamils, and most famously, Serbia against Bosnian Muslims - never quite make the sniff-test of outrage and action. (Remember: it was America who finally rescued the Muslims of the Balkans, while Europe fiddled and diddled.) In this context, it is simply natural to ask of Europeans: isn't it a little suspicious, given Europe's history, that it's Israel that always gets your critical attention?

Talk to many Europeans and their self-defense gets even worse. They will soon tell you that America's support for the only democracy in the Middle East is a function of the "all-powerful Jewish lobby" in Washington. It doesn't occur to them that references to such a lobby's subterranean influence are themselves facets of anti-Semitism so deep it barely registers. When the Guardian can run a column days after September 11 with the headline, "Who Dare Blame Israel?" you can see how deep the anti-Semitic rot has buried itself into the liberal mind. When the French have a best-seller on how the plane that crashed into the Pentagon was part of a CIA-Jewish plot, you can see why Americans are circumspect. When synagogues are burned, when Jewish cemeteries are desecrated and an anti-Semitic fascist comes in second in the first round of French voting, is it a shock that Americans see Europe as a place that hasn't really changed that much in fifty years in some respects?

There are, of course, deeper structural reasons for Europe's aversion to American power. By unilaterally disarming itself, Europe is making a statement about how the world should be governed: by mediation, diplomacy, international agreements, polled sovereignty. The American analyst Robert Kagan famously expanded on this theme in a much-discussed recent essay. The experience of the EU - the way in which ancient enemies like France and Germany now cooperate in a conflict-free, post-nationalist arena - is regarded as morally and strategically superior to America's still-tenacious defense of sovereignty and millitary force. What this analysis misses, of course, is a little history. The only reason the E.U. can exist at all is because American military force defeated Nazi Germany. The only reason why all of Germany is now included in the E.U. is because American military force defeated the Soviet Union. Europhiles mistake the fruits of realpolitik with its abolition. And they don't realize that the best and only guarantor of European peace and integration - now threatened from within and without by Islamist terror - is American force again. Instead of cavilling at such intervention, these Europeans should be praying for it - in order to save their own political achievement.

This is not to dismiss the serious questions to be asked about any Iraq war. Should it be a massive land invasion with over 200,000 troops - or a smaller force of, say, 50,000 supplemented by special forces? How do we prevent Saddam using chemical or biological weapons if attacked? How could this destabilize the region in worrying ways - as opposed to the right ways? Is Turkey on board? How do we cope with a post-Saddam Iraq? These are onerous matters and they deserve a thorough airing. But their premise is responsibility for world order. Europeans may believe that they have abolished realpolitik in their internal affairs, that national interest is a thing of the past, that military power is an anachronism. And within the confines of a few European countries, they may be right. But in the wider world - especially in the combustible Middle East - history hasn't ended and a new threat to world peace is rising, with the most dangerous weapons in world history close to its grasp. If Europeans believe that it can be palliated by subsidy or diplomacy or appeasement or surrender, then they are simply mistaking their own elysian state of affairs for the Hobbesian world outside their borders. They are misreading their own times - as profoundly as they did in the 1930s.

America, in contrast, has no option but to tackle this threat - or face its own destruction at the hands of it. The longer America takes to tackle it, the greater the costs will be. The threat is primarily to America, as the world hegemon, but Europe is not immune either. The question for European leaders is therefore not whether they want to back America or not. The question is whether they want to be adult players in a new and dangerous world. Grow up and join in - or pipe down and let us do it. That's the message America is now sending to Europe. And it's a message long, long overdue.

August 11, 2002, The Sunday Times of London
copyright © 2002 Andrew Sullivan

Friday, August 23, 2002

10th Mountain

I guess the 10th Mountain Division will have another role more strenuous than diplomatic deterrence. Having fought in the mountains of Afghanistan against al Qaeda, this division will get another chance when we invade Iraq to do so in northern Iraq’s Kurdish regions. And before anybody starts complaining that the Kurds are anti-Saddam and so therefore Saddam could not possibly be linked to these guys, remember that Kurdish factions have sought support from Iran and Iraq over the years in their intra-Kurd fights. Remember this too when somebody claims that since the Kurds are “our” guys, we must somehow be complicit in this development (some will surely argue it removes any moral right to strike them or Iraq).

Take Baghdad. Kill the terrorists. Win the war.

Are We Chumps, Or What?

I know, I’m supposed to follow the Understandniks exhortation to contemplate America’s sins against the Islamic world. From our presence in the Gulf and our reckless disregard for Moslem lives, all the way back to the Crusades, we’ve hosed them.

I just can’t do it.

Our presence in the Gulf, of course, is largely to prevent the local whack-jobs from waging war against other Islamic states and therefore throwing the world's gas station into chaos. Do they think we enjoy hunkering down in isolated desert bases, sweating, and watching "cleaned up" versions of "Leave it to Beaver" reruns? Do we thank God for the chance to sail into local ports to refuel, worrying that somebody might have explosives packed in their dinghy? Are we really such suckers that we enjoy having the corpses of our soldiers dragged through the streets of some God-forsaken Heck hole to enjoy the privilege of keeping Moslems from starving?

As to our disregard for Islamic lives, let me list some of our government’s help to the Islamic world:

Keeping the Soviets from occupying Iran (1947?)
Keeping the Soviets at bay against Turkey (1947?)
Rescuing Egypt from the French, British, and Israelis (1956)
Sending an aircraft carrier to help Pakistan survive yet another war with India (1971)
Imposing a ceasefire in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War before the Israelis captured Egypt’s 3rd Army and marched on Cairo (1973)
Rescuing the PLO from Israel (and losing 250 Marines in a suicide bombing)(1983?)
Rescuing Iraq from the Ayatollah Khomeini (1980s)
Keeping the Iranians from sinking Kuwait's oil tankers (1987-88)
Rescuing the Saudis from a threatened Iraqi invasion (1990)
Rescuing Kuwaitis from Saddam (1991)
Rescuing the Kurds from Saddam Hussein (1991)
Assisting with floods in Bangladesh (1991?)
Saving countless Somalis from starvation (1992)
Rescuing Bosnian Moslems (1995)
Rescuing Kosovo Moslems (1999)
Rescuing Afghanis from the Taliban/Al Qaeda dictatorship (2001)
Sending aid to help earthquake victims in Iran (2002)

These are just the things off the top of my head. I’m sure I have some of the years wrong too, but the point is still valid nonetheless. Did we do this out of pure altruism? Of course not. But does that diminish the fact that we helped Moslems?

No. If we truly hated Moslems, we would not have carried out these acts. "Let 'em rot!" would have been our excuse to do nothing.

The thing that really gets me is the assertion that we should feel guilt for the Crusades. First of all, we weren't there. We didn't exist. Shoot, only the Indians knew that North America even existed and they didn't inform the Islamic world of the continent's location.

But aside from that quibble, what of the Crusades? Does the West really have to feel guilty over this? Let's see, Islam forms in the heart of the Arabian peninsula and rides out on jihad overrunning the fragmented, weak, dying remnants of the Byzantine Empire, and swarms into the Balkans, Spain (the Moroccans are still clearly stinging over this as the Parsley Island episode indicates), and into France. I'd almost forgive them for invading France, but on principle I have to condemn it. (Kudos to the French for defeating the Moslems at Tours, by the way). Eventually, Europe pushed the Moslems out of Spain and checked them in the Balkans. Europe even managed to take back the Holy Land in the Crusades for a couple centuries.

The West "took it back."

That's right, Islam conquered it. "We" took it back and then lost it again. And now we are condemned for trying to take back what was ours. That is, if they'll forgive the expression, a lot of chutzpah. I'd say we have our own grievances to neurotically fixate on to obscure the fact that we have failed our citizens on almost every level of cultural, economic, and political well being. Oh wait, we haven't failed on any of that (maybe culturally, given the Osbourne’s and Anna Nicole Smith show). Silly me. Never mind.

Now, I'm not holding a grudge for any of Islam's past actions. I'm even ready to give them a pass for the Barbary Pirates pouncing on our shipping just as soon as we kicked the British out of our country. We hit them back and we'll just call us even on that one, ok? I think we can all just get along. But why do we need to apologize for what we didn't do, keep helping Islamic countries and people despite their condemnations, ignore what they've done to us, and generally wallow in guilt over our military, economic, and cultural superiority? If the self-proclaimed jihadists really think the Moslem world can take the West on, I bet even the French would give them a Tours II walloping.

Me, I don't think there is a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. Islam is probably no more intolerant than Christianity was until a couple centuries ago. I am loathe to condemn an entire religion and culture (ours is better, but I wouldn't force them into our way, except when they move here: see Mark Steyn for a good piece on cultural—not ethnic—superiority) because some nuts are gunning for us. We just need to kill the nuts. But I am tired of people trying to make me "understand" why the Islamic world hates us and why I should somehow "understand" the rage that led to September 11th. I'm all for understanding the enemy. But I won't try to understand in order to rationalize it. Let's just stomp who we have to stomp and when they complain, we'll say, "You know, we just haven't gotten over that Islamic invasion of France, way back when. You'll just have to understand our just rage." Ok, I'm not still upset over the France thing, but the Barbary Wars? Now that still inspires just rage. I bet Islamic academics and university students overseas will hold teach-ins to explore our anger, right?

Thursday, August 22, 2002


Ok, I’ve been off on other topics related to the war but not actually on the pending attack. Time for as much nuts and bolts as a former enlisted reservist can muster on the subject.

How will the American Army (and Marines and British) get to Baghdad?

First, back to the basics. The invasion force will be two heavy divisions, 101st Air Assault Division, a Marine Expeditionary Force (a division with air support) plus extra battalions in the region, an Armored Cavalry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division (with two of its brigades?), a Ranger regiment, and maybe a brigade of 82nd Airborne Division (which is earmarked for Afghanistan now). The British will provide a heavy brigade and an infantry brigade (Marine or Paras?). Separate aviation brigades and artillery brigades plus all the other supporting combat support and combat service support stuff. Plus carriers and Air Force for air support.

Deployment will be the mountain division in the north, with a Turkish corps. The rest in Kuwait with a small force, maybe a brigade task force of Marines and Army in Jordan.

The Air Force will deploy combat aircraft in Turkey, Kuwait, and Qatar primarily, with some in Jordan and other Gulf states. The other states will probably allow support missions from their soil. The Navy will operate in the eastern Med., Red Sea, and Gulf.

I’m guessing no more than a week of air strikes before the ground war begins. Precision weapons and the need for speed will allow/compel us to make haste.

The Turkish corps will march south toward Mosul; while the US mountain division deploys into Kurdish areas in the north to reassure and defend the Kurds (and to remind them they shouldn’t declare independence and to deter the Iranians).

The Jordan-based units will have the Army provide base security while the Marines conduct SCUD raids and search and rescue for downed pilots in western Iraq. Should the Iraqis dispatch a heavy force west to strike them, whatever is left after the Air Force decimates them on the road march will be annihilated. In time, this task force could drive toward Baghdad to open up a supply route for US forces besieging Baghdad.

Advancing out of Kuwait, the British and some Marines will mask Basra and use defecting Iraqi infantry to capture Basra. The two British brigades and a brigade of Marines will remain here to guard the flank and deter the Iranians from mucking around in the Basra area.

The main drive will be on either side of the Euphrates River. One heavy division, with the armored cavalry regiment screening it, will advance north on the west side of the river. I’ve read that maybe the whole force would go this route, but that seems unlikely. I’m no expert but the road network doesn’t seem like it would support a drive that way with an entire corps. Crossing the Euphrates between Al Samawah and An Nasiriyah to drive north on the excellent highway there to Baghdad (built in the Iran-Iraq war as a more secure route south than the road near the Iran border) will be the other heavy division supported by the Marines and 101st, which will make the first river crossings to pave the way for the heavy armor to drive on Baghdad; and open a major supply route north.

The Ranger regiment will be available for a strategic target like a nuke site or a Saddam caravan.

If the Iraqis try to move, air power will make their lives hell.

Special forces and psychological warfare will try to get Iraqi army units to defect.

In the end, we will have Baghdad cut off from the north, south, and west. The Republican Guards will for the most part hold. When we reach Baghdad, the assault or siege will be the big question. Do we get enough defectors to attack for us, supported by our firepower? Do the Republican Guards start to crumble? Do the Iraqis forbid the civilians from leaving to keep them as a shield? Just don’t know what the situation will be at that point, starting off so far away from the first shot. (In 1991, I expected the Iraqis to fight (which they did) and thought it would take longer (weeks rather than days) and more casualties to win. In my own defense, when co-workers asked me after a few weeks of bombing what would happen, I said we were going to take LOTS of prisoners)

The big question is whether Saddam’s minions use the chemical and/or biological weapons when he orders them to fire them off. We can cope with whatever he can throw at us. The size of his attacks and whether we are advancing rapidly will shape our response. If we are winning handily, we may ignore his use of such weapons. If it bogs us down, …do we still have neutron weapons?

One week of air strikes. Then a ground invasion that takes us a week to get to Baghdad. Then Lord knows. Could be easy or hard at that point. I don’t doubt we will be victorious, however. Just the time and cost is a question. I just can’t believe we’ll try to do it on a shoestring—daring as that may be.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002


The New York Times has an article on Afghan opinion of America’s presence in their country that is relatively surprising in its fairness. Although it seems to return to the issue of "things could go wrong at any moment" repeatedly, Ian Fisher does state clearly that most people interviewed are supportive of us and view America as guaranteeing stability. Most give us the benefit of the doubt despite some accidents because of our past conduct. Still, the author finds a vocal critic of American presence and follows with a quote that belittles the conduct that has earned us some good will:

One Western diplomat in the capital, Kabul, said: "They are trying to be more careful. And why is that? It's not because they are humanitarians. It is in their narrow interest to do so."

Given the brutality and callousness toward civilian casualties when noncombatants get in the way that virtually every other country practices when fighting an enemy, who is this diplomat to complain? I’ll take a leap of faith and assume we’re talking about a French diplomat. But really, it could be virtually any European. Civilians represent upwards of ninety percent of the casualties in modern warfare, and when we take care to avoid civilian casualties, our care is dismissed. It is significant to note that the diplomat could not even deny we take care to avoid civilian casualties. But the diplomat could not give us credit and instead assumed a more sinister motive of just taking care of our "narrow interest." Humanitarianism has nothing to do with it, apparently.

If it is truly just in our narrow interest (which it undeniably is) why are we virtually alone in our degree of care? If it was in the "narrow interest" of Russia to avoid civilian casualties they would not have razed Grozny. This is not just to pick on Russia, for if countries truly avoided killing civilians in their narrow interest, the percentage of civilian casualties would not be so high. Why is it that America thinks fighting clean is in our narrow interest when few others agree? Doesn’t that alone say something good about us? Clearly, most countries do not consider it in their narrow interest to avoid civilian casualties. Let’s give us some credit here. We at least try to avoid civilian casualties. We mostly succeed, too.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Our Sorry Record?

Milan Markovic, a graduate student at New York University, is saddened that America has not rebuilt countries after toppling brutal dictators and has not reimbursed them for lost income after we attacked? He took his whining to the Canadian Globe and Mail. You see, he doubts America will rebuild Iraq after we overthrow Saddam. Although he groans a bit about the failure to have turned Afghanistan into a first world information age suburban country in the eight months since we toppled the Taliban, he saves most of his ire for complaints that Yugoslavia has not been lavished with aid. Yugoslavia, torn asunder and then set afire by the Serbian lunatics who tried to butcher anyone within reach (they called it "ethnic cleansing"), has not been rewarded. How awful can America get? Attack the Serbs twice in one decade to keep them from slaughtering civilians and this is our best we can do to atone for our sins? What does Milan think this is? A replay of The Mouse that Roared?

Why do I get the impression that Markovic believes the Serbs are victims, and he sees fellow victims on the Tigris and Euphrates? Yes, he probably still pines for the days when Serbian nationalists stood up to the lone superpower. Ah yes, those were the days! When Serbs and Iraqis swapped tips on how to down American warplanes. My response is, in a word (ok, two): "Bite me." Milan should thank God every day that we did not invade and shoot every genocidal maniac in Serbia who thought it was fun and easy to kill Moslems in Bosnia and Kosovo. The Serbs are getting off easy, we just had to bomb Serbia into submission. They get to send Slobo and a couple henchmen to stand in for them all at the war crimes tribunal and go on their merry way. The Iraqis should be so lucky. Saddam is more thorough and brutal than Slobodan Milosevic, however, so instead we will likely need to march on Baghdad. We’ll help them Milan. I mean aside from overthrowing a dictator. We’ll buy all the oil the Iraqis want to sell us and they can rebuild a whole heck of a lot on their own.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Tolerance in War

I am really annoyed at the public service announcements urging us not to lynch anybody who looks like an al Qaeda hijacker. The PSAs start of well enough. I agree that we should not torment or persecute or, God forbid, physically attack somebody who is of Islamic or Arab origin. They are our friends, our family, and our neighbors, and they deserve to be considered loyal Americans or law abiding residents until proven otherwise, on an individual basis. I don't feel guilty for IRA violence against the British just because I am half Irish. And I do not wish to ignore that some acts of hate have taken place. During the prelude to Desert Storm, I wrote to the President as one of his soldiers who expected to go to war and asked him to speak out against anti-Arab anger that was building. I was gratified that he spoke out on this some weeks later (I like to think I had a small voice in prodding this, but who knows?). The government should prosecute any hate attacks that do take place. I don't want Arab Americans and Moslem Americans targeted for their ethnicity or religion. I have deeply personal reasons for this.

In this crisis, I am just not worried that Americans will lash out. This time around, the calls for tolerance have been made by many people in authority and made often. I am relieved. The acts of hate are miniscule and this is a testimony to our country. But back to the PSA. It is all well and fine, reminding us to be tolerant. But then at the end, one of the actors says earnestly, "Stop the hate."

"Stop" it?" One would think that American gangs were rounding up foreigners and shooting them. Stop the hate, indeed. It just isn't there. The tolerance is overwhelming. Even the warnings that Moslem-Americans are under scrutiny highlight the efforts of Americans to reassure them that we really do consider them loyal Americans. Regular ol' native-born xenophobes have been swamped by those who visited mosques in a sign of solidarity.

Yet the attackers of September 11 were Moslems, and Islamists claiming to fight for all Arabs and Moslems have been supportive of the attacks. It is natural that the government has looked at these communities with added scrutiny. In an ideal world, our government would probe with deference and politeness and the minimal intrusion necessary; and Arab- and Moslem-Americans would accept that some added scrutiny is necessary under the circumstances.

Indeed, you’d think the leaders of these communities would proclaim the evil of those who claim to fight in their name. Instead, they bristle at any action that suggests some added attention to their communities. And others build on the absurd idea that a virtual silent pogrom against Muslims is going on. We’re just not supposed to get angry at those who killed so many of us last September, I guess. Clearly, the idea that we somehow deserved this or caused it is not too far in the background.

Moslem-Americans are wrong to protest so much. The American government isn’t going to build internment camps. Civil liberties aren't going to be trampled. The government has been gentle. And at the individual level, I think Americans have been quite tolerant. I make it a point to smile at someone obviously dressed as a Moslem. I don't need my hate stopped. I don't think hate is bottled up in the rest of America and kept under control only with the most strenuous effort. I hope I am not wrong about this but I see no evidence of significant levels of hatred. Indeed, a little bit of appropriate hatred for those who killed us and still dream of slaughtering us in our homes and offices would do a world of good. Stop the hate, indeed. Bin Laden and his ilk have earned our hate.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

"Scott Ritter is a Jerk"

Watching Scott Ritter on Tim Russert tonight just reminds me anew that Ritter is a jerk. The Weekly Standard has already done an excellent piece on him, so I won’t try to detail his bizarre transformation. I can only conclude that Iraqi intelligence caught him involved in something and is blackmailing him. The alternative is to consider treason.

Ritter’s ability to apologize for Iraq now while denying he has changed his tune is scary. He talks about his statements in 1998 in the third person and essentially says he was just speculating and had no evidence for his statements. Those statements categorically asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam would never surrender his pursuit of those capabilities. Now he says Iraq is 95% disarmed and holds UN inspections as an end in themselves. He actually blames America for the ending of inspections in 1998. He concedes Saddam is awful yet believes any action aginst him is worse. No action but inspections under UN auspices is acceptable. For shame, Scott Ritter. Turn in your Marine Corps uniform. You dishonor the corps.

One thing that all this inspections talk reminds me of is that Saddam is stupid. If he had cooperated in 1991 and completely disarmed, in six months he’d have the UN certify him as disarmed and six months after that his programs would be up and running. He’d have nukes now. Luckily for us, he has resisted disarming and kept attention on him. The focus has to be on Saddam if we are to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Regime change is the order of the day. Invasion is the only option. Let’s go get him.

And for God’s sake, do we have to listen to Scott Ritter any more? He should be ashamed of himself. Put Tariq Aziz on TV and let the Iraqis make their case themselves.

Friday, August 16, 2002

Excuses Posing as Reasons

I find it interesting that opponents of an invasion of Iraq worry about Saddam using chemical or biological weapons against us if we attack. According to a New York Times article on August 16, 2002:

In an opinion article published today in The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Scowcroft, who helped build the broad international coalition against Iraq in the Persian Gulf war, warned that "an attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorist campaign we have undertaken." An attack might provoke Iraq to use chemical or biological weapons in an effort to trigger war between Israel and the Arab world, he said.

There is hope in this attitude, of course. It at least admits that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction prohibited under the Gulf War ceasefire terms. And it show us the prime problem of letting him get away with deterring an attack. Namely, if he knows that we will not attack short of a direct attack on us, Saddam will feel free to attack us with every method short of a direct attack with weapons of mass destruction. And if taking action against the Iraqi threat means our allies won’t help us, well, they aren’t very good allies. I doubt they will halt their aid in any case. Indeed, smashing up Iraq will make a lot of countries really anxious to stay on our good side.

The article goes on:

[Scowcroft] added: "There is a virtual consensus in the world against an attack on Iraq at this time. So long as that sentiment persists, it would require the U.S. to pursue a virtual go-it-alone strategy against Iraq , making any military operations correspondingly more difficult and expensive."

So there we have it. It is not enough that we perceive a threat. Since our allies don’t see a threat to us, we must withhold our military at this time. But, if our allies finally understand the threat to us—when presumably even the densest appeaser admits Saddam is a threat, they will allow us to take action. I’d be a little more sympathethic to this argument if we could say, “Ok Europe, if you don’t want us to stop Saddam now; you get the duty in five years when you feel threatened.” Right. We get the job and the casualties whether we do it now or in the future. I’d rather do it now while we can do it with fewer consequences.

As to the level of difficulty, it was difficult (and impossible according to the critics) to smash the Taliban in land-locked Afghanistan. Shoot, I didn’t even figure we could topple the Taliban with the Northern Alliance. I figured we’d be able to pin the Taliban down with air power while we dug out al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, but bringing them down seemed too hard. I did not doubt we’d overcome the distance, however, to achieve the lesser goal. We have a splendid military that will overcome the logistical problems of invading Iraq without the same coalition as we had in 1991. We won’t be alone. Our coalition will be sufficient if not ideal. Welcome to the real world. It isn’t always easy being the leader.

Foreign Media Reaction

I like the Department of State’s Foreign Media Reaction section. On issues of the day it summarizes world press reaction. Sometimes, I have trouble getting into the issue at hand. I’d love to know how State decides it really needs to know the world’s reaction to our latest bean curd subsidy as opposed to the China-Taiwan dispute, but that’s a small point (As Homer Simpson put it, “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.”)

Some topics are very interesting. On preparations for war with Iraq, I saw some glimmers of hope that nations will go along with an inevitable attack, side with us when we decide, and, even grudgingly accept that getting rid of Saddam is good as long as nothing really bad happens, as they predict. A couple points made by some commentators seem particularly dense.

NORWAY: "To Attack Or Not To Attack"
In the newspaper-of-record Aftenposten, Washington correspondent Morten Fyhn commented (8/1): "We know that President Bush wishes to topple Iraq's dictator, but he has not convinced the American people and the rest of the world that it is necessary to go to war against Saddam Hussein.... While the United States busies itself with war planning, most other countries are content with demanding that Iraq give access to the UN's weapons inspectors."

Well, I think the majority of Americans has pretty much concluded that it supports war against Iraq. The question is what kind of war will the majority support? The last part, about he world being content with demanding compliance, is the problem. Just how much access has Iraq given the world in response to the demands Europe is busy making? Oh yeah, zip. The world has been content for too long with demanding compliance. The world will always be content with demanding compliance, no matter how long Saddam Hussein obstructs compliance with the ceasefire terms of the Persian Gulf War.

MEXICO: "Iran To Iraq?"
Carlos Fuentes wrote in independent Reforma (8/7): "…Rational voices should work though negotiation channels, accept Iraq's offer to send arms inspectors to Baghdad, and put Saddam's words to the test. He is an undesirable despot. But so is President Bush's arrogance and unilateral stance. I hope that the international intellectual community finds a way to subject the White House to reasonable multilateral policies and the will of the Iraqi people in order to overthrow Saddam."

Did we not try inspectors? Did not Saddam obstruct and then kick them out, tiring of the sport? Put Saddam’s word to the text? Is Fuentes insane? What doubt is there at this point about Saddam’s word? For a moment it seems that Fuentes is willing to be somewhat reasonable when he admits Saddam Hussein is an undesirable despot, but then he says that President Bush’s purported “arrogance” and “unilateral stance” is equivalent? Good Lord. It is arrogance to use our power to destroy those who would kill us? It is unilateral stance when we try to get our Allies to help us topple Saddam yet they refuse? To be fair, many countries are helping us significantly every day in the war on terrorism. For this I am truly grateful. We want and need help. The Department of Defense notes this help on their web site. On his last points, just what reasonable multilateral policy would he have us follow? Would trying to get the world to compel compliance with disarmament with an embargo do it? Oh, right, we’ve been trying that for 12 years and every foreign nation and their cousin has railed against it and helped Saddam evade it. But I guess twelve more years, or thirty, or fifty, will do the trick. The weaseling out of direct action to overthrow Saddam is of course to advocate the Iraqi people do the job. Yeah, that’s reasonable. Let the unarmed masses take on Saddam’s ruthless minions. Even a successful revolt would be bloody and destructive. Yeah, admit Saddam deserves to be overthrown but argue actually doing something about it is wrong.

I try hard to avoid assuming all the citizens of friendly countries agree with their newspaper writers. I certainly don’t assume that some loon writing from San Francisco, who doesn’t know anybody who supports the war, reflects America as a whole. But when the stakes are so high for us and when our military service members risk and give their lives to protect us, it is hard not to be offended. We’re going to Baghdad. And I hope we hang Saddam before the residents of Baghdad do it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Biological Weapons Plant

We’ve spotted activity at an apparent biological weapons plant in Iraq. Are we to wait until all the legalities are in place before we do something? Should we let them make the weapons now and disperse them because Congress hasn’t said “GO!” yet? Honestly, Congress will debate war and then declare war. There is no doubt. The American public will support it. And if the world forgave us for lobbing cruise missiles at a drug plant in Sudan we mistakenly believed made chemical weapons, the world will get over it if we made a mistake. We bomb radar, command and control, and anti-aircraft sites every week for threatening our pilots, protecting our troops and nearby civilians from biological weapons seems like a no-brainer when we know we will change the Iraqi regime soon. If a national strategy of pre-emption is to mean anything, surely we can bomb a biological weapons plant in a country we are about to invade and occupy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

At War

The anniversary of our war is fast approaching. America has been at war since September 11, 2001. I suppose it would be more accurate to say we have been under attack for many years before that, but since September 11 we are fighting too. It seems perfectly obvious. We've already brought down the Taliban, scattered al Qaeda, and assisted the Philippines. We are spreading a net worldwide to catch or kill those who try to kill us, and we are about to bring down a cornerstone of the house of terrorism in Iraq. I somewhat dread the first anniversary and wonder how the media and we will view the war at this milestone. I don't understand how some Americans can wonder if we are really at war. I don't understand how some can ask if the American people have the patience for a long war against terrorists and states that sponsor them. Is it really true that the anger is dissipating? I just plain don't get how some people can even question that fighting this war against terrorism is just (and who persist in objecting to paying for the military in the aftermath of September 11).

Exactly what would it take to provoke them? If the terrorists had flown a 767 into the Women's Studies Department at UC Berkeley, would that have been enough? Heck, the hijackers were all men. Doesn't a violation of Title IX come into play here? If the hijackers had worn real fur coats or leather would that insensitivity have been sufficient to raise their ire? Honestly, how can 3,000 deaths in attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 not be a cause for war?

I still remember that morning. I was at work and the first report from a co-worker alerted me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I assumed it was an accident. It didn't register that a tragedy might have occurred. It didn't even seem real yet, I guess. I asked if there were reports of a giant ape involved. Eventually, I found video of the attack on the web and I thought a small plane had crashed. The scale of the World Trade Center was lost on me in that tiny screen. Even watching the video, I thought a Piper Cub had crashed or something. Then came the second attack, and then the Pentagon attack. Then rumors of other explosions and other planes headed for Washington, D.C.

I was stunned.

It isn't as if I never thought terrorism would come here. I assumed our enemies would try to use the most horrible weapons they could get their hands on to attack us. Still, the audacity of it all shocked me. When the towers crumbled, I just could not believe it even as I watched it happen. Surely, that great building was designed to withstand anything. Right?

I knew al Qaeda was the main suspect. I immediately assumed bin Laden was behind the attack since few others have the hatred and capability to carry out the attack. A state could do it, but has lots of assets to lose if caught. My disbelief and shock quickly gave way to anger and a determination that we must strike back and win. It was not blind anger for vengeance. I did not want to bomb "them" back into the stone age. I wanted a global struggle with all our elements of national power used; and I assumed military power would be only one part and only used on a large scale occasionally. An article I wrote within a few days of the attack has not been published and I may yet post it on this site. It still has value even as dated as it is. Our aim is to win, not lash out.

The main thing is, I felt at war. It was no mere intellectual exercise of determining war is required to defend "vital" interests. I felt attacked. I can't even bring myself to despise New Yorkers any more. They--we--were attacked in a particularly brutal fashion. For two weeks after the attack, I marched again. I didn't just walk. My finger tips were properly curled. My shoulders held back. My head held high. My jaw set. Old cadences long forgotten rolled through my mind as I marched. I felt guilty that I wasn't in the service any more. I felt guilty that "we" hadn't stopped the bastards that did this to us. I was just an Army radio operator and a reservist to boot, but I felt as if I had let my fellow citizens down.

So when I read that people complain that the display of an American flag creates a "hostile environment," I just don't get it. When I hear stories of people accusing us of "war crimes," I just don't get it. When people urge us to "understand" the rage of those who attacked us and how we "contributed to it," I truly don't get it and don't even want to get it.

Let our enemies contemplate how we have been pushed to war. Let them explain away our rage. Let them mull over how they contributed to our Army marching on their capital; our Air Force and Navy wrecking their terrorist infrastructures, our Marines landing on their shores to punish them for attacking us. Let them understand us.

Let them fear us.

We are at war I remember the complete emptiness in the sky after the attacks. No planes flew. No sound of jet or even piston engines. Just an unnatural void temporarily created by our enemies. I feel at war in my very bones. I do not dwell on it. I am not emotionally crippled by it. I am not glued to cable news channels. I do not hate Islam for what a small band of Islamists did to us. I go about my life. But the knowledge that we are at war is always there. I have the patience to fight this war smart. I want to win this war. At least I no longer feel guilty that I am not one of the soldiers carrying our banner across the globe to smite our foes. I am forty and well past my Signal Corps days, so I know this was really a hollow feeling anyway. I'm glad I'm a civilian who doesn't have to leave his five-year old son. I know I will not go in harm's way. The feeling is there a little bit nonetheless. Our soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors have my support and my gratitude for their service. I thank them for protecting me and my family. Rip their hearts out. We are at war, after all.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Whoa! What Was I Thinking?

Saddam’s minions escorted his lackeys on a tour of a laboratory that was not a biological weapons center. Expecting to spot a big vial helpfully labeled (in English) “Really Awful Biological Weapon to Kill Children and Kittens,” the guests surprisingly found nothing suspicious.

The tour bus then went on to a Safeway supermarket that was not a chemical weapons bunker, a Blockbuster video store that did not house cyclotrons used to make weapons-grade nuclear materials, a grain silo that did not house a Scud missile, and a goat herd that was not subject to Saddam’s own “intrusive inspection.”

Now I’m reassured.

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Islamist versus Islam, Containment, and Saddam’s Cubs

A good article explaining broadly what should be a commonly held distinction about Islam and our enemies who follow a particular brand of Islam. I am loath to punish Saudi Arabia too much lest we push them to become our enemy. We must push them to halt their subsidy of Wahhabi extremists but we shouldn’t count them as enemies because they disagree with our policies. If that’s our approach, let’s start with redefining France’s relationship with us. Saudi Arabia may not want to let us use bases to attack Iraq, but France wouldn’t even let us fly across their country (in 1986, I believe) to attack Libya! Let’s not even start on their pro-Serb attitudes and how much we can trust them with war plans.

Drawing a difference between Islamist enemies and Islam does not mean we ignore what Islamic countries do that may harm us. Just use reasonable means to push them at a pace that is sustainable. The big picture is the strategy. Vary the tactics to suit the circumstances.

Also, a couple senators argue for containment in an article today. I am still not convinced that containment is meaningful in regard to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

While I’m going at this, another reason we need to get rid of that psychopath, Saddam Hussein. He has perverted childhood with his own Hitler Youth, which he calls "Saddam’s Cubs." He has them training on weapons and is indoctrinating them with Islamist fervor to fight. Leaving aside the obvious damage to the children themselves, what has he done to the parents by having them send their children off like this? I can’t imagine they did this willingly. They had to send them off, proclaim their pride publicly, and cry in their shame at night, perhaps afraid to even speak their fears to their family. I have no doubt he would throw the cubs in front of our troops in a vain effort to save his own sick hide. Just how do we contain this? Why would we want to? I can understand wanting to debate what to do about Saddam Hussein. It is even just possible that those opposing an invasion are right that it is not in our interest to attack. But just how did the "pacifists" acquire the moral high ground in this debate?

Saturday, August 10, 2002


One line of reasoning against destroying Saddam Hussein’s regime is that we should simply deter him. Such advocates point out we deterred a much more powerful Soviet Union until it collapsed. Why can’t we do this with Iraq? This is a perfectly reasonable argument. It is also wrong.

Just what did we deter the Soviet Union from doing during the Cold War? We deterred the Soviet Union from doing two things: they did not dare launch a nuclear first strike on the United States for fear we would retaliate; and they did not invade Western Europe for fear we would respond with nuclear weapons. We did not deter all hostile actions.

What we did not deter was the below the radar screen action. The Soviets sponsored states to oppose us, revolutionary groups to overthrow allies, terrorist groups who targeted Americans and our allies, and supplied our enemies. Never was there any consideration that we might nuke the Soviets in retaliation for any of these hostile activities. Even bloody wars in Korea and Vietnam did not lead to serious discussions of nuking anybody.

It also did not deter Moscow’s desire to destroy us. The Soviets prepared horrible weapons (much of which we only discovered after the Soviet Union collapsed) and prepared to strike should they ever get the chance. We had to be ready always because we could never count on their mercy if we weakened.

Arguing for deterrence against Iraq also ignores that we were deterred in the Cold War as well. This deterrence is masked by the fact that we were a status quo power in the Cold War and essentially sought to defend what we had. We did not try to roll back the Soviets in Eastern Europe. If we had wanted to intervene to support revolts against the Soviets in East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956, or Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Poland in 1980, we would have been deterred by Soviet nuclear weapons. Do we want an Iraq that can deter us? What kind of conventional presence in the Middle East would we need to keep him from invading a neighbor yet again?

Clearly, if Iraq possessed nuclear weapons, we could deter a direct nuclear strike by Iraq against us or our allies. We would be in a far weaker position to deter his support for terrorism than we have now (which is minimal as it is). A nuclear shield would likely embolden him. What weapons would Saddam give to terrorists in order to strike us, confident we could not trace it back to us or that the losses would not be worth risking nuclear war with Iraq over? We would also have a smaller ability to deter a conventional attack south into the Gulf. With nuclear weapons, he could think of attacking a small American presence to overrun Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, knowing he could go nuclear if we shipped in troops to eject him from his conquests.

Deterrence is not an option with Iraq. We could basically deter direct nuclear attack and Saddam can do too much damage under the level of pain that would prompt a nuclear strike by us. Take him down now. Talk about deterrence. Other rogues would fear us as they’ve never feared us.

Friday, August 09, 2002

November Light?

I have to give weight to John Pike, among others, arguing we will go in lighter on November 6, 2002, rather than in December (air strikes) and January (ground invasion), as I’ve guessed. The timing of having five of our carriers in the general area plus a British carrier around that time is significant. It is tough to get that many at sea, and when you are supposedly just rotating the carriers, for a short time you have double your usual strength. We certainly might defeat Iraq with a small quick attack but I hate to count on it. If Iraq doesn’t collapse at the first blow, we’ll be in for a stalemate until we can ship in the heavy stuff. The lighter option rates in at 50,000 troops with two Army divisions, a Marine brigade, and a British heavy brigade.

But using these numbers, going up to even 120,000 could add three more Army divisions, triple the Marines, and double the British. This is still far less than the 250,000 option that is now supposedly out of the question. One reason I hate to read about raw numbers of troops is I never know what they are counting. Are they counting just the combat outfits as the 50,000 figure implies, or all the support troops, too? I’d rather see divisions and brigades discussed. Shoot, under some perfectly valid assumptions, you can assume 30,000+ troops per division even though divisions are 10,000 to 15,000 strong. And are you counting the Air Force and Navy in the raw numbers? I could easily use the 250,000 number to come up with a Navy and Air Force-supported attack by five divisions of Army and Marine troops. This is only about double the ground force cited for the 50,000 option.

I still can’t believe we’d go in with fewer than five divisions. That’s a big risk. I hate to bank so much on surprise if the surprise is that we’d actually attack with too little to win. For the Iraqis, that would be a pleasant surprise.

Last Gasp

Saddam Hussein has predicted he will be victorious against America if we attack.

Speaking on the anniversary of the end of the Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, which Iraq won on points at best; Saddam proclaimed that his double survival in that war and Desert Storm proved he won. We question our victories if there are even a few loose ends and he claims just surviving self-inflicted pummelings as victory. Even with our high standards and his low ones, he is going down in defeat when we invade. I suppose one has to ask why one should even comment on his speech, but when a fair number of people seem to think he’s not so bad or a threat to us, one can’t let opportunities go by.

Let’s just take Saddam’s main, as far as I’m concerned, quote:

All empires and bearers of the coffin of evil, whenever they mobilized their evil against the Arab nation, or against the Muslim world, they were themselves buried in their own coffin, with their sick dreams and their arrogance and greed.

Let’s see, in 1980, Saddam Hussein ordered his troops to invade Shiite Islam Iran. To be fair, Iranians were committing terrorism against Iraqi targets, but Saddam’s goals were more than just punishing Iran for that. Saddam wanted Iraq to lead the Gulf, the Arab world, and the non-aligned movement. His glory, and Iraq’s (if he sees any difference), required that recognition. That should count as arrogance and possibly a sick dream, but the latter might be too judgmental. Let’s just count his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction as the sick dream part. He did use chemical weapons quite liberally against his Iranian Moslem enemy, and I don’t doubt he would have nuked the Iranians if he’d had that weapon in the 80s. So, let’s count this war as accounting for 1) mobilizing against the Muslim world; 2) arrogance; and 3) sick dreams.

In 1990, Saddam conquered Kuwait. Despite his current claim that an attack on one Arab state is an attack on the whole Arab world, this apparently did not apply to him. Let’s give him another check mark on the arrogance issue. Clearly, it was a mobilization against the Arab world, so we’ve filled in that box on Saddam’s score card of villainy. Since his invasion was basically about money, having decided it was better to just take over the bank than beg for cash, this is another instance of greed. Hauling off everything of value adds to this image of plundering a neighbor. The hundreds of still missing Kuwaitis and an American pilot who may be held somewhere in Iraq even to this day surely counts for sick. Another award-winning war decision for Saddam.

And today, as America focuses on Iraq and prepares to invade, Saddam gets religion and decides to pipe down, act nice, and pretend he is really a quite reasonable man ready to discuss all issues to settle this crisis peacefully. I’m tempted to simply call this arrogance, but it relies on the willingness of his neighbors, the Europeans, and the folks at Berkeley to eagerly swallow his new line. As he ignores the ceasefire terms of the Persian Gulf War, he siphons off money that should be buying food and medicine to build scores of ornate palaces/arms depots around the country while blaming America for the suffering of his people. Arrogance and greed right there.

So we’ve checked off all his boxes, and we’ve also seen his bloody debacles that resulted from his 1980 and 1990 invasions. Saddam is about to go 0-3 in inter-state war, and this is his last one. This time he dies in his bunker. I’ll even let him get buried in his own coffin.

I should mention that notwithstanding the assertion made in the Post article above, the Arab states did indeed help pay for the war with Iran, big time. Iraq couldn’t demobilize its military after that war and so was short of cash, but Arab refusal to pony up any more once the war was over is hardly grounds for invasion. Saddam proclaims he prefers “equitable dialogue" instead of war. Too late. We’re coming.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002


Excellent piece on why we need to lead our friends to Baghdad rather than trying to guess which way the parade is going and jump in front. Our friends don’t want to get in front of us since we are doing the heavy lifting. If we don’t invade, they will pay for supportive talk now. They will follow when we go to Baghdad, despite all the doubting chatter now. Listening to foreign doubts now and acting on them would be a mistake, as so many who claim we must “listen” to our allies, and halt our war plans, advocate. Have they learned nothing from Kosovo, from withdrawing from the ABM treaty, from the war against the Taliban? Nervous predictions of diplomatic isolation are followed by support when we act correctly. Always listen to our allies and take their counsel into consideration; but don’t be hamstrung by their fears. They are weak and right to fear getting ahead of us. Indeed, I imagine they would be shocked if we stood down and did nothing.

We will have our allies in the war against Baghdad. A superpower must lead. The rest will follow.

Threat or No Threat?

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has warned America not to attack Iraq. His foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, also warned against an attack, saying:

If they were to end their presence prematurely, then we Europeans — as the region's immediate neighbors — would have to bear the fatal consequences.

All along, the Germans have complained the loudest of the Europeans that they can really just live with Iraq under Saddam Hussein. They argue that there is really no threat that justifies attacking Iraq and overthrowing Saddam's regime.

Yet, if we do attack and unspecified bad things happen (presumably NOT the creation of an expansionist, aggressive dictatorship with chemical weapons, missiles, and a burning desire for nukes. Remember, the European appeasers can apparently live with that), then the Europeans would have to cope with the consequences. Hmm. I'd love to hear about the dire consequences they foresee.

The Associated Press article goes on to warn that America could be there for decades and reports, "Fischer said Monday that his Greens party rejects participation in such action, while a top Schroeder aide, Franz Muentefering, said the same day that even with U.N. approval Germany would not feel obliged to take up arms." Do the Germans really worry about us failing to stay in Iraq and turn them into good allied democrats? Jeez, fifty-seven years ago, the Germans were still fighting like mad with the remnants of a once-powerful military machine that had nearly conquered Europe twice in one century. Now they won't send even a token fighting force to stop the likes of Saddam Hussein? Even if the dictator-coddling UN blesses it? You're darn right we can turn Iraq around. We did too good a job with the Germans.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Nation Building

Part of the debates on what to do in Afghanistan and Iraq center around nation-building--occupying a state to ensure that it develops politically along lines friendly to America. Just as we did in post-war Germany and Japan, where hostile, fanatical states were molded into democracies allied to the United States. The hostility of the Bush administration to nation building flows from Somalia and Haiti where we intervened for largely humanitarian reasons (Somalia, although proving we'd help Moslems without oil was undoubtedly a factor) and politics (Haiti. Yes, the Haitians suffered under a dictator, but the electoral votes of Florida burdened by lots of Haitian refugees seemed as likely a reason); and from Bosnia and Kosovo where we provide the muscle if not the numbers for those missions. Many advocates of nation building seem motivated by the failure to intervene in Rwanda, from the success in Kosovo and Bosnia in stamping down war, and from a general aversion to using the military except when there is no obvious national interest (thereby purifying it somehow).

Let me just say that I am not a fan of nation building as a first impulse. Armies are for fighting, not policing (abroad or here) I wasn't too happy with Somalia and predicted they'd be shooting at us given enough time. Sure, the impulse to get food in was admirable, but staying to unify and pacify the country was wrong when we had no real interest to do so. Our withdrawal after 18 deaths in Mogadishu shows how little interest we had in suffering for the cause. And I really don't care to debate whether a couple score dead Americans are more important than hundreds of thousands of dead Somalis. Let the international aid agencies debate whether the deaths of hundreds of aid volunteers would have been worth it to try and feed starving Somalis without an American military presence. Still, nation building has a place when it is in our national interest. The payoff of democratic and allied Japan and Germany is too obvious not to accept this.

After we overthrow Saddam's Tikrit mafia that rules Iraq, we clearly have an interest in remolding Iraq into a democracy that will not invade its neighbors, suppress "minorities" (who actually represent 80% of the population),use poison gas, support terrorism, pursue nuclear and biological weapons, or loot the national treasury for its Sunni power base. An American-dominated occupation force will be necessary in the short run. In the long run, just as in Bosnia and Kosovo, our European allies (and Japan too, given their interest in Middle East stability) should eventually shoulder the burden of providing infantry and military police to patrol the streets. Leaving a division of American heavy armor with nearby airpower in support to watch the Iranian mullahs (assuming they don't get overthrown by the people) will be necessary even as allies take over the peacekeeping role. The European Union corps they keep talking about forming to deploy out of area should get this job.

The need to occupy Iraq and also keep forces ready to deal with Iran and North Korea or another unexpected contingency argue against an American-dominated nation-building effort in Afghanistan. Our main interest in Afghanistan was overthrowing the Taliban and crushing al Qaeda. We did both. As long as Afghanistan doesn't re-emerge as a training ground for terrorism, the precise fate and pace of Afghanistan tranquility is more of a humanitarian interest. Trying to govern the country will put us in the middle of rivalries and embroil us in a civil war. Yes, we'd like a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan, so let's try. We should send aid and create a national army and bring the warlords inside the tent; but don't take our eye off the ball--terrorism and terror-supporting states (and terrorist states) are our target.

In Afghanistan, we shouldn't be too upset if the UN presence expands but don't put America in the position of being their rescuer if things go wrong. An expanded foreign presence may just provoke unified resistance to "invaders." We didn't blanket Panama or Grenada with American troops after we invaded those states and yet we still managed to win the peace in those countries. And those who cite the examples of keeping troops in West Germany, Japan, and South Korea generations after the wars that sent them there should remember that the larger reason they remained so long was to deal with external threats. Are we really still in South Korea, Germany, and Japan because we fear that at any moment, without our calming presence, they will put on black uniforms and wax nostalgic about owning the countries that border them? We won't be in Iraq for a generation. Ten years tops, maybe less.

Still, a decade of occupation argues against occupying everybody, including Afghanistan. Our Army is too small for that. The small American ground presence in Afghanistan is big enough to keep hostile elements from massing to threaten the central government. That should be enough as we promote some kind of confederation in Afghanistan that values a stable peace.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Imagining War

If General Tommy Franks is thwarting "imaginative" planners who want to go to war with Iraq on the cheap, give them hell, general. I say those who want to drop paratroopers directly on Baghdad or who want a small armored force to drive straight for that city to accept its surrender are ones who are insufficiently imaginative. Can they not imagine the Iraqis fighting? Can't they imagine that things go wrong in war?

Going in with a small force is an invitation to the Iraqis to believe they can win this. If they have hope, they will fight. Go in with overwhelming force and crush the Iraqis rapidly and we will emerge victorious, in a short time, and with low casualties. I'll take the criticism that we "over-prepared" any day over the recriminations that will follow a setback in the war and heavy casualties.

And I don't think that planning a shoestring campaign to "please" our allies is smart. They seem to "understand" every tin pot dictator that attacks somebody else or their own people; yet they are throwing a hissy fit because we want to end this murderous regime in Iraq? They will whine regardless. Let's at least give them the chance to whine about a decisive victory. Don't assume victory. I think imagining has edged over into hallucinations. Our technology is not magic and we need to fight to win this war. Marshall a powerful heavy corps and then smash the Iraqis. Use overwhelming force in a rapid conventional campaign and end this crisis with victory. As Anthony Cordesman testified, "I think it is incredibly dangerous to be dismissive. It is very easy to send people home alive. It is costly to send them home in body bags because we did not have sufficient force when we engaged," Cordesman said. "And to be careless about this war, to me, would be a disaster."