Friday, August 01, 2003

August 2003 Posts Recovered from The Internet Archives

These are my August 2003 posts from the dead Yahoo!Geocities site taken from The Internet Archive.

"Dispersing (and Killing ) Them" (Posted August 30, 2003)
Up to a thousand Taliban massed in Afghanistan and for the past week Afghan and US forces have been pounding them:
Afghan officials claim well over 100 Taliban losses during the week, many of them killed by U.S. and allied fighter jets and attack helicopters which have been called in daily to support Afghan troops and U.S. special forces on the ground.
We are supposed to have them surrounded. Hope so. But it looks like we are on our way to dispersing them as we need to in order to end their military threats. Killing them is better as long as they have massed, of course.

I was worried about the Taliban's ability to mass and overrun Afghan police posts, but if we can rip this concentration apart, it will discourage them mightily and go a long way to reassuring Afghans that at the end of the day, the government will prevail against the thugs.

Computer is loopy. May be on last legs. Posting sparse.

"Intelligence-Reflection (Posted August 29, 2003)
On reflection, the assertion by the US general that we need better intelligence in Iraq and not more troops is not necessarily a contradiction from the past stories about cooperation from Iraqi citizens. Indeed, it is probably just a reflection of the difference between "intelligence" and citizen "tips."

The key is that piling more troops into Iraq is not the answer to what is really a low level problem. Some people are panicking at a low-level and localized resistance that we are beating. They are compounding this panic by advocating a solution that will actually make progress more difficult.

"Intelligence" (Posted August 28, 2003)
Perhaps it is that the regulars on patrol aren't getting information and the special ops boys are—or maybe information is deficient in the Sunni triangle area. I hope so because otherwise this is contrary to what I've read repeatedly"
The commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said Thursday there was no need for more U.S. troops in the country and blamed continuing violence on insufficient intelligence and lack of cooperation from the Iraqi people.

I know the press has been deficient in portraying balanced accounts of the Iraqi fighting and rebuilding, but at the same time I do not ever wish to be a mindless cheerleader. If we are screwing up, we need to know and correct it. Our troops' lives are on the line here and they are too valuable to squander in an effort to maintain a debating point.
Unless it's just the usual "not enough intelligence" complaint. There never is enough, after all. Not even with satellites and UAVs and all manner of ground surveillance radars and informants.
"Clearing the Decks" (Posted August 28, 2003)
We've scaled back our Saudi presence:
With Saddam ousted from office in neighboring Iraq nearly five months ago, U.S. military officials transferred back to the Saudis control of portions of Prince Sultan Air Base and deactivated the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing that has operated there, the Air Force said in a statement Wednesday.

This doesn't mean we invade Saudi Arabia tomorrow but it is another step in clearing the decks for an eventual confrontation to end Saudi support for Islamofascists.
There's still that North Korea thing that suddenly has a negative tone, ya know.
Sadly, nothing out of Iran's dissidents. Only that unfortunate detection of enriched Uranium. What IAEA inspector tracked that in on their shoes?!
Clear up the Axis of Evil as much as we can. They were named to it for a reason.
"Negative Tone" (Posted August 28, 2003)
The North Koreans announced they will test a nuke:
The remarks by North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong Il set a negative tone at the conference and raised questions about the success of the negotiations, which were scheduled to conclude Friday morning.

Yep, that's a 'negative tone' alright. No doubt about it.
Repeat after me—"Axis of Evil." Is it really so difficult?
If the success of the talks are in doubt, we have some real problems. Do we contain North Korea and squeeze them? Or do we prepare to invade? As I've said, I think surgical strikes will fail either because we don't get all the targets or because the North Koreans escalate to general war. 
I assume we start squeezing North Korea to promote regime collapse and basically dare them to invade the South. South Korea won't support an invasion of the North, but will North Korea force war when it will only bring South Korea into a war they otherwise wouldn't join?
Quite the dilemma for the psychopath in Pyongyang.
Right now we have cards to play. Everybody but us are in range of tested North Korean missiles. They may not be able to reach Alaska or Hawaii with reliable nuke-armed missiles. And by the end of next year, we should have a rudimentary system in place to shoot down North Korean missiles. It would be nice if we had some system in testing on a Navy ship in the Sea of Japan. Or the Japanese navy for that matter—they're pretty darn good too.
"The Chinese Imperial Threat" (Posted August 28, 2003)
The future of China is up for grabs. Democracy? Fascist state? Communist State? Civil war and anarchy? Splintered into component pieces? Are they a satisfied power or an unsatisfied one? We just cannot know if they are going to be a strategic partner, a strategic competitor, or an enemy.
What we should not be confused about is what the Chinese leadership wants. They base their legitimacy on an imperial model:
The result is a strange brew of economic dynamism on the part of individual citizens, political apathy among the population as a whole, a muted civic culture, and a form of Chinese racism. Accepting a paternalistic state, China's political and economic elites have little tolerance for notions of rights-bearing, consent-giving individuals. From this, as Terrill notes, it follows that Beijing still routinely refers to Chinese-Australians or Chinese-Americans as "Overseas Chinese," as though the decision to become citizens of some other country were nothing more than an inconvenient convention. And it follows as well that Taiwan must be part of One China--regardless of the fact that the island has never for any extended period been under China's control--because what matters is race, not popular consent

And for those who believe economic modernization is automatically a path to political liberalization rather than a means to increasing state and party control, far from opening up, the Chinese have cracked down on debate:
After several months of permitting China's intellectuals the freedom to call for political reform, ponder far-reaching revisions to the constitution and consider changes in the official history of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Communist Party has ordered a halt to such debate, and security personnel have begun harassing leading academics, economists and legal scholars, sources here say.

While the Chinese communists may not be able to pull this off, I think that they will sacrifice economic progress in a heartbeat if they think it will undermine their political monopoly of power. They will not be Soviet Union—Eastern Version.
China, despite our overall military superiority, seeks to be a threat to us in pursuit of their ambitions. And it would be foolish for us to measure their capacity in our terms or even their motivations. The peril of mirror imaging their decisions, goals, and capabilities is too dangerous not to take them seriously. Taiwan is especially in the cross hairs and we had best strengthen Taiwanese defenses and our own posture in the western Pacific to counter the Chinese. As I've noted before, the German invasion of Norway and Crete were rather foolish if you looked at troop strength, naval power, and all the other factors that argued against German success. And even if they can't beat us, as the Japanese of the 1940s proved to be incapable of doing, war with China would be costly. Yet they might still pursue war against Taiwan based on bad assumptions. As the Weekly Standard piece points out:
THE DANGER of course is not only that China might obtain this capability--last year's "Annual Report" listed 350 short-range ballistic missiles deployed across from Taiwan; this year's lists 450--but also that the military will convince themselves and China's leadership that it can pull such a strategy off. It's difficult to deter military planners who believe that they can overcome shortfalls in real capabilities by being cleverer than the opponents or who believe that their opponents are weak willed.

No rational Japanese leader could have concluded that Japan could beat America in 1941. Yet they 
attacked anyway, believing they could win.
Until the future of China evolves into one of the potential futures (and for some of the potential futures, afterwards too but with less ambiguity), we must guard against the Chinese pursuit of what they want. 
The uncertainly of the future facts does not change what they want their future to look like. We won't like their planned future.
"Making Foreign Policy Choices" (Posted August 27, 2003)
An excellent piece on judging past foreign policy decisions based on our knowledge of what happened and our presumed ability to judge all that would have happened had we chosen differently in the past. Our installation of the Shah, support of the Afghan resistance in the 1980s, our decision to not march on Baghdad in 1991 have all been second-guessed. I agree that the decisions were reasonable and that all in all, we have done well. I never agreed with those who say we should have marched on Baghdad in 1991. It is certainly debatable but I was never egotistical enough to say that I knew that no other problems would have arisen. As I've written here in the past, we do what we can at the time. If we try to predict all possible consequences we will be frozen in indecision. We decide as best we can to solve the current problem and accept that future so-called "blowback" will have to be faced by leaders and people we hope are up to the task of their time. Anyway, this sums up what I got from the piece nicely:
American presidents, who have to make the truly big decisions of U.S. foreign policy, must come to a judgment with incomplete information, often under stress and merciless time constraints, and frequently with their closest advisors painting one another in shades of disagreement. The choices are never between obviously good and obviously bad, but between greater and lesser sets of risks, greater and lesser prospects of danger. Banal as it sounds, we do well to remind ourselves from time to time that things really are not so simple, even when one's basic principles are clear and correct. When President George W. Bush strove, from September 12, 2001 onward, to make the moral and strategic stakes of the war on terrorism clear, he was immediately enshrouded by an inescapable fog of irrepressible fact: namely, that our two most critical tactical allies in the war on terrorism, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, were the two governments whose policies had led most directly to 9-11. If that was not enough ambiguity with which to start the war on terrorism, the various sideswipes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon provided more.
We do not make foreign policy decisions in easily compartmentalized problems. Do we take down the Saudi regime? What about our economy and the world's economy? Do we take out Iran or Syria? What will the North Koreans do? Do we take out the North Korean regime? Will our allies abandon us in fear of nuclear strikes? Do we confront the Pakistani regime? How will this affect Afghanistan or will Pakistani nukes disappear into the wild north?

We do not know so very much. Yet still we must decide what to do. I am amazed we have done so well under the circumstances.

"Keeping the Peace in Iraq" (Posted August 27, 2003)
Much is being made of the statistic that American casualties from the Iraq War have been surpassed by the casualties of the post-war stabilization. This might be a big deal if we suffered heavy casualties in Iraq but we won the war with casualties half the level I expected if we didn't face chemical warfare or a Battle for Baghdad with effective die-hards. Obviously it is tragic for the military people we have lost and their families. (I hate having to add this caveat but people eager to discredit will call you callous if you don't) I remind myself of the cost of this war by reading every casualty notice the Pentagon sends out. Would that the opponents of the war on terror would read the death notice of a victim of 9-11 at the rate of one every other day, they'd still be reading after 16 years. But losing 3 or 4 troops per week is not militarily significant. Such low levels of losses just do not interfere with our military's ability to carry out its missions. Our troops and the British are very good and we are slowly grinding the Sunni Baathist and jihadist opposition down. (Austin Bay has a good piece on on this. Although I am skeptical of the deliberate nature of the whole "flypaper" theory)

We do have a problem, however, and it relates to the problem of getting American troops off the firing line in static guard posts and routine security patrols. As we put allied forces in place, it turns out-not too surprisingly-that they are less effective. From
August 27, 2003: As troops from other nations begin to relieve American and British troops, a major problem is developing. US and British troops have the best civil affairs (working with civilians in wartime) capability in the world. The US Army has maintained a large force of civil affairs troops since World War II. The marines literally wrote the book (the Small Wars Manual) on these kinds of operations and have long been noted for their skill and enterprise in working with civilians. Many of the new troops coming in have experience with United Nations peacekeeping operations. Unfortunately, the UN operations are usually rife with corruption and mismanagement. In many cases in Iraq, efficient American troops are being replaced by contingents less willing to work, and more eager to steal. This is going to lead to more unrest among civilians, and make it easier for the criminal gangs, Saddam diehards and Islamic radicals to operate.
American commanders are not unaware of these problems, but they have limited resources to deal with it. There are an increasing number of Iraqi police and para-military security forces being put to work, and these are supervised by Americans (usually civilians.) There are still US Army civil affairs troops to work with the foreign contingents, but the new peacekeeping troops cannot be watched full time. Moreover, the new peacekeepers will not patrol, or operate against Iraqi resistance, as effectively as American troops.
International forces do not translate into more effective peacekeeping. Sure, getting allied help solves the problem of over-committing US forces but other problems result. We will have to watch them closely and intervene if necessary. It is a balancing act. Hopefully, we balance it right and get allied and Iraqi forces for guard duty and routine security patrols; civilians rebuilding the economy, government, and courts; American forces on the offensive against the thugs, criminals, and jihadists; and good intelligence guiding it all. It would be nice if the State Department could get Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia to keep the jihadists from flocking from their territory to Iraq. [pause for laughter to subside] Of course, absent successful diplomacy, other means may be necessary. 

And if allied force under US command are less effective, imagine what it would be like under UN command. Think Bosnian "safe areas." Keep this in mind when opponents of the war insist that the UN must take command in Iraq. These people were wrong about the war and don't know what they are talking about in the post-war.

And part of keeping the peace in Iraq is, as I noted above, dealing with Iraq's neighbors. Ledeen has a piece on resuming the offensive. He is more pessimistic than I am though I share worries that delay is deadly. Sadly, some delay is necessary for reasons I've given already. We can't do everything at once for all our power. Still, we must keep focused on waging the war even when we pause. If we forget we are merely paused and not done, we will lose this war against terror.

"Scatter Them" (Posted August 26, 2003)
Air power is supporting US troops and Afghan forces as we go after Taliban/al Qaeda forces that have recently massed to overrun Afghan government posts. As I wrote earlier, keep them dispersed and they are a law enforcement problem. Let them mass and they are a military problem. 
Hopefully, this and future actions will disperse the enemy once again. Yes, I know, when they mass we can use firepower more effectively, but I'd rather have a slow police problem than a spectacular military victory. Still, kill as many as we can while we disperse them, of course…
No let up there, boys. Keep them on the defensive worrying about what we will do to them.
But without active Pakistani cooperation to wipe out the sanctuaries, knocking the Taliban types off for good will be very difficult.
"More Troops in Iraq?" (Posted August 26, 2003)
Ran across a good article on the Pentagon defense of not pumping up troop strength in Iraq to "solve" the current "crisis."
Oh, and I should make on point in defense of our large ground forces in Vietnam—we weren't just fighting pajama-clad Viet Cong. We faced large conventional North Vietnamese regiments and divisions that required large American formations to fight. Different war. And in the end, Saigon fell to an armored blitzkrieg by the North Vietnamese…
"A Good Offense" (Posted August 26, 2003)
Oh, and a nice piece on dealing with Iran, Syria, and Iran in order to build a free Iraq.
"The Cam Ranh Bay Umpires Association" (Posted August 26, 2003)
A nice article by Ignatius on why just pumping up troop numbers in Iraq is not the right way to defeat the Iraqi insurgents, despite the cry by some that we are on the verge of defeat and quagmire. The best part:
One former senior Pentagon official from the Vietnam era offers a pithy, five-word response to the argument that sending more troops would solve America's problems in Iraq. The "Cam Ranh Bay Umpires Association." The U.S. troop presence in Vietnam grew so large, he recalls, that there was a demand for sports at the huge U.S. base at Cam Ranh Bay; with so many players, they needed umpires, and with so many umpires, they needed an umpires' association. But none of that translated into victory.

We need Iraqis and allies (until the Iraqis can do it all) for point security and border security so it doesn't look like an American occupation that alienates Iraqis. We need American and allied special forces and precision air power to go after the insurgents without tearing up the countryside. We need large American Army formations as a hammer and to watch external foes in Iran and Syria lest they get adventurous. These needs do not mean we need a large American commitment of troops to police Iraqi cities.
Resist the Siren Song of added troop strength. 
"Expeditionary Strike Groups" (Posted August 26, 2003)
From The Navy is putting to sea Expeditionary Strike Groups:
August 26, 2003: The U.S. Navy has deployed the first of it's new Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs). In the past, Amphibious Ready Groups were just the three specialized ships carrying marines and their equipment (including helicopters and AV-8 vertical take off warplanes.) The EGSs contain the amphibious ships, plus four more warships (a cruiser, destroyer, frigate and nuclear submarine). These ships bring with them over 400 Tomahawk cruise missiles, an excellent anti-aircraft capability and three guns for support of operations near the shore. The frigate only carries a 76mm gun, but the destroyer and cruiser each mount a 127mm gun. The ESG will contain 2.200 marines and 2,800 marines. By next year, there will be two ESGs in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic. ESGs will be better able to handle situations where the hostiles on shore have access to warplanes, small warships (like missile boats) and artillery. But in most cases, the ESG will operate in conjunction with a carrier task force.

This is a step toward what I called an Expeditionary Battle Force (in Joint Force Quarterly in the summer of 2001). Basically, I wanted a Marine Expeditionary Unit sailing with surface warships and possibly a carrier (if organic Harriers weren't enough air power) as a forward deployed reaction force. My addition was that ships with enough equipment to expand the ship-based battalion task force to a brigade should sail with the amphibious group. The Marines now have then docked in ports overseas. The JFQ article doesn't include supporting charts that I submitted, but these are available on my web site here.
What with talk that the Marines want mobile artillery instead of towed and AC-130s, it may be that the Marines are taking to heart my concerns that amphibious warfare is too much of the Marine Corps mission.
Of course, even though Inchon was a long time ago, the Korean crisis could very well become a war and then I will be glad the Marines are so good at amphibious warfare. 
I never said abandon the capability. Let's just call this my Korean peninsula exception to the rule!
"The Best Defense…" (Posted August 25, 2003)
Ledeen is worried that we are sitting on our laurels and forgetting to pursue terrorists and terror-supporting states. Faster please, he urges.
I too worry about this. I hoped that July 9 demonstrations in Iran would turn out to be more significant. I didn't expect a regime change that week—but I thought it possible. I still can't rule out the possibility that our success in Iraq will inspire Iranians to overthrow the mullahs, but each passing day makes this less likely without our help. At least in the short and medium term. As I wrote before, however, regime change in Iran is necessary to cement our gains in Iraq as well as to stop a charter member of the Axis of Evil from getting nukes. I suspect we can browbeat Syria but if we can't, regime change there must be considered. These states do not want the example of a democratic Iraq to infect them. I argued for the offensive against these states because in defense, they would attack us in Iraq. They are doing so. Saudi Arabians figure in here, too.
Although I have some gnawing worries about our ability and will to maintain the offensive, I am not "officially" worried yet. My guess is that we are in a pause and not abandoning the offensive war against terror-supporting regimes. It is simply a fact that we can't do everything all at once. 
Too many wars in one term give too much ammunition to the people who charge "war monger!" Too little time devoted to domestic policies leaves a president vulnerable on bread and butter issues. The war on terror is not a table-top exercise after all, it is waged in the real world. Democracies wage war as long as the people support the administration. Would it be better to put a candidate in the White House who wishes to abandon all we have accomplished? Perhaps one could argue that more victories would bolster electoral prospects, just as Lincoln's reelection was saved by battlefield victories, but there are other issues as well. 
For one, too many wars in a short time strain our military too much. We need to rest, maintain, retrain and reorient. These are volunteers and not conscripts or mercenaries.
We need to build more JDAMs and cruise missiles. 
We need time to train Iraqis and Afghanis in security operations. We need time to turn over static occupation duties in Iraq to allies. These things will free up our forces for offensive action in Iraq and for contingencies elsewhere.
In the short run, North Korea is a huge, looming "elsewhere." We need to keep our military as free as possible in order to have a credible threat against the North Koreans while we give diplomacy a try.
I believe we are using this time to prepare for future operations even as we seem to be paused for no good reason. Like the pause of 3rd ID in the sandstorm after their romp across the desert that preceded the capture of Baghdad and the destruction of Iraq's field forces, we are preparing for further action. We could be taking too much time, of course, when less would do. I still think we should have planned to strike Iraq at the end of 2002 to wrap up the Iraq War by the end of January. I worried that time would give our enemies time to do something to screw us up. Maybe they used that time to scrub Iraq of WMD under Russian guidance. (Then again, if this scrubbing was done, maybe delay means we did not face chemical attacks as we feared.)
Perhaps I am overly optimistic but I do not think the war against terror has been declared over. We just don't know who has to be next and who can wait a bit longer.
"Security in Iraq" (Posted August 25, 2003)
According to AP:
About 150,000 American troops are in Iraq, along with 20,000 soldiers from Britain and other coalition countries. Roughly 50,000 Iraqis are working with the United States on security matters.

That's 10,000 more than I though when I wrote earlier on troop strength. We have enough in Iraq as far as I can see.
And what to make of this? From the same article:
Questions about U.S. troop strength in Iraq have heightened since the truck bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad last week that killed the United Nations' top envoy and at least 23 others.

Huh? Let's see, the US repeatedly tried to get the UN to agree to added security measures and heavy armor outside the compound. The UN said no and—to really highlight their security expertise—hired guards they knew had ties to Saddam's former intelligence services. And this bombing incident is supposed to show that America has not made the right choices on security in Iraq and that we should turn responsibility over to the UN?
I rather think not.
I say we follow Kofi Annan's wise advice as he commented on the UN's refusal to accept better security at the Baghdad headquarters:
Annan said that "we all live" in New York and "nobody tells you if you want police to patrol your neighborhood," adding that the police made such assessments not the residents.

"And that's what should be done in Iraq," he said before briefing the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

Apparently, Annan does not think the UN should be making security decisions since it is up to the force providing the security to provide the assessments. (I wish he had made this position clearer as we debated Iraq in the UN last year! The neighborhood sure was telling us what we could and could not do then…) Clearly, the US and our allies on the ground should make the decisions. That's what should be done in Iraq.
"Troop Levels in Iraq" (Posted August 24, 2003)
It is interesting that those who generally oppose the administration and the Iraq War are calling for more troops to be sent to Iraq. It is hard for me to escape the nagging feeling that they call for more troops to get the quagmire they long predicted. Since the same critics leap on any bad news without looking at any of the good news, I am suspicious. Oh, not plotting for US defeat conspiracy suspicious, but just wondering. They'd be happier if we left, so why call for more troops? I really think they want more troops to strain the military and embarrass the administration. Or they want to put the UN in charge of Iraq to support their ideological outlook that only the UN can provide legitimacy and never the US and our allies alone.

I don't think we need more US troops in Iraq. We have say 160,000 US and allied troops. We have, according to Paul Bremer, more than 50,000 Iraqis in guard duties at facilities and the border as well as police. I've also read the figure of 70,000. We plan to have a 40,000-man Iraqi army in a couple years and we are training more police and security people. With just what we have now, we have 210,000 security personnel-most high grade US and British forces. What are they facing? I've heard estimates of several hundred to several thousand. It can't be too many-or if the number is in the thousands-they are not too active, since we've lost a soldier to combat on average every other day since the end of major combat operations declared on May 1st. We face about a dozen attacks every day, on average. But lets say several thousand-say 3,000 to be generous. The usual figure for defeating insurgencies is for the counter-insurgents to have a 10:1 numerical advantage. This is needed precisely because the insurgents are disguised and the authorities must guard lots of static positions in addition to having soldiers free to seek out the insurgents. By the traditional insurgency rules, we have a 70:1 ratio right now.

We simply do not need more troops. We need high quality troops to quietly seek out the insurgents. We need Iraqis to guard the borders and static positions. We need the support of the Iraqi people to keep those leads about insurgents coming in. We need to make more progress on the infrastructure and the building of local governments.

All these things we are doing.

All this ruckus about more troops for Iraq seems related to the cries about how the Iraq War has caused terrorists to flock to Iraq and we have created a terrorism haven where one did not exist when the purpose of the war was to fight terrorism. This is such an outlandish claim that one hardly knows where to begin. Are the proponents of this claim actually asserting that Saddam had no ties to terrorism? They always jump right to refuting a claim never made-that Saddam supported the 9-11 attacks-and then say this shows no ties to terrorism at all. Wow. Iraq was a threat conventionally to its neighbors, was a threat to us and our friends through support for terrorism, and a threat by its pursuit of WMD. This leaves aside the apparently trivial issue of Saddam's massive human rights violations. As for the Islamists flocking to Iraq, what of them? With Arab and Moslem countries perfectly at peace in contrast to the predictions of anti-war types that those "streets" would explode and cause Islamists to take control of those governments (we know now that the "street" was paid by Saddam's envoys to march and chant), can we fairly conclude that the presence of some foreign nutballs in Iraq proves the war was counter-productive? Are we to say that there were few nutballs out there prior to the war and we created them like that Harvard professor claims? Aren't the people making this claim missing something about the last twenty years-from the Beirut Marine barracks bombing to 9-11 to Bali and other numerous attacks on US and Western interests?

We did not create the Islamist nutballs we are now fighting. The difference is we are now seriously fighting them. We don't need more troops in Iraq to do that.

Now, if we're talking whether the Army should be larger... give me a couple medium-weight motorized infantry divisions with mostly HMMVW-mounted infantry and a battalion of armor and battalion of mechanized infantry for added protected firepower, plus some separate Military Police brigades and battalions. It would take a couple years to stand up a new division from scratch but the MP units could get on line faster depending on the MP training pipeline.

"UN Attack an Inside Job" (Posted August 22, 2003)
The nerve of people who say the UN bombing shows we must turn over Iraq security responsibilities to the UN is astounding. On top of the refusal of the UN to accept US security outside their headquarters, we find out that the attackers may have had inside help. Even if this particular suspicion does not pan out, we find out that the UN guards outside were former Saddam spies and the UN knew who they were!

Are we really willing to turn over security to people with a world view this stupid?
Will the proponents of the wisdom of the international community please explain how this would be superior?

And shouldn't this experience tell us of the folly of letting Baathists remain in positions of responsibility? De-Baathification even if it takes out some expertise is worth the price.

"REMF Training" (Posted August 22, 2003)
PFC Lynch and her unit will probably get a movie deal. Line units, such as those in Army V Corps and First MEF are understandably upset that a rear echelon unit that got cut up gets the attention while their drive north gets little public glory. I'd rather see movies about 3rd ID or 101stAB or 82nd AB or 1st MEF. Shoot, look at the audacity of parachuting a two-battalion 173rd AB with a tiny heavy task force into the north of Iraq where several Iraqi army corps were nearby as well as a couple Republican Guard divisions!

But the real reason for this post is the issue of rear echelon troop training. I read at that the performance of the Lynch unit really did reflect poor combat training. Rear area types, like I was, receive little fighting training. I do think our unit made it through better than lots of units from other countries would have done, but with a small army we need to do better.

Lets look at my training when I was in the service.

In six years, I had one weekend of riot control training in the Guard. The vehicle identification tests were mostly opportunities for me to mess with the testers-when shown an AMX-30 tank and asked to identify it as friend or foe, I'd always say, "It depends-it's French." In signal school, there was one day of testing for basic skills like map reading and the like. In basic training, we learned fire and movement, some grenade skills, and lots of M-16 usage, but nothing really practical as far as tactical situations. No squad tactics even. On our field exercise, we couldn't even dig fox holes because of environmental rules. On the march to bivouac, we were ambushed (after I spotted the ambush and yelled "ambush!" our entire company hit the deck before the machine gun could open up. Our cadre got us back up, formed us up, and marched us into the ambush anyway). But nowhere did anybody teach us about the best way to beat an ambush while marching. I knew the best response was to attack, but I was pinned down under the MG. I tried getting our squad mates who were off to the side to attack but nobody moved. Later, when cadre attacked out positions at night there was no discussion of how you use grenades at night so as not to reveal your position. I got my revenge by scattering large rocks along our squad's perimeter. I heard lots of cursing as our drill sergeants ran along our perimeter nearly falling as they ran! The never attacked our frontage. While on forest patrol, we never really learned anything. They just popped tear gas at us. It was more like playing soldier than anything. In the Guard, we drew up paper fighting positions when we went on summer training, but manned only the front gate. One year, our bunker covered the main road but a draw on the other side of the road led right past the bunker. My company CO ignored me when I noted this when the CO inspected our position while I was manning the M-60 position. Later, when the MPs attacked us (I was not on guard duty-in fact, I was heading off with an NCO to get supplies and we drove past the MP headquarters as they directed the attack), they attacked up the draw and penetrated out perimeter in about 5 seconds. And this was the only time while I was in that we were attacked. One year, we did have to put out a listening post, but we just sat there in the dark with no way to communicate with anybody if we did hear or see anything. Basically, we assumed an attached infantry unit would provide security. We never learned tactical driving or anti-ambush routines or anything like that.
Clearly, the drive on Baghdad in the Iraq War showed us that our rear echelon troops need to spend time with basic soldier skills like defending their units and anti-ambush drills. They need more than annual familiarization with their rifles.

If the future of our ground forces reflects the Iraq War with well-trained American combat troops supported by air power attacking into masses of enemy forces that greatly outnumber our troops, we will have fewcombat troops to guard the rear area troops in the early chaotic days when enemy forces are bypassed. Our rear echelon troops will need to be able to protect themselves. They need anti-ambush drills, the ability to call in air power and artillery, reliable organic weapons, and the confidence to fight and not just perform their technical jobs. And remember, the situation may get worse for US ground forces in the future. As I've written in past posts, the Iraq War actually reflected our long-held view of what a major theater war would take to win. We had about 60 US line battalions-nearly half Marines-which is the equivalent of 6 divisions of troops. Add in a British division and we had 7 good divisions. Our plans for a generic MTW call for 5 Army division and 1 or 2 Marine divisions-6 or 7 divisions. If Rumsfeld's view of a transformed Army envisions fewer troops with lots of precision firepower in support, combat units will be even scarcer on the battlefield.
I know I wasn't trained nearly enough to fight. I may have been a decent phone guy, but I was an Army phone guy. I should have known how to fight in situations my unit could reasonably be expected to confront.

"The Big Hammer" (Posted August 22, 2003)
The Iraqis are going to Saudi Arabia to get support from the Saudi government. Truly, the Iraqis need the Saudis to halt the flow of fanatics into Iraq to fight the provisional government and coalition forces.

Given the Shia support for us in Iraq and Iran, I think we may be able to develop a sizable hammer to bring the Saudis in line-or if they don't, to cut off the money for Wahabbi fanaticism.

A Shia revolt in Saudi Arabia. By a nice coincidence, the Shias of Saudi Arabia are concentrated in the oil-rich eastern provinces. The Saudis are worried enough, having seen Shias take over the Grand Mosque back in 1979 (?). Oh, in defiance of Moslem sensibilities, French commandos reportedly took part in the bloody assault into that holy place to free the mosque. But our troops don't take their boots off when they enter a Saddamite home...

Anyway, I digress.

Seriously, if Shias disposed to be friendly to us take over and finally get a share of the oil wealth that now goes to the Sunni royal family, we can just let the Wahabbis enjoy their 18th century "purity" in the desert with the holy places of Islam at Mecca and Medina. They'll get money from the oil pipeline going to the Red Sea but this will be a far cry from the wealth they use to spread fanaticism.

Yeah, we need their oil. But after the election, when the threat to cut off the oil flow will not be so potent, we can probably afford to get tough with the Saudis. This confrontation is coming. Only the timing remains in question.

Unless the Saudi royal family gets a clue and reforms. And is effective. says the Saudis really are fighting the al Qaeda people:
Saudi Arabia's government has been engaged in a bloody, bitter war with Al Qaeda since 9-11, with efforts intensifying over the last few months. The conflict has taken against a back drop of confusing kaleidoscope of circumstances, divided loyalties, innuendoes, suspicions and misunderstandings.
This is a start. Saudi Arabia can be a friend, an enemy, an ineffective friend, or an ineffective enemy.

We shall see.

Also remember that as we focus on North Korea, we can ill afford to press other potential enemies even as we settle Afghanistan and Iraq down. The North Koreans probably fear us a lot more now that we have finished the Iraq War with such decisive and rapid battlefield success. They won't fear us if we get involved in another war right now.

We're darn busy. Those who think we need to stop Saudi Arabia last week need to keep this in mind.

"Russian Interference in Iraq?" (Posted August 21, 2003)
Did the Russians try to scrub Iraq of WMD prior to our invasion? From, Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former Soviet bloc intel guy:
As a former Romanian spy chief who used to take orders from the Soviet KGB, it is perfectly obvious to me that Russia is behind the evanescence of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. After all, Russia helped Saddam get his hands on them in the first place. The Soviet Union and all its bloc states always had a standard operating procedure for deep sixing weapons of mass destruction — in Romanian it was codenamed "Sarindar, meaning "emergency exit." I implemented it in Libya. It was for ridding Third World despots of all trace of their chemical weapons if the Western imperialists ever got near them. We wanted to make sure they would never be traced back to us, and we also wanted to frustrate the West by not giving them anything they could make propaganda with.

Interesting if true. It would certainly explain a lot. We knew Iraq had WMD. Before the war, Iraqi officials at times threatened us if we invaded—so much so that anti-war types insisted war would provoke Iraq to use chemical weapons. The Iraqis prepared for chemical warfare. The abundant chemical suits attest to that. We overheard them order its use during the advance on Baghdad. Could be Iraq had them and prepared to use them but the Russians persuaded Saddam to let them disappear the WMD with the understanding that after a siege of Baghdad dragged on, the Russians and French would engineer a ceasefire and then Russia would help Saddam reconstitute. Iraqi commanders not in the loop on this decision would have ordered the use of chemical weapons they had every reason to expect were there. This also makes far more sense than the one theory that made the rounds just after the war that lower ranking Iraqis pretended to have WMD programs because they had insufficient money to fund them and they were too afraid of Saddam to tell him the truth. The consequences of being caught by Saddam in such a lie seemed too dire for me to buy that argument. 
Earlier, I said I expected US, Russian, and EU spooks would be racing each other to get the goods on the WMD programs and other records once we broke the Iraqi military resistance. I may have under-estimated the Russians. On the bright side, the Russians seriously under-estimated our military and expected a long siege of Baghdad. We may have overrun WMD sites the Russians figured were safe in the short term.
The end of the summer is approaching and when the war ended it seemed reasonable to me that by September we should be in a position to say with some authority what we have found. I hope we do publish what we have. I hope it is good. We would suffer an undeserved blow to our credibility if we cannot show that Iraq had WMD and programs.
"New Rules of Engagement—Part Two" (Posted August 21, 2003)
So just how is the international community of nations helping us deflect this kind of threat:
As readers of The Post learned last week, North Korean ships that covertly transport assembly lines for missiles have been discovered marketing their wares for cold cash. Pyongyang's Stalinists today spread weapons of mass destruction not to ideological soul mates or to military allies, but to those who can pay cash on delivery.

International controls on the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology, missiles, chemical arms and biological warfare instruments are being flouted by a new category of mercenary rogue states -- the determined proliferators. North Korea and Pakistan head this infamous list, with Libya, Iran and others vying for positions on it.

We are supposed to ignore this threat in the interests of soothing international law fetishists. We are supposed to look the other way and do nothing. But when some state or group detonates a crude nuclear device in one of our cities, only then we can legally respond. 
I'm sure millions will light candles and cry that they are all Americans now, in the wake of that tragic event. But when we then seek to destroy those who would destroy us, we will be called cowboys and worse.
Preemption is the only way we can stop such madness from engulfing us in such a catastrophe.
I admit it is hardly sophisticated of me. I don't care.
"The Logic of Surrender" (Posted August 21, 2003)
I was only home a brief time last night but was lucky enough to catch Jessica Stern, the Harvard prof I linked to yesterday who asserted that America created the terror problem in Iraq. She at least had the sense to immediately back-pedal and assert correctly that the terrorists bore the responsibility for the UN headquarters blast and not the US. It's nice that a realization that what she wrote would make her look bad if she repeated it occurred to her.
Yet her continued defense revealed a very basic failing in her reasoning. You see, she has talked to lots of terrorists and she is impressed with how they can twist any event into a reason to join the jihad and kill innocents. Thus, she says, our invasion of Iraq just gave the Islamists another recruiting tool.
We know that when we sat and took it—or just lobbed a few tons of explosives at some real estate and then went on our merry way, that the Islamists recruited plenty of nutballs. The sight of Britney Spears' navel was apparently more than enough to inspire the recruiters for good material. Now, of course, Stern says that the humiliation of having Baghdad under American occupation is inspiring nutballs to go to Iraq. So in her mind, apparently, if we do nothing—the nutballs recruit successfully; and if we fight back—the nutballs also recruit successfully. Quite the dilemma. It really is the most amazing way of looking at the world. Said another way, when we are attacked and 3,000 of us die in a single day, fighting back is just "playing into their hands." And tellingly enough, it is a line of reasoning that they never ever apply to the nutballs. When have any of them said, "attacking Americans is really counter-productive, the nutballs should just be peaceful and not provoke us. Don't they realize that Army recruiters salivate at the idea of a recruiting campaign that shows young men the glory and duty of defending their homeland from nutball terrorists?" Nope won't hear that from any Harvard PhD.
John Gibson appropriately asked the esteemed doctor what she thought was the solution. She, in a manner that will doubtless inspire her students, failed to answer the question and instead rewrote the question to one she could answer without looking like an idiot. She simply repeated the clever recruiting line she had spoken about earlier.
Using Dr. Stern's reasoning, the only way to undercut Islamofascist recruiting would be to absolutely and completely surrender to the nutjobs. We'd all need to convert to Islam, stone adulterers (defined as any woman not married), kill deviants (which would include what in their heads? I shudder to think), and basically turn America into the caliphates of New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Seattle. Even then they'd probably still recruit for whip-wielding morality police lest some newly Islamized American women dared to try and escape from their all-girls school in case of a fire—letting male firefighters and gawkers gaze on their precious, mind-crazing ankle skin.
The problem with Stern's logic—and many others I've read or talked to over the years since 9-11 (and even during the Cold War too for that matter)—is that they fundamentally miss one important factor.
We are at war.
This is not some accounting contest to see if we can reduce terrorist ranks by undermining their ability to meet membership goals. Our CIA should not be exultant over a 3% drop in al Qaeda recruitment because we failed to do anything that week to rile up the proto-nutballs on the verge of chucking their family life and heading off to jihad.
Oh sure, we do want to cut down their ranks—like by about 99%. And I'm not saying that we shouldn't try to work hard at removing the incentives for joining jihad. Or incentives for providing support to jihadists. Our war on terror is not primarily a military war—notwithstanding the very necessary Afghan and Iraq campaigns. But the key to remember is that we are at actual war. The proper response to addressing the problem of jihadist nutballs who have committed themselves to die for their perverted version of their faith is to (recall the whole obscure "war" thing) kill them. 
Perhaps we've embarked on too many rhetorical "wars" (that the left and right are both guilty of doing) that the Sterns of our country have forgotten that "war" is not just some struggle for perfection over some societal problem. Perhaps this is also why the Sterns of our country are also so keen on insisting that "jihad" is a personal struggle for self improvement forgetting that all those Islamofascist calls for jihad against America are not calling on Moslems to embark on a 12-step program of personal growth—they are urging Moslems to kill infidel westerners wherever we are. And although I don't buy the idea that we delibarately embarked on a "flypaper" strategy to encourage the nutballs to go to Iraq where we can shoot them, it is nice that they prefer to go to Iraq rather than Manhattan to finish the job they started back in the early 90s with the first World Trade Center bombing.
This is an actual war, and we need to kill the nutballs and the nutball recruiters. Maybe the surrender advocates are right that the Islamofascists wanted a war between themselves and America. But I tell you what, they didn't count on our military sweeping around the globe and ripping their goddamn murdering hearts out.
We're not done doing that. Not even close.
"U.N. Headquarters Bombing" (Posted August 20, 2003)
I love it when a writer I like sets forth what I am thinking so I don't have to bother. Peters has a good posting about the Baghdad bombing of the UN headquarters. One of the biggest things that annoyed me (other than the shock that the terrorists would strike the "good" UN guys instead of US troops) was the assertion of the press that this attack was an escalation of the violence on top of the attacks on US troops who are "sitting ducks." Bull. We send our troops out on patrol as bait—confident that we can give them the first shot and still rip their hearts out. And this on top of the offensive ops that have been decimating the resistance. Says Peters:
Our enemies' initial "Mogadishu Strategy" - based on the faulty notion that if you kill Americans they pack up and go home - was a disaster for them. Our response devastated their already-crippled organization. Now, with reduced capabilities and decayed leadership, they've turned to attacking soft targets. It's the best they can do.

And this should end the idea that turning over the administration of Iraq to the UN will settle the country down. The UN is hated, too, by the thugs of the world. After all, the UN only tried to protect Saddam with its asinine legal fetishism—they didn't succeed, however.
Oh, one other thing bothers me—the rush to blame America. Figures. The attack is useful as a cudgel to attack America and an administration they hate with a blind fury that exceeds anything the Clinton-haters managed. The anti-war left is pining away for the alleged stability of Saddam's Iraq. The "root cause" always leads back to America, apparently. But remember this (from the bombing article linked above):
Except for the recently built concrete wall, U.N. officials at the headquarters refused heavy security because the United Nations "did not want a large American presence outside," said Salim Lone, the U.N. spokesman in Baghdad.

The UN had better learn (as well as the rest of the world) that there is no neutrality in the war between civilization and terrorism. The UN people did not deserve to die. Living in your fantasy world is hardly a crime worthy of death even if its effect is to bring harm to others. Though the UN staffers may have suffered from a naiveté that is aggravating in its morally superior pose, they were trying to help Iraqis gain a better life. And make no mistake, the Baathists who still fight and the Islamists who probably carried out this bombing care not one bit about the welfare of the Iraqi people. They and their ilk will kill again until we kill them. They will kill Americans, and Norwegians, and UN civil servants, and Jewish children on a bus. Even good Iraqi Moslems are targets. All are "against" them.
The terrorists clearly believe that you are either with them or against them. But unlike the United States, they will act violently against those against them. Will the UN realize it is one of us?
"Pressure" (Posted August 19, 2003)
On the eve of talks that include North Korea, the world community really is letting North Korea know they are on their own. Russian military exercises on the border and at sea with ROK and Japanese ships; Chinese and Japanese exchange of port visits; and other actions by other nations. North Korea wanted this to be a US-PDRK crisis and instead our diplomacy has brought in a lot of nations eager to thwart North Korea's nuclear ambitions. North Korea may yet decide on war as the means to escape this box, but they would lose. Still, I hope the President is right when he says:
'I'd like to solve this diplomatically, and I believe we can," President Bush told Armed Forces Radio and Television in an interview released by the White House today. "It's going to take a lot of persuasion by countries besides the United States to convince him."

Even victory would be bloody.
"Libya—Again" (Posted August 19, 2003)
An opinion piece on Libya and bringing the country back into the international community:
The final Lockerbie compensation offer marked the triumph of a deliberate American policy pursued by three successive administrations. A Libyan state that once served as a model of how to deal with rogue states can now serve as a model of how to deal with a revolutionary regime weary of its isolation and ostracism.

I'm not sure if we can fully bring Libya back in while Khaddafi is still ruler (in fact I'm pretty sure we should not), but we can start the process. Libya is different now. And it really isn't about Libya but the wider Arab world. We need to drain the swamp of support for terrorists and we should do that whether it requires regime change by coup, invasion, or even just weariness or fear of our military. This is a multi-faceted war and not even primarily a long series of military campaigns.
If we show others that they can step back from confrontation, it will have a real good effect.
"Not Possible" (Posted August 19, 2003)
It is simply not possible for al Qaeda to be urging Moslems to go to Iraq in order to fight on the side of Saddam's insurgents. Why, everybody opposed to the Iraq War said so, right? I mean the very idea that organizations as different as Nazis and Soviet Russians could cooperate at all, right?
Yet it happens. Who'd have thought that a common enemy could unite Islamofascists and secular anti-Americans. Live and learn.
Hmm. Not possible-part two. (via Instapundit) Saddam's people paid for demonstrations all over the Arab world to simulate an angry "street" as well as journalists and western politicians. Terrorist organizations too, although that linkage was supposed to be a Neo-Con wet dream or something. And, according to Instapundit, Al Jazeera is carrying on this scheme to generate "stories" that, if they are lucky, will include Iraqi casualties. First, communists organized protests here; and now we find Baathists funded supporters and terrorists overseas? Gee, who'd have thought it possible? 
"Rules of Engagement" (Posted August 19, 2003)
The North Korea crisis once again raises the issue of how America can forestall threats against our people. The legal purists out there really hate the idea of America preempting threats to the United States. They say that the UN only allows military response outside of the approval of the UN in cases of actual attack when it is not possible to gain UN approval prior to using force. Thus, under this arrangement, US action to forestall the threat by Iraq (notwithstanding the prior resolutions on the subject) or, more to the point since that war is over and won—North Korea—is a violation of the UN charter simply because we refuse to take the first hit before fighting.
This is all fine and dandy if you assume the UN charter means something. If you assume that collective security against those who transgress against the common peace actually means nations will band together to thwart aggressors and thug regimes.
But the lofty goals of the UN are not a reality and so the lofty goal of banning all military responses to anything but overt, actual attacks is an invitation to getting attacked. This international agreement to use force only against actual attack is based on the assumption that the community of nations will actually deter any state from launching aggression. This bargain has not been put into effect and so we cannot carry out the first half of the bargain in the absence of the second half. And in the light of 9-11 and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons proliferation, this is a criminal standard for our leaders to adhere to. The international community will not protect us in all circumstances. We must maintain the right to act as a nation.
In essence, the global community's rules of engagement are a crock. We cannot count on the international community to deal with genocidal and dangerous regimes. Did we not try this route with one of the more egregious violators of the world's peace and prosperity when we begged the UN to let us deal with Saddam's defiance of the UN?
We need a new international organization of willing members who will fight with us. It doesn't even need to be a formal organization that explicitly abandons the UN. The UN should not, however, have a political role that limits our ability to defend our people in the absence of international resolve to protect our people. The UN should be restricted to UNESCO and WHO and the like.
We need rules of engagement that let us shoot the SOBs when we recognize them—not when they open fire. We're talking nukes here one day, people. The UN is not nearly enough.
"Foreign Business Opportunities" (Posted August 19, 2003)
Amazing what awaited me in my inbox when email went unchecked for five days. 
Wow, a son of Charles Taylor and the attorney for some multinational oil firm employees in Nigeria (who tragically died in an automobile accident) both need my help to get millions out of their respective countries. Screw the 401k, I'm off to West Africa with all my account information.
Do people get these emails and actually start seeing fortunes dance before them? As I understand it, a bunch of us in the west really are chumps who fall for this scam. If pirates from these countries stole this money by boarding our cruise ships and pointing guns and the foreign government didn't stop them, we'd send the Marines to bust them up. 
I expect that the next wave will be from staff or relatives of Idi Amin who desperately need help in spiriting out the vast sums of money from his estate in Saudi Arabia before Riyadh confiscates the money.
So what is the appropriate response to this stuff? Send in the spooks? JDAMs? A simple bombardment with Navy 5-inch HE shells? Figure anyone who falls for it should lose the money to preserve the Darwinian balance? Ask the UN to do something about it?
"Regrouping" (Posted August 19, 2003)
Taliban and allied elements are launching attacks in greater strength. After getting waxed in 2001, it was natural that the Taliban and their allies were scattered and unable to attack in large numbers. In time, it was always possible that the scattered remnants would coalesce into larger units. And since we never really had the southerners on board during the Afghanistan campaign to overthrow the Taliban regime, as time has passed they have gotten over their shock. Now the Taliban can launch attacks with a couple hundred troops in the southeast.
This is worrying.
We need effective Afghan government and government-allied troops in the provinces. We need American and western special forces linked to air power to bring firepower to bear when the Taliban are engaged. The Taliban must pay a price whenever they mass. In time, they won't mass. When they can't mass, they cannot be more than nuisances. We need to shut down the Pakistan sanctuary and pursue the Taliban into Pakistan when necessary and get some Pakistani cooperation in hunting the Taliban down.
We do not need to blanket the country with either American or UN-umbrella soldiers. We cannot make our presence seem like an invasion or occupation. We don't need to man those border posts, scattering our soldiers to make them vulnerable and inviting incidents that will enflame the locals against the "invaders."
The key is to keep the Taliban isolated and in small numbers. Do that and no police stations will succumb to attack and the Taliban will be a police problem. The people will cooperate with the government to find the Taliban. But let the Taliban continue to mass and this becomes a war again. Locals begin to hedge their bets not wanting to bank their future on the government winning.
We had a great success in depriving al Qaeda of their Afghanistan base, so renewed fighting does not mean our effort was in vain. Yet failure to slap these Taliban efforts down now will mean they will carve out a sanctuary in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and will renew their efforts against us. We will need to again dispatch scarce military resources in larger numbers to cope.
The war on terror is not over. We must adapt and fight. They are.
"Iceland" (Posted August 18, 2003)
Thank you, Iceland. They are going whale huntin' and the Euro-purists can get all worked up about whales instead of the imagined atrocities taking place at Gitmo. Nice to know even Europeans can violate civilized customs and norms.
"Libya" (Posted August 18, 2003)
Long ago, I posted that we should be prepared to lift sanctions on states like Libya if Libyan actions deserve it in order to show passively hostile states that they can get on our good side. It does no good to make semi-hostile states think they have no option short of joining our enemies and beating us.
Now, Britain will propose lifting sanctions on Libya. France opposes the move, which means it may well be a great idea.
Since U.S. sanctions still stand, I think I have to go with my gut reaction and say, yes, show the wider Arab world that things can get better if you stop aiding our enemies. I am wary of lifting US sanctions as long as Khaddafi rules Libya and fails to satisfy our demands for renouncing Libya's past actions and taking responsibility for them, but I think we can afford to relax this highly visible sanction.
The target audience is the wider Arab world, not just this petty dictatorship.
"Iraq" (Posted August 18, 2003)
Iraqi insurgents are striking more Iraqi civilian targets. Perhaps the effectiveness of American troops who patrol to invite ambushes confident we can win even these encounters, is pushing the Saddamites to hit easier targets. Yet the failure to press attacks against American troops to provoke American over-reaction against innocents (and raise Iraqi anger at America) could be a good sign that optimism over Iraq is justified. Now, insurgents will provoke Iraqi anger at the insurgents. It may be hard to be even a little supportive of the insurgents when they harm Iraqis rather than the American "occupiers."
"Korea" (Posted August 18, 2003)
I need to get back into the krill flow of news. Jumping in after even just 5 days away from my usual steady stream is unsettling. What am I missing from the last days? So I'll respond to an email about my August 8 (and earlier) posts on a Korean War II ( ). 
VS writes that:
One thing seems to be left out of your analysis of August 8 and earlier. That is the question of what should we expect the Chinese to do, or as important; not do, if we go to a shooting war with North Korea?
Sure; we win a conventional war with NK at the probable cost of great damage to Seoul. Short of going nuclear, do we win one with China in their back yard? I don't know, but the Chinese might see what looks to them as an opportunity they can't resist if we go after the North.

Indeed I did ignore the possibility that China would intervene on North Korea's side. I did this for two reasons: one—I wanted to focus just on the peninsula to address the idea that we could surgically strike North Korean nuclear and missile facilities and just end it there. I think any military option will most likely escalate to full war (and if it doesn't, did we miss what we wanted to get?). Talking about China tends to focus attention on the lower levels of violence lest we provoke Chinese intervention. 
Second, I don't think the Chinese would intervene. This isn't 1950 and the Chinese are long past ideological purity, so intervention to support communist "brothers" in Pyongyang is unlikely to inspire them. Unlike 1950, why should Peking care if a capitalist Korea is on their doorstep? They absorbed Hong Kong and are promoting capitalism, albeit under party direction if they can ride that tiger. In addition, China is too heavily reliant on foreign trade to risk the disruptions a war with the US would cause. South Korea trades with China and benefits China unlike the financial drain of propping up North Korea. Also, provoking a war now with the US before the Chinese can build up their military in selected areas to counter our advantages would leave us the advantage in war. We are incapable of invading and occupying China short of a World War II-style mobilization, but we would sweep the PRC naval and air forces from the coastal regions and our ground forces could pummel any Chinese ground intervention. In short, yes, we could beat them in their own backyard—we just can't enter the foyer, so to speak. The Chinese are pushing to modernize and are caught between their 1950s motivated infantry and a modern military. Chinese combat experience since 1953 hasn't been very good. They are several wars behind us in relevant experience. 
Perhaps most important from Peking's point of view, war with the US would probably end Peking's hopes of acquiring Taiwan any time soon. Gaining Taiwan is Peking's main foreign policy goal. War would lead to a tightening US-Taiwan alliance and possible Taiwanese declaration of independence. It would certainly lead to losses in already scarce Chinese amphibious assets. VS continues:
All the options I can see are bad. My one hope is that the Chinese find a nuclear armed North Korea in their back yard intolerable if for no other reason than it would drive the Japanese and Taiwan to go nuclear. Or we know as well and so just keep up containment at a moderate pressure level and wait for something better (or anyway less bad) to happen without our needing to invade and possibly have to give up Seoul or to engage the Chinese "hordes."

I did mention this decade sucks, I think, once or twice. Yes, all our options are bad—some just less so than others. I too hope that China will see that North Korea will prompt Japan, South Korea, and possibly Taiwan to go nuclear to deter Pyongyang. I read the Chinese considered whether they could invade North Korea but didn't think they could pull it off. That's a good sign too, since they are unlikely to also conclude they can beat us on the peninsula.
But keep in mind, I am not actually advocating invading North Korea. I just think we'd win if it came to that, and we should plan for all out war. I actually agree with VS that we could contain the North. I just don't worry about losing to Chinese hordes if it comes to a military showdown. (I'd still rather avoid war, of course) We can probably contain and squeeze Pyongyang and bring about regime change without necessarily provoking war. We did it before and against a much tougher opponent—the Soviet Union. We can talk. And we should prepare to fight if necessary. And we can watch North Korea debate the instant regime change that launching a war would guarantee versus overcoming the threat of slow collapse as they try to cope with military and economic threats. A slow collapse provides no point at which Pyongyang can say this is it—we either go to war or we collapse. Little upticks will give them hope that they have endured another hard period due to their resolute nature and the wisdom of the Dear Leader (of course). 
And they will try this without the resources, friends, and useful idiots that Moscow employed to resist us.
In short, war would suck—but we would win. But we probably don't have to initiate war to win. I just think that talk of "surgical" means of ending the crisis is folly. If we must go the military route, go all out. To steal from Napoleon, if we're going to take Pyongyang, take Pyongyang.
And in the meantime, we will practice interdicting dangerous cargoes in the Coral Sea. Why mention names and catch heck for being "provocative?" It's not like the actual running of drugs, nuclear, chemical, missile, and biological warfare materials/technology is provocative, now is it?
"Idi Amin Dead" (Posted August 17, 2003)
I heard, while I was on an island in the middle of a bay off of Georgian Bay, that Idi Amin died. This is how evil should die. Without power. A shrug and a 'was he still alive?' No quiet prayers that the SOB was finally dead and that maybe his minions would no longer do his bidding--killing and raping and sucking the life of a nation dry. No. He's just some guy from the 70s who's dead. Thank you Tanzanians for your regime change.

But in one way it is unsatisfying. I don't like the example of a mass murderergoing off to comfortable exile after losing. He should have suffered. He should have known the fear he inflicted. He should have stood trial. In the end, he should have been executed.

We should not be in the business of saving the hides of horrible dictators. When we deprive them of the power that makes their evil a mass production evil, we should finish them off. Leaving them alive sets a bad precedent.

"Human Shield Fined" (Posted August 12, 2003)
A human shield back from Iraq is being fined $10,000 by the US government. Fine by me—no pun intended. She still apparently thinks what she did was a good idea. That is pretty amazing itself. But check this out:
She and others from 30 countries spread out through Iraq in an effort to prevent U.S. bombing of the country. She spent about three months there, including time at an oil refinery. Only about 20 of nearly 300 human shields were Americans, she said. They all face the same charges.

Whoa! I thought those types said we were invading to get the oil? Why would shields need to park their morally elevated butts on Iraqi oil refineries? And furthermore, why aren't any of them dead? Was America evil enough to invade but not quite evil enough to target shields? Or were the shields posted at animal shelters, orphanages, and oil refineries unneeded given our care and precision?
And given the Saddamite attacks on the refineries after the war, shouldn't the shields be clamoring to go back to their old posts in the Iraqi refineries? Shoot, electricity and fuel shortages are undeniably harming the Iraqi people. Saboteurs are doing real harm.
Oh, but their shieldomness was never based on concern for the Iraqi people, now was it?
And besides, we know that using civilians as shields is a violation of the laws of civilized warfare. If she did volunteer, we'd say no.
What a loser.
"The Price of De-Baathification" (Posted August 12, 2003)
From, comes this:
August 12, 2003: The occupation authorities, at the urgings of the majority of Iraqis, are firing most Baath Party members from their jobs. The coalition occupation authorities had resisted this, because many of the most competent and experienced government and industry executives were Baath Party members. It was thought that most Iraqis would understand that no senior government or industry executive could hold a job without being a Baath Party member. But the majority of Iraqis are so bitter about the depredations of the Baath Party over the last three decades that they are adamant that Baath Party members be kept out of senior level jobs. But this creates some problems in finding Iraqis with managerial experience or technical training to run key operations. Iraq has serious reconstruction problems because of the massive looting and sabotage attacks by Sunni Arabs. The coalition is bringing in foreign managers and technical people to help out, but this is only a partial solution because of language and cultural differences.

I argued early on that de-Baathification had to run risks going deep rather than being shallow to retain expertise. I still believe this is absolutely the right thing to do. The fact that Iraqis are pressuring us to do it should show how important this is to Iraqis. Difficulty bringing infrastructure back on line is a price we must pay for this until lower level "clean" Iraqis can be trained up. Until then, the press will continue harp on the lack of electricity in Baghdad. I am confident that had we kept the former killers in power for their technical expertise, the press would be going ape over our use of Baathist thugs in positions of power and prestige while their former victims wait for Coalition hand-outs. 
We just need to keep this period of less-than-first-rate service as brief as possible. And reach out to the Iraqis more, apparently, so they know why services haven't been magically restored to pre-1990 levels.
"Learning" (Posted August 11, 2003)
Mistakes like this have to stop. We can't regularly shoot up cars if they get near one of our checkpoints. We took risks in the war to protect civilians and we need to find different ways to keep potential car bombs away from our checkpoints. I don't want our soldiers needlessly dying but if incidents like this keep up, we will provoke a backlash and resistance. This will lead to more soldiers dying. We must learn from our mistakes.
All the more reason to resist the call for blanketing Iraq with US troops. They will do no good, will provide more targets, and will provide more opportunities for incidents like this. And the very people who call for more troops to pacify Iraq will also cry out about our failure to keep our weapons on safe and cuff the perps. The important work of defeating the insurgents is being done away from the cameras by offensive actions. 
In the short term, apologize and pay off the families. In the medium term, make progress in getting Iraqi life to a post-Saddam normal. In the long term, turn over more defensive security and law enforcement duties duties to Iraqis who are de-Baathified. And seek out and kill the die-hard resistance.
And by all means, our administration needs to press home the good we are doing (in Iraq especially) and the dangers to our troops who are doing it. We will make mistakes. And those mistakes do not in any way diminish the rightness of what we are doing. And as long as we learn from those mistakes, the long run success will be all that matters. Why this should not be self evident to Americans—and Westerners more generally—is worrisome:
What does all this mean? Western societies from ancient Athens to imperial Rome to the French republic rarely collapsed because of a shortage of resources or because foreign enemies proved too numerous or formidable in arms — even when those enemies were grim Macedonians or Germans. Rather, in times of peace and prosperity there arose an unreal view of the world beyond their borders, one that was the product of insularity brought about by success, and an intellectual arrogance that for some can be the unfortunate byproduct of an enlightened society.

I think we are indulging in this unreal hypercriticism — even apart from the election-season antics of our politicians — because we are not being gassed, or shot, or even left hot or hungry. September 11 no longer evokes an image of incinerated firemen, innocents leaping out of skyscrapers, or the stench of flesh and melted plastic, but rather: squabbles over architectural designs, lawsuits, snarling over Mr. Ashcroft's new statutes, or concerns about being too rude to the Arab street.

I do fear we have forgotten what if means to fight. What it means to lose a war—truly lose, not just the pull out from Vietnam. In that war, defeat meant we brought our troops home and went on our way. In this war, defeat overseas means our enemies will pursue us to our shores and strike us again as they did on September 11, 2001. We must learn this lesson again, but without actually suffering true defeat.
We won the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are winning the post-wars and making progress. That doesn't mean we aren't making mistakes on the ground and it doesn't mean we can't learn from those mistakes. And any mistakes we make will be broadcast to us back home, to the world and to the rest of Iraq. We could actually mistake our success for defeat because of our very success in creating a prosperous society.
Learn. And win.
"Amphibious Option" (Posted August 8, 2003) has lots of stuff on a future Korean War II. On the amphibious aspect, Operational Plan 5027 envisions an amphibious attack on Wonson on the east coast of Korea roughly to the east of Pyongyang that could then drive west across the mountains to attack Pyongyang. This would be done either with troops attacking from the Seoul region linking up with the Wonson landing, or in tandem with the troops driving north from Seoul directly for Pyongyang.

Nothing is mentioned about anything on the west coast. Still don't know whether a landing west or northwest of Pyongyang is possible. Yet a Wonson landing that then must drive across the mountain spine of North Korea seems pretty problematic. In the first Korean War, troops from the western side of the peninsula , after Inchon, were sent by sea to the east coast rather than move overland.

The new Op Plan 5030 that calls for psychological pressure on the North with no-notice military maneuvers and other provocative moves may put some military people in a scared-witless mood worried that they will be next in line for the American military machine. Some may think that all our high tech gear will count for nothing when our infantrymen come face to face with North Korean infantry, but the Taliban and Iraqis both believed the same and yet when our infantry went up against theirs, ours prevailed in close combat. The silliness of those who claim our technology is unmanly is astounding. It's not like those "manly" militaries have turned their back on technology in favor of scimitars, crossbows, and the like. They want the most advanced stuff too! We're just a hell of a lot better. And even if we banned all technology, our training and organization would still give us the advantage. Our people are our advantage in winning wars. Our technoloy is our advantage in crushing our opponents rapidly.

North Korea has reason to worry now. Pursuit of nuclear weapons to preserve their regime is turning out to be a bad idea. Their nukes are buying our attention-not our surrender. They can only hope to cause casualties if it comes to war. One wonders if the North Korean leaders are starting to realize that they really don't want to provoke a war if regime survival is their goal. With luck, as this seeps in, they may do the unthinkable and agree to real disarmament that is verifiable when the 6-nation talks wrap up.

"Gore Speech" (Posted August 8, 2003)
Must read Gore's speech. I don't understand why he is criticizing the war to resolve the Iraq problem. Didn't he invent the problem during his tenure?

"Saudi Arabia" (Posted August 7, 2003)
What to do about Saudi Arabia? After 9-11, some purists insisted we take on Saudi Arabia as the source of Wahabbi fanaticism. I disagreed. I did not think that we could afford to take on all our problems at once. Now, we have overthrown the Taliban, crippled Al Qaeda, and overthrown Saddam. We are poised to dramatically reduce our presence in Saudi Arabia. And the classified 28 pages regarding Saudi involvement in terrorism has renewed calls to confront Saudi Arabia. Is it time to deal with this threat?
Not yet. We still have two of the original members of the axis of evil to deal with. We are still engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. We still have no alternative to Saudi oil supplies. Russian, Venezuelan, West African, and Iraqi oil production are all iffy. What critics left and right want us to do about Saudi Arabia escapes me. Invade them? 
Clearly, just as we have before, we must still push them to help us and cut off the Islamist fanatics. So I am not saying we do nothing. But a full blown regime-change confrontation is not the right thing to do now. Just because we are doing things quietly doesn’t mean we are doing nothing. Hoagland put it well:
Containing the damage to this still useful relationship -- while prodding Saudi Arabia to change its most egregiously intolerant and incendiary ways -- tops the list of urgent and difficult challenges that Colin Powell's State Department confronts.

That said, if we really aren't pressuring the Saudis quietly, I would be upset.
"Wow" (Posted August 6, 2003)
This is what the grandson of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Sayyid Hussein Khomeini, said, according to the NYT:
The grandson of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the strident Iranian cleric who built his Islamic revolution on a platform of attacking all things American, said today that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein would allow long-awaited freedoms to flourish throughout the region, and if they did not, United States intervention would be welcomed by most Iranians.

Granted, he has no sizable following, but still…wow.
"North Korea" (Posted August 6, 2003)
There were two really awful commentaries on North Korea today. Really awful. Truly bad, in fact.
David Kang says we should guarantee North Korean security to soothe North Korean fears. I'd actually like to spend a lot of time detailing why I think it is awful, but let me settle for attacking the absurd notion we should guarantee their security. It is often tough enough to guarantee our allies' security, why should we help this nutball regime? If they think we are out to get them after 50 years of tolerating them, what could we say that will soothe them? And you can't blame their insecurity, as Kang would like, on the Bush administration, since Kin Jong-Il's program predates even the apology-prone Clinto administration. Even if we did apologize, why wouldn't the North Koreans just think we are lying and plotting anyway to destroy them? With all the silly talk about how our invasion of Iraq was illegal (a ridiculous assertion), why would the Staypuff Marshmallow Man think we wouldn't do it "again"? North Korea would continue to pursue nuclear weapons. I guarantee it.
If we have to offer any guarantees as part of a policy to isolate and squeeze North Korea—yet also reassure them so they don't invade the ROK—surely there is some meaningless reference in the UN charter to peaceful nations happily playing with one another that we can harmlessly point to as applying (duh) to North Korea.
The other awful piece was co-authored my Michael O'Hanlon and Mike Mochizuki. O'Hanlon is a guy who is always in print or on TV but one whom I get the impression is almost always uniformly wrong on anything defense-related more complex than successfully distinguishing between a tank and an APC. The other guy I don't know. He put his name with O'Hanlon, however. They of course blame the Bush administration for enhancing Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. How you enhance "hell bent on" acquiring nukes is beyond me. Their solution, which they vehemently deny is paying bribes or caving to North Korea's demands is to prop up the North Korean economy.
They couch their proposal in tough terms, citing Rumsfeld for a general maxim and saying that we will make "firm demands." Yeah, we demand you take our money. Sure sounds like giving in to blackmail to me.
And why do these guys think the North Koreans are mostly interested in their economy? Do these two actually think Kim Jong Il cares one whit about feeding anybody but his army, nuclear and missile scientists, and Joy Brigades? You know what North Korea would have done if its economy was expanding over the last fifteen years instead of contracting? Already built a nuclear arsenal, that's what. Didn't Saddam teach us what a nutball will do with any hard currency he gets his hands on? Medicine for the people? No. Food for the people? No. Nuclear programs and rockets? Bingo! 
God help us when our so-called best and brightest are proposing that we give our enemies security guarantees and fix their economy with massive infusions of money.
Next thing you know, everyone will want to be on the Axis of Evil. God, it's "The Mouse That Roared" strategy. 
"Liberia" (Posted August 6, 2003)
Well, if the American commitment on the ground really is just a small logistical detachment, our intervention in Liberia will be fine. The Marine Expeditionary Unit offshore can serve as a nice hammer to threaten anybody that does not stop shooting at the Nigerian troops designated as peacekeepers if the Nigerians can't handle the threat themselves. Or, it could assault Taylor's presidential compound to make sure he leaves. 
We better get a good UN resolution on Iraq out of this. One that ratifies our presence in Iraq and allows for UN participation under our direction in all key areas.
One thing I noticed on NPR this morning: the glowing report on the success already in Liberia. It sure helps to have the backing of the press, eh? We could be evacuating our troops off the roof of our embassy in Monrovia and only then would the first tentative use of the word "quagmire" be heard.
Good luck Marines. Hope you don't have to pick and choose among the psychopaths vying for power in Liberia.
"Invade North Korea? (Posted August 5, 2003)
On an amphibious invasion of the north, Nampo is apparently a good harbor west of Pyongyang. It could at least supply an invasion force. I don't know if an amphibious assault is possible near here. (I am aware that just looking at a map with no clue as to local conditions can lead to things like, say, Gallipoli…) This article, by Collins in Army magazine, does not mention an amphibious option when it discusses US-ROK and PDRK options. He mentions the problem of ROK being forced to attack in the face of PDRK chemical and conventional attacks on Seoul
I will say, that if our Marine Corps (aided by 2-1/3 ROK marine divisions) can't launch an amphibious assault on the Korean peninsula, then amphibious capabilities that focus on anything but battalion-sized permissive environment missions or river crossings are a waste. 
Inchon was a long time ago. 
"Victory Over North Korea" (Posted August 4, 2003)
The Wall Street Journal article raises an important point about dealing with North Korea's nuclear ambitions: it may not be possible to contemplate an antiseptic military option. Indeed, this is correct. 
If our theoretical precision air and missile strikes fail to smash the North Korean nuclear infrastructure, what will the North do? Secure that they took our best shot, the North may retaliate with nukes or with conventional artillery on Seoul. If they do, the war is on and we will be hard pressed to rush conventional forces to South Korea and Japan to launch an attack. And in the months it takes to do that, the North Koreans either invade the South or just pound Seoul into rubble from their side of the border. The pressure on South Korea to do something offensively, even if premature from a military standpoint, will be immense. Will we ourselves resort to nukes to stop the conventional bombardment? If the North does not use chemical or bio weapons, justifying this will be tough. Or will we need to use nukes to save the ROK if their solitary invasion runs into trouble and fails to push back the North Korean artillery from Seoul? Might not the ROK army be wrecked in a frontal assault designed to push back the PDRK forces from a narrow section of the front?
Plus, how do we know if we succeed? How can we possibly know if the known targets are truly wrecked and how do we know if we knew about all the targets? We may gain false security thinking we succeeded while Pyongyang prepares for revenge. Nuclear revenge.
At best, if we succeed and know we succeeded, we kick the problem down the road by successfully destroying North Korea's nuclear infrastructure. Leaving the regime intact means the drive to acquire nukes is undiminished. The drive for nukes is probably deepened by the humiliation and desire for revenge that a successful strike would inspire. Saddam Hussein shows this to us. No matter the price or time required, he was determined to preserve his ability to get nukes. 
And this assumes North Korea takes the strikes and accepts it. Oh, sure, "taking it" might mean a day or two of symbolic strikes to retaliate, but success requires North Korea to accept the defeat.
If they do not accept the defeat, they do what they could as described above after surviving a strike with nuclear facilities largely intact. What do we do? In the end, we will need to invade the North and overthrow the regime to end the war that spiraled out of control after the first "surgical" strikes designed to split the difference on policy options.
The authors of the article believe decisive victory could be achieved in 30-60 days. They are probably right. We would need carrier battle groups in range and Air Force units based in South Korea and Japan and Guam. We'd need a Marine Corps commitment about as large as the one used in the Iraq War (2 divisions worth at least) plus an Army corps of at least 3 divisions. We'd need anti-missile defenses deployed to the region. South Korea's ports would need lots of protection. We'd need full fledged and enthusiastic South Korean backing. We'd need Japanese bases and hopefully Japanese fleet and air units.
How would we use these forces? The authors don't really say, of course.
The North Korean army is forward deployed. It is large. It has lots of armor. On the other hand, the equipment is obsolete. And after the starvation and economic ravages of the last decade, there is a good chance the army is brittle. How good can it be at large-scale fighting when they have little money for training? How will it fight when it is hit hard and continuously and is forced to fight on the defensive?
The North Korean air force is a joke.
Their navy is a bit better and they could get luck with one of their ancient subs. We'd need South Korean and Japanese naval help to blockade the North's ports.
The invasion is the big question. How do we do it? Up the west coast pushing north from Seoul? This is what the South Koreans would insist on to participate in an invasion. And without South Korea we can't do it. How could they join a war but not do the one thing that keeps Seoul from being decimated? This consideration means that the South Koreans will insist on a drive north to safeguard Seoul. We will need to support this thrust to make sure the South Koreans don't break on the North Korean defenses.
But should we commit the full US ground component to this thrust?
It seems that we should take advantage of four factors. One, the North Korean are forward deployed. Two, we control the sea. Three, this war would be for keeps. Four, we control the air.
With a Marine Expedionary Force of over two divisions-size plus a couple ROK marine divisions, we could have quite the Inchon moment on the west coast. (Yes, I know, we can't lift this much in one wave; and yes, I know I've downplayed Marine Corps amphibious capabilities as rarely used—but this is one major landing that would be critical to our security. And I never said the Marines should abandon amphibious ops.) Add one Army heavy division to reinforce the seaborne thrust and all of a sudden, the North Korean holding action north of Seoul seems really unimportant. PDRK units trying to shift to the sea threat to Pyongyang would be decimated by our air power. South Korean and American ground forces pushing north of the DMZ would hasten the collapse and link up with the seaborne landing. 
End the war with one pudgy dictator hung from a Pyongyang lamp post and we can call it quits.
I freely concede I don't know if we can land on the west coast. I’ll have to read up on that. But no military option short of regime change makes sense. Any lesser military option will either fail to achieve our goal or escalate to a fight to the death anyway. We need some frank discussions with our South Korean allies and Japan on this issue.
The authors conclude:
We are not eager to see force used on the Korean peninsula. It is better to resolve this crisis without war. However, unless China succeeds in ending North Korea's nuclear weapons development--and we believe this will require a change in regime--Americans will be left with the threat to our existence described by Secretary Perry when he recently said that the North Korean nuclear program "poses an imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities."

The North Korean threat is very real. I've long argued that stopping the rogue state with no nuclear weapons from getting its first trumps stopping the rogue state with two nukes from acquiring its third. At some point, this logic fails, however, and I don't know if having 6 or 12 or 20 is the tipping point that reverses the logic. If North Korea is hell bent on building a nuclear arsenal and not just threatening to do so, North Korea may replace Iran as the primary focus for military contingencies.
A lot depends on the six-nation talks the North Koreans have agreed to participate in. The logic of this confrontation argues for complete, march-on-the-capital, decisive victory should the military option threshold be breached. We either talk them into an agreement that actually is verifiable (and I honestly don't know if that is possible) or we contain and undermine their regime and push them to collapse before their nuclear arsenal reaches the tipping point. Or we prepare to invade before the tipping point is reached. Once the tipping point is reached, we are probably in the position of only being able to contain the regime and hope it collapses. This may even be the correct strategy to begin with.
I have no idea what strategy is best. But I am moving from thinking that containment and pressure is the only prudent course of action to arguing that any military contingency plans should aim for regime change. I don't think military half measures will work. (Hey, will all the North Korea-first people support war or will they now demand better proof and more debate if we finally go after North Korea?)
Oh, I suppose we could get lucky and somebody in Pyongyang opts for the lead poisoning route for Dear Leader, but we can hardly plan our safety on such assumptions of lucky breaks.
Our options are all poor. Did I mention this decade sucks?
"Endless War? (Posted August 3, 2003)
The morning news shows led the talking heads to opine-as I did quite some time ago, thank you-that the administration plans no military offensives prior to the '04 elections. Domestic considerations, especially the economy, are priority. And the military must rest. Iraq is going to be enough on the plate for now. I only mention this because opponents of the administration think there is a master list of target for the military. On the other hand, the lull does not mean this President will rest on his laurels and fail to prosecute this war to victory. A lesser man would declare victory knowing that they could probably skate to their retirement with nothing major happening and let his successor handle the problem.

In two years, Iraq should be a place where US troops are garrisoned and not a place where US forces are fighting. This means they join the forces ready to fight elsewhere instead of being forces that are subtracted from the forces ready to fight-akin to forces in Germany except that they are really close to the arc of crisis-central region. In two years we may have the rest of our ground forces better balanced for war. The Navy will be refitted for a new policy of surging carriers for crises instead of constant 2-3 carrier deployment schedules. The Air Force should also be rested and ready to go with replenished and improved precision weapons.

This does not mean we are doing nothing. As I've long said, this war is not primarily a conventional war, although smashing states that could make terrorism a nuclear nightmare is a conventional military problem in extremis. We must work to contain North Korea, slow their nuclear developments, push them toward collapse, and prepare for a defensive war on the Korean peninsula combined with aerial assaults that target nuclear, missile, and leadership targets should Kim Jong-Il get seriously stupid and launch an invasion of the ROK.

We also need to support Iranian dissidents to crumble the Iranian mullahs. This front has been quiet and I don't know if it is just the media's usual refusal to address Iran seriously or if the regime has cowed the dissidents for now.

And by all means avoid silly interventions like Liberia. We must husband our military for the real battles that may erupt. Just because we don't plan offensives doesn't mean we don't have to be ready to fight one that erupts on our enemies' timetables.

The war goes on.

"Afghanistan Situation" (Posted August 3, 2003)
A story on Afghanistan that-if read thoroughly-seems to offer a balanced assessment.
Overall, he story admits that Afghanistan is better than it has been in recent years. But it highlights the problems in the Kandahar region. Remember, this area did not support us wholeheartedly in the war against the Taliban. Indeed, the region was the regime's home base. It is not too surprising that resistance is still here. It is worrisome that the situation could develop where locals fear the Taliban more than they hope for a better Afghanistan. It is worrisome that this in turn could lead the area to be a leading indicator for the whole country.

The issue is what do we do about it? Too many seem to want to send large numbers of peacekeepers to pacify the country. I think this would be an error. A grave error. We would make our presence look like an occupation and simply create targets for the Taliban to strike. We would then create more opportunities for peacekeepers to over-react and provoke hostility.

The key is to use special forces and locals to go after the bands while American conventional infantry and air power provide a reserve hammer that discourages the Taliban from massing troops. We have to keep resistance at a low level to rebuild Afghanistan and buy time for the central government to grow stronger and for local governments to accept central authority.

One huge obstacle is the failure of Pakistan to control their border regions. This area has long been a no-drive zone for the Pakistani central government and their recent stationing of troops there is a good sign that the Pakistanis want to do something; but it does not seem nearly enough yet. How we can pressure the Pakistani government to increase their actions without provoking a loss of what we have now-and without provoking an Islamist coup gaining control of Pakistan's nukes-is a problem for which I can offer no solution. Muddling through and trying to get the situation on the ground better a yard at a time seems the only solution. No magic bullet.

What I will offer is that we do not have to set our sights as high as we do in Iraq for rebuilding Afghanistan. Iraq starts at a much higher level of education and modernity so let's not over-reach in Afghanistan. I'll settle for a state that does not harbor terrorists, that has a functioning non-oppressive government, and that has sufficient economic development to ensure people have hope for the future and disdain for the Taliban solution to their problems. Once these objectives are accomplished, Afghanistan becomes peripheral in the war on Islamist terror. We must not get tied down fighting in the non-decisive arena.