Wednesday, October 01, 2003

October 2003 Posts Recovered from The Internet Archives

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

“Binding Iraqis to Our Side” (Posted October 31, 2003)
This from Foxnews:
Separately, the U.S.-installed Iraqi Governing Council said it was moving forward with setting up a war crimes tribunal to prosecute those accused of atrocities during Saddam Hussein's regime.
I wrote months ago that it was important for Iraqis to try Baathists for war crimes and not leave this to us and certainly not the international community. Getting Iraqis to convict war criminals will bind Iraqis to the anti-Baathist side—our side—and make it impossible for them to ever disassociate themselves from our victory. The Iraqis will have a real stake in beating the resistance fighters and terrorists. Still, for the really high rankers, like Saddam, there could be too much fear among Iraqis for that job. But maybe not. After nailing lower ranking Baathists, they may lose the fear of trying the big ones.
“Is Debating Fruitless?” (Posted October 31, 2003)
Honest to God, the few times I’ve visited Democratic Underground (thanks to Andrew Sullivan) while following a link, I just get depressed. I’ve written before that I’m suspicious of all those anti-war types crying that we can’t debate this issue. I’ve long had the suspicion, sometimes validated by the writings of some bolder anti-war type, that they aren’t interested in debating how to win but how to get us to lose the war. Reading the DU thread is just freaking amazing.
They honestly can’t tell the difference between a liberation and an occupation. They can’t see the difference between a Saddam and a Bush (and when they can, they seem to prefer Saddam). They don’t get that we are at war and that there are ruthless people out there that would blow up their organic grocery store with glee.
How can we debate when they are so far away from reality?
“Saddam In Charge?” (Posted October 31, 2003)
From NYT:
Saddam Hussein may be playing a significant role in coordinating and directing attacks by his loyalists against American forces in Iraq, senior American officials said Thursday.
Sure hope so. I’m not joking here. Saddam’s record as a military strategist is so abysmal that we can only hope he is taking a hand. Sure, he’s survived his awful field marshal-ship, but that is only because his enemies were unable (Iran, Kurds) or unwilling (the US) to crush his regime to make him pay the price for idiocy. Now, of course, after we’ve pulled down his statues, that sign of his “genius” is gone.
Plus, if he’s not using all his effort to hide from his, he will slip up and we will get him.
“Troop Morale” (Posted October 31, 2003)
So far so good as far as enlistments and re-enlistments are going. I still worry about retention in the reserves if reservists are routinely used too long, but thus far the numbers are good. From the always useful Strategypage:
October 31, 2003: Despite the large number of reservists and National Guard troops mobilized, troops are staying in uniform. The Army National Guard, which has had the largest proportion of troops called up, has so far only lost ten percent of troops to attrition (not re-enlisting) among units returning from overseas. The normal rate of attrition, for all National Guard units, is 17 percent. What is probably keeping the re-enlistment rate up is efforts by the army to get reservists off active duty, and making plans to limit the active duty time in the future. Last week, for example, the number of reservists on active duty fell another 1,289, to 157,605. But that number is going up in the next few months, as units are called up for training, and movement to Iraq to replace reservists coming home. Meanwhile, the number of new recruits for the active army, and the army reserve and National Guard, continue match needs. For the fourth year in a row, the army met its annual goal for new recruits. In the past year, 74,132 men and women enlisted (against a goal of 73,800.) The army reserve for 27,365 (against a goal of 26,400.) A number of things are at work here. First, it's important to remember that American troops don't hesitate to gripe when things are rough. It's an ancient military tradition. But once out of danger, morale makes a remarkable (and pretty predictable) come back. And then there is the unemployment issue. Many (the army isn't saying how many, and they probably don't know) troops were unemployed when they were called up. All of a sudden they were employed again, although if the unemployment rate continues to go down, going on active duty will be even more unpopular. But the high unemployment rate, and uncertain economy, causes troops to stay in the reserves, and on active duty. Finally, there's patriotism. There is an enemy out there trying to kill Americans. While this is hardly World War II, we did have another Pearl Harbor and many of the troops have not forgotten September 11, 2001.
Lord knows I griped when I was in. But that never meant that I ever doubted that being in uniform was the right thing to do. I never was sent to war so I don’t mean to make too much of my National Guard service, but even when I spent six months figuring it was only a matter of time before my unit was called up for Desert Storm, I never even considered trying to get out. A tradition of bitching. Few jobs available outside. Military efforts to limit deployments. And of course, patriotism. Our soldiers haven’t forgotten we are at war.
I imagine that the casualty rate is also low enough and the perception of the value of our missions since 9-11 (and so, a perception that our losses are not in vain) go a long way toward retention and enlistment. This from Strategypage as well:
Despite the large number of attacks on Iraqi targets, coalition troops are getting ambushed or sniped at some 30 times a day, more than double what it was last month. That means that each patrol or movement (by a convoy) has about a two percent chance of getting shot at, and maybe one chance in several thousand of getting killed or wounded.
Our soldiers are essentially sending a vote of confidence on our war effort, I’d say.
Oh, keep hitting more on the above link. Good stuff on resistance, the need of the Baathists to pay more for attacks because they are getting killed and captured, and, depressingly, a note that we really aren’t guarding a lot of those old Iraqi ammo depots. Geez, controlling the borders is largely irrelevant if the die-hards can just get ammo inside Iraq. Excuse the language, but what a clusterfuck.
“Tell Me I’m Wrong” (Posted October 31, 2003)
Tell me that the Instapundit post on the ending of battalion commander slush funds to pay for local reconstruction and other needs is wrong.
I relatively low-cost method of responding quickly to Iraqi needs and that bolsters our image and the happiness level of Iraqis to our occupation is being chopped? Why? For Pete’s sake, is some bean counter in DC worried that a few thousand dollars, or tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands don’t have bidding and paperwork up the wazoo to satisfy a GAO audit? Have they looked at our budget?
If true this is ridiculous. If somebody is worried that opponents of the administration will make a big deal of some lost money, I say let them make a big deal.
Truly, only we can defeat ourselves in Iraq.
"A Heartfelt Thank You" (Posted October 30, 2003)
My old Guard Signal unit is going to Tikrit. It seems like yesterday that we were gearing up to go to the Gulf for Desert Storm. The rapid victory cancelled that move. Now I am out and I feel guilty that my unit is going now when I skated then, nearly thirteen years ago.
I briefly talked to the dad of one of my son's classmates who is shipping off tomorrow. By coincidence I was wearing my old Alpha Company t-shirt (they are Charlie company now, I think). We share the same major MOS. I thanked him and wished him the best. I hope that meant at least a little to him.
I didn't say anything about coming back safely. Of course I wish that. And of course he is aware of the danger. I could see that. But he did not complain. He will not see his son much for another year. I see my son every day. Talk about life being unfair.
Sending our reserves off to fight is a good thing, though. With civilians called up and put in uniform, we maintain the bond between people, military, and the government. The government will, as Rumsfeld did, ask the questions needed to win and get better as we fight. No forgotten draftees will die in the hundreds each week in obscurity.
We owe it to our troops to support them, give them the means to win, and come home in victory. We owe them honest debate over the war and not political point-scoring, too.
In only 12 years, my son will be old enough for the military.
"Thank you" (Posted October 30, 2003)
I was getting tired of the criticism that we failed to use the Iraqi army for security and that this was a major error on our part. I was deeply perplexed about this charge since the Iraqi army dissolved in the war. Disbanding it was a pure formality. From Strategypage, a reminder of this forgotten fact:
October 30, 2003: One of the interesting lessons of the Iraq war was the nearly complete collapse of the Iraqi army. This was largely forgotten until recent media criticism along the lines of, "why wasn't the Iraqi army kept together for peacekeeping duty." The reason was simple; the Iraqi army simply melted away before Baghdad fell. The troops and officers just up and went home. Once the troops had left their bases, looters quickly moved in and stole everything, nailed down or not. Plumbing and other portions of buildings in army bases were looted. Many records of who was in the Iraqi army disappeared as well. So recalling the Iraqi army was moot. There were no facilities to station the troops in, and no way to sort out which officers and troops were pro-Saddam and which weren't. Iraqi officers were selected largely on the basis of their loyalty to Saddam, and many of those arrested since then for attacking coalition troops have been former army officers. And this wasn't the first time the Iraqi army had fallen apart. During the 1991 war, it was discovered, once coalition ground forces advanced, that most of the Iraqi army soldiers in Kuwait had already slipped away. They had simply gone home. This happened despite Saddam's secret police and special army security units, who were there to make sure the troops stayed in their trenches to face the coalition onslaught. Apparently bribes, or just wandering away at the first opportunity, allowed most Iraqi soldiers to just go home. But this is not just about Iraq, there are many armies currently, and throughout history, that have simply melted away when faced with a more powerful force. Most armies staffed with conscripts and poorly trained and motivated officers will likewise disappear if hit hard enough. The "Shock and Awe" concept really does work, and has worked many times over the past few thousand years. But predicting which army will break like that is an inexact science. Thus the policy of bringing up all the firepower you can and giving the other guy your best shot early on. If you're lucky, the enemy will decide this battle is a lost cause, and get lost.
This bogus charge went unrebutted and I was beginning to wonder if my memory was failing me.
It is not.
"Taiwan Defenses" (Posted October 30, 2003)
I'll say it again, were I the PLA god, I'd attack Taiwan on the eve of the 2008 Peking Olympics. China is boosting its abilities to attack, and Taiwan is not nearly as formidable as it may seem on paper. And in the light of such successful attacks by air and sea that the Germans demonstrated in Norway in 1940 and Crete in 1941, I think assessments of China's capacity to invade are woefully inadequate. We mirror image China and imagine that the only way to launch an amphibious invasion is with a force like our Marine Corps.
We are running into problems trying to shape Taiwan's military into a force capable of stopping a Chinese invasion:
The Pentagon has conducted about a dozen assessments, reviews and studies of Taiwanese military capabilities in the past three years, U.S. officials said, including in-depth looks at Taiwan's ability to defend itself against air attacks, naval blockades and military landings as well as its command and control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. One Pentagon report predicts that the balance of power in the Strait will shift in China's favor by 2005 if Taiwan does not embrace military modernization.
And why would we urge reductions in the Taiwanese army as the article notes? Sure, air and naval power will be key to stopping or cutting off the troops landed initially in a surprise invasion. But Germany succeeded in the face of naval superiority in 1940 and 1941. I'd hate to rely on air and naval power. What if the PRC invasion knocks off key naval and air bases? Ground forces at the least need to be able to defend these bases. The ability to destroy air- and bridgeheads is key, too. So why would it be safe to lower troop strength? In part, I think, it is because our Stryker brigades are well suited to intervening early in a PRC-Taiwan war.
The Taiwanese need a sense of urgency on this issue.
"Attacks" (Posted October 30, 2003)
From AP via Fox:
Attacks on American troops have surged this week to about 33 per day, up from 26 per day last week and 15 per day in early September. A series of car bombings in and near Baghdad this week killed more than three dozen people.
I would really like to see the data on attacks from May 1 to today. I should look. Seeing the types of attacks would help, too.
More basically, the continued resistance is fueling criticisms that the administration did not anticipate this level of resistance. The fact that more Americans have died in combat in the six months since May 1 as in the 5-6 week major combat phase before it was officially declared over has especially led to criticism. But this fact is mostly significant because of the extremely low level of casualties we suffered in winning the conventional war against Saddam. Few militaries in the world could mount a successful invasion and in only six months see post-war casualties exceed war casualties. This is a function of our strength and not a problem itself.
I always expected that we would have to fight the Baathists after the war. I didn't spend much time thinking about this phase since the war phase was critical. I always knew we could lose the post-war if not done right. Still, without knowing whether this is a realistic notion, I am surprised that the resistance isn't tapering off. Our easing off at the end of July didn't help, when we apparently thought the war was won. Foreign jihadists are fueling the fire, too.
But this is really a low-level resistance and those who claimed that Iraqis would resist us based on their nationalism have far more explaining to do. Resistance is low-level and localized, it is not a mass movement—even in the Sunni triangle. Fallujah is probably a lost cause for a while but with more Iraqis taking the field, we are winning. With the country getting back to normal, we are winning. And with the enemy resorting to terror, a step down from the continuum of Maoist guerrilla warfare from terrorism to large-scale combat, we really are winning in my opinion. That is not just whistling past the graveyard in my opinion.
“Our Primary Goal in Europe” (Posted October 29, 2003)
Our primary goal in Europe for the last century has been to prevent any hostile power from gaining control of Europe. Should a hostile power gain control of the people, scientific base, and industrial and financial power of the continent, we’d be screwed.
On occasion I’ve written on the danger of a European Union that could turn hostile. When I taught introductory American history, right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I’d note the distance and eventual hostility that developed between the American colonies and Britain after the French and Indian War (the Seven Years War to you Europeans) ended the biggest threat to the colonists. I predicted the same would happen between Europe and America after the Soviet threat was gone. Sometimes I’ve thought I was perhaps a tad alarmist since I’ve never read anything on this topic. Maybe I just don’t read the right journals. Anyway, Victor Davis Hansen has a piece on the subject. I stand by my worries:
But paradoxically, the most consequential reason Continental Europe and America are pulling apart is the European Union itself. European visionaries have had a long history of dreaming up and seeking to implement nationalist or socialist utopias—schemes, doomed to fail, that have trampled individuals under the heavy boot of the state as the price of creating a “new man” and a perfect world, bringing history to fulfillment. The murderous fraternity of the French Revolution, nineteenth-century Bonapartism, Marxism and modern communism, Francoism, Italian fascism, Nazism—all these coercive programs for remaking the world sprang from what seems an ineradicable Continental impulse.
I for one do not draw comfort from the European impulse to create their peaceful utopia. The anti-democratic nature of the EU will eventually place power in the hands of an unelected, unaccountable, and corrupt elite whose utopian dreams will instead create a nightmare. It’s happened before.
It’s high time we stopped supporting European integration. It does not serve our interests. Or even European interests for that matter.
“Dormant Iraqi Nuclear Program” (Posted October 29, 2003)
The Iraqi nuclear program was clearly dormant since 1991. Yet not dead. Else why would Saddam defy the UN to preserve what admittedly did exist in violation of the Persian Gulf War ceasefire terms embodied in several UN resolutions?
On June 2, Obeidi led investigators to his rose garden. There they dug up a cache he had buried 12 years before and kept from U.N. inspectors: about 200 blueprints of gas centrifuge components, 180 documents describing their use and samples of a few sensitive parts. The parts amounted to far less than one complete centrifuge, and nothing like the thousands required for a cascade of the spinning devices to enrich uranium, but the material showed what nearly all outside experts believed -- that Iraq had preserved its nuclear knowledge base.
On October 9th, 2002, I wrote:
“Waiting for Nukes” (Posted October 9, 2002)
A number of critics say that war against Iraq would be justified only if the Iraqis get nuclear weapons. Unexplained to my satisfaction is why Saddam’s possession of nuclear weapons would lead opponents of invading Iraq to become supporters of invasion. It can’t be the mere possession of nuclear weapons. Otherwise, we’d warn others not to develop them or face invasion. But really, if Germany, Japan, or Norway announced they were seeking nuclear weapons, we might be regretful of this development but would not even think of striking. Indeed, India and Pakistan show what we’d do when states we don’t think would use them against us acquire them—nothing in particular and not for long. Is it the anti-American rhetoric? Well, we’d have bombed the French a long time ago if that was the case.
It must be something about Saddam having nuclear weapons that justifies invasion. This is fair enough. I actually trust the French not to nuke us even if McDonalds opens a revolving restaurant on top of the Eiffel Tower. I don’t trust Saddam to have the same restraint. Given that critics of going to war concede that Saddam is awful (as a preface to everything they say against war) and that his possession of nuclear weapons becomes a cause for war, why would we wait until he gets them? Do these opponents of war think Saddam isn’t trying to acquire nuclear weapons? Do they think that even tougher inspections can prevent him from getting nuclear weapons? Given that they believe inspections are needed to disarm Saddam notwithstanding Iraq’s denial of such weapons or any intention of getting them, they must think he wants them. They believe that much tougher inspections backed by force are necessary to disarm Saddam, so they must even believe Saddam wants them very badly.
So, we’ve established the following:
1) Saddam with nuclear weapons is not to be trusted in a civilized world. And
2) Saddam will not abandon his goal of acquiring nuclear weapons.
What should these facts teach us?
A) That we should wait until Saddam gets nuclear weapons before we attack. Or
B) That we should strike now while he does not have them.
I don’t know how anyone who believes 1 and 2 can possibly say the answer is “A.” It is not consistent. Those who say deterrence is viable are at least consistent when going from their beliefs to their policy recommendations. They are wrong, but at least you don’t go “huh?” after they finish speaking.
Saddam is not to be trusted with nuclear weapons and we need to stop him before he gets them.
On to Baghdad.
This latest report does not tell us anything that we did not know. Iraq did not have nuclear weapons. Saddam did not have the ability to build them in the next several years. The report also lets us know he wanted them badly. He had the scientific and technical knowledge hidden away and he had the people to work on them when the time was right. Saddam’s acceptance of sanctions as the price for refusing to come clean makes this clear. The international backing for sanctions had already weakened and the French and Russians were working hard to lift them. American attention may have strengthened sanctions in the short run, but we were on a losing path in regard to maintaining sanctions and inspections to keep Saddam from going nuclear.
The basic problem is reconciling the opinions of people reading this report, and the Kay report for that matter. Opponents of the war who read this say, “Aha! There was no imminent threat! We were lied to in order to go to war.” Supporters of the war say, “Aha! I knew Saddam was determined to get nukes! The war was just.” I recall back to the days when Blix was sent to Iraq and I feared mightily that Saddam would admit to something, cough up some centrifuges or something, say “Ok, now I really have given up everything,” and we would walk away with a “victory” scrap of paper signed by Saddam and Blix showing that on January 31, 2003, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was disarmed completely of all weapons of mass destruction and all programs to build them. Sanctions would then be lifted and then Saddam could go about getting everything he wanted. I felt the scientists and technicians, plus his money, were the key rather than any one component. Oil money also meant that it was possible that Saddam could buy a loose nuke from Russia, or Pakistan, or even North Korea, and shortcut the whole process. The only sure disarmament was regime change as far as I was concerned. I freely admit that I would love it if we could find something that even the “imminent” folks would look at and say, “Gosh, Saddam really was a threat.” Kay still has some more work to do in sifting a very large country, so I may still get this. But it is possible that both sides in this debate will only have all they need to convince themselves they were right without the points necessary to convince the other side. I guess I can live with that.
Strategypage puts it well:
September 25, 2003: There has been much talk about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and the inability to find stocks of such weapons, or production facilities. What is generally lost in all this is the fact that the most dangerous aspect of Iraq's weapons program was the scientific and technical people Iraq had to build these weapons, and all that oil money they possessed to buy the relatively simple and widely available industrial equipment needed to make the weapons. All the major chemical and biological weapons can be made using equipment that normally produces agricultural, medical, food or other non-lethal products. Since 1991, the Iraqis had built up an extensive network of agents in industrial countries to arrange for the purchase and shipment of illegal (for Iraq) manufacturing equipment. All of this is no more. Coalition troops have rounded up and interrogated all the key Iraqi WMD scientists. Most have been let go, as it was clear they were working under duress. There's no longer an Iraq that is providing space and money for the production of WMD. 

That said, it was always a mystery to UN arms inspectors as to why Saddam refused to get rid of his weapons and allow thorough inspections to prove it (and thus lift the UN embargo). Everyone in the WMD business knew that Iraq would have had no problem quickly (within a year) rebuilding the chemical and biological weapons production capability. Nuclear weapons would take longer, but not much. With the UN embargo lifted, Saddam would have been free to be as scary as he wanted to be. Apparently, he did destroy his WMD, but did not want to admit it lest he be seen as weak by, well, all sorts of people. Another theory was that Saddam feared the inspectors would find documents relating to the atrocities he and the Baath Party committed against Iraqis. Kuwaitis and foreigners. This sort of stuff has been found since the Baath was driven out of power. While the UN never tried to indict Saddam for crimes against humanity, if too much evidence fell into UN hands, they would have been forced to do so.

Now Saddam has lost everything, and is very weak. But anyone with the technically qualified people (scientists and engineers, which Iraq has plenty of), lots of money and some place safe from interference (from arms inspectors, American Rangers, Etc.), can also create WMD quickly. For those of evil intent, that's almost has good as having the WMD in a warehouse.
Now Saddam is out of the nuke business for sure. I’m sure glad. Any dissenters?
“Better Metrics for Iraqi Success” (Posted October 28, 2003)
Max Boot put well in an article what I previously mentioned. Namely, that while our deaths in Iraq are tragic, they are not nearly overwhelming. They are not nearly enough to harm our military’s efforts to defeat the Baathist die-hards. Far more American soldiers die naturally or in accidents or ill health than die from enemy action.
When I visited Iraq in August, I was surprised to see crowded streets where people were calmly going about their business. Nothing in the media had prepared me for this. Since August, even more progress has been made. Iraq has more electricity than it did under Hussein; yet after obsessively reporting on electricity woes during the summer, the news media is all but silent about how these concerns have been addressed.

By all means, report on terrorist attacks. But don't lose sight of the bigger picture.
This is no time to panic over the continuing resistance in Iraq. It is low level and it is not stopping us from pushing forward rebuilding the economy, the security forces, and building democracy and rule of law.
I’ve long said we can lose the post-war. But the continuing insistence that we are losing and must get out when we are clearly winning is really frustrating.
“Kudos to Senators Feinstein and Biden” (Posted October 28, 2003)
When hysteria about the Patriot Act is in full swing with baseless charges cheered on uncritically, it is very heartening to hear that two Democratic Senators are defending the act. Said Senators Biden and Feinstein:
At last week's Senate hearing, Joe Biden of Delaware didn't have to say that "the tide of criticism" being directed against the Patriot Act "is both misinformed and overblown," that "I stand by my support" of that law, and that the Ashcroft Justice Department has "done a pretty good job in terms of implementing" the law's provisions. But Biden did say all these things, anyway. And California's Dianne Feinstein went further still, in a stern and lengthy lecture about the concrete reality of U.S. anti-terrorism law--as opposed to the paranoiac fantasy version now being circulated throughout the land by the likes of Bob Barr and Howard Dean. How's about we concentrate on some facts, Feinstein suggested.

"I've tried to see what has happened in the complaints that have come in," she said, "and I've received to date 21,434 complaints about the Patriot Act." Except these turned out to be unrelated civil liberties gripes, or complaints about a "Patriot Act II" that doesn't yet exist. "I have never had a single [verified] abuse of the Patriot Act reported to me. My staff emailed the ACLU and asked them for instances of actual abuses. They emailed back and said they had none."

The widespread hullabaloo over the Patriot Act, Senator Feinstein concluded, proceeds from "substantial uncertainty . . . about what this bill actually does do." And "perhaps some ignorance," she added.
The Patriot Act should never be considered a permanent law. It was enacted to cope with terrorists who pray for the chance to kill millions of Americans in a single blow. In time, parts can be amended or repealed. Parts may need to be strengthened or added before this is over. It cannot be a static law immune to the real world we face.
Yet the loyal opposition seems largely unable to talk about the act with any reasonableness and indeed without any basis in reality. The good senators from the opposition represent at least a sliver of hope for me that we can fight this threat together.
My sincere thanks to them.
"Not Quite Right" (Posted October 28, 2003)
I like Sinnreich's stuff. His article is good and has excellent points, especially his defense of using overwhelming force to crush an enemy.
But he is misleading when he writes this about the continuing resistance we face:
In that stubborn resistance lies a fundamental truth that seems too often to have eluded American political leaders since World War II: It's not the winner who typically decides when victory in a war has been achieved. It's the loser.
While he is right that the Baathists and Islamists in Iraq have not accepted defeat, his characterization of that fact risks adopting the "pain" strategy of trying to inflict more casualties on the enemy than they want to accept, thus making them "choose" defeat. This truly sounds like Vietnam thinking.
The key in warfare is overwhelming force that kills the enemy and forces the enemy to give up all hope, forcing them to "choose" defeat. It is no rational cost-benefit analysis that we seek to inspire, it is crushing, hope-killing defeat we try to inflict. We did this in the Iraq War and in the Taliban War. The overthrow of the regimes and collapse of their military power shows this.
Sinnreich says we are at war now in Iraq and must accept this. While I think he mostly is trying to say we may have erred by counting on too much precision in the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan rather than blasting the enemy to defeat, if his advice is taken now it will lead to a defeat or 'bad victory."
Resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan are teetering between being a police problem and being a military problem. We do not want to crush the enemy in a way that merely makes the issue a military problem. This is now slow, tedious slogging to create new working countries and to track down the thugs to kill and arrest them without inspiring resistance in the population. There is no overwhelming force option now because the enemy is not fielded combatants but small groups or individuals hiding among the people. And the people are mostly with us or neutral in both cases.
His point is thought-provoking, though. He is saying that precision warfare is too clean. He thinks that our ability to target the enemy military so narrowly undermines our ability to make the enemy people give up by rubbing defeat in their face by wrecking what they hold dear. I don’t know, but this sounds an awful lot like the arguments made by airpower advocates today that they can inflict pain on the enemy elite and leadership by destroying their assets. It sounds like the old airpower arguments that bombing enemy cities could bypass the whole land warfare phase completely. I think this line of criticism is plain wrong. If a correct criticism, the Russian strategy in Chechnya would have led to a perfect peace. The Russians quite literally leveled the city of Grozny as they took it. Chechens have not “decided” to be defeated because of the carnage and destruction the Russians inflicted on them.
Besides, I think our public will simply not accept the enemy death and destruction he implies we must inflict in order to force our enemy to accept defeat. More precisely, our public won't accept the casualties we must inflict in this view until we suffer equally horrendous casualties. Recall the cries by some in the face of American casualties on Iwo Jima that we use poison gas to end Japanese resistance.
Under the circumstances, I hope our public never gets comfortable with the idea of vaporizing our enemies. Because the only way we will ever get to that point is if we get hit too hard, too often, here at home.
"I Could Be Wrong Here" (Posted October 27, 2003)
Baathists or Islamists? Says this general:
Today, the commander of the Army's Fourth Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, told Pentagon reporters that he believed that foreign fighters accounted for "a very, very small percentage" of the people mounting attacks against Americans and their allies in Iraq.

"My initial feeling is, this is former regime loyalists doing this maybe with minor coordination with a few people that might not be from Iraq originally," General Odierno said in a video-teleconference hook-up from his headquarters in Tikrit. "A couple from Syria, some Wahhabists from other countries — but that's really been it," he added. "We have not seen a large influx of foreign fighters thus far" and the American authorities have "no specific information that's linking coordination between foreign fighters and the former regime loyalists."
I suppose the trends may depend on who is being most effective. Is it the Baathist-paid attackers, the hard core Baathists, or the foreign jihadists? That is, the jihadists may be a tiny fraction but are they doing the most damage?
"Cultural Sensitivity" (Posted October 27, 2003)
Read this:
Powerful suicide car bombs exploded outside the local headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross and three police stations across Baghdad Monday morning, killing at least 34 people and wounding 224 in a series of sophisticated and apparently coordinated attacks on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan
Remember when the sophisticated here were demanding we halt our offensive against the Taliban because Ramadan was starting?
As long as the Iraqis know we will stay to help them fight, such attacks will lead Iraqis to help us finger the guilty parties. We are making their lives better and such attacks remind them of what can go wrong if we leave too soon. We stopped one:
A fourth police station was targeted with a large car bomb but guards shot the driver before he could detonate the explosives. Police officials identified the driver, who was badly wounded, as a Syrian national. "He was shouting, 'Death to the Iraqi police! You're collaborators!' " Sgt. Ahmed Abdel Sattar was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
It is good that we got one to interrogate. I guess this may answer my question of local Baathists versus imported Islamists. So too does the symbolism of attacking the al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad, a symbol of our power in Iraq. The al Qaeda types love symbolic targets. Get the Turks to the Syrian border soon.
Back to the first article, I am still amazed, after the UN headquarters bombing, that a Red Cross spokeswoman could say:
We were always confident that people knew us and that our work here would protect us," she said. "This is completely un-understandable."
They are terrorists, remember? Stop reading Reuters and taking their terminology seriously.
I think this is a sign we are winning. If they were successfully targeting our troops without suffering too many casualties, they'd still be doing that. The insurgents see that Iraqis are going back to work and looking forward to a peaceful democratic Iraq. The Baathists and Islamists are desperate to stop that.
On the hotel attack, one American commander noted:
Yes, high-profile attacks generate a lot of media interest that definitely takes away from the many great things that we are doing to advance Iraqi growth, Iraqi improvements in life, and a representative government in Iraq," the commander said. "Yes, the target of the al-Rashid Hotel is significant, especially since Mr. Wolfowitz was staying there at the time."

But the attack must be weighed against increasing Iraqi frustration with the attackers and increasing Iraqi participation in securing their own country, the commander said, adding that Iraqis themselves are turning in more and more of the attackers.

Ultimately, giving Iraqis political and economic power, Dempsey said, is the only way to win the war.
More than the military numbers, I will really worry when the trend lines of turning over political, economic, and security functions to the Iraqis go backwards. The military casualties hurt more on a personal level, but as long as we are winning, we have to suck it up.
Our President won't be pushed out of Iraq short of victory. I truly worry about what a new president—Republican or Democratic—will do in 2009 as we continue to fight the war on terror. We need a national consensus to win this war. It would help if the loyal opposition could concede we are at war.
"Counter-Insurgency" (Posted October 27, 2003)
This article rightly notes that much of pacification is political. It rightly notes that we cannot use a sledge hammer to kill the few gnats who buzz about the new Iraq we are building.
This should be a caution to those who want to just increase the number of US troops in Iraq.
However, we should be open to shifting US troops from the quieter north and south to the Sunni triangle to start securing small zones at a time and then moving on, leaving Iraqis behind to maintain the success with American and allied special forces to assist the security situation.
The resistance in Iraq is small-scale and lacks the support of the people in the vast majority of the country. And even among the 15-20 percent of Iraqis who are Sunnis, only a minority are probably actively supporting the insurgents. Plus, it is not clear to me how much of the resistance is Baathist and how much is Islamist. I suspect that without the Islamists, resistance would be tapering off by now. Instead, attacks are up over recent months and casualties are up too.
Iraqi is being successfully rebuilt and the casualties should not scare us away. Clearly, the increased friendly casualties must be addressed. In the last two weeks, it has actually gotten to the one-per-day rate that reporters have long asserted. Is it a trend or a desperate surge? It is still low-level so talk of Vietnam is silly. I don't believe it could ever get to that level. Getting more Iraqis in security functions and more Iraqis working is still the key. And whatever we do, don't hunker down in our bases in a short-sighted effort to reduce our casualty numbers. Just like the broader war on terror, we can't win by sitting on our asses. We have to maintain the initiative and go after the enemy. Otherwise, they will eventually find a way to hit us even in our "secure" lodgments.
Oh, one thing could reflect Vietnam: we can't let Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia be de facto rear areas for Islamists to transit and cause trouble in Iraq. I know we have operations and plans in place to throttle this cross-border traffic, but I have no idea of knowing if it is enough. Targeting Iran will help in the east. Pressuring the Saudis to do more in the south is needed. And Syria needs to see Turks across their eastern border shooting down those jihadists who think we are any easier target than the Baathists in Damascus.
Maintain the initiative.
"The Death of the Brezhnev Doctrine" (Posted October 25, 2003)
Twenty years ago, only two days after the Marine Corps Beirut barracks bombing, American forces invaded Grenada to overthrow the Marxist regime that aspired to be a forward base for the Soviet Union and Cuba. While the progressive class finds it easy to deride the attack, the short-notice invasion was tactically difficult and the strategic implications great. No more would people around the world think we were only playing defense, trying to delay the inevitable triumph of communism.
On that day we went on the offensive, leading directly to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“Another Reason Iran is Next” (Posted October 25, 2003)
Iran is providing a safe haven for al Qaeda in eastern Iran. The Iranians have, by even the criteria of the anti-Iraq War side, given us reason to crush them. Add oppression. Add nuke programs. The article says:
This fact, and the nature of the debate surrounding it, was revealed in a thoroughly reported front-page article by Douglas Farah and Dana Priest in the October 14 Washington Post. According to a consensus of American, European, and Arab intelligence officials, the article said, the "upper echelon" of al Qaeda--including a favored older son of Osama bin Laden and the group's de facto secretary of war and secretary of the treasury--"is managing the terrorist organization from Iran."

The intelligence agencies, said the Post, have known about the relocation at least since May, when it was learned that the May 12 Riyadh suicide bombing that killed 35 people, including eight Americans, was conceived, planned, and ordered by high al Qaeda officials in eastern Iran. Around the same time, Saad bin Laden, Osama's son and heir apparent, operating from Iran, was linked to the May 16 bombings that left 45 dead in faraway Casablanca, Morocco.
Iran is tougher than Iraq in the sense that it is geographically larger and rougher, and has a military that will defend the regime. On the other hand, Iran has real, organized opposition to the regime. Saddam was unpopular but opponents of the Iraq War could argue—because the internal opposition was atomized, the exiles were delegitimized, and the press parroted Baathist propaganda to maintain their precious “access.” In Iran, the opposition is not cowed and polls show our popularity is real. Opposition to taking on Iran won’t be able to honestly claim Iranians want us to leave them alone.
Target: Iran—in 2005.
Were I God, special forces and intel people would be inside Iran organizing real opposition, identifying friendly military leaders who would defect or stay in their barracks, and working to target al Qaeda. Satellites and aircraft would be analyzing Iran to death. We start making the case for action against Iran in the fall of 2004. With look, this will be an inside job and our military will not be used. Or, maybe we’ll use air power to target the Iranian military forces loyal to the mullahs.
“Switched Roles?” (Posted October 25, 2003)
Lileks did some Googling on Haiti (why? Read his column). He notes:
Googling the Haiti war is an interesting exercise, if only to revisit old fault lines. Thrill! as conservatives grumble that we’ve no business nation-building. Gasp! as liberals insist that the Armed Forces should be used to topple tyrants.
I don’t believe Lileks is right on this. It isn’t an exact reversal.
Now, I guess I won’t try to project my views on this to all politicians who switched roles on Haiti and Iraq. Maybe their positions are purely based on politics.
But for me, I guess I always felt that the Haiti intervention was all about securing Florida’s electoral votes for Clinton. I was not thrilled about nation building there since I saw little national interest in that mission. That said, I never claimed that even a luxury invasion to overthrow Cedras was immoral or wrong. The ruler was a thug without a doubt.
To generalize, yesterday’s Haiti invasion supporters oppose the Iraq War today and said we had no business overthrowing Saddam. Apparently, they felt we’d all be better off with Saddam in power running his opponents—real and imagined—through plastic shredders.
Today, those who support nation building in Iraq but opposed it in Haiti can legitimately say that in Iraq nation building is in service of national interests rather than based on affluent guilt.
Now I’m not saying that there isn’t something to the generalization that for many, reaction to the president’s actions was affected greatly by whether he was their president or the other party’s. But for Haiti versus Iraq, national interest criteria remains constant. What changes is what one should do about dictators.
"Smaller Brigades" (Posted October 24, 2003)
So, with an increase from 33 active component brigades to 48 by making the brigades smaller (and pushing divisional support units down to brigade to make them more self-contained) and a similar move with the enhanced separate brigades of the National Guard increasing those brigades from 15 to 22, I wonder if we are going to round out at the brigade level?
That is, we used to round out our Cold War-era 2-brigade active duty divisions with a reserve component brigade. The theory was they would quickly be mobilized and sent to war. The Persian Gulf War showed us that we couldn't get them in action that fast. Even the enhanced separate brigades of the Guard that were supposed to get extra training and priority on equipment could not make the grade in a ninety-day period.
Yet we've mobilized 5 of our 15 enhanced separate brigades. I believe these are mostly broken down into battalions where they have performed quite well during the Iraq War. Perhaps we've decided that battalions in the Guard are capable of being brought up to speed in time to fight and we are now going to round out our active 2-battalion brigades when needed. The numbers fit, with the National Guard e-brigades numbering about half the active duty brigades. Not all brigades will have just two battalions so the numbers can be jiggered a bit.
I'd dismissed this concept in favor of rounding out by brigade in a Military Review article a few years ago, but tremendous advances over the last three years in communications and aerial firepower may make this feasible. Rounding out AC brigades with NG battalions certainly exploits the ability of the Guard to have excellent smaller units while the lack of opportunity for large-scale training limits the quality of the larger units. (Please note: the editors garbled the text in a couple places when they stripped out supporting graphics. The cleaned up version is on my web site here.)
"Combat Intensity" (Posted October 24, 2003)
We are experiencing an elevated—but still low-level—casualty rate in Iraq. I wondered why.
Q     Okay.  And why the -- why the ratcheting up of attacks in the Sunni triangle, from your perspective?

            GEN. SCHWARTZ:  I think there is a -- they are -- have decided to engage us, and they are doing so.  But I think it is important to recognize that some of that is a result of our own activity.  The 82nd Airborne has been focused on the Fallujah and al-Ramadi area.  That is where a lot of these attacks have occurred.  So the bottom line is, this -- there's a combination of things:  some elevation, as General Sanchez has indicated, in the attacks by the enemy, but likewise -- and he also indicated that we have increased our tempo as well to take these guys out.
GEN. SCHWARTZ:  The answer to your first question is that we are experiencing in the neighborhood of 25 attacks a day throughout all of Iraq.  And I think it's important to recognize that that doesn't mean that the amount of attacks are uniform across the country.  The north and the south remain stable and calm.  It is concentrated, as we've indicated, in the central, in the Baghdad area.  That is up somewhere between five and six or seven attacks a day on average from several months ago.  So that gives you a sense of the change in the numbers.
I recall at some point in maybe August we were seeing 40 incidents per day. So we have a recent increase from several months ago (July? when we eased off thinking we'd broken the back of the Baathist resistance?) that still doesn't appear to match the highest point of attacks. And we are partly responsible for at least some of the increased contacts by going on the offensive.
Not a reason to worry as long as reconstruction is going along and locals are going on line in security operations.
"It Becomes Clearer" (Posted October 23, 2003)
I've never quite fully trusted William Arkin's writings on defense issues. Somehow they have just seemed… off.
I remember a piece Arkin wrote some time ago. A year? Two? Anyway, he wrote a critical article stating that the US has damaged Basra a great deal in the Persian Gulf War. He said it was apparent from seeing Baghdad because he could easily distinguish the damage we did from the damage done in the Iran-Iraq War when Basra changed hands several times. One problem. Basra never changed hands. Not once. Iran sure tried to take the city but Iraq never lost it.
That was such a basic mistake for a military writer and former military analyst that I have been suspicious ever since.
"The Sadness is Unbearable" (Posted October 23, 2003)
When you read this, you can see how human rights organizations can speak out for those who die in silence, rather than the trendynistas who target America for alleged abuses of enemy combatants in Gitmo.
I'm only part of the way through the long report. So much is shocking to read even knowing intellectually what is going on:
Semi-starvation yields large numbers of informants among the prisoners, leading to a prison culture of distrust and hostility. Prisoners fight each other over scraps of food or over the clothing of deceased inmates. The camps feature the gamut of abnormal and aberrant human behavior that results from treating people like animals.
Can people honestly say the Pyongyang regime is not evil? Can our President really be mocked for that statement?
We cannot reward this regime. Not ever.
And I truly feel sick believing that we must put off the day of reckoning with an overweight, movie-viewing, sexual predator psychopath simply because addressing Iran is a more pressing item to preserve our safety.
Whatever we do, regime change must be the goal.
"Make Them Choose" (Posted October 23, 2003)
A separate EU defense organization is not in our interests. Indeed a politically unified EU is not in our interests. The details of the EU constitution oozing out are frightening to me. When we are seeking to spread democracy to eliminate the hatred that has boiled over into Islamist terrorism, Europe is taking a path that will dismantle democracy in the cradle of Western civilization. A bureaucratic dictatorship that sees America as its natural enemy is being born.
We must resist this move toward EU dictatorship. Otherwise, we will one day find that we have not fought our last war in Europe to prevent a hostile power from taking control of this crucial continent. Give European nations a reason to resist being drawn into the EU political union and remain our friends.
The EUros want NATO to be subordinate to the EU defense organization. No way. NATO must surely evolve to make it relevant to our security and one way to do it is to make first allegiance to NATO the basic requirement of membership. If Belgium wants to array its formidable arsenal with the EU, let them. Better to have a smaller NATO of real friends than to let those who would rather not be in NATO eat away at the structure of the alliance from the inside.
Oh, discovered a good article:
Late or not, however, the United States should mount a strong campaign in defence of the principle that NATO must remain the only European defence organization. Any ESDP must therefore be constructed inside the NATO umbrella subject to NATO spending priorities with no separate headquarters, no separate strategic planning staff and no separate operational capability.
NATO primacy must be our goal.
“Bush Thanks Australians” (Posted October 22, 2003)
Bush personally saluted Prime Minister John Howard as "a leader of exceptional courage" for not buckling earlier this year to his nation's largest peace marches since the Vietnam War. Instead, Howard sent 2,000 troops to Iraq.
“Rate of Attacks” (Posted October 22, 2003)
The rate of attacks in Iraq has crept up in the last three weeks:
"The number of wounded and the number of engagements in last three weeks have been a little bit higher than we've seen before," Sanchez said. "We've had an average number of engagements from 20 to 25 (daily). We've seen a spike up to 35 in last three weeks."
Still not the July rate but this is a spike. We’ll see if they can sustain it or if the Baathists are being killed and captured.
“No Need to Wonder After All” (Posted October 22, 2003)
Television reports on the Rumsfeld memo, even on Fox, surprised me. I should not be shocked that Daschle and Hillary Clinton slammed the administration over the Rumsfeld memo, claiming we are admitting to not doing well.
Opponents of the war like to claim that pro-war people unfairly blast them for offering criticism of the war. Dissent is not treason, they rightly say.
Yet when an administration official is found to be asking questions to make sure we win, to make sure we don’t declare victory and bury our heads in the sand, then the opposition is unable to constructively participate in the debate. Instead, they try to score cheap political points.
I wanted to believe that this memo wouldn’t prompt exactly the reaction it got from the usual suspects. I really did. I’m sometimes too damn idealistic.
Shame on them.
“Oh, Those Gulags” (Posted October 22, 2003)
Multi-generational prison labor camps. Perhaps 200,000 North Koreans enslaved in them:
Three generations of family members are sometimes given life terms along with family members charged with political crimes, said David Hawk, a longtime human rights advocate and author of the report who interviewed more than 30 former prisoners and guards
Repeat after me, “Axis of Evil.” Is it really so damn hard?
"Turks to the Border" (Posted October 22, 2003)
As I've already advocated, Safire is discussing sending Turkish troops to the Iraq-Syria border.
"Because the UN General Assembly Has Done So Much" (Posted October 22, 2003)
Fair is fair. After the UN GA has done so much to stop suicide bombers from killing innocent Israeli civilians (and Americans too) as they eat pizza or use mass transit, it is only fitting that the esteemed body protest the wall the Israelis are building to stop suicide bombers from infiltrating.
I mean, the Palestinian Authority doesn't seem to be able to do anything. Shoot, the PA could have had the vast majority of the West Bank for a state if they'd just agreed to the last-minute Clinton push. But no, they still bomb and rejoice in the bombing. And now they worry that the wall will prejudice a final border.
Blowback is a bitch, ain't it?
"We'll See" (Posted October 22, 2003)
Iran has agreed to some monitoring of their nuclear infrastructure—for now:
In a joint statement with Britain, France and Germany, the Iranians pledged "full cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to deal with all of its concerns about Iran's nuclear development activities
Since I don't think that we plan any regime change until spring of 2005, we have time to see if Iran truly has any sincere desire to get off the nuclear weapons path.
Of course, this requires us to have faith in the word of the mullahs and faith in the multi-lateralists in Europe to enforce whatever is agreed to rather than break out the champagne, go home to congratulate each other on a process well done, and then stop paying attention.
I wonder what will happen.
And there is still that small matter of sponsoring terrorism.
"The Memo" (Posted October 22, 2003)
This is the memo that amazingly seems to have led some to conclude it is a secret admission of failure (thanks to Instapundit for the first link to the USA Today memo--the link is now to the DOD pdf version):
October 16, 2003

TO: Gen. Dick Myers
Paul Wolfowitz
Gen. Pete Pace
Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld
SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism
The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere — one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be:

We are having mixed results with Al Qaida, although we have put considerable pressure on them — nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis.

USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban — Omar, Hekmatyar, etc.

With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started.

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

Do we need a new organization?

How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools?

Is our current situation such that "the harder we work, the behinder we get"?

It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.

Does CIA need a new finding?

Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course?

What else should we be considering?

Please be prepared to discuss this at our meeting on Saturday or Monday.

The NYT says this about the memo:
The memo, dated Oct. 16 and first reported by USA Today on Wednesday, offered a much more stark assessment of the global war on terrorism than contained in Rumsfeld's public statements.
Rumsfeld repeatedly says this is a long war and that we face difficulties ahead before we can ever think about declaring victory. Just what is the author of the NYT article talking about? Happy talk from Rumsfeld?
I mean seriously, "stark?" This is a memo to keep people focused on doing more to win and to avoid passing out medals and declaring the war over. What on Earth is wrong with that and how does it in any way indicate that the administration secretly knows we are losing? The President's reaction is right on the money:
``I've always felt that there's a tendency of people to kind of seek a comfort zone and hope that the war on terror is over,'' Bush said. ``And I view it as a responsibility of the United States to remind people of our mutual obligations to deal with the terrorists.''
I know I wrote go on to the next grievance but I hoped there would at least be a shadow of reality to back it up. If this truly has legs to become the next Pelosi talking point, I will seriously wonder about the anti-war side.
"Good God" (Posted October 22, 2003)
You know, you can go to school in these places and still I can be shocked.
We have our own madrassas, it seems.
Truly, it is discouraging to have to fight a war with the like of these educated fanatics pulling for our defeat.
"Constabulary Units" (Posted October 21, 2003) has an article urging the creation of American Constabulary units—units designed for peacekeeping missions and not major combat operations. I would like to take issue with this specifically:
These constabulary troops may be recruited from existing sources, with military-style but slightly longer enlistment terms and contracts. There will be a noticeable point in time during a military operation, where the conventional units are overkill and unsuited to police duty. That is when the Constabulary unit should take over. The constabulary brigades ought to rotate in and out on regularly scheduled multi-year deployment (say two or three years). This allows enough time for a rapport to be built up between the natives and the troops. The quantity of these constabulary units also places a de facto limit on peacekeeping commitments. When you run out, more hard decisions have to be made, forcing the powers-that-be to examine more closely potential peacekeeping situations.

Forming dedicated constabulary units would also provide a focus for experiments and research on the subject. This is different from current efforts, that are focused more towards converting units from warfighting to peacekeeping, and back again. The existence of constabulary units will also reassure conventional warriors that they will not be used up on peacekeeping missions, which are demonstrably not popular (to the point of discouraging re-enlistment) for a variety of reasons. The conventional military may then confidently return to focus on it’s core mission, while the constabulary provides an outlet for the peacekeeping mission.
If peacekeeping missions deter soldiers from reenlisting, just what existing sources will be used to recruit soldiers specifically into units that only do peacekeeping? So a soldier who might do peacekeeping for a year will want out but some guy who will do it for a 2 or 3 year stretch in a longer term of enlistment will eagerly sign up? I don't think so.
And how on earth would having a set number of constabulary units limit our peacekeeping? We have none now. How many do we do now? I guarantee that political leadership will never respond to an Army that says we are tapped out on constabulary units by saying, "well ok then, we'll say no to this mission." Hell no, in will go the infantry. So much for reassuring the combat guys.
Also, this suggestion implies that constabulary units will be new units. If we went this route, I bet combat units would be converted to constabulary units.
Truly, I would rather have combat units retrained for peacekeeping and then deprogrammed after the mission to become a combat unit again.
Hell, in an ideal world, I'd rather minimize the amount of time our combat units are committed to peacekeeping. The Balkans wars were truly luxury wars although we are now drawing down. Iraq is too important to walk away from so peacekeeping it is until locals can take over.
But the article does have important points on the vast differences between combat and peacekeeping. These are real and must be addressed.
In my opinion, raise more military police units. They are police and outstanding light infantry that won't need to level a block to kill armed enemies. Plus, base security is in higher demand now when they aren't in the field on peacekeeping. Send those National Guard tankers who are lugging around M-16s back home.
Just say no to constabulary units.
"The Imminent Crisis/No Crisis Issue" (Posted October 21, 2003)
How is it that some see a slight decrease in the rate of increase for their favorite midnight basketball program as a "crisis" yet are unable to read anything the President said about Iraq without inferring that he must have meant "imminent"?
This guy is defending his "imminence" claim. (again from Sullivan).
Here's his first defense:
Exhibit A offered by readers in defense of the president was this quote in his State of the Union speech of 2003: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent."

But Mr. Bush went on: "Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late."

That sounds to me as if he was saying the threat could well be imminent, so we'd better not take a chance and hit Saddam Hussein before he hits us.
Well, no, it sounds to me like he was saying that the threat is coming and when it is imminent, how will we know? They won't tell us. And the CIA apparently can't tell us. So how do we know it is imminent? We can't, the President said, and the only way to judge what to do is to look at the regime's ghastly record, reasonably conclude it will do so to us when it can, and rightly determine it must go.
Or this one:
In his speech in Cincinnati Oct. 8, 2002, the president called Iraq "a grave threat to peace" that "possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons" and "could bring sudden terror and suffering to America."

He continued: "Some ask how urgent this danger is to America and the world. The danger is already significant and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?"
He goes on:
The point of the column to which the e-mail readers complained was not, however, whether Mr. Bush or any cabinet member ever used the exact words "imminent threat" (which were not used with quotation marks in the column).
The point was that the president, Mr. Rumsfeld and other architects of the war insisted before launching it that deliverable weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq and were the reason it had to be waged pronto.
Here the author is conflating different types of WMD. We believed Saddam had chemical weapons since he had them and used them repeatedly. The current and prior two administrations operated under this assumption and so did the rest of the world. Indeed, the anti-war side said that these chemical weapons were reason not to invade. They said we could contain Saddam and that invading would provoke Saddam into using weapons they now insist he never had. I still want to know why the CIA didn't know that Iraq did not have chemical weapons on the eve of war. (Maybe Joe Wilson did all the CIA's investigations into Iraqi WMD) We did not invade again between 1991 and 2001 because chemicals, while a threat, are not well suited to mass civilian casualties. You need lots of chemicals delivered just right to kill people.
But we also feared he would develop and use or distribute biological weapons and we knew he pursued this option. Disease isn't too hard to spread once the infection gets going. One guy spewing small pox in an airport could do a lot of damage. The worst case scenario was that Saddam would get nukes. And we know he had a program and was far closer to having such weapons in 1991 than we realized.
So, to sum up—we thought he had chemical weapons (useful on the battlefield against unprepared enemies) and we knew he was seeking bio and nuclear weapons. Since Saddam used chemicals lavishly, we had reason to believe he would use the rest.
The quotes he lists in no way indicate to me that the administration was implying imminence. I read the statements to say that the threat is real. It will arrive. But will it arrive tomorrow or next week? Who knows? But it will arrive and we must destroy the threat while we can. The consequences of trusting Saddam were just to great to do otherwise.
And as I've noted before, if the President believed the threat from Iraq was imminent, he should be impeached for letting 15 months pass between the toppling of the Taliban and the invasion of Iraq. We reacted far faster to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and with many more troops and mountains of supplies. So we took far longer, to move much less, after we'd spent more than a decade preparing to go to the Gulf again.
Imminent, by butt. We knew the threat was real and we took care of it.
Please, just bring on the next ridiculous charge. I'm getting bored.
"Some Answers to My Questions" (Posted October 21, 2003)
Ok this CSM article answers some of my recent questions about the fighting in Iraq (noted by
• Meanwhile, the pouncing raids that US forces initiated two months ago have hurt the guerrillas. More than 1,000 fighters have been arrested and many others killed. The bounty paid by ex-Baathists toinduce attacks on American soldiers has had to be increased from $1,000 to $5,000 to find takers.
We are on the offensive in the field. This is good. An increased toll while sitting on our butts would be bad news. The increased price the Baathists need to pay to get people to attack us is good too. I imagine that the quality of attacks is bound to go down as the price goes up. People want to live to spend that kind of money so they are more cautious, I suspect. Plus, early retirements would be encouraged thus reducing the experienced attackers. I'm just speculating on this impact, however. Still another posting my Sullivan indicates that the number of attacks are going down:
One thing is certain. The attacks are less frequent than say two months ago. The attacks lately have been harming more Iraqis than Americans. Mortar shells in Ba'quba three weeks ago took 12 innocent lives at a grocery market. A bomb planted beside the sidewalk in Adhamiya exploded when a bus stopped next to it killing 7 people. This has made people very bitter and critical whenever they hear about attacks. More and more people are informing against others they know involved with attacks. Large numbers of Arab infiltrators have been arrested. Of course they came from Syria, and Saudi Arabia.
Good, if true. I'd like to see more reliable stats on this feature. I really should look for this.
Patience, people. This isn't Vietnam and we are making substantial progress. We will win this.
Shoot, in sixty years, Iraqis could be as loyal friends as the Belgians, French, and Germans are today. (Oh God, what am I saying?)
"Potential Problems" (Posted October 20, 2003)
An article on Iraqi resistance. Our goal to reduce our troop strength depends on how we cope with these problems.
While I am optimistic that Iraq is not well suited to a large-scale guerrilla war and that getting an Iraqi state up and running with courts, jobs, and security people will tamp this down given time, I am surprised that the deaths of Saddam's sons did not discourage the resistance:
But three months later the insurgents appear to be as determined as ever. Their attacks have become more sophisticated while terrorist bombings have emerged as a major threat. American commanders insist they are making headway in bringing order to Iraq, but the indications are that the fight will be difficult and prolonged.
Yes, the opposition is paying for attacks, so this undercuts the ideological component which is good. But the attacks continue.
I wondered if we were still on the offensive which might account for the uptick in casualties since mid-September. But this article notes:
"It is my impression that the guerrilla campaign against us is spreading and intensifying and the other side does not seem to be losing enough people in the process," he said. "They are doing well and I am not too happy about that."
Since I'd earlier read over the summer that we were knocking any attackers back with heavy casualties and going after them quietly but effectively, this is very bad if true. The problem is, I don't want a body count mentality to set in by providing the numbers to judge this by. If we start judging by kill ratios and body counts, both will go up and God knows if they will be insurgents or civilians unlucky enough to be in the way. Our goal is to lower this into a police problem and not push it into a military problem.
Better to soldier on, fighting back to contain the low-level resistance without escalating, and working to undercut the Baathists and cut off their money. In time, Iraqis will be fighting the Baathists and they will not be Mogadishu'd out of Iraq.
And at the risk of falsely hoping for the best, get Saddam.
"North Korean Agreement" (Posted October 20, 2003)
More details on the proposal by the President for some type of agreement with North Korea where we promise not to invade or attack North Korea.
One of the problems I have with the security agreement is why would North Korea want one given they think we are constantly plotting to invade. Of course, this applies to the 1994 Agreed Framework that North Korea signed. The obvious answer is that they are more than happy to sign anything if they think they can go around it and get their nuke arsenal without provoking us into obliterating North Korea while we can do so casualty free (this does not apply to Japan or South Korea, of course, who are on the front line).
I think we can reasonably rule out that North Korea want to live in nuclear-free bliss.
So what's in it for us?
First, I think Iran is next in the crosshairs sometime in early 2005. If we can give Pyongyang a warm and fuzzy for a couple years, basking in their diplomatic success, we buy us the time to get Iran's mullah's out of power.
Second, we will give the world time (while we use time constructively) to demonstrate that North Korea will not give up its quest for nukes. It is and always will be the regime, stupid:
"We could demonstrate to the world that it's time to take more decisive action, from cutting off their oil, to seizing their ships, to having unpleasant things happen to their suspected sites," the official said.
We will then be much freer to squeeze North Korea into collapsing.
I certainly hope the State Department can manage to string some words together that do not, in fact, prevent us from tightly containing North Korea at a future date.
"War on Terror—Home Front" (Posted October 20, 2003)
If you can read this Steyn piece and still say that our government's actions at home are too harsh and suppressing civil liberties, well I don't know what to say.
Islam isn't our enemy, but the Wahhabi scum sure are. Keep them out.
”Iraqi Troop Strength” (Posted October 19, 2003)
Before the war, I expected our troop strength in Iraq would be down to 75,000 in two years time after the fall of the Saddam regime.
The Army is setting a goal of 50,000 by summer 2005.
I based my estimate on assuming a corps of seven combat brigades (two divisions and a separate regiment/brigade) plus support units. I assumed that by then they would be more in the nature of a garrison force. Say a heavy division in the south to watch the Iranians and a light division in the north to reassure the Kurds. Another brigade could be in the Baghdad region where we could have a major air base, too.
The article outlines the following scenario:
There are now 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The plan to cut that number is well advanced and has been described in broad outline to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld but has not yet been approved by him. It would begin to draw down forces next spring, cutting the number of troops to fewer than 100,000 by next summer and then to 50,000 by mid-2005, officers involved in the planning said.
While an optimistic assessment at this point with the Baathists still resisting at a low-level after nearly 6 months, this is what we could see:
"By my estimate, we can sustain six brigades in Iraq indefinitely," said retired Army Lt. Col. Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent think tank. With the addition of some Marines, Green Berets and troops from civil affairs, intelligence, military police and other specialized units, he noted, "That would put us in the 40,000 to 50,000 range."
This ‘timetable’ is based on events and not the calendar, but I don’t think it is an unreasonable goal at all. Still, it does depend on certain things happening. Like increased numbers of Iraqi security forces taking over and being effective against the Baathists.
And reconstruction. We need to get Iraq looking forward.
And it sure wouldn’t hurt to get Saddam.
“Reassuring North Korea” (Posted October 19, 2003)
The President will not sign (and try to get the Senate to approve) any formal non-aggression pact with North Korea:
U.S. officials stressed that any agreement would not be a bilateral one between the United States and North Korea, but a multilateral accord within the format of the six-party talks. Washington has been eager to avoid being seen as giving in to what it sees as North Korean blackmail on the nuclear crisis.
I’ve been strongly opposed to any formal guarantees but I’ve been open to some restatement of generally accepted generalities about not attacking others. I suppose something with the Pacific powers and the Koreas might be acceptable as we all promise not to attack each other.
But if this leads to some in the West saying we now no longer need to worry about North Korea because they promise not to attack anybody, this will be less than worthless.
Also, unless the other side of the bargain is thoroughly intrusive inspections to verify nuclear programs are halted, this will be less than worthless.
On top of all this, even if the promises are all good enough, we must still squeeze North Korea and press for regime change. We never needed to invade the Soviet Union to cause them to implode. And all those treaties we signed never meant we accepted them or their conquests. Strong containment still seems the way to go with North Korea. With an ultimate objective of forcing a regime collapse.
It’s the regime, stupid. We should not trust our safety to the good will of Kim Jong-Il and his merry band of thugs. Nor should we rest easy believing that we can maintain perfect vigilance to watch North Korea.
One question on all this, however. Given the North Korean paranoia that the United States wants to invade them, why on Earth would any type of security guarantees by Washington reassure Pyongyang enough to abandon their nuclear and missile programs? I mean, wouldn’t it fit into their view of us to think we’d just lie about it?
One other question. Just how did this whole crisis evolve into the question of how we can reassure them? Truly this is bizarro world.
Just asking.
"Our UN Victory" (Posted October 17, 2003)
We got our unanimous resolution without turning over Iraq to the UN's tender mercies. It should be helpful. I still think we bought our Iraq resolution by spearheading the UN Liberian mission. Thus far, it seems like a good bargain.
Amazingly, even this 15-0 gesture of approval has been spun into a defeat by the Washington Post:
The 15 to 0 vote, bringing in not just France, Germany and Russia but also Syria, was no small feat. But analysts and diplomats said the impact of the resolution would be limited, and perhaps not worth its cost of exposing the deep-seated resentments in the world community over the U.S. handling of the Iraq war. Few believe the Security Council's resolution will bring much in terms of pledges of troops or aid, even though the Bush administration originally sought the resolution for precisely that reason.
The NYT opines "President Bush's victory in the United Nations on Thursday has brought him at least the veneer of international backing[.]"
Just the veneer.
Amazing. I thought the international community's blessing was always a good thing.
Apparently not.
"Brigade-Based Army" (Posted October 17, 2003)
From Interesting:
October 17, 2003: The U.S. Army is moving ahead with a major reorganization to make the brigade the major combat unit, with the division replacing the corps as a headquarters. Details of the new organization are not yet set, but active duty combat brigades will probably increase from 33 to 48 and reserve/National Guard combat brigades from 15 to 22. This makes available some 60 combat brigades, but only about 140 infantry and armor battalions. That's because the new plan calls for frequently using only two combat battalions per brigade. The idea behind that is to mix tank and infantry companies more frequently, and regularly. This is an idea that has been bounced around for decades, because in combat, you often have tank battalions broken up so the tanks can operate with infantry units. 

There is already considerable experience with "independent brigades," as the army has maintained some of these for over half a century. Artillery, engineer and other support units are added to a regular brigade (that is part of a division), and much is known about what works and what doesn't with independent brigades (that can operate by themselves without being part of a division). Artillery and aviation, however, is likely to be more centralized, and parceled out to brigades as needed by the division headquarters (just as corps have long parceled out stuff to divisions). Artillery units, especially MLRS (rocket) battalions, have sufficient range that they can easily support several widely dispersed brigades if the communications are available. Aviation, of course, has even greater range. The new organization could send a division with one to five brigades, depending on the mission. Such a division would have a strength of from 7,000-30,000 troops. The first two divisions to go through the reorganization are the 3rd Mechanized Infantry and the 101st Airborne.
It seems like what is going on is that we are essentially replacing divisions in favor of brigades as the major combined arms maneuver element and making the divisional headquarters function as the corps headquarters functions. We currently expect a corps to command 2-5 divisions so this new divisional pseudo-corps fits nicely at 2-5 brigades. Since 3rd ID fought in the Iraq War as separate brigade teams with air power providing the major firepower, perhaps this is the model. It is really interesting that the brigades may be two-battalion units. Like the old US armored combat commands of World War II. Our tank divisions essentially had two-battalion combat commands (brigades) with one tank and one armored infantry battalion as the core.
This seems reasonable although I am not convinced that communications mean that span of control means we can have so many brigades under one division flag. I'm assuming from the upper end of 30,000 that up to 7 brigades means line brigades and does not include artillery, aviation, support, etc. brigades. Also, the shrunken line brigades will not be as robust as larger brigades. As long as we can fight opponents like Iraq where we lose few troops in battle, that is fine.
But if we must fight and endure casualties, this may be too fragile an organization. It has no depth. At first blush, by abandoning the third battalion, it looks like we would be abandoning the concept of an organic reserve, with 2 battalions up front and one back. Are we counting on information dominance to avoid surprise and commit other units if needed? But it also sounds like we will cross attach companies to make combined arms task forces. Will these be brigades be organized into one tank heavy task force (2 tank companies and 1 mechanized company) and one infantry heavy task force (2 mechanized companies and 1 tank company)? Or will there be three balanced task forces of 1 tank company and 1 mechanized company each? No apparent headquarter element for the latter, of course. I will note, however, that later in World War II when manpower shortages hit, the Germans used infantry divisions with three regiments and each regiment had only two infantry battalions. I must concede that they fought well on the vicious eastern front against the Soviets. As long as their artillery functioned, they could fight quite well. So maybe ours will be robust enough.
Or, the Army may plan to plug in National Guard battalions to fill out a 2-battalion brigade in case of a tougher fight. Guard divisions and brigades take a while to train up to active duty competency. Battalions are easier to keep at a high standard of training. The Guard won't like that if it sacrifices Guard divisions. I don't get the article's number of Guard brigades increasing from 15 to 22. This must mean the enhanced separate brigades, of which there are 15. The Guard also has 8 divisions that this apparently doesn't include and a few other separate brigades.
It certainly adds flexibility to tailor divisions for particular missions. It also relies on secure communications, God-like battlefield awareness, and absolute air supremacy to compensate for being thinner on the line.
I wonder how many divisional flags there will be. I'm assuming we'll have more.
"Troop Morale" (Posted October 16, 2003)
An unscientific survey of soldier morale in Iraq is out:
A broad survey of U.S. troops in Iraq by a Pentagon-funded newspaper found that half of those questioned described their unit's morale as low and their training as insufficient, and said they do not plan to reenlist.
Not sure what to make of this. Is it bellyaching and normal or is it a sign of a problem?
"The numbers are consistent with what I suspect is going on there," said David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland at College Park. "I am getting a sense that there is a high and increasing level of demoralization and a growing sense of being in something they don't understand and aren't sure the American people understand."
Even in the article, it is also noted:
Some military experts pointed to good news for the administration in the survey. Military historian Eliot Cohen, who serves on a Pentagon advisory panel, noted that the proportion that said the war was worthwhile -- 67 percent -- and the proportion of troops that said they have a clearly defined mission -- 64 percent -- are "amazingly high." He added that complaints are typical. "American troops have a God-given right and tradition of grumbling," he said.
Let's look at some of the figures the article reports from the survey.
The survey, conducted by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, also recorded about a third of the respondents complaining that their mission lacks clear definition and characterizing the war in Iraq as of little or no value. Fully 40 percent said the jobs they were doing had little or nothing to do with their training.
This doesn't seem too unreasonable. I've noted before that a lot of troops in Iraq are doing jobs they were not trained to do. Artillery, air defense, and tank crews, for example, are being used as military police to patrol and guard. I'd be pretty annoyed too, if I was trained to shoot down enemy aircraft and instead was lugging an M-16 through Baghdad alleys or manning a checkpoint in the hot sun. Since most troops don't see any fighting on any given day, week, or even month, this may seem especially fruitless. Guard duty is boring, people.
The article also reports:
In the survey, 34 percent described their morale as low, compared with 27 percent who described it as high and 37 percent who said it was average; 49 percent described their unit's morale as low, while 16 percent called it high.
We can see a situation where a person with more positive (or less negative) personal views is unwilling to generalize and assume the group is equally satisfied. I'd like to see if the specialist troops doing guard duty are the ones with low morale. This doesn't strike me as a terribly alarming statistic thus far.
The only other number noted is this:
A total of 49 percent of those questioned said it was "very unlikely" or "not likely" that they would remain in the military after they complete their current obligations. In the past, enlistment rates tended to drop after conflicts, but many defense experts and noncommissioned officers have warned of the potential for a historically high exodus, particularly of reservists.
I don't find this too surprising. Lots of people get out in peacetime every year when their terms are up. Plus, our soldiers went to war. When their time is up, it will be understandable if they want to go home. Shoot, in World War II, the morale of our troops in Europe after the fall of Berlin was pretty lousy when they realized that they'd be sent to invade Japan. Heck, they thought, we won our war! Why can't we go home and let the guys in the Pacific win their war? But we'll have to see what happens when their terms are up. They may think differently once back home. The reservists could be a real problem and I've long thought so. (see the July 2003 issue of Army in the letters section for my commentary on this subject) Reservists are civilians after all, with careers and families in the civilian world. They expected to be called up in emergencies. Occupation duty in Iraq, like similar duty in the Balkans and the Sinai since the Berlin Wall came down, are killers for morale because they are routine duties to bolster a too-small Army rather than an emergency that feels like protecting hearth and home. I don't blame them for wanting out. It has been two years since 9-11 and we are still fighting a war with a military sized for peace. Too many critical functions are mostly or entirely in the reserves. Our troops are getting tired. And with a press corps that may seem to have turned on them (looking for bad news) since the embedded reporters left, this may be quite the shock.
I've long said I prefer that American soldiers limit their peacekeeping work. They are superb fighting machines and are wasted on guard duty. Getting a unanimous UNSC resolution on our occupation should help get foreign troops. Training Iraqi security, police, and army units will help more. In time, the fewer troops we have in Iraq will be garrison troops and not occupation troops.
I'm glad the military watches for morale problems. You never can tell. But I'm not alarmed just from this. As long as the troops are doing their jobs and not getting themselves or others killed, bitching is fine. Nor were dog and pony shows invented in this war. Shoot, the only time in Basic Training I ever saw soap and water before chow in field training was when some general came to visit …
"Letter Writing" (Posted October 16, 2003)
The U.S. military's public affairs office in Baghdad has slapped the 503rd Regiment on the wrist, telling the unit not to send anymore of them, but no action will be taken against the 503rd. Officials said the Pentagon considers the matter closed.
That is, the 2nd battalion of the 503rd airborne infantry regiment. News writers rarely seem to understand the numbering of our units. (or that not everything big and green is a "tank") We have a kind of regimental-based system for numbering battalions to carry on the legacy of the regiment. So we have battalions named after regiments. And a brigade of three battalions won't usually be composed of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of XYZ regiment. So, 2-503 is a battalion, the second, of the 503rd regiment. Calling the unit the 503rd regiment makes it sound larger than it is. Of course, this assumes anybody knows the difference between a battalion and a regiment…
Shoot, when I was in Basic Training, I was in some training division's 3rd brigade. My unit was E-3-10. Even our drill sergeants were confused when somebody asked just what the heck "E-3-10" meant. The drill sergeants though the 3 referred to 3rd brigade. Later, out of ear shot of the drill sergeants (I'm not stupid), I explained that we are Echo company of the 3-10 Infantry regiment (training, of course, not real infantry). Third battalion of the Tenth regiment. Simple.
Here's a link describing units in the Army. Note that other than Rangers and cavalry regiments, we don't actually organize the Army into regiments despite the use of regimental numbers to identify our battalions. Roughly speaking, our brigades are kind of like regiments. Kind of.
And here's 173rd AB Brigade. It has two battalions: 2-503 and 1-508.
Hmm. Went off on a tangent. My real point was leave the 2-503 alone. They're busy.
"Letter Writing Scandal" (Posted October 15, 2003)
It's a small world.
I met the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade parachute battalion who is behind the letter-writing "scandal." I hope this dies out. I met then-Major Dominic Caraccilo six years ago when we were in the same forum on Army issues. We showed each other pictures of our kids and I sat next to his wife in the audience waiting my turn at the podium while he presented his paper. While I cannot claim to know him well at all, my impression of him was that he was a smart, dedicated, and decent soldier. He stands by his actions and I trust his motives.
Of course, as a former E-4, I can see some platoon sergeant growling at one of his PFCs who balked at signing to "stop belly aching about his freaking constitutional rights and sign the damn letter."
But LTC Caraccilo was not trying to pull a fast one, in my judgment. Give him a break. He's doing a tough job far from home, and I for one am grateful I can sleep in my own bed every night with soldiers like him guarding us.
"Casualties" (Posted October 15, 2003)
Although our casualties in Iraq are still low from a military standpoint (and not—obviously—from the view of those who have died or their friends and familiy), I've noticed that since mid September, combat deaths have inched up to about 3 every 4 days. While not up to the July peak, is this from more effective resistance or from more active offensive operations by our side?
"We Can Turn Syria" (Posted October 15, 2003)
Safire calls for squeezing Syria to get them to change their tune.
I think this would work. Syria is not Islamist. It is a minority-based government that has regime survival as its only priority. The government switches sides to suit regime survival. With no source of real income outside the drugs from Lebanon, Syria is vulnerable to economic pressure.
Of course, the billions of dollars Syria has stashed from Iraq put off this day of reckoning. I'm sure the Syrians hope this money will let them ride out our attention until we go away. We need to get our hands on that cash or be prepared for a very long struggle before the money squeeze can begin to bite.
Syria is not enough of a threat to us to justify direct military action on our part. Save our forces for the core jobs—Iran and North Korea are problems enough to worry about. And we still are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, remember.
"Intelligence on Iraq" (Posted October 15, 2003)
Austin Bay finishes up his three-part series on the West's intelligence on Iraq's WMD:
Intel is never perfect and rarely certain. Those who argue it should be before acting are exemplars of Churchill's "unwisdom." Pathetic Neville Chamberlain waited for absolute proof of Hitler's perfidy. He got it -- Nazi blitzkrieg.

Smart enemies hide "proof," so intel analysts probe "indications" and make educated assessments. Analyses are bound to conflict. That doesn't make the mistaken analysis a lie.
Saddam was Hell-bent on getting WMD, and with his Western friends and the corrupted Oil for Food program to help him ride out our sanctions, the world would have completely abandoned us (as they were gradually doing over the 1990s) and Iraq would have been out of that famous "box" he was supposedly in.
There was no lying to get us into war. No hyped threat. Just the guts to destroy an obvious threat before we took it on the chin.
Did September 11 teach us nothing? We are not dealing with people who deserve the benefit of the doubt. They hate us enough to kill us in mass murder. Never forget that chilling fact.
"Reaction to the Turks" (Posted October 14, 2003)
From the wires:
A car bomb blew up near the Turkish embassy in Baghdad Tuesday in an apparent suicide attack just days after Turkey agreed to send troops to bolster U.S.-led forces occupying Iraq
Well, I guess we know the Baathists vote 'no' on letting the Turks into Iraq.
Kind of a good reason to put the Turks into Iraqi Sunni areas. I'm still rooting for Al Anbar Province.
"Ammo Dumps" (Posted October 14, 2003)
The many former regime ammunition sites in Iraq are mostly unguarded. And the regime people still fighting are using stuff from those sites to attack us:
The two most recent suicide bombings here and virtually every other attack on American soldiers and Iraqis were carried out with explosives and matériel taken from Saddam Hussein's former weapons dumps, which are much larger than previously estimated and remain, for the most part, unguarded by American troops, allied officials said Monday.
So, do we really have these sites unguarded?
It is such an important thing to do that it defies imagination that they are truly unprotected. If the attacks really are reliant on raiding these depots for arms, it seems that we would be in pretty good shape if we sealed them off and protected them.
Given this, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that this is information warfare to lull Saddam's people into visiting them.
Of course, note that the report only says "unguarded by American troops". And we have excellent surveillance equipment. I assume anybody who wanted to carry out significant acts of resistance would need to roll a vehicle up to the depots to haul out weapons. We could spot that and then nail them as they left. American troops can be nearby even if they aren't technically "guarding" the depots. That is, rather than a hole in our security, this may be a kill sack.
But who knows? Militaries, even excellent ones like ours, can make boneheaded mistakes. I just don't assume it.
"Terrorism and Nukes" (Posted October 14, 2003)
If you ever have your doubts about why Iran is on the Axis of Evil:
Some of this is bluster, but for the most part it is an honest statement of Iran's intentions. As reported here some weeks ago, the Iranians believe they now have all the necessary components for a nuclear bomb. The only question is how long it will take them to assemble and test it. Khamenei had hoped to be able to test an atomic bomb by the third week in October, but his scientific advisers recently told him they could not make that deadline. They are now aiming for November 4 or 5, the anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran during the revolution.

There is another November date our leaders should take seriously: the 25th, the anniversary of the disappearance of the twelfth imam, and thus the most significant date in the Shiite calendar. Reports from Tehran suggest that the mullahs would like to celebrate that anniversary with a big-time terrorist attack against America.
With even Canadians upset over the murder of their reporter; with American troopss in Iraq and Afghanistan; with the EU raising concerns about human rights; with the IAEA pressing Iran about nuclear programs; and with the Nobel Peace Prize going to an Iranian dissident, Iran is under a lot of pressure. Lots of people are worried about Iran. And if the mullahs detonate a nuke, I guess we could even have a fruitful debate on the imminence of the Iranian threat.
Of course, this threat of a nuclear test raises the question of whether we can afford to wait until 2005 to overthrow the mullahs
I guess the real question is what is our estimate of when Iran could have weaponized nukes? It may be that we yet have time to act even if Iran carries out a nuclear test this year.
Sure damn hope so.
"Why I Can't Give Up Hope" (Posted October 13, 2003)
Despite the disgusting collaborationists in Paris, I continue to have hopes that the rest of France is not a reflection of the center's socialist America-haters.
Via Instapundit, this sign:
Sabine Herold, to put it mildly, is not your typical Frog. Herold, the 22-year-old leader of Liberté, J’ecris Ton Nom (Freedom, I Write Your Name), has in the last few months emerged as the massively popular and highly photogenic leader of -- zut! -- a burgeoning pro-market, pro-American counterculture in France. Earning comparisons to Joan of Arc, Brigitte Bardot (!), and Margaret Thatcher in the panting British press, she represents something French politics hasn’t seen in years: a public figure eager to take on the country’s endlessly striking unions.

It is startling to hear any Parisienne, let alone a college student, drop references to F. A. Hayek in casual conversation, describe Communists as "disgusting," or lead pro-war demonstrations in front of the American Embassy. Herold is fond of issuing heretical statements guaranteed to make any good fonctionnaire’s skin crawl.
Go Harold. I don't want to despise France. Really.
"We Really Are At War" (Posted October 13, 2003)
Lileks has an excellent post fisking a letter written by the FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley who says that we are not in fact free people and that we are enduring a siege on our civil liberties from the government.
Very clearly, the people with this mindset deny the very idea that we are at war. They see no connection between our troops overseas and 3,000 dead on 9-11. With that assumption in mind, it is perfectly rational for them to wonder about all this extra security and troops overseas and more money for defense. If I thought we were at peace I'd be worried about this too, I guess.
And if we are not at war, those people who challenge your anti-war views are clearly trying to silence you. It becomes easy to believe that the government is really checking out your library reading habits. From there it is a short logical step to believe that you are an oppressed dissident, just praying you can make it to the safe house behind the organic market to avoid the Bushstapo on your trail.
And of course, they can enjoy this Disneyesque Liberal World fantasy secure in the knowledge that the rides are all safe, with just the illusion of danger. They really aren't in any danger of going to the gulags in our America. The very fact that she is writing an op-ed piece in a newspaper—along with countless other oppressed souls who share her fears—without real fear that she will be disappeared is lost on her

And yet she dares to write the lead guest edit on the front page of the most widely-read newspaper in town, on the day with the biggest circulation. How she got past the guvment sharpshooters in the book depository across the street from the Strib I’ll never know. Hell, those boys have been eager to ping someone since Ruby Ridge.
Hey, if worse comes to worse, they know they can seek asylum in France.
“Reasons for Carl Vinson to be at Sea in ‘05?” (Posted October 12, 2003)
A reader points out that Syria could be a potential target and that Saudi Arabia, too, could be the reason for Carl Vinson to be kept available in ‘05. Both countries could be targets of opportunity I admit but I’m not persuaded that they are planned targets. The issue isn’t whether we want regime change in those two countries (whether in policy or people), but what is going to happen in ’05 that made the Navy decide it didn’t want that carrier unavailable in ’05?
In this light, it seems unlikely that Syria is the target. Damascus isn’t a primary threat as are the last two Axis of Evil states, and Syria’s policies are very narrowly based on regime survival and not ideology. They are not committed Islamists or even pan-Arabists. Syria sided with Iran in the long Iran-Iraq War and Syria sided with us in the Persian Gulf War. They even voted for UNSC 1441 last year to make it unanimous.
I think military pressure from Syria’s enemies to the south and north will help us. Syria cannot win a war and cannot replace war losses. And I think economic pressure, as with the bill that will press Syria working its way to the President’s desk, will force Syria to change its tune to our liking. We certainly need to get Saddam’s cash sitting in Syrian banks.
As for Saudi Arabia, they may not be a charter member of the Axis of Evil but their support of radical Islamists means a reckoning with them is coming. But I don’t think ’05 is the timeframe. Saudi oil production is too important to us. We really need West African, Iraqi, and Russian oil on line to make up for any disruptions when we go after Saudi Arabia. Venezuela’s oil production is also of some concern under budding nutball Chavez. Besides, in the short run Saudi Arabia is cooperating more now after the Islamists targeted sites in Saudi Arabia. Many factors argue to me for putting this off.
After Iran and Iraq are settled down, we may have some good credit with Shias that can be useful down the road in regard to Saudi Arabia. I think we may have the option of separating the oil-producing Shia eastern portions of Saudi Arabia from the holy sites of Mecca and Medina in the wastelands. Let the Wahhabis practice their stern form of Islam in poverty in their own truncated country while we support the Shias in the east. That way we stay away from the holy sites of Islam. I’m not saying we should do this or that we will get the friendship of Shias enough to carry this out, but if Riyadh won’t change their tune enough for us, why should the European-drawn borders be sacrosanct? Splitting up ‘Saudi’ Arabia may be the way to go.
The reader argues that Israel can take out Iran’s nuke sites. While Israel may be able to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, I think Iran has learned the lesson of Osirak and has buried facilities where they can. Iran may not have its nuclear infrastructure as buried as North Korea’s, but I really doubt if the Israelis can reach as far as Iran’s interior in strength to do the job. I don’t know if even we can knock them all out. Nor do I think we’d subcontract such an important target as Iran to the Israelis.
While a crisis may force us to deal with any number of countries in the near future, for a planned ’05 confrontation, Iran makes the most sense to me. They are close to a nuclear bomb and that is unacceptable. Regime change is coming to Tehran.
That Nobel Peace Prize to the Iranian dissident may have been the best decision those guys have made in a long time. It is definitely a kick in the shins to the mullahs.
“Carrier Availability” (Posted October 11, 2003)
When I recently received the email notice of the change in the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson’s scheduled nuclear overhaul, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Why put it off one year? Sure, it will last another year, but it was long scheduled, so why the change? doesn’t have an answer but they too think it significant:
October 11, 2003: The U.S. Navy has decided to delay, for one year, the refueling and refurbishment of one of its nuclear powered air craft carriers (the USS Carl Vinson.) The ship will be taken out of service in late 2005, rather than (as long planned) late 2004. The Carl Vinson's reactors have sufficient nuclear material left to keep the ship going for another year, and the ship has no major maintenance problems. Apparently the navy feels it is really important that this one extra carrier be available for that extra year.
Late 2004 is after the next presidential election of course, which is when I figured we’d be getting ready for another major military operation. Barring an enemy attack sooner, of course. So this carrier will be available through most of 2005.
I believe that we are setting the stage to support a revolt against the mullahs before they get their first nuclear bomb. We’ll want carriers for air support if needed.
Interestingly enough, the Nobel people may have given the mullahs a kick in the shins with their choice of a peace prize winner. A kick that may energize the very people we want to win.
As I’ve said before, I don’t believe this President is about to rest on his laurels with the war unfinished.
Iran is next. The whackos looking for their first bomb trump the whackos looking for their third. I find it hard to believe that we are gearing up for a try at rolling back North Korea. South Korea would not cooperate in my opinion.
Or Cuba or Venezuela? They would be nice but are not the main enemy.
I’m betting on Iran. Could be wrong, of course, but 2005 will be another year of major conflict. It is, after all, really important for the Navy to have the carrier available that year.
“Japanese Help” (Posted October 11, 2003)
Japan plans to send troops to Iraq as well as contribute significant amounts of money for reconstruction. In the Persian Gulf War, the Japanese were generous with money while allies like Britain who sent troops gained far more public gratitude for sharing the risks:
Japan is still smarting from what it feels was ingratitude after the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when it was accused of checkbook diplomacy after coughing up $13 billion toward the effort, but no troops.
I personally was a little more understanding of the difficulty Japan had in 1991 and, in fact, would be hard pressed to say whether Britain’s troops or Japan’s money was more needed. Standing on the firing line with us counts a lot in the public’s mind, however, and the Japanese aren’t going to make the same mistake.
International support seems to be growing despite the refusal of the UN and France to be a little more constructive in all this.
“Iranian Revolution” (Posted October 11, 2003)
The Nobel Peace Prize went to Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian dissident. Hopefully, this will jumpstart the opposition and galvanize them and the world. After last year’s kick in the shins to the US, it is nice to see a peace prize that will advance peace. The mullahs may claim that the award reflects some Western bias but after Jimmy Carter received it, their protests should fall on deaf ears. A peace that will require the pursuit of justice of course, but a real peace in time and not the deadening peace of oppression the Iranians now know. As noted:
Iran's first Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose award has sparked an exchange of fire between supporters and conservatives, was quoted on Saturday as saying the Islamic Republic needed radical reform.
Some excitement is in the air there, and I hope one columnist in Iran is right when he writes:
Ali Moazami, a columnist in the reformist daily Sharq, said the award would give wind to the sails of the reform movement.

"It is an encouragement for those who want freedom to raise their voices," he wrote. "Everyone seemed to interpret it as a sign of cries being heard."
The cries are heard. I hope the administration is working to bring about a revolt in Iran. Cuba isn’t the only place that needs freedom.
“Poor Planning” (Posted October 11, 2003)
One amazing charge that the anti-war people throw about now is the “poor pre-war planning” for the post-war. First, this requires us to ignore all the bad things that the anti-war side said could happen that didn’t. The many dogs that haven’t barked seem to indicate we did a pretty good job of planning. Second, if you look at Iraq and still think any problems you see are from poor planning, it assumes we know everything that went on. A recent story (sorry—can’t find a link. Maybe it was TV) that we worked quietly with a UN food organization before the war is a good example of this. The group did not want to openly work with us for fear of siding with us against Saddam. Aside from that amazing preference, it shows that humanitarian groups opposed to war did work with us. I assume there were other groups. We did plan.
This also brings up another problem we faced in the pre-war phase that I had forgotten. Even though the anti-war side now complains we did not plan (and that is false as far as I can see), prior to the war they were complaining that we should not do anything to prejudice a peaceful settlement with Saddam by doing anything that assumes we will fight a war. Had we openly planned for the post-war, the anti-war side would have been all over that like ugly on an ape, complaining that the administration wasn’t open to peacefully solving the problem.
"Rite of Passage" (Posted October 10, 2003)
Well, I'm getting an Instalanche from Instapundit on my posts regarding Turkey's decision to deploy and Ralph Peters' vehement opposition to the deployment.
Thanks Instapundit. (Though I wish it wasn't on a post criticizing Peters. I often agree with him.)
On this day, I am truly a blogger.
"Pakistani Sweeps" (Posted October 10, 2003)
The Pakistanis are raiding the tribal areas to crack down on the semi-sanctuary the Taliban/al Qaeda have in the frontier areas. Perhaps we successfully made our point to the Pakistanis.
"Getting a Clue" (Posted October 10, 2003)
The International Red Cross (ICRC) shows hints that it could conceivably get a clue:
The International Red Cross condemned the prolonged detention of U.S. military prisoners without legal rights at Guantanamo Bay, saying Friday that mental instability and attempted suicides among detainees indicated severe problems with the U.S. operation.
"Mental instability and attempted suicides" among the nutjobs we hold there?
Isn't that pretty much a summary of why we hold them?
The ICRC concern is truly baffling. Thugs who would never obey the laws of war are to be accorded full status as lawful combatants? Good grief. And what of this IRC official:
"As the internees spend more time in Guantanamo and continue to have no idea what is going to happen to them, we are concerned that the impact on them will get more serious," Westphal said.
Once again, the serious impact is the point. The point is to break their spirit so they will cooperate and give us information that will prevent future unstable suicidal maniacs from carrying out more 9-11s.
I know it is safer for the ICRC to look into our so-called abuses instead of the widespread brutality that the rest of the planet engages in without even thinking about the Geneva Convention, but can even the ICRC feel no shame at their campaign against us?
"The Opposition is Unhinged" (Posted October 10, 2003)
Our success in the war thus far has been so staggering that the attempts by the anti-war side to tell a tale of defeat and quagmire are truly astounding.
Hanson has an excellent piece on the major myths of the anti-war side. His conclusion:
Critics of the near-flawless military campaign of three weeks were stymied when none of their bleak scenarios came to pass: thousands killed; millions of refugees; governments toppled; terrorist attacks in the United States; mass starvation; and hundreds of U.N. camps. Thus in a frenzied election year they have turned to two backup positions: reconstruction as "quagmire" and WMDs as the sole (and fraudulent) reason for war. Both strategies are risky because they presuppose that a year from now Iraq will be worse, not better, and that there will be no forthcoming textual or eyewitness reports that such weapons in fact were hidden, exported, or secretly dismantled as some goofy gambit of an unhinged dictator.
Quite a good piece, actually. As usual.
"No Turks to Iraq?" (Posted October 9, 2003)
Ralph Peters thinks it is an absolute betrayal by Bush (he calls it "craven" in fact) to send Turkish soldiers to Iraq and that Bush will lose his vote if the Turks are sent:
JUDAS drove a hard bargain compared to President Bush. At least the great betrayer got 30 pieces of silver. All Bush is going to get for delivering the Kurds unto their enemies will be 10,000 Turkish troops - who will act solely in Ankara's interests, not in the interests of Washington or the people of Iraq.
I like Peters' stuff but I have to disagree with him here. I think that Peters is letting his clear hostility to Turkey win out. He has repeatedly called for an independent Kurdish state. While in theory there is nothing wrong with that, and the Turks have not been accommodating to their Kurds and have oppressed them, this is a bit much given our long friendship with the Turks. And it isn't as if we don't help the Kurds, too, so you can't portray this as siding with Turkish oppression of Kurds.
Yet Peters believes even Iranian troops in Iraq would be better than Turks! He thinks that Turks would shield the Baathists based on past cooperation with Saddam against the Kurds. (since the Iranians had their own campaign against the Kurds in the early 80s, why on Earth would Iranians be superior even in his "what about the Kurds" mindset?)
Certainly, we should be careful where we place Turkish soldiers to keep from offending our friends in Iraq. No placement in Shia or Kurd areas, of course. I worry about deployment in the Sunni triangle but not because I think the Turks will protect Baathists. I dare say that Turks guarding static posts or escorting convoys will be targets of attacks. I worry because non-Sunnis are in the area and even some Sunnis are supportive of us or can be persuaded to be supportive. Turks could be too friction producing to help us.
I still think stationing Turks on the Syrian border in Al Anbar province is a good idea for them. It is a Sunni stronghold far away from Baghdad and astride infiltration routes from Syria.
And none of this means we have to screw over the long-suffering Kurds.
"Turks to Iraq" (Posted October 8, 2003)
The Turkish parliament has voted to send troops to Iraq to help us.
Say 10,000 troops that some say will go to the Sunni triangle area. It is good that the Turks will go to Sunni areas. After being ruled by Turks for centuries, why annoy the Shias and Kurds with their presence? But the Sunnis, who still shield Saddam's thugs, deserve a little fear of Allah.
Still, I don't assume all Sunnis in the triangle are hostile to us. Some surely are happy Saddam is gone and some are apathetic. I worry that Turks might move those people toward the hostile end of the spectrum. Is the Sunni triangle the best place for them? At some level, punishing the Sunnis by stationing the Turkish soldiers in Tikrit, Fallujah, and Ramadi seems just. But that is right in the Iraqi heartland where reporters will note every friction point.
I say send the Turks to the Syrian border. That is a Sunni area and the idea of Turks shooting infiltrators coming from Syria is appealing. The Turks and Syrians are close to being enemies. Note the Turkish-Israeli cooperation on defense matters and the Turkish ultimatum a couple years (?) ago to expel the Kurdish leader that the Syrians obeyed. Syria will be quite worried to have Turks to the north, Israelis to the south (and flying over Damascus), and Turks to the east as well as Americans. This will surely complicate the defense planning in Damascus, which has a one-time-use-only military. (With no money to replace military equipment, the vast amounts that would be destroyed in any conflict will not be replaced by any friendly superpower.)
And what is going on over at the Syrian border?
The raid in Al-Qaim, near the Syrian border, "yielded 112 detainees, including a major general in the former Iraqi army air defense branch," it said.

Troops from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3ACR), responsible for the western Al-Anbar province, a hotbed of anti-US activities, "cordoned off sections of the city and searched more than 29 houses to find subversive elements including 12 out of 13 they targeted for capture."
I say Al-Anbar province has earned the presence of Turks to keep the peace.
"More Agreements?" (Posted October 7, 2003)
This writer, from the incomparable Carnegie group, thinks we can agree with Russia on ways to make sure Iran does not get nuclear bomb material from Iran's reactors.
With the evidence we have of the value of paper agreements when North Korea immediately violated its agreement not to build nukes; and the Kay findings on the massive effort by Saddam to escape the notice of foreign monitors, shouldn't we learn that we can have no safety on this path? Shouldn't we realize that at best we can only buy time by slowing them down with paper agreements?
Now don't get me wrong, when we can't stop a nutso regime from getting nukes, I'll settle for stalling in the short run. But I worry that we will get a signed agreement and some yahoo will figuratively wave the paper on the tarmac and assert we have achieved nonproliferation in our time—crisis over. Until we lose Savannah in a mushroom cloud.
Regime change is the only way to cut the Gordian Knot on this issue. Plenty of Iranians want regime change too. I hope we are doing something to bring this about.
"Reasons for War" (Posted October 7, 2003)
Secretary Powell has an excellent piece today on WMD and the Iraq War. I still like Powell and don't buy into the hostility that some have for him. I don't blame him for "stopping" Desert Storm short of regime change. There were valid reasons to do so and I can't project the course of history from that point had we marched on Baghdad—neither can Powell's critics.
Nor do I make too much of the so-called feud between Defense and State. It is State's job to be calming and—dare I say it—diplomatic. Defense is more forceful shall we say. That's why we have State and Defense. How does it hurt to have other countries know they can either deal with Powell or, if they don't want to be reasonable, Rumsfeld? I do, however, have some sympathy for the worry that the lower level guys at State could use an American Desk to make sure they are advancing our interests.
In short, I think Powell is doing his job. He advocates his solutions as he should but also carries out the instructions of the administration. His advocacy of the administration's position in the long debate over the first and second UNSC resolutions regarding Iraq (I mean the 17th and proposed 18th or so, of course) showed he is a team player.
In today's article, Powell again supports the administration admirably:
The interim findings of David Kay and the Iraq Survey Group make two things abundantly clear: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was in material breach of its United Nations obligations before the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 last November, and Iraq went further into breach after the resolution was passed.

Kay's interim findings offer detailed evidence of Hussein's efforts to defy the international community to the last. The report describes a host of activities related to weapons of mass destruction that "should have been declared to the U.N." It reaffirms that Iraq's forbidden programs spanned more than two decades, involving thousands of people and billions of dollars.

What the world knew last November about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs was enough to justify the threat of serious consequences under Resolution 1441. What we now know as a result of David Kay's efforts confirms that Hussein had every intention of continuing his work on banned weapons despite the U.N. inspectors, and that we and our coalition partners were right to eliminate the danger that his regime posed to the world.

Although Kay and his team have not yet discovered stocks of the weapons themselves, they will press on in the months ahead with their important and painstaking work. All indications are that they will uncover still more evidence of Hussein's dangerous designs.
Sounds pretty solid in his support for the Iraq War despite the repeated attacks on Powell by the right. For the left, which lionized Powell as the only adult in the administration, you'd think this level of confidence would give them pause to think. So let's think about his conclusion:
President Bush was right: This was an evil regime, lethal to its own people, in deepening material breach of its Security Council obligations, and a threat to international peace and security. Hussein would have stopped at nothing until something stopped him. It's a good thing that we did.
Good thing, indeed.
"Venezuela" (Posted October 6, 2003)
And Hugo Chavez has decided that in our modern world, it makes sense for him to lead Venezuela into league with Castro and to make America his enemy:
One thing that's clear is that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is fast becoming America's newest nemesis, U.S. officials say. He has forged close ties with Cuba's Fidel Castro and has befriended some of America's other notorious enemies, traveling to Saddam's Iraq and Qadhafi's Libya. Now, after surviving an attempted coup and a nationwide petition demanding his recall, Chavez is flirting with terrorism, and Washington is watching with increasing alarm.
Sometimes I just don't understand people. On the other hand, after seeing what happened to Chavez's last good friend, Saddam, maybe Castro shouldn't be very happy.
Seriously though, it is not good to have these two whackjob leaders cooperating when we need our military to deploy worldwide against the Islamist threat and to watch North Korea. These two local odious characters are worthy of removal but a potential distraction in the real war against terror and nuclear proliferation by psycho regimes.
Makes me wish the coup against Chavez had succeeded. Makes me wish we had supported the coup. Failure to support the overthrow of Chavez was not supportive of democracy in Venezuela.
"Syrians Angry" (Posted October 6, 2003)
Syrians are angry that America is not rushing to condemn Israel after their warplanes attacked what appears have been an abandoned terrorist base near Damascus.
You know, I'm just a little angry that the Syrian government has worked to support Saddam and is still funneling zealots into Iraq to fight us.
Why the Syrians are working so hard to earn the now-empty third slot on the Axis of Evil is beyond me. They could have joined us as they did in 1990-1991 and similarly benefited from our friendship. They should count themselves lucky that they have faced only a solitary air raid for their hostility. They are a minority Alawite government ruling over a Sunni majority. Regime change has always been a gunshot away in that country and their decision to oppose us will only help impoverish Syria even more and inspire locals to overthrow the regime without any help from us at all.
We've proven that we are both a good friend and a dangerous enemy. I can't believe we are supposed to be worried that they are angry at us.
"Bad News" (Posted October 3, 2003)
I'm not going to pretend otherwise, but there is bad news about the Iraq War. Not the facts of real progress on the actual battlefield or reconstruction, but matters that are disappointing and which threaten our resolve to win the peace in Iraq.
First, some more on the poll of Iraqis. Some of the numbers aren't as good as the earlier headlines. Not that those reported numbers are wrong—they just aren't the only numbers. Just thought it fair to mention this.
Second, press reports note the Kay interim report has failed to find any actual WMD. This is highly disappointing. It would have made it so easy to justify our exertions and sacrifice since it would have required no explanation. I really wanted the smoking gun easy for all to see and impossible for most to deny. (As a side note, a report I read some time ago that Saddam firmly believed we were bluffing may account for the decision to not prepare chemical weapons for the war. As a purely military matter, I believed Saddam would gas us early and often. Even if he had, in 2002, kept only a surge production capacity, he could have built the shells and warheads during our build-up in Kuwait in the spring.)
Third, in a clearly related story, a poll of Americans finds most think the Iraq War a mistake. The low-level fighting that appears to be tapering off and the cost of occupying Iraq and jump starting reconstruction are taking a toll on Americans. The slanted press reports that only now are being balanced play a role here. More important has been the failure of the administration to hammer home its side in the face of relentless pessimism and political attacks. I'm sure the economy's failure to rev up and create jobs contributes to this thinking as has the success in stopping any terror attacks on our shore since 9-11.
What are we to make of this? Was the war a mistake?
Heavens no, I'm sure you are not surprised to hear me say.
First of all, it absolutely enrages me that anti-war commentators continue to insist that the President had called Iraq an "imminent" threat to us. He never said that. I never said that. Opponents of the war last year argued the threat should be imminent. Supporters denied that it had to be imminent to be real. And opponents then said the pro-war side had failed to prove an imminent threat. The anti-war side essentially debated itself on the "imminence" question. Indeed, had the President claimed the Iraqi threat was imminent, it would have been dereliction of duty to allow more than a few months to pass from the fall of Kabul before starting military operations against Iraq. Our leisurely build up and diplomatic efforts belie the imminence claim.
I always said it was the regime, stupid, and the administration clearly agreed; and Kay's interim report makes it clear that Saddam would have built WMD once the international community grew too tired to support us in "keeping Saddam in a box."
Saddam was a grave and gathering danger. He was a threat through conventional aggression, through his military to his neighbors and through support of terrorism; he was a threat because of his drive for WMD, proven by his past possession, use, and development of such weapons and his concealment of his programs whenever possible; and finally, his monstrous regime was worthy of destruction even on humanitarian grounds alone. My full case for war can be found here, from my archives.
Still, as Andrew Sullivan notes, the actual presentation by Kay is far more damning of the Iraqi regime than the stories are saying:
Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The very scale of this program when coupled with the conditions in Iraq that have prevailed since the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom dictate the speed at which we can move to a comprehensive understanding of Iraq's WMD activities.

We need to recall that in the 1991-2003 period the intelligence community and the UN/IAEA inspectors had to draw conclusions as to the status of Iraq's WMD program in the face of incomplete, and often false, data supplied by Iraq or data collected either by UN/IAEA inspectors operating within the severe constraints that Iraqi security and deception actions imposed or by national intelligence collection systems with their own inherent limitations. The result was that our understanding of the status of Iraq's WMD program was always bounded by large uncertainties and had to be heavily caveated. With the regime of Saddam Husayn at an end, ISG has the opportunity for the first time of drawing together all the evidence that can still be found in Iraq - much evidence is irretrievably lost - to reach definitive conclusions concerning the true state of Iraq's WMD program. It is far too early to reach any definitive conclusions and, in some areas, we may never reach that goal. The unique nature of this opportunity, however, requires that we take great care to ensure that the conclusions we draw reflect the truth to the maximum extent possible given the conditions in post-conflict Iraq.

We have not yet found stocks of weapons, but we are not yet at the point where we can say definitively either that such weapon stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and our only task is to find where they have gone. We are actively engaged in searching for such weapons based on information being supplied to us by Iraqis.

Why are we having such difficulty in finding weapons or in reaching a confident conclusion that they do not exist or that they once existed but have been removed? Our search efforts are being hindered by six principal factors:

1.    From birth all of Iraq's WMD activities were highly compartmentalized within a regime that ruled and kept its secrets through fear and terror and with deception and denial built into each program;
2.    Deliberate dispersal and destruction of material and documentation related to weapons programs began pre-conflict and ran trans-to-post conflict;
3.    Post-OIF looting destroyed or dispersed important and easily collectable material and forensic evidence concerning Iraq's WMD program. As the report covers in detail, significant elements of this looting were carried out in a systematic and deliberate manner, with the clear aim of concealing pre-OIF activities of Saddam's regime;
4.    Some WMD personnel crossed borders in the pre/trans conflict period and may have taken evidence and even weapons-related materials with them;
5.    Any actual WMD weapons or material is likely to be small in relation to the total conventional armaments footprint and difficult to near impossible to identify with normal search procedures. It is important to keep in mind that even the bulkiest materials we are searching for, in the quantities we would expect to find, can be concealed in spaces not much larger than a two car garage;
6.    The environment in Iraq remains far from permissive for our activities, with many Iraqis that we talk to reporting threats and overt acts of intimidation and our own personnel being the subject of threats and attacks. In September alone we have had three attacks on ISG facilities or teams: The ISG base in Irbil was bombed and four staff injured, two very seriously; a two person team had their vehicle blocked by gunmen and only escaped by firing back through their own windshield; and on Wednesday, 24 September, the ISG Headquarters in Baghdad again was subject to mortar attack.
And every month we inspected, more Iraqis would have died, been imprisoned, been raped, or lost their tongues or ears to the monstrous regime. Given what we have failed to find, inspectors would have concluded—misleadingly—that Saddam was "clean." Then, with the scientists, technicians, and dual-use equipment he purchased, he would have had his bugs and nerve gas. In time, he would have had his nukes, too. The eventual war that would have resulted would have been far more deadly than our short and decisive war. Our worst case would be that Saddam would slip his WMD to terrorists he shielded and aided.
Luckily, our President won't back down over victory in Iraq. Even as political opponents make cheap political points without regard to the effect on the war effort. They say they want a debate on the war but they just want to win the Oval Office. They barely believe we are at war.
Hanson has a good piece on the nature of our current struggle:
So here we have the stakes in this last, big hand of Middle East poker. Our enemies are betting that our very freedom, affluence, raucous democratic politics, and shoot-from-the hip media will still prove true to form and thus, sooner or later, we will quit — especially as an election nears and the memory of 3,000 incinerated Americans fades.

In contrast, Mr. Bush's hunch is that the tragedy of September changed us all, and his own resoluteness will prove the better hand. In other words, as polls drop and sunshine supporters fold, he senses that America — and with it civilization — will still win, and in a very big way, thus ending for good this awful contest of the last quarter-century.
If we do not break, we will win the peace in Iraq as we won the war. Americans will again conclude the war was worth it, and this crisis of will shall pass and be forgotten. Just like everyone (hah!) supported containing the Soviet Union during the Cold war now that it is over and won, few will have the guts to say Saddam should have been left in power once Iraq is functioning again.
Still, I will be much happier if Kay's investigation turns up a smoking gun that proves to have been the tip of the iceberg and the proof that Saddam would have used WMD again at a time of his own choosing.
And I do want to know why our vast intelligence apparatus, like the intel people in other countries, believed Iraq had chemical weapons on the eve of war. If we don't fix this intelligence problem, how will we ever gain the capability to strike a rogue state when we know the threat is finally "imminent?" That is the standard the anti-war side set after all—they debated it ad nauseum with themselves, remember?
"Symptom of the Victory Disease?" (Posted October 2, 2003)
All the talk of how we were unprepared for the post-war in Iraq seems misplaced to me. This Janes article talks about how we need to prepare our troops for stability operations as we win a war.
I believe strongly that it is a terrible mistake to treat victory like a given and assume we can afford to train our troops for post-war stability operations prior to the war. Sure, some of that training is fine, but focus on winning the war for God's sake. I'd rather improvise the post-war than face defeat on the battlefield. Would it really be better to face a Kasserine Pass than a looted museum in a future war?
Victory is not our God-given right, people.
Maybe if the NGOs and contractors were closer on our heels we could do the post-war better without compromising our fighting force.
"Pakistani Sweep" (Posted October 2, 2003)
The Pakistanis killed some foreign al Qaeda types in a battle. Is this a sign of things to come after that joint meeting between ourselves and the Pakistanis about security issues and repeated Afghani complaints about the border areas?
This needs to be a regular event and not just a political statement to keep us at bay and our weapons flowing to Islamabad.
Still, the question remains, are the Taliban making a comeback?
To the extent that the Taliban were stunned and rocked back on their heels after we swept them out of power, yes they are making a comeback. The survivors picked themselves up and are making trouble again. It is a real problem when they mass troops sufficient to overrun police posts. But as was noted:
"Whenever they (the Taliban) manifest themselves in Afghanistan, we kill them," military spokesman Col. Rodney Davis told a news conference in the capital, Kabul.
We have managed to nail them when they have massed recently. Until we can control the border areas in Pakistan, this is the best we can do militarily. Even a larger Afghan army will not be able to stop infiltration. At some point, the Taliban will have to give up and hope to benefit in a peaceful Afghanistan.
This does not mean that the Taliban are poised to retake Kabul and restore their cruel brand of Islam. It does mean the Taliban types will flip flop between being a police problem and a military problem. This will complicate our task of rebuilding Afghanistan but not undo our success in toppling the Taliban/al Qaeda regime.
"Still There and Still Nuts" (Posted October 2, 2003)
I guess the Dear Nutjob is worried that we aren't begging him to let us send aid for a worthless promise to end their nuclear programs. (and just what happens to the food aid? A thriving black market to earn money for the North Korean security forces)
The North Koreans are pressing ahead with their nuclear program even as some in the West pretend we can negotiate a deal to end their program. Now Pyongyang says it is using reprocessed nuclear rods to make bombs:
North Korea has claimed before that it has completed reprocessing its pool of 8,000 spent rods, but Thursday's statement clarified for the first time that it was using plutonium yielded from the rods to make nuclear weapons.
This development strikes me as pushing our allies and the Chinese and Russians to do something constructive about North Korea and not a development that should panic us into a bail out of North Korea's dying regime. We do not face the greatest risk of nuclear strikes and we have the greatest means of annihilating North Korea if so attacked.
Build our missile defenses. Move 2nd ID off the firing line. And isolate North Korea until it collapses.
"Victory Disease" (Posted October 1, 2003)
I remain worried that people believe we destroyed Saddam's regime with only a few troops. It is common to say we won with 2 Army divisions and 1 Marine division. As I've noted before, we had the line equivalent of seven divisions of good troops (3+ Army, nearly 3 Marine, and 1 British) to smash Iraq. This is in line with our long-standing belief of what it would take to win a major theater war. Shoot, I believed that this level of force would smash Iraq if the Iraqi army resisted. What was missing were all the support troops we sent to the Gulf a decade ago, like separate artillery brigades and supply people. This time, we relied on the Air Force and organic divisional artillery for fire support and recognized that we sent way too much ammo and such to the Gulf in 1990-91.
My fear is that people will mistakenly believe that we really can win with few combat units and that we can safely reduce and lighten our Army and just send in a small force of wheeled super troopers and air power to mop up the hapless wogs who decide to take the field against us.
Read this from Military Review on the victory disease.
We can lose on the battlefield. Lightening up the Army in favor of an aerial focus that paves the way for light armor as some think the Iraq War demonstrated will lead to defeat. Heavy armor is not obsolete and may never be if it evolves. Remember the cries from the 1970s that tanks were obsolete in the face of wire-guided anti-tank missiles. And then recall the performance of our evolved dinosaurs in the drive on—and into—Baghdad.
Maneuver, as practiced by our heavy armor, is still the key to victory. (from Parameters)
Treat our future enemies with the respect they deserve.
"Who Should Be Frog Marched?" (Posted October 1, 2003)
Ok, I'm not keen on going into what seems like a domestic political battle over the purported Wilson/Plame L'Affaire. If the name of a CIA analyst was leaked, the person leaking should be fired and prosecuted. I'm glad that people who rejoiced during the Cold War when CIA agents were named (and then killed) are upset now over such a practice.
Still, this article raises a number of questions about Wilson that I would like answered. Why was he sent? How much did he expect to find poolside? Why did the CIA entrust this man with this job? Who is Wilson working for in all this?
Amateur hour, indeed.
"The Central Front" (Posted October 1, 2003)
An article detailing why Iraq really was the central front in the war on terror. I still have problems with that terminology given that I believe Saddam's Iraq was a threat even separate from terrorism. Still, this highlights why I am ambivalent about the idea and not flat-out opposed to it. Terror certainly had a home in Baghdad.
"The UN is Still Trying to Prop Up the Baathists!" (Posted October 1, 2003)
The UN wants to quickly create a provisional government and wants Baathists included. What jerks.
The U.N. chief's proposal, which is modeled loosely on the Afghan transitional government established after the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban, would require an intensive diplomatic effort to set up a broader provisional government that would include former members of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, an influential Shiite cleric.
I can't believe the UN—strike that, yes I do—wants Baathists back in the government. Sunnis should be welcome and of course included, but what Jessica Mathews-level Carnegie idiocy is required to think that justice and stability are served by putting Baathists back in power?
"The Iraqis deserve at least what you have given the Afghans; that is, a provisional sovereign government," said Ghassan Salame, a scholar and former Lebanese minister of culture who is acting as a senior adviser to Annan, in an interview.

Salame said the United States's decision to dismantle the Iraqi army and exclude Baath Party members from the country's political life after the war had "alienated" a substantial segment of Iraqi society and provided many Iraqis with a motive to join the armed resistance.

"You need to bring them back into the political process, you need to tell them that at some time in the future they can compete like any others in the political process," he said. "The secretary general . . . wants more people in the government." If they are unwilling to participate, he added, "let them refuse to join."
I think the Iraqis deserve to know that the killers, torturers, and exploiters who looted and killed their way to prosperity will not be in positions of power in the new government. If the people of Iraq start to think that the Baathists will return to power, do you think that people will be as willing to cooperate with us? Wouldn't it be human nature after all the years of being brutalized to worry that the thugs could return to terrorize you and your family? The mass graves still being discovered are a constant reminder of what the Baathists are willing to do to maintain control.
Make it clear to one and all that the SOBs who terrorized Iraqis for a generation are never coming back. I'm horrified that we should need to remind the UN of this. Kofi Annan should be ashamed of his proposal.