Saturday, May 01, 2004

May 2004 Posts Recovered from The Internet Archives

These are my May 2004 posts from the dead Yahoo!Geocities site taken from The Internet Archive.

“Memorial Day 2004” (Posted May 31, 2004)
Over the past year, we’ve seen hundreds of our soldiers and Marines (and others, of course) die fighting in Iraq to buy time for a new Iraqi government to take over the fight against the Baathists and their Islamists friends who specialize in the particularly gruesome bombings that target Iraqi civilians.
To my horror, our troops need to buy time against a segment of the American population that would just give up rather than see this war through to victory.
This is not a time to dwell on the perspective of our losses compared to past wars. Those Americans who have died have died for a good cause and deserve to be remembered as they died—not contrasted to past dead.
I thank their families and pray they draw strength and comfort from the good they have done for America and for Iraq. I pray that the souls of our dead rest well in Heaven, secure in the afterlife after preserving our future. I hope we and our Iraqi friends can build on their sacrifice to create a better Iraq and a safer America. I hope and argue for carrying on the cause they died for so that it will not have been in vain. Flying the flag is just a symbol, but it should be done out of respect. My home today:

This is a day to remember the sacrifice that our volunteer military risks and endures to give us a good life.
“African Security” (Posted May 30, 2004)
On top of earlier reports that we will assist in the standing up of regional peacekeeping brigades in Africa, the creation of an African Peace and Security Council that could decide on missions for such units is encouraging:
Heads of state and government from at least eight African countries were attending a ceremony to inaugurate the new PSC at the African Union's headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Participants at Tuesday's ceremony included the acting president of the AU, Joaquim Chissano.

Officials have vowed that the new council will act to intervene in African conflicts, setting the two-year-old AU apart from its largely toothless predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity.

"The AU has more mandate than before. We are going to start intervening in conflicts in member states and this is prompted by the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when the international community did nothing," AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit said last month.

The 15-member PSC -- which in fact has been meeting regularly since March -- is empowered to mandate peacekeeping missions in conflict areas where ceasefire accords have been signed and to recommend to the assembly of AU heads of state that troops be deployed uninvited in cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
It would be nice to have the leading edge of interventions come from Africa (although I’m sure that Western transport and logistics support will be required). Donor and intervener fatigue in the West could doom Africa to poverty, war, AIDS, and an influx of Islamists able to exploit Africa’s problems for their own gains.
Poverty may not cause terrorism, but all the above problems create conditions where terrorists may move in, set up secure bases, and recruit local cannon fodder. And even though Europe may leave much to be desired in terms of allied help, they do have strong governments able to cooperate with us in hunting down terrorists. Weak African countries will be helpless in the face of well-financed Islamists willing to kill to get their way.
We already try to interdict Islamists fleeing to East Africa from our Djibouti base. And we already have special forces in West Africa helping African states bolster their security forces to halt Islamists trying to move in. We even look for a base off of West Africa in order to be closer to the theater. If our efforts can bolster African efforts, we will be more likely to succeed. And Africans will have a chance to end their depressing death toll.
“Promoting Rivalry?” (Posted May 30, 2004)
The secretive Task Force 121, charged with finding Osama bin Laden, is now actively hunting for suspected terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as well, intelligence sources tell ABC News.

ABC News has learned the Office of Counterterrorism at the State Department is going to recommend that the reward for his capture be increased from $10 million to $25 million — the same amount offered for bin Laden.

U.S. officials believe that bin Laden is still the greatest threat to the United States, but say they are now convinced that Zarqawi has global capability to match anyone's. U.S. intelligence officials say they have tracked Zarqawi cells operating not only in Iraq, but in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Turkey, Kuwait, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"He is foreign fighter enemy No. 1," said one official.
So what’s up? Are we trying to make bin Laden jealous of Zarqawi? Could this new equality in our eyes get these guys to spend some time gunning for each other?
Just a hunch, but it is always good to sow divisions in the ranks of our enemies and equal rewards look like that effort to me.
Heck, bin Laden may come out of his deep bunker in Pakistan to prove he deserves the number one slot. And with all those Americans and Aghanis out on the border, we might nail him.
“Iraqi Security Forces” (Posted May 30, 2004)
Iraqis must take over responsibility for defending their country.
The army is to be a three-division-sized force in the short run, if memory serves me. They will eventually be able to handle foreign threats as conventional units also able to work in counter-insurgency. The police, facility protection force, and border police make up the bulk of the security force and will provide more presence and guard important sites. The civil defense units—ICDC—will be the primary Iraqi offensive arm against the insurgency. The goal is to build 45 battalions. Although only about 500 troops each I’d guess, they represent 5 divisions’ worth of infantry.
And how are they doing?
This briefing explains their actions.
Out of 2,000 US patrols in a typical day, 300 are jointly conducted with Iraqis. An additional 140-150 patrols are conducted by Iraqis alone. Most of the latter are ICDC.
According to the briefer, not all are proficient or adequately equipped yet, but some can operate patrols of up to a reinforced platoon size (50 men). The goal:
But the bottom line is, the goal, as we move toward sovereignty here, and as we transition into sovereignty as a partnership will be to continue to work with the police force and the ICDC to get to where at least 50 percent, working up to 100 percent, of our patrols are, in fact, joint. Where no patrol goes out, no operation is conducted, without an Iraqi alongside of a coalition member.
I’m very glad to see the emphasis on going out with Iraqis. It would be an error to think that we are so good that Iraqis just get in the way. No matter if it seems more difficult to operate with Iraqis, we must pull them along and eventually send them out on their own with American forces available for backup in case they get in trouble.
These forces will be able to fight the Baathists, who I still think are the main threat in Iraq. The Islamists are Sunnis and think the Shias and Kurds are near-Jews in their minds’ hierarchy. Although capable of occasional large bombings, the Islamists alone can’t stop reconstruction and the building of a new Iraqi government.
Iraqis out fighting and patrolling will beat the Baathists. We have the numbers to fight an insurgency, we just have to get them out fighting.
And I’ll note that the President in his last speech at the Army War College mentioned a goal of 260,000 Iraqi security forces. This is real close to the bare minimum of 275,000 that I calculated is necessary to fight the insurgents successfully. Just a fraction of US and allied troops acting against the insurgents plus contract personnel will easily get us above the minimum, especially when the extras are focused on the Sunni areas where they are most needed.
In time, we will be able to pull back into garrisons and support Iraqi security forces who will put down the Sunni/Islamist insurgency.
“Just Win” (Posted May 29, 2004)
Hanson has an excellent piece on winning the war in Iraq. Namely, all our efforts to get allies from among those who will never help us, to get Iraqi Sunnis to like us by easing off, our efforts to gain UN-bestowed legitimacy is wrong-headed. Victory will bring us support—not vice versa:
It was Mr. Bush's tough but necessary decision to invade Iraq, and Americans rightly went along with it on both practical and moral grounds. The majority stuck with him as long as the U.S. seemed to be winning at minimal cost. This latter point cannot be underestimated. A majority of Americans, like a majority of mankind, does not embrace a strong particular ideology that keeps them levelheaded and always resolute through either bad or good news. Most simply wish to win, and to be identified with a winner — they are as giddy with success as they are dejected with disappointment, as quick to blame others for setbacks as they are to claim credit for progress.
Have we made mistakes? You bet as Hanson notes. But winning is what we are doing and victory is what we can achieve despite the panic of the war supporters and the fickleness of the lukewarm supporters:
How does this acceptance of human nature as it is rather than as we wish it to be translate into the proper daily conduct of the war? Not in the way that most think. The communis opinio goes something like this: too few troops, too little planning, and dilatory democratic reform led us into the present 'quagmire' — as if our present problems were strategic rather than tactical flaws or a condescending misreading of the Arab Street.

In contrast, I think the military campaign was inspired, the proper number of troops was subject for legitimate debate, and the plans to reconstruct Iraq were more or less sound. After little more than a year, we see greater likelihood of success than failure in this most audacious enterprise. But where we have failed is in managing the pulse of the war and the perception of our advance, success, and victory.
And in this good article, Hanson bolsters my contention that we are not short of troops. He says to ignore those calling for more troops. So few seem to agree with me, so it is nice to get the occasional bolstering of those I respect:
Small armies, whether those of Caesar, Alexander, or Hernan Cortés can defeat enormous enemies and hold vast amounts of territory — but only if they are used audaciously and establish the immediate reputation that they are lethal and dangerous to confront. Deterrence, not numbers, creates tranquility and the two are not always synonymous.
Just win. I don’t even care if Michael Moore or Al Gore attempt to take credit for the victory.
“That Troublesome Cleric” (Posted May 29, 2004)
Sadr’s thugs continue to shoot at us. We continue to observe the so-called ceasefire:
Explosions could be heard near Kufa's main mosque, where members of Muqtada al-Sadr's militia had taken up positions. Militia members accused U.S. troops of provoking the gunfight by approaching the city center.

Coalition officials said they were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and they responded by killing the attackers.

The main road leading to Kufa was blocked by tires and concrete blocks, forcing cars to take back roads into the city. Members of al-Sadr's militia, the al-Mahdi Army, set up checkpoints and roamed the streets around the mosque carrying Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades.

Najaf's governor, Adnan al-Zurufi, complained that al-Sadr was showing no signs of honoring the agreement announced by Shiite leaders earlier this week to end fighting in the Najaf and Kufa areas.

"Unfortunately, there have been no positive initiatives from the office of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr so far," al-Zurufi said. "Armed men are filling the streets and there have been number of attacks on state employees in Kufa."
I remain skeptical of the agreement. Peters, too, questions our decision to hold back when we had Sadr on the ropes:
Sadr's insurrection turned disastrous for him. His shabby legions are broken or dead, his influence has fallen from minor to trivial status, and he could hear a slamming cell door in his future (maybe those photos from Abu Ghraib had an upside, after all). So, emulating the terrorists in Fallujah, he struck a deal to save himself from our troops.

So much for our refusal to negotiate with terrorists. Our diplomats and bureaucrats are tumbling over each other to cut deals with those who kill our soldiers, slaughter civilians and hope to derail the future of Iraq. Congratulations, guys.
I know that it would be a problem if a holy site is destroyed in fighting, but that argues for getting Sadr as soon as we can. Now that Sadr is violating the ceasefire, we should go after the Mahdi army and arrest Sadr. Kill his troops. Break them. If they want to parade with arms in a show of bravado—kill them. Hold Sadr until the turnover and then turn him over to the Iraqi police for trial. Resistance—even foolhardy and ineffective resistance—must have consequences.
Fallujah was a bad enough deal, and now we repeat it in part in the Shia areas. It’s not the same, of course, since we aren’t turning over the areas to a new and improved “friendly” Sadr militia, but we held back from winning.
Peters believes the diplomats over-ruled the military on these decisions. The military says these deals will work. I think we are kicking the can down the road and I worry that we are teaching our enemies to resist, our friends to worry, and push those neutral away from our side.
We’ll see. Maybe this route is better than just winning.
“UN Detour—Clarification” (Posted May 29, 2004)
I should add one thing. I don’t think that yet another UN resolution is worthless. Just that we should not take our eye off the objectives of turning over an Iraq capable of beating the insurgents to the Iraqis. Weakening our ability to do that should not be the price of getting a resolution that will do nothing but allow us to say we have another resolution.
On the other hand, if the French and Germans finally wish to step up and put boots on the ground fighting with us and our Iraqi friends, then fine—get the right words. And let them have some economic rewards, too (but reserve the good jobs for those with us from the beginning to reward friendly behavior properly).
But if our allies aren’t willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us, a mere piece of paper is not worth the effort.
“Steady, Lads” (Posted May 29, 2004)
We may be lucky that we are working toward Iraqi democracy and the defeat of the Baathists just as we recall World War II with the dedication of the WW II Memorial in Washington, DC. We will start with the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day on June 6 where we lost three times as many dead as we’ve lost so far in Iraq, and will continue through the Normandy Breakout, the liberation of Paris, the pursuit to the German border, the invasion of southern France, Market-Garden, the V-2 terror campaign, and—after the election—the Battle of the Bulge. While our casualties are painful even at this level, I think it would be useful to remember what we have sacrificed in the past for a worthy goal.
Max Boot reminds us of losses in past wars:
The panic gripping Washington over the state of Iraq makes it clear we have been spoiled by the seemingly easy, apparently bloodless victories of the last decade. From the Persian Gulf War of 1991 to the Afghanistan war of 2001, we got used to winning largely through air power. There were casualties, of course, but few of them were on our side. In Kosovo, we managed to prevail without losing a single person. We forgot what real war looks like. Iraq is providing an unwelcome reminder of how messy and costly it can be.
Boot concludes:
I don't mean to imply that everything is going great in Iraq. There are huge problems, especially the lack of security, and the Bush administration has badly bungled many aspects of the occupation. All I'm suggesting is that we keep a sense of perspective: Mistakes and setbacks occur in every war. At least in every war before the 1990s.
His comparison of casualties is useful to remember:
Percentages of personnel injured or killed among the totals that served in major American conflicts (in descending order):
Civil War (Union forces): 29%
Mexican War: 22%
War of Independence: 11.6%
Korean War: 7.8%
World War I: 6.8%
World War II: 6.6%
Vietnam War: 6.2%
Philippine War: 5.6%
War of 1812: 2.3%
Iraq war: 1.5-2.5%
Spanish-American War: 1.3%
1991 Persian Gulf War: 0.14%
And it would be useful to remember that we did not fight Germany to give Germans freedom and democracy—yet we achieved that. We did not fight the Germans specifically to stop the death camps that slaughtered millions—yet we did. We didn’t fight the Germans because they had specific weapons like missiles and chemical weapons—but we did end that threat. All the talk about what exact reason we went to war with Saddam’s Iraq are pretty irrelevant to what we will achieve now if we win—a peaceful, friendly, non-nuclear, democratic and free Iraq that will help us in the future rather than try to thwart us and harm us. We will have an Iraq that does not seek glory through conquest.
Steady on the line. Pick your targets and fire on command. Trust your buddies on your left and right. And stop asking when the French will come to help—we don’t know what side they’d help anyway.
We need to win this war. It’s up to us. And we can do it. Our soldiers are good enough to win this. Honor our dead this Memorial Day. They are no less worthy of our respect because more have died in past wars. But their sacrifice and the pain their families endure must not be for nothing. We seek a valuable goal and let’s not allow the opponents of the war undermine our goal.
The stalwart supporters of the war will remain stalwart. The opponents of the war from the beginning will never be quiet until we win. And the lukewarm supporters of the war who are wavering with the drumbeat of bad news spread by the press will return to support when we win.
Just stop this unseemly panic and attempts to appeal to the lukewarm and anti-war.
Just win.
“Another UN Detour” (Posted May 29, 2004)
So After We Modify Our Submitted UNSC resolution just so to satisfy the international community’s worthy representatives, foreign troops will pour in, right?
Well right off, we really don’t want the Russians or Chinese given their methods of dealing with insurgents, their supporters, and jay walkers.
But our allies can be counted on once the official English and French versions are perfected?
What have our allies not in Iraq said?
[German President] Schroeder, who ruled out any role for German troops in Iraq even before the U.S.-led invasion, said Iraqis would probably see NATO troops as occupiers.
But surely, getting the UN’s approval (or rather, recent approval, given the past ink spilled on Iraq) will get our allies to help? I mean, that’s all that prevented France from helping, right? Oh sure, they blocked such a resolution in the first place but now would surely be different:
France repeated its staunch refusal to ever send in soldiers, a decision likely influenced by Iraq's unrelenting violence and the French government's opposition to the war that ousted Saddam Hussein.

"This is out of the question today and tomorrow," Foreign Ministry spokesman Herve Ladsous said.
They won’t ever send troops. They stand by their defense of Saddam’s regime.
But that doesn’t mean that France doesn’t want to get involved in Iraq. Oh no. But Ladsous added:
"But France wants to be counted in when it comes to working on reconstruction."
They’re so far gone that they don’t even realize how they sound any more. France will not stand with us under fire to face a common enemy, but they will cash our checks.
The first article helpfully recalls France and Germany’s past efforts to affect the Iraq War:
Germany and France, which opposed the war in Iraq, tied up NATO for weeks in February 2003 with their refusal to go along with sending AWACS planes and other defensive measures to fellow ally Turkey ahead of the war.
The second article reminds us of what allies do:
Denmark will keep its nearly 500 soldiers in southern Iraq for another six months, rather than end the deployment on June 30 as planned.
Thank you, Denmark.
And keep those US-funded contracts for Iraq reconstruction away from France and Germany.
And most importantly, don’t sell the farm to get the right adjective in the resolution. We already know who we can count on and we already have as much from our so-called allies as we are going to get. Playing their game will only give them a stage on which to prance and strut.
Just win.
"One Example: Two Bad Ideas" (Posted May 27, 2004)
I remain skeptical that the ceasefire in Fallujah is a good idea. While in theory getting the enemy to defect to your side and suppress remaining enemy is a good idea, I suspect that Fallujah is merely relatively quiet and not pacified. So for this worry, I am not comforted by this:
With U.S. Marines gone and central government authority virtually nonexistent, Fallujah resembles an Islamic mini-state — anyone caught selling alcohol is flogged and paraded in the city. Men are encouraged to grow beards and barbers are warned against giving "Western" hair cuts.
Plus, I suspect Fallujah is still a sanctuary for attacks against our people in the region.
We need to go block by block to sift the military-age men still in Fallujah and search every mosque in the city for arms. If the Fallujans resist, then we should smash them militarily. I dare say the Sadr-friendly Shias will stay quiet as we go after the enemy in Fallujah. Sadr's inept militia died in huge numbers the last three weeks fighting the US Army, with nary a peep of sympathy heard from the Sunnis and their Baathist and Islamist buddies in the Sunni Triangle.
More broadly, what is going on in Fallujah shows why we cannot just wash our hands of Iraq, partition it into Sunni, Shia, and Kurd states, withdraw from the Sunni heartland, and think all will be fine. The Baathists and their Islamist friends will create a state like Fallujah (think Taliban-run Afghanistan) and then they will dig up the nasty stuff still buried in the Sunni Triangle.
And they'll not be content to silently suffer in their oil-less rump state. They'll work to disrupt and take over the Shia and Kurd areas in order to bring back the glory days of Sunni neck stomping fun.
In ten years, we might work up the nerve to invade the Sunni heartland again. And one of these days, the Baathists might learn to fight us smart.
"Nuanced Connections" (Posted May 27, 2004)
I know this is something that can't exist—like chemical weapons in Iraq—but yet there it is:
Coalition forces have found--literally--millions of documents. These papers are still being sorted, translated and absorbed, but they are already turning up new facts about Saddam's links to terrorism
The opposition to the war in Iraq keeps insisting that Iraq had no connection to terrorism when we know that is clearly false. The opposition likes to gloss over this reason for war by jumping right to the idea that any links between Saddam and 9-11 are outrageously false. This neglects the fact that the administration has never claimed a link. And rebutting this non-claim is then used to attack the more general idea of Saddam links to terrorism or al Qaeda generally.
Along with the claim by war opponents that Saddam was clean on chemical weapons, the no terror link requires a lot of faith that more searching of documents and deserts won't reveal more damning information.
When terrorists linked to al Qaeda try to detonate a chemical shell in Iraq, you'd think war opponents would be a little less shrill.
"Read Peters" (Posted May 25, 2004)
Now. Just do it.
I'm still nervous about fighting around the Islamic holy places, however.
"Army War College" (Posted May 25, 2004)
Dan Froomkin addresses the President's speech at the Army War College and takes a shot:
Trying to think why the Army War College, the setting for Bush's speech, sounds familiar?

The college served as a dandy backdrop for the commander in chief, with its audience of several hundred Army leaders there to learn about strategy, military science and other aspects of defense.

But the college made big news in January when it published a scathing report saying Bush's war in Iraq distracted from the war on terror.

In his Washington Post article back then, Tom Ricks wrote that the report "criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an 'unnecessary' war in Iraq and pursuing an 'unrealistic' quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat."

Here's the full text of that report.
<sigh> Jeffrey Record authored a report critical of the war, and Froomkin perpetuates the myth that this represents the Army War College's judgment that the Iraq War is unnecessary.
No. Wrong. You'd think the enthusiastic applause by the audience (or any military audience) for the President would kind of indicate that line of attack as wrong. Record wrote a piece indicating his opinion and the Army War College published it in a sign that the military values and enables diversity of opinion better than our media.
For the record, please note the disclaimer on Record's report:
The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
Clear enough yet? Yes, the press won't believe it but the military is not a solid phalanx of automatons. Pity the media isn't as intellectually curious.
“Stone Cold Stupidity” (Posted May 24, 2004)
Ok, I don’t expect much of reporters. I know they are mostly clueless about military manners. If it’s green it’s a tank. If somebody wears green, they’re killers. The ignorance of those who cover the war is stunning. I mean, the Mahdi Army incompetents might have an excuse for not knowing what war means, but shouldn’t reporters at least develop some idea of the basics?
Mark Stone of ABC should get a prize for his question in the last CPA press conference. In asking about the so-called wedding strike (where we nailed a safe house for infiltrators as our evidence seems to indicate), Stone had the following gem:
And secondly, if I could just ask, we've seen drugs in those photographs, we've seen some weapons. Was it -- is it -- I mean, I don't know, is it really necessary to kill 40 people for what seems to be a very small amount of money, not too many weapons, and some narcotics?
Oh no, Mark, it is far better to let them infiltrate into Iraq where they can pick up weapons and fight us on their terms.
The total lack of a semblance of a clue is amazing. We are at war. We get to kill the enemy. And we don’t need to ensure a fair fight—or are suicide bombings and decapitations suddenly part of a fair fight?
Enemies are dangerous—not weapons. Not money. Not narcotics. In whatever the quantities we found. The insurgents came to kill us and our Iraqi friends. I’m damn glad we killed them and I hope we kill even more. Yes, it actually is necessary to kill them.
I admire Kimmitt’s ability to refrain from slapping this guy for gross stupidity and instead actually answer the question.
Mahdi Army Broken?” (Posted May 24, 2004)
Our slow offensive against Sadr was careful enough to make me happy we were not going to alienate the Shias but slow enough that I worried that something might go wrong. I never thought much of the fighting abilities of his militia.
And now we may have broken the SOB. In Karbala, we inflicted deaths at a 63:1 ratio! In Fallujah, where we could detect evidence of military training, our Marines killed at a 8 or 10:1 ratio if memory serves me. 1st Armor Division just waxed the Mahdi army fools. Karbala is cleared with the thugs gone and Kufa is under attack by our forces.
The Sadr people appear to be perplexed that our forces are killing them:
"It was possible to solve it all peacefully, but the other side refuses," said Mohammad Taqi Modarresi, a cleric and an ally of Sadr in Karbala.
If people weren’t dying because of this kind of idiocy it would be funny. Modarresi thought this was a game or something. A bunch of ill-trained idiots thought they could descend on a city and somehow they’d gain power or go home with no consequences after failing?
The enemy in the Shia south seems to be gaining the profound knowledge that we are out to kill our enemies and not read them their rights and send them home with a slap on the wrist. That must be very disturbing to them.
We appear to be in the home stretch to capture or kill Sadr himself. His militia had best get out of the way real fast.
And then can we turn our attention to sifting Fallujah for insurgents so that it does not remain a safe haven for insurgents to destabilize the entire area? We should go block by block and examine the papers of every military-age male in the city. The Marines seem happy with the situation but I remain skeptical. Quiet is not the same as pacified.
“Design Flaw” (Posted May 24, 2004)
The Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier is a pile of floating junk.
The Charles de Gaulle airport is falling apart.
I don’t know whether this is bad luck or what, but the French clearly need to rethink their policy of naming stuff after this man.
I’d just avoid the Charles de Gaulle plaza is all I’m saying. It might lie over a sink hole or something.
On the other hand, as long as you don’t have to take off or land aircraft in the plaza, it might be just fine.
“No Substitute for Victory” (Posted May 23, 2004)
The President will speak to the nation on Monday about Iraq. I hope he doesn’t speak of exit strategies, or the UN taking a role, or working with our allies, or anything else that suggests we are trying to “manage” the conflict in Iraq.
I want the President to talk of our victory in Iraq and how we will achieve it.
We seem to have forgotten that whole “victory” thing.
Once, after our World War II experience, we gained an instant tradition of total war and total victory. Never mind that in our history we’d fought limited wars. The experience of World War II was so broad and deep that it instilled this tradition. We expected victory.
The Cold War, with its habits of ending wars fast lest they escalate to general war (that’s nuclear war, in case you’ve forgotten). Korea was the transition. We started the war thinking of total war. We “finished” it (but we still confront the loose strings, don’t we?) with the mindset of the Cold War learned and locked in. Don’t take chances. Victory is too risky. Better to lose 10,000 in a stalemate than risk ten million in a nuclear holocaust. Vietnam was the result.
Only in the 1980s did we start to reverse this caution. In Grenada and in Panama, we won complete victories, albeit in small wars.
Yet in the first really major war since Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War, we reverted to the limited war mindset. Sure, with the Soviet Union gone we no longer had that nuclear threat to compel us to limit our objectives. But we were self-deterred by then. And hamstrung by our allies. Don’t go to Baghdad. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t risk a limited victory by reaching for more. We didn’t kick the Vietnam mindset. We repeated it by refusing to try for a bigger victory. Now I must say, I’m not convinced that we could have won a war for Iraq in 1991 since we may not have had the resolve to fight insurgents absent 9-11 to steel us (and only some of us, it is clear, since even 9-11’s example has not prevented many from going wobbly over a relatively minor insurgency in the Sunni Triangle). Nonetheless, it is true that we did not try for total victory and that is my point. It was safer not to try. We were content with a small victory that left loose ends aplenty rather than plunge into the unknown.
September 11 seemed to have reminded us that victory is our only salvation. We crushed the Taliban. We crushed Saddam.
But now we are seemingly panicking over minor league opposition in Iraq and forgetting that limited objectives cannot protect us when the threat to our very lives thrives on stability and the status quo.
So I want the President to remind the American people that when we go to war, we must honor our soldiers’ sacrifices by pursuing only victory that will provide real security in a new day, and not the false dawn of a ceasefire that we will try so very hard to believe is peace in a new day. Until the enemy is ready again and strikes us even harder, proving that nighttime is still upon us.
There truly is no substitute for victory. And in this age, only our own doubts can deprive us of that victory.
Speak well, Mr. President.
“Troop Strength” (Posted May 22, 2004)
Two big questions about winning the war on terror and the Iraq occupation center around troop strength. Weekly Standard authors continue to believe we need 30,000 more Army troops and more troops in Iraq to win.
On the bigger issue, I do favor adding troop strength to the Army. With our divisions becoming corps-like in function, I don’t think we need to add two more divisions. I’d rather add more separate brigades. Since our new divisions (the awful name of “units of employment” must die) will command up to eight “units of action” (another name that must die—how about “regimental combat teams”?) and the UEs will have a normal complement of 4 or 5 UAs, we could use extra loose brigades. Plus we can get more fighting boots by building separate brigades or even battalions instead of divisions. I don’t know if even this much is enough since we have 150,000 Army reservists on active duty now, but we can’t rapidly expand the Army anyway so let’s start with this goal (I’ve mentioned 40,000 on top of the temporary increases we’ve seen so far, but I’ll settle for 30,000) and see where we are in a couple years.
As for Iraq itself, I still believe we have enough committed to Iraq. The level of 138,000 is just fine and we must push Iraqis to be better at security. They must bear the burden as soon as they can and we must not ease off pushing them to that level. Nonetheless, we will face challenges in the next few months.
So I have a suggestion to mull over. We are already planning to stretch out rotations so we don’t have the big bang every spring with a total turnover. While this undercuts my thought that a spring 2005 rotation would be a good cover for an Iranian front buildup, we’ll see how it is structured. But if we are stretching it out, we could artificially increase boots on the ground even as we commit no more troops to Iraq. How? Overlap. If we assume a twelve-month rotation plan, we’d have over 11,000 troops coming into Iraq and leaving every month. If we delay the departure of the relieved units for two months we’d in practice have 160,000 troops in country. If we assume 138,000 troops right now, then add 11,000 in June but delay the departure of the units they are replacing for two months, in June we’d have 149,000 troops. Then in July we add 11,000 more and we’d have 160,000 troops. The units they are replacing would be delayed two months. When the August group of 11,000 comes in, the units in Iraq replaced by the June input would leave, keeping the level at 160,000 as long as we do this. As it looks like the Iraqis are more capable we could start to add troops every other month and so gradually draw down our troops strength to the 7 combat brigades in a 75,000 garrison that I thought we’d be down to by May 2005. I thought that in May 2003 and I’ll be off but I think this is a perfectly doable goal in a reasonable amount of time.
This overlap trick is something we did during Vietnam in Europe to make it seem to the Soviets that we weren’t cutting NATO defenses while we fought in Vietnam. The overall number in West Germany did not go down even though the effectives were lower due to the churning. It is something we also did in El Salvador to keep within the ceiling of advisors allowed there , but actually having more on the ground at all times as we overlapped rotations in and out.
I still think we have enough troops in Iraq to win. The key is keeping the Iraqis on the line and fighting. But since so many supporters of the war are clamoring for more troops (I disregard the opponents who call for more troops since they will panic and counsel retreat with 138,000 troops or 700,000 troops in Iraq), this method would perhaps ease their worries while doing little different in practice since we want overlaps anyway to bring the new troops up to speed before the veterans depart.
Lord knows, many supporters of the war seem to have taken to their fainting couches of late. Maybe this will calm them.
“The Fallujah Effect” (Posted May 22, 2004)
Speed has been my basic approach to fighting. Take the bandaid off fast, as I say.  Fight wars fast to keep public opposition from developing and to crush the spirit of the enemy so they can’t react effectively. While some might think that fighting slower saves our troops’ lives, that is false compassion for our soldiers and Marines. It is better to lose extra men in the short run to win rather than let the battle drag out to give our enemies chances to kill more of us over time. Time is our enemy and if we give our enemies time they may use it.
Peters speaks of this need for speed, and points to the press for pushing us to fight faster:
That propaganda is increasingly, viciously, mindlessly anti-American. When our forces engage in tactical combat, dishonest media reporting immediately creates drag on the chain of command all the way up to the president.

Real atrocities aren't required. Everything American soldiers do is portrayed as an atrocity. World opinion is outraged, no matter how judiciously we fight.

With each passing day — sometimes with each hour — the pressure builds on our government to halt combat operations, to offer the enemy a pause, to negotiate . . . in essence, to give up.

We saw it in Fallujah, where slow-paced tactical success led only to cease-fires that comforted the enemy and gave the global media time to pound us even harder. Those cease-fires were worrisomely reminiscent of the bombing halts during the Vietnam War — except that everything happens faster now.
In the post-war stabilization mission in Iraq, the battles are like mini-wars. We want the people of Iraq to get back to normal. And just like reports of crime in distant parts of our country contribute to feelings of insecurity in our own lives even when we have little crime in our own neighborhoods, reports of fighting are unsettling to Iraqis. When fighting is localized and little-reported or low level, then the rest of the country goes on with its life. When it is a battle, it gets attention. It creates fear. Yet we must crush the flare ups even though it will get press attention. In those cases it is necessary to win quickly as Peters notes. Our enemies will claim we fight with disregard for civilians when it is a lie. The enemy will claim we commit atrocities when it is a lie. And failure to end the fighting even as we kill many will be portrayed as a defeat. And the press will report all this as fact. Or at least as one possible fact.
That said, I’ve been impressed with how we’ve fought Sadr’s thugs without speed yet without suffering the Fallujah Effect. By all reports we are killing at 50:1 or 100:1 ratios and squeezing the Sadr gunmen into a smaller and smaller area. And Sistani and the other clerics remain with us. And there is no Shia outcry over this battle even as it has dragged out.
This alone in contrast to the Sunni clamor should show that we have support among the Shias. So far, the slow battle has had one good effect on the war. As I’ve noted, even though the Baathists and Sadr thugs hoped to unite in an anti-American alliance of Sunnis and Shias, this has failed. While Shias around Baghdad appeared to have some sympathy for the Fallujah residents in the April battle, now that Fallujah has quieted down, the Sunnis have not in turn rallied to show support for Sadr. I imagine this will have a dampening effect on any near future Baathist attempts to gain Shia support. The pro-Sadr Shias were fools to think they could become partners with rather than just being tools of their Sunni overlords of four centuries. But now that they see the Sunnis just watching Sadr’s fools being slaughtered slowly, hopefully they have been newly reminded that the Sunni Baathists aren’t to be trusted with absolute power. Indeed, they need to worry that the Shias will use this as a further excuse for revenge once they take power.
Yet despite the success of our slow approach in the Sadr revolt (and indeed I counseled—well, to the Internet anyway—patience from almost the beginning), I still worry that the Sadr people (or their Iranian friends) will engineer the destruction of a major holy site and inflame the Shias against us. Now that we are in action, we must pull the bandaid off fast.
Even though the slow battles in the south are being waged successfully without the Fallujah Effect kicking in doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to quickly achieve victory.
We are granting our enemy time and they might yet figure out what to do with it.
"Civilian Casualties Sapping Morale" (Posted May 19, 2004)
Is the toll on Iraqis from Baathist and Islamist attacks really going to cause us to lose heart and thus lose the war? Coming out of nowhere, with no warning, we have been unable to halt the attacks.
The V-2 offensive against London between September 8, 1944 and March 27, 1945, represented the first - and still the heaviest - military attacks by ballistic missiles on a city. During it, some 518 V-2s hit London, causing 21,380 civilian casualties, (2,511 deaths, 5,869 serious and some 13,000 light injuries). Moreover, these V-2 attacks destroyed 20,000 houses and damaged some 580,000 others.
Why was it effective?
The offensive had significant adverse strategic, political and psychological effects on Britain for three reasons. One was the public knowledge that no active defence against the V-2 was possible. The second reason was the lack of any warning of a V-2 strike: because the V-2 travelled faster than the speed of sound, the first notice of a V-2 strike was the missile impact. The third reason was the higher rate of casualties and damage per V-2 hit, as compared to the V-1 cruise missile, including five V-2 hits that caused nearly 600 deaths and 402 serious injuries. This was due to the V-2's impact velocity of some 2,500 feet per second which meant that although the area of damage was much the same as the V-1, the damage caused within this area was much greater, whilst the area of casualty effect was some 80% larger. It was little wonder, then, that Londoners viewed the V-2 as worse than the V-1, a view which persists today among those who remember V-2 attacks. (They also remember the way in which a block of buildings at the end of a street would suddenly disappear, to be followed by the noise of the explosion.) The result was a sharp drop in morale.
Winning the war was the only real solution to this morale-shattering tactic. Today, winning the war will make the morale effects of suicide and car bombings a footnote in the Iraq War. Just remember what victory means. It means turning over a working government to Iraqis so that Iraqis can pursue the killers with our help. Victory does not mean we have to end all attacks before we turn over control to the Iraqis.
Don't get confused—or discouraged—on the verge of victory.
"Tapping the Convenience Petroleum Reserve" (Posted May 19, 2004)
Some are pushing for the government to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for a month to dampen price rises.
Why would a release of this size for one month do anything when opponents of drilling in Alaska say larger amounts pumped for decades would be a drop in the barrel?
Why can't we just view higher gas prices as one of those sacrifices we're supposed to endure (whether we need to or not) to fight the war? Since I need to buy 100 gallons of gas every month just to commute, I don't feel too guilty. This price certainly hurts.
But I couldn't in good conscience support such a move even if it did reduce prices. For people who don't think we are even at war, it is no surprise that they have little understanding of the difference between strategic necessity and convenience.
"Are There Any Iranians Present?" (Posted May 19, 2004)
Sadr's hapless thugs could be bolstered by Iranians if this stuff from a CPA briefing means what it seems like it means:
In the central-south zone of operations, coalition forces defending the buildings near the Mukhaiyam Mosque in Karbala continued to be attacked with sniper, RPG and mortar fire. There were numerous engagements last night originating from the Iranian quarter in the downtown area of Karbala near the two holy shrines.
So are Sadr fighters who think they might be welcomed in the Iranian quarter taking refuge there?
There is also this:
People from the Iranian quarter neighborhood are phoning to complain that coalition forces are not attacking Muqtada militia who have moved into their neighborhood. They say there are no religious sites in their neighborhood and they want Muqtada's militias out of their home.
It is quite possible that Iranians assumed they'd be welcomed with open arms in an Iranian part of town but that the locals of Iranian origin want no part of the so-called uprising.
I can hardly wait for the commission of inquiry that the Iranian mullahs will set up to explore why they expected to be greeted with open arms when they entered Iraq.
Seriously, if fighters are there from Iran, they are ruthless enough to destroy the holiest of places of Shia Islam in order to foment a break between America and the Shias.
Be very careful and end this confrontation with victory. Can't we get a sniper in range of Sadr?
"Why We Can't Abuse Prisoners" (Posted May 18, 2004)
There are many reasons why we cannot abuse prisoners. It is wrong. It is illegal. It doesn't even work—those being tortured would admit that the Swedes were supplying them just to get the pain stopped.
But some defend the idea that anything goes because American soldiers' lives are at risk.
I've disagreed and in the aftermath of the first reports stated that those guards might as well have directly taken part in attacks on Americans for the effect their actions would have. Yet this thought remained unformed.
Orson Scott Card focused my reasoning. I may not be all on board with all the particulars, but the general idea is right:
Aren't our soldiers in Iraq precisely because there are causes worth putting the lives of our soldiers at risk? Liberating the Iraqi people, cutting off a major supporter of terrorism, preventing the development or deployment of weapons of mass destruction that Iraq was known to possess or be working on, and discouraging other nations from supporting terrorism -- those were all worthy reasons for putting our soldiers in harm's way.
We expect our soldiers to run through enemy fire to complete the mission. We expect soldiers to run gauntlets down dangerous highways to complete the mission. When I was in the Guard, completing the mission was most important. This was highlighted by what we would do if doused with chemical weapons—after the attack, one member of the platoon would be compelled to break the seal on their mask while the rest of (hopefully) us watched the unfortunate soldier for signs of nerve gas poisoning. That's how we'd know we were all clear and able to unmask and do our jobs. The mission is paramount and soldiers understand that they risk death to complete the mission. Being shot at outside the context of completing an important mission just makes no sense.
So, no, we must not abuse prisoners. Torturing or abusing on the pretext of getting information to save our troops is bull when it will actually cause more deaths for our troops.
The mission is to pacify Iraq enough to turn the task over to Iraqis. And if we have to lose some troops because we must abide by rules and decency then so be it. The mission requires this discipline.
In the long run, that will save more American lives. And preserve the honor of those soldiers we send to Iraq.
"Chemical Weapons and Why We Fight" (Posted May 18, 2004)
It is sadly amusing to watch the reporting gymnastics necessary to discount a Sarin gas shell found in Iraq. In one article, the shell is minimized by saying:
Some U.S. officials and weapons experts suggested the artillery shell may be an experimental design that predates the 1991 Gulf War
Yet in a contradiction, this is reported:
Often chemical and biological weapons are marked to differentiate them from conventional artillery rounds, so people know how to handle them. Officials have said Saddam may have disguised his alleged weapons as conventional rounds to fool weapons inspectors.
I just really want to know why shells made prior to the Persian Gulf War would have been designed to fool inspectors that arrived as the result of the war.
And more important, why is it relevant to determine when the weapon was made when determining whether Saddam had WMD when we invaded? Indeed, the definition of what justifies our invasion is increasingly focused. Having the ability to make chemical weapons in the near future was not enough of a reason. Now having actual weapons as long as they were made before 1991 was not enough of a reason.
I'm getting a headache.
This article (via Instapundit) nicely summarizes the situation:
In discrediting the war, the Democrats have pushed the idea that neither dangerous weapons nor terrorist networks existed in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. How do they explain that terrorists Hussein harbored are beheading American civilians and trying to kill American soldiers with poisons he spread?
God help us if the ones who rigged that IED know exactly where they got that shell. Find those Sarin shells.
“How Can We Lose What They Say We Never Had?” (Posted May 17, 2004)
The most recent attack based on the rogue prison guards in Iraq is that we’ve lost our moral high ground.
Has America lost its moral authority?

That provocative question is on the lips of politicians, human rights activists and ordinary citizens worldwide as the Iraqi prisoner abuse affair exposes damning evidence against U.S. troops.

Many wonder how the United States — embroiled in allegations that its soldiers brazenly ignored the Geneva Conventions — can credibly challenge human rights violations in places such as Haiti or Sudan.

As the scandal unfolds, the debate rages over the degree to which America's reputation and role as a global moral agent have been tarnished.
I find this absolutely shocking. I mean, our critics concede we once recently had the moral high ground?
This is such a typical way of attacking America. Before the scandal in the Iraq prison, it was said that we had lost our moral high ground because of the Iraq War, or Afghanistan, or the Patriot Act, or just from being Americans. The only time these critics admit we had moral authority is when they can claim we just did something to lose it.
Kind of like the “fraudulent coalition” charge before 3-11. How do you portray the withdrawal of 1,300 Spanish troops in a bad light when you refused to admit America had a coalition in Iraq? Why, ignore the past and insist that this withdrawal destroys the actual coalition! Simplisme!
Our moral high ground is still intact. We police our own.
And those bastards in Europe that pretend to judge us and find us lacking in respect for humanity can bugger off. I’m sick of them. Truly and finally sick of them. I wish them luck if Iran gets nuclear missiles.
“Promise of Destruction” (Posted May 17, 2004)
I swear, we don’t even blink when tyrants talk this way:
The Chinese government warned Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian on Monday to pull back from a "dangerous lurch toward independence" or face "destruction." But it also offered economic, diplomatic and other benefits if Chen acknowledges that Taiwan and the mainland are part of "one China."
What has Taiwan done that so recklessly provoked Peking? Well:
Describing relations with Taiwan as "severely tested," the Chinese government warned that if Chen continued to insist there was "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait -- one of his most popular campaign slogans -- "hopes for peace, stability, mutual benefit and a win-win scenario in cross-strait relations will evaporate."
The Taiwanese don’t want to be ruled from Peking? Shocking. I wouldn’t want to be ruled by those thugs, either. I guess I’m reckless.
One more time: the Chinese will go to war to seize Taiwan and the Chinese are running out of time to do so. By the end of the decade, Taiwan will have new weapons integrated into their military. Taiwan could have nukes. And most dangerously for Peking, Taiwan will have democracy embedded so deeply that absorbing Taiwan could be a poison pill that just infects the mainland with the democracy disease.
But the Chinese are on a crash building program for amphibious forces and naval/air forces that will allow them to invade Taiwan and hold off US intervention long enough to win the war.
Were I king, I’d invade on the eve of the Peking Olympics.
“So Tell Me Right Now—What is a Stockpile?” (Posted May 17, 2004)
I always thought that Saddam’s programs for WMD and his intent were the most important reasons for crushing him. I did expect chemical weapons stockpiles in Iraq and in fact I still expect we’ll find them. Indeed, I’ve worried they will be dug up and used against our troops in Iraq.
The loyal opposition now claims that only stockpiles of WMD count as reason to destroy Saddam. Well:
U.S. officials said Monday they are concerned that other sarin-filled munitions may still exist in Iraq — and may not be well marked — after evidence indicated a roadside shell that exploded contained the nerve agent.
Yes, it is only one shell. And yes, the thugs that planted it probably didn’t know it was a chemical shell (thought they might be heading back to where they got this one to look for more). But where there is one, there could be others. And we did not find it despite sitting on Iraq for a year now. Since it was an unmarked shell, it will take a long time for us to track them down hunting blind. And Iraq was supposed to have destroyed all these shells—they did not. I just want to know at what point we can say we’ve discovered a “stockpile.” One is not enough. Are ten shells a stockpile? A hundred? Let me know.
Of course, even the discovery of one shell (though I think we’ve discovered Mustard gas shells already even though inexplicably the DoD has said that the liquid-filled shells discovered so far were not chemical weapons. Just what was that liquid in the shells!?) has led at least one guy to say this is insignificant since we have not proven that Saddam was producing chemical weapons at the time of the invasion! I guess the argument is being readied for the day when we actually find chemical weapons in numbers large enough that it cannot be denied.
But if that is the argument, I guess we need to go back and reexamine why Saddam kept ten years worth of pesticides in bunkers at his military bases.
Saddam had chemical weapons and wanted more of those, and bugs and nukes, too.
“This Makes Me Nervous” (Posted May 15, 2004)
I’ll be happier when that fool Sadr is in jail—or dead. As long as we keep fighting around the shrines and mosques we face a danger:
The normally bustling area around Karbala's Imam Hussein shrine, one of the holiest centers for Shiite Muslims, was silent except for intermittent blasts and machine-gun fire. After one blast, a huge column of black smoke wafted over the golden-domed shrine.
I wouldn’t put it past Sadr—or his Iranian backers—to blow up some monumentally important site and then blame us.
While I’m pleased we are fighting successfully without any of the furor of the Fallujah battle, I get more nervous every day. End this with a victory.
Bandaid off a little faster, if you would.
“Blowback on a Tightrope” (Posted May 15, 2004)
The April 27 Damascus attack was carried out by Syrians and not by international terrorists:
But a Syrian close to the government told The Associated Press last week that among the men were two brothers, the Shlashes, and a cousin, and that they were among Arab volunteers who went to Iraq early in the U.S.-led war on Saddam Hussein's regime.
It may have seemed like a good idea in Damascus to send off their own Islamists to fight and die in Iraq. But rather than just killing off potential domestic opponents and complicating our mission, the Syrians may have just inspired Islamists to fight closer to home. And when they make their country a conduit for foreign Islamists to travel to Iraq, that pipeline could spring a leak in Syria.
Just remember the tremendously shaky ground that the minority Alawite government in Syria is on as it tries to continue its rule. Damascus is afraid:
Recent disclosures that point to the Bush administration beginning its preparations for the invasion of Iraq soon after the war in Afghanistan started, as well as the Pentagon's recent decision to place Lebanon and Syria under the US Central Command led by General John Abuzaid, have further fuelled anxiety in Damascus.

At the same time, the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad also faces the challenge of containing a domino effect in the region. The prospect of eventual democracy in Iraq is starting to have an impact on the Syrian domestic scene. Even before the recent violence in Damascus, JID's local sources have been stressing that there is a growing sense in Syria that the Ba'ath regime may be challenged.

Opponents of the Syrian leadership are stepping up their efforts to promote an agenda of political liberalisation in the country. Recent unrest between ethnic Kurds and Syrian security forces in the northeastern region has further raised concerns that Iraqi Kurdish ambitions for self-rule could foster an uprising among Syria's own Kurdish minority.
Fear of the US. Fear of democracy encouraged by a democratic Iraq. Kurds inspired by Iraq. Add to this the fact that the minority Alawites in charge are considered to be a shady part of Islam at best and heretics at worse, and the peril of riding the Islamist tiger indicates just how much pressure the Syrian rulers feel they are under. Perhaps Damascus thinks that their use of the Islamist card in the 1980s by supporting Iran against Iraq was done successfully so this is a safe plan.
But a bizarre and pointless attack in Damascus by guys more angry than smart can’t be a comforting event to the despots in Damascus. If the Islamists think that fighting Damascus is safer/better than going to the approved jihad in Iraq, Damascus will have even more problems.
And an aside. Please note that the pressure for democracy is not taking place despite American actions. Don’t critics of forceful US measures argue that this will only taint local democratic activists?
“What Are They Going to Do? Bleed on Us?” (Posted May 15, 2004)
With a nod to Monty Python for the title.
The North Koreans are really slow learners on this whole negotiating thing. I know that we’ve spent decades training them that they can translate “negotiate” from English to “what can we give you for free” in Korean, but the game has changed.
North Korea returned to low-level talks on its nuclear development Friday but criticized U.S. demands that it commit to completely dismantling the program before seeking aid in return.

A statement read by a North Korean official in Beijing, where talks hosted by China began Wednesday, denounced as "humiliating" what it said was Washington's refusal to discuss energy and economic assistance.
I guess when you can get beyond the humiliation of running a broken down state where you can’t feed your people or provide them with the level that pet’s in the South enjoy, then you can accept the humiliation of actually having to do something to have your own fat butts saved for a few months longer with foreign assistance.
While threats are usually the norm for this point in the negotiating cycle. You know, “sea of fire” in Seoul, nuclear destruction, yada yada yada. We get the point. You’re evil and nuts. But instead:
The U.S. position "is the kind of humiliating measure that can only be imposed on a country defeated in a war," said Pak Myong Kuk, a member of the North's negotiating team. He spoke before reporters who were summoned to the North Korean Embassy shortly before 1 a.m. to hear the statement.
It would well come to that point. Somebody should explain to the Pillsbury Nuke Boy that in any war, while the North may be able to hurt the South, in the end the North will be destroyed and the South will run the North. Oh, sure, the Chinese will probably invade too and occupy the northern part of North Korea, but either way the North will cease to exist. Then we’ll have that little obstacle they cited to accepting aid out of the way.
“Unlikely Ally” (Posted May 15, 2004)
The US is slapping some new sanctions on Castro’s Cuba. As the Senior and Founding Member of the Axis of El Vil, it seems rather appropriate notwithstanding the swoons from Hollywood.
Catro’s response is to shut down the “dollar stores” in Cuba where people can actually buy goods with real money. Many Cubans get dollars from relatives in America.
Still, the closing might just be temporary in order to jack up prices. The Cuban government may hope to gain more scarce real money while blaming the US for the increases. But:
The dollar-only shops have been associated with social inequalities that have worried Cuban leaders. The elite, with access to greenbacks, can easily buy everyday goods that a doctor cannot on a salary equivalent to $25 a month.
This could be a short-sighted strategy. How long can Castro blame the US for their problems? If social inequalities grow in a country that bases its dictatorship on eliminating inequalities, will the people just sit, take it, and blame the officially designated America for the situation?
I think it is nice to remind the also-rans that just because you aren’t on the Axis of Evil, doesn’t mean we won’t take action against you.
“It Is a War on Terror” (Posted May 15, 2004)
This author doesn’t like the term “war on terror.” His basic contention:
Terrorism is not an enemy. It is a method. It is the most sinister, brutal, inhumane method of our age. But it is nonetheless just that: a method. You cannot, and you do not, make war on a method. War is made on an identified — and identifiable — enemy.

In the here and now, that enemy is militant Islam — a very particular practice and interpretation of a very particular set of religious, political and social principles.

Now that is a very disturbing, very discomfiting thing to say in 21st-century America. It is very judgmental. It sounds very insensitive. It is the very definition of politically incorrect. Saying it aloud will not get you invited to chat with Oprah. But it is a fact. And it is important both to say it and to understand it.
I disagree with the premise and the idea that we are distracted by using the wrong terminology.
We are fighting Islamist terrorists and we’ve knocked off psycho regimes in Kabul and Baghdad while focusing on psycho regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang. We have our eye on Damascus, too; and can call on some successes in Tripoli and Islamabad.
Are all of these battles against militant Islamists? Certainly not.
As I’ve written before, taking down Saddam would have been in our interest even if Islamist terrorists did not exist. Worry about alliances between Saddam and Islamist terrorists added to the urgency of destroying Saddam. And I’ll also concede that without Islamist terror it would have been easier to just put in a friendly strongman in Baghdad without trying to implant democracy and rule of law.
But this is a war on terror. Without terror to threaten us with nuclear weapons at their worst, why would we care if Wahabbi Islamists pined for 14th century purity as they define it and railed against Western influence? The Wahabbis have existed since the late 18th century and we rose from a tiny enclave on the east coast of North America to the most powerful nation on earth without worrying that addled men roamed the Arabian desert preaching that anybody who failed to practice their form of Islam should convert or die.
Indeed, simple nuclear proliferation, while undesirable, was not too upsetting to us. What forceful measures did we take to reverse the events when Pakistan and India went clearly nuclear in 1998 (?)? Sure, we continued to try to discourage the trend but we didn’t bomb them or anyone else to stop them. How strongly did we really resist North Korea in the 1980s and 1990s? Not very.
We are at war with terrorism. Saying that does not negate being at war with particular regimes or forces that make terrorism more deadly. We did wage war on the states of Afghanistan and Iraq. We are targeting militant Islam as a force that encourages terrorism against the West. How has calling this a war on terrorism done any harm? It has not. We worry about nuclear terrorism and just plain terrorism and recognize that states make terrorists more powerful and give them global reach. We recognize that Wahabbi propaganda makes more terrorists. We recognize that stagnation and tyranny in the Moslem world encourage support for terrorism.
So if we can strip the Islamist terrorists of their state sponsors and hope for getting nuclear weapons or other WMD, if we can keep countries from tolerating their presence, if we can stop their major funding sources, if we can reduce the sympathy they get from their co-religionists, if we can kill off and arrest the current generation of terrorists, then we beat terrorism. In the end, what do we care if poverty-stricken and isolated Wahabbis continue to preach their twisted version of Islam if they do it in isolation and unable to harm us?
The old war on piracy didn’t stop all criminals even as it stopped piracy. But it channeled those disposed to criminality to other forms of crime that local governments could fight and which did not affect us.
I’ve got no problem with calling it a war on terror.
“War of Attrition” (Posted May 13, 2004)
I've worried that Americans might see the press coverage of Iraq and develop a "screw them all" attitude and conclude that the Iraqis are ungrateful for being liberated and so we can just let them enjoy despotism again if they don't want to stand with us.
Jeff at Caerdroia expresses his frustration that emotion is starting to threaten his reason when looking at Iraq. This is understandable. It is a tendency I fight, too. I fight it by reminding myself of several things.
We know that the American press is generally, how shall we say, skeptical of the war in Iraq. We know that few have military experience. Therefore they can honestly believe that any explosion or attack means that the big counter-offensive is underway. Let us not even discuss the attitudes of the Western or Arab press that would be happy if we lost.
We know that our press is biased toward action and blood. If it bleeds it leads. So one attack trumps more reliable electricity or schools opened or the villages in Iraq that only know there is fighting going on because they have access to a free press.
We know that the American press latches on to anything we do wrong and remain blasé about the enemy's crimes. Pictures of our crimes? Publish them. Pictures of something we think might be an American crime? Publish them and don't worry about verifying the pictures or the charge. Pictures of the enemy's far worse crimes? Suppress them. Mustn't upset the American public, don't you know. Or ignore them. I mean, they are mass graves from the Saddam era, right? Where would the press start? How on Earth would Koppel read all the names of those discovered in one show? Even if he skipped commercials? In part it is because our reporters expect our side to behave better. In part because they assume the other side will naturally behave badly. In part it is because they don't understand what is and what is not lawful behavior in war and assume any death or damage inflicted on civilians must be a crime. In part it is because the press' attempts to be balanced lead them to elevate the enemy and lower us to appear even-handed. Let's not even discuss the Western or Arab press.
We know that our press uses their former Baathist minders as translators. How many "typical" Iraqis quoted are their Baathist buddies conveniently ready to talk?
We know that the press already undermined our cause by a decade of failing to report on the horrors of Saddam's regime in order to maintain their access to Iraq. Indeed, they reported on farces such as Iraqi elections as if they were real elections.
We know that the press tends not to leave the Baghdad area so the insurgents know that lobbing a mortar shell at the Green Zone is guaranteed to generate press attention. A suicide bombing gets you a news logo for the week.
We know that polls show that Iraqis are no worse off and in many cases better off than before our invasion. We know that the people say they want us out in a few months (inaccurately reported as "immediately") but that past polls showed Iraqis feared our departure too soon. We also know that it takes a good reporter to get past the initial cries of "you Americans need to get out" to admissions that "you Americans have made things better."
We know that the vast majorities of Iraqis have not even had any contact with American troops and are just getting on with their lives. We know from our own experience here that those marching and chanting the loudest don't represent the majority of people who just want to live, work, and raise their families. We fail to use that knowledge to counter the emotional impact of seeing chanting Iraqis happy at American dead.
We also know that any pro-American marches (or anti-insurgent/terrorist) rallies will hardly be mentioned.
We know from anecdotal evidence from troops in the field that many Iraqis are happy we are there. We read Iraqi blogs that show support and fear that we'll leave.
We know all these things yet the emotional impact of unrelenting televised complaints and predictions of doom (even when they have to keep coming up with new predictions of doom when the last prediction fizzles out) has an effect even on the stalwart supporters of the war. Those in the middle that support the war only with victory evident are easily discouraged. Let's not even discuss what the posters of Democratic Underground feel. Their glee at reports of failure is discouraging. Their endless suspicion of our actions and motives are fed by the press.
Truly, the failure of our people to hold steady in greater numbers in the face of really minor league resistance has amazed me. How on Earth did a silent majority of Americans still support the Vietnam War in 1969 after tens of thousands of KIA and individual weeks where we lost more troops killed in action than we've lost in the entirety of the Iraq War and post-war stabilization missions? How did Americans endure the Pusan Perimeter and the retreat from Chosin? How did we endure D-Day and Tarawa and Kasserine Pass and Okinawa? How did we endure Antietem and Shiloh and the Wilderness and all the rest of Grant's final campaign in Virginia?
Are we weaker than our forefathers?
No. I don't believe so. Our troops have demonstrated their skill, valor, and tenacity. Yet Americans at home have never had to keep their faith and resolution in such a complete absence of regular support and in defiance of a constant stream of images that convey defeat.
Supporters of the war must keep reason strong. Strong to support our troops and strong to analyze problems and offer corrective solutions.
We can't let our enemies win. We can't afford to get tired so early in what must be a long struggle with Islamism and terror and rogue WMD-owners. And our enemies will win if we walk away from Iraq. And it doesn't matter if we walk away convinced we must lose or if we walk away convinced that Iraqis all think ill of us. In the rush by some to make this a new Vietnam, remember the concentration camps and executions and refugees and basic poverty and despotism that resulted from the fall of Saigon in 1975. We would see all that and more should our friends in Iraq lose to the Baathists and Islamists.
And as I've said before, our administration needs to hammer the simple fact that we are at war at every opportunity. Our President must explain why we fight and how we are doing every day. His administration must hammer this point. To Hell with the theme of the week. Let undersecretaries for whatever handle those things. The top men and women must hammer away in support of the most important issue of our age at every chance they get. As our troops win in Iraq and we prepare to turn over a working Iraq to Iraqis, it remains true that the main front is here at home.
Reason must be supported to win over emotion. Every damn day.
“So Who Is Right—Big Picture” (Posted May 11, 2004)
This WP article is interesting. The lead paragraph:
Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.
So, is this right? Certainly, no war is unlosable or unwinnable. I’ve noted that we could blow the post-war since Baghdad fell. I think the odds are with us on winning, but it is possible to lose. Heck, it would be possible to win and still be accused of losing.
And even though the article leaps at drawing a comparison to Vietnam, this doesn’t mean the thrust of the article shouldn’t be taken seriously. Namely, we are winning tactically but losing the war. I can’t argue against the premise since I’ve long argued that body counts are not the metric for measuring success or failure. We are winning engagements and we are killing the enemy in large numbers compared to what we lose. The bigger question is whether we are winning the war.
One unnamed American general said:
I do not believe we had a clearly defined war strategy, end state and exit strategy before we commenced our invasion.
With all do respect to his star (s), that is just plain silly. Our war strategy was to invade Iraq, capture Baghdad, and eject the Baathists. Our end state was an Iraq where rule of law was supreme. Where WMD and programs to make them were dismantled. And most ambitiously, an Iraq that is democratic. Our “exit strategy” (and I hate that term) was to build an Iraqi government defined by our desired end state that is also able to carry out security duties with ICDC, police, and security units so we could pull back from active operations against insurgents into garrison duties. There, the mission would be to back up the Iraqi counter-insurgency effort and to protect Iraq from foreign enemies while a conventional Iraqi military was built up to handle the external threat.
The American general should review Clausewitz, since the general seemingly is upset that our enemy is not going along with our plan. Enemies react and adapt. So must we. It is simply folly to assume that we can plan for every step on the way to victory.
Yet this quiet grumbling is not what many officers say. US commanders say they are cautiously optimistic:
Commanders on the ground in Iraq seconded that cautiously optimistic view.

"I am sure that the view from Washington is much worse than it appears on the ground here in Baqubah," said Army Col. Dana J.H. Pittard, commander of a 1st Infantry Division brigade based in that city about 40 miles north of Baghdad. "I do not think that we are losing, but we will lose if we are not careful." He said he is especially worried about maintaining political and economic progress in the provinces after the turnover of power.
Others who think we are losing argue that privately, officers are actually pessimistic:
The worried generals and colonels are simply beginning to say what experts outside the military have been saying for weeks.

In mid-April, even before the prison detainee scandal, Peter Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, wrote in the New York Review of Books that "patience with foreign occupation is running out, and violent opposition is spreading. Civil war and the breakup of Iraq are more likely outcomes than a successful transition to a pluralistic Western-style democracy." The New York Review of Books is not widely read in the U.S. military, but the article, titled "How to Get Out of Iraq," was carried online and began circulating among some military intellectuals.
Yet this instant analysis is wrong. Fallujah is quiet for now. Sadr is getting hammered and isolated and looking for an escape. No real surge in the remainder of the Sunni Triangle has been evident. How is the resistance spreading?
Yet we are not suppressing the core resistance in the Fallujah-Ramadi area. And polls show that our troops are wearing out their welcome. If security was that bad, I’d imagine that there would be less impatience. If Shias are starting to be upset more about our troop presence than safety and prosperity, it is imperative to hand off routine security duties to Iraqi units. And despite the burden of having foreigners in their country, we can’t just pull out:
Inside and outside the armed forces, experts generally argue that the U.S. military should remain there but should change its approach. Some argue for more troops, others for less, but they generally agree on revising the stated U.S. goals to make them less ambitious. They are worried by evidence that the United States is losing ground with the Iraqi public.
One critic who believes we are on the road to disaster states his opinion:
Likewise, Rep. John P. Murtha (Pa.), a former Marine who is one of most hawkish Democrats in Congress, said last week: "We cannot prevail in this war as it is going today," and said that the Bush administration should either boost its troop numbers or withdraw.
Yet boosting numbers can’t be the solution since that would simply increase the burden of a foreign presence. We’d fail to solve the problem of keeping Shia support and simply hasten the day we’d have to withdraw—and we’d be pulling out with a larger force making it look like we are running.
The article focuses on three solutions, implying endorsement. First:
Like many in the Special Forces, defense consultant Michael Vickers advocates radically trimming the U.S. presence in Iraq, making it much more like the one in Afghanistan, where there are 20,000 troops and almost none in the capital, Kabul. The U.S. military has a small presence in the daily life of Afghans. Basically, it ignores them and focuses its attention on fighting pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda holdouts. Nor has it tried to disarm the militias that control much of the country.
In addition to trimming the U.S. troop presence, a young Army general said, the United States also should curtail its ambitions in Iraq. "That strategic objective, of a free, democratic, de-Baathified Iraq, is grandiose and unattainable," he said. "It's just a matter of time before we revise downward . . . and abandon these ridiculous objectives."

Instead, he predicted that if the Bush administration wins reelection, it simply will settle for a stable Iraq, probably run by former Iraqi generals. This is more or less, he said, what the Marines Corps did in Fallujah -- which he described as a glimpse of future U.S. policy.
Finally, some are calling for the United States to stop fighting separatist trends among Iraq's three major groups, the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds, and instead embrace them. "The best hope for holding Iraq together -- and thereby avoiding civil war -- is to let each of its major constituent communities have, to the extent possible, the system each wants," Galbraith wrote last month.
Certainly, something different must be done. The American public will not accept drawn-out fighting with no prospect of victory. We owe our troops and people a victory and not just endless expenditures of treasure and blood.
The first solution is closer to what we should do. If the static guard duty and routine patrols are carried out by loyal Iraqis, we can focus on using special forces backed by conventional forces to seek out the resistance and break them up so they can’t overrun Iraqi posts.
But just pulling the Army (and Marine) conventional units out of Iraq won’t work. Remember, with no Iraqi army able to fend off Iran or Syria, we need troops to carry out this task until the Iraqis are ready. Yet pulling our conventional units into garrisons will in practice get our troops out of the way. We will stick to protected bases, able to deter Iranian or Syrian adventures and available for emergencies. Our troops will be out of sight and out of mind and clear the decks for the use of force in a quiet manner. Casualties among US forces will go down and the public will endure such a war for much longer.
The second objection is just silly. A free and democratic Iraq is a long-term goal that doesn’t require us to maintain 150,000 troops for fifteen years. It is an objective that requires the Iraqis to step up to the plate. We won’t know if this is a success for quite a few years. How would reducing our sights now help at all now? Indeed, it would hurt since it would be a green light to some strongman to take control believing we aren’t serious about democracy. Keep our eye on the prize even as we understand it is not an objective that we will achieve in a year or declare failure.
I don’t think much of the third suggestion, either. Fallujah shows what happens when we leave the Baathists and their Islamist allies of convenience alone. Do we want a Fallujah-like rump Sunni state able to organize itself to fight our interests? Do we imagine that the Sunni rump state will stick to its oil free area and enjoy their Baathist poverty? No, they will plot against the Kurds and the Shias and attempt to regain their country and power and money. And I do shudder to think of what is buried in the Sunni triangle that will be dug up if we leave after partitioning Iraq. And of course, we will be compelled to keep this smaller Baathist Iraq in its box. Will we spend another decade with this state under sanctions and no-fly zones in an effort to suppress their ambitions? If we have to deal with the Baathist Sunnis yet a third time, they might learn a lesson or two and finally fight us smart. I’m shocked they fought stupid twice. I’ll not assume they’ll be so cooperative thrice. No, we need to beat and subdue the Sunni Baathists and their new Islamist friends in a unified Iraq where we can draw on Kurds and Shias for help. And some Sunnis, too.
And as we consider these complaints, remember that the Army, which has paid the largest price for this war, feels screwed by Rumsfeld. The Army lost Crusader and it lost Comanche. These were the two biggest items scheduled to come on line. And although plans (well, that’s too strong—let’s say tendencies) to cut at least two and maybe four Army divisions are dead, the feeling that Rumsfeld undervalues boots on the ground makes for hard feelings. The Army could sure use a couple more divisions (or in my opinion, separate brigades and battalions from the same amount of manpower which would put more boots on the ground) to manage troop rotation for a long war on terror that will go beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. I love and respect the Army. And I question some of Rumsfeld’s decisions regarding the Army. But I can’t be blind to the fact that some in the Pentagon would like Rumsfeld to go.
So examine how we are fighting the war. By all means. But don’t take the latest panic too seriously as reflecting the ground truth. Opponents of the war said prior to the war that we faced disaster. During the war they said we faced a new Vietnam or possibly a new Berlin ’45. After we won, the opponents of the war said that the war was designed to help the President’s reelection campaign by waging a cakewalk war. As we’ve faced some difficulties, they’ve gone back to the Vietnam predictions. Or civil war. Or unified Sunni-Shia revolt. Or… what? I’m sure there will always be some reason to panic.
We have not won the post-war stabilization mission. But we’ve hardly lost. We’re not even losing. The enemy has proven to be stubborn even as it has not been especially costly in historical terms. Remember that as critics call April 2004 our Tet, we’ve lost maybe 550 KIA in the entire period since March 2003. In Vietnam during Tet, we endured single weeks with more than this number of KIA.
So fight on confident that we can win and that we are flexible enough to adapt. And keep turning over authority to the Iraqis. I may not be sure whether our willpower will outlast the Sunnis or not, but I am pretty sure that the Shias and Kurds will outlast the Sunnis in a battle of wills when our allies know what will happen to their necks if they lose and let the Sunni Baathists put their boots back on. And we can back our side to the hilt.
And remember that losing or even walking away from all or part of Iraq means living pieces of human garbage that would behead Americans while praising God will win.
“So Who Is Right?” (Posted May 11, 2004)
US Marines with Iraqis drove through Fallujah:
Iraqi police and masked insurgents shot off rounds and people flooded the streets, waving Iraqi national flags and honking their car horns in jubilation over what they mistakenly believed was a deal between the marines and the city's leaders to scale back the US presence in Fallujah.
But Johnson expressed befuddlement about the swirling rumours among Fallujans that the marines were on the verge of a further withdrawal.

"Eventually we want to recede to the horizon ... but just because we have one meeting in town it doesn't mean we're leaving Fallujah."
I guess we have to wait and see if the Fallujah Brigade carries out what we say is their mission:
The coalition wants the Fallujah Brigade and police to round up the insurgents' heavy weapons and start taking steps to find the culprits behind the March 31 murders, as well as a February 14 attack on Iraqi police and ICDC that killed more than 20 Iraqi officers.
I sure as heck don’t know who is right at this point.
“Lay the Groundwork” (Posted May 11, 2004)
Part of the justification for assisting the Iranian military and/or opposition in an effort to overthrow the mullahs could involve demonstrating Iranian meddling in Iraq that has led to American deaths. The results of an investigation could be interesting:
Reports from inside Iraq continue to suggest that Iran's conservative Islamic government is meddling in the affairs of its neighbor, according to U.S. officials and lawmakers with access to information about the instability there.

Yet as of late last month, the U.S.-led coalition held only 15 Iranian prisoners, according to the U.S. military command in Baghdad. Officials are struggling to pin down exactly what role Iran may be playing in the chaos still roiling military forces in Iraq.
When you add this to the failed EU/UN effort to shut down Iran’s nuclear ambitions, we sure have enough reason to intervene in any unrest to support the opposition. Hopefully, we’re talking to the opposition and to the military inside Iran.
We are running out of time to deal with Iran. This bunch of nutjobs cannot be allowed to get nuclear weapons.
“Reassuring the Shias” (Posted May 11, 2004)
This is good news given some worries that Saddam could somehow return the Sunnis to power in Iraq:
The head of Iraq's war crimes tribunal said Tuesday that the United States pledged to hand Saddam Hussein and about 100 other suspects to Iraqi authorities before June 30.
Not only will this reassure the Shias (and Kurds too) that Saddam and his cronies will face justice rather than act out some fanciful plan to return to power, but it will compel the Shias to take action against the Baathists and so bind the Shias to our side. I’ve called for Iraqi trials of Baathists for probably a year now, in order to make sure the Shias don’t get the attitude that they can sit on the sidelines and watch us fight the Baathists (and now Islamists to a certain degree). I assumed we’d have to try Saddam and some of the high-level guys but after this amount of time, the Iraqis are hopefully ready to carry out this responsibility. We think so, apparently.
We may have to wait until July 1st, to adhere to international conventions, I hear.
“Interim Government” (Posted May 11, 2004)
An expanded Governing Council should appoint and oversee the work of a caretaker government due to take over from the U.S.-led occupation June 30, the U.S.-picked body said Saturday.
Of course, that’s not what Brahimi wants to do. He wants to dump the existing council for former Baathists. Then dump them and make sure that those who take power in the early 2005 elections are completely inexperienced. Plus, these newbies will be saddled with departments of government staffed by the “former” Baathists in the interim.
Yeah, that will work, eh?
I hope the Council’s opposition to being dumped has some influence on our policy. The most representative national body Iraq has probably ever had should not just be dumped.
Expand the Council by having local elected councils select members of their own bodies for promotion up to the national expanded council. Let them know that they can stand for election in 2005 so that they will feel accountable for succeeding and not just looting while they pull a lame-duck duty.
Cluod This Sopof Dtaa Sftiers?” (Posted May 8, 2004)
Reading this is easy:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in word ind the ltteers in a word are, the ind iprmoatnt ind is word the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can word raed it wouthit porbelms. Word is bcuseae the ind ind deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe.
For humans it is easy. Can our computers that sift email communications worldwide looking for terrorist plots compensate for such an easy code?
Just wondering. I have no idea.
“This is Where Our Success Will Lie” (Posted May 8, 2004)
Rule of law must be cultivated in Iraq. Our response to the prison crimes can yet demonstrate how this concept must work and make Iraq a better place.
The 28 [Iraqi] judges were attending a two-day conference starting Wednesday with two U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites) justices, the most senior judge in Britain, the head of a U.N. war crimes tribunal and other legal experts.

Following the ouster of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites), occupation authorities vetted nearly 1,000 Iraqi judges and allowed them to return to their courtrooms.

Most of the Iraqi judges attending the conference already preside over domestic courts, and some are potential candidates for a seat on an Iraqi supreme court to be created under a new constitution.

Zuhaire al-Maliky, an investigating judge for the Central Criminal Court of Baghdad, said the conference would help guide the judges, some of whom may be involved in drafting the new constitution.

"Under Saddam, it was hard for any judge to express his independence," he said. "Judges were like ordinary government employees. ... Now this has stopped. Now we are running our own affairs."

The Iraqis questioned the U.S. judges on the U.S. federal system, seeking lessons on how power should be shared in Iraq between the central government in Baghdad and Iraq's diverse regions.
We have so much damage to undo that was inflicted by Saddam. It is truly frustrating that we must also undo the damage of soldier prisoner guards who failed to treat prisoners in their charge with human decency and their commanders who failed to command.
And while I take exception to the comment in this article about the need for more troops, we are still doing well in Iraq and with the Iraqi Shias and Kurds. Don’t let the defeatists convince the nation that we’ve lost when we are winning. Whether the early elections idea is sound I don’t know. May have to ponder that one.
“Our Apology Not Good Enough” (Posted May 8, 2004)
That’s what some overseas are saying (these are scattered excerpts not continuous quote):
While he (Rumsfeld) has been in charge, murder, torture and humiliation were heaped on Iraqi detainees almost as a matter of course," the Saudi daily Arab News commented.

"Rumsfeld's apology came too late," said Jordanian analyst Hani Hourani.

"For us in Kuwait these (abuses) mean a lot of things, and recall the brutal acts by Saddam Hussein's regime in the same prison, Abu Ghraib, which held many Kuwaiti detainees," he was quoted on Saturday by newspapers as saying.

The Arab News dismissed Rumsfeld's review of the scandal.

"Rumsfeld's suggestion that an independent inquiry be set up into what happened is a waste of time, and Iraqis simply do not have time to waste," it said.

"If he resigns without fuss, perhaps he may begin to redeem himself by making a tiny contribution to the restoration of America's good name in the world."

Underscoring the intense emotions in the Arab world, Egypt's al-Wafd had a picture of a dead Iraqi child with the caption: "The new Mongols massacre the children of Iraq before the eyes of the world."

Of 60,000 respondents to a poll on the Web site of leading Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera, some 87 percent said the United States would be unable to improve its image among Arabs and Muslims.
Ah yes. The outrage is clear.
Let me preface what I’m about to say with the ritual, “The actions of our soldiers and their commanders is unacceptable and must be fully punished. We are better than our enemies and we expect better of our troops.”
Now, this is the apology I’d have liked to hear Secretary Rumsfeld give:
“I would like to apologize to the people of Iraq for the violations of human decency, our policy, and international norms. We will punish the guilty and correct the problem.

“I am also sorry that we allowed Saddam to inflict far worse atrocities on the people of Iraq for the last twelve years. I am sorry that European and Arab governments constrained our forces from marching on Baghdad in 1991. I’m sorry that so many wanted stability more than they wanted your freedom. I am sorry that we went along with our allies.

“I’m sorry that the Arab and Moslem worlds ignored your plight because they feared Iran more than they worried about your freedom. I’m sorry that their public opinion regarded plastic shredders for people, government rapists, mass murder, mass graves, torture, mutilation, theft, and fear as culturally sensitive approaches to dealing with Saddam’s opposition.

“To the people of the Arab and Moslem worlds, I would also like to offer my apologies. I’m sorry that you cannot have some perspective and see that improving Iraqi prisons from Saddam standards to LAPD standards is such a tremendous improvement by your standards that you should be applauding us. I’m sorry that you don’t appreciate that we do not consider even that improvement sufficient and that our society demands we improve that and punish those for failing to meet our own standards.

“I am sorry that your governments imprison and torture you [from NRO] on a scale that makes our violations look like amateur night. I’m sorry that we have supported those governments friendly to us. I’m sorry that we’ve allowed our enemies to continue to oppress their people. I am sorry that Iraq is the only state we have freed. I am sorry that freedom for all of you will take some time given the long history of oppression in your countries. I am sorry that you blame us for trying to help you and for failing to try to help you.

“And I’m sorry that our rescues and liberation of Afghanis, Iraqis, Kuwaitis, Kosovar Moslems, Bosnian Moslems, and our attempt to feed starving Somali Moslems somehow indicate in your opinion that we are new Mongols out to kill your children. I’m sorry that this record is unable to improve our image in your eyes.

“And I’m really sorry that I can’t get too worked up over your selective outrage.”
But that’s just me.
We are taking these crimes seriously. More seriously than anybody else would if their own troops were involved. The world’s outrage? That I can’t take seriously. Look what failed to outrage them already.
It is nonetheless true that we are held to higher standards by the world and by ourselves. We have our work cut out for us to erase this image. Victory would be a good start. As the President said (and I hope he means it):
"This has been a difficult few weeks," Bush said. "Yet our forces will stay on the offensive, finding and confronting the killers and terrorists who are trying to undermine the progress of democracy in Iraq."
There is little point in complaining about the unfairness of our dilemma. Suck it up and work harder. Show that we may make mistakes but that we correct them in good faith.
And there’s more to come out…
That said, read Austin Bay. He recalls what he wrote not longer after 9-11:
"Every war is complex, chaotic, physically and emotionally debilitating and -- no matter how right the cause -- at some point morally compromised. This war (i.e., The War on Terror) will be no different. America's biggest strategic challenge will be one as old as war itself: maintaining the will to persevere and pursue the task of victory despite understandable fears, gnawing doubts, the occasional coward and inevitable body bags."
We’ve apologized enough. Move on.
No doubts about the objective. No doubts about our ability. No doubts about our will to win.
“Results of Pressure” (Posted May 6, 2004)
Kristof is a little off in this piece about Iran. He says:
Left to its own devices, the Islamic revolution is headed for collapse, and there is a better chance of a strongly pro-American democratic government in Tehran in a decade than in Baghdad. The ayatollahs' best hope is that hard-liners in Washington will continue their inept diplomacy, creating a wave of Iranian nationalism that bolsters the regime — as happened to a lesser degree after President Bush put Iran in the axis of evil.
Basically, Kristof says that we are wildly popular in Iran and that it would be a mistake to put any pressure on the Iranian mullahs since that would play into the hands of the mullah hardliners and rally the people to the government’s side.
Yet wasn’t their inclusion by us on the Axis of Evil supposed to do that? A rather inconvenient fact to note our popularity now was not really dented by being named an enemy of ours. Apparently the people of Iran are nuanced enough to understand we are against their dictatorial government and not the people of Iran. Imagine that.
And our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq would show we are out to squeeze them?
And our pressure over the nuclear issue in contrast to the European appeasement angered the Iranian people, too, huh?
Seems we are quite popular contrary to Kristof’s cause-and-effect argument.
Yes, somehow Iran is immune to foreign pressure. I mean, 3-11 just inspired the Spanish to fight the Islamists harder, right?
And besides, are we really to let the mullahs get nukes by the end of 2005 comfortable in the knowledge that by 2014, the mullahcracy will fall and there will be a pro-American Iran in place?
Might not nukes give the mullahs freedom of action to do what they want?
People under the heel of dictators often need help to overthrow the state apparatus of power that controls them. We need to go after those nutjobs in Tehran and I dare say when we help the people of Iran overthrow the mullahs, the people of Iran will still like us quite a bit. They still like us despite our mutual hatred of the Iranian government, after all.
“Welcome Progress” (Posted May 6, 2004)
Some of the opposition is calling on Rumsfeld to be fired or to resign:
[Senator] Harkin, a critic of the administration's foreign policy, said in his statement that "the secretary must be held accountable" for abuses in military prisons. "The United States Constitution assures civilian control over the military. The blame cannot and should not remain solely with low-level soldiers," he said.
While I disagree on the particulars of firing Rumsfeld (the opposition has been gunning for him since before 9-11), I am comforted that there is new recognition that abuses by subordinates should be traced to higher levels of command. If Rumsfeld, whose military was actually investigating crimes committed contrary to orders, should be fired, how much more insistent might advocates of firing be if somebody actually ordered torture, murder, mutilations, rapes and other sundry crimes on a mass scale for a couple decades as a matter of policy to impose his will on the majority?
I’d say they’d be pretty miffed and demand action. Right?
Oh, no. Wait. Such a man would provide “stability.”
Nuance is so tough to grasp.
“Green Light” (Posted May 5, 2004)
I’ve called for patience in dealing with Sadr until we could work something out without angering the Shias. This might be the result.
The Shia clerics gave us the green light to do something about Sadr’s Mahdi Army:
Representatives of Iraq's most influential Shiite leaders met here on Tuesday and demanded that Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric, withdraw militia units from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, stop turning the mosques there into weapons arsenals and return power to Iraqi police and civil defense units that operate under American control.
Part of the meeting said we should not enter Karbala or Najaf, however.
And there is this news. US forces moved on Sadr forces in Karbala and Diwaniya:
The coordinated attacks here [Karbala] and in Diwaniya began hours after powerful Shiite politicians and religious leaders met in Baghdad to urge Mr. Sadr to withdraw his militia from the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Now that the occupation forces have restored a veneer of calm to the volatile city of Falluja, they are upping the military and political pressure on the 31-year-old cleric. In early April, Mr. Sadr ignited a Shiite uprising throughout central and southern Iraq as marines were invading Falluja to root out a mostly Sunni Muslim insurgency there.
Interestingly, I assumed we were trying to calm the situation in the Shia areas in order to storm Fallujah and crush the Baathists there. Instead, we’re using the calm in Fallujah plus visible cleric support, to go after Sadr’s forces. Not like the Marine assault, however; but the amateurs of the Mahdi Army don’t need the same treatment. Still, the clerics did say we should avoid Karbala so I wonder what this operation means.
One good effect this Sadr/Fallujah sequence has had may be to undermine the possibility of cooperation between hostile Sunnis and Shias against us. The Sadr people and Fallujah insurgents tried to spark a nationwide revolt. Instead, although the Fallujah people got some sympathy, there was no Shia revolt in support of either Sadr or Fallujah. Now, with an agreement in place in Fallujah, the Baathists and Islamists there aren’t in position to come to Sadr’s rescue—or pretend to anyway. Shias didn’t help Sunnis and now Sunnis won’t help Shias.
Score one for the good guys, I’d say.
"New Amphibious Approach" (Posted May 5, 2004)
Strategypage notes:
The U.S. Navy is applying it’s “Sea Swap” program to its twelve amphibious task forces (or “expeditionary strike groups” in navyspeak). This will allow four of the task forces to be disbanded. That means the older ships would be retired, leaving the eight remaining task forces with the most modern ships and equipment. The money saved would allow the navy to buy more pre-positioning ships. These large civilian type transport ships hold the equipment for marine brigades, and allows a combat ready marine brigade to be put on the ground quickly once the troops are flown in to man the equipment that was stored at a local anchorage. The Sea Swap program keeps the ships out at sea longer (usually at least 18 months, versus the traditional six) and simply swaps the sailors and marines every six months by flying replacements in, and the returning personnel back to the United States. This saves the ships weeks of movement to their overseas stations every six months. A new class of larger pre-positioning ships would have smaller craft that could move vehicles and equipment from ship to shore, for those cases where there is no port available for the ships to dock. Pre-positioning ships are Ro-Ro (Roll On-Roll Off), which means they are designed to allow the vehicles to just drive off onto a dock and into action.
This seems to be moving toward a concept I wrote about for Joint Force Quarterly in 2000 (see here for background material, some supporting visuals, and a link to the article). I advocated sailing Navy surface warships with an amphibious ready group carrying a Marine Expeditionary Unit (a reinforced battalion) plus pre-positioning ships that would carry the balance of a Marine brigade's equipment and supplies to meet initial demands. I called it a Marine Expeditionary Battle Force (that term was basically edited out. A couple times now I've had graphics stripped out of articles that carried vital information. I've learned my lesson).
The Navy as already created amphibious/warship combinations with Expeditionary Strike Groups. Now it will create units of ships to carry equipment sets to rapidly expand the MEU landed. I will wait with interest to see how those pre-positioning ships are deployed. Will they sail with the ESG as I called for or kept separate?
The Sea Swap is an angle I didn't see.
The power of our Navy and Air Force that we've demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq reinforce my confidence that a brigade-sized force with some mobility and armor could wield immense firepower and hold off a large enemy force until heavy Army units can arrive.
"What to Do" (Posted May 4, 2004)
We need to focus on how to win in Iraq from today forward.
We’ve made mistakes in the post-war stabilization mission. Some of the mistakes aren't the ones that critics have forecast or raised since before the war. I won't go over them again, but critics of the war effort really should explain how before the war we were supposed to sift the concerns that proved false with the concerns that panned out.
And I may get frustrated with some of the complaints made by the anti-war side. I may question whether some are complaining to solve problems or just to make sure their side wins in November. But since we are a society that retools itself after analyzing problems, in the end our effort will be stronger. To those who would like criticism silenced, we have only to point to the Soviet Union's Afghanistan debacle. There, the Red Army was able to fight without criticism of its methods. So they applied the wrong methods for a decade and in the end retreated. There is certainly a chance of panicky decisions being made by our side in this war based on silly criticisms, but knowing the critics are out there keeps our people on their toes.
It is crucial to remember that war is not a game that can be waged error free. Both sides in a war will make errors. The key is exploiting the enemy's errors more effectively than the enemy exploits yours. Learning to cope with the enemy's strengths and your own weaknesses and learning to exploit your enemy's weaknesses and find new weaknesses will move your side to victory. Our military is so strong that we forget that Panama 1989, Kuwait 1991, Kosovo 1999, and Iraq 2003 are atypical wars that inexorably rushed to victory without the enemy seriously challenging us. How many disasters did we suffer in World War II yet still press on to victory? Pearl Harbor. The loss of the Philippines. Hard struggles around the Solomons, Tarawa, Vichy French firing on our allies when they were supposed to defect, Kasserine Pass, Salerno, stalemate at the Volturno River and the destruction of the abbey at Monte Casino, the Bari disaster (involving mustard gas), Anzio, the nearly 800 dead in a D-Day training maneuver, the Bocage, failure to close the Fallaise Gap, Operation Market-Garden, the Kamikazes off Japan, the surrender of two whole regiments in the opening of the Battle of the Bulge, the V-2s smashing London. Never mind that our plans for post-war Germany had to be scrapped in the face of Soviet hostility, or that we had to suddenly accommodate the French in setting up occupation zones, or that we ended up rearming the Germans.  Mistakes and tragedies all, yet in the end our troops marched into Tokyo, Berlin, and Rome as victors in the wars and created new allies.
So rather than endlessly debate the post-war thus far (and God help me, continue to debate the question of whether to invade or not), what should we do from this point forward?
We stand with Al Anbar province in revolt with the al Qaim-Ramadi-Fallujah corridor the site of the most determined resistance. Powerful gangs that used to be the subcontractors for Saddam's regime, Baathist soldiers and intelligence operatives, and Islamists seem to dominate the resistance. Syria appears to be aiding our enemies. All of the new Iraqi security battalions (army and ICDC) failed to fight with us. Despite this, Ramadi was calmed down and the Syrian border has a stronger contingent patrolling it (4 battalions, I think). And Fallujah was assaulted, killing a large number of the enemy and now we have an Iraqi force that the locals agree will patrol with the Marines. We've endured the surge and seem to have stabilized the situation. I remain unconvinced that failing to roll through Fallujah was a wise move.
North of Baghdad in the former Baaathist stronghold, there is no uprising to match the Fallujah revolt. Some of the Iraqi security forces failed to show up while others remained loyal. While activity isn't that high, it seems like the enemy has at least learned to fire mortars more effectively. It is not a crisis point, however.
The Kurdish area remains solid with few Americans required to help stabilize the area.
South of Baghdad, Sadr's goons have been contained and partially rolled back. The Iranians appear to be supporting Sadr and other Shia extremists We've squeezed them in Najaf and watch them in Karbala. The Shias have not responded to Sadr's appeal to revolt and the local Iraqi battalions remained loyal except for a couple exceptions. The friendly Shias have not stepped forward to deal with Sadr. Inside Najaf, somebody's sniper (Coalition special forces?) has picked off some of Sadr's thugs and the Mahdi Army is busy alienating the locals. Still, there is an element of Shia loyalty that does not want America to deal with Sadr. Nor is there eagerness for an American assault to end the standoff. It could go either way, but time appears to be on our side.
Further south, the Shia areas remain pretty calm with British and allied troops providing the backbone. Iraqi security force stood fast. An attempt at a seaborne attack in the Gulf on Iraqi oil exports was foiled.
Overall, reconstruction in Iraq is progressing with problems most evident in al Anbar province. Violence and the images of prisoner abuse have made Iraqis restless for visible progress and for a reduction in the American presence. Most appear to realize that a sudden withdrawal will lead to more violence and not less. Allies we've had are mostly sticking with us. We are not able to get additional allies to work with us. The UN is getting more involved but the impact of this on getting allies or comforting the Shias is unclear. American casualties are too high. Our kill ratio is impressive but not totally irrelevant. It is relevant in that we were able to turn back the enemy surge and kill the enemy in large numbers. But kill ratios are never a metric of political success. American support for the fight appears to be wavering. Many Americans seem to think that the situation is worse than it is; and believe that the images of angry Iraqis reflect most Iraqis. Thinking Iraqis are ungrateful for the overthrow of Saddam is leading some Americans to get a "screw them all" attitude.
So what do we do from this point on?
Reconstructing Iraq and getting Iraqi governing and security organizations up and running is job one. Bolstering the home front's resolve is the second task. Getting the word out to local Iraqis that we are rebuilding Iraq and leaving them in charge is job three. Getting the word out to the wider Arab and Islamic worlds that we are winning is job four. Getting allies to help more is job five. It should be noted that militarily beating the Iraqi insurgents is not one of our jobs. We need to keep the insurgents at bay, of course. Certainly, beating them would help immensely but beating them could get in the way of the real jobs. The insurgents must be beaten in the end, but Iraqis must beat them for this to work.
Reconstruction will get the Iraqis busy in work, governance, and security. The money Congress appropriated will help when it finally gets through the pipeline and into Iraq. Allies should be encouraged to invest and provide aid. And the oil sector needs to expand. Ideally, the non-oil sector economy should be encouraged. Children must be back in school with a sounder curriculum free of Saddam’s influence and colleges must be opened and kept from becoming bastions of Baathism or Islamism. Electricity, water, garbage disposal, and other services must be visible. Local councils need to exercise authority to make their communities work. And the national government must be put back together as a de-Baathified organization. Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds must share the work, responsibilities, and benefits of citizenship. Rule of law must be enforced and the Iraqis guided to free elections in 2005. I’d have local councils elect some of their own members up to an expanded Governing Council to create an interim proto-parliament. The judiciary needs to get on with trying Baathists for crimes against the people of Iraq. Saddam is the ultimate criminal and he must be tried and shot in that order. Security forces must be bolstered and trained so that the next time there is a crisis, 40% won’t sit out the fight and 10% won’t defect. The police need to be professionalized. They used to be glorified security guards untrusted by the people. That must change, too. The borders must be secured and the arms depots guarded or destroyed. To help maintain security, we plan on keeping our troop strength at 135,000 through the end of 2005. Although 10,000 more troops will be sent it may be that they will replace units leaving rather than upping our strength to 145,000. I don’t think we need them. Heck, I think we will be able to reduce our troop strength down in a year or so. I bet we’re just being extra cautious. We should try to step back where possible to become a reserve force to help Iraqi security units that get in trouble. Iraqi units must be first responders.
Back home, the administration has to hammer home the good things going on and hammer home the reasons why winning is important. The blogosphere has carried this load for a long time giving voice to what in the past would have been called a silent majority. But this is not enough. Ignore the press since they will always focus on bad news. Complaining about the press is a waste of time better spent showing success. Ultimately, we must operate under scrutiny and if the government highlights the good, it will also work hard to change tactics when the bad comes out. After all, without the press highlighting the bad, the bad might continue uncorrected. We can only wage war if the people back home are supportive. The troops must know they risk death protecting us. If they think they are just being hung out to dry or are fighting for no good reason, morale will sink and effectiveness will erode. Every day somebody in the administration should be out front showing the good we are doing. Lower ranking people should be flooding local TV and radio. Show the public that progress is visible and that we will eventually reach a point called victory when a friendly Iraqi government takes control. Stop assuming that things will work out and that the public will then support the war in victory. Fight for victory now.
Letting the Iraqis know they will be sovereign is key. The coalition needs to be out there letting the Iraqis know what we are doing to move Iraq to rejoining the family of nations as a free and prosperous democracy. And Iraqis need to step up more to let their fellow Iraqis know what they as Iraqis are doing and what they expect to be doing in the future. Iraqis need to be reassured. The Shias especially need to have their hand held. They’ve been screwed for so long that conspiracy theories are easy to believe. Counter them always and everywhere. Show what we are doing. Be proud of it. The Shias will draw comfort, and the Kurds will feel secure that they will be safe in an Iraq that follows just laws applied fairly. The Sunnis may finally get with the program when they see that they can compete in a democracy and that losing isn’t a death sentence—as it was under the Baathists’ tender mercies. Highlight the exploits of Iraqi security forces and show our troops as reliable partners.
Show the wider world of Arabs and Moslems that we are winning. Show our power. The strong horse is America should be the message. Show us moving Iraq to freedom and independence. Show Iraqis exercising authority in a responsible manner. Get our officials on to the Arab satellite programs and honestly tell our story. Show mistakes publicly and show our side correcting them. We may want to consider having the Red Cross issue a report on the prison abuses. As we punish the guilty, it would be useful to have a third party confirm that we have uprooted the abuses. And place this incident in context. Remind the world of past Baathist crimes against Iraqis and against our troops. Remind people we are better and demonstrate that truth. Our Arab-language station is gaining viewership far in excess of expectations. This is good.
And we could use more allies. That has always been true and we have consistently tried. If giving the UN some minor role can get us a resolution that brings in allies—even the French—we should do it. We don’t want allies to tie our hands but if we can get allies more involved we give them a stake in success, too. But since few of our allies will want to help in the Sunni triangle, don’t give up too much to get help. We hardly need to give away the store just to get allies to take over quiet sectors. Real concessions can be made when allies with high quality troops take over some sectors in the tough areas. Or guard the borders with Syria. I still think our money should go to our firms and to countries who have been with us already. The French and Russians got enough money via Oil for Food, after all. Our allies such as the Germans, French, and Belgians can spend their own money on their own companies and even compete for contracts with the Iraqi government as they decide on how to use national income. Just remember we want allies to help us win. We shouldn’t let getting allies hamper us in achieving victory.
Our military forces should keep the insurgents at bay with minimum firepower so as not to interfere with reconstructing the Iraqi economy, government, and military. We can’t destroy infrastructure in our haste to kill the enemy. We can’t stress out a new Iraqi government by having high profile battles in which their constituents get killed. We can’t be too strenuous in fighting so that the Iraqis won’t sit back and let us fight for them. This isn’t being casualty averse. This is making sure the Iraqis carry the burden. Remember, we don’t get points for having a brutally efficient kill ratio. With June 30 approaching, we’ve lost our ability to really go after the enemy, anyway. Fallujah may have been our last real chance to smash up the enemy prior to turnover of sovereignty. We should have smashed up this area long ago, but as I said, it’s too late for what might have beens. Pull back troops where we can to act as a reserve where we can. And start pulling troops out of Iraq when we can. We can’t in many areas, of course, since Iraqi security forces are not yet up to the task. But in time the Iraqis will be better prepared and we can start to pull back troops into the background. Some troops could even pull back to Jordan, Turkey, and Kuwait as an interim step where they’ll be out of the line of fire yet close enough to be airlifted in to reinforce.
We need to support a new Iraqi government in everything we do. Even if it isn’t as efficient as doing it ourselves.
“Lt. Paul Reickhoff Should Be Ashamed” (Posted May 2, 2004)
I listened to this officer home from Iraq on ABC this morning. He gave the Democratic radio address this weekend apparently.
Stephanopolous was giddy at the chance to talk to an officer and get him to criticize the war effort. Of course, the anti-war side finally finds one junior officer to criticize the government and he gets a national radio slot for the Democrats and time on ABC Sunday morning. I guess Air America won’t be far behind.
The lieutenant thinks he was inappropriately used. He was trained to kill as an infantry officer and when the war ended he was ordered to build schools and reconstruct Iraq.
He is a fool. He has no idea of the history of the military and what it has done. He has no appreciation for the mission he was sent on in Iraq. Once the major combat portion of the war ended, closing with and destroying the enemy ended as a mission. Is he seriously saying that they should have stood around doing nothing? Or gone home? Or assaulted something, calling down artillery and air strikes to destroy … who? Seriously, he must have skipped the lectures on post-conflict stability operations.
He said that he wants America to get out or add more troops? So we should add more troops to attack … who, again? Since he says his stabilization mission was inappropriate, he must want to attack somebody. Oh, closing with and destroying the President is his new mission, I guess.
What a fool. What a tool of the anti-war side. I wasn’t an officer so I don’t know what kind of oath he took, but I know that I was expected to keep quiet about politics.
When I was in the Guard, I kept my mouth shut on politics. I was a soldier under Presidents Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton. I didn’t even join the bitching in private about the latter that frequently broke out.
And this lieutenant went public in the most politically partisan way. He was used inappropriately alright. By the anti-war side, I’d say. Luckily, he spoke out in a self-contradictory way, too. After all, he was trained as an infantry officer—not a attack dog.
This isn’t a manner of free speech. He went beyond letters to editors, writing a critical blog, or talking to friends. Yes, he is back in civilian life, but he is using his rank as his authority to criticize. He put himself in league with a political party in an election year to attack his commander-in-chief.
That lieutenant should be ashamed.
“Appeasing the Islamists” (Posted May 2, 2004)
Some continue to argue that American foreign policy has caused the Islamists to direct justified anger at us. This anger somehow makes 9-11 somehow excusable if you squint your eyes and dim the lights as long as you preface your remarks with “9-11 was wrong… but.”
So what if we reduced our presence in Iraq by 99%? Surely that would go a long way to getting the Islamists to see our presence as benign? Well, no. The Spanish had only 1,300 troops in Iraq—only one percent of our number—so that doesn’t prevent bombings. Indeed, the Islamists aren’t even satisfied with the change of the Spanish government and withdrawal of their troops from Iraq. The Islamists remain upset over Spain’s presence in Afghanistan. Heck, the Islamists are angry that the Spanish continue to occupy Spain!
Well then, what if we converted to Islam? I mean, they want us to be Islamic right? I mean, we can’t guarantee everyone will convert but if almost everyone does, that will be enough, right? We’ll keep our democracy of course. But no, that won’t work either. The Turks tried that and even refused to let us launch an attack out of their territory. They preferred to appease the French to ensure entry into the EU. But no, that neither worked to get into the EU and failed to keep Islamists from bombing the Turks and killing lots of Moslems.
But wait, on top of having most of us Moslem, what if we persecute and kill the few who remain Christian or whatever? That’s got to count for something in the Islamists’ book, right? Darn it, that sounds like Indonesia (and their East Timor crimes) and even they took a hit in a big terror attack.
Well what if we converted to Islam entirely, made discrimination against Christians, Jews, and whoever else the law of the land and generously funded and promoted extremist Islamist ideology? Surely, this is enough. Well darn it all, that describes Saudi Arabia. And they seem to have been hit by terrorists repeatedly.
Ok, forget it. This isn’t working. Let’s just say screw ‘em. Let’s occupy an Arab country, slaughter the locals in an effort to keep them under our heel (Hell, let’s colonize them, too. In for a penny, in for a pound!). If we have to kill 70,000 of the enemy and lose 10,000 of our soldiers, so be it. Let’s invade a sovereign Arab state to control their resources and to prevent them from sending aid to our enemies even though we have no proof and it turns out to be false. Wait, there’s more! Let’s work with the Israelis, too, and have Britain as our only ally! Let’s prop up whatever brutal Arab dictator there exists as long as he funnels money to us. If he wants nuclear know how, sell it to him! And let’s just throw caution to the wind—let’s send our soldiers into the most holy of Moslem mosques to kill a bunch of Moslems who take over the site. The Moslem world will hate us but who cares, we’ll do what we want. Oh, I’m on a roll—let’s fight a losing war in Vietnam, too! Wait, wait. That’s France. They colonized and fought to hold Algeria; invaded Egypt (with the Brits and Israelis); supported Saddam and provided nuclear reactors; and invaded the Grand Mosque in Mecca about 25 years ago along with Jordanian special forces to free it from Islamists who took it over. And the Moslem and Arab worlds love the French.
Dang this is tough. Just how does one curry favor in the Islamic world? How exactly is our foreign policy causing the Islamists to justifiably hate us?
“Sabotage” (Posted May 2, 2004)
We need to turn over governing functions to the Iraqis and guide them to post-Saddam sovereignty. After more than two decades of Saddam’s brutal rule, we must instill rule of law and democracy. Clearly, the Iraqis need some guidance to arrive at a functional society.
So what is the glorious UN’s plan? What has Lakhdar Brahimi proposed?
Why, to destroy all progress in providing experience in governing Iraq under the rule of law.
Consider that the UN plan provides that the Governing Council shall have no role in the interim government. Never mind that this is the only body with national experience. Never mind that polls show it has more support now than early on in its existence. We are supposed to toss the most representative national body ever to hold office in Iraq because the UN says so.
No, the UN plan is to give power to a smaller body of “technocrats.” Read that “Baathists.” Because the only people allowed to gain technical expertise in Saddam’s Iraq were Baathists. This will surely fuel conspiracy theories amongst the Shias who will see the continuance of four centuries of Sunni dominance being engineered by the US. Remember, when the going gets rough, the UN gets going. Will the UN deal with the consequences of betraying or at least appearing to betray the Shias? Will the UN provide perhaps 300,000 troops necessary to subdue a hostile Shia population? The question answers itself.
Then, to add to the UN plan’s failure to guide leaders to responsibly exercise full sovereignty, the UN plan calls for this interim body to just retire in 2005 when elections are held for officials of the new Iraqi government. I suppose that this might be good to get rid of the former Baathists who would hold the interim technocrat positions in the interim government, but shouldn’t we assume some success? Shouldn’t we assume that these guys don’t staff the government with former Baathists while they hold the power? (the UN expects them not to stack the deck—and nobody would undermine the UN’s will, right?) If these technocrats manage to carry out their function without alienating the Shias or stacking the deck against the Shias and Kurds, these guys will be tossed.
So, nearly two years of American guidance will be completely tossed as the newly elected rookie leaders take power.
Or the government will be over-represented by Sunnis and Baathists.
One would almost think the UN is setting us up for failure.
Expand the Governing Council by promoting local council members up to this body to act as a proto-parliament. The local councils were elected and can elect one of their own to move up. And let these people stand for election in 2005 so they have to run on their records. We have to watch them of course to make sure they don’t pass out plum jobs to friends. But we have to let Iraqis gain experience in governing. How will we turn over power to Iraqis if we don’t let good experience develop?
Mission Accomplished?” (Posted May 1, 2004)
On the one-year anniversary of the President’s declaration that our mission was accomplished has led to predictable cries that our mission is not accomplished. Did we accomplish our mission on May 1, 2003?
You bet.
The very conquest of Iraq to overthrow Saddam’s regime was an objective worth fighting for all alone.
This is why I supported the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam’s regime:
The justification for war against Saddam's Iraq rests on three main pillars: his sheer wretched despotism; his record of aggression; and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. And then there are the final multiplying factors. One is based on the idea that the bottom line value of all the above parts is greater than merely their sum. The other is the multiple based on the wealth that Saddam has to carry out his risky schemes. [From Part I]
Part II expands on this case for war.
Based on my reasons how did we do?
Saddam’s despotism is greater than we thought as we find the mass graves and peer into his files cataloging his regime’s crimes.
His record of aggression stands unaffected by the war.
His pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is also clear as the Kay report to Congress and the more recent statements by Kay’s successor, Duelfer, point out. Saddam went to great lengths to hide his programs but they existed in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and would have given Saddam WMD once sanctions were lifted under pressure by the Arab world and led by France and Russia in the Security Council—Saddam’s own coalition of the willing (and funded by Oil for Food).
Before the war, I expected Saddam had a nuclear program that would take years to bring him a bomb. But I was uncomfortably aware that we had grossly underestimated Saddam’s progress toward a nuclear bomb back in 1990.
I figured he had a biological weapons program but since it could be hidden so easily, its status was a great unknown to me. Bio weapons programs could have been early or advanced and I thought we had no way of knowing what it was. My main worry was that we could have underestimated it as we had until the mid-90s when a defector fingered the Saddam regime.
I was most confident about chemical weapons and that was because chemical weapons were the one WMD we know Saddam had. It was also the WMD I worried the least about. Against well-trained troops it is not a large-scale killing weapon. It could be funneled to terrorists but I worried far more about bios or nukes in either Saddam’s hands or terrorists. Still, failure to find chemical weapons since the war do not erase the fact that Saddam had them and used them liberally in the 1980s. If Saddam did not have them in March 2003, that was a temporary gap that Saddam could have ended at any time of his choosing.
Missiles I did not talk about since I assumed he either had missiles or could get them. It turns out that he had missiles of prohibited range and even tried to get North Korean assembly lines for even longer range missiles.
The bottom line is that the threat from Saddam was not imminent as much as it was inevitable if we didn’t overthrow Saddam while we could at an acceptable cost.
And I think much of what we found in Iraq when we invaded proves that Saddam could have fielded chemical weapons very rapidly and produced more in perhaps months. Indeed, I think we will find the chemical weapons we know he once had. Either they are buried somewhere in the vast Sunni areas of al Anbar Province or are in Syria’s custody.
So we indeed accomplished our mission as I saw it by May 1, 2003.
What we are fighting for now is a better Iraq. A free and democratic Iraq that will serve as an example to other people living under despotic regimes. An example that can begin the destruction of the Islamists swamp that feeds those who carried out 9-11 and would do it again on a grander scale. It is a positive goal of creating something better rather than a negative goal of destroying a horrible regime. Had we been content with the smaller goal, we could have installed a friendly strongman to rule but without the torture chambers and without the WMD. But we are thinking bigger than just the narrow Saddam threat.
Yes, the post-war fighting is a struggle that is harder than I expected. I thought the resistance would peter out more rapidly. Indeed, the failure of the Iraqi regime loyalists to mount any type of last ditch defense in Baghdad or Tikrit last year probably lulled me about what they might do when the shock and awe wore off. And one reason is that the bigger goal we fight for has led Iran and Syria to send aid to our enemies. To my amazement we let them get away with this outrage. We should exploit their vulnerabilities to their own internal enemies to keep them too worried about what we will do to them to worry about what they will do to us. (I still think we deal with Iran in one year.) We may yet get our forces down to 75,000 in another year—the figure I anticipated two years out as a garrison force. But maybe not. We need only to get the Iraqis strong enough to fight the insurgents—not wipe them out completely before we pull back to the background.
Yet despite the difficulties we’ve had the past year, the 540 KIA we’ve suffered since we invaded Iraq are not great with some historical perspective. I thought we might lose 500 KIA in the major combat phase if we encountered heavy resistance in the cities and/or endured significant and effective chemical weapons strikes (I anticipated no more than 250 KIA in a straight up shootout). Instead we lost perhaps 115 KIA in the war—an amazingly low amount for what we achieved.
The losses since a year ago hurt. I’ll not pretend otherwise. But we fight for a just goal. And we fight for an objective that will make us safer if we can achieve it. How many casualties is it worth to win this grander struggle? I don’t know. But we know that our enemies can kill 250 Marines in a single day’s suicide attack. We know that we can lose 3,000 in a September morning. We know our enemies aimed for ten times as many. We know they still try to kill us and anyone else who does not share their vision of a 14th century world ruled by Islamist fanatics.
Even if we cannot turn Iraq into a democracy with rule of law, we won an important victory by crushing Saddam’s regime and removing his country from the active enemy column.
But we can win far more in the wider war on terror by converting Iraq into an ally and positive example. For this goal we civilians must match the determination of our soldiers to win. And we can win. We have many advantages in our fight. Our enemies have only one advantage—our tendency to see disaster in minor setbacks and our perceived willingness to cut and run.
I just don’t know if our enemies are right or not in their assessment of us. Only we can beat us.
“Horn of Africa” (Posted May 1, 2004)
I’ve not been shy in predicting offensive action in the Horn of Africa. Air strikes, special forces, and conventional Army and Marine units in company-sized or smaller raids to kill or capture al Qaeda types hiding in the Horn region.
While nothing out of the routine has happened, I have noticed that briefings seem to bring up the Horn more often than in the past. Is this an indication that something will happen soon?
Or has the Iraqi mini-crisis led us to cancel offensive actions in the Horn to minimize casualties overall?
I could easily just be completely wrong. Looking for evidence to bolster what you expect is easy to do. Just a hunch on my part bolstered by thoughts of what I’d do were I king.
“Perception of Victory” (Posted May 1, 2004)
I worried that the dazed survivors of our killing machine in Fallujah would stand up, blink, and start yelling that they won. Well:
Scores of Iraqis gathered in the streets Saturday morning, some flashing "V" for victory signs and raising the Iraqi flag. Motorists drove through the streets, shouting "Islam, it's your day!" and "We redeem Islam with our blood!"

Some were masked with kuffeyahs and raised automatic weapons, members of the insurgency that put up stiff resistance against the Marines. Some guerrillas drove through the city, honking horns and waving their guns out the windows.
I concede that this local perception of victory may not last if the Marine plan of putting an Iraqi unit (the previously unknown Fallujah Brigade) into Fallujah to sift it for weapons and insurgents works. I’ve always preferred Iraqis doing this type of work. Perhaps by the end there were more local criminals than Baathists and Islamists still fighting and so the locals want us to sift out the Baathists and Islamists who survived our assault while the local boys/criminals go home. We could have bribed the gangs, I guess.
The Marines think this will work, apparently. We’ll see.
“Well This isn’t Working the Way We Planned, Dear Leader” (Posted May 1, 2004)
The North Koreans have been bankrupting and starving their countrymen in order to build nuclear missiles in order to blackmail the US and our allies into paying them money. One wonders why they didn’t just plow all that money used for nukes and missiles into the projects they want us to fund out of fear of their nukes, but they didn’t so never mind.
Anyway, just as the North Koreans get some nukes and missiles and perhaps have a means of mounting the former on the latter, we go and do this:
The U.S. 8th Army's new 35th Air Defense Brigade, located at Fort Bliss, Texas, and equipped with Patriot Advanced Capability 2 and 3 systems, will be deployed to South Korea, the U.S. and South Korean Combined Forces Command in Seoul said in a news release.

The PAC 2 and 3 missile systems are designed to intercept and destroy incoming ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and enemy aircraft. There are already several batteries fielded in South Korea.
After seeing the ability of our missiles to shoot down other missiles, the North Koreans are now faced with the fact that their gambit has failed. Their missiles are not unstoppable as they assumed.
So what do they do now?
Starve and collapse, I hope. We just took away their light at the end of the tunnel.
“Needed Justice” (Posted May 1, 2004)
Iraqis should be starting investigations and trials against the Baathists for their crimes:
AFTER WAITING FOR MORE than three decades, Iraqis brutalized by Saddam Hussein and his regime will begin to see justice "in the next few weeks," according to Salem Chalabi, the director-general of the tribunal system established to try regime criminals. The court proceedings themselves are not likely to start until early next year, Chalabi says, but the investigations will be transparent and some of the interrogations will be shown on television.
"Under the civil law system, individual judges question defendants before their trial," says Chalabi, nephew of the head of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi. "You can begin to show the atrocities. You can begin to show the shit that the old regime did and you'll see this in the next few weeks. We'll have meetings with the defendants and we'll show them on TV."
The current plan is to try low and mid-level Baathist functionaries first and work up to senior regime figures and Saddam Hussein. "It's easier to try people who are lower-ranking because it's easier to try someone for one crime than twenty," says Chalabi. Once investigative judges have established that crimes have been committed by specific individuals, they will begin to work their way up the chain of command.
About time. In the midst of polls showing Iraqis are glad we deposed Saddam but showing weariness at the presence of US troops who must fight those who killed and tortured freely before we invaded, it will be good to remind people who we fight in Iraq. Memories of Saddam’s evil are fading already.
Plus, it will help to get Iraqis prosecuting Baathists to get them engaged on our side. As I’ve written, we can’t have the great majority of Iraqis neutral as we fight the Baathists and Islamists. Iraqis need to step forward and prosecuting Baathists will help do this.
And finally, even as we take responsibility for the idiots or criminals who abused Iraqi prisoners, it would be nice if we could contrast our isolated, relatively minor crimes with the widespread and lethal crimes of Saddam’s regime. Contrasting that we police our own with Saddam’s promotion of those who killed the most Shias would help too.