Thursday, June 24, 2004

Center of Gravity

The attacks on Iraqi Shias have been a major error on the part of our enemies in Iraq. The Baathists and Sadr's fools targeted our forces in their resistance this last year. Sadr was ineffective in his spring revolt while the Baathists continue to attack our troops, although they rarely try to attack directly at close range to avoid losing heavily in firefights with our more skilled troops. During the Fallujah uprising in April when the Baathists took on our Marines, our casualties mounted even as we killed the enemy in large numbers. Support in the US for the war went down. With our casualties declining again, public support for the Iraq campaign is going up. The Baathists have the right idea focusing on our troops but luckily we are too good to target at the April rate for long—somebody in the enemy ranks has to survive for the next attack, after all. In this force-on-force struggle, we are winning despite the correct enemy focus.

I think the main reason for our success is that the Islamists with their foreign jihadis have screwed things up for the Baathists. That is, if the insurgents (or regime remnants or whatever you want to call them) had been able to target Americans and our allies without other complications, the vast majority of Iraqis might have decided to sit out the war as neutrals and just watch passively to see who will win. Absent a really ruthless American campaign, we would never win if we fought enemies in a sea of apathy that slowly turned against us as the violence continued.

The Islamists screwed up this possible path to Baathist victory. The Zarqawi memo highlighted the idea that the Islamists wanted to target the Shias in order to force the Sunnis to rise up out of fear. Then there would be a nice civil war and the Islamists would have their happy hunting ground of chaos in which to kill Americans. With high enough casualties and really bad press coverage, we might then have pulled out in defeat. Defeating us somewhere—anywhere—is the Islamist goal—not Islamizing Iraq in particular. Remember the reports that al Qaeda was turning their focus on Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan? The fight is the focus. Note, too, that the memo says that the Islamists would have to find another battleground if they cannot win in Iraq. The Islamists may not have had a choice since they don’t number very many. How could they take on the Army and Marines directly? Attacking civilians is a heck of a lot easier.

So by targeting the Shias with increasingly gruesome bombings (and a lot of Sunnis in the latest series of attacks), the Islamists have made the Shias realize they have to fight the insurgents to protect themselves. As the interim Iraqi prime minister stated:

"We are going to defeat them. We are going to crush them," he said at a ceremony marking the transfer of the final 11 government ministries to Iraqi control. "We expect more escalation in the days ahead."

With the Iraqis determined to fight the terrorists, we have but to provide the means and back them up with our troops in a reserve capacity. The will to fight is the most important element and the Zarqawi strategy has given us Iraqi allies with that determination.

This civil war strategy of the Islamists was always going to be a loser for the Baathists. A Sunni-Shia war might have been fine when the Sunnis controlled all the instruments of state power, but in a fight in which the Shias have the numbers and the state, this cannot work. At best, this path could inflame the oil-free Sunni heartland in revolt but this would not gain the entire country back for the Baathists. The Baathists could only win it all back if the Shias joined them against America as a common enemy, as some thought was happening in April at the start of the twin Fallujah and Sadr revolts.

For all the mistakes we have made, our enemy may have made the most critical of them all.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Kill the Dots

I am torn between being disgusted by the 9-11 panel’s report on the al Qaeda-Saddam connection and outraged by the mainstream press’s reporting of it.

The panel’s attention to this was wholly inadequate and dismissive. It drew conclusions where evidence was inconclusive. While they may have lawyered up the language to technically cover their butts, they made it easy to mischaracterize. Truly, for a group so eager to connect dots, they have taken an eraser to a whole lot of dots there to be connected.

Which of course leads us to our press. Their collective ability to portray this report as providing no evidence of a connection and then to parade this as a contradiction of what the administration has said is outrageous. It was of course left to Fox News and the blogs to point out the obvious. Saddam had links to terrorism generally and al Qaeda in particular long before 9-11. That said, nobody in the administration ever argued that Saddam had a hand in the actual 9-11 attacks, notwithstanding Saddam being the only actor other than the Palestinians who cheered the attacks. The press and their anti-war compatriots have gotten into another plastic turkey argument with itself, proudly taking apart an argument that the pro-Iraq War side never made. I sometimes despair that the opposing sides can even agree on the basic question over which we can argue.

Let me repeat, Saddam had longstanding ties to terrorists including al Qaeda, sponsored terrorism, carried out terrorism, and cheered on terrorism. The press likes to pretend that this is a new argument invented by the Bush administration to trump up reasons for war, forgetting their own reports in the 90s about such connections and the Clinton administration’s claims of such connections.

After 9-11, when terrorists were dramatically shown to be able and willing to kill us in the thousands, it became imperative to destroy any regimes that show hostility toward us and which might harbor terrorists or provide these terrorists with weapons of mass destruction to kill even more. Evidence of links made the possibility of such a WMD transfer too frightening to ignore. That Saddam was willing to attack us should not be in question. The plot to kill Bush 41, the constant attacks on no-fly zone patrols, and now the report that Putin warned us that Saddam was planning attacks on us after 9-11. (As an aside, this amused me: “Putin said opponents who criticize Bush on Iraq ‘don't have any kind of moral right. ... They conducted exactly the same kind of policy in Yugoslavia.’”)

Preventing these rogue states, including Iraq, from acquiring nuclear weapons also became clearly necessary. Not only to prevent them from using them against us or our allies, but to prevent them from using nuclear weapons as a shield to carry out terrorism and conventional military aggression against our friends or interests.

But back to the connection. The mainstream press and those opposed to the war seem to be demanding a signed alliance document embossed with Saddam’s personal seal and containing actual DNA evidence that bin Laden licked his personal stamp before placing it on the paper. We would have been fools to insist on some nebulous command and control connection where terrorists salute and carry out the bidding of Baathist overlords like some Bond plot to justify taking action. Given the bias of the press, their insistence on “significant” links is a standard that they will always move forward to conform to their bias that any level of linkage was insufficient to act. Let’s review the connections. I won’t try to summarize them.

And there is more to learn about the dots and connections here. As the article notes:

Yet nearly all of the media coverage has focused on what the 9/11 panel claims it didn't find--namely, smoking-gun proof that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were working together. The country has traveled a long way psychologically from the trauma of September 11 if we are now focusing on the threats that allegedly don't exist instead of those that certainly do.

And I would be remiss not to note the 1998 indictment by the Clinton administration that highlighted the connection:

According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah with the goal of working together against their common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.

"In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said.

This isn’t enough cooperation? My God, I’d be ecstatic if our so-called formal allies such as France and Belgium agreed to not work against us!

And please note the Iran and Hizballah connection. This may become important to remember in the next year.

And one last bit of information for those who insist on blaming the Bush administration for not connecting dots before 9-11; and for those who like to pretend that the unilateral Bush administration caused the 9-11 attack: the planning may have begun in mid-1996. (The panel report discusses this, too.) I’d love to hear administration critics discuss the state of the dots in the last half of the 1990s.

We indeed have traveled a long way since 9-11. Too many people are back to 9-10. They hate us, people. All of us. Not just the current administration. Not just the Red State citizens. Owning a bongo and tie-dyed shirts won’t save you. Nor will spouting sympathy for their cause. We’re all targets and they’ll dance over our graves if we let them.

Stop debating to the point of paralysis over what dots should have been connected and what dots existed. The dots keep killing us in the most gruesome manner they can come up with. Just kill the freaking dots! We are at war and we must win.

[NOTE: This was originally at the old site here. I did not try to add the links which are likely all dead, anyway. But you could identify them if you like at the original post.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

June 2004 Posts

One day I hope to finish moving posts from my original site here. But I stalled out after copying and pasting 7 months of posts in February 2003, after a dozen posts that month. So as a stopgap, let me post to the undead archives of the gap months.

Here are the June 2004 posts.