Friday, December 31, 2004
The Guard will have its brigades reorganized as the active brigade combat teams and will lose their divisions.
In World War I and II, National Guard divisions were mobilized to fight as divisions. Same in Korea. None were activated for Vietnam service and in the Persian Gulf War, only brigades were activated but none were certified as combat ready before the ceasefire. A division headquarters was activated for Balkan service this decade and in the Iraq War, enhanced brigades were mobilized but broken down and used as separate battalions. I think 5 brigades were used this way. Since the major combat operations, brigades have been mobilized and sent as brigades to operate in the counter-insurgency. Still, no divisions have been activated to operate as divisions.
So what does this mean for the future? I think it means that for rapid response, our two-line battalion brigade combat teams will accept a National Guard battalion to give it a triangular structure when there is enough time. And for a longer war or with longer warning to train them up, National Guard brigades will be activated to operate under active divisions.
I wonder how many brigades we expect our divisions to be able to command? So far it looks like they handle 5 brigades maximum for Iraq. For high intensity operations is this realistic? Will technology and experience allow for more brigades even in high intensity operations?
And what about China? Perhaps the Army accepts that any war with China outside of peripheral fronts like Korea, Taiwan, and mabye Vietnam will require building completely new units on the order of World War II if we intend to take the war to the mainland so there is little point keeping units in reserve to fight such a large war. It looks like the near future will only hold major theater wars and fights that require a rotation base like Iraq and Afghanistan today.
I look forward to seeing how the Guard is to be used in war.
Officials said the Diego Garcia Navy Support Facility, which houses about 1,700 military personnel and 1,500 civilian contractors, suffered no damage related to Sunday’s earthquake and ensuing tsunamis.
I am relieved.
UPDATE: So I go over to the Corner and see that they beat me to the punch on the base status by several hours.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
If we're serious about liberating Iran — and that's a big "if" because regime change is not official Bush policy — we'll need to rethink the current sanctions regime, which hasn't done anything to dislodge the mullahocracy. The Committee on the Present Danger, a hawkish advocacy group, suggests keeping some sanctions while reestablishing diplomatic ties and lowering barriers for cultural exchanges. The resulting access could be used to help the forces of freedom in Iran.
I think establishing democracy through peaceful involvement in Iran is a lovely thought. There are three problems with this strategy:
1. The Iranians are within months possibly of getting nuclear weapons.
2. Aiding democracy in Iran could take years longer than it would take Iran to go nuclear.
3. We kind of count on the mullahs to refrain from sending in the tanks against reformers.
I think that we have no chance in the world of implementing this strategy. We do need to overthrow the mullahs to prevent a psycho regime from owning nukes but we just don't have the time to implement this no-mess solution. We would need to risk a nuclear-armed mullah regime for years while hoping that the regime would not use their nukes while democracy advocates undermined and in time overthrew the regime. And as I noted, we count on the mullahs not massacring the first really large demonstration to snuff out the resistance with harsh repression and murder.
An Iranian Orange Revolution is a nice thought, but I just don't think that we can expect that much good fortune in solving our Iran problem.
As I've said before, I assume we are working with people inside Iran to overthrow the regime and to use our power to support them when they move. Iran is on the Axis of Evil list for a reason and they've done nothing to get off the list.
Are we really ready to tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran? I shudder to think that is so.
I replied that the Army would go to war with what it was told it could take and not with what it wanted. In the afterglow of the Persian Gulf War, I worried that we assumed cheap victory was our birthright.
On the second point, I noted that exiting is not always an option.
I had noted in my paper:
We must not underestimate our potential foes as the Iraqis did in 1980. They will be clever just as we are. they will believe in the cause for which they are fighting. And they, too, will fight to win. We cannot assume that the sight of an American soldier will panic our enemy and induce retreat and surrender in the same manner that Iraq thought the Iranians would collapse when confronted with Iraq's overwhelming invasion force. That Iran fought even when the experts said they should give up is a lesson that must not be overlooked. We will need to fight, bleed and struggle for victory. To assume that any lesser effort will suffcie is courting disaster in our hubris. Not far in the background, coexisting with our confidence in the quality of our military machine, is a contradictory fear of failure. Not wanting to repeat our experience in Vietnam, many speak of needing an "exit strategy" before committing troops. Such an approach seeks to minimize our losses under the assumption that we will at some point lose, so we had better know when to cut our losses and get out. It also assumes that the situation allows for an exit and that our enemy will allow it. The Iraqis desperately wante out of the war they initiated in 1980 but were locked in by Iran in a death grip that allowed for no easy exit. While planning for a tough, resilient enemy is prudent, we must never become paralyzed by concentrating on how that enemy can hurt us. We need to keep our focus on achieving victory.
On the surface, you might say that I could assert asounding predictive powers and claim I predicted an Iraq insurgency that we cannot escape without adding lots of troops to overwhelm the enemy and win.
That would be both conceited and wrong and I'd hate to go two for two.
First of all, I was talking about conventional warfare. So talk of difficulties that would arise from insufficient numbers was not looking ahead to 2004 and a still-fighting insurgency. We did smash the Iraqi military in short order in 2003 so we clearly had the numbers necessary to overwhelm our enemy. The Army (and Marines) may have gone to war with what what the government said could be taken but what we took worked quite well. An insurgency--even a narrowly based Baathist one--is defeated by persistence and not with overwhelming force.
What I did get right that applies to the current insurgency is the idea that victory is optional and that we can go home if it gets too tough. If the jihadis think that we ran from them, they will follow us home. And this is not to say that we created our Islamist enemies--they happily trianed in Afghanistan, followed us home to kill us here, and otherwise were happy to go on jihad in those happy pre-Bush days before we "provoked" our enemies by fighting back.
So we have to win in Iraq. But can the Iran-Iraq War teach us something? Doesn't that experience tell us that we should dramatically increase our ground strength in Iraq?
No, it does not. I remain convinced that we have the numbers to fight this war. My original methodology still holds true (see here and here), I believe, even with more current numbers. Indeed, I think our real theater is more limited than I assumed. The Kurd and Shia areas don't need as many troops as I assumed so we can concentrate more troops in the Sunni areas. And with more emphasis on training Iraqis, we probably don't need to discount the value of Iraqi forces in counter-insurgency work nearly as much. The enemy has money and weapons to resist and these factors are the stumbling blocks to snuffing the insurgency out.
But doesn't the fact that Iraq invaded Iran in 1980 with five divisions and nearly eight years later needed an army of a million men to win teach us to expand the Army now and pump troops into the Sunni Triangle?
Again, no. Whether Iraq had 250,000 troops or 1 million, the Iraqis held the line against the Iranian offensives. But those troops for the most part just sat there and took it in the face of repeated human wave assaults. When the Iraqis went on the offensive in 1988, it was not with the expanded army--which was suitable for static defensive warfare only--but the expanded Republican Guard force that went from a brigade in 1980 to a half dozen divisions and which was trained for mobile warfare. It was a change of attitude that was key.
To those who want to fortify and armor everything and everybody, Cordesman put it well:
These instincts, however, are wrong. The United States can win in Iraq only through offensive action. It cannot afford to make every American base a fortress, or to disperse scarce manpower and other military resources in force-protection missions. United States forces have to be mobile and able to redeploy where the threat is - even though such redeployments often mean moving forces to vulnerable areas. If the Pentagon concentrates on protecting troops in the short run, the war will last longer and total casualties will be greater. Worse, the United States will simply never win.
We could quadruple our army in Iraq and build mess bunkers and armor all our vehicles and buildings and still face steady casualties. Just adding troops to the theater will not help us go after the enemy.
Using what we have effectively is more important in the short run and we seem to be buying the time our military effort can purchase to build a new Iraq. This latter part is most important in the long run. When even the French could get tired of us after we freed them in 1944, expelling NATO and US forces from France 2 decades later, we can't expect the Iraqis to remain purely grateful for long. Iraqis must take over the fight and the siren song of adding troops to our force in Iraq will just let the Iraqis sit on the fence and watch us fight the Baathists and jihadis. In time, they will be angry that we fight at all. While the Shias seem content enough to support the war--including our blitz on Fallujah in November--back in April they were mad that we attacked Fallujah. That anger could return.
We don't need more US troops in the coalition force. The troops we have need to be better trained (in the case of the Iraqi forces) and used aggressively. While more troops are needed, they must be free Iraqi forces to replace our troops who can pull back into remote bases to deter foreign enemies while the free Iraqi military fights the insurgents.
We have to win the war we are in--not the war we wish to be in. While the Army can certainly use more combat units to aid rotations, we don't need more U.S. troops in Iraq to win. We need to resoutely press forward with our strategy of turning over the fight to the free Iraqis.
But some have to complain about us. Listen to Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations in the Washington Post article cited:
Gelb said what appears to be a grudging increase in effort sends the wrong message, at a time when dollar totals matter less than a clear statement about U.S. intentions. Noting that the disaster occurred at a time when large numbers of people in many nations -- especially Muslim ones such as Indonesia -- object to U.S. policies in Iraq, he said Bush was missing an opportunity to demonstrate American benevolence.
"People do watch and see what we do," he said. "Here's an opportunity to remind people of the good we do, and he [Bush] can do it without changing his policy on Iraq or terrorism."
What a complete crock. Gelb sees a tragedy and it inspires him as an opportunity to slam the administration. Just how compassionate is Gelb when his reaction is to complain that we are losing an opportunity to improve our image?
If our image isn't any better now after all we've done over the decades, this tragedy isn't going to do it. But we will respond and help anyway. But what of his complaint anyway? Would we get good press with a lip-biting, misty-eyed public statement?
In August 23, 2002 I posted "Are We Chumps or What?" and wrote an off the cuff list of our aid to the Moslem world over the years:
- Keeping the Soviets from occupying Iran (1947?)
- Keeping the Soviets at bay against Turkey (1947?)
- Rescuing Egypt from the French, British, and Israelis (1956)
- Sending an aircraft carrier to help Pakistan survive yet another warwith India (1971)
- Imposing a ceasefire in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War before the Israelis captured Egypt's 3rd Army and marched on Cairo (1973)
- Rescuing the PLO from Israel (and losing 250 Marines in a suicidebombing)(1983?)
- Rescuing Iraq from the Ayatollah Khomeini (1980s)
- Keeping the Iranians from sinking Kuwait's oil tankers (1987-88)
- Rescuing the Saudis from a threatened Iraqi invasion (1990)
- Rescuing Kuwaitis from Saddam (1991)
- Rescuing the Kurds from Saddam Hussein (1991)
- Assisting with floods in Bangladesh (1991?)
- Saving countless Somalis from starvation (1992)
- Rescuing Bosnian Moslems (1995)
- Rescuing Kosovo Moslems (1999)
- Rescuing Afghanis from the Taliban/Al Qaeda dictatorship (2001)
- Sending aid to help earthquake victims in Iran (2002)
These are just the things off the top of my head. I'm sure I have some of the years wrong too, but the point is still valid nonetheless. Did we do this out of pure altruism? Of course not. But does that diminish the fact that we helped Moslems? No. If we truly hated Moslems, we would not have carried out these acts. "Let 'em rot!" would have been our excuse to do nothing.
We help the tsunami victims not for good public relations. We help because it is the right thing to do. Could we turn down the politics until the families of the victims bury their dead?
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Indonesia's Health Ministry said in a statement that thousands more bodies were found Tuesday, raising to more than 27,000 the number of confirmed deaths in parts of Sumatra island, the territory closest to the epicenter of the quake that sent tsunami waves rolling across the Indian Ocean. The count did not include a report of 10,000 more dead in the region around one coastal city.
Sri Lanka listed 21,700 people dead, India 4,400 and Thailand 1,500, with the toll expected to rise. A total of more than 300 were killed in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania, Seychelles and Kenya.
Officials had not yet counted the dead in two zones that suffered the brunt of both the earthquake and the tsunami that followed: the west coast of Sumatra and India's remote Andaman and Nicobar archipelagos just north of Sumatra.
Purnomo Sidik, national disaster director at Indonesia's Social Affairs Ministry, said 10,000 people had been reported killed in and around Meulaboh, a poor Sumatran town where most people are fishermen or workers on palm oil plantations. In India, police said 8,000 people were missing and feared dead on
the two island chains.
To lose so many this way seems so primitive. It is a tragedy from history where nature overwhelms people and civilizations. But this is not history. Nor is it civilization ending. As tragic as it is, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand will survive. For many, it will take years to rebuild their lives. For many, the loss of loved ones--and so many children--will ruin their lives. It is truly heart-breaking. The scale of the loss of life staggers me.
As the governments of the countries affected struggle to respond, the US military is swinging into action to help:
The focus of the mission will be to prevent further loss of life and human suffering by expeditiously applying resources to the overall relief effort. The FCE team is comprised mainly of personnel from the III Marine Expeditionary Force. Additional personnel will be deployed from other locations in the Pacific command area of responsibility.
US ships and planes are converging on the area. We help because we can. Because nobody else can even approach our ability to help. And because we care. We aren't stealing anybody's oil and Halliburton isn't getting a sweet contract out of this. We see people in trouble and we are deploying without asking what is in it for us.
Whether we destroy despots or help those suffering in natural disasters, we use our power for good.
This story of complaints at least has a more credible source, a military historian:
"There was no Phase IV plan" for occupying Iraq after the combat phase, writes Maj. Isaiah Wilson III, who served as an official historian of the campaign and later as a war planner in Iraq. While a variety of government offices had considered the possible situations that would follow a U.S. victory, Wilson writes, no one produced an actual document laying out a strategy to consolidate the victory after major combat operations ended.
Yet further down we get to this rebuttal:
Air Force Capt. Chris Karns, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, which as the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East oversaw planning for the war in Iraq, said, "A formal Phase IV plan did exist." He said he could not explain how Wilson came to a different conclusion.
Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who as chief of the Central Command led the war planning in 2002 and 2003, states in his recent memoir, "American Soldier," that throughout the planning for the invasion of Iraq, Phase IV stability operations were discussed. Occupation problems "commanded hours and days of discussion and debate among CENTCOM planners and Washington officials," he adds. At another point, he states, "I was confident in the Phase IV plan."
Has the debate truly come down to whether or not the military had a professionally bound document with powerpoint presentation to go along with it?
We had ideas about what the post-combat Phase IV of the war would look like and how we would deal with it. Some were right. Some were wrong. We are adapting.
To me, rather than harping on how much better we could have planned had we delayed six months or a year (or how long should we give our people to come up with the perfect plan?), I'd rather ask what we gave Saddam by delaying the war for a year after the spring of 2002 after we'd had a chance to rest from the Afghan campaign.
We gave Saddam a year of extra time and I'd rather explore what we'd have faced had we invaded in the spring of 2002, or the fall of 2002:
- Would the fedayeen thugs been imported in such numbers?
- Would Saddam have been able to hide/destroy his WMD and programs?
- Would Saddam have dispersed weapons throughout the country?
- Would the world have been as mobilized against the liberation if they had less time?
- Would Iran and Syria have been more or less inclined to aid the Baathists?
- Would Islamists have had time to work up a pipeline of jihadis to Iraq?
- Would Saddam have been able to arrange for the exit of ill-gotten Iraqi cash to fund the insurgency?
- Would Saddam have planned his own escape?
- Would the Europeans have been a little more sympathetic with 9-11 a more recent memory, as Mark Steyn has noted?
Monday, December 27, 2004
Putin is reaping the seed planted 60 years ago. When Russia was riding high after ejecting the Nazis from the USSR and conquering Eastern Europe, it seemed like a jolly good idea to demand that Ukraine have a UN seat. What fun! The Ukrainians were beaten down from war, Moscow-induced famine, and post-war purges to boot! Like they were even close to pretending to be an independent state! But we all pretended that the Ukraine was a real country with its own seat.
But then came 1989 and the outer empire collapsed. And in 1991, the USSR went down. The Ukrainians, who had the UN seat of a real country, demanded a country. Who could say that somebody with a UN seat was not a real country? So the Ukraine is independent. Russia never liked that and this year tried their old tricks to pull the wayward "independent" Ukraine back into Moscow's orbit.
But Putin was busted and the special forces boys didn't get the chance to finish the job started by the botched poisoning of Yushchenko. And now the Ukraine will move westward, possibly joining other members of the former empire moving into NATO and/or the EU.
Ah, the perils of pretending something is real when it is not. After pretending so long it was tough to deny it was real.
Not that we don't have our own problems with pretend policy. We have long pretended that the UN represented some ideal of the glorious international community of nations that would look to the greater good of all of us. We have pretended this was true for so long that we hardly notice the rampant corruption, the raping of women by UN troops, the infiltration of thug nations into the watchdog groups that protect human rights, the denial that some democracies are real and the assertion that kleptocracies are nations, and the ruthless pursuit of national interests by those that spout international brotherhood the loudest. And some here and many abroad now think that the pretend reality we propped up for so long is real and demand we act as if it is real.
Russia has paid the price for its pretend diplomacy. We are still paying the price for ours.
Robin Wright of the Washington Post calls upon the Bush administration to get its act together and take "bold diplomatic action" in the Middle East. "Bold diplomatic action" isn't exactly an oxymoron -- it's possbile to take such action. Unfortunately, though, in the absence of a prior military victory, bold diplomatic action usually consists of making major and dangerous concessions.
I swear to God, when people study a region for too long, they learn too much. In the end, their idea of boldness and sophistication is to know the locals well enough to identify the guy to surrender to who will be most likely to say thank you. Preferably in perfectly accented French.
Let's try something really bold--victory.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Faced with a chore like digging a ditch, a typical American, [Rumsfeld] said, will grab a shovel and start digging. In Iraq now, however, the task is to step aside and get the Iraqis to dig their own ditches.
He warned against allowing the Iraqis to become too dependent on the U.S. military. More independence is what's needed, he said.
"That's the only way," Rumsfeld said during a meeting with top U.S. commanders in Tikrit, at the northern tip of the so-called Sunni Triangle that had been deposed President Saddam Hussein's bedrock of support. He called it the key to eventually getting the 151,000 U.S. troops out of Iraq.
In that meeting, Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, the senior ground commander in Iraq, made a similar point. He said Maj. Gen. John Batiste, whose 1st Infantry Division essentially rules north-central and northeastern Iraq, and who was sitting in the same meeting, must stop thinking of that as his area of responsibility and instead get local Iraqi commanders to take it as their own.
We can't be sidetracked by the frustration that the enemy has more money and more arms than we anticipated and therefore can continue resisting after their battlefield defeat. We need to track down the money and punish those protecting it, cut off the arms coming in, and root out the corruption in the UN that allowed Saddam and his minions to amass such a treasury.
This must ultimately be an Iraqi fight. They must field troops, develop leaders under fire, and build government institutions at the same time. We can only buy them some time. We can't win the fight for them.
And while I do, soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors are standing on the firing line, making sure my Christmas is merry. It can't really be merry for me, actually. Not while these outstanding Americans (and many who will become Americans) are out risking their lives. I support this war and so their sacrifice weighs on me. Perhaps that is why some rail against the war, calling the freeing of 25 million immoral. Calling the overthrow of a butcher wrong. Perhaps by opposing the war they hope to avoid the guilt of supporting the sending of our nation's best to fight and die. But it can't be that since they also feel no guilt for the lives they would condemn in the future by bugging out and the lives they would not have saved by going to war.
No matter, I cannot speak for them and I cannot understand how they look at this war and see American wrongdoing. I grieve for our dead and wounded while celebrating what our soldiers have accomplished. And I strive to have a merry Christmas. My son, who in his innocent 7 years can only vaguely grasp that our fighting men are out their fighting bad guys, is truly having a merry Christmas. It is that carefree joy that gives me happiness this season. And eternal gratitude for those who miss this Christmas, or future Christmases, or even all Christmases, to give us a Merry Christmas at home.
May our troops have a Merry Christmas and may their families at home have one as well. They have my thanks and my respect. If my thoughts matter at all to them.
Friday, December 24, 2004
The senior official said US anger increased substantially after a prolonged incursion into Fallujah last month, which revealed "how much of the insurgency is now being directed through Syria." The US has not publicly detailed the evidence it has regarding the extent to which attacks are being organized from within Syria. But a report in The Times of London on Thursday suggested not only that Syria is becoming a base for Iraqis to operate, but that Syrian officials are themselves involved.
I've been willing to cut a deal with the Syrians if they'd behave since in the long run I don't think they are much of a threat. They are a minority-based government with a crappy economy and a military deteriorating by the day. But they are helping to kill Americans and free Iraqis inside Iraq and that must be stopped one way or the other. Apparently, Damascus doesn't want to save itself by behaving. So, we've apparently decided that something more than talk is needed:
The US is contemplating incursions into Syrian territory in an attempt to kill or capture Iraqi Ba'athists who, it believes, are directing at least part of the attacks against US targets in Iraq, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post.
I do believe I mentioned that things might need to start blowing up inside Syria to make them see reason.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
- 100,000 troops will be moved from Cold War-type units to units needed now.
- 10,000 troops will be freed up in 2004-05 by moving some functions to civilians. I'd once read that maybe 300,000 could be freed up by this method but as time goes on I doubt my memory on this one. I'm assuming far less until I see otherwise.
- We are going from 33 active Army brigades to 43 and perhaps to 48 after 2007. O'Hanlon calls them smaller than current brigades but when we are going from 3-battalion brigades to a two-battalion brigade (with each battalion having 4 instead of 3 companies) plus a super recon battalion, that looks like more strength to me. Plus, I thought we'd added another separate brigade by beefing up our parachute units to create 173rd AB brigade. Perhaps I'm mistaken here.
- The National Guard is the bigger surprise to me. I'd read that the Guard was losing 2 of its 8 combat divisions, converting those 2 lost into support divisions. I'd read that the Guard was too politically powerful to take away the divisions. But O'Hanlon reports that the Guard will be reorganized into 33 brigades (including 1 Stryker unit) which is down two brigades from the current structure. The divisions are gone. This is fine with me since the divisions are becoming the new corps in essence. We didn't have Guard corps before and Guard divisions were to be plugged into active corps. Now Guard brigades will be added to active divisions.
Victor Davis Hanson has an excellent piece on the failure of his critics (who with few exceptions are just attacking the war by proxy) to appreciate what we have done and what warfare has looked like in the past:
The blame with this war falls not with Donald Rumsfeld. We are more often the problem — our mercurial mood swings and demands for instant perfection devoid of historical perspective about the tragic nature of god-awful war. Our military has waged two brilliant campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. There has been an even more inspired postwar success in Afghanistan where elections were held in a country deemed a hopeless Dark-Age relic. A thousand brave Americans gave their lives in combat to ensure that the most wicked nation in the Middle East might soon be the best, and the odds are that those remarkable dead, not the columnists in New York, will be proven right — no thanks to post-facto harping from thousands of American academics and insiders in chorus with that continent of appeasement Europe.
While the Baathists and their Islamist friends are resisting more effectively than I thought they would be able to back in May 2003, we are still waging and effective fight against them to buy time and are creating a free Iraq to finish the fight. The fact that our press gets the vapors when the enemy actually fights back (instead of just following our perfect plan) is unfortunate. That opponents of the war jump on any failing in the war--failings that are natural, the result of the friction of war--to attack the war rather than to offer constructive criticism to better fight the war is sad. That even some defenders of the war would go along with the proxy war on Rumsfeld is disturbing. But as long as our troops live up to their training and do their duty with a President who will press forward, this latest chorus of criticism will mean nothing in the long run.
While I remain puzzled that the public does not recognize how much we've done in the last two years and how remarkable that is historically, I can't change the fact that our public, encouraged by the media, thinks war is won easily based on the perfect plan.
Rumsfeld should stay. I will watch how he adds brigades to the Army because our line strength must increase, but I am willing to give his Pentagon the chance to add combat brigades without substantially adding new soldiers to the active Army.
We go to war with the expectations our nation has; not with the expectations that I might wish us to have.
Sometimes the enemy will get through. In some wars, they get through a lot. So don't panic and demand we do something. Keep on driving and going after the enemy. Keep training Iraqi forces to fight the insurgents. And set up an Iraqi government that will shoulder more of the burden of this fight. This is still an Iraqi fight. Free Iraqis must take out the terrorists and Baathists. For those who fear a civil war, so what? Is it better to have a united Iraqi public fighting us so we can see we didn't prompt a civil war? No, the Sunnis have decided to fight or sit out the fight passively and so they have made this a Sunni-Shia/Kurd fight. Enabling our side to fight is not creating a civil war--it is winning it.
On the mess tent attack itself, this is a lesson in action and reaction. In response to mortar attacks, we were building a concrete building to replace the tent. It would have shrugged off mortar shells. But consider this. If the suicide bomber detonated his bomb inside the tent (and I don't know if the bomber was in or next to the tent at this point), what would the effect have been inside a concrete structure? I'm no expert but I believe that confining the blast inside the strucutre would have resulted in more casualties than from a blast inside a tent where much of the force would go up and out, away from the troops in the tent.
Keep both these things in mind as we react. No passive defensive can keep us secure. We have to go after the enemy and kill them. And we have to make sure free Iraqis are the ones doing most of the killing.
Keep steady, lads. And fire on command.
UPDATE: From Strategypage comes confirmation that a concrete structure would have made the blast much worse:
The Mosul camp was due to have the mess tent replaced by a bunker, which would have provided better protection from the usual rocket and mortar attacks. Actually, a bunker would have led to more casualties if a suicide bomber were involved. A tent like structure lets the explosion to disperse, while a bunker contains it.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
I wondered if this was a big deal at all and had no idea if the families would even care. But I also could not quite isolate myself from the politics of the attacks to honestly answer whether I'd have been upset if this had happened under the Clinton administration.
While I do not think this is a resigning offense, I think Rumsfeld's decision not to sign the letters was a mistake. Not because I think it shows he doesn't care but because it fails to show he does care. It doesn't matter if the families even care about the signature or even the letter. Signing them personally is just the right thing to do.
I read every casualty notice that the Department of Defense puts out. I make sure I take the time to read their name, hometown, age, and service. I note where they were killed and what unit they were in. This doesn't help the families of the dead. It doesn't make me a better or kinder person than others. But it is something I do so that I never set aside the price that others are paying to preserve our--my--safety. Maybe I'm fooling myself that this means something, but I do it as an obligation to our dead. Never forgetting their sacrifice has to start somewhere and I hope the small symbolism of reading every casualty announcement means that collectively Americans will remember the bravery of those who fight for democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan and who will not come home to enjoy the safety they have purchased for me.
I'm glad Secretary Rumsfeld will start signing the letters. It is the right thing to do.
This is most easily noticed by the contrast between the Marine who shot a wounded enemy in Fallujah in an environment where wounded enemy soldiers still tried to kill Americans; and the attack on the medical personnel rendering assistance to the wounded after the Mosul attack.
Guess which one the media condemned as a war crime and which one was a sign of increased enemy sophistication?
But of course, you don't need to guess. The main problem is that our press as a whole either doesn't recognize that we have an enemy or has decided that the American military is the enemy.
When Iraq has its elections and exercises sovereignty fully, the Iraqi government will likely take off the gloves and go after the enemy with a brutality that we cannot bring to the fight. Will the press be impressed with the increased sophistication of the Iraqi government when its forces start nailing Baathists in the middle of the night in large numbers to instill fear in the insurgents?
The Baathists and their Islamist chums have made this an ugly war. But they will rue the day that they made the majority of Iraqis angry enough to fight brutality with their own. I think the Sunnis are in for a world of hurt if they don't shape up fast. The Sunnis at least have a chance to join the new Iraq. The foreign Islamists are dead men walking. There will be no quarter granted to these killers.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Iran's decision to keep preparing raw uranium for enrichment, a step on the way to making nuclear weapons, breaks the spirit though not the letter of its pledge to freeze all such activity, diplomats said on Tuesday.
And the letter of Iran's pledge that Europe managed to wrestle out of the mullahs?
Under a deal Iran reached with three EU nations to freeze all enrichment activity as of Nov. 22, preparing "yellowcake" uranium for enrichment is strictly prohibited. But the accord allowed Iran to finish some limited uranium conversion work that it had already begun before the suspension took effect.
Well that's interesting. The Europeans struggled all this time to get Iran to agree to a suspension of enrichment activities--except for the activities already underway. Surely this is just a matter of spinning down some cyclotrons and packing stuff away, right? No more than a couple of days to comply with the letter of the agreement, right? Once again, not so much:
But Iran will now continue enrichment-related work until February, Western diplomats told Reuters.
Continuing the work that long "would certainly violate the spirit of the agreement," a Western diplomat said. "Iran has a legal basis for doing it, but it will not inspire much confidence in them," another diplomat said.
Confidence in the Iranians? My, hope does spring eternal!
Two other diplomats confirmed the report. One said Iran appeared to be exploiting a loophole in the promise it made to France, Britain and Germany to freeze enrichment activity.
"It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone," said one Western diplomat. Whenever there is a loophole in an agreement, the Iranians find it and use it to their advantage, he said.
Those sophisticated Europeans left a loophole in the agreement that the mullahs can launch a nuclear missile through? How is this possible? How could the Europeans be so trusting of these people? Were they truly surprised? Are they shocked that people who have been driving for nuclear weapons, dreaming of what they will do with them, and otherwise show every intention of sacrificing economic progress to get nukes would actually violate the "spirit" of the agreement?
But it does come as a surprise to lots of people who value process over results. It always comes as a surprise and it will until we truly do something about the mullahs.
Is it any wonder that some people in the West actually believe that America is a greater threat to peace? We say we will defend ourselves. Which is scary to those who want to take the month of August off from work and not think about the barbarians in the woods. But let those barbarians say some soothing words and the soft Westerners heave a sigh of relief and head off to holiday. And when we point out that the soft words are not matched by soft actions, we are at fault for spoiling the holiday. We are at fault because without our reality check they could have enjoyed their holiday in peace--blissfuly unaware of the danger that closed in on them while they slumbered. The Europeans blame us because the Iranians would be glad to say whatever soothing words the Europeans want to hear to extend their holiday of ignorance just a little longer. That is pretty sophisticated, eh?
Iran is marching toward nuclear missiles and no waving of papers on a Brussels tarmac will change that simple fact. And no blaming of America for pointing this out will make this scary future our fault.
We are running out of time to stop these nutballs.
The same article noted something that provides hope, given that war critics like to paint Mosul as the "new Fallujah." The article noted that a police post in Mosul withstood an insurgent assault. Indeed, it was the sixth assault to be repulsed since the collapse of the Iraqi police force in Mosul last month. [I looked for the original but couldn't find it--the link above is to a more complete article about the Mosul attack.]
More interesting is that this detail was shed from the report even as the bad news was expanded. Personally, while I grieve our dead from the attack, such things happen in war. The fact that Iraqi police are withstanding attacks on their posts is a significant fact of the war that should be noted.
The country isn't Vermont yet but Afghanistan has come so far since we toppled the Taliban.
Critics of the war effort are of course mightily upset that WalMart hasn't set up shop in Kabul yet and consider anything short of perfection to be flawed, but our success is clear. Indeed, one might have to look at this and the larger region and conclude (via Instapundit) that maybe we know what we are doing. Ya think?
The critics forget that for America, the impossible takes a little longer.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Why would foreigners behave so differently from us? Why wouldn't democrats abroad appreciate American support for democracy?
Well they do seem to appreciate our support. They certainly aren't recoiling from freedom because we are for it (via Real Clear Politics):
This early enthusiasm could easily dissipate. Arab elites remain enormously resistant to reform and will try to scuttle plans for change. But I sense that the dinosaurs are on the defensive. For the first time other views are being aired. Consider the contrast between two conferences on reform held in the last 10 days. The first, the official Forum for the Future held in Morocco, ended with the foreign ministers of the region endorsing reform, but adding that it couldn't happen until the establishment of a Palestinian state. Some also insisted that Iraq be free of foreign troops. These are the usual, strange excuses for repression and oligarchy in the Arab world. "Until foreign-policy problems are solved," the governments seem to be saying, "we have no choice but to keep punishing our people."
But now there are Arab voices saying, "enough." At Dubai's Arab Strategy Forum a few days later, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai's ruler, said pointedly in his opening address, "I cannot see why a crisis, no matter how severe, should delay economic reform or plans to eradicate illiteracy." "What is the relation," he asked, "between foreign affairs and corruption?"
Gosh, some people over there suffering under despotic rule aren't willing to wait for reform until the "Palestinian question" is solved? They don't think that the US fight in Iraq is counter-productive?
We are promoting freedom in the Moslem world and when the Arab and Moslem street rises up, it won't be to embrace Osama and his weenie legions of losers.
Rumsfeld long has been a punching bag for Democrats and journalists, who wish we had not gone to war with Iraq at all. Lately they have been joined by right-wingers who want someone to blame because we haven't won yet.
I think that sums it up nicely.
The author Jack Kelly starts with the armor issue. That I hope has been lain to rest.
The author also goes after one of my pet peeves, the so-called too-small size of the invasion force:
But the complaint is mostly bovine excrement. U.S. and British troops swiftly defeated the Iraqi forces, with very few casualties. This would have been true even if some of the Republican Guard formations which mysteriously melted away had stood and fought.
We did smash Saddam's legions in record time with few casualties. Just what would we have accomplished by waiting 6 months to add more troops? We would have given Saddam time to come up with nasty surprises, given world events more time to derail us, and with a larger force would have reduced the ability to rotate forces into Iraq to replace the invasion force. And since 3rd ID had already spent a long time in the Gulf would we have rotated that unit out in a lengthy deployment or kept it in place?
Kelly also addresses the so-called error of disbanding the Iraqi army--another pet peeve of mine:
To begin with, there was no Iraqi army to keep on hand for peacekeeping. The poorly paid and horribly treated Shia conscripts all had deserted. Loyal Sunnis in the Republican Guard had left to prepare for guerrilla war against the Americans.
The officer corps was completely untrustworthy on top of it all.
I do take exception with Kelly's assertion that we should have sent 3 or 4 more brigades to Iraq after the fighting was over. Actually, I'd count 4th ID's three brigades and two cavalry regiments as follow-on forces that added 5 brigades to the occupation force.
Intelligence wasn't good. Not detecting the plans for an insurgency by Saddam's thugs was a major error. Had we known, we could have cracked heads, arrested any males with short hair and bad attitudes, and shot looters right off the bat.
Of course, had we done those things and forestalled the Baathist revolt, we'd be deep into Court TV's coverage of the International Criminal Court's case against the brutality of the American Army in Iraq for being unnecessarily brutal. You know that's true.
We made some errors in the war. Name a war without errors. Yet despite the errors we won decisively, ended Saddam's reign of terror and nuclear ambitions, and are building a new, free Iraq from the shambles Saddam left Iraq.
Fire Rumsfeld? Hell, give him a Medal of Freedom.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
The first point is that you'll recollect that one of the questions was the status of the 278 ACR; in other words, the date that we had the visit by the secretary of Defense, we had a question about their up-armoring status. When the question was asked, 20 vehicles remained to be up-armored at that point. We completed those 20 vehicles in the next day. And so over 800 vehicles from the 278 ACR were up-armored, and they are a part now of their total force that is operating up in Iraq.
That unit was adequately armored up. That a member of the press planted a question (and was proud he planted it) that ignored this fact is unforgivable. I'm also more than a little upset that the Guardsman asked this set-up question when he should have known the true picture. That is shameful.
But the fact that this latest plastic turkey issue has been shown to be pure, space-age-material content, means we can safely move on to the next non-issue that the idiots in the press will bring up.
Perhaps they'll notice that the big bangy things shoot bullets, or some other novel concept about war.
UPDATE: Reverend Sensing has a good post on the issue.
Cuba retaliated for the U.S. diplomatic mission's Christmas display supporting Cuban dissidents by putting up a billboard Friday emblazoned with photographs of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners and a huge swastika overlaid with a "Made in the U.S.A" stamp.
Wow. A Nazi reference. Haven't heard that one before.
Sadly, what a former US consular head said when questioned over the tit-for-tat signs following our sign of "75" to call attention to 75 Cubans recently arrested is nothing we haven't heard before either:
Wayne Smith, who headed the U.S. mission here during the Carter and Reagan administrations and has long advocated restoring normal diplomatic relations with Cuba, said he thought the images of prisoner abuse in Iraq were an appropriate response by Castro's regime.
"If I were in their shoes, this is what I would do — call attention to the fact that the United States is now guilty of torture, of massive violations of human rights," Smith said by telephone from Washington.
"Yes, I'd like to see the 75 all released, but we're in no position now to criticize anyone," he said.
But the billboard's Nazi reference went too far, Smith added.
Smith thinks we are guilty of massive human rights violations and that we are basically equivalent. Unfreakingbelievable. President Reagan apparently made a mistake holding him over.
These are sad days when I take some comfort from the fact that he thinks the Nazi reference went too far. You take what you can get from some quarters.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
General Casey had an interesting press conference the other day. Among other things, he mentioned:
Now these levels of violence since Fallujah have dropped dramatically. And they are actually now down at the levels prior to Ramadan and really right where -- back where we were at transfer of sovereignty. So the levels of violence have come way down.
I do not -- they are not necessarily operating effectively against coalition forces. In fact, when we look back, the numbers of attacks don't necessarily produce a very high volume of casualties. In fact, a lot of the attacks are in fact ineffective against coalition forces. They are frankly more successful against civilians and in some cases against Iraqi security forces.
It is good to get some confirmation of the general thrust of my argument and that it may have continued after August. I will update the chart at some point. It will be interesting to see how the Fallujah offensive affected the numbers and trends.
He starts out by attacking Rumsfeld over the armor-in-Iraq episode where the secretary said you go to war with the army you have and not the army you want. What is wrong with that? I'm not mad that the soldier asked the question. This is an American army after all. An army of free citizens. Rumsfeld merely answered with the candor that has been refreshing in the past (as in actually saying we will kill the enemy). Kagan is doing what the loyal opposition is doing--seizing on a non-issue to attack someone they never liked anyway. I was worried about Rumsfeld in the pre-Iraq days and was very concerned that he would kill two divisions. But I think Iraq's post-war stabilization challenges have disabused him of his fighter pilot notions that mere infantry is obsolete. So I am not calling for his resignation for the Army issue or the plastic turkey issue that is being spun up out of the armor-in-Iraq question. (My take here and here.)
Kagan calls for a larger army and normally I'd be much more sympathetic. But calling for hundreds of thousands more troops to add frontline strength is not necessarily called for. Even when we had an army of 18 division, I'd guess we had maybe 56 brigades. Perhaps four of the divisions had only two brigades and we had more separate brigades. But as I wrote, the Army is adding brigades by converting Cold War-era units that are not much used now into line units. The Army is also converting jobs now done by soldiers into civilian jobs which will free up more slots under the current 500,000 ceiling available for combat units. As it is, we are going from 33 line brigades to 43 by adding 1 brigade to each division and we will add at least 5 more and maybe 10. I think we have an extra separate brigade now, too. So this brings us to at least 49 brigades and maybe 54 in the near future. Just two or so shy of the level we had with nearly 800,000 in the active Army. All that without adding to the ceiling.
Look, if Rumsfeld can't add combat brigades by his method, I will gladly join with the calls to expand the Army. And maybe even to call for Rumsfeld's resignation. But Kagan is a little premature in his criticisms.
A bridge officially designated the tallest in the world was inaugurated by President Jacques Chirac in southern France -- a spectacular feat of engineering that will carry motorists at 270 metres (885 feet) above the valley of the river Tarn.
Before an audience of around 1,000 people including architect Norman Foster, Chirac unveiled a plaque by the largest of the bridge's seven pillars which rises to 343 metres above ground level. French air-force jets swept by overhead.
Why is this relevant to a bridge? Why should the French celebrate the fact that one of the pillars rised 343 meteres above ground level? Aren't bridges usually ranked by how long they are? I mean, bridging a gap is the purpose of a bridge. The height of that pillar is really beside the point, is it not?
I am probably making too much of this but somehow I think this gives us an insight into the thought processes of the French government. They build a de Gaulle airport recently that is quite elegant apparently, but which collapsed recently in one part and was therefore unable to function as an airport. They build an aircraft carrier, the de Gaulle again, that seems unable to leave port for long and therefore carry out its function of carrying aircraft. What is it hailed as, the narrowest aircraft carrier? The ship with the best menu?
And now a bridge that they celebrate for being tall. I really think the French need to concentrate more on designing for the purpose for which the thing is designed and not irrelevant factors.
This says something...
According to a much-publicized article on the "Iran war game" in the US-based Atlantic Monthly, the estimated cost of an assault on Iran is a paltry few tens of millions of dollars. This figure is based on a one-time "surgical strike" combining missile attacks, air-to-surface bombardments, and covert operations, without bothering to factor in Iran's strategy, which aims precisely to "extend the theater of operations" in order to exact heavier and heavier costs on the invading enemy, including by targeting America's military command structure in the Persian Gulf.
After this Iranian version of "follow-on" counter-strategy, the US intention of localized warfare seeking to cripple Iran's command system as a prelude to a systematic assault on key military targets would be thwarted by "taking the war to them", in the words of an Iranian military strategist who emphasized America's soft command structure in the southern tips of the Persian Gulf. (Over the past few months, US jet fighters have repeatedly violated Iran's air space over Khuzestan province, testing Iran's air defense system, according to Iranian military officials.)
The author's description of the power of Iran's military maneuvers doesn't scare me any more than Iran's maneuvers prior to the US Navy entering the Gulf in 1987 worried me. Although "Seekers of Martyrdom in the Persian Gulf" was a pretty awesome name, in the end the Iranians did get martyrdom when they confronted the US Navy. Today, Iran's conventional military would be in an even worse position taking our military on.
But the author has one good point. The Iranians will not let us have a limited war as the Atlantic Monthly piece describes. Iran will widen the war.
Based on Iran's response to Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980, this should be clear. In that war, the First Gulf War, Iraq hoped to have a limited war over Khuzestan province and Iran's first response was to send their rump air power--still potent--to strike Iraqi oil facilities and cities.
Yet it will not necessarily be mindless widening. When the US went into the Gulf to escort oil tankers, Iran managed to restrain their response for quite some time. Eventually their good sense broke and they lost the cream of their navy at our hands.
So escalation by Iran could make sense as in 1980 or be foolish as in 1988.
If the Iranians are foolish, they will strike Arab Gulf Countries targeting their oil facilities. This will make the fight an Arab-Persian fight and tend to draw people to support us.
Or the Iranians could strike US forces in Iraq and maybe Kuwait as well as Israel to try to make the Sunni Arab world sympathize with Tehran.
So just in case, we need to look at regime change and not drive by air strikes that will only kick the problem down the road and make the Iranians even angrier. Such a strategy just gives the initiative to the Iranians who will widen the war in some way. Then we will be confronted with the choice of responding with our own escalation or backing down. We could be on the road to a more costly regime change that gives Tehran time to rally the population and military or we could be seen as impotent. Plus the Iranians would lose all restraint at all when they look at meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While an invasion aimed at Tehran would be one way to do the job, it would not be wise. We neither have the troops for it nor would it be ideal even if we did. Even in 1988 when Iran's morale collapsed in the face of defeat at the hands of Iraq, the Iranians rallied when it looked like Iraq was going in for the kill.
But if we are supporting an Iranian rebellion, that is another case altogether. Using the same template but using Iranian military units that switch sides we could overthrow the mullahs. This assumes we've been working seriously to do something about a major member of the Axis of Evil. I hope I'm not assuming too much.
But no half measures, please. The good professor from Tehran University has done us a favor by reminding us that enemies react as they plan and not as we plan. They will attempt to extend the theater of operations.
Nearly half of all Americans believe the U.S. government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according to a nationwide poll.
I'm certainly not oblivious to the need to guard against needless hostility toward Muslim Americans. I don't think Moslem Americans are our enemy. They are our citizens and while some undoubtedly side with the enemy and think of them as Minute Men or patriots, this view is probably far more prevalent in non-Moslem circles. Moslem Americans can be a valuable resource in speaking the enemy's language and understanding their culture. German-, Italian-, and Japanese-Americans all participated in World War II to our advantage when our enemies were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Still, the treatment of Japanese Americans sixty years ago is reason to be on guard.
But even looking at the poll itself as the story reports it is no reason to panic. Polls are not policy and policy takes place after discussion and debate--not 5 seconds after the question is posed like a poll.
Second, I've seen polls in the past that generically ask about the bill of rights and in a vacuum most people disagree with a whole lot of our basic rights. Is that a bad sign? I don't know. People mostly go on with their lives freely without having to worry about what rights they have since those rights are respected without having to enumerate them on every street corner to the police. Heck, I've read that lots of French people think they have Miranda rights from watching old Starsky and Hutch reruns.
So if you start from the poll that the story highlights and assume such restrictions couldd go through either Congress and all its debate or even an executive order from the president without being over-turned by Congress via bill and then survive court challenge, then yes we should worry. I trust this would get some publicity too and the public education process would kick in, too.
So don't worry here about the gulag starting here. Although if the leaders of organized Moslem groups were more public condemning the terrorists acts that some claim to carry out in their name I'm sure the numbers in such polls would be much lower. Then there wouldn't even be hyped worry to puzzle over. When those people who profess to defend the rights of Moslem Americans to the hilt do so by refusing to admit that fascist Islamists actually are our enemy, those compassionates promote the idea of all Moslems thinking the same.
We have Moslem enemies. They are a distinct minority of Moslems. The rest are not our enemies. This really shouldn't be too complicated to grasp.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Well let's look at Russia:
The Putin years have witnessed a steady sanitizing of Soviet history. Hence the attempted rehabilitation of Iron Felix. Or the treatment of Stalin on the 50th anniversary of his death in March 2003. Or Putin's celebration of the late Yuri Andropov, the "Butcher of Budapest," on Andropov's 90th birthday in June 2004.
The old guard is nostalgic and making sure the entire country thinks of the gulag era as the good old days:
What does this portend for Russia's future? Nothing positive. A country that sugarcoats its bloody totalitarian past will never be a true friend of America and the West. Moreover, a country that fails to atone for a shameful history threatens to repeat that history. Figes was right: The ghosts of 1917 aren't dead.
And why should this matter to the disbanding of the Iraqi army? Because we might have avoided an uprising at the price of the Baathists believing they could get right back in the saddle again after we left by playing along and pretending to be good little post-Saddam Baathists. Iraq could never be a good friend of the US with Baathists in power. They would surely have repeated their history and our invasion and sacrifice would have been for nothing. And this is to say nothing of the moral duty we owe the Shias and Kurds to give them a chance to build a free Iraq.
But most worrisome about the idea that we should have cut a deal with the old guard is what would have happened during the Fallujah uprising in April. We saw what our tame Baathists did in Fallujah. They ran and turned the city over to the enemy. What would the entire army have done if it was still in the field? We could have had our Sepoy Mutiny right then and there instead of the narrowly based insurgency we are fighting and beating now.
We are right to kill the ghosts of the Saddam era.
China is to introduce legislation against secession, state media reported on Friday, a move analysts have said is aimed at mandating eventual reunification with rival Taiwan
Well, duh. Of course it is aimed at Taiwan. Of course, the Taiwanese--being free people--are not bound by China's laws. China will have to fight to absorbe Taiwan.
Note the amusingly short parliamentary session. It's much easier to rubber stamp than legislate.
On a fight to conquer Taiwan, the Chinese shouldn't be confused by their legislation. We don't really consider it an internal matter. And the Kosovo War shows that we will intervene even when the offending nation believes it is only an internal affair.
Have I mentioned lately that this decade sucks?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
From a link from Winds of Change we have the sight of the enemy breaking in Afghanistan:
"If the government will let us peacefully return to our villages and our children, we will come," he says. "We are tired living on the run in these snowy mountains."
His fellow tribesman, Sarwar Akhund, goes one step further: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and terror kingpin Osama bin Laden, he charges, tricked followers like him into believing they were fighting a holy war against infidels, "when really they just wanted to consolidate their own seats of power." If allowed back into society, he pledges to "do whatever I can" to help kill or capture the fugitive leaders.
The two soldiers expressed views that intelligence circles across southern Afghanistan have been hearing for months. Many officials, military strategists, and diplomats here are increasingly optimistic that the Taliban are largely a spent force, made up in great parts by disillusioned, worn out foot soldiers like the Akhund tribesmen.
That's why President Hamid Karzai plans a general amnesty for Taliban rank and file as one of his first major initiatives since winning national elections in October and being inaugurated last week.
Mr. Karzai and his American backers hope the move will not only bring peace to great swaths of Afghanistan, but may even lead to the seizure of the high-value terror targets US troops are hunting across the country's south and east.
The Taliban were supposed to be empire killers with a two thousand year history of repelling foreigners. And now they are breaking. Of course, we declined to play the invader vs. Afghan people game that so many assumed we would execute (just how many troops should we have needed to pacify a country of 25 million?).
The Germans broke after their furious effort in the Battle of the Bulge begun in December 1944. The Iranians broke after Karbala V in the Iran-Iraq War during January 1987. The Taliban broke at some point and I'm not even sure when. But their inability to hinder the elections when they promised to do so was the flashing sign that the enemy had finally broken after years of resisting.
At some point, the enemy in Iraq will break, too. It will come suddenly. And after they break you will be hard pressed to find anyone even in the Sunni Triangle with a good word for the Baathists or Saddam.
I'm looking for the signs, but they will probably not be obvious until well after it happens. When the insurgents fail to do something that we expect them to do or that they promise to do, I'll have to ask why.
The $248 million project, largely funded by China, to turn a fishing port with a population of 60,000-70,000 people into a transit point for Central Asian trade has been touted as a showcase for foreign investment in Pakistan.Pardon me for suspecting the immense good will on China's part that this seems to paint.
While I am sure that the Pakistani navy will love having a port farther away from India just in case the Indians ever think of pulling their own Pearl Harbor on the Pakistani navy, would the Chinese spend that much money to keep parts of the Indian navy tied down?
I guess I wouldn't be too surprised to hear about a Chinese-financed oil pipeline from Iran to the new Pakistani port that bypasses that Hormuz chokepoint.
Of course, the Chinese couldn't defend the line of supply from Gawadar to China any more than they could support the suppy line to the Gulf.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
What I really want to address is something from the comments section that attempts to bolster the idea that we had too few troops for the war. The comment said what I have read time and time again but which does not get any more true for the repetition. The claim is that we invaded with 3 divisions. Since prior to the war our military planned to use 5 Army divisions and 1 or 2 Marine divisions in a major theater war, 3 divisions seems pretty lame indeed.
But I counted the line battalions via Globalsecurity.org and counted about 70 infantry, armor, mechanized, and recon battalions. This includes the British. Assuming 10 battalions per division we had the frontline equivalent of 7 divisions for the Iraq War which compares quite favorably with the 5-6 we had long assumed were necessary to win a smallish war. 1st MEF was 3-divisons strong with about 30 battalions. Add 30 more Army battalions and 10 British and you have 4 divisions more.
The overall numbers come in low compared to 1991 only when you remember that we cut out a lot of the logistics and supporting forces that had come along in the Persian Gulf War. Instead of masses of separate artillery brigades we relied on air power. We didn't need as many planes since we didn't drop as much tonnage as a result of not using that many dumb bombs. And we didn't have the logistics tail since we worked on supply margins of days rather than creating iron mountains of supplies before we ever went in like we did in 1991.
We did not have too few troops for the invasion and I do not think we are short of troops for the counter-insurgency campaign. The enemy has unfortunately access to unlimited money and lots of weapons lying around Iraq. Under these circumsances it takes time to beat them. But we are.
In any case, Franks deserves all our thanks and honors. I'm just sorry he retired after OIF. We should have extended him for the duration.
The Iraqi interim government recognizes that getting Iraqis into the fight is key to winning against the insurgents and terrorists. This article notes Prime Minister Allawi's thoughts:
"Rebuilding the army and the forces of national safety enable us to work on asking for the final withdrawal of the multinational forces from our beloved country according to a set timetable."As haltingly as it has gone, the way home for our troops leads through an effective Iraqi security force. And despite the setbacks, we are making progress. We have to remember that we don't need American-equivalent Iraqi troops to win. Were the Baathist forces as good as US forces during their long rule? The troops we are training will be good enough--and better than the former regime troops I dare say:
With Fallujah shut down as a Baath Party/al Qaeda sanctuary, the fighting in Iraq has shifted to gang warfare. American intelligence efforts have identified dozens of different Sunni Arab gangs operating in different parts of central Iraq. Unable to get many Sunni Arabs to actively cooperate with them in most areas, the troops just go out and hunt down the hostile gunmen. In most parts of Iraq, non-American troops have a much easier time of it with cooperative Iraqis. But the Sunni Arabs will continue to actively resist until armed and determined Iraqis come in and shut them down.
American forces will still have a role in Iraq for years to come. As Iraqi forces become good enough to fight the insurgents, US forces will be able to pull into remote bases and deter the Iranians or Syrians from attacking Iraq. By providing this shield to external threats, the Iraqis will be able to focus on counter-insurgency without worrying about preparing for major combat operations. Only after the Baathists and Islamists are defeated can the Iraqis rebuild a regular military force to take over the external defense role of the US Army.
Two divisions with 7-8 brigades in a total force of 75,000 US forces should be enough in this role. Once the Iraqis build a regular army, we may be in the position to negotiate a basing agreement with the Iraqis for a small army force of a brigade and maybe a brigade set of equipment to aid reinforcements plus Air Force units to provide air cover until the Iraqis can build air defenses.
We will be in Iraq for a long time. We will not be fighting for much of that time when we look back. When these transitions take place is unknown but they will occur.
Cross-strait relations can change only "if the authorities in Taiwan recognize that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is a part of it, and if they give up their Taiwan independence stance and stop Taiwan independence activities," Li [Weiyi, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office] said at a regular briefing.
China wants Taiwan back and nothing the Taiwanese do will do more than affect China's tactics for achieving this paramount strategic goal of Peking.
The Chinese are making it clear to Taiwan that one way or another, China will absorb Taiwan. The Taiwanese need to get serious about building a military to defend their freedom and prosperity. If they think a military build up will threaten their economy, they should think about what Chinese mainland rule will do for it. And freedom so recetnly gained will be gone for good.
But that doesn't mean we do nothing about Syria. Their policies are killing Americans and Iraqis and they cannot be allowed to get away with this. But as we pursue policies to undermine Islamist ideology in the Arab world we must remember that Syria is not an Islamist state. Therefore, we should not necessarily apply our chosen solution of regime change to this problem. The Syrians are pragmatic and their choices are the result of weighing options and attempting to ride out the latest crisis. Wasting a regime change move on such a state is a waste and since our public will not support endless war despite what some of the rabid critics of US policy say, we can't afford to waste a regime change on a state that can be pressured. This article argues for pressure:
Washington is at critical juncture with its relations with Syria, which may further affect Washington's policies in Iraq. Washington must capitalize on the current situation and articulate a Syria strategy, recognizing that the Syrian regime will have to revert to its pragmatist approach in order to survive internal and regional challenges.I'm not saying that things shouldn't blow up inside Syria under mysterious circumstances. But even if we had four extra divisions, it would not be wise to waste effort changing a regime that rests on a narrow base and which could be brought down by internal fissures. Syria was highly unstable until the Assad dynasty and it could be again. Surrounded by powerful Israel, a resentful Lebanon, the hated Turks, a mistrustful and US-aligned Jordan, and a soon-to-be free Iraq, Syria is vulnerable to all kinds of pressure. With regime survival their number one goal, this pressure can be used to change Syrian policy on Iraq.
We can pressure Damascus into good behavior.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
China is apparently building a large quantity of amphibious shipping. Two LSDs Landing Ship Dock) are being built in large covered sheds. They appear to be about 25,000 tons each and carry four LCAC (high speed landing craft) and four helicopters each. China is building 4-5 LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) a year. These are 4,800 tons displacement each and can carry about 2,000 tons if they are not going to run up on a beach. The Chinese prefer to avoid that, as it eventually destroys the LST, and you can carry more load if you don't. A larger number of LSMs (smaller than LSTs, but in this case almost as large as World War II LSTs) are also under construction. China won’t say what the eventual size of this amphibious fleet will be, but Taiwan suspects enough to land two or more divisions on Taiwanese beaches. That could take another 3-4 years. It is believed that the Chinese would use a lot of civilian transport for an attack on Taiwan, meaning they could put up to nine divisions on shops. The navy's amphibious shipping would be used for the first wave, where speed is needed. But the next waves could be put ashore with civilian ferries and transports. In addition, there is an airborne division. It would be a rather ramshackle effort by American standards, but the Chinese believe it would be adequate against the Taiwanese. The key to such an invasion is keeping the U.S. Navy out of the war.
Nine divisions? That's quite a bit. But nobody could pull off a half baked invasion across the sea if they lack naval and air superiority and have to rely on civilian shipping to move their army, right? I mean, we have specialized amphibious ships in recognition of the difficulties of such operations. Surely everybody else agrees with our assessments and methods? What's that? What about the German invasion of Norway in 1940? Well golly, I guess that is one model for China to invade Taiwan.
The Strategypage article also notes that to hold off the US Navy, the Chinese are building submarines and surface warships at a rate to be ready by 2010.
As I've said before, I think the Chinese are aiming to nail Taiwan before the 2008 Peking Olympics.
Those patient Chinese aren't waiting for the fullness of time to grant them their highest political objective. The Chinese will attempt to take Taiwan by force and talk of slow missile blockades distracts us from the possibility that China will storm the island and try to end that war before we can react effectively. Time is running out for us to prepare to fight such a war. Hopefully, if we are prepared well enough, the Chinese will put off the invasion long enough for the Taiwanese to gain the ability to stop the Chinese on their own.
UPDATE: Jeff at Caerdroia notes that ultimately Taiwan will need nuclear weapons to hold the Dragon off. I don't think we could afford to supply them. We couldn't keep this secret and amazingly enough the very same people who think we should accept nukes in the hands of our enemies get their panties in a royal twist when they think of our allies with nukes. Taiwan has the ability to make nukes and delivery systems. Could they do it secretly? I bet Peking spends a lot of effort looking for signs of going nuclear.
Monday, December 13, 2004
For us it is more obvious. Turkey has been an American ally in a key region of the world where we have an active war front going; and it would be a mistake to have Turkey sucked into the atmosphere of the EU where Turkey could be neutralized as a US ally. I'm hoping that Turkey's refusal to let 4th ID into Turkey in 2003 was a one-time stumble. Getting them enmeshed in Europe will make it a trend. Keeping Turkey out of the EU will help Ankara look back to the US.
More broadly, America should not be encouraging the EU at all. We fought two wars the last century and one Cold War to keep a hostile power from gaining control of Europe and here we are still officially backing European political integration. What rot! What a Cold War relic of a policy that at least made sense when we were desperate to have Europe strong enough to resist the Soviet Union. That day is long past and despite Putin's pining for the glory days of the USSR, we don't need a unified Europe to aid its own defense. We will always be better off when we can work with individual states who share our view of a particular situation rather than trying to gain consensus from a EU superstate bureaucracy. I am particularly horrified when I think that we won't be able to talk to London without going through Brussels. Lesser horrors include talking to Rome or Warsaw through this channel. Other countries more friendly to us now would also never get their calls forwarded if Brussels is the gate keeper.
Let the EU be a European version of NAFTA, but we should strongly work against political integration by supporting those Europeans who oppose the awful constitution that would set the stage for killing liberty and democracy in Europe. Let the struggle over Turkey be the first real blow to European integration by urging the Europeans to keep Turkey out. Kill the sense of inevitability that the EUrocrats are trying to convey and maybe other doubters will step forward.
Europe is of course torn over Turkey. On the one hand they fear the impact of letting a Moslem nation into the nominally Christian Europe. On the other hand, they hope that letting a moderate Moslem nation like Turkey into Europe will undercut Islamist radicalism as a force in Europe.
I say fat chance to that. Let Turkey's more moderate Moslems into Europe where they can be exposed to the fanaticism present in European mosques and in a generation Turkey will be a flaming Islamist state.
Working to oppose Turkey's entry into the EU would do Europe a favor, save Turkey from a fanatical future, and help America by striking a blow against European political integration. It could get ugly for US-Turkish relations as we stoke European fears of Islam, but after van Gogh's murder, it shouldn't take too much effort on our part.
We'll all be better off in the end.
The Syrians are eagerly sending jihadis into Iraq to fight or die:
Iraqis believe that their Arab neighbors are using Iraq as a way to get rid of their Islamic radicals. Syria, in particular, does little to stop Islamic radicals from entering Iraq. The Syrians know that most of these men will get killed. Those that survive and return, can be arrested, questioned to see if they are still willing to die to establish an Islamic state, and release them if they have mellowed out.We are looking to orchestrate pressure on Syria. Lebanon is one area we are working on with the French even.
The Iranians have to work differently. First of all, they don't want to kill off their jihadis. The Iranians want them in the Iranian religious militias to keep the locals in line. And supporting Sadr didn't work out so well, since his revolt just got Iraqi Shias killed in large numbers trying to spark a national revolt against the US and our Iraqi friends. Instead the Iranians seem to be trying to compete at some level in the upcoming Iraqi elections (no link, forgot to save it). I think their effort will fail. Iraqi Shias didn't follow the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War and they won't now.
One would think that Syria is our prime target given that Syrians seem to be far more involved in the Baathist revolt at this point. But Iran's nuclear ambitions make Iran far more dangerous than Syria no matter what they are doing in Iraq. Given that the Iraqi insurgents are targeting Iraqi security forces more, the insurgents must realize that we are winning by building up the security forces to take over the fighting from us. Syria's efforts certainly must be punished and stopped but they are not likely to defeat us so we have to focus on the biggest threat (though I am happy that things are going boom in Damascus). Not that we are supposed to sit by and do nothing while Damascus funds and funnels people to kill our soldiers and Marines. But keep our perspective. We might consider sending telegrams to the families of Syrian jihadis announcing their deaths. I'm sure the families would be touched by our gesture of concern and it wouldn't hurt to publicize the end results of buying the all-day pass to Jihadworld in Iraq.
Another reason to give Iran priority is that the Europeans are moving on to the next phase of their negotiations with Iran (Phase 1 was negotiating a meaningless freeze on nuclear activities). And if the words of wisdom from the former foreign ministers are anything to go by, Phase 3 negotiations will be to agree to parity in nuclear weapons between the EU and Iran.
Bolster the Iraqi security forces. Squeeze the Syrians. Get rid of the mullahs.