Monday, January 31, 2005

Insurgent Strength

This article notes that the insurgents in Iraq, after pledging to drench voting day in Iraqi blood, carried out 260 attacks on election day. It wasn't nearly enough to stop the vote--or even dent it--despite three dozen dead Iraqi victims.

260 attacks. So what does this mean? Well, one diplomat noted:

"What was significant about these attacks was the low degree of lethality," the diplomat said. "These were very low casualties for that number of attacks."

They weren't very effective? Wouldn't the insurgents have thrown in every cell they had? I find it hard to believe that this wouldn't be a maximum effort. The enemy seems to have realize the danger of popular legitimacy to their sick cause. And this indicates the enemy did go all out:

"They were throwing inexperienced, unprepared ... people in a mass effort to try to do something, to get through, to penetrate, to make a big splash, and they did not succeed anywhere."

Since so many of the second string were involved based on the evidence of inexperience, this was probably a maximum effort by the insurgents. How could there be evidence of green insurgents? Aren't jihadis flocking to Iraq to fight us? Well not from Europe as we had been told before:

The fall of Saddam Hussein in March 2003 and the U.S. occupation of the country would have seemed an opportunity of a lifetime for Muslim men around the world eager to wage their 'holy war' against their arch enemy.

Yet the influx of foreign fighters from Europe appears to have been minimal, at least compared with the numbers that poured into previous lands of jihad, or holy war - Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya.

So how many insurgents are indicated by 260 attacks? In a maximum effort where the greener elements were involved, were all the insurgent cells involved? Half? How many attacks did each cell launch? Most were in the Baghdad region so a cell could have multiple attacks. Assuming each cell struck twice, that gives us 130 cells. If half attacked on election day (and that seems low given the stakes) that means there are 260 cells. How many men per cell? Ten? That gives us 2,600 insurgents. One hundred per cell? That gives us 26,000 insurgents. A cell of 10 makes far more sense than a cell of 100 from a security perspective. Especially since we haven't seen platoon-sized insurgent attacks (30-50 men) in a long time. So we are probably looking at the low end of fewer than 3,000 insurgents if my wild ass guesses above are reasonably accurate. I assume our military has better methods of calculating strength based on attacks.

I expected worse on January 30th. I expected the insurgents to make a maximum effort and that many civilians would die. I expected the elections to go forward but the low losses when such soft targets were all over Iraq indicates that the insurgents have problems.

I speculated on the nature of the potential enemy collapse back in November 2004. At some point, the enemy will fail to do something that we anticipated they would do. When they didn't, we wouldn't immediately see the importance of this fact. My example was the Iran-Iraq War and the failure of the Iranian Karbala V offensive in the 1986-1987 winter. That offensive broke the back of Iran's ground forces and their fanaticism. It took a long time before observers figured out that something was wrong with Iran.

So did something just go wrong with the enemy? Could this really be the turning point despite the worries that the enemy will try even harder after the election to launch attacks? If they are capable of future attacks why didn't they have more success on January 30th?

At some point the enemy will collapse. At some point the Baathists will start preparing for defeat the way North Korean spies seem to be doing (see previous post). It is too soon to tell if this is the right way of looking at Iraq, but don't rule it out.

We will win.


A couple months ago, I noted a report that indicated that North Korea was on the verge of collapse. This post in turn links to two posts in November (from my old site).

Well, via Instapundit comes this delightful piece of information:

In interviews for this article over many months, western policymakers, Chinese experts, North Korean exiles and human rights activists built up a picture of a tightly knit clan leadership in Pyongyang that is on the verge of collapse.

The article notes a number of indicators and says the Japanese believe collapse is near. The most important detail is this:

According to exiles, North Korean agents in Beijing and Ulan Bator are frantically selling assets to raise cash — an important sign, says one activist, because “the secret police can always smell the crisis coming before anybody else”.

I've speculated that in Iraq, at some point the Baathists will see they are beaten and will take the money they are now using to fund the insurgency and use it for a nice retirement somewhere that won't ask questions.

Well, this looks like it is happening in North Korea. Squeeze these SOBs.

The most satisfying part?

Bush’s re-election dealt a blow to Kim, 62, who had gambled on a win by John Kerry, the Democratic candidate. Kim used a strategy of divide and delay to drag out nuclear talks with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea through 2004.

Our enemies often count on us to save them. Not this time, Pillsbury Nuke Boy. Buh bye.

I hope the South Koreans are ready for the implosion. Lord knows what the death rattle would look like.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


So how close is Iran to going nuclear? I've assumed that we will not allow Iran to go nuclear and have assumed that action is near. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve should be filled in a few months and with the US election past, it seemed time to look at how to deal with Iran.

Yet the President's emphasis on Social Security and taxation issues seemed to indicate a focus on domestic concerns for many months ahead. Was this, I wondered, an indication that action was not going to take place until the summer at earliest? I've assumed some type of effort to overthrow the regime by aiding internal elements opposed to the mullahs.

Now Strategypage says Iran is years from going nuclear and that we will work to destabilize the regime:

January 30, 2005: Pundits, experts and guessperts have concluded that Iran is at least three years from having a working nuclear weapon, so the pressure to stop the nuclear program has diminished. The threat of Israel bombing Iran has diminished, although a media frenzy of speculation about an American attack has created the illusion that something along these lines is actually taking place. Europeans are still threatening trade sanctions, but are unlikely to follow through. Unemployment is a big problem in Europe, and the media considers jobs more important than a nuclear armed Iran.

January 29, 2005: American plans to defeat the Islamic radicals in Iran are leaning towards the kind of subversion that worked in communist controlled nations during the Cold War, and dictatorships of all flavors since then. Iran is, after all, just another unpopular police state. The leaders are corrupt, and many of the people providing the muscle are motivated by blind faith in relentless propaganda.

Is it possible that we have until the end of the President's second term to act? Are we that certain of the timeline to Iran's nuclear bomb?

Or are we applying the old maxim, when close appear far, in order to throw the Iranians off?

And if we think we know Iran is three years away from a nuke, are the Iranians appearing far when near?

The problem isn't going away on its own. Just how much time do we have?

The Real Reason Iraq Banned Cars on Election Day

Indulge me.

Although the deaths on election day are sad, the terrorists could not kill democracy in Iraq on the day of its birth. So I'm a bit giddy for the moment.

Well, Of Course ...

I want to make a comment on the elections, but I want to establish the spirit in which I will make it.

In the spirit of those who warned of an Afghan defeat where two other empires had been beaten--and who then disparaged our victory as one over a fourth-rate power.

In the spirit of those who thought the sandstorm on the way to Baghdad was the beginning of a quagmire--and who then insisted that our troops get out of their armored vehicles to patrol on foot in soft caps after we routed the Iraqi military--and who in turn complained about why we didn't plan for a tough insurgency with plenty of armored vehicles.

In this spirit, I commend the emerging line of argument for those who wanted us to delay the elections in Iraq because it could not work and security was not good enough to allow people to go to the polls. I heard it once today already and it has promise for these pro-delay people (I'm being generous, I think they were mostly afraid of our success). Wait for it!

"Well of course the US military was capable of providing security for one day of voting."

Never mind that they claimed it could not be done. No, they will belittle the accomplishment, and ignore the bravery of ordinary Iraqis who went to the polls. The numbers probably won't match the optimistic 72% quoted this morning, but it will be enough. It's success will be indicated by how many "Well, of course ... " statements we hear.


It will take a while for the results of the Iraq election to be reported. Turnout appears to be good and violence was not anything worse than any other bad day despite the concentration of innocent Iraqis at polling places.

The success will have a wider impact. I wonder what the results will be in other countries where Iraqis voted? Ethnic Iraqis in America and Australia were jubilant. But what about in countries like Syria, Iran, and even Jordan? What will Syrians, Iranians, and Jordanians think about the fact that the only people in their own countries to vote in a free election are Iraqis? Under American tutelage? Will the claims that we are occupying Iraq stand up to this demonstration of freedom?

And if Iran or Syria truly sent their own people into Iraq to vote in an effort to influence the election, what will they tell their neighbors when they return to Syria or Iran? I doubt that such an effort took place, quite honestly, but if even small numbers went across, will they tell tales of joy at the voting process? Again, will it seem odd to Iranians and Syrians that their neighbors get to vote freely when they must watch rulers in Tehran and Damascus wield power?

Hard work remains. But this could have a wider impact.

UPDATE: The Arab world is paying attention to the elections ...

What They Own, They'll Defend

The eagerness of the Iraqi people to vote is deeply touching and a positive sign. Now that the Iraqis have a sense of ownership of their country, good things may happen:

  1. Sunnis on the fence will have an excuse to move toward the government.
  2. The foreign terrorists led by Zarqawi may find that they operate in a more hostile sea and will need to move on, as he apparently wrote last summer. Their boasts were not matched by actions.
  3. Shias will gain confidence in their future and will be less vulnerable to accusations that they are collaborating with a foreign occupier. Why only Iraqi soldiers and police could be accused of killing fellow Iraqis when the insurgents carried out actual murders is beyond me, but that accusation was made. That idiot Sadr may find he has gotten much lonelier.
  4. The Baathists themselves may be discouraged at their failure to disrupt the elections despite their very loud vows to make the streets flow with blood. In the end, the Baathists and their jihadi friends killed enough to remind the Iraqi people that the insurgents are bloody fiends but not enough to deter voters. When will the Baathists with access to the money decide that a wealthy retirement in Switzerland is better than a futile fight to return to power?
  5. Neighbors will see that contrary to the past, American power is behind democracy and not stability. Freedom is possible.
Yes, a good day. Will the press report this better or worse than the praised 62% Palestinian turnout? When the polls were thrown open to anybody at all late in the day to boost low turnout? Will the press report this better or worse than the 100% turnout of Saddam's last election? When few reporters had the guts to call it a sham?

The Iraqis know that this is an important day:

"This proves that we are now free," said Akar Azad, 19, who came to the polls with his wife Serwin Suker and sister Bigat.

What the Iraqi people now own, they will defend even harder than they have been. Freedom was a long time coming and we helped a brave Iraqi people give birth to democracy. There will be a long period of infancy and adolesence before this democracy is mature. And the Iraqi people will find that they must prove they are free every day to maintain freedom. After all, lots of sham elections have taken place in that region. Yes, this was a free election but it cannot be a one-time event. Rule of law, accepting defeat at the polls, and respecting opponents must all be carried out by the Iraqi people. The first time a government loses an election and must hand over power the way we assume will be an even bigger day than today.

We may be proud of what we have heped start today. The Iraqis have taken the chance we gave them and proven they are free.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Inshallah and Pass the Ammunition

Elections in Iraq are beginning. The enemy threatens to disrupt the elections and have vowed to kill any Iraqis who vote. The enemy has a lot invested in stopping this vote.

The bravery of American, Iraqi, and Coalition troops have made this election possible. The dedication of Iraqis who serve the new, free Iraq have made this day possible. And Iraqis who will vote will make sure the sacrifices of soldiers and bureaucrats are not in vain.

Will the jihadi and Baathists succeed in harming the vote? I doubt it. Will the enemy expose themselves to our killing machine in a desperate effort to make good on their vow to stop the elections? That is quite possible. Remember, the insurgents that mortared the Green Zone today were spotted, followed, and arrested! We are ready for the SOBs today. The fighting may go on. It may even get worse. But it is also possible that this election day will be the tipping point that makes it clear that our enemy cannot win.

I'm hoping this is the first sign of final victory. Though it may not be apparent until we look back at this day. Or the fight may be a slugging match as we stand up Iraqis to carry on the fight. I'm steeled for the latter result.

But I do have hope. This is a good day for Iraqis. Freedom is being born and we are making it possible.

Victory--Not Mere Survival

George Will (via Real Clear Politics) has President Bush's second Inaugural address all wrong. Will compares it to President Kennedy's Inaugral address and pronounces President Bush's more desperate:

Notice that Kennedy spoke of the "survival" of liberty. So did Bush, but he said the survival of liberty depends on the expansion of liberty, indeed on its maximum expansion, pending the possibility of bringing liberty to some other planet. Bush said: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." The idea that the very survival of American liberty depends on the success of liberty everywhere suggests that America is more embattled and vulnerable than it was during the Cold War. Then the survival of liberty meant the containment of tyranny. Now, Bush says, the survival of liberty must involve the expansion of liberty until "our world" is scrubbed clean of tyranny. [emphasis added]

Will seems to be saying that in 1961 when we pledged to bear any burden to resist Communist expansion that this was somehow a pledge made from more strength than President Bush's view that we must promote liberty everywhere to preserve our liberty. This could not be any more wrong.

When President Kennedy vowed to bear any burden and pay any price to defend liberty, we were playing defense against a system that many thought could not be defeated. In Vietnam, in Africa, and in Central America, we struggled against what seemed to be a surging Soviet Communist advance. Indeed, by the 1970s it was possible for some to wonder whether the American century that had begun in 1898 would be truncated in 1975 to be replaced by a Soviet century of primacy. Yes, we only sought conatainment but at the time even that seemed a tall order. Survival seemed to be all we could hope to achieve. Is it possible that we have forgotten that before our emergence as the lone superpower, we seemed doomed to domination by the Soviet Union? But it was the Soviet Union that collapsed in 1991 and not America, after Moscow lost control of their East European empire in 1989.

Today we are on offense. But when we speak of preserving our liberty it is not because we fear an Islamist version of the USSR will defeat us around the globe and pin us in North America, isolated from the Green-dominated world. The jihadis cannot conquer us, though in their feverish moments they dream of world conquest. No, we seek to drain the swamps that support jihadi delusions in order to prevent attacks on our homeland that kill and damage us but which cannot defeat us.

And Will's dismissing the importance of spreading liberty to protect our own liberty ignores the fact that our civil liberties do require going on the offensive to crush the terrorists and to defeat the states and ideologies that motivate those thugs. If our war on terror drags on for decades on end and we sit on the defensive, crafting new laws and trying to build an impregnible defense against small groups of attackers, our civil liberties will erode until freedom is but a dream. For a perfect defense is impossible. Enemies will get through and kill large numbers of us. And after each attack, the public will demand our government protect them through ever harsher laws.

But most important, Will neglects the difference that in 1961, our hopes for going on the offensive were slim. Today we have the strength to attack our enemies where they had thought they were safe from our power. We reached out and crushed the jihadis in Afghanistan. We crushed their champion in Iraq and fight the jihadis who go to Iraq to support the fight of the Baathists.

Going on offense to preserve our liberty is not a strategy of weakness. It is a strategy that recognizes we have the power to go on offense. It is a strategy that recognizes that no passive defense can possibly secure us 100%. And ultimately, as the pictures of weeping Iraqis voting for the first time and Afghan children going to school demonstrate, it is also a strategy of compassion that will better the lives of tens of millions in the short run and hundreds of millions in the long run.

The message our president sent in our name is a powerful one--not a fearful one. It is hopeful and confident rather than being defiant in the face of looming disaster:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

We will not cower in our homes. We're coming after the bastards that wish us dead or groveling. And when we come, people who have lived under the boots stomping on their faces forever will rise up. Tomorrow, Iraqis will join us in promoting liberty despite the thugs who threaten them and demand they lie down for more boot stomping. I am hopeful that this is a a monumental moment that will lead to victory in Iraq. And in the war.

And then our liberty will be secure. For a time anyway. There will always be new threats.

I Couldn't Sign

An open letter to leaders of Congress by a number of people--some of whom I respect a great deal--urging an increase in Army and Marine end strength is motivated by a desire to win the War on Terror, I believe. But I could not sign it (well sure, it was never terribly likely that I would actually be asked. But if I had ...) as written.

The heart of it states:
So we write to ask you and your colleagues in the legislative branch to take the steps necessary to increase substantially the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. While estimates vary about just how large an increase is required, and Congress will make its own determination as to size and structure, it is our
judgment that we should aim for an increase in the active duty Army and Marine Corps, together, of at least 25,000 troops each year over the next several years.

The authors want more troops to ease the strain on the Army and Marines, on the assumption that a lengthy fight will break our current ground forces. They are probably right in theory but in practice, our need to fight at current levels and strength in Iraq will likely recede as the Iraqi military gets larger, stronger, and more experienced. But their point that we shouldn't assume this fight will end in time to end the strain is indeed correct.

But I think the military is taking steps to ease the stress. The key is increasing the number of combat brigades so that rotation of combat units can be spread out over a longer period of time. It isn't good to fight a war with units either in Iraq or preparing to go to Iraq.

But is adding end strength the best course? I don't think so given that options within the current force structure have not been exhausted. We are adding an additional brigade to each of our ten Army divisions. We have another parachute brigade. We are retraining units suited for the Fulda Gap to Military Police units and other units in short supply. We may add another five brigades to our ten divisions. We are working to turn our 8 National Guard divisions and 15 enhanced separate brigades into 34 deployable Guard brigades. The divisions have not been viewed as usable except in extreme emergency and this will change.

So over three years we will have added 11 Army brigades and say 2 Army MP brigades. And for the future, 19 deployable National Guard brigades and perhaps 5 more active Army brigades. We will do this by retraining existing units and freeing up military slots by transfering some jobs to civilian contractors. I don't know the timeframe for this additional force of 37 brigades, but it is a lot. And I don't even know what the Marines are doing, but if they aren't forming more battalions from their force I'd be shocked. Sure, since they rely on Army supply units for much of their tail they have less room to add troops, but there will be additional manuever units created I am sure. If you assume that the 25,000 called for in the letter is equivalent to 5 brigades (5,000 each), we already have nearly 8 years worth of increases in sight. Or just looking at the active forces, nearly four years of increases.

If the letter had called for an increase in 5 brigades of infantry in any of its forms (mechanized, light, parachute, airmobile, motorized) or Military Police, regardless of how it was done, then I would have signed. Let the Pentagon add strength without saying exactly how. If the Pentagon can't add 4-5 brigades per year, then add end strength to do it. But focus on the result and not the means.

And note that Victor Hanson did not sign this open letter. I would like to read his views on this letter and subject.

French Resistance Myth is Real!

I know that sometimes Americans are suspicious of France. One of the biggest lies seems to that of the French "resistance" to the Nazis during World Warr II. After listening to the French right spout "Better Hitler than Blum" in the pre-war era and seeing so little evidence of actual resistance in France during the occupation (what would we have given for a Gallic Triangle in the war?), now we have actual evidence of the French Resistance.

Sadly it isn't historical but current events:
French militants who join the fight against U.S.-led forces in Iraq could one day return to strike terror in France and elsewhere, the defense minister warned Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The warning followed the detention this week of 11 people in Paris as France's domestic counterterrorism agency moved to break up a network suspected of seeking to funnel young French Muslims to Iraq. Ten suspects remain in custody; one woman was released Wednesday.

French officials have said the arrests were aimed partly at ensuring that suspected would-be militants do not receive combat training and experience in Iraq that could make them a threat at home if they survive.

Proof of French Resistance against an occupier!

Seriously, will the Europeans finally accept that their sophisticated splitting of policy in which they fight terror groups with police methods while opposing US policy that aims at the state sponsors of terrorism isn't working? Their enemies are too simplisme to calibrate this fine distinction. They see Westerners and they want to kill us whether American, Spanish, British, Australian, or even French. For the Islamists, you are either with them--or dead.

As much as I slam the French, I want them on our side. Because when it comes down to it, they are part of the West. They have lost their way in the EUtopia that they pretend they have, but reality is slowly pounding on their door, disturbing their month-long holiday from history.

It is a rude awakening for them. Will they rouse themselves finally? Will the French--and Europe--finally resist the enemy that seeks to kill them?

Soft Heads for Soft Power

The Europeans complain that we are successfully pressuring European companies not to do business with Iran. I am reassured by this news. Not so the European (and I imagine the European at heart):

In turn this is making it harder for Europe to offer Iran economic incentives to persuade it to abandon nuclear processes that could be used to build weapons.

"They're being pressured by Washington. Major European companies are unwilling to deliver," an EU diplomat said. "This means we really have no incentives to offer Iran at this point."


Among these incentives, the EU's "big three" have promised to help Iran cut deals with EU firms in civilian nuclear, aeronautic, telecoms and other industries.

European diplomats complained about the U.S. increasing pressure on trade just as the European governments were trying to persuade Iran to accept economic incentives.

I am regularly stunned by the Europeans. Just how hard do they really think it would be to get the Iranians to accept bribes ("incentives") for a hollow promise not to build nuclear weapons? The Iranians will build the casings, enrich the Uranium, design the warheads, perfect the missiles, and machine every bolt that puts it all together--all without violating the pledge not to "build a nuclear weapon." And the mullahs will exploit all these incentives to grow stronger. Meanwhile the Europeans will sail along in their peaceful ignorance, getting mad at Americans for pointing out the Iranians are doing all these component things.

Then, when the agreement is no more use to the Iranians, they will nullify it. They will claim some minor infraction or willsimply assert their right to nuclear weapons.

The Iranians mullahs want nuclear weapons and no amount of incentives will persuade them not to build them. How the Euros can convince themselves that they only need to make the bribe large enough and the mullahs will see reason and cancel nuclear plans is simply beyond my powers of comprehension.

The Europeans ignore the threat of Iran while Iran single-mindedly pursues nuclear weapons. The ability of the Europeans to march toward self-destruction with policies that defy rational calculations of costs and benefits is matched by the Iranian ability to do the same.

It will be interesting to see how an agreement born of two such reality-defying outlooks.

"Interesting" meaning how difficult it will be for the US and our allies to correct these two monumental errors in calculations.

In a few months, our Strategic Petroleum Reserve will be filled to capacity. After that, we may feel more free to act to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat. I guess it all depends on the comfort levels of our estimates of how long it will take for the mullahs to get their fingers on the nuclear button.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Sometimes I am still shocked that Madeleine Albright was our Secretary of State.

She had a recent column in USA Today that I had saved to savage. Power Line saved me the trouble.

I must thank them since I somehow feel cheapened taking the time to take issue with her words.

A crud, I can't help myself. This is the paragraph that finally put me over the edge after enduring idiocy that only set the stage for the extreme idiocy of this:
As grim as the situation is, the United States should stay focused on how to achieve success in Iraq, not simply declare it. We owe that to our armed forces and to the Iraqis who believed in us. The bad guys in Iraq are truly bad and cannot be allowed to win. But to have any chance of turning things around, the administration must do what it has steadfastly refused to do — admit mistakes;
emphasize a political instead of a military strategy; do what it takes to secure the cooperation of Iraq's neighbors; hold senior officials accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other blunders; and launch, finally, an economic reconstruction program that puts paychecks in Iraqi wallets and food in Iraqi

I could probably take issue with every key stroke, including the spaces between words, but let me just note that she advises that we need a political instead of a military strategy. I do agree. Our military is buying time for the Iraqis to join the fight. Which is why I don't panic at the enduring Baathist insurgency. We are standing up Iraqi security units and Iraq is building a new government that will began the path to democracy. Once these are truly begun, Iraqis will move to the front and we will pull back. So what is my problem with her saying this? Becasue prior to this she said we lack a military strategy that makes sense and that we don't have enough troops. But by the end of the article she complains that we wrongly emphasize a military strategy.

The Senate confirmed this woman. I'm just noting that fact. And yes, I do feel sullied even bothering with this.

Third Wave of Dominos?

President Bush will meet with President Putin on February 24th. Lord knows I sympathize with the Russians who have dealt with horrible terrorism in their home country. But they flirt with the Chinese and sell them arms. They arm the Iranians and Syrians and feed the Iranians nuclear technology. They tried to subvert Ukrainian elections and they have crushed democracy at home.

It is time to stop coddling Russia:

That will be the moment to shift gears in the U.S.-Russia relationship, which has been dominated since Sept. 11, 2001, by Putin's adroit response to American needs in the war against al Qaeda and other Salafi extremists.

President Bush is now in the stronger position of the two leaders. In Bratislava, he can ask for greater Russian cooperation in counterproliferation, particularly on Iran. Missile defense is another promising area of coordination in what could become a broad security zone linking Russia, Europe and the United States. And Bush cannot afford to neglect Putin's assault on democracy at home.

Bush will not need or want to flaunt demands in public. But in private, he will need and want to take into account Putin's failures of the past year and the Russian's still-falling stock. Bush needs in short to be more skeptical about a leader to whom he has given the benefit of the doubt for too long.

I want the Russians to be our ally. I think the Russians are fools to believe they can sell arms to China and emerge safer for it. Lenin said the West would sell Russia the rope with which to hang the West and this is what Russia is doing. At best, they will be a junior partner. Wouldn't it be better for them to be one of equals in Europe? The Russians really need to let go of their memories of empire and move on.

I hope President Bush gives them a hard but quiet shove in that direction. Russia sure isn't acting very friendly--or wisely.

Pillsbury Nuke Boy Insecure?

A South Korean newspaper is reporting that the North Koreans bought a nuclear bomb:
North Korea appears to have bought a complete nuclear weapon from either Pakistan or a former Soviet Union state, a South Korean newspaper said on Thursday quoting a source in Washington.

Seoul Shinmun quoted the source as saying the United States was checking the intelligence.

The purchase was apparently intended to avoid nuclear weapons testing that could be detected from the outside, the source was quoted as saying.

North Korea is believed to have one or two nuclear weapons and possibly more than eight.

If true, what would this tell us?

It could tell us that they fear getting caught testing a weapon--which is odd considering apologizts claim North Korea wants to deter us from invading. Just how is somebody deterred when their deterrent is secret? And so how were we deterred from invading so long when they had no nukes? Oh what am I doing here? Trying to be logical? Sheesh. Never mind.

Or it could tell us that they haven't succeeded in building a bomb and they want something. But there is still that secrecy problem.

Or it could tell us that they have no confidence in their own nuclear designs and fabricating ability so they want one quality imported nuke in case the home-built nukes fizzle out.

Regardless, I hope we have set up phony nuke merchants to sell secretly defective nuclear bombs. If North Korea is trying to buy a nuke, I want them to find our guys doing the "selling."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Related to the Marine helicoopter crash, I can't help but think that the European A380 with its capacity to carry 555 passengers, will be a terrorist magnet. Successful terror attacks are few and far in between and if terrorists are to get a success, they'd rather kill 555 than a hundred on a 737.

I hate to think this, but this is the age we live in. This plane is a target.


An American helicopter went down in western Iraq, killing 30 American Marines and 1 sailor. The loss appears to be due to bad weather. I am heartsick at such a toll.

This is the scale of loss that I have dreaded ever since September 2003 when it became apparent to me that the fighting in Iraq was more than just mopping up the last diehards. Such losses, like the November 2003 helicopter downings or the December 2004 Mosul mess tent bombing, shock the public. I've feared that the enemy might pull off a Beirut-type attack that would kill hundreds at one blow and undermine the public's determination to win in Iraq and turn over the fight to a functioning Iraqi democracy.

As we mourn our losses, please remember that the cause for which they died is just. And remember that this was an accident. It could have happened in Hawaii or California or Okinawa. It happened in Iraq and so is marked as a cost of war. But I am sometimes amazed that we have had few of these bad days over the last nearly two years. It remains true that despite the persistence of the Baathist resistance, that it is more likely for us to suffer a large one-time loss due to weather or even friendly fire. Our troops truly outclass our enemies that much.

So mourn this loss. And adjust our operations to minimize such needless casualties. And by all means, remain vigilant so that the enemy can never inflict a Beirut barracks-scale attack on our forces in Iraq or Kuwait. As awful as this loss is, the real tragedy would be if it discouraged us when we are on the verge of victory. Our Marines won't run. We shouldn't, either.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


The Chinese are seeking to purchase surplus Russian Backfire bombers. These bombers were designed to hit American carriers with salvoes of long-range, high-speed missiles. F-14 Tomcats were our answer to hit the bombers with our long-range Phoenix missiles before theRussians could launch their missiles.

The assumption is that the Chinese want another tool to deal with our carrier battlegroups in a Taiwan showdown. But the limited numbers China is seeking and advances in our SAM capabilities lead the article author to conclude:

This rumored sale to China, while it will generate some concern, will not be very difficult to deal with.

So the Chinese will buy weapons that won't deal with the US carrier threat? Either the Chinese think (rigthly or wrongly) these aircraft will work in their hands--perhaps in combination with other assets--or their purpose is not directed at the United States.

I've already noted that the Chinese are building a "string of pearls" along the sea line of communications from the Middle East to China. These bases would try to safeguard Chinese oil imports. Remember that the US is not the only threat China sees--they are surrounded by threats. India comes to mind as the big enemy jutting right across the route of oil tankers sailing from the Gulf to southern China. Might not Backfires based in Burma or Pakistan have a greater chance of knocking down India's carriers (I think they have two) and bottling up India's navy? Indeed, from Burma or perhaps Hainan Island, Backfires could deal with Thailand's small carrier and help guard the tankers as they go from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Once you add the US Navy into the fight, it doesn't matter if Thailand or India are effective. We will shut down the tanker route somewhere along the long SLOC. But China would be foolish to assume that inability to deal with the worst case scenario means they shouldn't try to cope with a lesser threat. I'm just guessing, but India and not the United States seems the logical target for Backfire bombers in Chinese service.

Monday, January 24, 2005

It's a Wonder I Don't Drink Heavily

I honestly get frustrated with some of the criticisms of the war effort. The latest talk of the "training" issue is just silly:
In particular, [Senator] Biden declared repeatedly that his own assertion that only about 4,000 Iraqi troops had been effectively trained - Rice said the number was 120,000 - had been based on confidential discussions with military commanders in Iraq.

Is criticism of our war effort now reduced to arguing over the level of training that we've given the Iraqi troops? Just what standard of training is the opposition holding as necessary to fight? Maybe we can bo back and impeach President Lincoln if training standards are the measure. If it is modern American standards, then no Iraqi unit is going to match that level any decade soon. Nobody is claiming that 120,000 Iraqis are trained to American standards. And I assure you, that group of 4,000 is not trained anywhere near American standards either.

The Iraqi security units have had training and now the important thing is to get them in the field to gain experience in fighting the insurgents.

I dare say that by the standards being set for training our side, there are no trained Baathists or jihadis at all.

Look, I want honest criticism. I want questions based on a shared desire to win. I don't want cheerleading that ignores real problems. But the opposition makes it difficult to even take their questions seriously.

Excess Air Power?

If memory serves me, we had fewer than one thousand combat aircraft for the Iraq War. Strategypage notes that one most days a half dozen combat aircraft are kept airborne to support combat operations. And to support 6 aircraft up in the air presumably most of the time? Well:
The coalition usually has 500 combat aircraft available for Iraq and Afghanistan. About 80 percent of these planes are for Iraq, and include U.S. Air Force F-15s , F-16s, AC-130s and A-10s, U.S. Navy F-14s and F/A-18s, U.S. Marine CorpsAV-8s and F/A-18s and British GR-4s and GR-7s. There are also about 50 reconnaissance aircraft available, including Global Hawk and Predator UAVs, plus U-2s, RC-135 electronic signal collection) and E-8Cs (J-Stars ground radar). There are also several dozen tankers and transport aircraft. The ground troops also have dozens of helicopter gunships available as well.

I've speculated many times that some time after our Strategic Petroleum Reserve is filled this spring that stuff will start happening in Iran. We've had quite a lot of time to seek support within Iran for a revolt of the soldiers and people against the nuke-seeking mad mullahs. Now, this report says we have 400 aircraft allocated for Iraq and 100 for Afghanistan? Isn't 400 rather a lot to support 6 planes in the air--even assuming 6 are in the air 24/7?

I don't know, but it sure seems like we have excess capacity for purely Iraq operations. Granted, with our ground troops spread out hunting Baathists we'd really need significant airpower to blunt a sudden Iranian or Syrian thrust into Iraq should they get world-class stupid, but still... 500 planes around Iran? With long-range bombers able to add their weight from outside the region?

Is this capacity there for an Iran contingency? If we are supporting Iranian dissidents and army units revolting against Tehran, this airpower directed by special forces embedded in the Iranian rebels would be quite effective.

Win-Win Solution

I don't understand it when some complain that a number of detained terrorists at Guantanamo Bay attempted to commit suicide. I just don't get why Amnesty International complains that indefinite detention is really depressing to these thugs. I am bewildered that this suicide attempt plot was considered by the detainees to be an act of defiance aimed at new guards and that we stopped them.

I really don't get why we don't just let them commit suicide. Presto, no more "indefinite" detentions, so the AI fanatics stops whining. Plus, we show we are culturally sensitive to our detainees' wishes for death and we'd give them a little "win" by allowing a show of defiance against us.

I little more successful defiance like that and we can close down Gitmo.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Pay Attention!

Zarqawi makes it difficult for those over here who think that if only we "understood" our enemies a little more we could sit down to share mint tea and sweet cakes and settle the whole misunderstanding. Thug One declares that he is fighting democracy:

"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," said the speaker, who identified himself as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of the al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it."

This is so odd, because I thought it was our fault or something we had done. Isn't that what many in the anti-war side say (from Buchanan to Moore)? I mean, for Thug One to declare that "democracy" is what he is fighting undermines that whole line of thought.

When he notes that the elections will bring the majority Shias to power (along with the Sunni Kurds too, of course and any Arab Sunnis who wish a new and better life), one might think that Thug One is just announcing the bleeding obvious. But no, he gives his game away:

The speaker said candidates running in the Jan. 30 elections are "demi-idols" and those who vote for them "are infidels." U.S. and Iraqi officials fear insurgent attacks and have announced massive security measures to protect voters.

"You have to be careful of the enemy's plan to implement so-called democracy in your country," he added. He said the Americans have engineered the election "to make Shiites dominate the regime in Iraq. Four million Shiites were brought from Iran to take part in the elections to achieve their aim of winning" most of the positions.

One would think that one of the so-called "Minutemen" of Iraq wouldn't speak ill of the majority population he is supposedly trying to liberate. But oh yeah, he isn't even Iraqi and he has made clear that he just wants to kill Americans and Shias--not help Iraqis. Thug One is speaking to the region's Sunnis to instill the fear of the Shias. He calls them "demi-idols" or "infidels." Perhaps recruiting is poor. Perhaps contributions are down. He is speaking to "the base" (so to speak). He even adds the whole Persian-Arab divide in case some in his audience are too dense to understand the Shia-baiting. Thug One says we've brought in 4 million Iranian Shias to vote in the elections! The conspiracy of all conspiracies! American intrigue combined with the denial that Sunnis in Iraq were a minority dictatorship oppressing the Shia majority! Next he'll invite Jesse Jackson in to protest the results.

Zarqawi continues to alienate the Shias and makes sure that an increasingly powerful and assertive Iraqi government will go after the foreign jihadis quite ruthlessly. The Sunnis too will be targets if they don't shape up real fast. But the Sunnis are being stupid long after I thought they would get a clue. The Sunnis have time still to join the national resistance against Thug One and his foreign jihadi invaders and thus cement their place in the new, democratic Iraq.

Because democracy is what our enemies fight to prevent.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Chance to be Stupid

As we have moved forward with democracy in Iraq, the Shias and Kurds will assume the dominant roles over the Baathist-tainted Sunnis who used to rule Iraq. I have consistently expected that at some point, the Sunnis who are not damned by the Saddam-era crimes would join the new government to avoid retribution. I further thought that this movement would most likely happen while we are dominant so that our presence would moderate the Shia and Kurdish desire for revenge.

The Sunni-tolerated or supported Baathist insurgency is simply stupid in light of what I assumed was self-evident. Sure, the die-hards won't sign on to the new Iraq, but surely the majority would see the folly of angering the former victims of Saddam. And surely they'd see the benefits of switching sides while our presence could guarantee their safety. But no, the Sunnis risk having the screws tightened by resisting without hope of victory against the 80% of the Iraqis who will no longer be victimized and who will hold the government and wield its power against rebels. Strategypage summarizes the situation quite well:

While Iraqis get indignant over the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse issue, many privately thought that the Sunni Arab prisoners got off easy, that in Saddam's day, they would have been killed or mutilated, not just humiliated. It is feared that once the Iraqi security forces are able to deal with the Sunni Arab terrorists, it will be done in a particularly brutal fashion. Such brutality is common in the region, and considered a proper approach because such brutality is part payback, and part intimidation to discourage continued resistance. This spotlights another cultural difference. Iraqis hold Westerners to a higher standard of behavior than they do themselves. Part of this is gamesmanship. Iraqis note the higher moral standards of the Americans, and use it against us. But when they have to take care of business, they explain away more brutal methods as, "that's our culture." Well it is, and as more of these differences hit the news, expect the reports of torture and murder by Iraqi security forces to increase. Iraq now has about 120,000 people in the security forces (police and army), and wants to double that. When this appens in the next year, along with an increase in personnel quality and experience, the Sunni Arab terrorists will be on the defensive. Al Jazeera, and the rest of the Sunni Arab dominated Arab media, will be outraged. But the outrage will be mainly because Shia Arabs and Kurds are keeping Sunni Arabs out of power, not at how they are doing it. But Western media will be appalled at the brutality of the next stage of the Iraqi civil war. Brace yourself.
I shouldn't need this reminder but sometimes it is truly stunning to see the stupidity that can be the basis of enemy decisions. It is a mistake to assume rationality is the default position. Given that I always assume that killing the enemy ruthlessy is always the correct response to any resistance, it is embarassing to have assumed that even a belated rationality would lead the Sunnis to get on board the new Iraq. They have not. Or perhaps the elections will show that the Sunnis have decided that it is better to join than die. But as Strategypage notes (and I've held this to be true for quite a while as well), the new Iraqi government will fight the Baathists with a ruthlessness that we are unable to inflict on distant enemies. In their own backyard, the Iraqi government will have no such reluctance. They will eradicate the Baathists. The Baathists, having chosen to take this chance to be stupid when they could have prospered, will be eradicated. Couldn't happen to a nicer group of people, in my opinion.

Brace yourselves. The Baathists and their jihadi friends have guaranteed that this will be an ugly fight. Sadly, the Iraqi government won't get the benefit of the doubt that the beheaders and car bombers presently get in our press.

Outposts of Tyranny

It looks like nobody will be brought up from the minors to fill the third slot of the Axis of Evil. But heck, everyone has their favorite so a majority would likely be disappointed by any choice.

So Secretary Rice has named Outposts of Tyranny:
"To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny and America stands with oppressed people on every continent ... in Cuba, and Burma (Myanmar), and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe."

The article provides quick summaries about the four. Personally, I think Myanmar and Zimbabwe just got on for changing their names to unpronouncable mouthfulls. We really should discourage that.

Seriously, I don't know why Venezuela was left off this list. As long as Axis of El Vil member Cuba was put on it, why not put Mini-Me on too?

Burma is a nice one and puts China on notice that one of their little thug buddies is in our sights. China may want to use Burma as a base to project naval and air power into the Indian Ocean but it isn't going to be a free shot.

Belarus is a shot at Russia. I sympathize with Putin in his own battle with those jihadis who would pull another Beslan, but Putin is short-sightedly courting China by selling Peking advanced military technology and alienating the West that he should be angling to enter--not thwart. Putin's decisions to undermine democracy and rule of law at home and in Ukraine will lose him important friends in the West. And China will one day look longingly at Russia's Pacific provinces taken from Peking in the nineteenth century.

Zimbabwe was a good choice since it tells the world that political correctness won't protect an African thug regime anymore from censure. It has been too long since the minority white regime was booted out to give the government the benefit of the doubt--long past time to apply standards of decency in fact.

Why not Sudan you might ask? Well personally, I hope that the Europeans will take the lead in doing something here. So keeping Sudan off of our list makes it less bad in Brussels to think about intervening over genocide in Darfur. I thought last June that an intervention was in the cards. Send in that vaunted European intervention force with a composite squadron of the US Air Force and a US Army parachute battalion to base out of Chad and establish no-drive/no-fly zones in Darfur so that aid groups can help the people of Darfur. It would be a nice feel-good mission that we and our European allies could conduct side-by-side. Instead we have relied on the UN to wag their finger in dsapproval and the African Union to wag two. Not surprisingly, more people have died. But I'm sure the report on the situation is a lovely read and has a nice index!

And by not adding another Moslem or Arab nation to the list, we probably hope to avoid censure that the third spot on the Axis of Evil is the Arab or Moslem seat. I doubt Syria takes much comfort from not being on the list.

With the administration promoting freedom as a basic goal, we have more chances to score success that is not related to nuclear thugs.

Iran and North Korea we will still deal with. I don't fear that the longer list dilutes the focus on nuclear tyrants and nuclear wannabees.

All in all, not a bad list. It spreads the notion of tyranny around the world and lets tyrants everywhere know that we are not too busy with the rump Axis of Evil to note their depravity.

Truly Supportive ... Of What I Shudder to Think

Most people who oppose the war in Iraq truly are supportive of the troops fighting and dying there. But it isn't tough to find examples of those who hate that we overthrew the Saddam regime (and a good number who also hate that the Taliban are gone) and hate the soldiers who ran him out of his palaces and into a short stay at lovely spider holes until his arrest a year ago.

These twits expressed their support for the troops and unfortunately a cameraman was there.

I'm sure they have no awareness that generations of soldiers died to protect their freedom to harass a soldier in between classes.

Thank you SFC Jeff Due. You shouldn't have to put up with that crap. But hey, you probably made those students late for their puppet-making or bongo classes.

I have nothing but contempt for these pieces of garbage. They'll take those Pell grants and condemn the US government at the same time with no shame at all.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Duty, Honor, Country

The Belmont Club reports on Rick Rescorla, whose heroism spanned decades. The post honors this man's memory so well that I can't bear to excerpt any part of it.

Such a man cannot die. Though he gave his life on 9-11, as long as his memory endures to inspire current and future generations, such a man is not truly gone.

I am in awe of such devotion to duty and love of country.

Best News I've Heard Today

Instapundit notes an interesting article that notes a CIA prediction that the European Union will collapse on its present path:

THE CIA has predicted that the European Union will break-up within 15 years unless it radically reforms its ailing welfare systems.

The report by the intelligence agency, which forecasts how the world will look in 2020, warns that Europe could be dragged into economic decline by its ageing population. It also predicts the end of Nato and post-1945 military alliances.

In a devastating indictment of EU economic prospects, the report warns: "The current EU welfare state is unsustainable and the lack of any economic revitalisation could lead to the splintering or, at worst, disintegration of the EU, undermining its ambitions to play a heavyweight international role."

It has been our long-term goal to keep any hostile power from gaining control of the economic and scientific might of Europe. Whether we resisted the Kaiser, Hitler, or a succession of Soviet leaders, the goal has been the same--keep Europe from being used as a springboard to attack us. With the EU attempting to absorb the identities of individual nations and mold them into a Euro superstate, I fear that the EU will just evolve into a bureaucratic dictatorship that inevitably would clash with America. It might take fifty years, but it is the wrong path for us to encourage Europe to take.

So I draw comfort from the prediction of a Euro splintering. I'd rather have some friends than none and if we deal with nations, we can foster friendship. If we deal with Europe, we will face a competitor and quite possibly an enemy one day.

Of course, it would be better for American security to prevent the EU from becoming a politically united entity.

Dying in Place

The new Zarqawi tape appears to be quite interesting:

"The fruits of jihad (holy war) come after much patience and a lengthy stay in the battlefield ... which could last months and years," he said. "In the fight against the arrogant American tyrant who carries the flag of the cross, we find that despite its military might it is being crushed emotionally and morally.

"Our battle with the enemy is a battle of streets and towns and has many tactical, defensive and offensive methods. Fierce wars are not decided in days or weeks," he said, adding that U.S. forces had not achieved victory by entering Falluja.

Thug One seems to start with the assumption of bin Laden (formerly Thug One. Now Thug Regent or something) that America is weak morally and emotionally. This is standard Osama-talk it seems, filled with the belief that America will collapse if struck hard enough--and that doesn't even require much of a blow as Mogadishu taught them.

Yey the warning that the fight will take years to win against our military might certainly contradicts the easy-to-defeat theory. Being on the receiving end of our military might seems to have provided some reality check to Thug One as he assesses whether their light at the end of the tunnel is visible.

The second interesting thing this tells me is that Thug One has abandoned his summer forecast that should democracy come to Iraq, the jihadis will have no choice but to flee Iraq to fight elsewhere in more fertile ground. Democracy in Iraq, he feared, with mean the entire Iraqi nation would fight the insurgents. So the question for me is, has he decided that democracy in Iraq can be defeated after all? Well, his new view that no quick victory for the jihadis is in sight would seem to argue against him thinking that a democratic Iraq will be a pushover. If Thug One is resigned to a long fight inside Iraq despite the difficulties, is the decision to fight in Iraq no matter how long it takes merely a sign that he has nowhere else to go?

That's a pretty good sign to me. Thug One sees no better place to fight us outside Iraq and so is resigned to fighting for years there against an enemy he once assumed could not be beaten.

Kill them all. May Zarqawi and his jihadi buddies die where they stand.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


War is the last resort. That is what the left tells us (except for Kosovo or Haiti, of course). I like to keep this in mind as I read the articles leading up to Iraq's elections this month.

The press reports all violence in Iraq as taking place "before the elections." How long has it been going on now? A couple weeks? By framing every bombing this way, one might think the press and their real world allies think it is a mistake to hold elections at the end of the month:

U.S. and Iraqi officials had predicted an escalation in violence as the elections approach, with Sunni insurgents seeking to frighten people into staying away from the polls. Sunni clerics have also called for a boycott because of the presence of U.S. and other foreign forces on Iraqi soil.

Although the majority Shiite Muslims and the Kurds are expected to vote in large numbers, officials fear a low turnout among Sunni Arabs may cast doubt on the legitimacy of the new government and sharpen communal tensions among the country's 26 million people.

So there you go, the 80% of the population that is Kurdish or Shia will vote in large numbers. The minority 20% Sunnis, in whose name the insurgents are bombing and killing to frighten people away from the elections, might have a low turnout. Fancy that. I want to know what officials fear that this situation will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the vote.

Indeed, the desire in the press to see the elections is clear in many of the stories I've read or heard. Real Clear Politics highlights this piece which speaks of the "bearded intellectual" who wants the elections postponed:

"Unfortunately, the Bush administration has made Jan. 30 a sacred date," Attiyah told the group. He spoke of his efforts to reach out to the Sunni-led insurgency, and to woo insurgents who weren't radical Islamists or diehard Saddam remnants. This, he said, needed more time.

The whole piece was sympathic to the need for "outreach" to the Sunni insurgents. The author concluded:

It is too late now to postpone the Jan. 30 elections. The open question is whether it will still be possible for Iraqis to reconcile with one another after a ballot that divides them along religious and ethnic lines.

The disappointment that the elections will go forward is just bizarre. Just what do all those who want to postpone the election "to calm things down" expect will happen in the next 6 months to calm things down? Unless these delay advocates expect lions to lie down with lambs, what will persuade the Sunnis to stop supporting the Baathist thugs and their jihadi allies? The only reasonable way to smash up the Baathists would be to intensify the military campaign and do some serious killing. Are the give peace a chance folks going all bloody-minded on us?

Really though, for a group of people who dislike military options so much, their desire for another six months of fighting to suppress the insurgents is baffling. Insurgencies are about sucking the oxygen away from insurgents and that requires better political alternatives to the insurgents. Military campaigns can only buy time for the political battle to be won. This is why I have never focused on kill ratios (except in a narrow focus to judge how well we fight). No matter how effective we are in killing the enemy, if the political battle isn't drying up recruitment, replacements will be constantly pumped into the fight against us. Those who want to postpone the election seem to think counter-insurgency is a military problem.

This I find fascinating. It is bad enough that the Left refuses to support military actions when it is necessary to defend our interests. It was bad enough when they supported humanitarian wars with little in the way of vital interests present. Must they now support military options when they are actually counter-productive? The military is buying time. That is all. Our forces cannot pound the enemy into submission unless we are ready to commit mass murder the way Saddam put down the Shias in 1991. Our values rightly preclude that method so we must make supporting the insurgency unappealing to Sunnis.

Or perhaps I'm over analyzing. Maybe those who want to postpone the elections just can't stand to see America make progress in creating a new, free Iraq. Maybe this is really what they want to postpone.

Press forward with the elections. They will be legitimate. And keep building the governmental and security institutions that will allow the Iraqis to fight the insurgents.

John Keegan (via Real Clear Politics) speaks well of the upcoming elections even as he notes that the insurgency has posed a challenge to our vision of elections to replace Saddam's thug rule:

Neo-Islamists are a minority, even in the most pious Muslim countries, and few Muslims, however devout, wish to die as suicide fighters. A majority of Muslims everywhere are familiar with what Western civilisation offers and are eager to enjoy its rewards.

That explains in part the extensive opposition to the holding of the impending elections in Iraq. Successful elections and the establishment of a government bring a mandate that shakes the claims of even the most committed Islamists to enjoy the right to oppose its authority.

Such a government, properly supported by Western troops and money increasingly to be supplied by Iraq's growing oil revenues, would hearten Iraq's home-grown security forces, at present under attack from Islamist terrorists.

It would also dishearten the pragmatic opponents of democracy, of whom there are many, who, while assuming Islamic clothing, really fear that democracy will expose them for what they are: unreformed supporters of the old regime, in which a Sunni minority exercised power over the Shia majority.

Let us hope that the American believers in elections as the best cure for political trouble are proved right in Iraq, as they have usually been elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Restraint is Folly

In all the hand wringing over our casualties in the war on terror and concerns over whether we are over-reacting and harming too many as we fight, we have lost sight of the fact that our victory is the key to our enemy's survival. As Hanson wrote:

Yet lost in all this confusion is the recognition that the essence of war remains unchanged—the use of force to eliminate an adversary, coerce an opponent to alter his behavior, or prevent annihilation. Technology, modern social theory, the ease and luxury of the West—these are simply the delivery systems that change with the ages, but do not alter or affect the substance of conflict. In our present context, all our concern about American combat casualties would vanish should there be another mass murder similar to 9/11. Like ancient man, postmodern man is hardwired to survive, and thus really will use his full arsenal when faced with the alternative of extinction. Should we lose the stock exchange or the White House, there would be almost no calls for restraint against states that harbored or aided the perpetrators, on the logic that every terrorist must sleep, eat, and use an ATM card somewhere.

All the talk of our inability to identify exactly who pulled the trigger on the bomb that destroys Charleston ignores the reality that we will destroy all the usual suspects if a nuclear weapon is detonated on American soil. We won't even need hatred to do this. The simple logic of deterrence will require us to go ballistic on those who spew hatred and inspire or support such mass murderers. Failure to respond to nukes with our own nukes would mean open season on Americans. For once we let a nuclear attack go unanswered, nobody will ever believe we'd use nukes in our own defense.

So though it may seem hard line to pursue victory over our Islamist enemies and unreasonable to kill them wherever we find them, it is really a kindness to the larger society that has spawned them. Since that society cannot suppress the jihadis, we must kill them for that society. It is for their own good, really.

Death Rattle

I don't want to elevate my hopes into reality but North Korea is in a death spiral. I've noted the signs of rot recently and this latest (via Instapundit) is a very big deal:

The first known visual evidence of dissent within the world's most secretive state emerged yesterday when video footage taken in a North Korean factory showed a portrait of the dictator, Kim Jong-il, defaced with graffiti demanding freedom and democracy.

The 35-minute video clip, said to have been taken in November, was posted on the website of an opposition group based in South Korea. It shows a poster of Kim scrawled over with the words: "Down with Kim Jong-il. Let's all rise to drive out the dictatorial regime.''

In the world of the Pillsbury Nuke Boy, even minor infractions were punishable by draconian measures. Entire families would disappear into the gulags as punishment for the smallest defiance.

But a factory, with plenty of people present to witness the deed, was the site of a defacement of a poster of the Dear Leader. And it was filmed.

When your regime is based on fear, the end of fear means the end of the regime. The only question is how fast it falls. I'm glad 2nd ID is off the firing line at the DMZ. Pyongyang might not collapse quietly. But collapse they will.

This is a big deal.

The Price of Power

China grows more powerful as Peking builds up its economic might and translates it into military strength. It is easy to view the increase in Chinese military power and contemplate the challenge of beating the Chinese should it come to war. But we should remember the increased vulnerability of China as the nature of their power changes. At one time, China was a vast lump of proletarian fury that seemed invulnerable to our power. Nuke them? Kill 300 million? The Chinese seemed not to worry since they'd have a whole lot more. Invade them? The Japanese tried in the 1930s and in World War II yet could not swallow the country. With modern weapons and a modern economy, Peking would be orders of magnitude more formidable, right?

Well maybe not. Chinese strength has come at the price of reliance on imported energy. Oil must be shipped from the Middle East through the Indian Ocean, through Indonesian waters, and up the Pacifice past Taiwan. The Chinese are building bases (via Hugh Hewitt) along this route to protect the oil tankers:

"China is building strategic relationships along the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea in ways that suggest defensive and offensive positioning to protect China's energy interests, but also to serve broad security objectives," said the report sponsored by the director, Net Assessment, who heads Mr. Rumsfeld's office on future-oriented strategies.

I've written before that should it come to war, I would not want to change strategic positions with China. Even as it must look landward to potential land opponents from Vietnam clockwise to India, Russia, and South Korea, it must protect sea lines of communication to Middle East oil supplies that lie far beyond China's capability to defend. Should it come to war, our Navy and Air Force will choke off Chinese energy imports. Indeed, India has gained quite a bit of leverage over China since the Indian navy alone could choke off the flow of oil to China traveling the Indian Ocean. China may be building bases but Peking has a long way to go, however, in protecting these sea lines of communication:

Chinese specialists interviewed for the report said the United States has the military capability to cut off Chinese oil imports and could "severely cripple" China by blocking its energy supplies.

Once, our nuclear and land power seemed insufficient to defeat China. Now our naval and air power can cripple China in war. This is a great step up for us strategically in the conventional war area.

Oh, and one last point:

China believes the U.S. military will disrupt China's energy imports in any conflict over Taiwan, and sees the United States as an unpredictable country that violates others' sovereignty and wants to "encircle" China, the report said.

Just another reason why China will go for Taiwan's throat when it comes to war. The idea that China would try a leisurely naval blockade with slowly fired missiles to choke Taiwan's trade and squeeze Taiwan into submission is wishful thinking. The Chinese will throw everything they have at Taiwan, absorb the casualties, and try to win fast.

And the 2008 Olympics are fast approaching. Have I mentioned that this would be perfect cover for Peking to finally solve the Taiwan problem?

Monday, January 17, 2005

This is New After All

I rather mocked a NYT article about a story that didn't seem to have any story in it. The article asserted that the US was greatly ramping up attaching US advisors to Iraqi units but the statistics it reported didn't seem to indicate any great increase. I did concede there might be a story here if only the reporter had provided more details to back it.

Well the Times did that in this story and it does indeed appear to be a major increase:

The officer, Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, said that battling insurgents and reducing the violence would still be high priorities, but that the No. 1 job after the elections would be to improve the training of Iraqi security forces, whose performance is the linchpin of America's strategy for withdrawing from Iraq.

To do that, General Vines said, as many as 10,000 American military advisers could be assigned to work directly with Iraqi units to hone the leadership skills and confidence of newly trained Iraqi officers. He said he could not give precise figures until he had assessed the situation first hand. At present, a few thousand American advisers are assigned to Iraqi units.

We don't need to beat the insurgents to withdraw troops. Just make sure that Iraqis can do the job themselves. If it takes another decade to beat the Baathists, the Iraqis can do it. Our role will be as trainers, advisers, and for a time, a reserve force in case the Iraqi military runs into something too tough. We will provide artillery and air support, too. Finally, with the Iraqi military focused inward, our forces withdrawn largely into brigade bases away from the cities will guarantee that Syria and Iran do not attempt a conventional invasion of Iraqi territory.

We already have a few thousand in this role. We'll add perhaps 10,000 to this job.

Good. The road home leads through an effective Iraqi government and military that shoulders the burden of defeating the insurgents. We can't win for them. And shouldn't.

This Analysis is a Joke

The campaign to discredit the upcoming Iraq elections proceeds:
Rather than ushering in Iraq's first free and fair national elections for decades, the Bush administration has now limited its ambition for a vote it refuses to postpone.

I am amazed that a commitment to letting Iraqis vote freely as part of their liberation is being portrayed as a stubborn refusal to keep ruling them as an occupying force. Truly we live in Bizarro World. This analysis is truly astounding:

Critics of the administration's Iraq policy complain the elections for a 275-member assembly that should draw up a constitution and pick a transitional government are so flawed they will be illegitimate -- and counterproductive for democracy in the region.

"These elections are a joke," said Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle East history at the University of Michigan.

"The Bush administration has created the worst possible advertisement for democracy because the perception across the Middle East is that democracy means you get a country where everything is out of control," he said.

These elections are a "joke?" Is Cole serious? If I had to I could probably point out about a hundred UN members whose elections are a joke. But Iraq? We are giving them an actual free choice that the Shias and Kurds are embracing and this is a joke? Who on Earth annointed the Sunnis as the holders of legitimacy? Why is their refusal (it is assumed at this point) to vote in numbers matching the Shias and Kurds being defined as making the elections a joke? How is it possible that the neck-stompers are being portrayed as the downtrodden "protected class" of Iraq that we have to cajole into voting if they will only take a couple hours off from planting car bombs?

I think this is a very good advertisement for democracy. We are showing that the bloody opposition of a violent minority will not stop voting. We are saying that we will not use violence as an excuse to halt elections when many governments over there use the mere threat of unrest to refuse to hold real elections. We are showing that democracy must go forward even in times of unrest when it may appear that things are "out of control." We did the same in 1864 and we are doing no less for Iraqis in 2005. As Powell noted:

"I think a successful election will be an election where most of the population has gotten a chance to vote, and even though we may not get the same kind of numbers in the Sunni area, we're going to have to go forward and use the results of this election to build on," Secretary of State Colin Powell told PBS.

Move forward and hold the elections. We owe the Shias and Kurds the chance to finally cast a real vote for a national election. The Sunnis would be wise to take this opportunity too.

The real joke is the ability of so-called experts to argue for the side of the people planting car bombs who fear democracy will end their bloody reign of terror over the majority of Iraqis. Studying modern Middle Eastern history is not exactly a path to recognizing democracy in action.

Something Going On

Via Instapundit (I never bother linking to the big boys if I'm giving them credit. If you are reading this you know how to find Instapundit. Sorry, I know I should link anyway...) is this link to an article claiming we are scouting Iran for a possible aerial campaign to destroy their nuclear facilities:

The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported Sunday.

The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

First of all, Hersh is not exactly reassuring as a source.

Second, an aerial campaign is a distant second in my mind to regime change as a means to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear threat. Just because Hersh says the special forces operation is for an air campaign doesn't mean it is so. It could be disinformation. Sometimes you can't hide that you are doing something but you can hide what it really means. This story would fit in nicely with the growing consensus that we wouldn't dare do anything so bold while we are fighting in Iraq still. Our special forces could be scouting the sites and working on a details of a coming revolt. In any revolt, it would be nice to take down some of the sites. Or, if the revolt fails, cut up the nuclear facilities as a Plan B to at least kick the can down the road and buy some time.

I am comforted that something is happening regarding Iran even if it isn't clear to me what is happening.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Troop Strength Again

The Belmonst Club has a useful post on what adequate troop strength in Iraq should be. He highlights numbers I've used in the past when I've looked at the numbers and concluded we have enough troops in Iraq to win based on historical data (although I concede that local factors are more important than any historic average. We are fighting this war and not the historic average of wars).

Wrethcard posts a chart (man, I really need to figure out how to do charts on this site) that shows that for policing, security forces representing 0.22% of the population is sufficient. Light resistance may require 0.4% to 1%. A serious insurgency requires 2% or more. This is fine.

What I challenge is his chart showing that in Iraq as a whole we have 0.6% security levels. Assuming 25 million Iraqis, this percentage clearly refers to only the 150,000 American soldiers in Iraq. It is this kind of thinking that made me reject General Shinseki's famous statement that we would need several hundred thousand soldiers to police Iraq. Not that I rejected the absolute numbers given Iraq's size, but it was and remains a mistake to assume this has to mean only American troops.

American forces are not the only security forces in Iraq. We have (and I'm going purely on memory here so forgive any errors--the general idea will remain valid):

  1. 150,000 Americans.
  2. 25,000 Coalition.
  3. 105,000 Iraqis trained.
  4. 30,000 Iraqi militia (excluding Kurds)
  5. 20,000 Contract security.
This totals 330,000 security personnel.

We should not count this against the full 25 million population since the security forces above exclude Kurds which at one time anyway numbered 70,000. But since Kurdish areas are secure, let's just exclude the Kurdish population and we don't need to count the Kurdish militias.

So we have 330,000 security personnel for 20 million people. This is 1.65%. This isn't enough for security but we have to look at Iraq and not the average. We also have 25,000 personnel in Kuwait supporting the Iraq force. How do we count this? If Kuwait didn't host them, presumably they'd be in Iraq itself. If in Iraq, we'd count them as 25,000 fighting the insurgency. Why should we exclude their value just because they are in a more secure area and not subject to insurgent attacks? Indeed, since they don't need the security of Iraq-based forces, shouldn't we value them higher since they are doing the equivalent job of 25,000 plus security if they were inside Iraq? Let's call them 30,000 assuming a brigade of security would be necessary. I'm being conservative since our 20 brigades in Iraq at 5,000 per brigade works out to 100,000 in combat units and 50,000 non-brigade troops.

Now we are up to 360,000 troop equivalents in Iraq. Now we are up to 1.8%. Close but no cigar.

But in my past back-of-the-envelope calculations I had divided troops into Kurdish areas (5 million), Shia areas (15 million), and Sunni areas (5 million). Using this method I found sufficient troops although this ethnic breakdown is simplistic since ethnic/religious groups are not distinct in their own geographic areas. Let me assume roughly over half of the Shias and Kurds are in mostly "pure" regions (so I can round to even numbers). So assume that we can really subtract from 25 million total population 3 million Kurds in safe Kurdish areas and 8 million Shias in Shia regions in the south. This leaves us with a population of 14 million to measure troops strength against.

How are the troops occupying Iraq broken down? I'm going to do more assuming here for the numbers in the pacification area:

  1. 150,000 Americans.
  2. 20,000-equivalent Americans in Kuwait (I assume some support the Shia areas).
  3. 10,000 Contract security (half).
  4. 75,000 Iraqis (about 3/4 of total).
  5. 10,000 Iraqi militia ( 1/3 of total).
This totals 265,000 in the pacification area leaving 95,000 for the 8-million Shia area. This is almost 1.2%. Well above the light resistance range that characterizes the Shia area. Given the security situation, this is a high presence. At the 0.5% level we'd only need 40,000 security personnel in the Shia area.

Back to the pacification area with Sunni or mixed areas with lots of Sunnis, I'm assuming 8 million people. The 265,000 I've assigned to this area represents 3.3%. This is well above the historic average of fighting serious insurgencies. And it also gives us a reserve of forces in the Shia areas in excess of its policing requirements and from the Kurdish forces that I don't even count. Perhaps tens of thousands could be moved to the pacification area if needed. In addition, at one time we counted over 200,000 Iraqis trained and untrained. I assume that the 100,000 not trained are somewhere and if not tested should count as something. Even counting them as 1/4 effective would give us 25,000 more and if in light policing areas would do just fine.

Given the money the Sunnis have to fund their fight, their skill level, their motivation, and their jihadi allies, we might want up to 4% in the pacification area but given the lack of precision in my assumptions, that we are well above the 2% level is reassuring. The fact that the insurgency has not derailed the standing up of Iraqi security and governmental institutions is the main sign to me that we have enough, validating my reassurance.

I would like to note that I did the calculations as I made my assumptions and did not work backwards from a desired level. My assumptions may be wrong but I did the calculations honestly here. Indeed, I think I am conservative in my assumptions. If I ever run across more precise population data and troop deployment numbers I'll revisit this. But I'm blogging and not writing for publication so I'm not highly motivated to bolster my memory of past data I've read about with actual research (sorry).

We have the troops to win. Replacing US troops with Iraqis is more important than arguing about US troop levels.

Make Them Choose

Hoagland hits on a couple things in this column that I want to note. At the level of annoyance is the idea that "since we broke Iraq we have to fix it." This attitude popped up shortly after the invasion. But since it was most widely present in those who opposed the war but thought we needed to stay and stabilize Iraq I thought a little annoyance on my part is a small price to pay for getting support for the post-war mission. Hoagland writes that this view is just wrong:

It would relieve Saddam Hussein and foreign jihadists of their responsibility, or credit, if you will, for the hell on earth that central Iraq has long been. It would deprive Iraqis of their obligation to break the spell of passivity that Baathist dictatorship, past American betrayal and an oil economy have cast on them. It would reduce the Iraqi elections a little over a fortnight away to being a function of George W. Bush's brilliance, or his stupidity.
My reaction has nothing to do about relieving Iraqis of their responsibilities or blame--at least not directly. In my view, we did not "break" Iraq. We liberated Iraq and gave the Iraqis a rare chance to benefit from the direct application of American power (not to disparage our allies who provided significant help, but they could not do this on their own). Iraq, with its broken-down infrastructure, torture, oppression, and fear was nothing if not "broken" well before 3rd ID and I MEF crossed the berm and plunged into Iraq. The success of this war was always going to rest on how the Shias, Kurds, and even the Sunnis react to this opportunity to decisively toss the past aside and build a better nation.

Which leads to the next point of Hoagland. We must make the Sunnis choose where they want to stand:

The so-called Pottery Barn rule is one of several self-defeating myths that have grown up around Iraq and need to be dispelled by the Jan. 30 vote. Another is that the "legitimacy" of the elections will hinge on how many Sunnis vote or boycott.

Legitimacy is a relative concept, as the collection of democracies, dictatorships, kleptocracies and authoritarian regimes that make up the United Nations demonstrates. There is no magic formula for participation by any religious or ethnic group to establish legitimacy. The practicality of power politics does that, for better or worse.

Holding the elections forces Iraq's Sunnis into a similar practical choice: They can vote or they can fight. It would be a major error to let them off the hook of that choice, as those who argue for a substantial delay of the elections explicitly or implicitly advocate.

The neighboring Sunni monarchs in Jordan and Saudi Arabia want to delay the day when Iraq's political order will reflect the fact that Shiites make up the large majority of the population, a fact that Sunnis must at some point acknowledge and accept.

It is bad enough when war opponents elevate the blood-drenched Sunni population into the role of victim who have to be cajoled into voting and ending their active or passive support for the Baathist/jihadi insurgency. Must we and our Iraqi friends make the same mistake? The Sunnis are lucky we liberated them (yes, even most Sunnis were not the beneficiaries of Saddam's wealth). Who else would have set up a system that gave them freedom and a chance to participate in the new government? In their part of the world, losing was the short route to poverty and oppression. We have changed that pattern and they don't want to go along?

Well, screw 'em. Letting them off the hook for choosing between voting or planting car bombs just lets them use killing as a weapon to get more goodies than their numbers justify. Why would any rational actor choose peace when the enemy doesn't insist on making them choose to be peaceful?

The talk of the El Salvador option I think is real--or at least just a reflection of reality that will happen without any specific US plan. With elections completed, the Iraqi government will see if the Sunnis have chosen voting or bombing. If the Sunnis have chosen bombing, the Iraqi government will not likely just sit and take it any more. The government, with legitimacy as office-holders with a public vote, will go after the insurgents with a brutality that matches the insurgents.

If we play our cards right, as I've mentioned before, we can portray the fight as a national resistance against the foreign jihadis running around Iraq trying to kill Americans and Iraqis with no thought to achieving anything but death and chaos. Give the Sunnis a reason to join the government that doesn't look like surrendering and we can get most of the Sunnis to end their support or acceptance of the Baathist-led insurgency.

The Shias and Kurds may be the ones voting in the largest numbers, but their numbers guarantee they would win power whether they use elections or raw violence to enforce their numbers. The really significant choice is being offered to the Sunnis. They can choose the ballot or the bullet. We must make them choose.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Iraq the Vote

Ralph Peters addresses some of the ridiculous assertions being made about why we should delay the Iraq elections because of the violence there:

The critics whine that the poor Sunni Arabs aren't ready. The truth is that the Sunni Arabs, who benefited under Saddam at the expense of the majority Shi'a and the Kurds, will never admit that they're ready for elections. Elections mean they lose.

I am continually amazed that the progressive elements of our society continue to wring their hands over the fate of the neck-stompers of the last four centuries of Sunni rule and three decades of Saddam's gentle mercies to the non-Sunnis. How can so much ink be spilled defending those who spill so much blood to this very day? How twisted can their thinking be that they reflexively defend the Baathist thugs?

And what would we get if we delayed the elections? Do the proponents of delay think the voter turnout would be 20% greater? Ten? One? Indeed, do they even care about what the result would be other than being represented as a defeat for the US?

This is what we could expect from delay:

The issue the critics avoid like a leper's kiss is that any delay would hand the terrorists a victory. Wringing their hands about the level of violence in Iraq, democracy's opponents on the Upper West Side insist that voting requires higher levels of security.

Do they imagine that an election delay would make the violence subside? On the contrary, the terrorists and insurgents would believe — rightly — that they had triumphed. Attacks would increase, more recruits would flock to terror's cause (everybody loves a winner), and democracy would recede beyond the far horizon.

Having set the date we must proceed. And if it isn't perfect? Well the next one will be better. And the one after that even better. We sure know that the election will be better than any of the sham elections in Saddam's Iraq and will be better than any other election held in the Arab world. The only election to come close is the recently held Palestinian election.

Why Americans would support a delay when it so clearly would bolster the enemy is beyond me.

No delay. Vote at the end of the month. The Sunni resistance is doomed and there is no reason to throw it a lifeline.