Monday, February 28, 2005

Lull or Trend?

US combat casualties are down significantly this last month (from a February 21 article):

The number of coalition military forces killed by hostile actions has declined significantly since Iraq's Jan. 30 election, according to military officials.

As of Monday, the 28 coalition forces killed from hostile fire or roadside bombs in February represented the lowest fatality rate since last March, according to The daily average of 1.33 soldiers killed in hostile actions after the election compares to 2.42 during the previous 10 months, based on Philadelphia Inquirer calculations.

The question is, is this a lull prior to an insurgent offensive (as last February proved to be), are insurgents targeting Iraqis more as they tire of getting waxed by US forces and as they grow to fear Iraqi forces more, are we pulling back into a force protection mode to minimize casualties, or are the insurgents losing heart?

We'll see whether this is a trend that continues or not.

Busy Little Bees

Via Strategypage, a reminder that the Chinese are gearing up for something:

Reports, and digital photos, getting out of China via the Internet, indicate that the modernization of the Chinese armed forces is some two years ahead of the schedules cited by most Western experts. New aircraft, ships and tanks are showing up sooner than expected, and China is spending money on more training for pilots and ship crews. Not as much training as Western forces, but more than in the past for China.

Have I mentioned that the Peking Olympics would be great cover for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan? Who would think that the Chinese would forfeit the hosting of the Olympics? I mean, in exchange for a pageant (that didn't do the Soviet Union much good after 1980), the Chinese could gain strategic surprise to capture the object that their very legitimacy revolves around.

That's in 2008. Three years away.

The Taiwanese need a sense of urgency. China apparently does.

Fallujah Retreat Continues

Despite the ability of terrorists to carry out high-casualty attacks within Iraq, al Qaeda may see their eventual defeat within Iraq and this may explain why bin Laden has ordered Zarqawi to go after the US here at home.

Just as Zarqawi fled Fallujah ahead of the US assault in November, Zarqawi will get the Hell out of Iraq as his minions are hunted down. Being pulled out of a spider hole or shot is for the little people--or dumbasses like Saddam and his boys.

It would be nice to kill Zarqawi inside Iraq but I fear he will bug out first.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

This Sure Looks Like a Stab in the Back

The Syrians were behind the capture of Saddam's half brother and a bunch of others now in Iraqi hands:

The arrests dealt a blow to an insurgency that some Iraqi officials claim Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan was helping organize and fund from Syria. The U.S. military said two American soldiers were killed Sunday in an ambush in the capital.

Al-Hassan, a former Saddam adviser, was captured in Hasakah in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border, two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press by telephone on condition of anonymity. Hasakah is about 30 miles from Iraq.

They added that al-Hassan was captured and handed over to Iraqi authorities along with 29 other members of Saddam's collapsed Baath Party, whose Syrian branch has been in power in Damascus since 1963.

The Iraqi officials did not specify when al-Hassan was captured, only saying he was detained following the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, in a blast that killed 16 others.

I won't say I called this one a week and a half ago, since I freely admitted it was sheer speculation, but this sure does look like the stab in the back I guessed about:

But what if the Iran alliance and the arms deal are related to a stab in the back aimed at the Iraqi Baathists? What if, after the successful Iraq elections, the Syrians do understand that we will win in Iraq? How then could the two deals be interpreted?Well, what if the Syrians are about to confiscate all the Iraqi Baathist money hidden in Syria and Lebanon and turn on their Baathist brothers from Iraq and the jihadis?

Even if this isn't a full Syrian stab in the back against the Iraqi Baathists, the Iraqi Baathists can't really afford to trust the Syrians any more. Of course, perhaps the Syrians decided they could not trust the Iraqi Baathists to keep fighting given reports of talks to end the insurgency and this is just a tactical measure to gain some goodwill with the US and Iraq while still supporting the jihadis in Iraq.

And even if this is just a tactical move by the Syrians, getting the Baathists to stop fighting has always been the key to winning. Foreign jihadis without the help of Baathists inside Iraq will be hunted down and killed.

Loose Nukes

Russia is not being helpful on the nuclear threat front:

Russia and Iran signed a nuclear fuel supply deal long opposed by Washington Sunday, paving the way for Tehran to start up its first atomic power plant next year, state media reported.

While many critics of the US policy like to highlight the precise level of our funding for securing old Russian nuclear warheads and nuclear material, I think this is a little more significant. For one thing, it is outrageous that the Russians essentially hold us hostage to their loose material and say to us, "if you are that worried about it, you pay for it." In the end, an attitude like that will lead to a nuke going off in Russia before it ever goes off here. If you are an Islamists nutball and you get a nuke in Russia, will you try to smuggle it to the US or just detonate it there? Islamists tend to kill in their own neighborhoods where reaching targets is easier.

It is also outrageous that the Russians earn money selling nuclear material while they accept our money to secure their nuclear material.

On top of Moscow's Ukraine adventures and their continued sales to China of advanced weapons, and Putin's crippling of democracy at home, it is time to play some hardball with Russia. Kick them out of the G-7. They want to act like a Third World Nation? They can join them.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

But We Have Nothing to Admire

This author says we must "respect" China. Respect them. H.D.S. Greenway notes that the Chinese spotted Halley's Comet while we were grubbing worms or something. He is offended by a comment by our Secretary Rumsfeld:

Thus I was bemused by Donald Rumsfeld's recent comments that China was a country ''we hope and pray enters the civilized world in an orderly way."

Yet Greenway follows with a passage that shows we do "respect" China:

It was the expansion of China's military power that prompted Rumsfeld's remark. The Chinese military budget has doubled in recent years. The Chinese Navy is pushing out from coastal waters into the blue oceans. It may, Rumsfeld told Congress, overtake the US Navy in a decade.

Rumsfeld is paid to concern himself with such matters. A shift in the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait would be destabilizing, and this is an era in which the US Navy will cease to grow, and may shrink, due to the all-consuming expense of Rumsfeld's war in Iraq.

So we do respect China. We recognize their growing power and worry that they grow too strong.

But Greenway isn't about respect. Why else this little gem?

But China is too big for the Bush administration to bully. A nuclear power and a permanent member of the Security Council, China can both defend itself and hinder many things the United States would like to do. Europe may soon end a long-term arms embargo to China, a move that the Bush administration opposes.

Too big to bully? Bully?

This isn't about respect. We respect the power of China. We respect them enough to worry about them. His article is about admiration. Greenway admires China. They spotted Halley a thousand years before the West did. And there's more to admire:

ONE THOUSAND years before Pericles and the golden age of Athens, the Chinese were weaving silk, casting in bronze, and carving objects of beauty out of jade. Some of the world's greatest poetry was written in China when Alexander the Great was a toddler.

No matter that tens of millions died in the Great Leap Forward. No matter the nuclear and missile proliferation to rogue regimes. No matter Tibet and the grinding away of freedom in Hong Kong. No matter the Korean War and their aid to North Vietnam. No matter their aid to Iraq before we destroyed Saddam. No matter their coddling of North Korea now, that lets the Pillsbury Nuke Boy continue to exist and threaten us and our allies. Hey, they made beautiful jade a thousand freaking years before Pericles!

I see little to admire lately. But two thousand years ago? Like wow! That's supposed to count for a lot according to Greenway.

Me? I hope and pray China enters the world of civilized nations in an orderly fashion.

Pay Attention! This is Important

I know the sophisticated set likes to say that our invasion and liberation of Iraq have taught countries that the way to avoid invasion is to own nukes. While North Korea has inconveniently been seeking nukes and breaking agreements since the sensitive 1990s, the sophisticated could always gloss over that and comfort themselves with the idea that they still had Iran as proof of this position. That was hogwash, too, of course. And why? Well:

Iran, through the black market network, had accumulated all the knowledge it needed by the late 1980s to set up technology that can be used to make atomic weapons, diplomats familiar with the work of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Saturday.

We cannot let Iran get nukes. There can simply be no way we should rationalize away their possession of these weapons.

Adult Supervision Required

Victor Hanson is not impressed with European soft power--and rightly so. But he thinks the best way to get a responsible Europe that will defend itself is to walk away:

How, then, can Mr. Bush salvage the old relationship? After the Cold War, we only acerbated an already unwholesome parent-teenager relationship with the Europeans, who bragged of their new independence, snapped at their benefactors, but always counted on our subsidized protection. That simultaneous denial of and insistence on dependency was not healthy for a continent with a larger population and economy than the United States, as contemporary European insecurity always warred with past glories and unrealized potential capabilities.

Yet, if Europeans are ever going to enter into a full partnership with America, then we better let them move out, encourage them to rearm—or hope they find that the world works according to the refined protocols of the Hague. America must have the confidence that the European pan-democratic continent has evolved beyond warring against itself—and us as well. For all the diplomacy of Secretary Rice and President Bush, it is the Europeans’ choice, not our call.

I don't believe that Europe is beyond another bout of internal bloodletting. Just because Europe since 1945 has only seen war in the Balkans does not mean war is banished. Europe went through a period from 1815 to 1914 without much large-scale war. France versus Prussia, Austria versus Prussia, Russia versus Britain and France, French versus Italians (I think). It sounds like a lot, but over 99 years and considering the violent past of Europe, that really wasn't much. So I'm not convinced that Europe has had war bred out of it. They have a violent past and the very zeal they look to Brussels is a sign that Europeans don't think war is bred out of them. Otherwise why would they seek suppression of national conflict through a super-state entangling them all in rules and treaties?

And if Europe isn't immune from warlike impulses, I don't think it is safe to assume that a revival of war impulses couldn't be directed against us. We could be blamed for their problems. They blame us for so many things already, why not?

Nor is it quite moral to abandon the people in Europe who still support us. Are we to leave them to the tender mercies of absolutist bureaucrats?

We need to fight for the soul of Europe and try to bend events to benefit us--not walk away and assume the continentals will get it right. What will make them get it right? What external threat is there that Europe might need to face? There's nothing. No external military threat exists that could make Europeans wake up and rearm and use hard power at our side against a common enemy.

I have no confidence that Europeans have evolved against warring against themselves--or us.


I have to come to the defense of the United States Air Force after reading the thoroughly ignorant The New York Times editorial from Friday.

Over the 1990s, I was certainly a critic of the Air Force despite my immense respect for their skills. I felt that the Air Force was unlikely to face any serious fighter opposition and that they should focus on supporting the Army (and Marines, too). Instead of lots of advanced fighters, we needed to focus on ground support and air transport.

But since the Afghanistan campaign and the Iraq War, the Air Force has lived up to my expectations of providing rapid and effective support to ground forces. The Times editorial is about 4 years out of date and rife with errors to boot. Do we need more A-10s as the editorial says? I think the Air Force is doing just fine with air support and while the A-10 should be kept around, isn't the role of coming in low and slow to take out tanks a less important mission now given the ability to plink tanks with GPS-guided bombs from the safety of high altitude? The idiotorial's (that started as a typo, but I think I'll keep it. And make it the title!) comments on C-130s being able to replace truck convoys is ignorant as well. Air lift can never and is not able to replace road or rail traffic. We do it in Afghanistan at a hefty price since roads are few not dangerous. In Iraq, airlift is only replacing a tiny percentage of the traffic on the ground. We need airlift so I'll give them partial credit, but the Times is truly clueless.

Their complaint that we should slim down the Air Force and ramp up the Army to make sure the Army has a 1:5 time ratio of Iraq duty to home duty is just silly. One, just because the Air Force is not needed as much right now in Iraq does not mean it is not needed for other war scenarios in the future. Are we to specialize our military for the war we are in right now in order to provide the Times team with fodder for a future editorial about the folly of preparing for the last war? So, gutting the Air Force is short-sighted. The editorial ignores that the Air Force is slimming down and is moving personnel to the Army in the Blue to Green program. In addition, even if you simply take the editorial as a call to enlarge the Army, we cannot rapidly expand the Army. It would take perhaps a decade to add 250,000 troops to get us to a ratio of 150,000 troops in Iraq with 750,000 out (for their 1:5 ratio), including mobilized reservists. If you just want active duty troops, add even more troops.

The Times also extols Navy aircraft as not needing land bases unlike Air Force units. This is just ignorant. Even in the early days of the Afghan campaign when Navy combat planes took the lead, they needed land-based Air Force tanker support and land-based search-and-rescue bases. Rapid replenishment of key munitions and spare parts also requires nearby land air bases, to transfer them to planes for carrier delivery. Their preference for unpiloted aircraft "that can be launched by remote control" is amazing. Their word choice makes it sound like they are cluless about UCAVs and I'd like to ask, just where are those unpiloted aircraft supposed to be based from? Shangra La? The long-range bomber aspect ignores that launching from Missouri is not ideal. Indeed, we have bases set up on Guam and Diego Garcia in order to support bombers overseas so they don't have to fly the long missions from the US. In addition, I find it odd that a paper so contemptuous of unilateral action seems to find it preferable to be able to operate without regional allies that make air base access necessary. Have they even thought this through?

The editorial complaint about the F/A-22 ignores some important facts. One, much of the cost is already spent (from development), so building zero units will have an impressive per-unit cost. Second, the military has already reduced the goal of 800+ fighters to enough for a couple wings and training/spares, as I've argued for several years now. A hedge against a Chinese threat or an unanticipated threat is surely justified even if a massive force with no enemies is not. I would like to point out that making that outstanding fighter an ersatz fighter-bomber is silly and reminds me of the Me-262 debacle of World War II when Hitler ordered the superb fighter to have bomb doors added. We have stealthy bomb droppers. The F-22 is an air superiority hedge.

The Times says that there is little likelihood of the reemergence of a high-tech superpower that can challenge our Air Force. I'd like to suggest that China is seeking a very narrowly focused high-tech air force that can keep us off their backs long enough to take Taiwan. If that happens, I imagine the Times would be quick to criticize for failing to anticipate that threat.

Finally, the Times concludes:

The Pentagon needs to reallocate its recruitment levels and spending accordingly, even if it means forcing the Air Force to accept a different role than the one it expected to have a decade or two ago.

The Air Force is adapting nicely to the role of providing fast and effective support to the ground forces; though I concede it is being dragged to some extent.

I suggest the Times reallocate its editorial positions to reflect what is true now and not what was reality four years ago.

The boys (and gals) in blue are doing just fine.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Why Yes ...

... I do believe Jesus would have bombed Saddam. See February 25, 2005.

This really annoyed me. So it went on my List of Annoying Things at my other site. But I had to mention it here too, away from all the people who just search for Flavia Colgan.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Do Value Our European Friends

What with the President's trip to Europe, I've taken the opportunity to bash the Euros and the idea of a monolithic European Union.

But I never forget that we have friends in Europe. Even the Spanish once helped us a great deal prior to the Iraq War and sent troops to Iraq for at least a while, suffering casualties with us. I do appreciate that. The Dutch and Danes contributed and others, too. Partners will come and go in a long war on terror so I don't want to give the impression that I have contempt for Europeans (Europe as an institution? Lots of contempt). Even countries that step back may come back into the coalition again. I bet Spain will in time.

Shoot, even help that is miniscule compared to what they could contribute (such as France and Germany in Afghanistan) are at least helping. I thank them for that help. Sincerely. Really.

So thanks to all those who help, who have helped, and advanced thanks to those who will come around. This can't be our fight alone.

And many thanks to the Australians who are stepping up to do more when they could easily claim they've done enough. Like Japan stepping up over Taiwan, this act is what a true ally does when needed. I hope we'll always be there for Australia and Japan.

We're All Peace Activists, Now

Victor Hanson debated some lefty Dartmouth History prof on the Iraq War.

What I find really interesting is this little bit:

Professor Edsforth presented himself as a “peace activist” and not a pacifist—pacifists abhor all wars, while activists oppose some and support others. He approved of the 2001 Afghan campaign but not the attack on Serbia in 1999. He said “all war is mass murder” and that wars bring out man’s “instinct to kill, our delight in torture.”

The idiocy of this is so astounding that I must dwell on it. He says all war is mass murder yet he supported the Afghan campaign. Why he could support that "mass murder" is beyond my comprehension.

He calls himself a "peace activist" but since he opposes some wars (Serbia and Iraq) and supports others (Afghanistan), how is this even a meaningful term? Hell, I'm a peace activist by this criteria!

The moral preening he is engaged in is outrageous. Some wars are good and some are bad. And he knows the good from the bad because he is a friggin' "peace activist!"

The good professor is wrong about what brings out the instinct to kill and a delight in torture.

What a moron. I trust Hanson gave him a good thumping.

Oh, Who Will They Honor?

The ladies and gentlemen of the Nobel Prize committee are living up to their reputation as leg-kicking SOBs.

Let's see who the article highlights:

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko. This is a peace prize, right? I mean, what exactly does Yushchenko's victory have to do with the concept of peace? I mean other than the fact that US support was critical to keeping the Russian-backed goon squads out and making sure the transfer of power went peacefully? And that is the killer--the US was key. Can't give any credit to the cowboy US. Sorry Victor.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell. He has to be the sentimental favorite as he is perceived by the likes of the Nobel committee to have tried to stop President Bush's many wars (well, two--and the people involved seem to be happy about them--but that's irrelevant). But he did aid in justifying the Iraq War, so sorry Colin. Oh wait, could it be for his efforts to highlight the Darfur genocide? Probably not since it just highlighted the UN's ability to look away when it is not convenient. So not this year.

The Pope. Since the Pope is kind of expected to not wage wars, this seems pointless. But oh yeah, he was widely reported to be against the Iraq War--whether or not that was actually true. But not quite the kick in the leg to the US that they want. And he is kind of conservative as the article notes. Sorry Pontiff.

International Atomic Energy Agency. Because they've done such a good job with North Korea, Iran, and Libya, I guess. And Iraq, too, for that matter, prior to 1991. Or is this why the Nobel people want to honor the agency?

Indian spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Who? Not to sound insular and with no insult intended to India who I hope will be our good friend in the future, but shouldn't a winner be generally recognized for the prize he is to receive without a lot of prodding?

Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. Because putting the screws to the Jews can't be simply ignored by this august body!

Bono. Ok, now they're just pulling our legs, right? Or has the concept of peace been so thoroughly perverted that a mere do-gooder qualifies?

Others speculated there could be another African winner, possibly to spotlight the peace accord between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement in January, ending Africa's longest-running civil war. This is what really gets me. The surest way to a peace prize or at least a nomination (as Hitler and Milosevic can attest) is to commit mass murder and then to ... stop--or at least slow the rate of killing. Is that not obscene? Could the prize be any more insulting to the concept of peace?

There is a little hope, although as I've noted above it would kind of be outside the lane of the concept of "peace." But still, consider this last note: Some Nobel watchers believe the 2005 award will go to someone involved with relief efforts after the Dec. 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Well who could that be? Australia which jumped right in? Perhaps the US Navy and supporting military forces of America? The Japanese? Get real. If the tsunami is the reason for the prize, you know that the UN will be honored for its many fact-finding missions and press conferences that they held while the real work of helping the victims of that tragedy went on.

Peace prize, indeed.

I'm betting on Kim Jong-Il getting the prize. Nothing else could be quite as criminal.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What Allies Do

I shouldn't be too upset with the Euros deciding to sell arms to China. After all, in a macro sense, weapons are secondary to the training of the military using them. But China is different from Syria. China can reverse engineer what they buy. Plus, imported weapons give China new capabilities that could delay a US response to defending Taiwan. And even though in a long war I'd be sure we could win; in a war with another nuclear power, the fate of Taiwan may be secondary to ending the crisis before escalation. We may need to win quickly or not at all at a price worth paying. European (and Russian) arms could make the difference.

Just as important, is what it shows about our friends in Europe. They don't care that our military will pay the price in blood in a war with China. They don't care that their weapons could be used to enslave a nation that is now free.

If Iran wasn't a threat to us as well, it would be satisfying to let Iran go nuclear and wish the Euros good luck.

In contrast, recall Japan's decision to openly side with us over a Chinese threat to Taiwan. Japan didn't have to do this. They know very well that we'd defend Taiwan even without Japan's help. Japan's decision was the act of a friend and ally.

And if the Euros want customers for their arms manufacturers, why don't they buy some of their weapons for their own atrophying militaries? At least in continental hands, we'd be sure they'll never be fired in anger.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


The Spanish referendum results are coming in on Barcepundit (via Belmonst Club) regarding their vote for or against the EU constitution.

It looks like it will be a little over 40% turnout with the pro-constitution side winning handily. Given the nearly 60% turnout in Iraq without the deployment of Spanish troops to protect the voters, the presence of Spanish troops is not a predictor of voter turnout (sorry Spanish military, but you work for a shameful group. May you get better leaders).

To be fair, I think the Sunnis sat out this election, too.

It Is OK to Divide Our Enemies

Ledeen is upset that we may be negotiating to split the terrorists and siphon off some of the insurgents:
It is therefore utterly disgusting to hear reports that our diplomats and military leaders are tiptoeing up to terrorist leaders in Syria, trying to make a deal. It is hard to imagine anything more dreadful or wrongheaded than this, and it was good to hear Ahmed Chalabi on Sunday saying that the new government of Iraq would not make deals with killers who were murdering Iraqis.

Cheery souls will say, with some reason, that there is a fragment of light in the dark picture of our feckless diplomats and commanders negotiating with our murderers. That fragment is the desperate cunning of the terrorists, trying to fool us and thereby buying time. They may even have been trotted out by the murderous fool Bashar Assad, who must fear retribution for the assassination of Hariri in Beirut.

But this is no time for clever negotiation. The tide is turning, of which the most dramatic evidence is the newfound bravado of the oppressed peoples, from Baghdad to Beirut. It is our tide, a tide of freedom, and we must ride it with all our skill and determination. Let the mullahs and the Assads play King Canute; we're leading the revolution that will wash clean their filthy domains.

I see no problem with talking if we can split the opposition. As long as we do not engage in the folly of having ceasefires while we talk, negotiations to get those less committed to come in from the cold and turn on their more vicious allies are just fine.

Once Iraq is quieter and the Iraqis are in control, they can revisit the guilt of those who stop fighting before they are killed. Surely, their conduct and the quality of the information they provide after coming in will be a large factor in what their future will be.

I've said this for a long time, our goal is to end the insurgency (and by "our" I mean the Coalition, including the Iraqs, which should rely less and less on our forces) and not to kill every last insurgent. Some need to die or rot in jail. But others can be used to help kill those who need to die.

Nor does this mean we ignore the wider threats. We do what we can, when we can.

UPDATE: Via Instpundit, the Afghan government's ability to get the deadenders to give up rather than kill every last one of them may pay off.

I Hadn't Noticed

I'm home sick with aches and can only say that the uncontrollable shaking last night has passed.

So I've had time to sit and read with the news on for the last couple hours. The president's trip to Europe is of course being highlighted. I noticed something that I'd noticed many times but never considered. Behind the podiums at the NATO press conferences was this:

The French acronym is, of course, back assward. Might this not have been telling something for decades now? Is the French-inspired thinking on the role of a military alliance of democracies so very twisted because of this?

It would explain a lot.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Wonderful Blessings of Brussels?

The author of this article thinks a united Europe is good for America. One can argue that and I have put in my two cents worth that a united Europe is not good for us. But this statement by the author is simply ludicrous:

The case for the overriding importance of a united Europe to Mr. Bush's goals is in many ways obvious. Although the United States proved it could win the Iraq war by itself, it has found it cannot win the peace unless the world - and Europe in particular - blesses Iraq's transition to democracy.


Is this author serious? We won the war without Europe and we are winning the peace without Europe, too. Europeans help us. And Australians and Japanese and South Koreans and others, but "Europe" is stingy in aid and trains a few Iraqis outside of Iraq. In what way has Europe blessed the transiton to democracy in Iraq? Any European movement to accept a new democratic Iraq after their high comfort level with Saddam is only because we and our allies and the Iraqis themselves are making this work. Blessing the transition to democracy? The Europeans are barely tolerating it and mostly deny democracy is what is happening there. They lap up the al Jazeera and BBC stories of brave Sunni resistance (and never mind the car bombs or the beheadings).

And should we just accept a United Europe that entrenches a Franco-German anti-Americanism as a Europe-wide assumption? The article quotes someone who believes we cannot stop unification under Brussels:

"It's not that Europeans think the United States wants a weakened, sluggish or divided Europe," said Tony Judt, the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University.

"The fear is that what American wants is a Europe that does its bidding," Mr. Judt said. "But to suppose that because there are divisions in Europe, American policy can exploit them and turn some countries into American allies would be a big mistake. It would just backfire."

This astonishes me. In the long history of Europe, is this director honestly telling us that Europe has never been divided? That it is inconceivable that some states would be pro-American and some pro-French or pro-German if there was no Brussels to whip them into line?

Screw "Europe." And don't ever accept this abomination as a given. Work to give friendly states a reason to stay out of the EU and for God's sake, convince the Brits to stay out. And we need to keep doing the right thing in Iraq and elsewhere despite Brussels-based condemnation; and some people will appreciate what we do.

UPDATE: Andrew Stuttaford is rightly upset at the kind words from President Bush and Secretary Rice about a united Europe. As Stuttaford concludes:

The constitution paves the way for the transfer of increasing amounts of defense and diplomatic activity from Europe's national capitals to Brussels. Article 1-16 commits all member states to a "common foreign and security policy." "Member states" are required to "actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's actions in this area. They shall refrain from action contrary to the Union's interests or likely to impair its effectiveness." In a recent radio interview, Spanish prime minister Jose Zapatero explained how this might work: "we will undoubtedly see European embassies in the world, not ones from each country, with European diplomats and a European foreign service...we will see Europe with a single voice in security matters. We will have a single European voice within NATO."

And the more that the EU speaks with that one voice, the less will be heard from those of its member states more inclined to be sympathetic to America. And as to what this would mean, well, French Green politician
Noel Mamère put it best in the course of an interview last week: "The good thing about the European constitution is that with it the United Kingdom will not be able to support the United States in a future Iraq."And would that, Secretary Rice, be a "good development"?

I can only hope they were being diplomatic and that in fact we are not supporting this project.


You know, I often slam the French for their ability to screw us over; but the Germans make the French look like our oldest ally.

Just think, we kicked out the Nazis, protected Germany from the communists by risking our own cities in mutual assured destruction, welcomed Germany into the Western alliance and allowed them to leap forward economically. And then we risked the wrath of a wounded but still powerful Russia after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed by supporting unification of East and West Germany on terms that meant a total West German takeover of the East. Then we watched the Germans let their military atrophy and when the Serbs threatened the peace in Europe in the 1990s, it was America that bailed theEuropeans out and let the Germans slide when they should have taken the lead there.

And only ten years after reunification, the Germans turn on us most viciously and cultivate anti-Americanism for cheap electoral advantage.

I'm deeply disappointed in Germany. Do they feel any shame for this record?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Tipping Point?

I wrote earlier that we might have some luck forging a Sunni-Shia-Kurd alliance in Iraq to fight the foreign invader jihadis. This could be a "national resistance" that allows the Sunnis to join the government and save face:
As sovereignty passes more and more to the Iraqis in concrete terms, it will be easier for the non-Baathist Sunnis to join other Iraqis to kill and expel the foreign invaders--the Islamists--and subdue the Baathists who aid the foreign invaders.

Well, with a successful election making it clear that Iraqis want a new Iraq to succeed, sovereignty is clearer every day. Iraqi security forces going after the insurgents put steel behind the votes.

Via Powerline blog (how did I miss this?) there is talk of negotiations with some Sunnis:
Iraqi insurgent leaders not aligned with al Qaeda ally Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi told the magazine several nationalist groups composed of what the Pentagon calls "former regime elements" have become open to negotiating.

Some Iraqis aren't keen on negotiating with Baathist killers, but ending the fighting is the goal. Yes, guilty Baathists will need to be tried and punished; but there is nothing wrong with trying to turn the Baathists out there who are building car bombs. This couldn't be a plain amnesty. The Baathist FREs who want to join the new Iraq need to turn on their current allies and join the fight enthusiastically and effectively against the jihadis and against the Baathists that won't end their resistance. Failure to do so would end the deal.

Nor should Sunnis put into important security positions in the new Iraq. A generation may need to pass before the Sunnis can be trusted as the Baathists who held power age.

In addition, we can't let up on offensive action while we talk. No ceasefires. They need to have a choice: die fighting or live peacefully. So we stay on offense.

But the Baathists can switch sides fully and get a role making sure that the new constitution protects minority rights (I know they confuse that with the right of the minority to kill and loot the majority, so they have some learning to do).

In a war, somebody breaks eventually. Our enemies are looking shaky.

What's With the Animal Comparisons?

One analyst of North Korea calls Kim Jong-Il "crazy like a fox." He concludes:

It does seem likely that Pyongyang intends its development and advertisement of nuclear weapons capability to deter would-be attackers.

Kim is playing for high stakes. Clearly, he fears not just for the future of his regime but for his own life. Newsweek has quoted an unnamed visitor from abroad who says Kim laments that North Korean conventional forces are outmoded and inadequate. Without nuclear weapons, the current Great Leader believes, he would be personally targeted.

Call that paranoia, but it's rational enough, considering how many people in high places in Washington would dearly love to see him dead

This gets to the heart of why I consider so many experts so dead wrong on Korea. The conventional wisdom is that if the poor 'ol Pillsbury Nuke Boy didn't fear our invasion (a "rational" fear), he'd be investing in consumer electronics factories instead of nukes.

This ignores their long-standing pursuit of nukes and one other big factor: If North Korea didn't have nukes, we wouldn't give a rat's ass (how's that for animal imagery?) about their pathetic regime. We're busy over here. You want to terrorize the neighborhood and your neighbors don't care enough to resist you? Fine. That's your neighbors' problems.

It is only because of their development of nukes that "many people in high places in Washington would dearly love to see him dead." Is that so hard to grasp? It may be, since as this CSM article notes:

The US has many nations to manage relations with, and tries to deal with crises around the world. But North Korea's not like that, points out Kun Young Park, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for Northeast Asian Policy. Washington is its lodestar, the nation around which all its other international efforts revolve.

"The foreign policy of North Korea is its US policy," says Kun Young Park. "North Korea is very attentive to what US government officials say about them."

Given their intense focus on what Rumsfeld is eating for dinner and what that may say about trends in our policy toward them, the North Koreans may not have had any idea that we didn't spend all our time contemplating the actions of the brave porcupine.

Amazingly, the North Koreans have created the threat against their regime. They screwed up. They made us notice them.

And North Korea has made the world notice them. Pressure is not being applied to us to relent and give aid. Pressure is being focused on North Korea as the Japanese foreign minister noted:

"Should we let the time slip, then I think it will only worsen the situation, because I'm sure the international community will become tougher vis-a-vis North Korea," Machimura said.

Time is not on North Korea's side. Our goal must be to manage their collapse. And in the meantime get the Chinese to push North Korea to defang themselves. As I've said, if we don't get North Korea to give up their nukes, other countries that China does not want to go nuclear will likely go that route.

US Policy on Europe

Mark Steyn asks what the US policy on Europe is. Steyn writes that the US and Europe aren't much of allies any more since the Euros as a continent don't actually help us much. The latest round of making up is more like a little Cold War detente thaw than the repair of an alliance. It's just a ballet-company exchange, he says. And it just doesn't matter. Europe talks about various problems and does nothing. The best we can expect from the continent is essentially to get in our way for only a while and then stand aside while we do the work:
Washington has concluded that a Europe that makes no difference suits it just fine, too.

I have to agree. While it is nice to have allies, we can only count on individual countries to help us. Britain, some of the smaller European countries, Japan, South Korea and the Australians give us concrete assistance, but from institutional Europe--the EU--we get nothing. If you don't count grief, that is.

But must we have more? We are succeeding in Afghanistan with minimal European help. And if we didn't have it, 20,000 more Americans could support a rotation to make up for that help. In Iraq, we'd have to add perhaps 30,000 Americans to replace the non-British European assistance and keep troops rotating through. We could do this with a combination of added end strength and reaching deep in our reserves to train up the Guard divisions that have up to now been untouched. Staying out of our way would be just fine if you ask me. It would be an improvement over what we get from Europe now.

Really, as I've argued before, while Europe's help is nice we basically just don't want an enemy to control the military, economic, and technoligical resources of the continent. We opposed Germany in two wars and the Soviets in a Cold War to keep Europe out of the enemy's column of assets. Much like the British, who for centuries strove to keep the Low Countries friendly so they could not be a launching pad for an invasion of the British Isles.

I do worry that the EU could evolve into a hostile dictatorship in fifty years. Luckily, as Steyn notes, the CIA predicts the EU could collapse within 15 years. I am comforted by that. I'd rather deal with individual countries than an institutional Europe that holds anti-Americanism as its unifying theme. But let's push this process of break-up along, shall we? I'd hate to count on the CIA being right on this.

We have friends in Europe. But Europe is not our friend.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

More Than a Man Died

Victor Hanson has a great piece out. The sections on the American policy on Arafat while he lived is especially good to remember as Bush's critics deny that this policy had anything to do with the positive signs coming out of the Palestinians today. It is simply that Arafat died, they say. The nuanced set thought Arafat was the only path to peace:
Review press accounts from the summer of 2002: Neither ally nor neutral approved of Bush's act of ostracism and instead warned of disaster. Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, whose country then held the EU's rotating presidency, lectured that without dialogue with Arafat "Israel could not stop Palestinian violence through force." A circumspect Colin Powell visited the region often to smooth over hurt feelings and in the process to soften Bush's bold action. Dennis Ross, remember, had met with the American-subsidized Arafat almost 500 times, and it was said that the latter visited the Clinton White House more than any other foreign leader — a fact apparently lost on the Palestinian street, which still spontaneously cheered on news of September 11.

But if Arafat had spent his last years shuttling to the White House and meeting with high American officials eager to please him, do you really think that Arafat's successor would have done anything but continue along the path that Arafat blazed? Would we have seen the progress that has taken place since his death?

More than Arafat died. His death symbolized the death of his strategy of killing and walking away from peace time and time again, sure that another overnight stay in the White House and more money from the EU would be the reward for any Palestinian leader that killed and walked--and then talked.


The Chinese may have thought they could get away with being more aggressive over Taiwan. But as they increase their power and rattle their sabres over Taiwan, they have provoked a Taiwanes rearmament program and more important, have prompted the Japanese to move closer to us to meet this threat. Japan had been relatively quiet despite their powerful military:

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld plan to adopt "common strategic objectives" that would include ensuring security in Taiwan and on the Korean Peninsula, the Kyodo News Agency reported.

Tokyo's shift on Taiwan would be a strong demonstration of solidarity with the U.S. position and would signal a more assertive Japanese stance in the region. The United States and Japan share an interest in checking China's growing military and economic clout.

Japan adopted new defense guidelines in December singling out China's growing military as a threat. That followed an incursion into Japan's southern territorial waters by a Chinese naval submarine that prompted Tokyo to put its military on alert for only the second time in half a century.

In a draft security document, the two sides describe hostilities across the Taiwan Strait and on the Korean Peninsula as "unpredictable and unstable factors in the region" that need to be addressed, Kyodo said.

Whatever added muscle China has added, they just lost that gain and a whole lot more by pushing Japan to add their considerable strength (see Strategypage's February 19th entry) to stopping China:

The JMSDF (Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force) is arguably the second-best navy in the Pacific, trailing only the United States Navy. The JMSDF has a large number modern surface combatants and the third-largest submarine force among Pacific naval powers, and it could be a potential player in any fight across the Formosa Strait due to the fact that Japan’s ties with Taiwan have become much closer.

China has many threats to face 360 degrees and their bluster is forging a stronger alliance to stop them.

And if the Chinese don't put pressure on their little friends, the intrepid wombats, or whatever the North Koreans are calling themselves these days, to denuclearize, then the Japanese, the South Koreans, and the Taiwanese will likely go nuclear themselves. Are the Chinese really capable of screwing things up that badly?

Actions lead to reactions.

They'd Best Get the Cash Up Front

The Russians are being a pain.

It isn't as if they haven't had their own little problems with Islamist fundamentalist (Afghanistan and Chechnya), so it is mystifying why the Russians would sell nuclear technology to Iran. Russia is within Iranian missile range.

Iran's nuclear plant at Bushehr, with Russian help, will soon go online. The Iranians are defending it:
Mindful of the Israeli attack that destroyed Iraq's Osirak plant 24 years ago, members of the Iranian armed forces man anti-aircraft guns set up around the Bushehr plant, which will produce 1,000 megawatts of power once it goes on line.

Anti-aircraft guns? What, are we going to send in B-17s? If we attack that plant, we'll destroy it from 15,000 feet and those anti-aircraft guns will just provide some nice secondary explosions when we hit them just because we can.

Seriously, President Bush needs to have a serious talk with President Putin. We cannot let Iran go nuclear. They cannot be trusted with this power.

And Putin needs to make sure the Iranian check clears before they provide anything. Much like the anti-aircraft missiles that Russia will sell to Syria (And really, I know the Israelis say the missiles will alter the military balance, but come on! Those new SAMs will not appreciably affect the outcome of any war that Syria might get involved in--Damascus will lose decisively), they are just going to be targets and even if the owners survive, they are unlikely to pay for smoldering holes in the ground.

UPDATE: A reader notes that the Russians are thinking of shipping SS-26 surface-to-surface missiles (190 mile range) to Syria which would be a great threat to the Israelies. Russia denies this rumor, however; and the rumors of an anti-aircraft missile sale seem to be getting more press. In either case, even if true, I stand by my assertion that SSMs or SAMs would not appreciably affect a war that Syria would be involved in. If the Syrians could get nukes, the SS-26s would have an impact, of course. But the retaliation would be far more devastating. And even chemical weapons would not be terribly effective on missiles. I doubt if the Syrians could saturate a large enough area. And the Israeli air force would be busy inlficting far more pain on the Syrians. The Turks would inflict a lot of pain in return, too. Indeed, Syria could trade weapons with either Turkey or with Israel and the outcome of a war would not be much different. The Syrians would be ill-trained in the use of poorly maintained weapons and the Turks or Israelis (even more so) would be well-trained and would use the weapons to maximum advantage. Training and military systems are more important than the hardware. Still, if the SAMs sold are hand-held, they would be quite the gift to any terrorists. That is cause to worry about that aspect.

The Daring Porcupine?

North Korea has marked the Pillsbury Nuke Boy's birthday, using the occasion to laud their efforts to defy the United States and celebrating their recent announcement that they have nuclear weapons:

"The Americans swagger like a tiger around the world, but they whimper before our Republic as the tiger does before the porcupine," Pyongyang Radio said. "That's because we have our Great Leader Kim Jong Il, who is undefeatable."

Apparently, it is from a local fable. It really must sound better in Korean.

So should we whimper before the intrepid wombat? Yes, Pyongyang claims to have nukes. They certainly have nuclear programs. But given that our intelligence was wrong about Iraq, didn't detect Libya's program, missed the Pakistani nuclear network, and was blindsided by the Indian and Pakistani nuke tests, you'd think those bashing the President over Iraq by invoking the North Korean threat would be the last ones insisting that North Korea is a present threat (hey, I'm just relieved they don't claim we have to solve the Palestinian problem before we deal with the courageous beaver). Shoot, the South Koreans caution against assuming North Korea is a nuclear power:

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young noted North Korea has yet to conduct a nuclear test, unlike other nuclear powers such as India and Pakistan.

"I believe it is early for us to call the North a nuclear state," when it has not been independently confirmed, Chung said in a speech to parliament. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, who met Monday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also said the North may be bluffing.

Granted, this is the South Korean unification minister, who knows the cost of absorbing North Korea and is scared witless of the prospect of winning against a poverty-stricken North Korea almost as much as losing to a nuclear North Korea. So he has incentive to minimize the threat from the audacious armadillo.

So, we have a birthday celebration, an announcement of nukes, questions over how advanced the North is in actually developing a working nuke that can be delivered and detonated (and reports they bought a more reliable nuclear weapon), and a refusal to engage in the six-power talks:

The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Pyongyang no longer was willing to hold direct talks with Washington because of what it described as the United States' alleged persistent attempts to try to topple the communist regime, Xinhua said.

"The DPRK has no justification to take bilateral talks ... on the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula with the United States now," Xinhua quoted the spokesman as saying. DPRK is the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

So should we be hiking our skirts and leaping on the stool to send money and talk one-on-one with the valorous vole?

Nope. Strategypage notes (see February 17) a lot of factors that make North Korea less dangerous than Iran. One, we are the least at risk from North Korean threats. We can better afford to wait out the North and work for their collapse. We can afford to insist that our allies shoulder the burden of containing North Korea and reversing their nuclear program. Our partners in the talks are much more at risk than we are. Plus, for all the talk that we are too stretched in Iraq to fight anybody else, the North Koreans probably know that is false comfort for them:

The North Koreans know that the U.S. Navy had dozens of warships in the area, that could let loose with hundreds of precision guided Tomahawk cruise missiles. They know that the American navy and air force are not tied down in Iraq, and are able to rush forces to South Korea faster than the U.S. army in any circumstances. Moreover, only about 15 percent of the American army is tied down in Iraq, and many U.S. ground troops, now combat experienced, are available for movement to Korea.

South Korea would provide most of the ground forces in a war even if we rushed all the ground forces our war plans called for in the past. With South Korea's army getting better and North Korea's army literally shrinking (as famine reduces the size of recruits) and deterioratinng, air and sea power will be our biggest contribution to defending South Korea and those assets are not stressed at all by Iraq and Afghanistan. And the North Koreans don't even know if their large army will obey orders to march south:

It's gotten to the point where North Korean generals are not sure their troops would follow through if ordered to attack the south. So there you have it. Unreliable troops and missiles, untested nukes and a North Korean population that is starving to death. And none to happy with their present leaders. Perhaps it's no surprise that the North Korean leadership acts a bit mad. They have a lot to be mad about.

And I'll add my basic rule of thumb: it is better to stop the nutballs from getting their first nuke than stopping the nutball from getting their second (or even tenth) nuke.

We can't count on the North acting rationally as we see rationality of course. With all the things that the daring porcupine has to worry about, they just might think invading South Korea is the only way out of their cage.

All the more reason for our partners in the talks to get serious about pulling the quills on this beast. Remember, they will pay the highest price for failure. Well, the second highest, since North Korea would end as an entity should it come to war. Don't bet on the porcupine against a bunch of tigers.

North Korea counts on us panicking and forking over money as we've done in the past. Have patience. Time is not on their side.

The Meaning of an Election

After many predictions by some opposed to the war in Iraq that the elections were doomed, we and the Iraqis pulled off a successful election. So of course, some had to find a way to find an angle that suggests doom.

The Daily Kos reported the contents of a September 1967 New York Times article that reports on a successful election in South Vietnam.

Although there is no commentary offered, for his audience the inference was clear: Vietnam was a bloody quagmire and defeat and there was a successful election in South Vietnam. Therefore we are doomed in Iraq and the quagmire charge today is clearly true.

Let me suggest an alternative interpretation. Perhaps we can conclude that the South Vietnamese wanted to live free of communist control. Perhaps we can conclude that we were wrong to abandon South Vietnam when they could have survived with continued aid from us to defeat the North Vietnamese invasion in 1975. Perhaps the boat people and all the Vietnamese who fled here tell us that those who protested the Vietnam war misjudged fatally who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. Just perhaps, the results of that election teach us the fruits of undermining our troops in the field by calling for an exit strategy that only means defeat and helicopters taking off with people hanging on the skids desperate to escape the tender mercies of the victorious enemies.

Perhaps the successful 1967 elections show us that the South Vietnamese wanted victory over the enemy and that support for our efforts was greater there than on our campuses.

Just perhaps, eh? Drive on. Victory is the only acceptable exit strategy.

It took me a while to articulate why the Daily Kos assumptions offended me. Screw him.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

What They Fear

The Iraqis are negotiating over organizing a government after the elections.

I know I'm supposed to be worried that the Iraqis will create a pro-Iranian fundamentalist Islamic government but I'm just not. Sure, it is something to watch just in case but I see no evidence that this is a realistic worry right now.

And besides, all the anti-war people who seem to be making this charge also think that the US is run by a fundamentalist Christian government.

That should tell us a lot.

I'm Still Laughing

This is too funny:

WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail.

What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.

“We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,” one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”

Another said: “I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot.” Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: “Sod off, Swampy.”

Amenable to listening to their point of view? Ah, those rough Brit oil traders refused a rational offer of discussion with the Greenpeace lads and lassies! Well not quite:

Greenpeace had hoped to paralyse oil trading at the exchange in the City near Tower Bridge on the day that the Kyoto Protocol came into force.

And the debate format that the protesters planned?

They made their way to the trading floor, blowing whistles and sounding fog horns, encountering little resistance from security guards. Rape alarms were tied to helium balloons to float to the ceiling and create noise out of reach. The IPE conducts “open outcry” trading where deals are shouted across the pit. By making so much noise, the protesters hoped to paralyse trading.

Sadly for the Greenpeace protesters, the traders had their own debating techniques:

“They grabbed us and started kicking and punching. Then when we were on the floor they tried to push huge filing cabinets on top of us to crush us.”

I'm still laughing. Those protesters were so darned earnest, too!

Well at Least Madrid Isn't Helping Al Qaeda

My Jane's email news snippets reports:

Spain has reached an agreement on military co-operation with Venezuela that will be "of major economic interest for Spanish shipyards and aeronautical companies", according to Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega.

Well that's just lovely, eh? Thanks Spain. Way to act like a NATO ally.

Stab in the Back?

I'm speculating here so stay with me.

I've long believed that Syria was not worthy of elevating to the Axis of Evil. An odious state, yes, but they are not nuclear-bound and are not Islamist nutty. They are a run-of-the-mill fascist state that seems pragmatic enough to cooperate with us to save their necks. Their support of the Iraqi Baathists seemed totally stupid given that we will win there. Besides, with other tasks ahead of us, why take on Syria when the Turks and Israelis are capable of crushing the Syrian if it comes to a fight? Nothwithstanding Iraq, we have more excess combat capability than Syria does.

I speculated that the deal with Iran and the arms deal with Russia signal a decision to oppose us, though the insistence by Syria that the Iran aspect is not aimed at America seemed odd.

But what if the Iran alliance and the arms deal are related to a stab in the back aimed at the Iraqi Baathists? What if, after the successful Iraq elections, the Syrians do understand that we will win in Iraq? How then could the two deals be interpreted?

Well, what if the Syrians are about to confiscate all the Iraqi Baathist money hidden in Syria and Lebanon and turn on their Baathist brothers from Iraq and the jihadis?

Things make sense if this is what is happening. Why would Russia cancel a huge chunk of Syrian debt and turn around and sell arms to Syria if Syria is so clearly broke and can't pay? Are the Russians really ready to just bankroll somebody that will annoy us? Well, if Syria was about to take away the bank accounts of Saddam's boys, Syria could cut a check to Russia right away.

And what if the alliance with Iran is a means to get friends to fight the Iraqi Baathists once the stab is done and the Iraqi Baathists fight back? And could the Iran alliance be meant to keep Syria's street cred with the Islamists out there after cutting off the jihadis? Then, the public claim that the alliance is not meant to be aimed against America makes some sense, too. Syria doesn't want to provoke us into nailing Damascus right before Damascus turns on the Saddam thugs and the jihadis transiting Syria for Iraq.

Plus, Syria has to know that taking on the US military even with some new Russian weapons isn't going to change the outcome at all. Syria could make nice with us by turning on the insurgents in Iraq and get some new weapons to keep Syria in the Middle East game for another decade or so. Or at least long enough to negotiate something on the Golan Heights.

Sheer idle speculation, I know. But an updated Nazi-Soviet Pact with the Iraqi Baathists and Zarqawi's thugs as the Poland and Baltic States of 2005 could make sense. It sure makes more sense than Syria thinking it can beat us when we are very serious about winning. Still, one can't underestimate the power of delusions. And I think I'm talking about theirs and not mine.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

This Will Work Just Fine

The big news seems to be that the question of whether to elevate Syria to the vacant slot in the Axis of Evil is moot. Syria has applied for the position by announcing an alliance with Iran. Iran and Syria have long been allies. Syria supported Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, almost alone in the Arab world (Libya supported Iran for awhile, but even they dumped Iran in time). So much for pan-Arab solidarity, I guess. Pity, I thought Syria could be brought to heel with pressure and that Damascus would recognize they will lose if push comes to shove. Instead they support the insurgents in Iraq and make common cause with the Iranian thug regime. The Syrians at least still have a bit of a grasp of reality in their insistence that this is not an anti-American move. Riiiiiight. Syria's minority Allawite regime just kissed their butts goodbye, it seems.

But the biggest news seems to be that Russia has decided to go from superpower to Axis of Evil candidate by selling advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. And more weapons from Russia will follow:

Felgenhauer added that Russia would likely offer other types of weapons to Syria, which purchased billions of dollars in weapons from Moscow during the Soviet times.

"This deal looks like only the beginning," Felgenhauer said. Ruslan Pukhov, the head of Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, an independent think-tank specialized in arms trade, said Moscow would likely offer Syria more powerful Tor air-defense missiles.

A spokesman for Rosoboronexport state arms-trading company refused to comment on the deal involving Strelets or other potential contracts with Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad defended his nation's right to buy anti-aircraft missiles from Russia during a visit to Moscow last month. Russia also agreed to write off nearly three-quarters of Syria's $13.4 billion debt — a move expected to help bolster military ties.

I am of course disappointed that Russia tried to reclaim Ukraine, plays footsie with China as the junior member of the League of Ex-Communist States, and keeps Iran's nuclear programs going. Putin's assault on democracy in his own nation is upsetting as well. They could have been our friends but have decided to be a pain in the ass to us in order to relive the glory days when we gave a damn about them. Now we won't give a damn and we won't be inclined to help them when they are in a jam. Good move, Vladimir. Durak.

But really, I am not upset at all at the arms deals. Face it, Syria can't afford to pay--the cancellation of past debts should be a clue. And Syria's military is so ill-trained that all that new hardware will just be expensive junk (pause while I turn of Chris Matthews. I will never watch that morally confused jerk again) burning across Syria if it ever comes to a fight with any of their neighbors. And if that shiny Russian-made hardware is scrap, Russia shouldn't get their hopes up too high that Damascus will keep sending those monthly payments.

So what if Russia sells weapons to Syria to get back at us? Syria buys high-tech weapons that will be less useful to them than small arms and car bomb parts; and Russia will never get paid for this stuff. Isn't it good that Syria wastes money on weapons they won't be able to use effectively and that Russia will never get paid for those weapons?

I love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Unseen Advantage

Strategypage hits on a subject that is too easy to overlook:

U.S. Department of Defense research has uncovered some interesting aspects of military operations conducted during the last few years. The most useful finding was that it was the skill and training of American troops that accounted for most of their success. Adding more technology did not increase the success of U.S. troops as much as expected, because most of the existing success was due to high skill levels and, all-too-often, low skill levels among the opposition. This was the case in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in counter-terrorism efforts around the world. The media has not picked up on this, because your average journalist does not realize how important high skill levels are in military success.

In 1997, I wrote about the lessons for the US Army from Iraq's initial invasion of Iran in 1980. In one part I concluded:

Iraq's failings highlight the advantages the United States Army derives from its modern equipment and realistic training. Although there appears to be a consensus among military strategists and policy-makes that the United States must maintain its technological edge, the troops must be trianed and motivated to take advantage of that technology. The critical advantages provided by highly trained soldiers with good morale are not easily quantifiable in peacetime. The lack of quality becomes quantifiable, indirectly, when one counts the burned-out armored vehicles of an army whose troops do not know how to use their equipment and who lacked the will to fight on in adversity.

The importance of this invisible edge that the United States Army works hard to maintain cannot be overestimated. The disasters that can follow from incorrectly believing you have a trained army are appalling.

I'm glad the Army is researching this. I'd take good soldiers with mediocre equipment over poor soldiers lugging around bells and whistles any damn day of the week.

We win because of our soldiers (and Marines and sailors and airmen), not the gear they fight with.

Steyn is Back

Steyn is a pure pleasure to read.

Item 1: No matter what crimes the UN commits, it will not be condemned.

Item 2: No matter who we free or how much good we do, America will not be forgiven.

Thank goodness Steyn writes for our side.

Dots With No Connections

A car bombing in Lebanon is setting off dominos:
International pressure mounted on Syria to ease its grip over Lebanon as stunned Lebanese prepared to bury slain former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri on Wednesday.

Listening to NPR on the way home (I know, I know) I listened to a former CIA analyst explaining why Syria couldn't be behind the bombing. She said that it had been since the 1980s that Syria had used car bombs in Lebanon and that Syria was not about to get the US mad at them by bombing a Lebanese former prime minister.

Is it too late to get her back in the Company? I mean, I don't know if Syria is behind this, but is it really unreasonable to think it is possible given what the former analyst said?

Let's see, Syria has a track record of using car bombs in Lebanon. And despite Syria's support for the jihadis and Baathists killing our troops and Iraqis inside Iraq, Syria wouldn't want to get us mad by killing a prominent Lebanonese opposed to Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Wow. Certainly no possibility of Damascus involvement in this incident, eh?

I hope she didn't train any of the analysts still with the CIA.

Jimmy Carter to Defend America!

No, really. Trust me on this.

UPDATE: A lot of people on the right are upset that this nuclear attack submarine is being named for former President Jimmy Carter. I don't know why. Remember when Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize as a "kick in the leg" to President Bush prior to the Iraq War? Well just think of this submarine as a kick a little higher to the anti-war left.

And the crew of that boat should be proud that they will redeem the name "Jimmy Carter."

Monday, February 14, 2005


Robin Wright's analysis in this piece is so bad it is hard to believe it was published.

But it does at least answer the question I had of what the anti-war side would complain about since the Iraq elections went off well. Before, the elections were so important that we had to postpone them until we could bribe the Sunnis to participate. Otherwise, we were warned, disaster loomed.

But now, Wright tells us, we are horrified at who won the elections. Notwithstanding the administration's heralding of the results, it is a disaster:

But, in one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say.

Amazingly, Wright tells us that the Kurds who did throw flowers to welcome us and the Shias who fought and died to keep the Persians at bay in the 1980s are actually friendly to Iran and will work against our interests. Somehow, though we said our aim was to overthrow the minority Baathist Sunnis who killed and terrorized the majority Shias and Kurds, the fact that the Shias and Kurds have won a free election has to be a shock to us. Just who, pray tell, did we expect to win? The Vermont chapter of the League of Women Voters?

And amazingly, the fact that three-quarters of the assembly will belong to two slates is shocking and a sign of disaster. Senator Jeffords, I guess, is lucky his defection from his party means our Senate is only 99% dominated by two parties.

All is not lost, apparently:

Adel Abdul Mahdi, who is a leading contender to be prime minister, reiterated yesterday that the new government does not want to emulate Iran. "We don't want either a Shiite government or an Islamic government," he said on CNN's "Late Edition." "Now we are working for a democratic government. This is our choice."

And a senior State Department official said yesterday that the 48 percent vote won by the Shiite slate deprives it of an outright majority. "If it had been higher, the slate would be seen with a lot more trepidation," he said on the condition of anonymity because of department rules.

U.S. and regional analysts agree that Iraq is not likely to become an Iranian surrogate. Iraq's Arabs and Iran's Persians have a long and rocky history. During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, Iraq's Shiite troops did not defect to Iran.

Nonetheless, Wright judges all this to be bad and we accept the results only because the US "has no choice." Well, sure, Robin. The elections were free. What were we supposed to do? And the results are just fine for us.

Wright starts off with Iranian puppet masters, then denies the Iraqis would be Iranian stooges, and finally concludes that the results are bad but we don't have any choice but to accept the results. What a load of crud. But you can't really blame Ms. Wright when you notice that the esteemed Middle East expert, Professor Juan Cole (he speaks Arabic, you know!) is prominently quoted to support the Iranian puppet-master angle. When you input garbage, you get garbage as a result.

As they say, Juan In, Juan Out.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Kirkuk is the subject of an ethnic power struggle and, according to this author, Turkey is a threat to Iraqi stability over this issue:
Turkey holds its own claim to Kirkuk. Unlike the Ottoman territories that were ceded to Iraq in the agreements that came at the end of World War I, Kirkuk was taken from Turkey as a result of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. Turkish nationalists still regard it as historically part of Turkey. Ankara also asserts guardianship over the Turkmen ethnic minority in northern Iraq. But those are more emotional than political issues. What is mainly driving Turkey's interest in Kirkuk is the long-term problem of Turkey's own rebellious Kurdish minority, which is 20 percent of its population.

Will Turkey intervene if the Kurds go too far? Other factors affect the decision:

Military intervention in northern Iraq is diplomatically risky for Turkey. Having just secured Europe's agreement to open talks on membership in the European Union, Ankara will move with caution. Yet Turkey may well see preventing the emergence of a potentially oil-rich Kurdish political entity on its borders as worth the risk. And Europe may regard keeping the Iraqi Kurds within the boundaries of Iraq, thus promoting stability in the Persian Gulf and in oil markets, as more important than keeping Turkey out of Iraq.

Is Kurdish autonomy within Iraq more upsetting to Turkey if Kirkuk is in the Kurdish sphere? Will the Europeans really ignore a Turkish military foray into Iraq when many in the EU are just looking for an excuse to deprive membership to Moslem Turkey? Seriously, with so many Turks in Germany, would Germany accept a Turkish right to intervene in another country to protect ethnic Turks? In addition, why is allowing Turkish intervention the choice for promoting stability? Wouldn't green-lighting a Turkish invasion be the more destabilizing event than making Turkey accept a Kurd-dominated Kirkuk? And having come so far, will the Turks risk EU membership over this issue?

Far be it from me to underestimate the illogical impulses that motivate people to fight, but after a decade of a semi-independent Kurdish state on their border, will a semi-autonomous Kurdish region within a democratic Iraq really seem unacceptable? We may have to apply pressure all the way around to make sure a logical appraisal of interests is made, but we can do it. If it comes down to it, we can remind Turkey that we don't forget their refusal to let 4th ID into Turkey to invade Iraq in 2003. No invasion for us. No invasion for them.

Great Day

Iraqi preliminary election results are in:

According to the returns, which still must be certified, the coalition known as the United Iraqi Alliance won 47.6 percent of the vote, the low end of what its officials had predicted. A coalition of two main Kurdish parties won 25.4 percent of the vote, and a bloc led by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite, got 13.6 percent. The United Iraqi Alliance drew the support of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's leading Shiite cleric.

Together, the three coalitions accounted for nearly 87 percent of the vote, making them the central players in the new National Assembly, which will choose a resident and two vice presidents. They, in turn, will appoint a prime minister, who will choose a cabinet. The new government will be subject to confirmation by the
assembly, which will also be charged with writing a new Iraqi constitution.

Since Patrick Buchanan didn't receive any votes, any challenges will not likely result in any visits by Jesse Jackson.

Our enemy hates this day. May they have more to hate.

Preparing for Iran

We are probing Iranian defenses and looking over Iran:

The Bush administration has been flying surveillance drones over Iran for nearly a year to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs and detect weaknesses in air defenses, according to three U.S. officials with detailed knowledge of the secret effort.
Such drones can do things that satellites cannot do--such as nullifying Iran's ability to hide from predictable orbits. Or sniffing for nuclear material. The Iranians apparently aren't turning on their radars to add our knowledge. But if they keep everything off, it will make it easier to hit them without them detecting the first attacks.

Supposedly the Iranians are a few years off from being able to go nuclear. Perhaps. But how much do we know? Can we take the chance? I won't go over all the details of why an invasion is too hard and air strikes too uncertain. Regime change is the only way to be sure. It should be supported by our forces, however.

With three brigades in Afghanistan (when initially we had 1+) we can spare one to move into Iran from the east.

With elections in Iraq and Iraqi forces gaining proficiency, we may be able to spare three brigades or so to hit from the west. Watch for our units to pull into bases, in backup roles, where they can move out as brigades.

And the Marines could hit the Gulf area. The Marines have been pretty heavily committed in Iraq fighting the Baathists and jihadis. But they will reduce their presence in Iraq from 33,000 to 23,000. That sounds like two brigades worth of troops (regimental combat teams as the Marines call them). Reducing the rotation burden for Iraq will make it easier to scrape up the amphibous forces for an Iran intervention just in case.

If Iranians rise up--especially after another farcical election in the summer--we have Iranian exiles that were organized as military forces in Iraq still concentrated under our protection. We will have spare brigades to support a revolt. And we'll have better targeting data from our recon efforts.

The only thing missing is an assurance that the Iranian military and dissidents will revolt and will work with our special forces and regular forces if we intervene on their side. We've had a long time to work on this and given Iran's leading role in the Axis of Evil, I cannot believe we have not been working on this aspect. With Iranian military units involved, we will avoid the problem we had in Iraq of having no reliable local forces early on.

And I find it hard to believe we'll let this fester for three years.

Or we could be trying to scare the Iranians. But I don't think we can scare them into compliance. They want nukes and we don't want them to have them. It is prudent that we prepare for military action.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

It's Time to Talk?

Face it, any man dreads to hear the words "we need to talk." No good can come of it. But that is what Fred Kaplan thinks we must do to solve the North Korean problem:

In short, President Bush may well have blown it. If there is still time to strike a deal, he has to strike one very soon and not just ask the Chinese to persuade Kim to back down. As is, Bush has waited so long to get serious that an accord—if one were reached—will cost us a lot more than it would have a year or two ago. There are only three alternatives to diplomacy, though, and they are grimmer still. One is to launch a war that nobody in the region would tolerate and that we lack the resources to wage. Another is to apply sanctions in order to isolate North Korea, a country that is already, by its leader's choice, the most isolated on earth. The third is to live with the fact that the world's last totalitarian has joined the league of nuclear powers.

Blown it? North Korea seems bound and determined to go nuclear and we have blown it? The idea that the peaceful North Koreans started on a crash nuclear program during President Bush's first inauguration is just ludicrous. I am amazed that Kaplan thinks that talking and coming to an agreement will be better than any of the options he lists. He truly can't see that talking for the purpose of coming to an agreement could make things worse.

Talking to the Pillsbury Nuke Boy assumes some level of conversational ability on both sides and assumes that talking can lead to something that will benefit us. North Korea does not seem like it wants to talk. Some think that the North Koreans just want to blackmail the West into sending cash. While this is true to a certain extent, as the 1994 Agreed Framework shows, accepting Western money is not incompatible with pursuing nukes.

Face it, the North Koreans are just nuts. The idea that they need nuclear weapons to deter our invasion is plain stupid. If this is a real worry, why didn't we invade at any time between 1953 and 1999? If you want to insist that only the current administration inspired this thinking in Pyongyang, why did the North start its program long before 2000? And why did they start their cheating after the 1994 agreement. Any why, further, did the North Koreans even feel the need to start their program prior to that agreement?

North Korea's deterrent is and always has been their ability to destroy Seoul with conventional weapons from their positions close by north of the DMZ.

North Korea's level of paranoia about an invasion we have neither the ability nor inclination to carry out absent a serious threat to our country from North Korea means we can never soothe their twitchy nerves. If we really want to invade them, the North Koreans will conclude that of course we'll promise to not invade--what would one expect from a hegemonist power intent on destroying that communist utopia of North Korea? Would a country intent on conquest get squeemish over a lie? No matter how much we bribe North Korea, the North Koreans will inevitably cheat and attempt to retain a nuclear deterrent against us.

Their statement is a fascinating rant of a quite insane regime. Let me reprint it in full:

The second-term Bush administration's intention to antagonize the DPRK and isolate and stifle it at any cost has become quite clear.

As we have clarified more than once, we justly urged the US to renounce its hostile policy toward the DPRK whose aim was to seek the latter's "regime change" and switch its policy to that of peaceful co-existence between the two countries. We have closely followed with patience what policy the second-term Bush regime would shape after clarifying the stand that in that case it would be possible to solve the nuclear issue, too.

However, the administration turned down our just request and adopted it as its policy not to co-exist with the DPRK through the president's inaugural address and the state of the union address and the speech made by the secretary of State at the Congress hearing to get its approval, etc.

The remarks made by senior officials of the administration clarifying the official political stance of the US contained no word showing any willingness to co-exist with the DPRK or make a switchover in its policy toward it.

On the contrary, they have declared it as their final goal to terminate the tyranny, defined the DPRK, too, as an "outpost of tyranny" and blustered that they would not rule out the use of force when necessary.

And they pledged to build a world based on the US view on value through the "spread of American style liberty and democracy."

The true intention of the second-term Bush administration is not only to further its policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK pursued by the first-term office but to escalate it. As seen above, the US has declared a new ideological stand-off aimed at a "regime change" in the DPRK while talking much about "peaceful and diplomatic solution" to the nuclear issue and the "resumption of the six-party talks" in a bid to mislead the world public opinion.

This is nothing but a far-fetched logic of gangsters as it is a good example fully revealing the wicked nature and brazen-faced double-dealing tactics of the U.S. as a master hand at plot-breeding and deception.

The DPRK has clarified its stand that it would not pursue anti-Americanism and treat the US as a friendly nation if it neither slanders the political system in the DPRK nor interferes in its internal affairs. It has since made every possible effort to settle the nuclear issue and improve the bilateral relations.

However, the US interpreted this as a sign of weakness, defiled the dignified political system in the DPRK chosen by its people and wantonly interfered in its internal affairs. The US, turning down the DPRK's request to roll back its anti-DPRK hostile policy, a major stumbling block in the way of settling the nuclear issue, treated it as an enemy and, not content with this, totally rejected it, terming it "tyranny." This deprived the DPRK of any justification to negotiate with the U.S. and participate in the six-party talks.

Is it not self-contradictory and unreasonable for the US to urge the DPRK to come out to the talks while negating its dialogue partner? This is the height of impudence.

The US now foolishly claims to stand by the people in the DPRK while negating the government chosen by the people themselves. We advise the US to negotiate with dealers in peasant markets it claims they are to its liking or with representatives of "the organization of north Korean defectors" on its payroll if it wishes to hold talks.

Japan is now persistently pursuing its hostile policy toward the DPRK, toeing the US line. Moreover, it fabricated the issue of false remains over the "abduction issue" that had already been settled in a bid to nullify the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration and stop any process to normalize diplomatic relations with the DPRK. How can we sit at the negotiating table with such a party?

It is the trend of the new century and wish of humankind to go in for peace, co-existence and prosperity irrespective of differing ideology, system and religious belief.

It is by no means fortuitous that the world people raise their voices cursing and censuring the Bush administration as a group pursuing tyranny prompted by its extreme misanthropy, swimming against such trend of the world.

We have shown utmost magnanimity and patience for the past four years since the first Bush administration swore in.

We can not spend another four years as we did in the past four years and there is no need for us to repeat what we did in those years.

The DPRK Foreign Ministry clarifies as following to cope with the grave situation created by the US hostile policy toward the DPRK:

First. We have wanted the six-party talks but we are compelled to suspend our participation in the talks for an indefinite period till we have recognized that there is justification for us to attend the talks and there are ample conditions and atmosphere to expect positive results from the talks.

The present deadlock of the six-party talks is attributable to the US hostile policy toward the DPRK.

There is no justification for us to participate in the six-party talks again given that the Bush administration termed the DPRK, a dialogue partner, an "outpost of tyranny", putting into the shade the hostile policy, and totally negated it.

Second. The US disclosed its attempt to topple the political system in the DPRK at any cost, threatening it with a nuclear stick. This compels us to take a measure to bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to protect the ideology, system, freedom and democracy chosen by its people.

It is the spirit of the Korean people true to the Songun politics to respond to good faith and the use of force in kind.

We had already taken the resolute action of pulling out of the NPT and have manufactured nukes for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's evermore undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the DPRK.

Its nuclear weapons will remain nuclear deterrent for self-defence under any circumstances. The present reality proves that only powerful strength can protect justice and truth.

The US evermore reckless moves and attempt to attack the DPRK only reinforce its pride of having already consolidated the single-minded unity of the army and people and increased the capability for self-defence under the uplifted banner of Songun. The DPRK's principled stand to solve the issue through dialogue and negotiations and its ultimate goal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula remain unchanged.

This is some world-class cuckoo work.

They repeatedly toss around terms like inflicting a "sea of fire" and yet when they don't hear some secret word in a couple speeches they see dire warnings. We say that we do not plan to invade yet North Korea does not hear those words. They just see that we don't like them and assume the worst. Excuse me, but North Korea doesn't even recognize South Korea as legitimate! Gangsters? Peasant markets? Mysanthropy? What the F? (Or this just quoting Michael Moore films?) They think abducting Japanese citizens was no big deal? Just how are we supposed to negotiate with a regime that puts something like this out to the world?

It is bad enough to hear "we need to talk" from a level-headed girl friend. But when some psycho basketcase says that to you? Back out of the room slowly. While talking, of course, since you don't want to provoke this. But definitely beware.

I find the talking that the North Korean regime finds it must do with their own people more illuminating. Apparently the socialist masses need a little pep talk:

Pyongyang's state-run daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun allotted the whole front page of its Saturday edition to an editorial saying "the single-minded unity serves as the strongest weapon," said the official news agency KCNA.

"At a time like today, when the situation gets tense, no task is more important than to strengthen our single-minded unity," the editorial said.

Minju Joson, another state-run daily, said that "devotedly protecting the leader is our life and soul."

Interesting, eh?

So I guess we can talk. But I want to talk to keep the North Koreans from noticing that they are collapsing and not in order to send significant aid to save that nutball regime. We just need to give that armed psychiatric ward the idea that maybe we can be persuaded to give them aid with no real concessions on their part. We need to buy time. We can't purchase security from the North Koreans but we can buy time to gain that security.

And the signs of collapse are coming faster. We need to be on guard when the wheels come off the Pillsbury Nuke Boy's tricycle.