Friday, March 31, 2006

Confidence

When dealing with ambushes, I've read that standard theory says that if in vehicles you get out of the kill zone by driving through it. Staying put just keeps you in a bad position longer since the enemy selected that spot to kill you.

On the other hand, if on foot, you aren't getting out of the kill zone with your Mark II feet fast enough. Nor is going to ground going to do much good--again, you are planting yourself in the kill zone to be shot at by an enemy that has sighted weapons on that spot. So when on foot, the best thing to do is to immediately counter-attack into the ambush.

In basic training, I tried desperately to get other troops to get up and counter-attack the machine gun that opened up on us on the march to our FTX. I was right under the MG and figured I was in no position to realistically charge. Others could have gotten up and hit the post from the flank. But we were only trainees and the company just went to ground. We would have been waxed by a lone machine gun had it been real.

So I was impressed to read that our rear echelon types in convoys will now halt and fight ambushers (via Stand-To!):

In a change to Army tactics, U.S. soldiers will stand and fight instead of shooting and pressing on when their convoys are attacked on Iraqi roads, according to Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va.

“In the first two years of Iraq, convoys (under attack) just fired and kept rolling,” said Maj. Roger Gaines, the battalion’s operations officer said Thursday. “That gave bad guys the perception that Americans run away. Now, convoys will stop and engage the enemy.”


We've been so effective in repelling attacks on convoys that the military apparently figures we might as well prolong the contact events to maintain our advantage--turning the whole ambush concept on its head. With drones and armed helicopters and precise fire support on call, we can increase the losses the enemy takes.

And as our troops hand off offensive operations to Iraqis more and more, convoy operations will be the main opportunity for contact with the enemy by American troops.

Plus, stopping and destroying the attacking enemy does convey a certain confidence, eh?

I'm impressed.

Oh, and Stand-To! is really the Instapundit of the Army. A great site. The Davids of the Army?

When MOAB is Puny By Comparison

And I thought the MOAB was pretty fear-inspiring.

Just what do you call a 700-ton conventional explosive?

Plans for a Pentagon-led experiment that involves detonating 700 tons of explosives in the desert drew criticism from state leaders and a disarmament activist.

The explosion scheduled for June 2 at the Nevada Test Site is part of an effort to design a weapon that can penetrate solid rock formations in which a country might store nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

I'll bet one or two thug states are running their calculations again about whether they've dug deep enough to be safe. And at what point does a bomb get big enough to seal an underground facility even if we can't penetrate to it and outright destroy it?

And more to the point, why would anybody but the Pillsbury Nuke Boy in Pyongyang and Ahmadinejad object to it? I guess the "disarmament activist" just wants America to disarm of even conventional weapons since this weapon is designed to disarm nuclear weapons. He's probably a "peace activist" too, no doubt.

UPDATE: A post in which I contemplate the term "weaponize."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

An Army of Baghdad Bobs

We have a major problem when waging information warfare:



Q Sir, yesterday when you spoke at the War College you gave the U.S. a pretty bad grade in its performance --


SEC. RUMSFELD: A passing grade. (Laughter.)


Q Well, not in my family, a "D". (Laughter.)


SEC. RUMSFELD: O-o-o-oh! O-o-o-oh! (Laughs.)


Q -- for the U.S. performance in the war of ideas. And I think this latest is maybe an example of how the other side is triumphing, by turning this into an issue about a mosque. What is -- you've been very clear in what you think our responsibility is in the failure in the war of ideas, but what is going on here? How do you describe the problem, and how do you fix it?


SEC. RUMSFELD: I think it's a tough -- sure. It's a very tough thing to do. When something happens, the people we're up against are vicious, and they lie. And they are -- obviously, they have media committees, they plan what they're going to do, they plan how they're going to manipulate the press, and they get out there fast and do it. And there's no penalty for that. Indeed, there's only rewards, because the misinformation race is around the world while, as they say, truth is still putting its boots on. Our task is to figure out what actually happened. And that means that they've got to go in there and talk to people, and it takes time, and it takes 24 hours, 48 hours, whatever it takes. And they end up -- some cases, it takes weeks to figure out what actually took place.


And it's just very difficult. And here we are, in the 21st century, with all these means of communication and information racing around the globe, and it just makes it a very tough thing to do.


And clearly the United states government has not gotten to the point where we are as deft and clever and facile and quick as the enemy that is perfectly capable of lying, having it printed all over the world, and there's no penalty for having lied. Indeed, there was a reward, because great many people read the lie and believed it. And it takes weeks and weeks afterwards to figure what actually took place.


This is a major problem for us.

The enemy lies and the press immediately broadcasts the charges. If we say something, the press investigates to double check.

When the enemy lies, their credibility is never squandered. When we pay for truthful articles overseas, we are suspected of manipulating the press.

If we commit a small violation, the press goes 24/7 on the story. The enemy's crimes are mere background noise at best and reason to try to "understand" them at worst. N0-scratch that. At worst it is sympathic coverage of the enemy's motives.

Yes, we earn a "D" in our information operations. But only because our press mistakenly believes that it has no dog in this fight. They think they are neutral in the war between the West led by America and the jihadis. And they remain secure in their role since they count on us to win that war. That way they get the best of both worlds--a Western society that defends their right to free speech and freedom of the press plus awards all around for investigating the minor crimes of Americans in this Long War.

For our press it is, as the saying goes, nice work if you can get it. And if our military can defend it for them to enjoy.

I have no idea how to change this situation. Other than to abolish all journalism schools and replace them with typing classes.

Mark Steyn, when discussing Michael Ware, put it well:

I felt gradually exhausted since September 11th, 2001, that it's very dispiriting trying to keep going in this phase of what is a very long conflict. And the reason I do it is because I want us to win. I don't particularly like journalism. I don't particularly like writing newspaper columns. I'm sick of having to make what I think should be an obvious case again and again and again. And I'd much rather pack it in and sit on my porch in New Hampshire and enjoy the view of the mountains. But I do it because I want us to win. And the idea that he has, this diseased sense that somehow just the story, the story is somehow how you demonstrate your journalistic integrity and purity, and might get you nominated for some prize that nobody cares about somewhere down the line, that's not what it's about. I mean, why does he want to be a journalist, if it's not to be on the right side of history. This is ridiculous.

Seriously, if more of our journalists internalized their American citizenship enough to say "we" when talking about "Americans" instead of saying "the Americans" as if we Americans were some alien race to them, we'd solve about 80% of our public relations problem (and yes, I know Ware is Australian. But he is a Westerner). At least here in America, that is. More generally, Western reporters would need to believe Western society is superior to those attacking it.

It doesn't mean that the press should ignore any of our mistakes or even crimes, but it does mean that they should cut America some slack when reporting on them because they should believe our society deserves to win the war we are in.

But that isn't going to happen. Is it?

Not Exactly Wetting Their Pants

After years of watching Iran pursue a nuclear weapons capability the vaunted international community ("vaunted international community" is a registered trademark of Kofi Annan and is used with permission) has worked up the righteous outrage to demand--no, no, wait. No demands. To insist--no, again not right. To accuse--wait, let's not be hasty here.

The UN Security Council mildly suggested that not all of the international community's questions about Iran's nuclear programs have been adequately answered. Perhaps:

The 15-member Security Council to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to report back in 30 days on Iran's compliance with demands to stop enriching uranium.

But we wouldn't want to be hasty:

Wednesday's statement from the Security Council took into account the Russian and Chinese reservations about too much toughness, while meeting U.S., French and British calls for keeping the pressure on Tehran.

The modest statement did not go as far as the United States had wanted. It is not legally binding and carries no explicit penalties for Iran if it does not comply, but Rice said it is an important first step. The Security Council could eventually impose economic sanctions, though Russia and China say they oppose such tough measures.


One wonders what the madmen of Tehran must think of all this. They deal with their enemies ruthlessly and pursue their perceived national interest of gaining nukes to slaughter infidels. And we in the West strive for years to cobble together a virtual plea for Iran's mullahs to please stop trying to get nuclear weapons to slaughter us. As if Tehran would even care about a "legally binding" statement! Some Westerner diplomats would seriously be rattled by such a mild rebuke, so think that this step would be important in stopping Iran! We're holding that in reserve to really "pressure" the mullahs if politeness doesn't work.

I don't know about you, but the suspense about whether Iran will comply with the demands of the vaunted international community will consume me for the rest of the month.

Thirty days to comply here and thirty days there. Pretty soon we're talking about real time. Time enough for nukes, the mullahs are assuming. I see no reason to judge their optimism wrong if we really are counting on the Iranians to surrender their nuke ambitions.

Lovely decade we're having, eh?

Avert Your Eyes Puny Mortals!

You've heard the complaints for years that we lack a "plan" to win the war.

You've been assured that if only you'd let the real leaders "report for duty" that we'd get to work and win at long last.

Well wait no longer. THE PLAN is here. Look away unworthy ones! Just glance at it! The nuance may be too great to endure for more than a second! Get a mirror and view it from behind you to dull the brilliance of THE PLAN. Now look away again while your synapses adapt to the intensity of the intellect that produced THE PLAN.

Let me give you background while your brain heals from the onslaught.

Working in organic markets around the country in secret, the best and the brightest of the opposition has been hard at work. I can only guess at the talent pool this document drew upon: Charlie Sheen. Madeleine Albright. Wesley "I've stared down a dictator" Clark. Michael O'Hanlon. And surely, Representative Murtha. Michael Moore did the graphics and art work.

And what a plan it is! Ten whole pages! No wait--scratch the cover.

Nine thought-provoking pages! Hold on--no, there's a little sentence on page two setting the tone.

So, eight--count 'em--eight pages. Dang. There's the introduction so we shouldn't count that as part of THE PLAN.

But still, seven whole pages is nothing to sneeze at when every word is squeezed for meaning!

Hold on. The document is also in Spanish. So let's see, subtract the Spanish language cover, sentence page, and introduction.

So we have four pages. Oh, and two of those are Spanish, too. What's the point of having a Spanish cover, sentence, and introduction if you don't do the plan too, eh?

So there you have the big-brained, long-awaited plan that puts the amateurs in our government to shame.

Really. Two pages. Go and read it now. You should be safe.

Honestly, I provided more details when I wrote a plan for China to conquer Taiwan. Any newbie second lieutenant could put together a 40-slide PowerPoint presentation on a plan to dig a field latrine. And we have two pages of banalities, political attacks, and solutions premised on incorrect problems.

I guess I'm just grateful the second language is Spanish and not French.

Oh. And one more thing. I don't ever want to hear any opponent of the war prattle on about the need for plans before we act.

UPDATE: Apparently, the Cliff Notes version was just for the press when it was announced. There is more detail here. It has to be better with details, doesn't it? I look forward to reading this to find out.

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Instapundit. Note to self: mocking the French even in passing is clearly the key to traffic.

UPDATE: Oh, and no I don't feel guilty mocking this piece of work. Not after the derision that greeted the description of our strategy for victory in Iraq released in the fall.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New Enemy Strategy?

Attacks on civilian workers in Baghdad appear to be on the rise.

Is this an admission by the enemy that attacks on religious targets won't inspire civil war? Why switch to these targets when so many think Iraq is on the verge of civil war? This seems to be more like an attempt to attack the economy rather than the religious division.

The press makes it sound like a successful ploy but I don't know nearly enough to make that call. It is something new, so is worrisome. But I don't know yet if I should be concerned about the latest apparent strategy.

Still, I keep in mind that the enemy doesn't seem to have enough discipline to stick with a strategy until it bears fruit. I've said from early on (at least summer 2004) that if the enemy had concentrated on attacking US troops despite the casualties the enemy endured, they might have broken our public's will to fight while avoiding angering the Shia majority. But the enemy has switched emphasis from time to time. This has been a weakness of our enemy.

Nothing else the enemy has done has stopped progress from being made in creating a government and building Iraqi security forces. But I think there is reason to wonder if we have turned over too much of Baghdad too soon to Iraqi control. Again, I don't know enough to judge whether this is a cause for worry. It may be that it will simply take time for Iraqi forces to adapt to the new threat.

But I will watch this trend, that's for sure.

Worst. President. Ever

Jimmy Carter continues to wage his vigorous campaign to enshrine his position as the worst president to ever take the oath to defend our nation and people against all enemies, foreign and domestic. This despite the fact that nobody is close to challenging his standing.

Said the former president:

Former US president Jimmy Carter criticized Washington's civilian nuclear deal with India, saying it was "just one more step in opening a Pandora's box of nuclear proliferation".

Ok. Let's start with the basics:

America with nuclear weapons--not a threat.

Britain with nuclear weapons--not a threat.

Israel with nuclear weapons--not a threat.

Canada with nuclear weapons--not a threat.

Japan with nuclear weapons--not a threat.

North Korea with nuclear weapons--threat.

Iraq under Saddam with nuclear weapons--threat.

Iran under the mullahs with nuclear weapons--threat.

Heck, France with nuclear weapons--not a threat. And this should say something given that I'm up in the air about Russia, China, and Pakistan, and what category they should be listed in.

So when you add democratic and friendly India to the list of nations listed above that can and cannot be trusted with nukes (regardless of their current nuclear status) just where does that giant of American leadeship put India?

Well, with the threats, of course. And given that India already has nukes and is not merely pursuing them, what would Carter have us do? Bomb them? Sanction them? Lecture them until they grow weary of moral superiority? Really, explain how India has proliferated nuclear technology to others? Are Hindus somehow intrinsically untrustworthy of having nukes? Sheesh, has Carter said one bad thing about North Korea or Iran having nukes?

Man, shouldn't President Carter be off comforting dictators, or something?

Sadly, the oath he swore--even if imperfectly understood while he was in office--expired at the end of his term of office.

Note the Tactics

The Taliban launched a large attack on a Coalition base in Afghanistan:

Early Wednesday, the base came under a "significant Taliban attack," during which the Canadian and American soldiers were killed, Vernon said.

At least five coalition forces were wounded, including three Canadians and an American soldier, officials said. At least 12 Taliban militants also were killed.

But most heartening is that we are not passive targets:

Coalition aircraft and artillery fire were used to repel the Taliban forces, which fled into the desert wilderness. At least 20 militants were killed during the chase and two compounds at a Taliban base were destroyed, the U.S. military said.

"The capturing of these two compounds with boots on the ground produced significant intelligence and allows us to continue to put pressure on the enemy," U.S. Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata said.

Large caches of weapons, bombs and ammunition were discovered at the Taliban compound. All were blown up, "causing multiple secondary explosions and destroying the compound and all enemy military equipment inside," the U.S.
military said.

We were hit. We killed more than we lost in repelling the attack. And then we counter-attacked and pursued the enemy, killing more, capturing and destroying their base, and gathering intelligence material for more follow-up work in the future.

I sometimes worry that we might go passive in a misguided effort to minimize casualties by hunkering down. Such a strategy only works for a short time and in the end we'd lose more. I'm glad we aren't tempted in Afghanistan anyway to follow that short-sighted strategy.

Hunt the enemy down and kill them.

Following the Perfect Plan

Reading Joint Forces Command's report on the Iraq War provides lots of information.

One thing that jumps out is the refuting of the idea of some war opponents that the whole invasion was just a sucker play we fell for in order to suck us into a quagmire. Even aside from debating the idea of quagmire, the report makes it clear that there was no evil and deep plan to trap us in an insurgency. (See page 116 and 167-168 in particular--the document's copy function doesn't work!--and my most recent post on this fallacy.)

Jocelyn thinks that there is evidence of planning for an insurgency, but I am not persuaded. Isolated actions that could support insurgency are not persuasive when so many other steps were not taken. And not when many steps make sense for non-insurgency reasons.

Remember that we planned irregular warfare in Europe should the Soviets have headed west in the Cold War. Special forces would have headed for Eastern Europe to organize resistance while stay-behind teams would have ducked while Soviet forces marched west and reappeared to harrass the Soviets rear areas. This does not mean we planned to be defeated conventionally and wage an insurgency against the Soviet occupation.

No, Saddam's regime was trounced but they never expected to lose the war. They expected us to stall short of entering Baghdad. They expected that France and Russia would save them and get us to withdraw in time. And in the meantime, loyal thugs would make our life hell in the south and west which he expected us to control for a while. And after it was over, his loyal and vicious Fedayeen would control the Shias of the south until his military preserved north and east of Baghdad could deploy south.

Indeed, with all the ridiculous furor over perfect plans that war opponents periodically float over here, one of the most amusing aspects is the Saddam regime's insistence on following their perfect plan even when contact with the enemy made the plan obsolete. (See page 160.)

Mistakes are made in all wars. In the end, our plans were way better than Saddam's--enough to lead us to the point of victory if only we have the patience to wait a little longer for Iraq to stand on its own feet. And support the Iraqis, of course. Nothing is inevitable and even though we win, we have not yet won. We can still lose.

Oh, and I'm not impressed with the media reports of the loyal opposition's alternative war plan. After three years in Iraq and 4-1/2 years after 9/11, they labored to come up with a six-page plan (according to the television news). And half was the Spanish translation! Give those military and strategic geniuses a few more years and I look forward to their 5-page perfect plan for the Iraq occupation.

Man, at least Saddam only took a few weeks to realize he was actually in a war. And I imagine the loyal opposition here still is counting on the French...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yes, But Are They Paranoid Enough?

The Joint Forces Command report on the Iraq War from the Iraqis' perspective is fascinating.

During the Iraq War, we quite literally destroyed Iraqi divisions from the air with precision air power. Some air power advocates say this was due to advances in precision and targetting. More was at work here.

While we have had tremendous advances in both factors in the last fifteen years, devastation from the air over longer periods failed to prevent Iraqi forces from maneuvering into blocking positions to face our VII Corps' main effort in 1991; and failed to prevent the Serb army from marching out of Kosovo in good order in 1999. Air attacks did not destroy these militaries.

In 1991 it took the Army and Marines with an able assist by the British to finally destroy the Iraqi military in the field after six weeks of relentless air attacks. Those not attacked remained intact to preserve Saddam's regime following the war.

In 1999, of course, with no ground war, the rump Yugoslavian army marched out quickly and in good order despite a couple months of even more accurate air power (and with few of its vehicles actually destroyed).

Iraq's army in 2003 disintegrated due to a far more interesting factor than simple bombs on target. The Saddam regime itself paralyzed and demoralized the Iraqi army and Republican Guards long before we crossed the border. Ground and air attacks destroyed Iraqi ground units, and even units not attacked disappeared as troops deserted and went home.

So rather than focusing too much on the technical aspects of destroying an enemy army, if we anticipate war with any thug state our best course of action is to create fear of the state's military in the regime's corridors. The target state's military doesn't even need to be disloyal if we can distribute enough disinformation to make the regime think their military is disloyal. And why not support efforts at coups? Even if they are long shots that fail, the cumulative effect of failed coups will lead the regime to distrust the military.

Given enough time, the result of this distrust will be a regime military watched by other security forces; a military deprived of spare parts, modern weapons, training, and ammuntion; a military that will see a loyal rival military force created by the regime that mistrusts it; a military whose officers are afraid to honestly report their weaknesses; and a military that won't be authorized to plan let alone deploy to meet foreign invasion out of fear that such movements will be the opening moves of a coup. And once at war, this military will be too fearful to fight as a coherent force or react quickly, having had initiative largely bled out of it.

Once the target state's military has reached the Saddam State, our troops and air power will be able to exploit psychological operations to smash the enemy military. Enemy troops will know that their superiors have screwed the pooch on defending their country and will be ready to run when attacked or when they hear of enough other friendly units being destroyed by our ground and air forces.

Such a program of subversion will be more effective than weeks of massive and precise bombardment in destroying the ability of an enemy to effectively resist us.

Remember, the question isn't whether the enemy's leaders are paranoid. The question is are they paranoid enough?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Live By the Barrel, Die By the Barrel

Via Real Clear Politics, a discussion of how Iran would be harmed far more than we would be if Iran stops selling oil:

For Iran, the use of its own oil as a bargaining chip has limited value. Iran gets 90 percent of its government revenues from oil. Its exports of about 2.5 million b.p.d. amount to 80 percent of its total exports. Oil provides some 40 percent of Iran's gross domestic product.

Yet Iran is the only major producer of oil to suffer from a budget deficit. The Iranian public, notes Alhajji, is heavily dependent on government subsidies for staple goods and fuels. From 1980 to 2005, Iran's population grew by 22.4 million and now stands at 68 million. Its daily oil output during that period rose by only 600,000 barrels.

So a cut in oil exports by Iran would be risky at home. "If they are willing to commit suicide, they could do it," says Alhajji.

The blow to the US would not be so severe. Hurricane Katrina shut off 1.5 million b.p.d. from the Gulf of Mexico, but oil prices rose only $10 a barrel. Any Iranian embargo could be countered by more exports from other OPEC nations and tapping the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Alhajji says an Iranian embargo might raise crude prices initially by $20 a barrel before they fell back toward $60.

The result would be an energy crisis in Iran, which depends substantially on imported gasoline from Europe, but not a worldwide threat, predicts Alhajji.

Last week the American Petroleum Institute said US commercial crude oil reserves in February were the highest since May 1999. That sounds reassuring. But Alhajji notes those record oil reserves would cover only three days of imports.

I would just like to add that commercial crude reserves don't count our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And we are talking about cutting off Iran's oil exports and not all oil exports, so we'd have far more days of making up for the failure of Iran to sell oil.

But if Iran is foolish enough to stop their oil exports, I bet that would concentrate the European mind like nobody's business.

He Really Tries So Hard. It's Sad, Really

The Weekly Standard blog links to this piece about how to avoid a civil war in Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has stated that U.S. forces would not become heavily involved in any civil strife, leaving it instead to Iraqis to sort out the problem. This approach, which mirrors the relatively passive approach U.S. troops took to the reprisal violence after the Feb. 22 bombing, has an understandable appeal. But it is akin to our decision to stand aside and allow wanton looting after Saddam Hussein fell in April 2003, and it could have comparably disastrous consequences.


He says we'd need to wade hip deep into the brewing struggle with our troops and avoid the mistakes of April 2003 when we did not forcefully stop the lotting and disorder in Baghdad following the collapse of the Saddam regime.

There are several problems with this thinking.

First, it is set forth by Michael O'Hanlon. God love him but he is so clueless sometimes that it is frightening. And I don't mean to be cruel. O'Hanlon clearly is highly educated. And if he is on NPR he is usually the most reasonable person on the air. And he can honestly try to remain an honest commentator. But he is just always a bit off and so misses the mark.

Second. Saying we should not let Iraqis keep tempers tamped down because we failed to intervene in April 2003 ignores the very real fact that there were no Iraqi forces to turn the job over to in April 2003. That we did not stop the looting is no reason to imply that we failed because we turned the job over to non-existent Iraqi security forces.

Third, nobody has written anything to convince me that the insurgency was caused by our failure to stop the looting. These weren't Sunnis looting who were encouraged by our failure to shoot several hundred of them to start a revolt against the new order. These were Shias looting the symbols of the hated regime. Is O'Hanlon seriously arguing that we could have stifled Sunni anger at losing power by killing or wounding several thousand looting Shias? Wouldn't this course of action have actually just enflamed average Shia hostility and added it to Sunni hostility and pro-Iranian Shia hostility to create a national resistance against our forces when only weeks earlier most Shias had welcomed our destruction of Saddam's hated regime?

And fourth, it ignores the fact that in the aftermath of the Sammara bombing, Iraqi security forces did indeed successfully hold the ring and prevent the long-anticipated (hoped for?) civil war that the press says is finally here.

I really have to wonder what it takes to become a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Now would be the time for them to reassess their standards.

I've Got Issues

This last weekend, when I picked up Mister from his mom's and was driving Lamb over to her grandparents, my left turn signal died on me. The turn signal sound cranked up in speed and I figured that must be the sign of bulb failure. Pretty good for not reading the manual, eh?

Pretty lucky to take place on a weekend actually when I have time to do something about it. But as I am firmly convinced, I'm a lucky guy in general.

So Mister and I roll over to the auto parts store and I get the bulb for my Ion. I dreaded the process after many headlight changing experiences with my old Mercury products. Don't get me wrong, I liked my old Mercury Tracer, but changing a bulb was a nightmare of poor access design.

So I pulled out the manual and checked out the procedure. Looked pretty easy, actually. I just had to rotate and pull out a couple retaining rods, pull out the light assembly, unscrew the cap, change the bulb, and reverse the process to assembly. It took me five minutes!

I was pretty pleased with my guy success. Really, I'm capable of looking at an engine with my arms crossed and making appreciative grunting. It's instinct and not knowledge of course, but I can do it. And heck, I actually did have some success in engine gazing some years ago when a mechanic pointed to an oily spot on my radiator that didn't look appreciably different from the rest of the oily radiator and explained that the particular spot was the reason he needed to pull the radiator and replace the whole thing.

Two other mechanics stood around looking at me as the first mechanic pointed out the flaw. I couldn't tell, but the demeanor of the crew screamed "scam." So I told them I had a regular guy for radiator issues and took my car with the existing radiator out of there. Turns out that garage went bankrupt weeks later. Turns out I had no radiator problem, too.

Anyway, I realized I should not be proud of my minor "guy" moment because this was literally the first time I'd personally opened my hood and even looked at my engine!

I've owned my car for 2-1/2 years and nearly 90,000 miles! But I haven't opened the hood. Oh the shame of it all!

That is not a record for a car guy to be proud of. I am clearly not a car guy. I don't deserve to own a Lamborghini, it is sadly clear to me.

Yes, I can point out I have replaced all sorts of fluids, changed an air filter or two, and even jumped a car battery, but still--I've never opened my hood until this last weekend. Never needed to, of course. But still, I've never even opened it up just to fold my arms and gaze at it in pretend knowledge. The shame of it all just envelops me.

And I've even performed preventive maintenance on actual Army Humvees. Really! The fan belts are prone to breaking because they vibrate against machinery. I know that! Isn't that enough?

Ok, fine. I have a car deficiency. I know little about them and care even less that I don't. I have AAA and that really has to suffice.

I have a power tool. That has to count for something. Doesn't it?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Down But Not Out

Secretary Rice said we might draw down of troops in Iraq by the end of the year. It could be fewer than 100,000:

There are now about 133,000 American troops in Iraq. Military officials have expressed hope they can reduce the number below 100,000 by year's end.


Considering that a brigade has 3,500 and that we are perhaps looking at a withdrawal of 35,000 troops, this could mean that 8 of our 15 brigades/regimental combat teams pull out plus 7,000 other supporting troops. That would leave seven brigades plus a whole lot of Army support personnel and Air Force and Navy people in support roles. So even if the total draw down doesn't look too great, the fact is more than half the trigger pullers could be out. Our casualties could be down to single digits of KIA per month if we remain in the fight.

What I will really be interested in seeing is whether the remaining seven brigades are in combat or in garrison to watch the Iranians (assuming we still need to watch them).

And given that the Iraqi military will still be a light infantry counter-insurgency army at the end of the year, I wouldn't expect our numbers to go down much from just under 100,000 for quite some time. But the important thing will be that our combat role should dwindle.

I expected that at some point our troop strength in Iraq would be 75,000 including 7 combat brigades. As Iraqi logistics and support troops come on line, we could drop another 20,000 or so to get to this point.

And once there, we will remain at that level until the Iraqis can handle large scale conventional operations to defend their borders from conventional attack. And if the Iraqis want us to leave and we want to leave.

Even after Iraq can defend itself, I could see a few American combat brigades and Air Force units remaining in the 25,000-30,000 level for a long time if the Iraqis are agreeable.

We are so close to winning this that it is frustrating to see the panicistas gaining clout back home.

UPDATE: Stand-To! links to a piece of idiocy by two so-called defense analysts who either don't understand what I wrote above or who just want us to lose:

The best alternative among these is a balanced plan named "strategic redeployment," which calls for a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq over the next two years. The plan began circulating in Washington in September after Lawrence Korb, a former Reagan administration assistant defense secretary, and I published a paper on it at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank.

The plan calls on the Bush administration to encourage Iraqi leaders to take control of their country by saying the U.S. military is going to leave Iraq - and set a timetable for doing so. The proposal says the United States should draw down its troop presence from its present level of 136,000 to 60,000 by the end of the year, and to virtually zero by the end of 2007. It also encourages more vigorous diplomacy in the region and in Iraq, to bring the country's factions together.

I remember back in 1975 when Saigon announced they were carrying out a "strategic withdrawal" in the face of Hanoi's massive offensive. What it meant then was retreat and eventual defeat. It still means the same thing.

And as I note, drawing down to virtually zero too soon means that Iraq will lack the support services that they cannot yet provide (intelligence, logistics, repair, training, etc.) and will lack the robust conventional power to deter foreign invaders. These capabilities will take time to build in Iraq, but Katulis and Korb don't care about that. Or don't understand.

I don't know who the article's author, Brian Katulis, is; but I do know Lawrence Korb. I think he legally changed his name to "Lawrence Korb Former Reagan Assistant Secretary of Defense" since I never see his name in print without the former job appended to it. He can chant "Reagan" as much as he likes. But I remember Reagan, and Korb is no Reaganite.

And this plan is no plan at all. And do I need to even address the idea that "vigorous" diplomacy with Iran will do any good inside Iraq? Some people are seriously ignorant of the basics.

No Nukes

The issue of Iran wanting nukes has one interesting factor that makes the whole crisis rather farcical. Deadly mind you, but farcical. Namely, Iran is far better off without nukes:


Indeed, reportedly some Iranian military leaders have argued against acquiring nuclear weapons, on the grounds that they would handicap Iranian strategic flexibility and security. Among their arguments, they cite the probability that, confronted by a nuclear-armed Iran, the Gulf Arab states would be driven even further into the American orbit, and while several other adjacent countries (e.g., Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia, as an ally of the Central Asian "Stans") would probably become much less friendlier than they already are.

Seriously. They want to deter us? From what? Invading them? Stopping them from supporting terrorism? Blockading them? Do we do any of these things while Iran has no nukes? Even after Iran has sponsored terrorists to attack us?

Has Israel destroyed Iran even as Israel has nukes and Iran does not? Even when Iran sponsors terrorists who kill Israelis and Jews around the world (recall the Argentinia terror attack some years ago)?

I mean, good grief, what worse things do the mullahs want to do that they fear will finally prompt America or Israel to nuke Iran after a long history of our restraint in the face of hostile mullah actions? Now that's a scary thought.

And this doesn't even consider that Iran's fearful neighbors may go nuclear to get their own protection against Iran's nukes. Don't think they won't try. Non-Persians and non-Shias will all feel nervous about the idea of Shia and Persian Iran throwing its weight around again. Turkey will be the first but hardly the last to decide they need nukes, too.

Iran is the strongest state by far in the Gulf region. If the region (and I'll consider Israel out of the region for this purpose) remains non-nuclear, Iran will be the dominant local power. Throw in nukes and Iran's influence is blocked in theory. Press too hard and somebody else might lob a nuke at them.

Indeed, for all the complaints about our nukes, if we could guarantee that the world would remain non-nuclear with no cheaters, does anybody with half a brain think we wouldn't leap at the chance? We can't be touched in conventional combat and we'd jump for joy if we could guarantee a non-nuclear battlefield!

The Iranians are fools to want nukes. When you add that their leaders are nuts, we'd be fools to let them have nukes.

UPDATE: I may have been hasty in assuming Turkey would be the first neighbor to go nuclear in response to Tehran's success. Saudi Arabia could be hedging their bets.

Lovely decade we're having, isn't it?

Banzai!

If we take action against Iran we must not put our high value aircraft carriers into the Persian Gulf as we did in Desert Storm and the Iraq War. The Iranians have lots of boats that can give them a television victory even as we kill them in large numbers if they come at us at sea.

From Strategypage:

Since the Islamic Revolution of the 1980s, Iran has had two navies. One is the actual Navy and the other is the naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard. The Navy has three submarines, about 20 frigates and large patrol boats, plus some amphibious warfare and mine warfare vessels, and a lot of small, fast attack craft. The Revolutionary Guard, on the other hand, has hundreds (some estimates suggest thousands) of small fast attack craft, all under 20-meters and lightly armed.

Apparently the purpose of the Navy is to conduct conventional operations against local navies in the Persian Gulf-Gulf of Oman area. In the event of a clash with the U.S., the Navy would rapidly become irrelevant under American air attack. But the smaller vessels of the Revolutionary Guard, dispersed on the country's long coastline and among the many islands offshore, would attempt to conduct "guerrilla" operations against American warships, using hit and run and swarm attacks. The attackers would certainly take very heavy casualties. But any damage to American warships, and particularly a carrier or large amphib, would have a tremendous propaganda effect, which is probably what the Iranian leadership is really looking for.


With so many enemy assets, it will simply take time to kill all of them and until we do they can get lucky and do some damage. If we go after Iran, it would be prudent to go back to our pre-Desert Storm assumption that high value aircraft carriers should not operate in the Gulf.

I wonder if fuel-air explosives work at sea against massed small boats trying to swarm a target?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Putin's Wet Dream

Belorus is essentially the Soviet Union in miniature form. The regime is (via Instapundit) stomping down the protests over the farcical elections in a brutal fashion. Moscow loves the regime and wishes it could recreate what Minsk has. The European Union and America are working to end the regime by promoting free elections.

I hope people power can win this, but the regime's enforcers have shown no hesitation beating even women who are peacefully protesting.

And Lord knows I approve of virtually anything that Putin doesn't like at this point.

Dangerously Incomprehensible

Victor Hanson justifiably slams those who supported the war but now claim to repent only because the post-war has not followed a happy path to fast Vermonthood:


Aside from the old rehash over disbanding the Iraqi army or tardiness in forming a government, three observations can be made about this “readjustment” in belief. First, the nature of the lapses after March 2003 is still the subject of legitimate debate; second, our mistakes are no more severe than in most prior wars; and third, they are not fatal to our cause.


The idea that we have been incompetent in waging war in Iraq or in the Long War overall is ludicrous. So mind-bogglingly wrong that I have difficulty comprehending how the charge can be made. Hanson explains:


The fact is that we are close to seeing a democratically elected government emerge, backed by an increasingly competent army, pitted against a minority of a minority in Zaraqawi’s Wahhabi jihadists.

While we worry about our own losses, both human and financial, al Qaeda knows that thousands of its terrorists are dead, with its leadership dismantled or in hiding — and most of the globe turning against it. For all our depression at home, we can still win two wars — the removal of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of jihadists that followed him — and leave a legitimate government that is the antithesis of both autocracy and theocracy.

Syria is out of Lebanon — but only as long as democracy is in Iraq. Libya and Pakistan have come clean about nuclear trafficking — but only as long as the U.S. is serious about reform in the Middle East.

And the Palestinians are squabbling among themselves, as democracy is proving not so easy to distort after all — a sort of Western Trojan Horse that they are not so sure they should have brought inside their walls. When has Hamas ever acted as if it has a "sort of" charter to "sort of" destroy Israel? We worry that Iran is undermining Iraq. The mullahs are terrified that the democracy across the border may undermine them — as if voting and freedom could trump their beheadings and stonings.

Ever since 9/11 we have been in a long, multifaceted, and much-misunderstood war against jihadists and their autocratic enablers from Manhattan to Kabul, from Baghdad to the Hindu Kush, from London and Madrid to Bali and the Philippines. For now, Iraq has become the nexus of that struggle, in the heart of the ancient caliphate, rather than the front once again in Washington and New York. Whose vision of the future wins depends on who keeps his nerve — or to paraphrase the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, “Hard pounding, gentlemen; but we will see who can pound the longest.”

Are we as a nation so blind to history that we can't even see victory when we are achieving it?

Keep pounding them, people. When their "street" rises up over badly drawn cartoons, can anybody really argue that we can change our policies to satisfy them? We are at war with fanatics who must die before we can let down our guard.

And we are winning. How that is unclear to some people is beyond me.

Anxiety Disorder

Something I read recently didn't sit well with me but the reason for it didn't really leap out at me so I didn't mention it.

Somebody wrote (and sorry I don't know where I saw it--maybe Strategypage--I'll look and link later if I get the chance. UPDATE: Ah, it was Strategypage.) that the Iranians gave us real support in the campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001 and that the Iranians were really hurt that they still made it into the Axis of Evil speech. They were upset that they got no credit for their help. The implication seemed to be that we missed an opportunity to have better relations.

But I have to ask why they should have expected us to think better of them? They helped us for their own reasons unrelated to wanting to be our friend. They still carry out far more actions related to nuclear weapons (and other WMD) and terrorism that are clearly hostile in nature. Add their mullah dictatorship that makes them an awful regime internally and I wonder why Iran should get any credit at all?

Iran is our enemy and the only question is how we deal with them. With luck, dealing with them will preserve the good will of the Iranian people while smashing the regime that deprives Iranians of freedom and works to harm us and our friends.

And I have to ask what if we did respond favorably to Iran because they helped us in Afghanistan? Would we really get credit for being sophisticated and nuanced? Don't we essentially do this with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, for example? They are hardly ideal friends but since they are of use in fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and pumping oil, respectively, we give them a pass for now in how they run their governments. And consider that their support is not a one-time action but ongoing. We may want Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to do more but we push them quietly. And don't tell me you haven't noticed an awful lot of complaints about our easy treatment of these two allies.

I'm not here to argue that critics of the Long War are hypocrites. Rather, as long as we are at war, anything we do will have consequences that we can't see yet. So any action--even opposite actions--are unclear in their future results. And those prone to being anxious about the future--those who counsel studying any action for years to come up with the "perfect plan" that anticipates every possible contingency--will worry about anything we actually do without the perfect plan in place.

Of course the perfect plan is not possible. It never will be. You can study an issue for two decades and in the end you won't even fully understand the issue of two decades ago let alone the evolving issue as it exists at the end of your study.

For the anxious, action itself is anxiety provoking and they will worry about ramications. Recall all the warnings of ecological, health, and refugee disasters that would follow both the "good" Afghan campaign and the "bad" Iraq campaign. They never happened but many critics of action were absolutely positive they would follow our actions. They don't seem to comprehend that inaction on our part is a choice too and there are ramifications for doing nothing. (I mean, wasn't that the whole point of administration critics who demanded to know why dots weren't connected prior to 9/11?)

People need to calm down. No action will be perfect just as no inaction will be perfect. And at least by taking action we keep the initiative in the Long War. We have a lot of strengths to bring to bear in the Long War and if we don't panic at every little setback and interpret them as signs of absolute failure we will move forward and win.

When? I don't know. It may be comforting to the anxious among us to want to go back to a day when we were unaware of the threats to us (but they were there nonetheless). In those supposedly happy days of normalcy we did not have to make imperfect choices about what to do. We should have made those decisions, but we did not. And our essential decision to do nothing had consequences as we all know now (or do we all? Is 9/11 distant history now?) But I do know that we have enemies who want us dead and there is no negotiating with them. We can't split the difference and agree to be a little bit dead.

Kill our enemies. Discourage the supporters of our enemies who kill. Encourage the enemies of the killers to fight with us. Support our friends who wish to reform the society that spawns the killers. And have patience at home to carry out all these things at once.

We are in a Long War. Act like it. And maybe if you really believe deep down that our society is better than our enemy's and that we deserve to win this Long War, you won't be so anxious about waging it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Handing Off

I've been reluctant to say there is a definite trend in our casualties in Iraq since we've had other lulls that ended with an escalation. Casualties have gone up and down with a general upward trend overall--a not unsurprising trend in a long war and not a reason to declare we are losing.

But lowering our casualties is important to maintaining support for the fight in Iraq. We will need to support Iraqi troops for quite a while until victory even when our troops aren't on point.

But looking at the killed in action numbers seems to show a real trend of late.

From March 2003 until October 2005, there have been ten periods when our KIA went down from the prior month. Five were one-month decreases followed by an increase the next month. Five were two-month decreases followed by increases.

Starting in November 2005 and continuing through February 2006, we've seen four straight months of declining KIA. March 2006 will likely continue that trend unless there is an unusual large-casualty event (like an AAV getting hit or a transport helicopter crashing). This will bring us to a record five straight months of killed in action declining over the prior month.

We shall see. I'm cautiously optimistic about the trend. Iraqis are becoming real partners and a real asset in the fight against the Islamists.

Taking Down Sadr?

The appearance that we may be gearing up for an attack on Iran over their nuclear program could just be a means of applying pressure on Iran over their meddling in Iraq:


The U.S. has told Iran that the Iraqi Shia militias being supported by Iran (the Sadr and Badr organizations) are going to get taken apart soon, and Iran is well advised to back off when this happens.

Could we just be trying to scare Iran into backing off enough to take down their people inside Iraq? We are going to talk to the Iranians about Iraq.

As I've written, we just don't know when Iran will go nuclear. Perhaps our government has reason to believe we really do have a couple years to act against Iran .

And gearing up without striking now will make it easier to gain surprise when we actually do attack. Desensitize them to our actions, ya know?

Or we might be going soon. I just don't know.

UPDATE: Ok. I think we (the Iraqi government with our support) are getting ready to take down Sadr and related thugs. After years of just referring to them as "militias" we have taken the effort to define more precisely who we want put out of business. From Lieutenenat General Dempsey in Iraq:

That militia problem or, as I've really chosen to start calling it now, the extragovernmental armed groups, to separate them from the legitimate or at least recognized militias -- that's something the new government's got to take on with some immediacy as soon as they get seated.

When you take the time to refine your definitions it is because you think the distinctions are important. At the end of the day, the legitimate militias will remain and we will take down the extragovernmental armed groups.

When You Strike a Shah, Kill Him

Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons. We are considering what to do about them, including air strikes.

But remember that Iran may be pursuing nukes but they already have chemical and biological weapons:

Iran's WMD programs are rightly viewed with concern given the theocratic regime's support for terrorists. Earlier this month, improved IEDs en route to insurgents in Iraq were captured at the Iranian border. Iran has also been a sponsor of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas, PFLC-GC, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This is a combination that is extremely dangerous, and this suspected combination was enough to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Unlike Saddam Hussein's regime, Iran is open about its desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction – and its support for terrorism is also undisputed.

I think we could take out enough of Iran's nuke program to set them back years. But we'd have to strike a whole lot more targets to keep the mullahs from striking back with poor-man's nukes. If the only thing we can do is set back Tehran's WMD programs several years, I'll take that over letting Iran go nuclear. But just wounding them is never more than a second-best option.

In the end, the only safe option is to remember that it's the regime, stupid. A regime as nuts and hostile as Iran under the mullahs will find ways to kill us even if they only have hatred and box cutters.

Regime change. Soon. I don't know how much time we have, and nobody really does when it comes right down to it. Our record of predicting when countries will go nuclear isn't encouraging.

Dances With Wolves

Secretary Albright may very well be the worst Secretary of State this country has ever sent abroad to represent the interests of the United States.

She recently wrote something in the LA Times and I thought of commenting, but the sheer weariness of taking on this thankless job convinced me to just ignore her.

The Weekly Standard blog manfully stepped up, however, and you should read it here. The record of achievements of her foreign policy stewardship is enlightening.

My God, getting foreign policy advice from Madeleine Albright is like ... well, um ...

Well, I guess it is exactly like getting advice from Madeleine Albright, when you come right down to it.

Bastards!

I like to avoid swearing on this blog and I think I am 99.98% pure on this except for some mild forms.

But when I read that the Russians gave Saddam our war plans and force dispositions on the eve of the Iraq War, I can only respond with hoping that when those motherfuckers in Moscow find their nuts in a vice when the Chinese finally dismember that alcohol-addled Third World-state-with-nukes that we let them just die. I wouldn't risk the life of one West Virginian grenadier to save that damn country.

They want to be our enemy to remind them of their glory days, do they? Lots of luck, Ivan, with your new friends in Iran and China when they decide they have no more use for you. Enjoy your future with nothing east of the Ural Mountains and nothing south of the Don River.

Die. With festering boils, die. I am so furious at those bastards helped our enemy that I can hardly write straight.

UPDATE: Oh, and explain to me again why we should expect the Russians will help us out with Iran? Putin would never dream of screwing us over, now would he?

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Weekly standard blog has a more thoughtful post on how Putin's Russia has acted like an enemy-wannabe:

Ronald Reagan’s famous aphorism about dealing with the Soviets was “Trust but Verify.” Perhaps it needs updating.

“Don’t Trust.”

I don't trust Putin one bit. Not one damn bit. I admire the Russian people in many ways. But the people in charge of the Russians are leading them to ruin in a misguided effort to regain their glory days of the Soviet Union. Until Putin's generation has passed from the scene I wouldn't give that regime the time of day.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Back Among Friends?

British and American special forces rescued three "Western" hostages in Iraq. The fourth, an American, was murdered by the enemy.

But those released and their "anti-war" friends don't really feel rescued, it seems. Mark Steyn writes:

If you go to their website you'll notice the headline reads: "CELEBRATE THE PEACEMAKERS' RELEASE"

They weren't "released/" They were "rescued" by brave British-US Special Forces risking their lives. If you'd waited for their "release." you'd be celebrating over their corpses and severed heads.

The stunted morality of these Christian "Peacemakers" is apparently boundless. They evidently didn't grasp the lesson of their long capture and the murder of their comrade - that, even if you spend weeks on end with them and even if you agree with them, the jihadists still decline to acknowledge even the most basic common humanity. Even though you're objectively on their side, to the jihad you're still "the other". The late Mr. Fox didn't need to acquire Stockholm Syndrome: he was already on the "insurgents''' side. But they killed him anyway.

That's what it boils down to, every time.


I'm glad no soldier died getting those three away from their buddies. I'm just grateful the three didn't resist being freed. And I wonder if they'll go back if they are so damned sure the thugs that housed them are such great guys?

As I wrote before:

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

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


Just kill the damn dots.

Who's Side Are They On?

Winds of Change notes the single-minded determination of our press to describe a civil war in Iraq:


It is a wonder that the Blogosphere hasn’t picked up on the latest media “Frame” on the war in Iraq – that Iraq is in purportedly in the middle of a civil war - and taken it apart like the propaganda it is.

What is going on in Iraq today is a losing terrorist campaign hyped by media spin as a civil war because the public no longer believes their prior “frame” that we were losing to the terrorists . This is easily proven with a simple comparison with Bosnia Herzegovina’s real civil war in the early-to-mid 1990s. Today there are 26 million Iraqis, according to the CIA’s Fact Book. There are four million Bosnians of whom about half (two million) are Muslim.

Bosnia Herzegovina’s Muslim population lost 200,000 dead in four years from 1992-1995’s civil war with the Serbs. That averages about 50,000 dead a year of two million Muslims, about one killed per forty people per year.

If the civil strife in post-liberation Iraq matched that of real civil war in Bosnia ten years ago, there would be 650,000 Iraqi fatalities per year – say 1800 dead Iraqis a day from “sectarian strife” to match the average death rate of Bosnia Herzegovina’s civil war.

We certainly want to calm Iraq down as much as possible but let's not get carried away with the panic attacks, eh?

Well, hey, I've done my part in the spirit of Trent Telenko's question. Starting with this post which coined the term "pressed up beyond all recognition." A variation in far politer terms of the military term FUBAR, of course.

So what we are seeing our press describe in Iraq can only be understood as a PUBAR.

Oh. And the question in my title is purely rhetorical. Every day that question is asked and answered by our esteemed members of the press corps. They may not be against us, but they sure aren't for us. And funny enoough, the simultaneously count on America to win so they can continue to pretend they are above mere national identity. What other country would tolerate such an attitude?

The members of the press corps--with few exceptions--are part of that noble self-elevated minority known as Journalistic-Americans who proudly value loyalty to their own over loyalty to their country.

Molecules

I've updated my post on the two large enemy attacks initiated recently.

I think it is important to answer the question of why the enemy would make such attacks.

Operational Competence

Strategypage notes the current status of the Iraqi army:

About 75 of the Iraqi Army's battalions are more or less capable of conducting operations without excessive oversight, though still needing logistical, heavy weapons, and other technical support. Maybe 8-10 brigade headquarters are up to coordinating multi-battalion operations. But only one or two of the ten or so divisions are good enough to conduct large scale operations. The main problem is the lack of trained and experienced senior officers.


I would like to point out that in 1980 when Iraq invaded Iran, the Iraqi army was not capable of coordinating more than a brigade in a single operation. Four Iraqi divisions made the initial invasion of Khuzestan but the various brigades acted on their own. So even now when the Iraqi military is still developing as a de-Baathified force, it has surpassed one measure of competence of the pre-Gulf Wars (1980-1988, 1990-1991, and 2003) Iraqi army.

We have a lot more work to do build an army to suppress the enemy and then change that army to one capable of defending Iraq's borders, but we are making progress.

No, The Key is What China Wants

Is this man serious? Tom Plate (via Real Clear Politics) says we can have good relations with China if only we will stop rattling sabers and act nice. If we don't, China will react accordingly and become our enemy; and we will go back to the primitive days of the Cold War:

David Shambaugh of George Washington University, is one of America's most level-headed China experts. He is perhaps most famous for emphasizing that if we wish to make the Chinese into our enemy, they will become one.

Like it or not, he notes, the new power balance in Asia has been shifting from Tokyo toward Beijing — and away from Washington. This shift is not complete and it needn't become total or alarming. America still has a huge and vital role to play in Asia unless it misplays its cards, creates an enemy out of China and in the process alienates much of the rest of Asia.

The key for us in the United States is to begin the process of serious and sustained public debate over what is an optimal Chinese-American relationship. Rather than seeking to enlist Asians in a China-hedging coalition, our national government needs to enlist the American people in a huge and historic national effort to understand how to maximize the harmony and minimize the friction.

Public diplomacy — for the all-important China question — best begins at home, not abroad. We have to convince ourselves of what our vision is before we can convince anyone else of what their vision ought to be.


All our fault you see. Plate thinks that how China proceeds depends on what we do. That's the problem with so many experts. They see their subject of expertise as simply a reactive vessel to be shaped by either our soothing words and giving policies or our harsh words and defensive preparations.

Let's ignore that we were quite giving under the Clinton administration yet this did not stop China from continuing to occupy and oppress Tibet; support and prop up North Korea; whip up xenophobia against Japan; aid Pakistan's quest for nuclear missiles; provide aid to Iraq by building their communications network; make deals with and offer support to rogue regimes from Iran to Sudan to Zimbabwe to Venezuela; erode Hong Kong freedoms; bully nations with competing claims in the South China Sea; steal American nuclear and scientific secrets; points more and more missiles at Taiwan; builds up power designed to deter us from fighting on Taiwan's side; and let's not forget knocking down an EP-3 of ours near Hainan Island as part of aggressive patrolling of international waters to discourage our lawful flights.

People seriously overestimate the impact of foreign actions on the foreign policy of any given nation. Iran is a clear threat to us yet opponents of action prefer to look to their own domestic political concerns first. And if our so-called experts think that the Chinese leadership wakes up each morning wondering whether we will make nice to them as the basis for their policies, they are sadly mistaken.

And even if these experts are right and that actions determine foreign decisions, don't the actions of China give us the right to react a little bit defensively and worry just a little? Why are we expected to just stay calm in the face of foreign actions but other countries are perfectly justivied in reacting with alarm to our actions?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Some experts rise to a magical echelon above reality where they think their knowledge of the subject nation is so deep that they can actually say what they are thinking. That they can predict actions. Actually, all they are doing is bolstering political preferences with their knowledge--not using their knowledge to form their opinions. As Doctor Plate says:

This column, for a decade now, has advocated the maximum degree of engagement with China.

China has done nothing since 1996 (and 5 of those years were the magical years of "strategic partner" don't forget) to change Professor Plate's opinion about the wisdom of engaging China?

That's friggin' amazing. I guess he learned everything he needs to know about China in kindergarten.

The Enemy of My Nuclear-Armed Enemy

Whenever we contemplate action against a threat to our security that exists in a Moslem nation, opponents of action assert the "Moslem street" will rise up and make our life hell. Islamists will take over friendly countries and blood will flow. Or something.

I don't understand this thinking. This mythical street did not rise up over the Persian Gulf War, sanctions and no-fly zones, Operation Desert Fox, Afghanistan, or the Iraq War.

But Moslems worldwide will be sympathetic to Persian Shia Iran's nuclear ambitions? I doubt that very much. So hints of support by Arab states who have felt Iranian pressure and fear the fallout of a nuclear Iran should be instructive:

This tiny Gulf country is increasingly nervous — as are some of its neighbors — about Iran's controversial nuclear program, right across the water. But heading into a key summit, Arab leaders are divided, and publicly squabbling, over how to defuse a crisis that has caused the West to haul Iran before the U.N. Security Council.

Countries close to Iran, including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have focused on safety issues, the threat of a possible regional arms race and the possibility that a crisis with the West could spill onto other nations. Iran's nuclear program "still poses a big worry," Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nayyan, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, said this month.


This voicing of concern by Iran's neighbors is certainly louder than the support of neighboring Arab states against Iraq in 2002 and 2003--and those countries supported our war against Iraq.

We will have Arab support for action against Iran. These Arab states may not be proud of it, but they want to avoid a nuclear-armed Iran even more.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Empire at Risk

When the Soviet Union broke up, first losing Eastern Europe in 1989 and then the USSR itself in 1991, one of the largest empires in the world was mostly ended. The fact that the empire was contiguous rather than overseas as the British and French empires were before they lost their empires has obscured the fact the the Soviet Union was in fact an empire.

But part of the old Soviet (and before then, Czarist Russian) empire survives today: the Far East beyond the Ural Mountains. Part of this territory near the Pacific was taken from the Chinese as the Russians advanced east in what the Chinese call "unequal treaties" in the mid-19th century. This wide stretch of territory is sparsely populated by Russians, rich in natural resources, and ill-defended by Russia.

Well, trends are underway that may break apart the rump empire even more (via Real Clear Politics):


Vladimir Putin, like Russia's double-headed imperial eagle, has two faces. Both have lately been very much in evidence. At a meeting of G8 energy ministers in Moscow last week, the Russian president showed his Western visage, presenting Russia as a reliable energy partner and playing the superpower alongside the big hitters of the democratic, industrialized world. This week he travels to Beijing to cement a growing partnership with Asia's other booming authoritarian-capitalist country, China. There he will sign deals on oil pipelines, sales of sophisticated weaponry and nuclear reactors, and security accords reminiscent of the old days of Sino-Soviet entente.

Putin clearly relishes his—and Russia's—newfound clout. But his visit to China raises an interesting question: which of the two nations, in fact, is the real superpower? On the surface, Russia seems to take the laurel, playing an energy-hungry East and West to its advantage. Awash in oil money, Moscow has recently been asserting itself as never before in the post-Soviet era—involving itself in Iran and the Middle East, wielding oil and natural gas as a political weapon against its neighbors in Eastern (and Western) Europe and reasserting control over its near abroad from Belarus to Uzbekistan.

Yet for all its new bullishness, Moscow looks East with a fearful eye. The reality is that China is rising as a military power—thanks in large part to the $5 billion of high-tech Russian arms it buys every year. And long ago it surpassed Russia economically. Yes, Russia may be sloshing with petrodollars. But China's surplus of trade capital is even bigger—to the point that Chinese investment threatens to swamp Russia's dysfunctional economy, particularly in its impoverished but strategically critical Far East. Western G8 members may have objected, fruitlessly, to Putin's inviting China to the Moscow summit. But in truth, it's China—the world's fourth largest economy, with Russia just ahead of Mexico in 12th place—that has the greater claim to a place at the top table. "Russia is shifting from being a junior partner of the United States to a junior partner of China," says Dmitry Trenin, director of Moscow's Carnegie Fund.

Nowhere is China's growing dominance more evident than in Siberia, a vast land far larger than China itself but inhabited by a mere 30 million Russians. Chinese goods are everywhere. In Novosibirsk, the owner of a new hotel can't think of a single thing in the place that isn't from China, from the electric sockets to the beds and furniture. The town's citizens will soon ride to work on Chinese buses; in the markets of Khabarovsk bargain-hungry Russian babush-kas even know the Chinese names for the vegetables they buy from Chinese traders. "Everything we have comes from China—our dishes, leather goods, even the meat we eat is from China," complains Vyacheslav Ilyukhin, head of the Building Department at Novosobirsk's city hall. "Siberia is becoming Chinese."


Russia has been playing with fire to buy time for Russia to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Time is running out and Russia has not restored their former power to be able to stand up to Chinese growing power and ambitions. Russia can either go nuclear or surrender. As I've written, if the Russians think they can protect their frontier with China by arming China they are suffering from borderline insanity.

And an interesting little tidbit in the article states that in May 2005, Putin agreed to give 120 square kilometers of land back to China. The long-standing border dispute is settled according to the article. But I doubt it. China established two things by this small transaction. One, if this small chunk of land is really Chinese territory, in theory the rest of the Far Eastern territory that Russia took from China is no less Chinese. Second, the Chinese established that Russia can be forced to cede territory to them. This will not be the last time that land changes hands along the Russian-Chinese border. Count on that.

Rejoin the West, Russia. You are being played for fools by China out of misplaced pride in what you thought you had under a communist dictatorship.

UPDATE: Mad Minerva wonders if the Russians are being foolish in siding with China and links to this post discussing it in relation to Central Asia. I still say we need to shovel the snow north in Asia.

Staying in Iraq

The President stated that our troops will be in Iraq well past his administration ends at the end of 2008:


Asked if there would come a day when there would be no more U.S. forces in Iraq, Bush said, "That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

Pressed on whether that meant a complete withdrawal would not happen during his presidency, Bush said, "I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say."

While there is some buzz about this statement I don't understand why stating the obvious should be earth shaking. But since reporters who don't know anything about military history or war are asking the questions, I don't expect much better. Because the concept is new to them they think they've discovered something profound.

Here's what I wrote about the subject in November (and I'm sure I've written before on it since I've assumed this progression for a long time):


America will be in Iraq a long time to ensure success. But as new missions become primary, our presence will evolve in numbers and nature. These changes in missions will overlap and many will go on at the same time, though with evolving priorities.


I go into the progression in more detail. In time, our troops will be in garrison in Iraq the way they are in Germany, Italy, and Japan today. Even in South Korea we are just a garrison force that is not in active combat.

So we can be in Iraq for years. Not fighting. Just protecting. And once the Iraqi armed forces are capable of defeating the Iranians, we can draw down even more or completely.

Storm Warnings

As a democracy with the need to justify our actions, we are not likely to attack a country out of the blue to gain surprise.

There are military signs that may be visible before we hit Iran. I know, I thought I saw some signs before in the fall, so I may be reading nothing. But it feels like we are closer to a confrontation.

Consider that a report that two American Rangers were killed in Iraq makes me wonder why Rangers are there. Rangers are generally given strategic missions--like I noted here in explaining different ways to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. They aren't just another infantry unit to be rotated through Iraq for counter-insurgency missions.

Added to the presence in Iraq of a special unit for dealing with weapons of mass destruction and I have to wonder about what is coming.

Oh, and we moved AC-130 gunships into Iraq.

And though Ignatius believes that Iranian-United States talks are a sign of hope that conflict may be avoided, I think he misses the point in a major way. Iran is only willing to talk to buy time to go nuclear. They will never talk to actually give up nuclear weapons ambitions. Does Ignatius seriously think we have concluded that Iran might yet negotiate away nuclear weapons?

So talking to Iran is only our way of clearing the decks and preparing an argument that we gave the mullahs a last chance to settle this issue peacefully. The only date we are seeking is what H-Hour will be.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Well, We at Least Know the Color

The mini-me Soviet Union called Belorus ("White Russia") appears (via Instapundit) on the verge of either a government ordered slaughter or another well-deserved loss for Putin if the people can shame the state security forces into backing down and refusing to defend the last communist regime in Europe.

But at least we know that it should be called the "White Revolution" if it breaks out.

I wish them luck. They will need it.

FascUNating

Well (via Weekly Standard), look who wants a unilateral military action despite the refusal of the United Nations to call for action in the face of a bloodthirsty oil-exporting dictator who slaughters his own citizens? I mean, if they follow their train of logic to the clear destination of their complaints, that is what they are calling for.

Do the editors of The New York Times not even see the connection between what they say they want regarding Sudan and Darfur and what they say was wrong regarding Iraq and the Shias/Kurds? Could they simply be pleading for the vaunted international community to define action over Darfur as morally just so that the editors can sleep well at night knowing they aren't cowboy unilateralists for wanting action? Or are they incapable of judging right from wrong without the wisdom of Kofi Annan and his band of thugs with UN seats?

I will concede that the linear thinking capacity of the Times editorial board may actually be poor enough to miss the connection.

His Biggest and Last Mistake

The Pillsbury Nuke Boy threatened America with a nuclear strike:


North Korea suggested Tuesday it had the ability to launch a pre-emptive attack on the United States, according to the North's official news agency. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North had built atomic weapons to counter the U.S. nuclear threat.

"As we declared, our strong revolutionary might put in place all measures to counter possible U.S. pre-emptive strike," the spokesman said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. "Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States."

Last week, the communist country warned that it had the right to launch a pre-emptive strike, saying it would strengthen its war footing before joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises scheduled for this weekend.

Amazingly, the North Koreans claim they want nukes to deter us. Because if you will recall, in the long years we've had nukes and Pyongyang did not, we've been lobbing a few atomic warheads across the DMZ every week just to shake things up and keep the North Koreans down.

If North Korea ever does strike us, it will be their biggest and last mistake. We will tell the South Koreans to take five steps back from the DMZ, face south on the ground with their ears plugged and mouth open, and stay there for about a half hour.

Then we will pave North Korea in glass from the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan.

Actually, we wouldn't do that. We wouldn't slaughter civilians even if North Korea nukes one of our cities and murders millions. But we would respond with nuclear weapons. We'd have to. As I've said, if we are ever hit with atomic weapons and fail to respond with atomic weapons, deterrence dies and we've declared open season on our cities.

The question is, how would we use nukes? It depends on whether the North Koreans hit us with an isolated strike or combine it with an invasion of South Korea.

If the latter, we'd hit lots of North Korean military targets in the region between Seoul and Pyongyang to rip apart the rear areas that support the invasion. And we'd hit any suspected nuclear facilities.

If the former, we might hit a small number of targets just north of the DMZ near Seoul to cripple a North Korean offensive option. Plus any nuclear facilities, of course. And then we should announce to the world that we will destroy a North Korean military unit at random until the North Korean military delivers Kim Jong Il dead or alive to a US base and announces a North Korean surrender.

We are dealing with Grade A nutcases in Pyongyang. God knows if they are serious in these threats. Or whether they are just feeling like nobody is paying any attention to them lately.

But with threats that can only lead to their destruction as a political entity, one must wonder if North Korea even has nukes. As I've said, they should smoke 'em if they've got them.

Somebody Is Lying

Our military is accused of murdering women and children. We say it was a fire fight in which a far smaller number of civilians were accidentally killed. Both versions agree there was a member of al Qaeda present.

Our enemies have slaughtered so many that it is not beyond them to do a little more. Our enemies lie about our actions so much that they could be lying here, too.

And on the other side, our troops are so well disciplined that such an atrocity would be surprising to me. But not out of the question, I admit.

But just as it was up to us to stop and punish the depravity of our enemies by destroying Saddam's regime; we are up to the task of policing and punishing our own if we find anybody guilty of crimes. Because we are better than our enemies.

I just wish the world cared as much about the hundreds of thousands Saddam killed under orders as they do about the perhaps dozens we may have killed against orders.

Watch This

A company-sized enemy force massed to attack a court house in Iraq and jail to free a number of their comrades:

Insurgents stormed a jail around dawn Tuesday in the Sunni Muslim heartland north of Baghdad, killing 19 police and a courthouse guard in a prison break that freed dozens of prisoners and left 10 attackers dead, authorities said.

As many as 100 insurgents armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the judicial compound in Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles northeast of the capital. The assault began after the attackers fired a mortar round into the police and court complex, said police Brig. Ali al-Jabouri.

At least 33 prisoners were freed in the jail break.

After burning the police station, the insurgents detonated roadside bombs as they fled, taking the bodies of many of their dead comrades with them, police said. At least 13 policemen and civilians and 15 gunmen were wounded.

One of our aims in fighting the enemy has been to whittle them down so that inferior Iraqi forces will still be superior to them. I've called this atomizing the enemy. Keep the enemy is small groups and they can't overrun patrols or outposts.

So is this a trend or an unusual event? Is this an area turned over to Iraqi control that they could not control sufficiently?

Or is the target what prompted the extraordinary effort? Losing at least a quarter of their force (killed and wounded) is pretty heavy to pay and shows one reason why they don't do this too much.

With luck we can track down those who were busted out of prison and use them to round up or kill the attackers.

But just massing in this large of a force without getting smashed up beforre they could take the building and then chased down and killed by a reaction force is disturbing.

On the other hand, the article also notes that the annual Shia pilgrimmage was largely untouched by enemy attacks this year. That is a victory for the good guys quite clearly.

Like I say, watch this type of thing for signs the enemy is regrouping.

UPDATE: The enemy tried another big attack. But this time their two-platoon attack failed big time:

Insurgents attacked a police station Wednesday for a second day in a row, but U.S. and Iraqi forces captured 50 of them after a two-hour gunbattle.

About 60 gunmen attacked the police station in Madain, south of Baghdad, with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, said police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi. U.S. troops and a special Iraqi police unit responded, catching the insurgents in crossfire, he said.

Four police were killed, including the commander of the special unit, and five were wounded, al-Mohammadawi said. None of the attackers died, and among the captives was a Syrian.

Even the earlier attack was an expensive "victory" for the enemy. The latest is hard to describe as anything but a major defeat for the enemy. Although NPR did its part this morning by only reporting a big attack and not mentioning the small matter of rounding up nearly the whole bunch. Just an oversight I'm sure.

It is interesting that the enemy is returning to tactics they largely abandoned early in the counter-insurgency after they got pasted time and again--even against support troops. That's why the enemy turned to IEDs so they'd be exposed to our forces less often. So why go back to a failed tactic?

Still, I'd prefer it if the enemy could not mass for attacks like this. But a few more like these and the enemy will be incapable again.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I guess I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. A week ago I may have predicted this wave (well two so far) of large attacks when I wondered if the Iraqis really did break up a plot to attack the Green Zone and then noted the subsequent chatter on the enemy's nets:

With any luck the chatter is about the failure of the Green Zone attack. I hope that is what they planned and now the chatter is figuring out how to salvage something from this. Could we see a hasty attack out of fear of losing compromised assets? If so, we could have a jihadi television operation that fails in its military mission pretty soon.


And given that the Green Zone plot was of a conventional attack nature, it makes sense that there are a bunch of insurgents out there who were trained in conventional attacks. Could these be the people that were going to be part of the Green Zone attack and the enemy is using them up since they are there? Perhaps a use-'em-or-lose-'em move based on worries we will roll them up?

THIRD UPDATE: Strategypage says only 25 attackers were involved in the first attack. This is more reassuring than the company-sized attack. It makes the attack success in penetrating the defenses more impressive but also means a far higher percentage of the attackers died.

Perhaps 75 more were engaged in supporting operations to block a counter-attack and Strategypage is only talking about numbers in the assault element.

Let me conclude with this assessment:

Attacking a police station, to free your captured buddies, is a suicidal way to operate. It's reminiscent of Japanese tactics during World War II.

Like they say, sometimes these attacks will succeed but usually it just results in a lopsided body count that we win. And I ask again, why is the enemy using tactics pretty much guaranteed to kill them off? Are they the remnants of the aborted Green Zone plot? Are new insurgent commanders in charge who don't remember the beating they took when they attacked like conventional forces early in the insurgency? If this continues, it may be a significant question to answer.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Testing the Brave Talk

Wasn't it a little while ago that some critics of the war in Iraq were calling on the United States to withdraw forces from Iraq to the periphery but then be prepared to send troops back in if things got worse?

I mocked the idea at the time as simply a retreat with a tough retort shouted over the shoulder as the big skedaddle kicks in. Once out, nobody--certainly not those who call for a withdrawal--would support sending troops back in (even if it could work after letting the situation get worse in our absence).

Well look what happened after we decided to send in a task force (battalion-sized unit) from Kuwait into Iraq for a month or so. After dropping from 160,000 in December to the baseline 138,000 and then to 132,000 more recently, we will go up by fewer than 1,000 for a number of weeks. Yet the cries of panic over this move are clear:


The deployment marks the first time US commanders have requested more troops since the February 22 bombing of a Shiite mosque ignited sectarian tensions in Iraq, and raises questions about prospects for significant troop cuts this year.

The mechanized infantry unit from the 2nd Brigade 1st Armored Division will deploy in the Baghdad area for 30 to 45 days to shore up security during the Arba-een holiday, said the official, who asked not to be identified.


Sending in one battalion for a month raises questions about eventually pulling a significant number of troops out this year? We went down a good amount and now go up a small percentage of the draw down and this is worrisome?

Ok, raise your hands if you think the Honorable Murtha and his friends would really support sending a hundred thousand or more back into Iraq if we pull out too soon, witness a deterioriation of the situation, and have to restore the situation? And given the representative's complaints about sending too few troops the first time, wouldn't he have to advocate several hundred thousand?

Now that really would be a profile in courage. Perhaps my history education is failing me, but I just can't seem to recall JFK's call to bear any burden to undermine the defense of our country.