Monday, July 31, 2006

Chest Beating

Is Israel really prepared, nearly three weeks into this fight, to expand the ground war inside Lebanon?

Israel's Security Cabinet early Tuesday approved widening the ground offensive, a participant said, and rejected a cease-fire until an international force is in place in southern Lebanon.

The participant, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said Israel's airstrikes would resume "in full force" after a 48-hour suspension expires in another day.

Thousands of army reserves have been called up in recent days in advance of the decision, which is expected to lead to sending more troops into the border area. Israeli leaders have said they want to carve out a zone about 1 mile wide that would be free of Hezbollah.

Given that the RUMINT says that a ceasefire may kick in within a few days, Israel's decision to widen the war seems more of a threat designed to ensure that a force does move into southern Lebanon soon. That is, the Israelis seem to be telling the international community that if you want a ceasefire, you'd best do something significant or we're prepared to keep fighting.

Likewise, Syria has boasted they must be ready for war:

In an annual address on the anniversary of the foundation of the Syria Arab Army, Assad called on the military to "work on more preparedness and raise readiness of all units.

"We are facing international circumstances and regional challenges that require caution, alertness, readiness and preparedness," Assad said in the written address.

Diplomats in Damascus say the Syrian army has been on alert since the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon began on July 12 after Hizbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border operation.

Good grief, what are they going to do? Bleed on Israel?

This is an empty threat. Syria can gas Israel with missiles or send terrorists. Sending in the army is a recipe for lots of burning hulks of armor scattered about. And there will be no Soviet resupply after the tanks are blown up.

And really, given that Hizbollah has appeared to hold out after three weeks of Israeli assault, the Syrian military would emerge from a war with Israel looking considerably worse--and in a shorter time period. Remember, jihadis in Fallujah held out as long in 2004 as the entire Iraqi military in 2003--and inflicted the same scale of casualties on US forces. Syria can't afford to look worse than a terrorist outfit.

It looks to me like a ceasefire could be coming soon based on the boasting of terrible things to come that the Syrians and Israelis are releasing. And despite Hizbollah boasting, they are being hurt on the tactical level every day Israel keeps shooting. They will agree to stop fighting, too, and take the moral victory of surviving.

Smaller Carriers?

Strategypage writes that some are debating whether our new carriers should be smaller to account for smaller unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) and precision targeting that reduces the need for aircraft numbers and fuel and ammunition:

In the United States, key legislators are joining in the growing call for smaller, cheaper carriers, and the use of armed UAVs sooner, rather than later. This debate is hot right now because design work is currently underway for the next generation of American carriers. The first ship of new CVN 21 class , is expected to cost nearly $14 billion. About 40 percent of that is for designing the first ship of the class, so the actual cost of first ship (CVN 21) itself will be some $9 billion.

Perhaps, although if we are going to build carriers, the aircraft capacity of medium carriers versus large carriers seems to argue for the large ones, as I wrote here.

My main question is whether our large carriers are still going to be valuable in the next 30 years or so if we face a networked enemy that can make our big carriers just targets. And given that our growing network-centric capabilities make our offensive power diffused throughout the fleet without hampering our ability to mass effect, will we need these heroes of the platform-centric era that have lots of firepower on one ship?

If we have offensive power without carriers, and carriers become too vulnerable to operate within range of the enemy, do we need large carriers? Or any carriers at all? And if we go for the same number of smaller carriers, will we just sacrifice capacity without reducing vulnerability?

Or would we better off spreading our UCAVs a dozen at a time on a few dozen smaller 20,000 ton hulls rather than more UCAVs on a dozen large or medium hulls? Include support aircraft and helicopters plus vertical launch cells for anti-ship, land attack, and anti-aircraft missiles, and maybe we will succeed at what the Soviets tried with their carrier/missile armed hybrids they started to build during the Cold War.

I think we need a more thorough debate in light of our growing network and the threat of enemy networks than the narrow debete over large or medium carriers using familiar aircraft.

Are big surface ships too expensive to lose to sail at all?

While the Focus is on Beirut

Israel may not have the time it needs to smash up Hizbollah.

I believe Israeli air strikes in their strategic bombing campaign are futile and counter-productive, but the civilian casualties under the rules of war are the responsibility of Hizbollah which not only fights among civilians but forces civilans to remain while Hizbollah fires in order to cause civilan casualties.

That said, Israel should be far more concerned about inflicting civilian casualties if for no other reason than the losses are putting pressure on Israel to halt their war before they get significant results. And the attacks are simply not stopping the rocket attacks. What has Israel gained from the attacks?

And in the meantime, Israeli ground operations are moving forward out of the spotlight against Hamas (remember they started this whole thing):

While most attention is on the Israel-Lebanon conflict and the monthlong Israeli offensive in Gaza, Israeli forces carry out nightly arrest raids in the West Bank, searching for suspected militants. Often more than 20 are detained in a single night. ...

Islamic Jihad said the leader of its militant wing in Nablus, Hani Awijan, 29, was killed by Israeli undercover troops. They came to arrest him while he was playing soccer with friends and relatives, the group said. Another Islamic Jihad militant was also killed.

And in Lebanon itself where Hizbollah fights:

Israeli ground operations appear to be using paratroopers and other elite infantry to hunt down and kill Hizbollah rocket launching teams. Hizbollah has not got a lot of trained people. Kill them, and they are hard to replace. There are only so many rocket launcher teams. Kill them, and no one will be available to take the rockets out of their hiding places and launch them. Right now, this battle is being won by the Israelis, because Hizbollah has not been able to launch many longer (over 20 kilometers) rockets at more densely populated areas deeper in Israel. Most of the rockets are short range ones. The Israeli attack on the transportation system in southern Lebanon has made it difficult to move large objects, like big rockets, into position for launch.

Strategypage also says the bombing is doing harm to Hizbollah but I have my doubts on that score. UAVs, special ops, and loitering aircraft could still find and attack the larger rockets as they move.

If instead of inflicting civilian casualties, which is what Hizbollah wants, the IAF had been making noisy distractions north by sonic booming Beirut and the Bekaa Valley while using very limited and precise strikes against large rockets and identified targets in support of the ground forces who are having success, the press would still be distracted from covering Hamas and small ground ops in southern Lebanon. Israel would then have had the weeks or even months it needs to really hurt Hizbollah. Remember, even Saudi Arabia wanted Hizbollah hurt. The Arab League refused to condemn Israel alone, and Lebanese Sunnis and Christians despised Hizbollah.

Now it is a race against time for Israel to hurt Hizbollah. And it is all Israel's fault. I know they aren't used to having any internaional support, but this time Israel blew it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Nuts Have a High Oil Content

If it wasn't for Norway and Canada, I'd be pretty damned convinced that there is some sort of obscure rule that says that oil exporting countries must have completely insane rulers calling the shots. Iran and Venezuela are celebrating their friendship:

A beaming Ahmadinejad presented Chavez with the golden "High Medallion of the Islamic Republic of Iran" and slipped a blue sash around his chest.

"Mr Chavez is my brother, the brother of the whole Iranian nation and of all freedom-seeking people in the world," he said.

"He is a perpetual warrior against the dominant system, a worshipper of God and a servant of the people," he added.

So did Hugo agree to provide another diversion when Tehran needs another delay to buy more time to go nuclear? If so, we will see the Red-Green alliance in all its glory in action.

I wish Google would hurry up with that Mullahspeak translation tool. I'm pretty sure none of this will be of any help to America.

If these jokers exported tea we could just laugh at the nutjobs. But instead we have to keep our powder dry and be ready to deal with these oil-enriched psychopaths.

Truly, a lovely decade we're having here.


I'm happy that North Korea's annual propaganda festival is cancelled:

The Arirang festival was to run from August 15 through mid-October in Pyongyang, with about 100,000 people in the communist state mobilized for a mass gymnastics show. But North Korea has postponed the annual event, said Leonid A. Petrov, executive director of L and J Development and Consultancy.

You know, if a circus has a dancing bear or a performing elephant, PETA activists concerned about how those animals are taught to perform rise up in outrage.

But coerce and train 100,000 people to perform like circus animals for the Pillsbury Nuke Boy, and progressives who trash America will treasure their trip to North Korea to see the horror-fest. And I will say that I expected little from Daniel Schorr, but his report was rather good. Kudos to him.

I wonder what these gulag tourists would say if Karl Rove arranged a 100,000-strong pageant to the President?

People should be far more concerned about the ethical treatment of North Koreans. But how can Leftists possibly work that in to hurting President Bush?

Elastic Loaves

Iran doesn't like the way English words are used to describe things in Mullahland:

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language, such as "pizzas" which will now be known as "elastic loaves," state media reported Saturday.

This merely codifies what we've known all along. Consider that the mullahs haven't liked the phrase "nuclear weapons" and instead translate it into Mullahspeak as a "nuclear program that is entirely peaceful and is designed to meet our energy needs only."

This may be difficult to figure out when you hear the mullahs say "we want a nuclear program that is entirely peaceful and is designed to meet our energy needs only." Could go either way if you know nothing about the mullahs. You might think, sure, who wouldn't want to meet their energy needs?

It only becomes clear that the mullahs are using Mullahspeak when a frothing mullah slips and says "Israel must be destroyed! And nobody will stop us from pursing a nuclear program that is entirely peaceful and is designed to meet our energy needs only!" That might make you scratch your head and wonder what one has to do with the other.

Ahmadinejad has clarified things nicely for the persistently dense among us.

Google Translation should probably get to work on this new language. Stories like this make far more sense with Mullahspeak in mind.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

This Analysis is Obviously Wrong

I get tired of analysts whining about our "unilateral" foreign policy.

One analyst seems to wax nostalgic about our former foreign policy (sorry, no link) but laments:

[The] United States has demonstrated a growing willingness to act alone and to opt out of multilateral initiatives. Whether tiring of its international obligations, preoccupied with domestic concerns, or tempted to exploit its hegemony, the country has in a number of prominent instances withdrawn form collective initiatives, demanded exemptions from global rules, shirked commitments to international organizations, or extended its dometstic law extraterritorially.

Pretty damning. But it is obviously wrong. So obviously wrong that I won't bother to pick it apart. By definition, it simply cannot be true.

How can I be so sure about this judgment, you may ask.

Well that's the easy part. It's a no-brainer, really. You see, the article appeared in Current History in December 2000. It was surely written before even President Bush was declared the winner of the 2000 election. This judgment about our unilateral foreign policy came after nearly eight glorious years of the lip-biting foreign policy of President Clinton--which we are told now were days when the world loved us and when we loved the international community as embodied in the United Nations.

I mean, if this article's charge is true, the uniquely evil nature of the current administration might have to be questioned by our Left! So, ergo, it must be false. Simplisme, eh?

There. Doesn't everybody at the New York Times feel better now?

Important Foot Note

I would just like to note that overwhelming Israeli conventional superiority and their possession of nuclear weapons did not deter Hizbollah from striking Israeli civilian targets again and again with rockets.

I just wanted this to be noted before we move on once again to debating what to do about Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

You know, since some seem to want to just deter Iran from either using nukes or attacking with other means behind the shield of nukes.

Deterrence just doesn't work with some people.

Taliban Atoms

I've written before that we must atomize our enemies in Iraq so that less effective Iraqi forces are capable of fighting the enemy instead of our troops. If the enemy can mass in companies or even battalion-sized forces, all but the largest Iraqi bases and patrols would be vulnerable to being overrun. In Iraq, it has been since December 2004, I think, since the Iraqi police lost a position to the enemy.

By making the enemy incapable of fighting even in platoon-sized formations routinely, small police posts and small patrols have become safe since if attacked they can hold out long enough for help to arrive. If large enemy forces could operate, small friendly units would be picked off; or our units could only operate in large units making it tought to spread out a net to protect the people from the enemy intimidation. Atomize the enemy and all things become possible.

In Afghanistan, too, we can see the effect of our relatively small force in making all Afghanistan safer:

Apparently the Taliban has lost some 1000-1200 fighters killed in Afghanistan over the past 8-10 weeks. Despite this, there's only been a slight dip in the number of attacks, mainly because there's so much money being offered for those willing to fight. Apparently the Taliban recruited a lot of folks over the winter. Many Pakistani Pushtuns have been identified among the dead. Several hundred of these Taliban fighters have been captured as well, and some report that morale is getting shaky as the string of Taliban defeats continues. The most discouraging thing for these Pakistani Taliban is the hostile reception they often get from Afghans. Some remote villages show fresh graves indicating a recent firefight, as villagers who don't want their school burned down, or daughters kept from learning how to read, will resist with force if they think they can muster sufficient numbers. Some of the tribes have agreed to tell the Taliban to stay away, or take on the entire tribe or clan. Since the Taliban have to operate in smaller groups (to avoid being detected by UAVs or Afghan army scouts), there are many more instances of local tribesmen mustering sufficient force to scare the Taliban away.

The effect of atomizing the enemy because they fear to clump together is that even armed civilians can muster the strength to drive off Taliban thugs when they come nosing around. That is better than tripling the size of the army.

Key Objective

Israel is winding down its campaign to defeat Hizbollah and has lost. They started off wrong by waging a wide war against the Lebanese in a mistaken campaign to pressure Lebanese into reigning in Hizbollah and to cut off Hizbollah from outside support. The rockets still fall. Hizbollah is still standing and defiant.

Israel has been fighting to take and Hizbollah is fighting to defend the city of Bint Jbail (or Bint Jbeil):

Wednesday's fighting centered on the town of Bint Jbeil, a longtime Hezbollah stronghold, and the neighboring village of Maroun el Ras, less than two miles inside Lebanon. The Israeli army had earlier said its troops were in control of both enclaves, but it later backed off, saying Bint Jbeil was not in hand.

Bint Jbeil, a town of 20,000 known as a base of fervent support for the Hezbollah, is a crucial target for Israeli forces because it is used for firing Katyusha rockets into northern Israel and because of its symbolic importance to the Shiite Muslim militant group.

Israeli army officials described running battles between Israeli infantry and Hezbollah fighters entrenched in apartment buildings and bunkers and holed up inside reinforced hide-outs.

The fighters ambushed Israeli soldiers as they edged into Bint Jbeil on foot. Military officials said the troops came under small-arms, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire from different directions. It took them an hour to determine the sources of the fire and shoot back.

The Israeli army confirmed that eight soldiers died in a close-quarters battle that broke out in the early morning and the ninth in a separate clash nearby that continued into the early evening. Army officers estimated that about 50 Hezbollah gunmen were killed during the hours-long fight with the Golani Brigade, which has a long-standing reputation as one of Israel's toughest units. The brigade also had fought recently in the Gaza Strip as part of the offensive there against Palestinian militants."

It was a very tough day, but our soldiers withstood it," Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, head of the army's northern command, told reporters near the border.

Israeli officials said their forces had killed about 250 Hezbollah fighters in combat along a narrow stretch of the border and destroyed communications and planning centers.

This battle appears key to the crisis. I wrote that if the Israelis could take this symbolic city and inflict heavy casualties on Hizbollah's fighters as they struggle to defend it, Israel could call it a success, agree to a cease fire, and prepare for the next round. But some of the commentary in the cited article makes little sense. One analyst quoted about Hizbollah:

"They are fighting a very effective harassment action without actually taking on the Israelis," said Goksel, a former U.N. official in southern Lebanon who has been watching border clashes for more than 25 years.

Well, no. The Israelis have sent in about 3,000 troops into Lebanon. Some smaller fraction is at Bint Jbail. And they are encountering not guerrilla resistance but an attempt to hold a small city. That is not harassment.

And on the other side:

U.S. military and intelligence officials who have been monitoring the conflict say they believe Israel has destroyed far fewer Hezbollah rockets and missiles than their public estimates, which put the toll between one-third and half of the militia's estimated 12,000 rockets.

Who cares about this metric? Or rather, I should say, the Israelis shouldn't care. The rockets should not be the objective. Enemies can get more rockets. The Soviet Union had lots of rockets when they went belly up. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, too, had plenty of weapons when they surrendered. Hizbollah is still shooting rockets. The ones firing them and the ones supplying them are key objectives.

And a Lebanese professor said:

"This is not a classical fighting force," said Hamzeh, a longtime professor at the American University of Beirut who now teaches in Kuwait. "They are not lined up in row after row, one behind another. They fight in groups of five or 10 maximum."

Well that is a purely stupid thing to say. Fighters haven't lined up in row after row since the mid-19th century. Modern infantry units fight in groups of 5 or 10 (fire teams and squads). And as Strategypage notes, Hizbollah has organized two brigades of infantry.

Small arms, RPGs, mortars, and in other reports, Sagger anti-tank missiles are all signs of an organized defense of Bint Jbail. And it is no surprise that dedicated light infantry can hold a town and make an attacker pay to take the terrain. Recall that the jihadi defenders of Fallujah in November 2004 inflicted about the same casualties on our forces and held out for about the same time as did the entire Iraqi military against our invasion in March 2003.

Our advantage (and Israel's) is greatest over other conventional militaries. When enemies just have to sit in place and die while inflicting as many casualties on the enemy as possible, our advantage dwindles. It is still good, as we showed in city fighting during the Iraq War conventional operations and at Fallujah, but city fighting gives our enemies the least disadvantage in fighting us. As I noted at the time of taking Fallujah, a regiment of infantry would have done a far better job of defending the city against us than the hopped up death cultists who hunkered down waiting for our Marines and soldiers to arrive.

Bint Jbail seems to have an organized defense by pretty dedicated light infantry-type troops. So it is not shock that the Israelis are taking casualties. Especially since the Israelis haven't surrounded the city or sent massive force to take it. The Israelis have fought on the enemy's ground and reduced the already smaller advantage they have over Hizbollah by fighting head on without overwhelming troop strength.

I said yesterday that Israel has limited time to do something. Bint Jbail had best be it. Some say Israel's strategy is to attrite Hizbollah in weeks of small-scale ground fighting. This would be ill advised even if Israel had the time. By failing to hammer the enemy and just run them through a meat grinder, Israeli troops have to do the grinding and they suffer more casualties than if the Israelis hit hard and big. And Israel doesn't have the time.

Recall that in our Civil War, General Grant launched the Army of the Potomic against Lee's army and vowed to engage the Confederates and fight it out all summer. Well, he had to fight a year of this grinding frontal war of attrition. And he wouldn't have gotten that year if General Sherman hadn't taken Atlanta and revived Union hopes for victory in time to re-elect President Lincoln who backed giving Grant the time to kill enemy soldiers.

There is no Israeli Sherman and there is no Middle Eastern Atlanta, so Israel's Grant won't get the time to win.

So to salvage a real tactical win and prepare for the next round, Israel needs to surround Bint Jbail and kill every Hizbollah fighter in it before agreeing to a cease fire. And do it now.

But Israel seems to have blown even this chance at a limited win:

Israeli troops pulled back from a Lebanese border town Saturday after a weeklong battle with Hezbollah, the bloodiest ground fighting of the 18-day Israeli offensive. ...

The battle for Bint Jbail has symbolized Israel's difficulty in pushing guerrillas back from the border, whether by air bombardment or ground assault. Hezbollah on Friday escalated its cross-border attacks, firing longer-range missiles deeper into Israel than ever before. ...

Israeli troops launched their assault on Bint Jbail on July 23, entering houses inside the town in heavy fighting. The military suffered its worst losses of the entire campaign Wednesday, with nine soldiers killed in ground fighting in and around the strategic town.

Taking Bint Jbail — the largest town near the border — would be a strong blow to Hezbollah, depriving it of a key stronghold and forcing it to find shelter in more vulnerable villages in the area. The mainly Shiite town is significant for Hezbollah: It is nicknamed "the capital of the resistance" for its vehement support for the Shiite guerrillas during the 1982-2000 Israeli occupation of the south.

The enemy has not been hit hard enough if they are counter-attacking like this. And with Israel pulling back without at least taking the "capital of the resistance" and killing as many Hizbollah regular forces as they can, Israel is failing to get even a tactical victory.

Israel will now rely on the UN and a new peacekeeping force to salvage some sort of success. Lotsa luck.

UPDATE: And Israel lowered the bar on the pending ceasefire:

"Disarming Hizbollah will not be part of the mandate for the (peacekeeping) mission for now," a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

"However it is supposed to strengthen the Lebanese army, the responsibility of which will be to implement U.N. Security Council 1559 which calls for disarming Hizbollah eventually."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel saw the full implementation of resolution 1559 as "the only real way to solve the problem in Lebanon."

Their faith in the UN is almost touching. I guess the Israelis are passing that "international test" we used to hear so much about.

Second Front

Oh great. Somalia is bad enough with the Islamic Courts Movement running around. And now Eritrea, still smarting after their defeat in a war with Ethiopia back in 1999 (?), is treating Somalia like a new front against Ethiopia:

A Kazakh Il-76 jet transport, apparently carrying weapons, from Eritrea, for the Islamic Courts, landed at the Mogadishu airport. This was only the second time a large aircraft had landed at the airport in the last decade.

The Ethiopians have moved thousands of troops in Somalia to prop up the nominal and official government in the face of ICU threats. I still wonder if Ethiopia moved in with our encouragement and our possible cooperation. A small number of special forces attached to relatively well trained (compared to their opponents) Ethiopian troops could smash up the armed trucks ("technicals") used by the ICU to intimidated other war lords into cooperating.

It isn't like Eritrea doesn't have enough problems without looking for more trouble.

The Freedom to Choose Sanity

Give democracy time to establish itself in countries where people haven't had the freedom to vote until recently.

Many on the Left who you'd think would champion democracy for the downtrodden, instead rip the Bush administration for pushing for democracy in areas where Islamists can get votes. That this runs counter to their complaints that we install puppet rulers in Iraq and Afghanistan in elections we establish just adds to my frustration with this complaint.

This is also a short-sighted complaint. Yes, when given freedom to elect their rulers, the Palestinians chose to use that freedom to elect the thugs of Hamas. And some in Iraq elected Shia Iranian sock puppets or terrorist-related Sunnis. Afghanistan, too, has some hard core Islamists elected to office.

But as I've written, the important thing is that the elections not be the first and last elections. As long as elections are held again, the people who vented long-suppressed frustration by voting in the most nationalistic and "pure" among them can reflect and change their minds. In promoting democracy, the process is all important and not the results in the short run. If results were all important, why wouldn't we just install puppets?

Strategypage has an interesting post on al Jazeera that shows changes in Arab viewing habits that I think could be a pattern for changes in voting habits:

Since Arabs were liberated from Turkish rule 90 years ago, they have largely had only a censored media. Until al Jazeera came along, most Arabs only got news their governments (few of them democracies) wanted them to get. Al Jazeera was different mainly because it presented many different views. These included religious extremists that rarely got air time on government controlled TV or radio. But there were also secular reformers, people calling for democracy and more freedom. Al Jazeera is famous for having debates between religious conservatives and secular reformers. Makes for great theater, and has caused al Jazeeras viewer numbers to skyrockets. Al Jazeera is must-see TV throughout the region.

Arabs like their news provided in a dramatic fashion. Even secular reformer type intellectuals will come across, to Western eyes, as demonstrative and over-the-top. It's the local style, and al Jazeera has to speak in that style, or be rejected as foreign. But the many new voices al Jazeera has put on the air has changed Middle Eastern culture in a fundamental way. Arabs are no longer as parochial, and with the addition of net access, are going after information they would have, only a decade ago, not only been ignorant of, but would have shunned even if they knew about it.

I hadn't considered this benefit of al Jazeera. Could Arab viewing behavior be a template for future voting behavior? I don't mind if Arabs and Moslems remain angry for a while as they get used to freedom. As long as the angry ones don't have nukes, we can fight the effects until new ways of thinking take hold in those socieities.

If it sinks in to newly enfranchised voters that their votes are no symbolic and have consequences to their every day lives, I think that Arab voters will choose to vote in a sane manner. Hey, admit it, some of you may have voted for Ross Perot back in the day. That was a vote of frustration, too. A non-violent vote of protest, sure, but how many voters repeated that feel-good moment of 1992 in 1996? Not many.

Do not judge democracy based on one vote, one time. That's what the thugs want you to do.

A Sincere Thanks to Hugo

And speaking of Venezuela, I think we should take out full page advertisements in Venezuela thanking Chavez for selling Americans cheap oil. Have pictures of smiling Americans standing in front of their homes (with a car in the garage and the air conditioning unit clearly visible) thanking the people of Venezuela.

Hugo is selling cheap oil to curry favor here among our poor and their representatives; and to embarass our government.

But I imagine that if we put these pictures in front of Venezuelans, that even our poor who qualify for the cheap oil will look rich to Venezuela's poor who foot the bill for this stunt.

Seriously. This should be a major advertising campaign. Thank you Hugo, for subsidizing the Colossus of the North!

Who Knows?

There are so many unknowns in the short period of the current Hizbollah crisis that it is difficult to do more than make educated guesses about what Israel is trying to do and what they are accomplishing or failing to accomplish.

Hizbollah is being hurt, I have no doubt. My main question is whether Israel can hurt them badly enough in this round of fighting to do Israel any good. Strategypage writes:

Israel has destroyed most of Hizbollah's economic assets, and is now going after the military ones. There are thousands of bunkers, fortified buildings and tunnel complexes in southern Lebanon that Hizbollah can use to fight from. Israeli troops may have to battle through all of them to cripple Hizbollahs military strength. Israel has done this successfully against the Palestinians for years. This will not be reported very accurately in the media because that would be boring. Israeli tactics are methodical and, well, not very dramatic. The mass media needs excitement, and when they can't find it, they invent it. Think back to the many battles Israel has had with the Palestinians, or the reporting on the American three week march on Baghdad in 2003, and remember what the pundits were saying, compared to what was actually happening. The mass media depends on most people not retaining any memories like that, and being willing to accept breathless, and inaccurate, reports of the current wars.

I've admitted that while I think Israel is too unfocused, my inability to tell what is going on in any detail may mean that I can't see what Israel is focusing on. Strategypage notes this difficulty:

Getting accurate news about the fighting in southern Lebanon is complicated by the fact that Hizbollah, the Lebanese and most of the media are more concerned about producing propaganda and excitement, than in reporting facts.

At best, the press is poor at reporting on the significance of military actions. And since Israel is not known for providing lots of information given their desire to keep the enemy in the dark, the press is worse than usual in this crisis, I'm sure.

Given Israel's military track record, I don't believe they are getting beaten in battle no matter what the media says about unexpectedly fierce Hizbollah resistance. Far more Hizbollah terrorists are dying than Israeli soldiers, I am quite sure. Israel may be fighting on a very narrow front by committing only small ground forces into a narrow area of south Lebanon, but even granting the enemy that huge advantage, I am sure that the Israelis are giving better than they are getting.

I just don't know if Israel's campaign will produce results before they have to call it off because of precision ammo shortages, financial cost, the need to put reservists back into the civilian economy, troop casualties, or pressure from the international community because of unintended Lebanesse casualties (real or imagined). You can call it methodical. Or you can call it too slow. I don't know which it is. I suspect the latter.

Nor do I know if Hizbollah is agreeing to a ceasefire out of desperation to avoid Israeli military attacks or because of pressure from the rest of the Lebanese government. I don't even know if Hizbollah people in Beirut even knows what is happening to their forces in south Lebanon with any accuracy. So I suspect that they are giving in to pressure from other Lebanese. It is possible that they'd be desperate to end the fighting if they actually knew what was going on not far to the south. I don't believe they really know what is going on.

I just don't know at this point. And it is frustrating. But I suspect that Israeli tactical successes have been nullified by Israeli strategic mistakes. I think this round will end without a clear Israeli success and that Israel will be forced to prepare for the next round. With the benefit of this experience, I do think the next round will bring a clear Israeli victory over Hizbollah.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Southern Lebanon

A good map of southern Lebanon via Strategypage.

There Is No Caution in the Apocolypse

Strategypage notes that Iran had supplied Hizbollah through Syria, as is well known, but that the Iranians halted supplies because they were annoyed that Hizbollah did not consult with them before hitting Israel:

Apparently, within days of the onset of the Israeli offensive, Iran ceased shipments of equipment, in some cases actually unloading aircraft that were ready to take off.

The Iranian reaction seems to have several roots. Naturally, there's considerable irritation over Hizbollah provoking a major crisis without consulting Iran.

This calls into question the whole conventional wisdom (which I've sided with) that Iran provoked the crisis (though they didn't anticipate the forceful Israeli reaction) to distract the West from its efforts to halt Iran's nuclear weapons programs.

Let me just say that this could be right. Or perhaps just the latter part of not realizing Israel would react so strongly is right. Maybe Iran wanted a little distraction but not a war that threatens Hizbollah or even Syria.

It is of course difficult from outside to know what the immediate cause of the crisis is at this early stage. But Iran is displaying caution.

I will say that either explanation makes it unlikely that Lebanon is part of an Iranian plan to start some religion-based catastrophe on August 22nd. Whatever reason Iran has for selecting that date, I'd expect rather more aggressive Iranian support for Hizbollah to ramp up chaos if Tehran thought massive destruction was only a few weeks away anyway.

Running Out of Time

I said that Israel had to move fast on Hizbollah to take advantage of Sunni Arab governments' tacit approval of taking down Shia Iran's proxy Hizbollah before "street" pressure forced the governments to oppose Israel's campaign:

Israel should say to hell with proportionality and hit Hizbollah as hard and as fast as they can before Sunni Arab states succumb to public pressure to "do something about Israel" and before our efforts to stall the UN from calling for a ceasefire fail. But Israel should also show restraint and slow down the erosion of tacit support for hitting Hizbollah by avoiding Lebanese targets except in extreme circumstances. Even if they are of use to Hizbollah. The Lebanese are not the enemy.

Well, as a result of publicity about Israeli air attacks that have (however unintentionally) killed Lebanese civilians, the street pressure is having an effect:

Rising Arab anger over the Israeli offensive against Hezbollah appears to have pushed conservative rulers in the region to refocus their criticism away from the Shiite guerrillas and onto Israel.

The most dramatic turn has come from Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally whose king initially rebuked Hezbollah for carrying out "uncalculated adventures" with a cross-border raid that captured two Israeli soldiers. This week, however, King Abdullah warned that "if the option of peace fails as a result of Israeli arrogance, then the only option remaining will be war."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, an important mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict for the last 25 years, now mixes his condemnation of Hezbollah's move with sharp criticism of Israel's response.

It was "disproportionate, to say the least," Mubarak said in remarks posted Friday on Time magazine's Web site. "Israel's response demonstrated a collective punishment against the Palestinians and the Lebanese. The bloodshed and the destruction caused by the Israelis went way too far."

Much of the initial reaction among Sunni Arab rulers was fueled by a dislike of Hezbollah and wariness of the guerrillas' Iranian backers, but that has been swept aside by a flood public anger at Israel.

Popular opinion in favor of Hezbollah has swelled as newspapers and television stations have shown graphic pictures of the suffering amid climbing civilian casualties.

The Israelis have forgotten that they have limited time to crush external enemies. They used to know this and planned accordingly. Perhaps Israeli rulers thought the time crunch only came from the old Soviet Union and that with that state's demise they could fight enemies at their leisure. But pressure rises from other sources, too. Even America.

We have other objectives in the area besides Lebanon and when Israeli actions appear to threaten them, we apply pressure too. We've shielded Israel for quite some time now. We can only do so much. The Israelis need to do as much damage to Hamas and Hizbollah as they can in the next days--not weeks as they hope--and wrap it up.

And then focus on preparing for the next round.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sell Them Carriers For All the Good It Will Do Them

Russia will sell advanced aircraft to Axis of El Vil member Hugo Chavez:

The report did not specify what model planes or helicopters had been sold, but cited Chemezov as saying arms deals worth more than $3 billion had been signed with Venezuela over the past 18 months.

Who cares? Haven't despots learned that their shiny big-ticket weapons just blow up real good if they fight us? Let the loon waste his money. The better to annoy his people about his spending habits.

I'd be more worried if Chavez was buying rifles, explosives, and garage door openers in large quantities.

So ... Whose Navy Is He In?

Caught up in the patriotic moment of describing American citizens we evacuated from Lebanon cheering the sight of the American flag waving on a nearby warship, an American admiral gets a little mixed up:

So we had escorts guarding the Orient Queen. Normally we keep these escorts at a distance and they're unseen by the civil master of these vessels. They're not generally used to having large American steel that close abeam them. So we keep them out of sight just over the horizon, but still close enough to provide adequate coverage in case the vessel were to be attacked. At any rate, evening was setting, a light fog had rolled in; visibility was not that great. And in the setting rays of the sun that was going down, the USS Gonzalez steamed out of the mist, close abeam the Orient Queen. And the last rays of the sun flashed upon the stars and bars flying proudly in the breeze. Every American onboard that Orient Queen broke into
spontaneous sustained applause and cheering. And I had a Marine abroad who was part of the security detachment, and he got on his phone and he called and he said that that moment when that happened was the most patriotic moment of his life. This is a major in the Marine Corps who's been around the block a couple of times. He said he never felt prouder of being an American at that moment. And I can tell you that I think the American citizens on the Orient Queen never felt prouder themselves to be citizens of the United States.

"Stars and bars"? So exactly what navy is this admiral in? I may be mistaken since Navy lingo is so often different from the proper ground-based universe, but I think that even in the United States Navy our flag is more appropriately called the "stars and stripes."

OK, this isn't as bad as the American general in the Spanish-American War who cried out "We've got the damn Yankees on the run!" as his troops routed Spanish defenders on Cuba, but me thinks the admiral is a bit confused. Heh.

Oh, and good job Navy. Be very proud.

CORRECTION: Ok, I was laughing so hard I didn't notice that the task force commander is a Marine brigadier general and not an admiral. They have odd habits from hanging around the Navy too much. So if you were thinking of writing to correct my error, consider it done.

Still funny. But the post would have been better if I'd gotten the speaker correct from the start ...

UPDATE: And so why didn't I just rewrite this post to correct it? Well, while I will correct spelling and sometimes minor wording if I realize that something isn't as clear as I'd like, I don't do substantive rewrites. If I screw up, I'll keep the post as is and just take my lumps. This was a sloppy error. It's still funny though. You have to give me that.

Hey! Nimrods! Pay Attention to the Enemy!

We are in a life-and-death struggle with our jihadi enemies.

To all those who want to understand al Qaeda's "just grievances" and adjust our policies to soothe them, please read:

In the message broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, Ayman al-Zawahri, second in command to Osama bin Laden, said that al-Qaida now views "all the world as a battlefield open in front of us."

The Egyptian-born physician said that the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah and Palestinian militants would not be ended with "cease-fires or agreements."

"It is a jihad (holy war) for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," al-Zawahri said. "We will attack everywhere." Spain was controlled by Arab Muslims for more than seven centuries until they were driven from power in 1492.

He said Arab regimes were accomplices to Israel. "My fellow Muslims, it is obvious that Arab and Islamic governments are not only impotent but also complicit ... and you are alone on the battlefield. Rely on God and fight your enemies ... make yourselves martyrs."

That's the number two guy talking. And a doctor. Been a long time since he's recalled his teaching to first do no harm. They want Spain "back." Fat lot of good withdrawing from Iraq did for Madrid's chances of staying out of the jihadis' way.

They have no grievances to address--just a bizarre number of reasons and excuses to kill us wherever they find us.

So remember, the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi. Because every jihadi we fail to kill this year is just another one we'll have to kill next year--or possibly assign a lawyer to if the ACLU has its way.

Oh, and I'd like a point clarified. If the United States is so self-evidently wrong in the eyes of Moslems, why does Zawahri have to call on the faithful to rise up? Shouldn't they just kind of do it without prompting?

Still Our Fight

We have to win the war we are in and not the war we would like to be in.

Our efforts in Iraq to turn over more battlespace to Iraqis is taking a detour around Baghdad:

For months, American commanders in Iraq have talked of their desire to withdraw most U.S. troops from Baghdad's dangerous streets and pull them back to the relative safety of big, wellguarded bases outside the capital.

In an interview Wednesday, the commander of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq explained why he plans to do the opposite — push more American troops into the city's neighborhoods, making them responsible for stopping sectarian violence.

The sectarian fighting between Sunnis who continue to slaughter Shias (and Sunnis and Kurds) and the Shias who are increasingly striking back against random Sunnis threatens to expand into a Shia and Kurdish slaughter of Sunnis if we and the government can't get the thugs under control.

This is unfortunate but we have to do it. As I wrote back in April in regard to the Tal Afar model:

This article makes an excellent point. And I'm not a particular fan of Robert Kaplan. Even though in general it is wise to turn over turf to Iraqis, in areas where ethnic populations come in contact like this city, it may be wise to set down roots for a while as we and our allies have done in Bosnia to separate warring factions from each other.

I even noted that Baghdad could be a candidate for this approach:

So consider the Tal Afar model for some areas. Iraq is a big country and one solution does not work everywhere. As the enemy seems to go after Baghdad targets, we may need to redeploy existing forces to use the Tal Afar model inside Baghdad or parts of it.

Jobs for Iraqis are being emphasized as part of the military job in Baghdad. It looks like one American and two Iraqi brigades are going in. Our total strength (from the LAT article):

Nine thousand U.S. soldiers, 8,500 Iraqi soldiers and 34,000 Iraqi police officers provide security in Baghdad. Military officials plan to bolster those numbers with 4,000 additional U.S. troops and 4,000 more Iraqi soldiers.

If we only need to focus on certain regions of the city of six million, this could be enough. We certainly don't have enough there to blanket the whole city at a sufficient density.

In addition to the additional troops, a new approach to Baghdad is certainly needed.

It will not be a low casualty mission as Tal Afar has been, however. That happy stage requires breaking the enemy in the city first. And that will be a while what with the work we need to do in Baghdad. And when we finally finish, I hope I do not have to ask yet again why Moqtada al Sadr is still alive.

Another Tool of the Dreaded Neo Cons

A Code Pink activist chastised the Iraqi prime minister as he spoke to Congress for not listening to the people of Iraq:

Al-Maliki was interrupted briefly by a shouting demonstrator wearing a pink T-shirt that read, "Troops Home Now." The young woman was lifted from her seat by officers and carried out of the House visitor's gallery, while al-Maliki paused and grimaced in irritation.

"Iraqis want the troops to leave, bring them home now," the woman shouted repeatedly. "Listen to the Iraqis."

Good grief. Even the Sunnis want us to stay to protect them from revenge attacks! The arrogance of a pale, Latte-sipping, hirsute, trust fund English major (hey, I'm assuming. I saw no picture) telling the freely chosen prime minister of Iraq to listen to "Iraqis" is stunning to me. If she's listening to Iraqis who tell her that America should leave, she's talking to jihadis and Sadr's goons. And they are a minority of Iraqis.

Of course, if the Code Pink lass had shouted "listen to the jihadis" it wouldn't seem so high minded. Still doesn't to me. But you never can tell about those CP types.

UPDATE: Oh good grief, it was Medea Benjamin. She is the whackjob Stalinist who I first heard about in the lead up to the Iraq War. Truly, she is on the other side. I was dead on in figuring the woman must have talked to the enemy to get her views on what "the Iraqis" think. Alothough actually, I'm sure she knows how the enemy thinks without having to leave her home.

And thank you oh so much Representative Major Owens for giving her the ticket to the event.

CRS on Hizbollah Crisis

CRS has a report out on the current crisis over Hizbollah in Lebanon and Israel.

Mostly I'm just kind of bookmarking this for future reference. You may find it of use, too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Why Do I Have a Bad Feeling About August 22nd?

Iran has already rejected our offer to talk if they suspend Uranium enrichment.

So what's with the Iranians' repeated statements that they will answer our demand by August 22nd?

Ministers from the six powers tackling the Iranian nuclear issue decided earlier this month to send the Iran nuclear dossier back to the Security Council after Tehran failed to respond to a package of Western security and economic incentives in exchange for a suspension of its enrichment activities.

Iran reiterated Monday it will not halt uranium enrichment.

"We are ready to discuss anything in negotiations ... (but) we will not accept any preconditions," Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.

And top Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani has said Iran will respond to the nuclear offer by August 22.

What is so important about August 22nd? If there is anything. And what do they mean by "answer" our offer by that day? Haven't they told us they won't stop enrichment? When Iranians say "answer" are they talking about an action that provides a definitive answer? Because if repeated statements that they won't suspend aren't their answer, what do the Iranians have in mind?

A nuclear test?

A nuclear strike?

Is this related to why Iranians were observing the North Korean missile tests? Is this why Iran has apparently prompted a crisis now with Israel via Hizbollah to provide some sort of justification for their answer next month?

I just have a bad feeling about this. I picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.

UPDATE: I Googled a bit. From a calendar of Muslim festivals, August 22 is Lailat al Miraj, which means:

This is the day on which Muslims commemorate Prophet Muhammad's night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, his ascent to heaven and the revelation of the salat.

Muslims commemorate it by telling the story of how two archangels visited the profit while he was sleeping and purified his heart and filled him with knowledge. The prophet then travelled from Jerusalem to Mecca on the back of a winged creature called a buraq. The finally he ascended to heaven where he met the previous prophets and God learned about the Muslim duty to recite salat five times a day.

The Wikipedia entry is here and a link from there confirms August 22 for this year.

Really, just how insane is Ahmadinejad? Does he think he can destroy Israel and overthrow the Saudi control of Mecca and Medina, thus allowing him to repeat the journey to Jerusalem and Meccah?

Or, even if a significant date in his mind, does Ahmadinejad simply think that if he sits passively the great events will just happen? Is fighting in Lebanon enough mischief for his higher goals?

So is this a nuclear holiday? Or just a Sadr offensive in Iraq?

I don't put any stock in numerology but our jihadi enemies seem to. Is something up? Or did I pick a bad week to quit smoking?

The Simpler Explanation

I wrote a couple months ago that if we were going to take down the Iranian mullahs, it would make sense to increase our oil reserve stocks. In noting the global increase in oil stockpiles, I wondered if this was part of a plan to take on the mullahs by providing the West with oil reserves to use until the mullahs were deposed.

Pure speculation on my part, as I admitted.

Robert Samuelson reports on the large stocks but points to a much more ordinary reason for the supply build up:

The big players are institutional investors -- pension funds, hedge funds (pools of loosely regulated funds) and investment banks. They've purchased oil futures contracts and, in effect, bet that prices six months or a year out will exceed present prices. Since 2002, investment in futures contracts may have quintupled to more than $100 billion, estimates energy economist Philip Verleger Jr.

This may have raised present (or "spot'') oil prices, argues a staff report from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. As investors pour money into futures contracts, futures prices rise. Since late 2004, they've usually exceeded spot prices. On a recent day, the spot price was $74.60 and the futures price for December was $2 higher. This creates an incentive for companies to put more oil into storage (``inventories''), the report says, because it's more profitable to sell oil in the future than today. Oil inventories for industrial countries ``are at a 20-year high.'' Spot prices rise because there's less oil on the market.

It's unclear how much this sort of speculation has increased prices, if at all. The report mentions estimates ranging from $7 to $30 a barrel. In theory, the process could feed on itself and create a huge bubble. The more speculators bought futures, the more oil would go into storage -- and the more spot prices would rise. At some point, the bubble would burst. Storage would be filled. Unexpected increases in supply or shortfalls in demand could put huge downward pressures on prices, because sellers would need to sell and (again) demand is inelastic.

The worries prompting this behavior are quite real, as Samuelson notes. But if the many "what ifs" don't happen, the price could drop a lot. Or, if we attack Iran, the stockpiles could make up for Iranian shortfalls for some finite time--hopefully long enough to win.

And I freely admit that the hidden hand of the markets is far more likely as a cause for higher stockpiles than the hidden hand of government planning.

Buffoon is the Least Damning Explanation

As the Affaire de Plame is regurgitated once again with the couple's pathetic lawsuit, Christopher Hitchens (via Real Clear Politics) provides a good summary of what happened for those who insist on remembering a grand government conspiracy:

To summarize, then: In February 1999 one of Saddam Hussein's chief nuclear goons paid a visit to Niger, but his identity was not noticed by Joseph Wilson, nor emphasized in his "report" to the CIA, nor mentioned at all in his later memoir. British intelligence picked up the news of the Zahawie visit from French and Italian sources and passed it on to Washington. Zahawie's denials of any background or knowledge, in respect of nuclear matters, are plainly laughable based on his past record, and he is still taken seriously enough as an expert on such matters to be invited (as part of a Jordanian delegation) to Hans Blix's commission on WMD. Two very senior and experienced diplomats in the field of WMDs and disarmament, both of them from countries by no means aligned with the Bush administration, have been kind enough to share with me their disquiet at his activities. What responsible American administration could possibly have viewed any of this with indifference?

The subsequent mysteriously forged documents claiming evidence of an actual deal made between Zahawie and Niger were circulated well after the first British report (and may have been intended to discredit it) and have been deemed irrelevant by two independent inquiries in London. The original British report carefully said that Saddam had "sought" uranium, not that he had acquired it. The possible significance of a later return visit—this time by a minister from Niger to Baghdad in 2001—has not as yet been clarified by the work of the Iraq Survey Group.

This means that both pillars of the biggest scandal-mongering effort yet mounted by the "anti-war" movement—the twin allegations of a false story exposed by Wilson and then of a state-run vendetta undertaken against him and the lady wife who dispatched him on the mission—are in irretrievable ruins. The truth is the exact polar opposite. The original Niger connection was both authentic and important, and Wilson's utter failure to grasp it or even examine it was not enough to make Karl Rove even turn over in bed. All the work of the supposed "outing" was inadvertently performed by Wilson's admirer Robert Novak. Of course, one defends the Bush administration at one's own peril. Thanks largely to Stephen Hadley, assistant to the president for national security affairs, our incompetent and divided government grew so nervous as to disown the words that appeared in the 2003 State of the Union address. But the facts are still the facts, and it is high time that they received one-millionth of the attention that the "Plamegate" farce has garnered.

For me, I still want to know why the buffoon Wilson was sent on this mission.

All Roads Lead to Rove

You know, for a self-described nuanced bunch, the Left has a decidedly simple narrative of what the root cause of Middle East violence is. Max Boot (via Real Clear Politics) puts it well:

REMEMBER HOW idyllic the Middle East was before that crazy cowboy moved into the White House? Oh for the good ol' days when Saddam Hussein would invite Kurdish and Shiite leaders to his palace for a lamb roast followed by a nice game of checkers. When the Iranian mullahs would host Fourth of July festivities in Tehran in honor of the Great Angel. And when Hamas and Hezbollah big shots would balance yarmulkes on their turbans and visit Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

Wait. You mean my memory is playing tricks on me? None of that actually happened? Well, then, why on earth are so many pundits blaming President Bush for the current mess in the Middle East? A typical example comes from fellow Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks, who writes: "The Bush administration's
tunnel-vision approach to foreign policy has pushed the U.S. and the world into a devastating tailspin of conflict without end….We promised to make the world safer, but we've turned it into a tinderbox." ...

Critics are right that Bush hasn't transformed the Middle East into a bastion of peace, love and harmony. But he never promised to work miracles; he has consistently spoken of our current struggle as a generational challenge — the Long War. Sure, he could have done more to help win the war. But there is no reason to think that the critics' preferred approach — more diplomatic blather, more international confabs, more concessions to the terror-mongers — would have produced any better results. In any case, to suggest that his policies are the cause of today's woes, rather than a reaction to them, reveals a stunning historical amnesia.

Ah, nuance. Funny how in a nuanced world, all the world's problems started in January 2001.

Where are the Troops?

Early in the Hizbollah crisis, there were rumors of large-scale mobilization in Israel. But the small scale of the ground attacks into Lebanon seems to indicate no such mobilization took place. Yet what of this report by Strategypage?

Israel said it would clear a security zone along the Lebanese border, Everyone would be expelled, and anyone who entered would be fired upon. The depth of the zone was left unclear. It could be as much as 20 kilometers, or more. The zone would eventually be turned over to an acceptable (competent) international peacekeeping force.

If the Israelis really do intend to create a temporary buffer zone in the south, I'd think they would need at least a division's worth of troops (15,000) to do the job--I think the population in the area is about 600,000.

And Strategypage paints a better picture of the results of this fighting than I'd suspect from what I've read:

While Hizbollah has been able to muster public support throughout Lebanon and the Arab world, they know that in the aftermath of all this, despite declaring a victory, they are already being blamed for causing a disaster, and will suffer substantial losses in the aftermath of this war. Hizbollah will lose control of much of south Lebanon, and other Lebanese Shia political parties are already maneuvering to grow at Hizbollah's expense. While most Lebanese cheer Hizbollah publicly, privately they see all this as a ploy to restore Syrian and Iranian control over Lebanon.

I hope Strategypage is right and that I am wrong in thinking that Israel has screwed up their response. I'd feel more confident of this assessment if the Israelis would limit their bombing in Lebanon to the southern part along the border with Israel and not hit Hizbollah targets in cities further north or Lebanese infrastructure. And will the Israelis be able to persist in their ground attacks for several more weeks? At least? Given the failure to really stomp on Hizbollah so far, will the Israelis reach their objectives in this time?

The Israelis are good, so I shouldn't underestimate them. And it is possible that the Israelis aren't boasting of successes to keep Hizbollah in the fight where they can be killed rather than retreating and seeking a ceasefire. You never know.

But if the Israelis plan more, where are the troops?

UPDATE: Strategypage says Nasrallah is critical to holding Hizbollah together:

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is so critical to the success of Hizbollah, that if he's killed, the whole organization may fall apart. Although on paper the movement has clear lines of authority, and a defined order-of-succession, if you take a close look at Nasrallah's henchmen, you realize that most of them are pretty much the ordinary run of uninspiring Arab thugs.

This makes Hizbollah more fragile than it may seem and provides Israel with a clear objective--albeit one hard to find in a country at war.

In addition, this report says Israel will continue but won't expand the ground campaign; but will still mobilize three divisions of reservists. Why several divisions of reservists if they aren't going to Lebanon? Either Israel is hiding a planned expansion in Lebanon, is worried about Syria (who some time ago was reported as mobilizing though I've heard nothing about it since), or the reporter doesn't know the difference between a division and a battalion. Hard to say which explanation makes more sense.

UPDATE: This report confirms actual divisions and cites 30,000 troops. I guess you could say this would support a troop rotation of 10,000 reservists to back up 5,000 active duty to keep 15,000 in Lebanon. But why mobilize all of them now given the difficulty of keeping many reservists on duty for long periods? And this is in addition to prior mobilizations announced. Plus, I thought Israel's reserve divisions were mostly mechanized. We seem to be up to four or more division equivalents ordered to duty.

Oh, and the report has this gem:

Iran's Mehr news agency said Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, was in Damascus for meetings, but gave no other details. Similar reports were carried by the Iranian Labor News Agency and the Fars agency.

Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah was to take part in the talks, which will include Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to Kuwait's Al-Siyassah newspaper, known for its opposition to the Syrian regime.

It said the meeting was designed to discuss ways to maintain supplies to Hezbollah fighters with "Iranian arms flowing through Syrian territories

You don't say?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Not Ready for War

I questioned the whole notion that Israel has to respond to enemy attacks only in proportion to the initial attack by the enemy:

Don't our enemies count on "proportional" responses to keep fighting? After all, they boast that we love life and they love death. They count on killing two or two thousand of us and then we just kill a few of them or perhaps a few thousand in response. They can take such exchanges far longer than we can in their thinking. In this sense "proportionality" is just fighting on their terms. It is not fighting to win--it is fighting until the enemy wins.

Notwithstanding my firm belief that Israel is making a tremendous mistake hitting Lebanese targets, I think the Israelis would be quite justified in going after Hizbollah or even Syria quite hard.

If he is to be believed, Hizbollah did expect Israel to respond proportionally:

Mahmoud Komati, the deputy chief of the Hezbollah politburo, told The Associated Press here that the guerrilla's leadership had not expected a massive offensive when it snatched the two Israeli soldiers.

"The truth is — let me say this clearly — we didn't even expect (this) response ... that (Israel) would exploit this operation for this big war against us," he said.

Instead, he said Hezbollah had thought Israel would respond to the soldiers' capture by snatching Hezbollah leaders in commando raids and that negotiations for a swap would start, giving Hezbollah the chance to try to win the release of Lebanese prisoners held by Israel.

That is interesting. If Iran and Syria did push the button to unleash Hizbollah and distract us from addressing Iran's nukes, this explains Iran's and Syria's relatively restrained actions in support of Hizbollah in the face of Israel's attack. They just wanted a distraction--not a war.

But while Hizbollah, Syria, and Iran mave been surprised by the scale of Israel's response, they have been saved from the consequences of their misjudgment by Israel's unfocused flailing about.

Israel would have made Iran pay by striking hard at either Syria or just Hizbollah while sparing Lebanese civilians. So I guess Israel wasn't ready for war, either.

Defeat Versus Destruction

The situation in Iraq is ugly but some seem determined to predict disaster if Sunni-Shia fighting truly becomes unconstrained.

There are the minority Sunnis split between cooperating in a new Iraq and indulging in a bloody fantasy of provoking foreign Sunni intervention to put Iraq's Sunnis back in the palaces. The Shias are also split--between those wanting to get revenge for decades (and even centuries) of Sunni exploitation and more recently in memory, mass murder and terror, and those willing to move on to establish peace. The Kurds are largely content to sit it out in the north though their troops are valuable assets in the war. Fighting Sunnis with the upper hand while in the army is kind of refreshing, I imagine.

But this can't be properly called a civil war as far as I'm concerned. The Sunnis will simply be wiped out if the Shias and Sunnis who want all-out war get their way. Some Sunnis are even coming around to desperately wanting us to stay to shield Sunnis from revenge. I've been preaching this for years, wondering just how stupid the Sunnis have to be to fail to come on board the new Iraq while our troops are in Iraq to moderate Shia (and Kurds to a lesser degree of importance) desire for revenge.

Strategypage has an article that largely agrees:

The problem with civil war in Iraq is that it's not possible to have a civil war in Iraq. That's because one side is too weak to muster much more that terrorists. Because of voluntary, and forced, departures from the country, the Sunni Arabs are only about 15 percent of the population. Moreover, because of American air power, any concentration of Sunni Arab gunmen would just provide a target for smart bombs. Declaring that there is now a civil war in Iraq ignores the fact that the Sunni Arabs have been resisting their loss of power for over three years. Military historians refer to this sort of thing as "mopping up" after a hostile government has been defeated. Saddam and his government were ousted in early 2003. But Saddam's followers fought on, and are still at it. At least those that are still alive and in a murderous mood. Call that a civil war if you like, but that doesn't make it one.

Could there be a sectarian bloodletting even greater than today's? (Or yesteday's under Saddam, for that matter) Oh yeah. If the Shias decide to go hammer and tongs at the Sunnis, the Sunnis will die or flee to avoid dying. I don't call that a civil war. It will be ethnic cleansing.

We won't get a democratic Iraq for another generation at least if this happens; but we won't have a terror sponsoring aggressive thug state either, as it was under Saddam.

So Iraq may or may not succeed in creating a democracy. They may just get a mild authoritarian government. And we may or may not get our maximum objective of an example for other Moslem countries to follow. But for sure, the Iraqi Sunnis won't be able to hold any piece of land inside Iraq and call it their own.

For what it's worth, I think we can create a new Iraq with an acceptable form of democracy and with sufficient Sunni participation.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Vacuuming Success Story--No, Really

I have a really tall stairwell ceiling. Indeed, I've mentioned my light fixture that has lasted, Ishallah, for over five years now since I bought the place. Changing a light bulb once one burns out will be a challenge. My former sister-in-law informs me she has a long claw arm that I can borrow, but I wonder if it will reach.

But I had another stairwell problem, too. Cobwebs. Way up high and in the corners. Even higher than the bulbs. And while I usually don't even look up as I use the stairs, whenever I've looked up I've noticed them getting a bit more, ah, visible. Dust, you know. Doesn't look good at all.

So last week I decided to tackle it the way any man should--by building a device out of handy household supplies to enable me to vacuum the corners.

So I took my portable vacuum. I attached every attachment I had, knowing that this was still too short to reach the ceiling. The next step was increasing my reach even more. Ideally without standing on a chair precariously balanced between death and cleanliness. With a broom and duct tape, I set about to finish my device. I taped the broom to the hose just below the near attachment. Time to build: 2 minutes.

Holding the vacuum in one hand since the new device could not be left on the floor, I extended the broom with the other. The device rigidity was not high so it swayed as I pushed the vacuum nozzle higher and higher. Slowly tilting the nozzle left and right, up and down, I managed to get all the corners. Man, it looks clean.

Of course, I just wrote about a vacuuming success. Man, I really need to date more often.

Good Enough for Government Work

Israel lacks the time or desire to commit the ground forces to smash Hizbollah this round. The Israelis have screwed up by killing too many Lebanese and destroying too much Lebanese infrastructure without affecting Hizbollah or their immediate Syrian or distant Iranian sponsors.

Well, I think we have a candidate for an objective that the Israelis will capture and say is a tangible victory:

Fierce fighting raged as Israeli troops moved deeper into Lebanon to besiege Bint Jbail, dubbed the "capital of the resistance" due to its intense support of Hezbollah during Israel's 1982-2000 occupation of the south.

Israeli artillery barrages sent plumes of smoke into the air and the military said soldiers took control of the area around Bint Jbail but did not capture the town, about 2 1/2 miles from the border.

Ten Israeli soldiers were wounded in the attack, the military said.

Hezbollah claimed to have caused Israeli casualties in hits on five tanks moving on the road to Bint Jbail and around Maroun al-Ras, a hilltop village closer to the border that Israeli ground forces seized in heavy fighting over the weekend.

Bint Jbail holds a strong symbolism for Hezbollah. A day after Israel troops ended their occupation in 2000, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah went straight to Bint Jbail for his first celebration rally.

So capturing Bint Jbail will give Israel the excuse to give in to the growing demands for a cease fire by declaring a victory. This will be within the capabilities of the very small Israeli ground forces committed to this fight.

And then everyone will prepare for the next round. One that will feature a massive Israeli ground effort from day one.

One if By Land. Two if By Sea. None if By Air

Ok, the idea that we'd be able to move Stryker units by air in C-130s from CONUS is pretty much dead.

The Air Force has too few C-130s to do this with other tasks at a higher priority; the Air Force doesn't like to use C-130s for strategic movement from America since they aren't designed for it anyway and strategic airlift is equally short; and last, the Stryker is getting too big for C-130s anyway. So:

After years of confronting all these problems, it became pretty clear to Pentagon planners that any use of Stryker would involve moving nearly all of them by ship. There might be a few extreme cases where a small number of Strykers would be moved by air, either within a theater or across an ocean. Recently, the idea that large numbers of Strykers, would ever be moved by air, has been heard much less. The cumulative problems with the concept has pretty much removed it from the Pentagon playbook.

Good. The idea that these vehicles should be capable of coming down the ramp with guns blazing always seemed rather silly anyway. And I've noted that the time to get a brigade from Washington to South Korea is about the same for ship or air--and the ships will be there while the air won't so this is purely a theoretical comparison. We'd have to be pretty committed to speed even if the sea route is blocked (like maybe Taiwan scenario where PLAN units make moving to Taiwan by sea early on too risky) to commit so much air power to one ground unit. See here (scroll down to "More on Stryker Brigades" (Posted September 23, 2003) and "Strykers to Iraq" (Posted September 15, 2003)) for early thoughts on Stryker. Plus my old Defense Issues page (scroll down to “Transformation” (Posted December 12, 2002)).

So while Stryker units have many advantages in some circumstances over either heavy mechanized infantry or leg infantry, these Stryker-armed units are no longer a compromise unit better protected than light infantry and faster to deploy than heavy armor units.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Yesterday, I judged the Israeli response to Hizbollah's attack to be unfocused. I updated later in the day with a little hedging based on Israel's track record but ultimately came down on the side of Israel screwing the pooch on this campaign.

Well, this article solidifies my opinion:

Israel's defense minister said his country would accept an international force, preferably NATO, on its border after it drives back or weakens Hezbollah. But his troops described the militants they encountered as a smart, well-organized and ruthless guerrilla force whose fighters do not seem afraid to die. ...

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said that once the offensive had gotten Hezbollah away from the border, his country would be willing to see an international force move in to help the Lebanese army deploy across the south, where the guerrillas have held sway for years. ...

Peretz said the military would not launch a full-fledged invasion. ...

The top U.N. humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, called for at least $100 million in immediate aid but said billions of dollars would be needed to repair the damage from a conflict that has stunned Lebanon just as it had emerged from reconstruction after years of civil war.

One, Israel's tiny "invasion" force is not smashing Hizbollah.

Two, Lebanese civilian losses from air attacks are losing Israel the time it needs to hurt Hizbollah. Remember that even the Arab League was mad at Hizbollah and Israel blew this tacit support to hurt Iran's proxy Hizbollah.

Three, Israel is now looking for a NATO force to come in to save face after Israel harms Hizbollah enough to agree to the ceasefire without looking like they are losing.

And four, Israel is not going to expand the ground operation enough to do any good.

So my assessment stands. Israel won't crush Hizbollah. Israel has lost this round. They deserve to win but they won't. They can at best hurt Hamas in the confusion of Lebanon while the world is focused on that front to salvage something and prepare for the next round against Hizbollah by resolving to use ground forces decisively from day one focused on Hizbollah in south Lebanon.

The Israelis should take heart. We blew Fallujah in April 2004 but redeemed ourselves in November 2004.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

War is Focused Violence

War is focused violence. Israel has forgotten this.

As early as July 12th, I wrote that Israel was screwing the pooch on their reaction to Gaza and then to Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Peters agrees that Israel is screwing up and risks losing. He advocates a fast and powerful ground invasion to clear out Hizbollah.

Maybe ten days ago this would have been reasonable advice if Israel had also refrained from bombing civilian infrastructure in Lebanon and routinely going after Hizbollah targets away from the border.

But with Israel only sending in a few battalions into Lebanon today while bombing too widely, they are screwing up in a remarkably thorough fashion. Too many bombs to avoid condemnation and yet not enough to destroy Hizbollah from the air. Too few troops to actually defeat Hizbollah in Lebanon but too many to avoid looking like an invasion.

With over ten thousand rockets in south Lebanon, over 6,000 gunmen, deep bunkers, the support of Lebanon's Shias, and the backing of Syria and Iran, Hizbollah is too deeply entrenched in the region to be defeated by a high profile attack that kills the civilians Hizbollah embraces. I don't care if it is done by air or on the ground. This is not a mission to be done quickly.

At this point, after the Israeli mistakes that have precluded world patience with Israel attacking Hizbollah effectively from this point forward, I don't know how Israel wins this round.

They might have to settle for tearing up Hamas in Gaza while Lebanon distracts the world's focus. And wind down the attacks on Hizbollah that can't beat them. If the attacks on Hizbollah had been done massively on the ground from day one while keeping air power tightly focused on supporting the troops, this might have done some damage to Hizbollah. Maybe. But it is too late. By the time Israel gathers troops, nobody will be willing to give Israel time to strike on the ground.

Alternately, if Israel had followed up their buzzing of Assad's palace with aerial attacks on Syrian forces in western Syria and a blockade of Syria's ports, it would have gone to the source of supplies while avoiding Lebanese casualties. Air power and artillery could have been used against rocket launch sites and special forces could have been used to target Hizbollah forces. Targetted assassinations of Hizbollah leaders would have helped.

So Israel needs to salvage a partial win in this round by focusing on Gaza and crippling Hamas; minimize their debacle in Lebanon by doing some damage to Hizbollah and declaring it sufficient to end the attacks; responding to any rocket attacks by hitting back with artillery; going after Hizbollah leaders with spooks, missiles, and special forces; demanding some international force for south Lebanon and the return of their soldiers; and preparing for the next round which will come because Hizbollah is emboldened.

I don't know what Israel can do practically speaking to get their three soldiers back. It has gone so far beyond a fight over their fates.

And in the next round, Israel needs to use focused violence on Hizbollah. And possibly Syria. But don't target Lebanese targets. I have no doubt that Israel is not trying to kill Lebanese, but even precision air power is a blunt instrument when the enemy hides among civilians. I want Israel to defeat Hizbollah and their enemies. Israel is our friend. But they have screwed up this crisis.

Learn and prepare for the next round. Don't worry, with our enemies it won't take long for the next round.

UPDATE: Marian in Germany emailed me with an assessment by PINR. This notes the main problems of Hizbollah being deeply enmeshed with Lebanon's Shias, making uprooting Hizbollah difficult. Now, unlike a lot of American liberals who believe that the difficulty of defeating an enemy quite determined to fight means you should just not even bother to fight back ("you'll only make it worse and recruit more enemy"), I think it means you should fight even harder to kill the enemy. Israel could do this as they realize the scope of the problem.

PINR notes another major problem, however, that the civilian Lebanese casualties that result from hitting a target surrounded by civilians increases pressure on Israel to stop fighting before achieving results that are within spitting distance of victory.

PINR expects Israel to attempt to harm Hizbollah and try to get a negotiated withdrawal of their forces that enter Lebanon and the entry of a force capable of confronting Hizbollah into southern Lebanon.

PINR also notes another factor that I've noted, that the longer this goes on the bigger the chance of escalation. While escalation is not necessarily bad, if Syrian power behind Hizbollah is weakened and thus weakens Hizbollah (Israel won't be going after Iran); unplanned escalation makes it more likely that the escalation won't be focused.

These are all pretty consistent with my expectations.

On the other hand, Strategypage reminds me that I shouldn't under-estimate Israel. I agree. I'm predicting that Israel can at best come out with a win against Hamas and an operational defeat of Hizbollah while suffering a strategic defeat to Hizbollah and their patrons. That is, Hizbollah is undoubtedly going to be hurt but they won't think their losses are too high to gain a propaganda victory against Israel by surviving; and Syria and Iran will like seeing Israel and America pummeled in the press. And Iraqi Shia discomfort with the attacks on Lebanon's Shias will be welcomed in Iran and Syria. But I may be too pessimistic given the track records as Strategypage notes. Still, I don't think so.

However, Strategypage notes two things that makes me a little more optimistic that Israel can get a decent battlefield victory that may pave the way for a more complete victory in the next round. First:

In addition to its guerrilla fighters, Hizbollah has a couple of brigades armed and trained for conventional operations. These may be the best trained "regular" troops in the region, barring those that Israel isn't likely to fight (Jordan, Egypt, Turkey), and it's believed that Hizbollah hopes that they could take on Israeli troops in a conventional battle. To that end, sending Israeli ground forces into southern Lebanon is intended to draw Hizbollah's conventional forces out, in anticipation of an invasion. In that way, Hizbollah might lay its conventional forces open to air and artillery attack, and probably selective ground and commando action.

Hizbollah was foolish to organize conventional units. If Israel goes in to fight them, Israel will be able to kill a lot. Hizbollah plays to Israel's strengths if they really welcome such a clash and aren't just spouting bravado for the public. This makes Israel's limited ground incursions make some sense rather than seem futile to me.


By causing a war with Israel, the Lebanese Shia see an opportunity to unite all Lebanese behind them. Unfortunately, the Christian and Sunni Lebanese, while angry with the Israeli air campaign, are not enthusiastic about dying to maintain Hizbollah power. Israeli negotiations with the Lebanese agree on one thing; Hizbollah has to go. Lebanon cannot be free as long as Hizbollah maintains its own army, and controls a third of the country. The expulsion of the Syrian army last year was wildly popular, except among the Shia. The Israelis are waiting for public opinion among the Lebanese Christians and Sunnis to go against Hizbollah. This is why there has been no large scale movement of Israeli troops into southern Lebanon. Small units (no more than battalion strength, under a thousand troops) are going in to destroy Hizbollah bunker complexes that cannon be destroyed from the air.

Non-Shia Lebanese may be more patient than I assumed from press reports about Israel's aerial aasault. This would give Israel a little more time to damage Hizbollah.

So Israel may actually be focusing their violence better than I can see. But this operational focus is obscured by the lack of focus at the strategic level in hitting Lebanese civilian infrastructure which does put pressure on Israel to stop fighting before winning at least something.

We shall see. I want Israel to beat Hizbollah. But I don't want to lose Lebanon in the process or strengthen Iran's hand in Iraq amongst radicalized Shias under Sadr and the Badr thugs.

Are We Cooperating?

Ethiopia has moved 400 troops into Baidoa, the "capital" of the offical government that controls only Baidoa and that only because Ethiopian troops are defending it. And 200 Ethiopian troops have moved into another town with an airport.

It may seem amazing that a battalion can do so much but the Islamists aren't numerous--just more fierce than the typical militia that runs when confronted with serious warriors.

My question is why Ethiopia moved in. Are our special forces with them to call in air power?

Is this the beginning of a counter-attack to destroy the Islamic government?

I don't imagine Ethiopia could supply much more than this force in the short run.

Something is up. But what?

UPDATE: Strategypage discusses the recent happenings in Somalia. The Islamic Courts Movement is starting to run into tougher opposition.

The Devil's Details

I just read a good book.

Author Chris Fox sent me (and other small bloggers, too. But really, I'm "obscure?" Just because nobody's heard of me ...) his book The Devil's Halo to review. I occasionally write on issues worrying about Europe as a potential threat with a talent for war, so I guess he figured I would be in the right frame of mind to appreciate the plot. I noted the receipt back here.

Sadly for Chris, I have little time to read books these days. But I did bump it to the head of my three-dozen books waiting to be read. I finished it a few weeks ago and let it kind of settle before I commented on it.

First of all, let me say that I liked the book. Fox is a good writer and it is a polished read. This is no weak compliment. Having read thrillers by others that just fell flat--and even an early very clunky book by an author I like which was clearly published after his success--this is something I value and recognize.

I want to start this way because I want to complain a bit about it and then I'll backtrack a bit on my main complaint out of a sense of humility.

What bothered me when I started reading the book was that Weston's daughter was in danger way too much. Yes, Weston started out with a case of industrial espionage he thought should pose no real danger to his daughter. And yes, the reason for her being at risk made sense in the context of the story. But maybe being a dad made me just too uneasy about the danger level to a little girl.

That said, Fox wrote a good story about a commercial spy put in over his head and trying to cope with new lethal dangers with existing skills designed for much less danger. He had to be saved by others while he ramped up his game to cope. And in time Weston was part of the game and giving better than he got from ruthless enemies.

And really, the explanation for the success of East German women shot-putters in the Cold War era Olympics was amusing (And frightening in the power of an authoritarian state if true! I hope it was just a joke.).

I also liked the main tools used for the espionage that he and his wife used--tiny flying drones that slipped in like insects. That was pretty cool. We can see the value in war with larger ones (getting smaller and smaller to be used at lower levels) and so this is no large leap.

I also really liked the quotes from historic figures that Fox sprinkled through some of the chapter headings that supported the story line. This is something I used in a manuscript I came darn close to selling some years ago to set tone and something I'm using in another dormant manuscript I will eventually get to if I ever retire. So I'm biased in liking that mixing of history to support a new future that adds to the reality of the story.

Plus, the French were the bad guys in Fox's story. So realism doesn't suffer there!

But what really bugged me was the scenario with which France planned to gain world dominance. It was essentially Pearl Harbor without the subsequent offensive into the south Pacific and East Indies. France planned a strike to hit us hard yet assumed that the initial easy hit would be enough and we'd just surrender to let a French-led EU take over leadership of the world. My bias against the French government does not allow even me to assume such short-sighted strategic thinking.

Oh, and I would have lopped off the whole last "One Year Later" section on how poverty made everyone more caring and compassionate about their fellow man. That really lost me.

And though I think the scenario is unrealistic (though still a great story), let me pull back on my criticism by being a bit humble. I can't predict the future (what the Hell, you say!). When world war can break out over some damn fool thing in the Balkans, all I can say for sure is that if a major war breaks out in Europe it will be over something we can't even imagine today. Only in retrospect will it make sense. It may not be a GPS strike but if war happens we will be surprised at what triggers European war.

A Russian general told the hero of the book, Terry Weston, that he was mistaken to think of Europeans as pacifists. Said the Russian to Weston, referring to Americans:

Sixty years. And you are the experts, yes? In the United States, your generation knows the Europeans only as pacifists and scolds. We have known them for much longer. We knew the French when we were forced to burn half of Moscon wo throw Napoleon's army back. We knew the peace-loving Germans when they burned Moscow once again. When Europeans feel tribal urges, Mr. Weston, it is always Moscow that is set on fire.

That quote kind of sums up my feelings. I don't want to turn our backs on Europe in frustration at their current pacifism. Europeans have waged war brutally and effectively for hundreds of years and I do not think that war and even fascism are bred out of them. We need to keep an eye on them if for no other reason. We've struggled for a hundred years to keep a single power from controlling the European continent and I don't think we should abandon that goal now just because the EU looks like a bunch of weenies.

Sometimes I think we should be grateful the Europeans are pacifists. We may not have a lot of help in fighting now, but at least we don't have to fight against Europeans. We must struggle to keep Europe friendly. We have friends in Europe--even in France--and we should not walk away from them and risk those opposed to us entrenching themselves in a pseudo-Soviet union of European states.

And I don't assume Moscow is the only city that could burn if the Europeans decide to brush up on their talent for war.

So go read The Devil's Halo. It is a good story and hopefully it stays in the fiction section. A civil war in the West given the forces arrayed against us would be devastating, and The Devil's Halo is a good reminder of this peril. Let's hang together, guys.

And thanks for the book, Chris.