Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Loose Cannons Can't Be Aimed

It was fun for the Russians and Chinese to watch us squirm as we struggled to keep North Korea from getting nuclear weapons to threaten us or Japan (South Korea long faced the destruction of Seoul by conventional arms so nukes aren't anything but a new way to bounce the rubble, really. That's why South Korea isn't as alarmed as we and Japan are about North Korean nuclear missiles). For decades Russia and China found their loose cannon, the Pillsbury Nuke Boy, a pleasant little distraction good for some laughs at our expense.

But no more. The Chinese are already worried--about refugees if nothing else and if the doddering rulers in Peking aren't daft, a nuclear Japan and Taiwan following a nuclear North Korea.

And now the Russians have expressed some horror, warning the North Koreans not to go nuclear. The Russians suddenly realize that a nuclear North Korea threatens them:

Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director at the USA-Canada think tank, said that Losyukov's message indicated that Russia was cutting back on longtime diplomatic support for North Korea.

"Russia's position has shifted and that could help push North Korea into a deal. They will see that no one is fighting for them," he said.

Another analyst, Anatoly Dyakov, head of the Centre for Study of Disarmament, Energy, and Ecology, said that Russia was right to toughen its stance.

"If Korea continues its nuclear programme, that will push the region out of control. Japan will be next, then Taiwan, and so on. Russia and China are worried."

It's not fun anymore when extra nukes might be pointed their way.

With their new worries, Russia and China probably view a collapse engineered by our pressure as no longer the worst thing that can happen on the Korean peninsula. Who says we aren't making progress?

Another Plastic Turkey for Serving

The headlines scream that our troops are ill-equipped:

"Many U.S. troops short on crucial gear"

The story says something else:

The Defense Department Inspector General's Office polled roughly 1,100 service members and found they weren't always adequately equipped for their missions. The troops were interviewed in Iraq and Afghanistan last May and June.

What soldier doesn't want better equipment? The only reason our troops can complain is because we constantly develop better equipment and naturally enough can't snap our fingers and instantly equip every trooper with that new equipment. It trickles in at first and then reaches a flood; and by that time the next trickle of new and improved equipment is starting. If we never improved our weapons and equipment, we'd always have plenty on hand.

Our troops are the best-equipped and best-trained ground force on this planet. Period. Any complaints about our troops' equipment that doesn't start out with this basic understanding is going to get the story wrong. As this story does.

The real story is that our military is adopting new equipment at the urging of troop input at a rate that is unmatched in our history. Do our troops want better equipment? Of course! Are we providing it? Yes. Can it be instant? Not unless you want more stories down the line of how we were ripped off by arms companies for charging a lot of money for rushed production.

Enjoy the latest plastic turkey. But save room for the next one.

There's always another plastic turkey to serve. How would our press give thanks without them?

Poltroons and Scoundrels

When an enemy that has waged low-level war on us for decades since they seized our Tehran embassy helps our enemies inside Iraq, tries to spark a civil war, and even may have directly attacked our soldiers, why does the narrative of what is going on condemn America for even thinking about "escalating" the Iraq War to include Iran?

Iran is at war with us, killing our troops, and yet our big debate is over whether we should wage war on them? Iran escalates and may of us find it unacceptable that we should fight back?

I'm not advocating we invade Iran, but surely we can do something to hurt them in return. And actually, for years I've assumed we are planning something but that we keep it hidden to avoid telegraphing our actions. The recent Somalia operation after I complained for months that we seemed to be doing nothing should remind us all that silence does not necessarily mean inaction. After all this time, my confidence flags on occasion on this point, I admit, but I have to believe our President is serious about the Iran threat.

But even if the administration is quietly working the problem, that doesn't explain how the public debate is dominated by an intense determination to look away and not admit what Iran is doing. That is amazing to me.

Just how many Americans must Iran kill before we notice? Or are we just supposed to smile and enjoy it as long as it is happening? Is that what our elite think? Are they that craven?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Anbar Anvil

Our so-called surge in Iraq devotes 17,500 troops to Baghdad and 4,000 to all of Anbar. The Baghdad effort is our main effort but Anbar is an important supporting front to the main effort. This press conference by the I MEF commander in Anbar has some good information.

Given the call of some who oppose the war to simply concentrate on the jihadis in Anbar and let the Sunnis and Shias kill each other in central Iraq, this allocation of force is disappointing.

But we don't need more troops in Iraq's Anbar province to win there. I had written before that Anbar could not be won militarily unless we killed every third adult male. Political progress to deny support to the jihadis was key. We've done that with agreements with Anbar tribal sheiks that provide Sunni Arab fighters for the battle against the jihadis.

Coupled to our military strength in Anbar, we now have the means to grind down what is now a predominantly local al Qaeda branch that relies on local recruits rather than smaller numbers of foreign fighters. Consider that Anbar has a population of up to 1.3 million people, depending on estimates. Add another 200,000 Sunni refugees from central Iraq (as a guess). So call it 1.5 million people to control. By standard counter-insurgency doctrine we'd need at least 30,000 troops to control this number of people (2%). We have 30,000 US forces in Anbar. Add in 14,000 Iraqi army and we have 44,000 troops. Add in police and tribal forces (I'm estimating 6,000 more combined, though the tribes are supposed to be providing 30,000). Fifty thousand security forces are 3.33% of the population. We can grind the jihadis down with the population backing efforts to kill and capture the jihadis.

So adding troops to Anbar would not make sense even if our main effort was Anbar. We have enough. So why add troops to Anbar under these circumstances? Well, to help the main effort, of course. The commander speaks of doing more in Anbar and buying time to train Iraqis, but this gives the game away:

The 4,000 Marines in our case that have been identified for reinforcing operations in Anbar province, they will have a very positive effect there is no doubt about that. They will allow us first and foremost to reinforce success where we have seen success, and in the late fall months and where we are right now we've seen some tremendous progress all -- but from a security perspective as well as from an economic and governance perspective.

But those 4,000 troops, again, they'll allow us to reinforce that success we're seeing out here, but just as importantly, they were announced as part of the overall Baghdad security plan. Our security out here in Anbar is tied very directly to that of Baghdad and vice versa. So the addition of those 4,000 troops out here are going to enable us to provide that isolation, that security that is essential for the Baghdad security plan.

I imagine that the 4,000 Marines heading to Anbar will be used to block retreat paths for the jihadis who operate in Baghdad as Army troops pair up with Iraqi troops and police to comb the city for the enemy. If 17,500 more Army troops going to Baghdad are the hammer, then the 4,000 Marines going to Anbar are the anvil against which the hammer can smash running jihadis. This is an effort to avoid the fallout in Mosul in December 2004 that followed the Fallujah assault in November 2004 as jihadi survivors of Fallujah ran to Mosul and wreaked havoc for a month.

How this will play out with reinforcements coming in over several months remains to be seen. In a purely military point of view, I'd rather see the troops go in all at once. From a political point of view, stretching out the deployment should help avoid expectations at home of rapid success.

But our military knows that Baghdad is the main effort and is orienting our forces accordingly.

A Silver Lining

The brutal killing that has gone on the last three years with Sunni Arabs futilely trying to bomb their way back into power and the last year of Shia Arabs meting out retribution to the Sunni Arabs for centuries of abuse may pay off as illusions are shattered of what the "natural order" has ordained for Iraq (via Real Clear Politics):

More and more Sunni Arabs know that their old dominion is lost, and that they had better take the offer on the table--a share of the oil revenues, the promise that the constitution could be amended and reviewed, access to political power and spoils in return for reining in the violence and banishing the Arab jihadists. The Shia, too, may have to come to a time of reckoning. Their old tormentor was sent to the gallows, and a kinsman of theirs did the deed with the seal of the state. From the poor Shia slums of Baghdad, young avengers answered the Sunni campaign of terror with brutal terror of their own. The old notion--once dear to the Sunnis, and to the Shia a nagging source of fear and shame--that the Sunnis of Iraq were a martial race while the Shia were marked for lamentations and political quiescence has been broken for good.

Reality may be sinking in all around in Iraq.

As I've said before in regard to our fight in Iraq, "losing" doesn't mean the Sunni Arabs shoot their way back into power. The Shias will win in any struggle based on brutality. So we have a floor for even a minimal victory in this reality. But I remain fairly confident that we can achieve much more despite the common wisdom that says we cannot build a democracy in Iraq. With Kurds, Sunni Arabs, and Shia Arabs in a multitude of factions, coalition building may yet be the only sure road to power in Iraq.

As long as we help build the institutions of peaceful elections and transfers of power based on those elections, the democracy that arises in Iraq will be real enough to be revoltuionary in the static despotism of the region.

Thanks and Good Luck

FreeSpeech blog has restarted with a new look. The owners have kindly syndicated The Dignified Rant on their site (and no, I make no money from this--I barely turn a profit on my day job!). I'm in good company there, I must say. If you find my site informative, check out

So thanks to FreeSpeech and to the Simmons, and good luck on your endeavor. We who support victory in the Long War need all the help we can get in a trying media environment.

Vanguard of the Oldetariat

OK, one more knock at the recent "anti-war" protest in Washington DC.

We already can see the usual suspects of protesting--people who are always anti-American and who care about the Iraq War only for the purpose of rounding up other people who will follow their banners. These loopy Lefties really do believe they can pull off that vanguard of the proletariat crap here.

So we know who led the march. Who attended? Luckily we have a source on the spot (tip to Instapundit, I think):

Realizing the gothic-looking group was more about fashion than follow-through, I left for home. I felt embarrassed for a movement to which I don’t even belong. Even the young anarchists could not escape the looming specter of the 1960s, which was reflected in many signs simply reading “SDS” -- an old '60s radical group that I thought had died out at the same time as eight-track tapes.

The sad scene on the Mall shows that the Left is incapable of parlaying the unpopularity of the Iraq War into a new, energetic anti-war movement. The ‘60s radicals are active, but the movement just can’t get traction without young people. A good many of the older folks, I suspect, are not even motivated by politics so much as by a desire to recapture their youth. They break out the old slogans and the old songs, but these ring hollow to a younger generation.

“Hey hey, Uncle Sam! We remember Vietnam!” chanted one former flower child from the stage. The problem is, the youth don’t remember Vietnam. The old radicals are thus trying to entice the young into a movement that revolves around the sacred memory of events in which today’s young people played no part. The youth are essentially being asked to become second-class citizens in this movement, having to bow to the superior wisdom of those who fought the reactionary opposition back when it really mattered.

Sadly for the Vanguard, they seem only to have attracted 1960s retreads who just came to Washington for that Vietnam Experience Tour. Iraq isn't Vietnam but with fading eyesight, some new tie dye wear, and a couple hits from that old bong, you can almost pretend that Jane Fonda looks as fetching as she did in Barbarella. Man, those were the days.

How sad is the anti-war movement? For all the unhappiness over the war as registered in polls, how much is really anti-stalemate rather than anti-war? I mean, the organizers basically rounded up their own membership of anti-globalists and pro-North Korean groups and managed to attract Jane Fonda and a bunch of other ancient protesters from about forty years ago!

OK, I've been on a rant about the Left lately. They affect me that way. Ultimately, my reaction is partly a reaction to the failure of the President to rally the country for war. Given the pathetic pedigree of the anti-war movement, they should be easy targets for an administration that remains on-message to impress upon the American people the stakes of winning, or progress, the enemies we've yet to defeat, and our determination to win this war and continue killing our enemies wherever we find them. Speeches here and there aren't enough. It has to be every day. Every damn day somebody high up in the administration should be speaking to an audience somewhere about the war and how we will win.

Let me get back to my usual programming. The President should be the one taking on those losers who mill about on the Mall. Will he? At long last?

The Big Promotion

Hugo Chavez has long been a member of the Axis of El Vil. Annoying and vile, to be sure, but not a threat to us considering the Long War against Islamo-fascists that we must win.

But with his rhetoric, support for anti-American forces in Latin America, suppression of domestic dissent, and budding alliance with Iran, Chavez has signalled his desire to fill that empty slot in the Axis of Evil.

That day has arrived:

Hugo Chavez has just about everything a president could want: popular support, a marginalized opposition, congress firmly on his side and a booming economy as he starts his new six-year term.

Now, he's about to become even more powerful — the all-Chavista National Assembly is poised to approve a "mother law" as early as Wednesday enabling him to remake society by presidential decree. In its latest draft, the law would allow Chavez to dictate measures for 18 months in 11 broad areas, from the "economic and social sphere" to the "transformation of state institutions."

Chavez calls it a new era of "maximum revolution," setting the tone for months of upheaval as he plans to nationalize companies, impose new taxes on the rich and reorient schools to teach socialist values. With near-religious fervor and plenty of oil wealth, Chavez is mobilizing millions of Venezuelans, intent on creating a more egalitarian society.

For fools like Chavez, equality always means impoverishing everyone. Well, except for Hugo and his closest supporters.

Thugs like Chavez view popularity as a fleeting thing. He knows that his popularity took him to the pinnacle of power and he doesn't want anything as worthless as popularity to dethrone him. Voting is a means only and he's had enough votes. Why risk having those pesky voters turn on him when the see what the maximum revolution does to the people of Venezuela?

Oh, and by popularity I only mean his popularity in Venezuela will be at risk. Our Left will love him all the more. And just in time, too, as Castro continues to die and Nicaragua's Ortega is a couple decades too late to be really popular. Hugo helps avoid that embarrassing void in a Latin American strongman that our Left needs to have.

One day, soon, Hugo will be a threat to us. Not because we've created this threat but because Hugo desperately wants this status.

I just hope that success in the Long War will allow us the chance to defeat this threat without harming the main effort.

Supporting the Troops

This is the Left's definition of "supporting" the troops:

--We support their right to avoid service in Iraq.

--We support their right to be considered victims of the Bushtatorship perpetual war machine.

--We support higher taxes to equip them and train them for some theoretical military mission that is never the one they are fighting at the moment.

--We support their right to legal counsel when they are charged with war crimes--which they do all the time in the middle of the night. They do tend to use that equipment and training that we say they don't have to kill innocents. But that is the fault of the Bushatorship.

--We support their right to better education so they won't get stuck in Iraq.

--We support their right to higher pay although sadly that just makes them mercenaries in our view.

--We support our troops even though we think the so-called enemy has justifiable grievances.

--We support our troops even though the mere presence of our troops in Iraq is the real problem.

--We support our troops even though we sincerely believe they are just creating more terrorists.

--We support our troops even though we believe Moslem Arabs just aren't ready for democracy.

--We support the right of our troops to have their coffins filmed as they arrive in America.

These are the ways our Left "supports" our troops.

The troops themselves aren't fooled by this faux support. (Tip to Instapundit.)

It is all a progression. And it doesn't take many on the Left to move the terms of the debate. Most politicians just go with the flow and when they think the flow is where the Left says it is, these members of Congress just go along with the Left. Our press tells them that meekly following the Left is really an act of "courage." But the progression has moved steadily towards promoting defeat led by the Left and cheered by the press. And this is true despite the record of progress we have achieved.

First the Left voted for the war in Iraq and voted the money to fight it even as they sniped at various plastic turkey mistakes. And they said they support the troops.

Then the Left said the war was being fought incompetently and that we needed to fight it better (see plastic turkeys), but voted the money to fight the war. And Abu Ghraib showed that our troops were killing and abusing innocent Iraqis. But they support the troops.

Then the Left regretted the war altogether and said we should get out of Iraq because the President wouldn't listen to their suggestions, but they voted to fund the war. And we are just killing innocent Iraqis. Oh, but they support the troops.

Now the Left wants to end the war as soon as possible (as if our withdrawal would end the war) because Iraqis are dying in large numbers in a purely internal civil war. And the Left suggests hamstringing the war direction or cutting funding. But they support the troops.

We are in a race against time to win before the Left gets to the next stage.

The next stage will be to set lower and lower limits to our troop strength in Iraq by reducing funding levels. Limits on what we can do will be mandated, too. We shall see if the veto will withstand this effort. And of course, all this will be done by the Left because they support the troops and just want to save them from a losing war against freedom fighters who simply want to be free of our troops who were regrettably sent by the Bushtatorship to kill and torture innocent Iraqis. War crime trials against our troops will be necessary to support them. And spitting on them will really be just a form of tough love symbolizing the Left's deep support of the troops.

The Left supports the troops only as much as they think they have to in order to avoid offending too large a segment of the political center. The Left by its actions attempts to erode that political center in order to be free to lower their support for the troops in yet another concrete fashion even as they say the words "we support the troops" over and over like a religious chant to ward off the demons who might prevent them from ruling us.

Our troops aren't fooled by the words. They know--as I do--that their mission is just and good and that they fight with skill and honor under difficult circumstances. The Left may protest that some of their best friends are troops, but the Left despises the troops. Well, they despise our troops anyway.

True support for the troops would mean we recognize that achieving victory in the Iraq campaign is a good thing. Anything else is just political spin.

But in their plan, the Left knows that one day they can simply stop pretending to support the troops. After all, people forgot about the last time the Left spit on the troops. Why, the Left thinks, will it be any different in the future?

I think we will win this war despite the Left's plan to lose and use that loss to catapult them to total power. But don't be confused about what the Left's "support" for the troops really means.

UPDATE: One good thing about the moving middle that follows trends is that the Left will lose them when trends in Iraq look good (as polls have shown following significant events like elections in Iraq). It is a race between the Coalition winning in fact and our Congress faltering due to the belief we are/deserve to be losing. I think we will win that race. But it is a race.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Baghdad is Key

The administration believes that securing Baghdad is the key to Iraq:

The president's review also concluded that the strategy with the best chance of success must have a plan for securing Baghdad. Without such a plan, the Iraqi government and its security institutions could fracture under the pressure of widespread sectarian violence, ethnic cleansing and mass killings. Chaos would then spread throughout the country -- and throughout the region. The al-Qaeda movement would be strengthened by the flight of Sunnis from Baghdad and an accelerated cycle of sectarian bloodletting. Iran would be emboldened and could be expected to provide more lethal aid for extremist groups. The Kurdish north would be isolated, inviting separation and regional interference. Terrorists could gain pockets of sanctuary throughout Iraq from which to threaten our allies in the region and our security here at home.

The new plan for Baghdad specifically corrects the problems that plagued previous efforts. First, it is an Iraqi-initiated plan for taking control of their capital. Second, there will be adequate forces (Iraqi and American) to hold neighborhoods cleared of terrorists and extremists. Third, there is a new operational concept -- one devised not just to pursue terrorists and extremists but to secure the population. Fourth, new rules of engagement will ensure that Iraqi and U.S. forces can pursue lawbreakers regardless of their community or sect. Fifth, security operations will be followed by economic assistance and reconstruction aid -- including billions of dollars in Iraqi funds -- offering jobs and the prospect of better lives.

This also notes that we had previous efforts in recognition of the importance of Baghdad. I've written that as 2006 progressed we first had to determine if the surge in killings after Samarra was lasting, then give the Iraqis a chance to put down one of their own (Sadr), then tried an operation at the end of the summer under the old rules of engagement and operational assumptions. Now we are trying something new to correct the problems of past efforts.

I've long recognized the importance of securing Baghdad as killings escalated (see here, here, here, and here). I don't believe I've been guilty of wishful thinking.

The new approach has promise to correct past failings. I still think the new approach is more important than the new troops, but new troops won't hurt.

Nailing Down One Fact in Particular, I Hope

Good luck:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha, both vocal war critics, were in the Iraqi capital Friday at the head of a delegation of House members on a fact-finding mission as the White House and Congress dueled over the expansion of U.S. forces in Iraq.

I'm all in favor of them having all the facts they can absorb. God knows, they need some.

But I do hope that Representative Murtha isn't too upset that the CENTCOM people won't helicopter him out to that "nearby" Okinawa as long as he's in the Middle East.

The Long War is a Total War

One of the implicit assumptions of those who oppose the war in Iraq is that it is separate and insulated from the war on terror. By this reasoning, we can retreat from Iraq and not feel any effect from that withdrawal.

This assumption of the war opponents is all wrong. Since 9/11, we have been waging a war against Islamo-fascists that is a total war. There can be no splitting of differences--we take Iraq and they get Spain (or even vice versa). No, only one side can win. Either our system prevails or theirs does.

Remember that Iraq supported terrorists under Saddam. We don't even need to settle the al Qaeda-Iraq link controversy to say that.

Remember that the jihadis embraced Iraq as a front to wage their war against us, both to help Saddam and even after Saddam was deposed. The jihadis flocked to Iraq prior to the 2003 war to fight us as auxiliaries to the Baathist regime, and since then have essentially invaded Iraq with the help of Syria and Iran in order to kill even more in their own campaign.

So before we liberated Iraq, jihadis wanted to kill us. While we are in Iraq the terrorists want to kill us. And if we flee Iraq without making sure the Iraqi government can defeat these terrorists without most of our troops but with our help, the jihadis will call it a victory and continue to look for places to kill us, aided by the regimes of Syria and Iran.

Where might that be, you may ask? Well, like on 9/11, they'll hit us at home. Or, as in 1998 when the hit our embassies in East Africa, they'll hit us abroad (and there are other examples). But they will come after us like they came after us before.

As Iraq demonstrated in 1980 when they invaded Iran (I wrote this bit in 1997), withdrawing in the face of fanatical killers who will follow you wherever you go pretty much means the war is a question of victory or death:

Not wanting to repeat our experience in Vietnam, many speak of needing an "exit strategy" before committing troops. Such an approach seeks to minimize our losses under the assumption that we will at some point lose, so we had better know when to cut our losses and get out. It also assumes that the situation allows for an exit and that our enemy will allow it. The Iraqis desperately wanted out of the war they initiated in 1980 but were locked in by Iran in a death grip that allowed for no easy exit. While planning for a tough, resilient enemy is prudent, we must never become paralyzed by concentrating on how that enemy can hurt us. We need to keep our focus on achieving victory.

We are in a death grip with the jihadis. We cannot withdraw from the Iraq War shy of victory without giving our enemies in the broader war a victory. Defeat in Iraq will not be contained within Iraq whether we lose or our enemies lose. The Iraq campaign is part of the Long War whether you like it our not.

So focus on victory. This really is a Long War. And it is a total war against the jihadis and the support systems that raise killers and send them forth to slaughter innocents.

Let's get on with killing the enemy wherever we find them.

Because we won't come back 'til it's over over there.

Learning to Love the Devil You're With

There is a saying that goes if you can't live with the one you love, learn to love the one you're with.

This is pretty much the position of the so-called realists when it comes to North Korea.

A bunch of experts gathered to discuss the criminal syndicate with a UN seat. Other than the totally predictable calls to resume the Clinton approach of pretending we bought North Korean cooperation, the ability to just let the terrorized and starving people of North Korea to rot in their Hell on Earth is amazing:

"We don't want the regime to collapse and people to suffer," said Yao, who directs the Asia-Pacific Office at the Academy of Military Science in Beijing.

China is "very worried" a collapse could send North Korean refugees pouring into Chinese territory, she said, adding that change must come from the inside. ...

Pei Minxin, head of the China program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said the best policy is to contain the current regime and "see them out," he said.

"North Korea's demise is a given," he said, noting that Kim is 65 and his health is not the best.

"He's overweight. He has no heir in his family, and the record of history shows that that kind of regime has an impossible task picking an heir outside the family."

Geun Lee, an international relations professor at Seoul National University, said he would support gradual regime change providing it doesn't produce "disastrous consequences."

"But that is very unpredictable," he acknowledged. ...

Alyson Bailes, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden, warned the collapse of North Korea could be a disaster for the entire region.

"It's much better to live with the devil you know than with the chaos that you don't know," she said.

Ah yes, as long as North Koreans are paying the price for the current devil, to Hell with the North Korean people. Especially when the alternative might cost regional states some money to cope with a collapse. And just what does "gradual regime change" mean? I mean other than just not doing anything while pretending you want to do something. With wide agreement that the regime is crumbling, shouldn't we try to accelerate that momentum rather than check it?

Japan has a better take on the situation:

Yuriko Koike, a special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said the soft approach hasn't worked.

"We have offered lots of carrots, and the carrots were used to develop nuclear weapons and missiles," she said.

Koike said almost 20 million North Koreans are in agony and starving and lifting U.N. sanctions "will prolong the agony of those citizens."

Concern for the North Korean people is misplaced. How much better off would they be if the regime had ended four years ago?

We must squeeze the North Korean regime. Make them collapse. Face it, there are no silver bullet solutions to problems that solve all aspects of a problem and contain all repercussions from those solutions. But that is life.

Is it really so easy for these experts to make Kim Jong-Il's continued misrule seem like the better course of action? I guess they've learned to love the one they're with.

And in the Second Hundred Hours ...

I am perhaps too naive to believe that enough in Congress will stand up against the calls for retreat from Iraq.

Their backbone at home is not what one would hope:

Anti-war protesters were allowed to spray paint on part of thewest front steps of the United States Capitol building after police wereordered to break their security line by their leadership, two sources told The Hill.

According to the sources, police officers were livid when theywere told to fall back by U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Phillip Morse and Deputy Chief Daniel Nichols. "They were the commanders on the scene," one source said,who requested anonymity. "It was disgusting." After police ceded the stairs, located on the lower west front of the Capitol, the building was locked down, the source added.

A second source who witnessed the incident said that the police had the crowd stopped at Third Street, but were told to bring the policeline in front of the Capitol.

Approximately 300 protesters were allowed to take the steps and began to spray paint "anarchist symbols" and phrase such as "Our capitol building" and "you can’t stop us" around the area, the source said.

And to add insult to injury, the Anarchists in question were all too typical of the groups organizing the protests rather than "splinter" groups.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

So. Many. Idiots.

Opponents of the war in Iraq are so determined to complain about a draft that they complain despite that little annoying technicality that we don't have a draft:

In an action branded a backdoor draft by some critics, the military over the past several years has held tens of thousand of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on the job and in war zones beyond their retirement dates or enlistment length.

It is a widely disliked practice that the Pentagon, under new Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is trying to figure out how to cut back on.

Gates has ordered that the practice — known as "stop loss" — must "be minimized." At the same time, he is looking for ways to decrease the hardship for troops and their families, recruit more people for a larger military and reassess how the active duty and reserves are used.

Stop-loss isn't ideal. But it isn't a draft. It is a means of maintaining unit integrity by keeping individuals in a unit deploying rather than cripple the unit by letting experienced people go only to be replaced by new people right when the unit is going into combat. It saves lives.

Soldiers don't like this. I don't blame them. But it is part of the enlistment contract they signed.

It is good that the Department of Defense will try to reduce the need for stop-loss. But this is not a "back-door draft." Opponents of the war are not discouraged by a lack of a draft and so cast their net widely to call something a draft. They think they found something with stop-loss by calling it a "backdoor draft." They've been calling stop-loss a backdoor draft for years now. Repetition has not made the term any more accurate.

"Backdoor draft" is a term branded "really, really stupid" by some critics.

But it is a target-rich environment. Why I don't drink excessively is beyond me given the idiocy I read nearly every day from people who lack the semblance of a clue about military matters.

That's Going to Hurt in the Morning

The enemy was dealt quite a blow in Iraq:

U.S.-backed Iraqi troops on Sunday attacked insurgents allegedly plotting to kill pilgrims at a major Shiite Muslim religious festival, and Iraqi officials estimated some 250 militants died in the daylong battle near Najaf. A U.S. helicopter crashed during the fight, killing two American soldiers. ...

Iraqi soldiers attacked at dawn and militants hiding in orchards fought back with automatic weapons, sniper rifles and rockets, the governor said. He said the insurgents were members of a previously unknown group called the Army of Heaven.

"They are well-equipped and they even have anti-aircraft missiles," the governor said. "They are backed by some locals" loyal to ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Abu Kilel said two Iraqi policemen were killed and 15 wounded, but there was no word on other Iraqi government casualties.

It seems likely these were Sunnis. Consider they were backed by local Baathists and were planning to slaughter Shia civilians at a religious event. Add it up. The only question is whether they were armed by Iran. A previously unknown group in large numbers and well equipped, but apparently too stupid to avoid being slaughtered point to an Iran-created group in my opinion. But I'm speculating.

Consider that the Baathists seem to be losing heart and have specialized in IEDs that expose their people less to our lethal forces. Jihadis are the ones who tend to go for large body counts against civilians. Local Baathists could support jihadis if they are the only game in town.

What I find really odd is that the enemy massed. We haven't seen numbers like this in one place since major combat operations in March and April 2003. Heck, we've rarely seen platoon-sized elements in one place over the last couple years. We seem to have killed 250. Did we get all of them? Half? This was a major operation by the enemy.

And the Iraqis dealt the killing blow, it seems (though I assume our air power had a big role). It is good that the Iraqis did a good amount of the work.

Why did the enemy risk so many well-equipped gunmen to kill Shia civilians? Why wouldn't they have gone for a suicide bomb or mortars or remote-controlled bomb? Why was a foot assault planned?

It is very good that we intercepted this group before they could kill civilians in large numbers. It might have sparked renewed Shia death squad activity. It is good so many of the enemy died at once.

But I have lots of questions about what this means.

What is going on there?

UPDATE: When I first heard the news reports earlier in the day, I assumed the killed were Shia militias. By the time I wrote my post, the reports implied Sunni terrorists. Iraq the Model says they appear to be a Shia group.

This article states:

The Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said the raid on Sunday was targeting a group called the Jund al-Samaa, or Soldiers of Heaven, and the group's leader was among those killed, along with foreign fighters.

Al-Dabbagh and officials in Najaf said the group included Soldiers of Heaven followers, a religious cult seeking to bring back a Shiite saint known as the "hidden imam," as well as terror suspects and foreign fighters plotting to assassinate senior Shiite clerics as well as pilgrims on one of the holiest Shiite ceremonies of Ashoura.

The last of the 12 Shiite imams, Mohammed al-Mahdi, disappeared and Shiites believe he is still alive and will one day return as a savior of mankind.

This talk of the Hidden Imam hints at a link to Iran. As does this:

The Iraqi troops killed 200 terrorists, wounded 60 and captured 120 in the opperation, defense ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said, citing the most recent figures he had received.

Ahmed Deaibil, a spokesman for Najaf province, and Brig. Gen. Fadhil Barwari earlier had put the figure at 300 militants killed and as many as 20 captured, including fighters from Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Lebanon.

Would a purely local group have so many foreigners in the ranks? This smells of an effort from outside. Which based on the Hidden Imam stuff, indicates Iran. And as I mentioned, the fact that nearly four years into the fighting an insurgent group would mass hundreds and then not have the brains to scatter and get the heck out Dodge when the sheriff shows up indicates a brand spanking new outfit with little local experience.

Iran is up to something. This is worrisome.

Three-State Solution

Fatah and Hamas continue to battle for control. It threatens to break out into open civil war with rival government and military organizations lining up on either side.

I don't know why we assume that there must be a single Palestinian state.

Remember East Pakistan? It's Bengladesh now. Separated by India from a land corridor from West Pakistan, it might as well have been on the other side of the moon. Shared Islam didn't span that distance.

So with Hamas stronger in Gaza and Fatah stronger in the West Bank, why are we speaking of "a" future Palestinian state. All the convoluted talk of building an elevated highway to link Gaza and the West Bank or some other mechanism to link the two parts just highlights how artificial this assumption is. Prior to 1967, the West Bank was Jordanian and Gaza was Egyptian. Nobody talked then of one Palestinian state (well, they did, but then they meant destroying Israel and just taking over--without Gaza and the West Bank, of course).

So even if some final status talks result in a single Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, the divisions we see now will likely erupt in a civil war at some point. Let's make the discussion one of an independent Gaza and an independent West Bank. If these two entities want to discuss union after independence, then let them.

With so many realists eager to redraw the maps of the Middle East, why not insist on redrawing them first in Palestine?

More Ground Forces

This excellent news briefing answers a lot of questions about how our Army and Marines will be expanded. For the pointy end of the stick, the short answer is six more Army combat brigades in the active component--to 48. The Marines go up one to 9 active regimental combat teams.

First, one reason to expand slowly is to avoid having a lot of contracts expiring all at once:

We do not need a bubble of people -- if you think about a career force, we don't need to bring 27,000 people in all at one rank; then you'd have this bubble going through the pipe. So it needs to be a balanced approach, and that's why it is a mix coming on.

I mentioned this as one reason even though many want lots of troops all at once despite the need.

By the numbers:

The Marine Corps will start from its so-called permanent authorized end strength base of 175,000 and grow by 27,000 to a total of 202,000. The Marine Corps expects to be, by the end of the current fiscal year, at an actual active end strength of 184,000 and grow from that point forward at 5,000 per year, which gets you to 202,000 by fiscal year 2011.

The Army grows 65,000 from its base of 482,400. It expects by the end of this fiscal year to be at 518,000 active duty personnel, and then to continue growing by 7,000 a year, which gets it to 547,000, the objective by fiscal year 2012.

I should note that there are also plans amongst increases in the size of the Army National Guard, about 8,000 across a similar period -- actually, out to fiscal 2013, when that goal is reached -- and about 1,000 in the case of the United States Army Reserve, again, achieved by fiscal year 2013.

As far as combat units go:

We are committed now to building an active Army of 48 Brigade Combat Teams by fiscal year 2013. That's an increase from the prior goal of 42. We'll continue to aim at 28 Army National Guard Brigade Combat Teams, and all eventually to be in the new modulized (sic) construct.

I should emphasize the Army plans to accelerate the build of two of the active-duty brigade combat teams, so that they're available in 2008, fiscal 2008, for duty around the globe, as opposed to the earlier schedule, which had us having those available in 2009.

The Marine Corps plans to add a regimental combat team, as its nomenclature describes it, by the fall of 2008. That will take the Marine Corps from where it is now, at eight regimental combat teams in the active force, three in the Reserve, to a total of nine in the active United States Marine Corps.

More is involved than just combat brigades:

But it's much more than this. We talk a great deal, this department, and you report in your articles about brigade combat teams, regimental combat teams. This build is about the whole range of capabilities that makes American military forces effective. And particularly it is designed to relieve the pressure on units that in the Pentagon's lingo are described as high-demand, low-density, meaning in plain English there aren't enough. That speaks especially to capabilities like Military Police, to intelligence, to explosive ordnance disposal. Those are all part of this expansion.

The Army, for example, is adding as it further -- a further example of this kind of capability -- build two battalions of Patriot capability, Patriots being a capability that are desired increasingly around the globe, to protect ourselves and our allies from missile attack.

And the results of transferring slots to civilian jobs:

I should add that -- as you know, the department for some time has been engaged in a review of whether all the military personnel now engaged on active duty should be in the kinds of billets in which they serve. Could we use more civilians? The department to date in all four military services has converted just over 26,000 military billets to civil status, of which well over 15,000 are in the Army and the Marine Corps, and some further conversions are planned in the years ahead. Those, of course, give us additional military personnel billets, as the personnel community phrases it, with which to work in building the capabilities I'm about to describe.

The briefing also mentions something that I wrote about in relation to the repeated media reports of units returning to Iraq for a third or fourth time and then assuming this means that all the individual soldiers or Marines are returning for third or fourth tours. This speaks to the reserves:

The goal is to give you five years off. We acknowledge that over the next couple of years, that for some units and, therefore, for some individuals in those units, we will not meet that goal. Now, typically -- and this is a point I would emphasize -- typically, Reserve units turn over between 10 and 20 percent per year. So at any one point in time, a unit, even if it's only two years back home, is going to have 30, 40 percent of the people are, quote, "brand new" -- in other words, have no time on their clocks.

Although the goal for active soldiers is one year on and two years off, the difference between units and soldiers is important.

So a lot of details in one briefing on the shape of our ground forces down the line and how we are getting there.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

On the Bright Side ...

Tens of thousands of anti-victory protesters dirtied up the nation's capital today:

Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of Iraq.

Celebrities, a half-dozen lawmakers and protesters from distant states rallied in the capital under a sunny sky, seizing an opportunity to press their cause with a Congress restive on the war and a country that has turned against the conflict.

Marching with them was Jane Fonda, in what she said was her first anti-war demonstration in 34 years.

Actually, after four years of fighting in Iraq, I'm rather surprised that the so-called anti-war movement (you'd never find them protesting jihadis or Baathists who are fighting us) is still this small. Indeed, the early 2003 protests were larger than this one.

And as a bonus, Hanoi Jane finally has the opportunity to move beyond her past and become known as Fallujah Fonda.

Perhaps some enterprising reporter will ask her how she feels about the death and destruction that followed the communist victories in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia after she and her fellow defeatists betrayed our South Vietnamese friends leaving them the choice of re-education camps or fleeing to the high seas on flimsy boats, and left Cambodians to die in numbing numbers with skulls piled high by their executioners.

Perhaps reporters will ask Fonda if she thinks this time her buddies on the other side won't torture and kill our troops if they are captured.

But that's a record of death and misery pretty typical for the average American "peace" movement, really.

Also typical is the demographics of a typical anti-victory parade: a few fossils from the last war and the usual suspects of anti-Americanism:

Many national organizations are members of the UFPJ coalition, including: American Friends Service Committee, Black Radical Congress, Center for Constitutional Rights, CODEPINK, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Gold Star Families for Peace, Green Party of the United States, Greenpeace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, National Organization for Women, National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, Not in Our Name, PAX Christi USA, RainbowPUSH Coalition, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, TrueMajority, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, US Labor Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and War Resisters League. For
a complete list, please click here.

Yep, the usual rogue's gallery of lunatic lefties. Funny how the press never looks too closely past the press release about the "military families" and "ordinary people" who make up these rallies. They always find the one middle-aged woman with a job to interview and skip right over the leather-clad Anarchist or the lass with the I Heart the Dear Leader button.

But that is how front-group organizing is done. The communists stand behind the scenes and scrape up a few people who've recently used soap to stand in front of the cameras to be interviewed by the reporter who really just wished she could have been on the Mall in '68 back when people "cared." Good times ... Good times ...

Effing bastards.

I still think we can win faster than these losers can surrender in our name. After the authorities hose down the Mall, of course.

UPDATE: Feel the peace and love (via Instapundit). Why surrendering to evil gets such good press, I'll never understand.


[Soon to be] General Petraeus cites errors in Iraq. So, what of them?


"[T]here were a number of assumptions and assessments that did not bear out. Prominent among them was the assumption that Iraqis would remain in their barracks and ministry facilities and resume their functions as soon as interim governmental structures were in place."

The first error was a reasonable assumption that did not work out. It was (and is) a problem, but is not an error in the sense of being obviously wrong prior to the war.

We hoped that we could lop off the Baathist leadership and that the remaining security and governing bodies would be usable. This was not an unreasonable assumption. We even tried contacting Iraqi generals to get them to defect with their units once the war began. This transition to post-Saddam governance did not work out the way we hoped, although it might have had the Baathist insurgency not prevented non-Baathist Sunni Arabs from cooperating in the early days.


"There was the feeling that elections would enhance the Iraqi sense of nationalism. Instead, the elections hardened sectarian positions as Iraqis voted largely based on ethnic and sectarian group identity."

The second was not an error. I wasn't happy with the voting- by-slate method of selecting their rulers. I would have preferred to have individual candidates running by district as we have. With local concerns rather than slate loyalty, we would have been better off.

It was, however, a reasonable choice given that at the time the choice appeared to be between an imperfect voting system based on party slates or delaying the elections to try and establish better individual identification and census data for elections as we know them. Experts said we could not carry out this method of voting because we did not have enough information on demographics to set it up. Had we delayed, we would have risked alienating the Shias who might believe we were conspiring to prevent them from assuming the power their numbers warranted.

The alternative was delaying voting by years and continuing our official occupation role--both "bad" options. So the difference wasn't between voting the right way and the wrong way, but between two bad options. While we have problems that flow from the decision, it is far from clear that we made a mistake given the choice we had. I'm not yet willing to judge that we picked the wrong "bad option."


"There was an underestimation of the security challenges in Iraq. . . . It repeatedly took us time to recognize changes in the security environment and to react to them. "

This is definitely an error. We failed to react quickly enough to the initial Baathist insurgency in the summer of 2003, thinking it was the remnants of the security forces burning out rather than seeing it as the embers of a growing fire. I plead guilty in this error.

We also failed to react quickly to the jihadi and Sadr threats that arose in spring 2004. We held off the enemy counter-offensive but we did not destroy the Fallujah sanctuary until November 2004 and we never finished off Sadr after the spring and August revolts that we suppressed. I was not guilty of missing this shift. I wanted aggressive action to kill the Sunni Arab jihadis and careful focused efforts to kill Sadr.

Finally, we reacted slowly to the rise of Sadr as the main threat to victory after February 2004. Our first real reaction wasn't until late summer 2006 and it failed to quiet Baghdad. Now we try a new way that the war opponents want to stop. Again, I recognized this change yet hoped that our first assumption that Iraqis could deal with Sadr would work. I hoped that our second try in late summer would work, too. And along the way in 2006 I asked repeatedly why Sadr was still alive.


"Disbanding the Iraqi army . . . without simultaneously announcing a stipend and pension program for those in the Army. . . ."

Please note that this is not the same as complaining we disbanded the Iraqi army. We did recruit for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and new army from the ranks of former soldiers, after all. And keeping the leadership of Saddam's army intact would have been a grave error. The mistake in the mind of Petraeus was not handing out money on the assumption that Iraqi Sunni Arabs would not have worked for the insurgency if they had paychecks. We did announce stipends if my memory serves me, but it must not have been done at the same time that we formally disbanded the Iraqi army organization.

Again, this is a debatable error. Given the vast amounts of money the Baathists had available and the large amounts they paid for helping them, could monthly stipends or pensions have competed with the large cash payments made for each attack on US troops? When these guys believed themselves to be the heirs of a long line of Sunni rulers who exploited the "inferior"Shias and Kurds? I don't think so. It is way too early to judge this an error of any magnitude at all.


"We took too long to recognize the growing insurgency and to take steps to counter it, though we did eventually come to grips with it."

Again, yes. This was part of the failure to react quickly to changing circumstances after the major combat operations were successfully concluded. Not seeing this, we persisted in building a conventional army of 40,000 Iraqis to be the cadre of an expanded Iraqi army years down the line. We recruited light infantry with little training to handle routine security duties. And we took on the counter-insurgency fight on our own. We did beat down the Baathists through the fall and winter of 2003, but the Baathist resistance bought time for the jihadis and Sadrists to rise up in revolt in spring 2004.

I was guilty of failing to see all this coming. Or more specifically, I assumed that the Baathist's rapid defeat meant they did not have the will to resist. Had the Baathists tried to stand and fight at Baghdad, I would have assumed enough morale existed to fight on after the fall of the city. Even if there was resistance, I assumed that the 80% of the population would easily beat whatever fraction of the 20% Sunni Arabs that would revolt. I didn't appreciate the vast amounts of money and munitions available inside Iraq to the Baathists. And I assumed that Syria and Iran would be too scared to intervene against us. These errors in assumptions led me to fail to recognize the growing insurgencies, too.

So of the five errors that Ricks highlights (he of Fiasco fame, so surely he picked the biggest and most obvious errors), how do we stand by my reckoning?

One reasonable assumpion.

One reasonable choice.

One systemic failing rather than a choice that can be called an error.

One minor error.

One error.

And these are the five "errors" Ricks chose to highlight.

Bring on the next plastic turkey.

Between Prudence and Paranoia

The People's Mujahedeen of Iran (I think the acronym is MEK--I'll check later), designated a terrorist group by the United States, says the Iranians are attempting to take over Iraq:

His opposition group released the names, alleged dates of recruitment by Iran and the supposed salaries of 31,690 Iraqis. It claimed that most were paid by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Qods Force — a faction of the Iranian military that the U.S. military says bankrolls militants in Iraq and equips them with weapons.

It said that in Iraq, the alleged operatives were mostly affiliated with the Badr Brigade, the military wing of Iraq's most powerful Shiite political group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Over 31,000 Iranians pretending to be Iraqis inside Iraq?

This is part of my last worries over defeating the enemy inside Iraq. I worry about keeping the Shias on our side. I have less worry that Sadr has the charisma to gain the support of large numbers of Iraqi Shias to overthrow the democratically-elected government on his own. But I still worry that Iran could engineer a pretend grass-roots revolt of Shias by sending Iranians into the streets of Iraqi cities with guns and essentially fooling the Shias into opposing the government and our forces.

So I am glad that we are targetting Iranian agents in Iraq. But do the Iranians really have 30,000 gunmen in Iraq? Alone they would be killed if they hit the streets, but if they essentially fool millions of Iraqi Shias into the streets, the impact will be grave. Not lost, but a testing time that really will be a Sepoy Revolt moment for the Iraqi government and our forces.

And even if this threat is not real or is much smaller than the Iranian opposition group claims, I still worry that as a last resort Iran would try a conventional invasion of Iraq.

We are winning, but we have a long way to go before victory in Iraq.

Soldiers Are Lethal--Not Weapons

Discussions of many "non-lethal" weapons (as if disabling a person who cracks their skull when falling down isn't fairly lethal) for use against non-combatants has always seemed rather silly to me. Against basically friendly protesters, sure, it could have some use. In the National Guard we were taught that the objective was basically to get the protesters to disperse and go home. Not kill them or harm them even to defend a random building from vandalism or destruction (unless the building had some instrinsic value and we were defending it).

But when the discussion moves to enemies who simply don't arm themselves knowing we won't shoot, it is rather counter-productive. The enemy is emboldened to act knowing the personal consequences aren't nearly as bad as attacking armed troops. And when used against enemies, they are not above hauling out some injured woman and claiming that the strange wound was caused by our new awful death ray, the Active Defense System.

So news of our new "non-death ray" doesn't impress me as a great advance in crowd control:

The ADS is a non-lethal weapon that looks like a radar dish. The ADS "radar dish" projects a "burn ray" that is about four feet in diameter. It is effective in fog, smoke and rain. When pointed at people and turned on, it creates a burning sensation on the skin of its victims, causing them to want to leave the area, or at least greatly distracts them. The microwave weapon has a range of about 500 meters. ADS is carried on a hummer or Stryker, along with a machine-gun and other non-lethal weapons. The proposed ROE (Rules of Engagement) for ADS are that anyone who keeps coming after getting hit with microwave is assumed to have evil intent, and will be killed. The microwave is believed to be particularly useful for terrorists who hide in crowds of women and children, using the human shields to get close enough to make an attack. This has been encountered in Somalia and Iraq.

Meanwhile, a new, smaller, version, called Silent Guardian, with a range of about 250 meters, has also been developed and offered for use defending vital targets (like nuclear power plants) against terrorists. The manufacturer is also pitching the Silent Guardian to the navy (for ship protection), the State Department (for embassy protection) and organizations like the border patrol, or anyone looking for a non-lethal way to quickly disperse crowds.

So use against civilians is just asking for bad press coverage. And I have difficulty believing that it is much use against a terrorist determined to detonate a suicide bomb. Already prepared to die, will discomfort in the last couple hundred yards in a speeding car or boat really cause them to turn aside? And isn't that situation one that calls for putting a lot of lead downrange?

I assume the ray penetrates material otherwise it would be little use in stopping terrorists who could be in a car or boat and thus shielded from direct rays. But this could be a great weapon in urban combat or clearing caves. We can destroy buildings with great precision, but as Fallujah in November 2004 showed, house-to-house fighting is still necessary unless you want to simply level every structure. And clearing buildings causes casualties.

Note that the ADS "non-lethal" weapon is mounted on an armored vehicle. Say you have an infantry platoon supported by an ADS mounted on an armored vehicle. You have a building you want to check out. You send in the recon robot and it either spots hostiles inside or gets shot approaching the building. So what do you do? Assault the building and take casualties? Or call in a GPS-guided bomb or rocket to destroy the building? We prefer not to take too many casualties and we'd like to avoid destroying every building we encounter. But you remember we have that ADS thingie tagging along.

So you sweep the building with the ADS. The enemy inside starts getting that burning sensation on their skin. Your platoon assaults the building, with the ADS turned off at the last moment much like an old-fashioned artillery bombardments that lift at the last moment, rushing in to find enemies trying to get away or at least greatly distracted. You kill them.

This could also work at night in planned raids. Waking up to find your skin on fire (in your mind) right before American troops rush in with night vision gear and weapons ready will probably really depress the instinct to fight back.

So while I think little of this weapon in a crowd control situation in a hostile neighborhood or to defend against terrorists, it could be quite the weapon for urban warfare when used by troops trained to kill enemies--even though the ADS is "non-lethal."

Rally Point

Our troops in Iraq continue to fight brilliantly and honorably against horrible enemies who kill with glee. Congress sent them to Iraq by their votes in 2002, but now many have second thoughts--a luxury our troops do not have. The troops continue to defend us at the risk of their lives.

So with all the talk of how our leaders "of course support the troops," it is time for some real action. The talk of officially expressing disagreement with our war in Iraq has a price:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday that Congress' push to oppose President Bush's troop increase in Iraq "emboldens the enemy" and undercuts the commanders in the field.

The House is probably lost. It will pass some type of defeatist resolution regarding Iraq. But the Senate could do something useful by denying this horrible statement the status of an official document.

If 41 Senators will put their theoretical "support for the troops" into real action by fillibustering this resolution, they will shield our troops from a big enemy propaganda coup.

And don't fool yourselves that this isn't exactly what it will be. You can say it is "nonbinding" but that is not how our enemies will see it. It will be trumpeted by jihadis as loudly as any video showing the deaths of Americans. Some will deny this intent and even pretend it is courageous to vote for the resolution, but they are wrong. Having voted for war it is cowardly to vote against the same war--and foolish considering we are winning this war.

Real political courage consists of standing astride the retreating columns of your panicked Senate and House colleagues as they head for the false safety of the rear area, and rallying them to hold by your calm and presence. We only need 41 Senators to stand between our troops and the resolution backers to protect our troops from this revolting statement.

Will 41 Senators rally their retreating colleagues? Even at the price of being condemned by our press corps? That would be real courage.

Am I naive to have hope that enough of our Senators will stand with our troops when it counts?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Neutralize Sadr

With the focus of our new operations aimed, in part, on neutralizing Sadr's militias (and other militias backed by the Iranians) who have killed large numbers of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad, we have been surprised by Sadr's apparent submission to our still-emerging push in the capital.

I've been convinced that we must take down Sadr and neutralize his organization (and others) so that the majority of Sunni Arabs will feel safe enough to surrender and turn on the insurgents and terrorists who fight and kill in their name. But I worried that Sadr was too popular with too many Shias to directly confront. Lose the Shias and our war is pointless and impossible to wage.

Though I asked again and again since 2004 why Sadr was still alive, I recognized that the Iraqi government might have been right that the years from 2004 to 2006 were not right to take him down. What was probably a good idea in 2003 could have been a bad idea in 2004, 2005, or 2006. It is at least debatable.

And could be a good idea again in 2007 to confront Sadr. Sadr may have squandered his good will according to the LAT article:

Playing the rebellious warlord was far simpler. Three years ago, when he was backed into a corner by the Iraqi government and U.S. forces, Sadr lashed out with a fury that shook Iraq and the region. He launched a formidable uprising against U.S. forces that lasted months, particularly in the southern city of Najaf, and he emerged a political giant.

Bruised but empowered after months of confronting U.S. forces, Sadr then entered the political process. He did so warily, coaxed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani into joining a Shiite unity bloc for the January 2005 elections.

At the end of 2005, when new elections were held, Sadr took part more wholeheartedly and garnered 30 seats. When the time came for the Shiite coalition to choose a prime minister, Sadr's support gave Maliki the job by a single vote.

Since then, the country's healthcare and transportation infrastructures have visibly deteriorated under the control of Sadrist leaders. Hospitals, already strained to the breaking point by daily trauma casualties, have become dirtier, bloodier and more poorly equipped and staffed.

"The people who he depended on to run the institutions performed very badly," said Yasseri, the former editor. "We thought we were going to give Iraqis their rights back and eliminate corruption and nepotism. Unfortunately, corruption and nepotism have become part of the Sadr movement."

Some Sadr supporters have begun turning against the movement.

"People have the right to call it a corrupt government since it hasn't achieved the simplest Iraqi ambition," said Fattah Sheik, a Sadrist member of parliament who says he's breaking with the bloc to pursue an independent party. The Al Mahdi army, the fast-growing and powerful militia Sadr launched as a social and political movement to protect impoverished Shiites, is now perceived in many areas as just another armed group terrorizing ordinary Iraqis.

"Once, if there was a problem in a neighborhood, people would call upon the Mahdi army," lawmaker Fayyad said. "Now no one trusts them."

As those troubles mounted over the last year, Sadr grew frustrated with mainstream politics, Yasseri said. Last fall, the cleric once again raised the anti-occupation banner that had served him well in 2004. In November, he demanded that Maliki refuse to attend a meeting with President Bush in Jordan until the U.S. set a timetable for withdrawal.

Sadr may be afraid that elements nominally under his control will get him in a shooting match with US and Iraqi government forces. And he may worry that his support is too thin to allow him to survive such a clash.

While many war supporters have wanted a direct confrontation with Sadr's militia like in August 2004 (only going for his throat this time), I've not favored that. If he rose up against us, of course we should take the opportunity to crush him. But otherwise I figured we should surge an effort against Sadr and take down the leadership of the radical killing elements while gaining the defection of more moderate elements to become local defense militias supervised by the Iraqi government. But my worries about Sadr's popularity may be misplaced. It might be safe to confront him. But if he is weak, is it smart to do so without provocation?

If Sadr is as weak as this article suggests, we can move forward in the manner I suggested without the high risk of provoking a broad Shia reaction against us in sympathy with Sadr. If Sadr is just trying to lie low to ride out our surge, doing this will take down his forces without a high profile confrontation with Shias.

Ultimately, Sadr must face justice for his crimes. But right now, we must neutralize him and his organization as a death squad. And I never meant "neutralize" as a euphemism--I've said "kill him" when I meant we should kill him. Sadr's weakness may mean we can take out the leaders beneath him and neutralize the Shia death squads, and prevent them from rising up on Tehran's orders as a faux popular rebellion.

This will be a major victory in pursuit of victory in Iraq.

Fighting Back At Last

Part of the new strategy in Iraq involves taking the Iranian threat a lot more seriously.

When I read that President Bush authorized our forces to kill or capture Iranians supporting terrorism inside Iraq, my first thought was "we couldn't do that already?"

Apparently not. We caught and released them in the hope that Iran would get "the message."

But sending messages never works the way we intend. The message Tehran got was that we weren't serious. They kill us. We catch and release them. Message received and understood.

But now it seems we are serious about taking down the Iranian and Syrian networks inside Iraq that supply the terrorists.

And there is more:

The new "kill or capture" program was authorized by President Bush in a meeting of his most senior advisers last fall, along with other measures meant to curtail Iranian influence from Kabul to Beirut and, ultimately, to shake Iran's commitment to its nuclear efforts. Tehran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, but the United States and other nations say it is aimed at developing weapons.

The administration's plans contain five "theaters of interest," as one senior official put it, with military, intelligence, political and diplomatic strategies designed to target Iranian interests across the Middle East.

The White House has authorized a widening of what is known inside the intelligence community as the "Blue Game Matrix" -- a list of approved operations that can be carried out against the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. And U.S. officials are preparing international sanctions against Tehran for holding several dozen al-Qaeda fighters who fled across the Afghan border in late 2001. They plan more aggressive moves to disrupt Tehran's funding of the radical Palestinian group Hamas and to undermine Iranian interests among Shiites in western Afghanistan.

In Iraq, U.S. troops now have the authority to target any member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, as well as officers of its intelligence services believed to be working with Iraqi militias. The policy does not extend to Iranian civilians or diplomats. Though U.S. forces are not known to have used lethal force against any Iranian to date, Bush administration officials have been urging top military commanders to exercise the authority.

The wide-ranging plan has several influential skeptics in the intelligence community, at the State Department and at the Defense Department who said that they worry it could push the growing conflict between Tehran and Washington into the center of a chaotic Iraq war.

Senior administration officials said the policy is based on the theory that Tehran will back down from its nuclear ambitions if the United States hits it hard in Iraq and elsewhere, creating a sense of vulnerability among Iranian leaders. But if Iran responds with escalation, it has the means to put U.S. citizens and national interests at greater risk in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Officials said Hayden counseled the president and his advisers to consider a list of potential consequences, including the possibility that the Iranians might seek to retaliate by kidnapping or killing U.S. personnel in Iraq.

It is good that we go after the enemy. And those who worry that the Iran-America conflict could spread seem to ignore the fact that we are under attack already and this just represents fighting back. Are the worriers saying that we should let Iran literally get away with murder in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan?

This is a good start both in targeting Iranians and Syrians inside Iraq and in countering the regional effort of Iran to harm our allies and regain lost ground.

If we are really serious, Coalition and Iraqi special forces backed by precision air and rocket strikes will go after Iranian and Syrian assets across the border, too.

And I can't help but remember that it would be good to nullify Iranian terrorist assets in the region to deprive Iran of the ability to counter-attack should we take down the mullah regime by supporting a revolution or should we strike Iranian nuclear targets in the near future.

But remember, with parts of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure likely outside of Iran, in part, regime change is the only way to know for sure that no mullah atomic bombs will threaten us.

We are still on offense. And a good thing, too, since we have a long way to go in this Long War.


North of Baghdad, in Diyala province, our troops and Iraqis have bagged a large number of insurgents:

U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 100 terrorists, detained 50, and dismantled a large terrorist group in January during Operation Turki Bowl, the senior U.S. Army officer in Iraq’s Diyala province said yesterday.

The operation, conducted from Jan. 4 to 13, occurred south of Balad Ruz in the Turki Village, Tuwilla and 30 Tamuz areas of the province. During the operation, U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers isolated and defeated a terrorist group known as “The Council,” Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, told reporters via satellite connection from a news conference in Iraq.

“The group, made up of former Baath Regime members, al Qaeda and Sunni extremists, refused to participate in any political dialogue and preferred attacking innocent civilians in the Diyala province,” Sutherland said. ...

In addition to defeating the council, troops found 25 weapons caches containing more than 1,150 Katusha rockets and 1,000 rocket-propelled grenades, 170 anti-tank missiles, anti-tank mines, small- and heavy-arms ammunition and sensitive terrorist documents.

In ten days of operations, we took down 150 of them?

They didn't scatter and run? Blend in with the population?

What happened here? Are reports of the Baathist elements of the insurgencies losing hope resulting in operations like this? Did the Baathists just fight when cornered out of just being too tired to run? Or did we effectively isolate the fighters from the civilian "sea" they need to operate in, as the article states? If so, how did we manage that?

This appears to be a very effective operation by American and Iraqi forces. And we've seen others on Haifa Street in Baghdad recently that resulted in heavy enemy casualties.

What is going on? Why are the enemy dying in large numbers lately? And these just aren't operations on the defensive where we kill at high ratios, but operations we initiated with sustained combat. Or are we just hearing about them now? I'm not complaining, mind you, but the why is important.

That Strange Notion

Speaker Pelosi has gone to Iraq. Why?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record)'s visit to Iraq is a clear sign the newly empowered Democratic Congress is not going to abide by the notion that foreign policy is the sole province of the White House.

Not just foreign policy, but the conduct of a war. Congress surely has a role in foreign policy--even in legislating conditions for certain executive actions. But Pelosi has not gone to Iraq regarding most favored nation status. Or the future of American bases. She is there because we fight there and she doesn't want us to be there. The article doesn't know where the notion came from that this in the sole province of the White House.

Yes, where might that notion that the President is responsible have arisen?

Could it be, oh I don't know, our constitution? Perhaps Article II, Section 2:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States

Well, it is good to know early that breaching the marble ceiling involves violating the constitution. What some might call our list of inviolate notions.

But at least that wasn't part of the first hundred hours of her reign.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Transitioning to What?

I'm on record as stating we have been knocking back the main threats in Iraq since 2003. First we destroyed the Baathist regime. Then we ground down the Baathist insurgency enough to start standing up a government. Then we held off the jihadi and Shia radicals while we built Iraqi security forces. And now we face mainly the Iranian-backed Shia radicals as the threat to the government. We still fight Baathist and jihadis--but they can't win at this point. They are defeated.

This article (tip to Instapundit) says that the Baathists are giving up:

The wider Sunni insurgency — the groups beyond Al Qaeda — is being slowly, and surely, defeated. The average insurgent today feels demoralized, disillusioned, and hunted. Those who have not been captured yet are opting for a quieter life outside of Iraq. Al Qaeda continues to grow for the time being as it cannibalizes the other insurgent groups and absorbs their most radical and hardcore fringes into its fold. The Baathists, who had been critical in spurring the initial insurgency, are becoming less and less relevant, and are drifting without a clear purpose following the hanging of their idol, Saddam Hussein. Rounding out this changing landscape is that Al Qaeda itself is getting a serious beating as the Americans improve in intelligence gathering and partner with more reliable Iraqi forces.

In other words, battling the insurgency now essentially means battling Al Qaeda. This is a major accomplishment.

Last October, my sources began telling me about rumblings among the insurgent strategists suggesting that their murderous endeavor was about to run out of steam. This sense of fatigue began registering among mid-level insurgent commanders in late December, and it has devolved to the rank and file since then. The insurgents have begun to feel that the tide has turned against them.

In many ways, the timing of this turnaround was inadvertent, coming at the height of political and bureaucratic mismanagement in Washington and Baghdad. A number of factors contributed to this turnaround, but most important was sustained, stay-the-course counterinsurgency pressure. At the end of the day, more insurgents were ending up dead or behind bars, which generated among them a sense of despair and a feeling that the insurgency was a dead end.

The Washington-initiated "surge" will speed-up the ongoing process of defeating the insurgency. But one should not consider the surge responsible for the turnaround. The lesson to be learned is to keep killing the killers until they realize their fate.

Is this what is happening now? If so, it is consistent with what I've thought. (And see here)

I disagree that al Qaeda is the main threat. While al Qaeda will be the main source of casualties, they cannot take over Iraq. And with allies in Anbar and hopefully new Sunni allies in central Iraq who will turn on the jihadis now, al Qaeda will be destroyed as a foreign invader rsisted by Shias, Kurds, and Sunni Arabs. Cutting the supply lines to Iran and Syria will help destroy them, too.

Angry Shias seduced by Sadr's call for supremacy have been the main threat since about a year ago because they could potentially have the numbers, weapons from Iran, and appeal to fellow Shias to capture the government outside of the democratic process.

But this threat can be beaten. The Mahdi Army is a rabble good at killing civilians. It cannot stand up to soldiers and they know they've taken a beating twice already. They don't appear eager to go for round three. If we can arrest the leaders and key personnel while getting more moderate elements to defect and become official militias assigned neighborhood defensive tasks, we can neutralize this threat.

This will not be the last threat. Even as jihadis are hunted after the Shia militias are brought under control and the Sunni Arab insurgents are defeated, we will have to combat corruption across the entire government.

And this assumes that Iran doesn't decide to roll the dice and invade Iraq with conventional forces once the insurgents and terrorists are clearly being defeated.

I've hoped there were signs of ultimate battlefield victory before and that we could move on to the corruption fighting phase on three other occasions. Once in April 2003 when the Baathist regime broke without attempting a last ditch defense. Once in February 2004 as the Baathist insurgency was beaten. And once in January 2006 as the Iraqi government stood up after beating back the Shia Sadrist and Sunni jihadi uprisings.

But in each case a new enemy rose up to become the primary threat.

So I hope this report is true even as I remain aware that another threat could arise to replace a declining threat.

And if true, it will show that the kill-them-all-and-let-Allah-sort-them-out approach to defeating the insurgents that some hawks advocated was not in fact necessary to win.

We will win this war despite the efforts of some here to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But much could happen before we win.

Your Objection is Duly Noted

The Russians have armed Iran and have helped Iran in its drive for nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. We have proposed putting anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe to defend against that threat. The Russians have protested.

I noted:

I hate to point out the freaking obvious to the good Colonel General Popovkin, but if his blasted country wasn't helping the Iranians get nuclear weapons we wouldn't really worry about putting missiles into Europe to defend ourselves and our allies, now would we?

We have duly noted Moscow's objections:

Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, rejected Russian claims that the U.S. plan would upset the security balance. Russian officials have warned of the possibility of countermeasures.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday that U.S. systems being considered could not be directed against Iran because that country has no intercontinental ballistic missiles and will not have any in the future.

Obering, speaking to reporters in a telephone briefing, said that while Iran poses no long-range threat to Eastern Europe today, "we have to stay ahead of what we think that threat is."

You'd think Russia has enough problems without annoying potential allies by arming our enemy and then complaining when we defend against that enemy.

Distracted by the War

Opponents of the Iraq War like to say that this war "distracts" us from the "real" war on terror.

This is an ignorant statement--even aside from the issue of whether killing jihadis in Iraq is unrelated to the war on terror. Are the critics really asserting we can't fight on multiple fronts? We are no less capable today of fighting in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and against jihadi terrorists than we were capable in 1943 of fighting Japan, Italy, and Germany.

Really, what would our troops in Iraq be doing now if not fighting in Iraq? Would we deploy them all to Afghanistan? Where troops cost four times as much to support as they do in Iraq? Afghansitan has the same population as Iraq, remember. If we don't have enough to win in Iraq, how can we have enough with the same number of troops? (And at four times the cost.)

Or are these critics suggesting we should invade Pakistan's tribal areas with conventional forces to hunt down Osama bin Laden?

Clearly, if we are distracted, it isn't because conventional forces are tied down in Iraq.

Perhaps if we weren't involved in Iraq we wouldn't be experiencing repeated terror attacks at home. Hmm. No terrorist attacks here since 9/11, so I guess this isn't the issue.

Well maybe we've just been lucky. Maybe the critics mean that the Iraq War is somehow interfering with other non-military means.

Perhaps if not for the Iraq War we'd be intercepting the communications of overseas terrorists trying to arrange terror attacks here at home.

No, wait. We were doing that. Sadly the press revealed that program.

Or maybe the war in Iraq stops us from tracking terrorist financial transactions.

No, wait. Again, we were doing that. And again, the press revealed that legal program.

Hey, maybe absent the Iraq War we'd be scrutinizing the bank accounts of potential terrorist suspects.

Darn the luck, we were doing that, too. The press revealed this program, too.

You know? As I reflect on all this, I have to admit that our war on terror really is being harmed by the distraction of waging a relentless and unnecessary war built on a pack of lies--the war on President Bush that our loyal opposition is waging. And this distraction persists despite Howard Dean stringing up the Mission Accomplished banner on November 8, 2006, following the end of Major Electoral Operations.

There is no substitute for victory in Iraq. And to be clear, by victory I mean victory over our enemies fighting us in Iraq.

I know a lot of people out there are genuinely confused about that. I think they are distracted.

UPDATE: Orson Scott Card has a relevant essay:

It is one thing to raise legitimate questions about how a war is being waged. It is quite another thing to agitate openly for surrender to an enemy that will not accept our surrender, but will, scenting victory, continue to murder Americans wherever they can.

Why should the Democrats have control of Congress if they will use that power to destroy the fledgling movement toward democracy in Iraq that is the only hope for countering the false piety of the Islamo-fascists?

They are so ignorant of history that they think they can do this with impunity -- that if they can keep the media on their side (as they certainly are right now), they can win political control of America in the presidential election of 2008.

Maybe they can. Just as Hoover won the presidency in 1928 just in time to preside over the Great Depression, maybe the Democrats will get complete control of the American government just in time for the disastrous world war and/or worldwide economic collapse that will be the certain result of the triumph of Islamo-fascism in the Middle East.
The anti-war side here at home is waging a total war on political opponents with a ruthlessness that they deny our troops in Iraq the ability to use on actual enemies.

And damn the consequences. It's almost as if they believe it is necessary to destroy the village in order to save it, eh?

Yes indeed, it takes a village to surrender.

And there is much else to contemplate in his essay.

They Mean What They Say

I wondered why the usually cautious Saudis were speaking aggressively regarding Iran:

Saudi Arabia's military is not nearly as good as it was twenty years ago. Yet Saudi Arabia seems willing to tangle with the Iranians now? When Iran could soon have nuclear missiles? And with Saudi Shias potentially looking to Tehran for support?

It almost makes me think that the Saudis expect somebody to do something about Iran soon.

As it turns out, there is a simple and more direct explanation. That "somebody" is Saudi Arabia itself:

Saudi Arabia is supporting the Palestinian Fatah organization against the Iranian supported Hamas. Saudi Arabia is also using its money to support Sunni Arab, and Christian, factions in Lebanon, against Hizbollah, the Shia minority and its Iranian backers. Saudi Arabia is also giving support to the Sunni Arab majority in Syria. For decades, the Saudis tolerated the Shia minority that ran Syria. No more. The situation has changed, especially with Iran gaining speed in its effort to build nuclear weapons.

The Saudis are even, secretly, cooperating with the Israelis. Iran has always been seen as a greater danger to Israel than the surrounding Sunni Arab nations. ...

The Saudis are committing over $100 billion to this battle, and doing it out of the purest of motives; self interest.

This is why a coalition of the willing is most effective. Had we forced Saudi Arabia to help us, we could have gotten some grudgingly. But Saudi Arabia has decided that it is in their interests to battle the jihadi terrorists. Saudi help will be far more effective freely given.

As a bonus, the Saudis won't be able to claim we "owe them" for the favor of helping us.

Remember this as we hear belligerent words from Iran. Words can reflect the hidden reality.