Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Not Distracted Here, Either

Every once in a while, I find somebody thinks that Iraq harms our ability to defend Taiwan. Iraq stresses our Army but our Navy and Air Force are pretty clear of stressful duties outside of narrow classes of capabilities.

Strategypage reminds us of what should be obvious:

The U.S. military commander in the Pacific pointed out that American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have no practical effect on the U.S. ability to defend Taiwan. For that, warplanes and warships are needed. Few of these are engaged in the Iraq and Afghanistan fighting, and are available for any operations around Taiwan.

We have many different types of power. Our Army and Marines can't keep up the current pace for long but the Navy and Air Force are tanned, rested, and ready to work.

Another Route

Turkey will discuss with the Iraqis the Kurdish problem while Turkey masses troops:

Turkey and Iraq announced that Iraq's Prime Minister will visit Turkey, apparently to discuss the PKK, protecting the rights of Turkomen (ie, Turks) living in Iraq, and Iran. The impending visit comes as approximately two corps of Turkish troops are operating in the Iraq-Turkey border area and rumors continue about an impending Turkish strike at PKK bases in northern Iraq.

If the recent Bush-Brown talks and high level visits to the Middle East are related to dealing with Iran soon (hopefully with a revolt to destroy the mullahs but perhaps just an air campaign to cripple nuclear programs), could the Turks seek to assist us against Iran by hitting Kurdish terrorists by driving a corps into the Iranian Kurdish areas to stop supplies from Iran from flowing through Iraq to Turkey? Turkey has a lot of stuff there with a lot of domestic pressure to hit the PKK terrorists but a lot of pressure is on them by us to not strike Iraq's Kurdish region.

I've seen nothing, but I have no doubt that Iran is helping arm Kurds willing to fight Turkey.

The administration keeps jerking that football away at the last minute, but I just have a gut feeling that President Bush won't pass this problem on to his successor without trying to stop Iran. It seems like experts have been saying Iran is five to ten years from a nuclear bomb ever since September 11, 2001.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Not Eager to Lose

Amazingly enough, not all in the opposition are determined to lose in Iraq.

While O'Hanlon still peddles his silly "soft partition" idea for Iraq, he at least can see that things are going better in Iraq. He has a piece up with Kenneth Pollack.

There is still a misconception that we were losing the war until this summer, but I'll take some signs of backbone where I can get it. Remember, clear, hold, and build has always been our strategy. But we hoped the Iraqis could do the holding and building. Unfortunately, the enemy backed by Iran and Syria is too strong for the weaker Iraqi security forces to handle yet. So our new strategy backed by new troops is to do the holding and building ourselves.

Ultimately, however, the original goal of getting Iraqis to hold and build (and eventually clear, too) must be accomplished. And smashing up the enemy to make the relative power of the Iraqis versus the enemy tip to the Iraqis makes this goal more reachable.

Stopping Iranian and Syrian support for terrorists would go a long way to weakening the remaining enemies inside Iraq.

And of course, political advances must gut the enemy in central Iraq, to really atomize the enemy and make them too weak to resist even green and shaky Iraqi police patrols.

Meanwhile, wobbly war supporters may steady a bit more with the cover of these two moderate Democrats and war critics (though Pollack was an early supporter of invading Iraq), and for long enough to hang on to our current strategy.

I an heartened that not all Americans critical of the administration are committed to losing in Iraq.

UPDATE: More on O'Hanlon and Pollack:

The Democratic-led House of Representatives is due this week to hold more symbolic votes on bringing US troops home, in the latest of a string of so-far unsuccessful attempts to dictate President George W. Bush's war strategy.

Pollack and O'Hanlon returned from eight days of meetings with US generals, diplomats and Iraqis saying they were more hopeful than they had expected.

They noted progress in the US battle against Al-Qaeda in Iraq in western Al-Anbar province, and said there had been impressive stabilization in the northern cities of Tal-Afar and Mosul.

But they warned that southern Iraq and the city of Basra were like the "Wild West," pummeled by violence, and that security in the capital was uneven, with some neighborhoods returning to normal and others like a "war-zone."

"This is the first trip I have taken to Iraq that I actually came back more hopeful than I went over, (but) again that is a more qualified hopefulness," Pollack told a small group of reporters.

"We saw considerably greater progress on the security side than I would have expected," Pollack said, adding that some economic and political strides were evident at local levels.

But he warned he saw none of the critical, top-down political momentum from the Iraqi central government that US policy is designed to promote, describing it as "a complete mess."

Not that they don't see problems, of course, but their change in tone is dramatic.

John Burns of the NYT also sees a mixed bag but is hopeful for victory. He also offers the nuanced (and this is without sarcasm here) view that while Congress is making it more difficult to achieve a political settlement as Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and Shias hedge their bets that we might leave and let them settle this the old-fashioned way, that does not mean that a stalwart Congress would make political compromise easier. The Shias might think they don't need to deal with any sense of urgency if they think we'd never leave. In theory, I agree. But in practice, Congress has far exceeded what is useful in a good cop/bad cop routine. Consider the message sent to the Iraqis that we won't stay forever.

Finally, the newest O'Hanlon/Pollack report is a problem for the Left that wants to lose. This report truly will bolster shaky Republicans and give conservative Democrats uncomfortable with the ease their leadership counsels defeat to hold on longer and win the war. This collection is useful.

As for me, I again say that even those who are saying we have a shot at victory underestimate how much we've achieve so far. We are clearly winning this war. Perhaps the political environment makes it difficult to write anything bolder than that we have a sliver of a chance at victory.

We are defeating our many enemies in Iraq. And have been for four plus years now. This war is ours to lose. More specifically, it is our Congress' to lose. The September reports may well provide enough support in Congress to win this war.

Ya Don't Say?

American opponents of using force against Iran to keep them from going nuclear like to assert that any attack on Iran by us will just unite Iranians around the mullahs.

I have repeatedly challenged this notion based on historical practice of domestic regime opponents using foreign help to change the regime and gain power. Why would Iran be unique? Heck, we aren't! Unless I'm mistaken about the Left's hope to promote defeat in Iraq to ride it to power.

Perhaps Iranians would rally to the government, but I've seen no evidence to back this assertion.

And now Strategypage, which has often written of an attack rallying Iranians to the mullahs (though recently I've noticed some hedging with statements that an attack would initially rally Iranians, admitting tacitly that this rally around the flag effect could be brief), writes of an actual poll of Iranians:

A recent opinion survey showed that 58 percent of Iranians would support a foreign invasion to overthrow the current religious dictatorship. However, nearly 70 percent would prefer a popular, but non-violent, revolution, like the one that tossed out European communist dictatorships in 1989-90. Worse, 92 percent do not approve of how their government operates. Only eleven percent oppose democracy, and 72 percent did not support the "Islamic Revolution" that has dominated the country for 28 years. Still, most Iranians are not willing to fight, knowing that the minority of Iranians who do support the government are armed and willing to kill Iranians that oppose them. The survey also showed that 78 percent of Iranians believe the country should have nuclear power, but only 46 percent believed they should have nuclear weapons.

I'd rather have an internal revolt, but if Iranians won't fight, we still have the problem of stopping Iran's nuclear ambitions. We may have no choice but to strike.

Remember, as I've said, just because the Iranian mullahs may sincerely believe that an American attack would solidify the position of the mullahs doesn't mean the mullahs are right.
Such a belief didn't work out so well for Saddam or Osama. Only ineffective use of force helps our enemies.

And finally, as I've often written, why should we draw any consolation from knowing that the Iranian people are really sad their mullahs nuked Charleston?

We must stop Iran.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Support for the Troops Will End

I've refrained from attacking the anti-war side for their repeated claims they support the troops even though they oppose the war. When this ends, as I've expected, we will have real problems:

I've always been grateful that opponents of the war in Iraq either truly support the troops or feel constrained by the bounds of proper dissent to say they do. As much as the issue of our stretched Army gets coverage, I worry far more about our stretched society.

But the moment that war opponents aren't constrained by either motive, our home front will get very ugly (and probably violent) as the anti-side begins to wage war against our military personnel rather than "just" against the Bush administration.

The anti-war side saves its real venom for domestic opponents rather than enemies abroad who have killed us and who seek to kill even more of us.
In their haste to move on to defeat without even waiting to debate the early result of the surge, the Left is turning on the troops--and the general who leads them in battle:

The decline of the leftwing netroots into one great, venomous snarl is far advanced, well-known, and much remarked upon by political observers from across the spectrum. But even given its deserved reputation for poisonous invective, the assault mounted against General David Petraeus surprises. General Petraeus made the unforgivable mistake in their eyes of appearing on my radio program and answering questions. (The transcript is here and the audio is here.) Both because he agreed to be interviewed by a journalist favorable to victory and supportive of President Bush and because his answers suggest progress is being made in Iraq, Petraeus has been savaged by leftist bloggers big and little.

Of course, Petraeus is just the highest ranking target in the military for the emboldened Left. The entire military is suspect and they will attack our troops as much as they can get away with:

So those on the cutting edge of progressive opinion are beginning to give up on even pretending to support the troops. Instead, they now slander the troops.

Two progressive magazines have taken complementary approaches in this effort. In its July 30 issue, the Nation has a 24-page article based on interviews with 50 Iraq veterans. The piece allegedly reveals "disturbing patterns of behavior by American troops in Iraq"--indeed, it claims that the war has "led many troops to declare an open war on all Iraqis." Needless to say, the anecdotal evidence in the article comes nowhere close to supporting this claim. There are a few instances of out-of-control behavior, some routine fog-of-war and brutality-of-war incidents, and much that is simply trivial. The picture is unpleasant, as one would expect--but it comes nowhere close to living up to the authors' billing: "The war the vets described is a dark and even depraved enterprise."

They are willing to just take anonymous BS and print it as Gospel truth:

Obviously American troops are every bit as capable of criminal behavior as their civilian peers, and perhaps more so owing to the stress and violence of daily life in Iraq, but misconduct by U.S. servicemen in Iraq has been the exception, not the rule. If the New Republic and its political kin weren't predisposed to view American soldiers as barbaric, than the "Scott Thomas" story would have struck them, as it did everyone else who has since commented on it, as implausible at best. (I think it's worth noting that while the Internet will present two sides to almost any issue, no matter how absurd the opposing view may be--i.e., the charge that it was Bush that brought down the Twin Towers--best I can tell, not a single person has stood up to defend this piece other than Foer, not a singly lefty blog, not a single reader.)

The New Republic piece is just another step to Leftist "Peace" protesters spitting on soldiers and calling them baby killers.

It should be telling that the Left cannot abide any talk of victory. Well, any talk of our victory. As I wrote, it is a very peculiar debate that we are having about Iraq.

And supporting the troops has no part in the debate about to unfold. "Screw 'em" is the attitude of our Left. How dare those troops try to win a war the Left has decided is unwinnable and immoral?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Knights Who Say NIE

The combined insights of our intelligence agencies have produced this Oracle of Delphi to guide us.


--Al Qaeda and other jihadis will continue to try and kill us at home. They'll try to hit us with big attacks and to sneak terrorists into America. Wow. Didn't see that one coming.

--The worldwide alliance to fight al Qaeda is working to reduce their ability to attack. But this cooperation might decrease. So we aren't distracted. And cooperation is good. Despite Iraq.

--Al Qaeda is gaining affiliates who usually attack local targets. But al Qaeda might convince some of them to direct resources at America instead of the local targets. The Iraqi al Qaeda is the only such group to indicate a willingness and interest to attack America. So al Qaeda is only expanding by accepting local jihadis beyond al Qaeda's control. And al Qaeda wants these guys to attack America even as al Qaeda prime cannot.

--Al Qaeda has regained some strength in Pakistan. This is the part the Left focuses on while ignoring every other part. It is rather obvious that al Qaeda is still alive in the Pakistani frontier areas. And if Pakistan isn't pressing them, their strength will rebound. Duh. But the high internaional cooperation and failure of al Qaeda to get anybody other than the guys from the next cave over to aim at us reduces the value of this increase in strength in the short run.

--Al Qaeda would like to use WMD on us. Once again, thank you intelligence agencies.

--Hizbollah might try to attack us at home if they think they need to defend their Iranian ally or if we go after them. I don't think this is a reason not to go after Hizbollah if we think we need to. Hizbollah has killed plenty of Americans in the region already (Beirut Marine barracks). But we can probably count on the Israelis to do anything we could possibly do. I'd rather read what the intel boys think about the possibility that Iran will order Hizbollah to attack us at home.

--Jihadi ideology is capable of inspiring unconnected Moslems to attack us here at home. But our Moslem population isn't anywhere near as vulnerable to succumbing to this hate as Europe's Moslems are. In addition, technology means that really determined and hateful jihadis don't necessarily need a state sponsor to really hurt us. All the more reason we have to treat this problem as one that requires us to undermine the appeal of jihad. Victory in the short run on battlefields such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and better-run and free Arab states in the long run are the only ways to kill the ideology of jihadi hate.

Actually, I'm being rather unfair in mocking the report's points. Yes, the NIE states some obvious conclusions. But they can hardly go unmentioned. The reaction of our Left to this report shows why this is necessary. The most amazing thing about this NIE release is that the Left is charging that the report bolsters the Left's inane claim that the fight in Iraq has distracted us from fighting al Qaeda.

The Left can chant NIE all they want, and they can pull all-nighters in Congress as if they have a clue, but the NIE does not in fact bolster their idiotic arguments about the war on terror. As I mentioned prior to the release, I expected the report to be decent but that the ability of war critics on the Left and in the press (yes, I know, I'm repeating myself) to honestly read the NIE and act on the report with any sense of realism would be virtually nil. I was absolutely correct on this score.

Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-P'tang, Zzoo-Boing, gdgdbaaoizen.

The Crucial Test is Yet to Come

The Moslem party in Turkey won the recent elections:

Turkey's Islamic-rooted ruling party won parliamentary elections by a wide margin Sunday, and the prime minister pledged to safeguard the country's secular traditions and do whatever the government deems necessary to fight separatist Kurdish rebels.

With more than 99 percent of votes counted, television news channels were projecting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party would win 341 of the 550 seats, down from 351 in the outgoing parliament.

Erdogan, a devout Muslim, told supporters in his victory speech that he would preserve pluralistic democracy and work for national unity.

"We will never make concessions over the values of people, the basic principles of our republic. This is our promise. We will embrace Turkey as a whole without discriminating," he said at a rally in the capital Ankara.

Note, however, that the number of seats declined. And the Justice and Development Party won about 47% of the votes. Small parties had their votes wasted when they failed to meet the minimum to gain seats.

I hesitate to join in the race to call Turkey lost. I'd be happier if the secular parties won, but the Moslem-oriented parties don't appear eager to end democracy. As long as rule of law continues and elections free and fair are held, Turkish democracy will endure.

The key to watch is an election that the Justice and Develpment Party loses. If they hand over power like any other party in any other democratic nation, this recent strengthening of Moslem-friendly voters will not be a disaster.

That's the key isn't it? Do the Moslems of Turkey view democracy as just the most convenient way to seiz power or do they accept the democracy they are doing so well with right now?

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

Iran is arming thugs inside Iraq and is generally at war with us. We are going to talk to Iran about that former part again:

The May 28 meeting marked a break in a 27-year diplomatic freeze between the U.S. and Iran and was expected to have been followed within a month by a second encounter. But following that meeting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials said Iran had not scaled back what the United States claims is a concerted effort to arm militants and harm U.S. troops. ...

McCormack said the U.S. wanted to use the meeting to warn Iran against continuing its support for militants in Iraq. He offered no explanation for Washington's apparent change of heart about meeting with Tehran.

I guess the first meeting didn't go so well.

This time we'll really insist. That ought to straighten out this little misunderstanding, eh?

Going for Broke?

Iran is raking in billions of dollars from oil sales. Yet Iran is going broke:

Signs that the government may be running out of money have multiplied in recent months. Tens of thousands of civil servants, including school teachers, have not been paid since January. Bills from private contractors working for the government are piling up, threatening the survival of many businesses.

The key oil industry, which accounts for more than 75 per cent of the government’s income, is being starved of cash. Efforts to attract some $15 billion in foreign investments in the oil and gas industries have borne no fruit. Foreign investors are wary of violating United Nations sanctions or running afoul of the US Treasury’s plans to put the financial squeeze on the Islamic Republic.

All this may seem surprising if only because Iran has earned almost $150 billion from oil exports since Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005. So, were did the money go?

Part of the answer lies in the hike in inflation rates. According to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), monthly inflation rates since January 2006 have varied between 2.8 and 3.2 percentage points, making for an annual rate that could reach the 30 per cent mark next year. Theoretically, in an oil-based economy the government has a built-in interest in inflation. The problem, however, is that Ahmadinejad has presided over a massive increase in public expenditure. Part of this is due to an estimated 21 per cent rise in the budgets of military and security services in preparation for a war with the United States.

Another big expenditure item is the ever-lengthening list of handouts by Ahmadinejad during his tours of the provinces - mockingly known as “The Ruin the Economy Road Show”.

According to estimates, some $10 billion has been pumped into pork-barrel projects that often fuel inflation further. Ahmadinejad has also increased expenditure on his so-called “exporting the revolution” programme. Syria has received almost $3 billion in cash and cut-price oil. The Lebanese branch of Hezbollah has been rewarded with $1.8 billion while the Palestinian Hamas movement has collected almost $1 billion. A further $3 billion has been spent on financing anti-US political and armed groups in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The government has also made provisions worth $4 billion to cope with emergencies in its quest to dominate Iraq in case the Americans run away.

The biggest rise in public expenditure, however, has come from increases in imports, as the government tries to stockpile “strategic goods” in anticipation of war with the US.

Iran buys more than half of its food and some 42 per cent of its gasoline from abroad, and is now busy importing as much as it can to beat future sanctions.

To me this is scary. Sure, it is good that Iran is spneding its way to oblivion. But what if Ahmadinejad figures it just doesn't matter?

What if Iran plans for war in the end times that make mere wordly debt irrelevant?

Ahmadinejad declared war in his way already. When does he strike?

Is Iran going for broke?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Very Nearly Manageable

The length of the fight in Iraq has surprised me. Although don't let the anti-war types pretend they foresaw this. They went along with the war because they felt we'd win and they couldn't afford to vote against a victory. Indeed, there were accusations that President Bush was aiming at the weakest of the Axis of Evil in order to bolster his 2004 re-election campaign.

I assumed that the Baathists could not resist the vast majority of the population that hated them once we put them on top.

The amount of money and arms within Iraq available to the enemy was one reason this war has gone on so long. The Baathist minority could resist out of all proportion to its numerical strength because of these resources. But even with that money and weaponry, by January 2004 the enemy Baathist dead enders were dwindling in strength. Their leader Saddam had been captured and by February 2004, we suffered only 20 military deaths.

The real problem was the intervention by Syria and Iran. In spring 2004, the jihadis supported by Syria in the center and west and the Shia militias supported by Iran in the south launched a counter-attack. We held off that Tet, and have again ground down the Sunni Arabs while gutting the Shia death squads. I never believed we'd let Syria and Iran get away with such outrages and so didn't think Damascus and Tehran would dare try to fight us in Iraq.

And because of this, our fight drags on.

Tony Blair bolsters my long-held belief:

One of the most infuriating problems in Iraq seems to generate precious little fury.

In a kind of malicious chemistry experiment, hostile powers are adding accelerants to Iraq's frothing chaos. Iran smuggles the advanced explosive devices that kill and maim American soldiers. Syria allows the transit of suicide bombers who kill Iraqis in markets and mosques, feeding sectarian rage.

This is not a complete explanation for the difficulties in Iraq. Poor governance and political paralysis would exist if Iran and Syria meddled or not. But without these outside influences, Tony Blair told me recently, the situation in Iraq would be "very nearly manageable."

Dealing with Iran and Syria is a big question. But for the lack of support at home, striking these two countries would make sense. But our current political situation means we'd have little support to do what is necessary to stop them from backing the terrorists and thugs in Iraq. Which means that we need more time to defeat our enemies than we would without foreign support. The clocks in Iraq and Washington started out at different speeds a long time ago.

Still, assuming we defeat the enemies inside Iraq, the fight against Syrian- and Iranian-sponsored killers could yet unite Sunnis and Shias, Arabs and Kurds, and forge a stronger Iraq:

This trend will lead to victory over the enemy and may well solidify a national Iraqi identity first forged in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. We shall see if the artificiality of Iraq is any more significant than the artificiality of any other country that relies on lines drawn on maps to describe itself.

A common foreign enemy can provide a way to move beyond past hatreds within Iraq. And the signs of this renewed unity are apparent if you look beyond the explosion of the day.

UPDATE: And remember, if the South had won our Civil War, our history would be very different. But because we won, we began speaking of the United States of America rather than these United States of America. We became a country due to that bloody struggle and not a collection of near-independent states. Recall, too, that even thirty years later, the Spanish-American War was viewed as a war that could cement northern and southern unity against the Spanish enemy.

The Danger of Statistics

One of the metrics of the war is attacks on our troops.

Attacks rose over the years. This has been an indication to foes of the war that we are losing. This is false, as I explained in this post. Wars tend to expand as time goes on as each side brings in more resources to finally beat the enemy. Even as the enemy has thrown more resources into the war, we have beaten back the threats in Iraq.

Anyway, the statistics on attacks are both accurate and misleading. The "attacks" show hostile actions against us. This is accurate.

But what these attacks include has a misleading component:

GEN. GASKIN: Okay. The first question. If you talk about incidents, I'll give you an example. From 13 through 19 July of 2006, there were 428 incidents in Anbar, and July 12th through the 18th of 2007 there were 98 incidents. The incidents are defined as small arms fire, indirect fire, RPGs attack, and IED finds and IED attacks. So there is quite a difference, as I talked about earlier, about the level of violence and the ability for us to find IEDs.

The misleading aspect is the IED finds. As time has passed, the enemy has reduced direct attacks on our forces and has relied on IED attacks. These have multiplied over the years. But so too has our ability to find them before they go off. We find the vast majority of the IEDs emplaced (80% in Anbar according the Max Boot in this article). Yet finding them is an "incident."

Perhaps next I'll examine the really stupid idea that fighting the enemy in Iraq is a mistake because jihadis learn to use IEDs and other weapons by fighting in Iraq. It's kind of like saying that fighting the Nazis in World War II was an error because in 1945 the Germans had Me-262 jet fighers while in 1941 they just had basic Me-109 fighters.

But there is much idiocy out there. It is a target-rich environment.

Recruiting Is Pretty Darned Easy For Them

I think it is silly to assert that Iraq is causing more jihadi recruits.

Certainly, Iraq is a cause that recruits respond to. But before Iraq, they responded to Afghanistan. And before Afghanistan, they responded to Iraq sanctions. And they responded to American forces in Saudi Arabia. And in between, they responded to Dutch cartoons and fake stories of flushed Korans, and ice cream lids. Face it, lots of thing set them off. They just need an excuse:

Energetic efforts will be made to assert that it is Moslems who are being persecuted in non-Moslem nations. In the West, this is considered ludicrous, at least by those who bother to pay attention to what is actually happening in the Moslem world.

Since this belief that Islam is under attack, motivates Islamic terrorists, it would make sense to point out how utterly false the accusation is. Not only is Islam not under attack, but Moslem governments, and most of the mass media everywhere tends to ignore or downplay the very real violence and hostility Moslems direct at non-Moslems. When pressed, Western journalists, or at least their editors, will claim that focusing on Moslems attacking non-Moslems will only anger the Islamic world, and increase the hatred that creates Islamic terrorists. That doesn't make any sense, but at least the feelings of Moslems are being tended to.

Yet we persist on looking for reasons they kill us. Iraq will do for now. And since many Westerners don't like the war, it resonates with the Guilty Americans and nuanced Europeans.

Even in the sensitive 90s, jihadis flocked to training camps in Afghanistan to train with al Qaeda and to Iraq to join Saddam's Fedayeen. Tens of thousands went then, to do Saddam's bidding in case the Shias revolted again as in 1991:

Saddam never expected we'd go all the way to Baghdad and that the fedayeen were not viewed by Saddam as the core of an insurgency to fight our occupation but as regime enforcers who could keep the Shia down until regular Iraqi forces could intervene.

And now? Maybe 60-70 per month enter Iraq.

Where they die:

While Saudi Arabia is not happy with how Shia Arabs have taken control of Iraq, and appear able to hold on to it, they are pleased with how the fighting in Iraq has greatly depleted the number of al Qaeda backers inside Saudi Arabia. Over 5,000 Saudi Islamic radicals are believed to have died in Iraq so far. For the last four years, up to half the suicide bombers have been Saudis, and about half the 135 foreigners currently held in U.S. military prisons over there, are Saudis. Currently, American intelligence believes about 45 percent of the foreign fighters (less than ten percent of all terrorists there) are Saudis. The next largest group is Syrians and Lebanese (15 percent), followed by North Africans (10 percent). The other 30 percent are from all over, including Europe.

Even Saudi Arabia does not believe Iraq is creating more terrorists. The Saudis see Iraq as a meat grinder that is tearing up jihadis at a rate fast enough to decrease the threat to the Saudi government.

And for that matter, other Arab states see Iraq as a place where their jihadis can go to die and not as a place that incites even more jihadis.

Iraq is the most convenient excuse of the jihadis to kill us. An excuse that dovetails nicely with our Left's theories. But in the end, Iraq is not the reason jihadis try to kill us in gruesome ways.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Compassion Knows No Bounds

Let's have some compassion for our jihadi enemies.

Some of the lost souls at Guantanamo Bay are a bit down. So down that they just don't feel like eating:

Shalabi, 32, an accused al-Qaida militant who was among the first prisoners taken to Guantanamo, and Ahmed, about 34, have refused to eat for almost two years to protest their conditions and open-ended confinement. In recent months, the number of hunger strikers has grown to two dozen, and the military is using force-feeding to keep them from starving.

An Associated Press investigation reveals the most complete picture yet of a test of wills that's taking place out of public view and shows no sign of ending, despite international outrage.

The restraint chair was a practice borrowed from U.S. civilian prisons in January 2006. Prisoners are strapped down and monitored to prevent vomiting until the supplements are digested.

International outrage? At what? Well, apparently the outrage is that we expend efforts to keep them alive by force-feeding them:

The British human rights group Reprieve labeled the process "intentionally brutal" and Shalabi, according to his lawyer's notes, said it is painful, "something you can't imagine. For two years, me and Ahmed have been treated like animals."

I hate to sound like some bleeding heart who doesn't understand the difference between "peace" and "defeat," but my heart goes out to the two hunger strikers. I have no desire to be brutal.

So I say stop force-feeding them. Let them die. If they want to die without taking any of us with them, I count that as progress.

I feel so culturally sensitive!

What is Normal There?

Strategypage reports:

There are several hundred violent demonstrations and clashes with the police each day in China, the result of growing anger and frustration at the corruption of government officials. Most of the culprits are identified as members of the Communist Party, although many joined simply to get ahead in their government career. The unrest is increasing, and senior officials are getting nervous about their inability to reverse the trends (unrest and corruption.)

This seems like a lot. But reports of violent clashes are hardly new. I just don't know if such clashes are part of the normal landscape of Chinese politics and society or a sign that China could collapse in civil disorder because of the unrest. And even noting that Chinese rulers are worried doesn't answer the question.

The Center Cannot Hold

There is no conspiracy to inflate the role of the jihadis in Iraq.

LTG Odierno explains the collapse of the Baathist-based insurgency:

General, it's Jamie McIntyre with CNN. I noticed that when you talk about the -- particularly in your beginning -- opening comments, you talked about the enemy you're dealing with, you primarily talked about al Qaeda. I'm just curious about what -- what is the overall relative strength of al Qaeda that you're fighting there, as opposed to other, Iraqi insurgents? And how does that compare to -- we hear a lot here in Washington about the growing -- al Qaeda's effort to reconstitute itself. How does the strength of al Qaeda today in Iraq -- and I don't mean necessarily the organization but al Qaeda there -- compare to, say, a year ago or whatever time frame you think is relative, in terms of how their relative strength is?

LT. GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah. Well, first I would say that -- I know there's been a lot of conversation about, you know, al Qaeda's -- insurgency, Shi'a extremists. What I have seen is a significant reduction in the Sunni insurgency, and that's why we're not talking about it as much.

It's not completely clean, because there is still some Sunni insurgency out there. But what we are seeing is those who are know saying, we want to work with the coalition and the Iraqi security forces, and that's through reconciliation. And then there are some of those who have moved towards al Qaeda, and so it's become a little bit clearer than it was before.

It's not completely clean. There are still some insurgent groups out there, and I would never say there's not. But that's kind of what we're seeing. It's kind of a split that's occurred where they've kind of -- they're starting to go either one way or the other. And that's why we tend to talk to al Qaeda because -- and that's why we -- you know, so what we're seeing is it's -- the al Qaeda safe havens have been significantly reduced. Their areas where they're able to operate have been reduced.

The numbers -- the reason I don't like to talk numbers when it comes to al Qaeda -- because you have the al Qaeda foreign membership that's come in, which I believe has been significantly reduced. You have some of the Iraqis that joined al Qaeda several years ago and that are still supporting al Qaeda in some number. And then you have a very -- a passive number of Iraqis that might support al Qaeda out of intimidation and fear. And what we've seen the change be is -- in many areas we've eliminated the intimidation and fear by chasing al Qaeda out. So once we do that, they are fully supportive of the Iraqi security forces, coalition force and in fact tend to want to fight al Qaeda themselves.

So that's why I don't like to get into numbers. But what I will say is the effectiveness and size of al Qaeda is -- has gotten smaller. I think the leadership has been somewhat fractured. I believe that the -- it is becoming more and more difficult for them to operate, as I said in my comments. That does not mean they cannot still operate, but it's becoming more difficult for them. There's less and less terrain for them to operate from and to conduct attacks.

This is what I was discussing in the first post about how al Qaeda is a bigger part of the enemy inside Iraq:

With the Baathists clearly losing and Sunni Arabs fleeing Iraq, Sunni insurgent numbers naturally would decline. Plus, the more jihadi minded of the local Sunni Arabs started to gravitate toward al Qaeda.

We are finally seeing the concrete results of hints that the Sunni Arabs were breaking at the beginning of the year.

Plus, if the jihadis are running out of leadership-caliber jihadis and losing territory they can hide in, the jihadis themselves who split from the wobbly Sunni Arabs are themselves going down to defeat. This will accelerate the movement of other Sunni Arabs to the government.

And we seem to be blunting the Shia fanatics while we grind down the Sunni Arabs (jihadis and nationalists).

While I remain worried that progress will be slow, I cannot rule out that victory will be sudden. If we remain steadfast in pursuing victory, of course.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Crack Jihadi Suicide Squad

It was not long ago that al Qaeda held Anbar province and we were fighting tooth and nail to dig them out of cities and villages.

Outside Ramadi, we killed a bunch of the enemy in a fight that started June 30th:

Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces received reports that a significant number of anti-Iraqi forces had gathered on the outskirts of Ramadi to stage a series of large scale attacks. The group, affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq, intended to regain a base of operations in Al Anbar with suicide car and vest bomb attacks.

The battle began at approximately 9:20 p.m. Saturday when Coalition Forces were attacked with small arms fire from two trucks near their position. U.S. Soldiers returned fire and pursued the fleeing attackers with the help of Army AH-64A Apache helicopter gun ships, Marine F-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier fighter jets. Helicopters killed at least one insurgent and wounded another, and destroyed the two trucks, later determined to be loaded with weapons, ammunition and explosives.

A detailed search of the area at 5 a.m. Sunday discovered 22 dead insurgents, including seven who were wearing suicide vests, as well as 24 homemade grenades, 20 pressure plate improvised explosive devices, assault rifles and machine guns, military uniforms, suicide vests and backpacks with first aid kits. Most of the enemy were dressed in similar white dishdashas and white running shoes, an outfit often associated with extremist fighters prepared to kill themselves.

They dressed up in their best martyr dishdasha attire (just do it!) and we waxed them. With no apparent casualties on our side.

Now the enemy is desperately trying to pry us out of the cities and towns of Anbar. And they are unlikely to have much more success than they did at Ramadi

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Just How High Up Will This Cover-up Go?

The massacre at Haditha is turning into the battle at Haditha.

The evidence for a war crime is evaporating:

Yet another Marine has won a court victory in the investigation of the battle at Haditha – adding more doubts to the claims of a massacre. In this case, the officer conducting an Article 32 hearing (equivalent to a grand jury hearing in civilian courts) has ruled that charges should be dropped. In essence, the claims of a massacre at Haditha are now looking false. That said, al Qaeda, through some adept media manipulation, has still won a victory.

There is no reason to convict them before a trial. Our press would give our enemies more protections than they grant our troops.

If this whole case collapses, I hope we will investigate how high up the conspiracy to convict our Marines without a trial went. Even if certain United States Representatives are implicated. If even one Marine went on a rampage, he should pay the price.

We will punish our guilty. They violate our standards. But we should not be so eager to assume that guilt. It is difficult enough for our troops to fight when every action is accurately scrutinized. How do they fight when lies are so easily believed? And I ask this question even if any of the Marines at Haditha that day did something wrong or unlawful.

To illustrate my point, on the way home today, NPR reported on the failure of the government to prove their case against this Marine. NPR described the incident as an accusation representing the "worst human rights violation of the war."

I find that phrasing rather revealing. Every day in Iraq, our enemies commit war crimes that far exceed what our Marines are accused of doing at Haditha. Yet NPR is not aware of this truth. The enemy's crimes don't count according to NPR.

Even if a crime took place at Haditha, it is not the norm. Americans should believe in our troops.

An Inconvenient Capture

We nabbed a top al Qaeda man in Iraq:

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.

"Al-Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq network," Bergner said. He said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani served as an intermediary between al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.
More enemy leadership should be killed or captured in the months ahead as we restrict the areas the jihadis can move in freely.

And you might want to ask if we could have captured Mashhadani if our presence in Iraq had been reduced to the insufficient level that the Congress wants us to field just "to fight al Qaeda."

A Very Peculiar Debate

The Senate decided it wanted to redebate the Iraq War last night. All night.

You'd think that after a declaration of war and all, the debate would be about how to win. But you don't know our Congress under new management. The want to debate the speed of our retreat and winning or losing isn't really an issue:

The 52-47 vote fell far short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation and marked the final act in an all-night session that Democrats engineered to dramatize their opposition to the war.

"Time and the American people are ... on our side," said a defiant Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has made ending the war the Democrats' top goal since they took control of the Senate in January. "We will do everything in our power to change course in Iraq," he said moments after the vote.

You see, this is a very special kind of debate. A Lefty debate. When the Left says it wants to debate a dubject, it doesn't mean that either side could be persuaded based on the merits. It means we debate until the other side is worn down. It means that the Left says we "haven't debated enough" as long as the Left is losing the debate.

Having lost the debate in the form of a declaration of war based on the nearly two dozen reasons for eliminating Saddam's regime back in 2002, the Left continues that debate even today. Once they win the debate, only then is the debate over. For good.

In that sense, the Senate all-night session is more like a forced re-education camp for the pro-victory side more than it is a traditional debate. The Senate leadership knows the answer it wants, the only question is how long they have to imprison the pro-victory Senators until they convert to the way the new management sees the issue.

So even with this stunt over, don't think the debate is over. It will go on until the leadership forces defeat or until we win. Actually, the debate won't end even with victory, but I won't give a rat's patootie about their opinions then.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Borders Matter Again

Two years ago, I wrote that it was rather pointless to expend much effort on defending the Iraqi border since the enemy had plentiful money and weapons from within Iraq.

That has changed:

Another interesting development is that, despite there being over five million tons of munitions lying about after the 2003 invasion, most of it has apparently been destroyed or locked up. Saddam had lots of ammo left over from the 1980s war with Iran, and he never threw anything away, or used much of it for training. Coalition, and eventually Iraqi, EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) troops have been finding, and blowing up, the stuff ever since 2003. But you rarely hear, or see, any of the spectacular explosions that the EOD people were setting off all the time in 2004 and 2005. As a result, many IEDs are now using fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) for explosives. This stuff works, and Iraq is a largely agricultural country, with lots of ammonium nitrate about. But fertilizer bombs are bulkier, and trickier to set off, than artillery shells or military grade explosives. Some bomb workshops have contained industrial grade explosives, either stolen from construction sites, or smuggled in. Lots of explosives, and bomb making gear, is still being smuggled in from Syria (more so than Iran, or any other neighboring countries.) A lot more of it is being found now, as U.S. and Iraqi forces clear out the Sunni Arab suburbs of Baghdad.

This is good. This means that efforts to control the border can now have an effect rather than being a waste of effort. More traditional forms of counter-insurgency are now possible with the enemy needing supply lines from outside the country. (And note that our success in Anbar is even more significant when you consider that the enemy supply line goes through territory far more friendly to us than to them.) We can work to cut off the weapons and strike the sources of the weapons across the borders.

Two years ago, such options would have been counter-productive. Now they can have an effect. As I've mentioned, timing is everything.

Alert the Nuanced!

You've heard it before, who do you talk peace to but your enemies? Why be afraid to talk? Why set unhelpful conditions?

President Bush has proposed talks on Palestinian issues. This is good news to the nuanced among us, is it not? Well, our Left and State Department (or an I being redundant) should be alerted to this attitude:

Assad said he hoped Bush's call was serious and that Syria was ready for peace talks with Israel, but only in the presence of an honest broker. He did not elaborate whether he considered the United States as such, although U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday the world body would be willing to mediate.

"I read this morning that the American president spoke of his wish to work for a peace conference. I hope ... this is true, but to this moment these are just words as far as we are concerned," Assad told parliament after being sworn in for a second, seven-year term.

Assad also demanded some conditions before peace talks can resume.

He said Syria wants "certain guarantees" from Israel, namely a promise for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal. Israel captured the strategic plateau in the 1967 Mideast War.

Mistrustful of us? Conditions before talking? Say it isn't so! Speaker Pelosi donned the appropriate head gear in his presence! Is Assad merely some type of nutball thug dictator, or something? I thought he was a statesman and the path to peace went through Damascus?

I await the fury of our Nuanced-American community over Bashar Assad's dismissal of the power of talk any day now.

This Will Be a Problem

The British are drawing down their forces in southern Iraq and the only question is when they'll leave:

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has accepted "mistakes" were made in Iraq, has resisted calls for an immediate withdrawal of Britain's 5,500-strong force in Iraq and said their return was dependent on the security situation.

Yet Britain had their own version of a Baker commission that wants the British to get out on a timetable regardless of the security situation.

This will present a problem for us. Our supply line for our forces in central Iraq and Anbar runs through southern Iraq and into Kuwait. If the British aren't there to guard this route, we will be vulnerable to an Iranian attack that cuts our supply line.

If the British leave, we will either need to have a friendly Iran or redeploy a couple brigades to replace the British. I do hope Prime Minister Brown holds fast.

Risky for Whom?

I swear, some people panic at every little thing.

As we enlist former enemies to fight the common jihadi enemies in Iraq, people here are getting nervous. This is who we are recruiting:

It includes ex-insurgents, police dropouts with checkered backgrounds, and former Al Qaeda-linked fighters – all united by a desire to rid Diyala Province of the network's influence, say US officers.

Yet this could be a problem according to those critics:

But the risks of such a temporary solution are high, say critics, and the plan could foster new, powerful militias outside the control of the Iraqi Army. It's a strategy that also threatens to further fuel sectarian battles as LRFs are largely Sunni, posing a major threat to Shiite militias. ...

"What the Americans are doing is very risky and unwise. They are planting the seeds for future wars," warned Sami al-Askari, a parliamentarian close to Maliki, commenting on groups like the LRF.

To emphasize the risk, the article asserts, without a shred of evidence:

It also seems to indicate that the Americans are willing to take a short-term gamble on the LRFs in order to show some successes in the fight against AQI before September, when a highly anticipated progress report on Iraq is due to Congress.

Gamble? Certainly this is a risk. But more for those coming over to us to fight al Qaeda in Iraq.

But is it really a bigger problem to have militias of identified people potentially out of government control or actual insurgents fighting the government?

And wouldn't Sunni militias be far less likely to provoke sectarian fighting with Shia militias as jihadi suicide bombers?

Further, are you actually saying that the enemy can never give up and change sides? Are you insisting that this be a fight to the death? This is not what counter-insurgency is about! It is a good thing that the enemy defects to our side.

And consider the risk those who defect run. If we cooperate and crush al Qaeda, do the new allies really have the option of just returning to fighting us? When they've just lost a very important jihadi ally? When the government has a better idea of who the Sunni Arab fighters are? These guys run a greater risk that the Shia and Kurds will turn on them once the jihadis are defeated.

Local defense forces that include even former enemies are a good idea. Do they need to be supervised? Absolutely. There are risks involved, but on the whole the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Good grief people, let's solve one problem at a time. There is no omnibus solution to all of Iraq's many problems.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm Still Worried

We are still in a race against time in Iraq,

In an interview, General Pace reports that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were worried that a surge would exhaust our patience without doing enough good to counter that exhaustion:

As for the U.S. troop boost, some on the Joint Chiefs had argued against it in January, in part out of concern that it could not be sustained long enough to have the desired effect and that it would put too much strain on the military.

Early on, I was worried about a surge of troops and expressed my opinion that we needed patience rather than more troops.

The form of the surge lessened my worry that our surge would be pointless.

Yet I worried about the metric for judging success.

Luckily, the surge seems to be working and we have the bonus success in Anbar which is completely unrelated to the surge operations.

The surge of troops is going well. As well as I could have hoped. But our Left has surged their retreat impulses at what may be a greater rate.

Is their will to lose greater than our capacity to win? We shall see.

My, This is Symbolic

The Democrats in the Senate will go into an all-night session to try and pass legislation to halt our war effort in Iraq:

The rare, round-the-clock session Tuesday night through Wednesday morning is intended to bait Republicans into an exhaustive debate on the politically unpopular war, as well as punish GOP members for routinely blocking anti-war legislation.

"How many sleepless nights have our soldiers and their families had?" said Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

Yes, how many sleepless nights have our troops endured trying to win this war (and winning it, I might add)? How many sleepless nights have their families endured, at least comforted by the knowledge that our nation wants them to win?

And now our Congress will lose sleep for the first time over the war--to legislate defeat.

They disgust me.

The President and those still determined to win must match the Left in determination. Our troops fight and die in Iraq for us. They are doing their duty and winning.

Our remaining loyalists in Congress must fight on Capitol Hill in a far more critical theater.

How many sleepless nights will our troops and their families endure wondering if our Congress will stab them in the back?

So What Does the CIA Know?

Our intelligence community seems about to report that al Qaeda is as strong as it was pre-9/11.

This seems highly unlikely. Even if they have gained some space in Pakistan's border regions to operate, there improved position locally hasn't translated into more effectiveness abroad. The world's intelligence services cooperate very closely with us on this. Plus we stomp them when they show themselves. Further, even their local resurgence relies on Pakistani negligence. The Red Mosque crisis surely shows Pakistan that they cannot make a deal to let jihaids survive on the assumption that the jihadis will only be a problem for us. Look for al Qaeda's local improvement to be reversed soon.

Despite the so-called improvement, the latest bin Laden video doesn't seem too impressive:

As mentioned, there's an Osama cameo floating around. It seems to be from a video shot in 2001 or 2002. If that is correct, then I would draw two conclusions: first, that it is additional confirmation that he is dead. (If he were alive, they could do a new one, right?) And second, that this is a sign of panic, a poorly manufactured pseudo-blockbuster appearance designed to rally the troops, who must be getting fairly discouraged these days. The war is not going well for them in Iraq or Afghanistan (where the big "spring offensive" didn't happen)or Lebanon or England or over here. The best thing they've got going for them at the moment is (are) the surrender monkeys.

Only Allah knows how much the enemy is hurt.

The CIA has far less information available, apparently.

UPDATE: Actually, I went astray a bit in this post. I expect the intelligence community will do a decent job on this. The estimate's public version is yet to be released, however. The press is interpreting al Qaeda's threat to us. The press does not have a good record at reading government or Congressional reports and fully reporting them with an degree of accuracy. I look forward to seeing the actual public report. I have no doubt that al Qaeda has gained some strength based on their sanctuary in Pakistan. This has long been a problem. But I won't just accept the press version of the report.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

So Close ...

Congress wants answers over the Libby commutation plastic turkey issue.

Robert Novak asked the only question I want answered regarding L'Affaire de Plame when he talked to Richard Armitage:

I then asked Armitage a question that had been puzzling me but, for the sake of my future peace of mind, would better have been left unasked.

Why would the CIA send Joseph Wilson, not an expert in nuclear proliferation and with no intelligence experience, on the mission to Niger?

"Well," Armitage replied, "you know his wife works at CIA, and she suggested that he be sent to Niger." "His wife works at CIA?" I asked. "Yeah, in counterproliferation."

I remain puzzled. That answer still doesn't settle my question. This answers the question who suggested sending Wilson.

We still don't know why the CIA thought sending the buffoon Wilson on such an important mission was a good idea.

How to Connect Dots

I've written that it is difficult to connect dots to predict the future. Only after the fact to dots seem perfectly obvious and damning.

So let me connect some dots to paint a picture I don't think is remotely possible:

  • Withdrawing through Kuwait will let us leave at a rate of only a brigade a month.

  • Congress thinks the real threat is in Afghanistan and that Iraq "distracts" us.

  • We have a couple carriers in the region with rotation putting the number up to three on occasion. And we have the potential to have four nearby soon.

Add these up and President Bush will, with the cooperation of Congress, take about14 of our combat brigades currently fighting in Iraq and send them through Iran to Afghanistan. If they topple the mullah regime in the process, so much the better.

The Bush-Webb-Lieberman conspicracy. You read it here first.

Lulling Us?

So are Iran's effort to avoid sanctions by allowing a limited inspection of specific nuclear sites and North Korea's shutting down of an old nuclear plant an effort coordinated by them to make us think we are making progress with the Axis of Evil on the diplomatic front?

They seem to be working together on the nuclear and missile areas.

Yet I can believe that North Korea is desperate enough to try and get something out of the West to stave off collapse.

But Iran professes they will move forward on their nuclear programs.

Apparent progress from both of these rogues at the same time is suspicious to me.

I Get Confused Over Ns and Qs

The Air Force has quietly built up its forces in Iraq:

Away from the headlines and debate over the "surge" in U.S. ground troops, the Air Force has quietly built up its hardware inside Iraq, sharply stepped up bombing and laid a foundation for a sustained air campaign in support of American and Iraqi forces.

Of course, the focus is on the civilian casualties such capabilities inflict:

Iraq Body Count, a London-based, anti-war research group that monitors Iraqi war deaths, says the step-up in air attacks appears to have been accompanied by an increase in Iraqi civilian casualties from air strikes. Based on media reports, it counts a recent average of 50 such deaths per month.

I dealt with this silliness already.

Yet our capabilities are there (from the original link):

Early this year, with little fanfare, the Air Force sent a squadron of A-10 "Warthog" attack planes — a dozen or more aircraft — to be based at Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq. At the same time it added a squadron of F-16C Fighting Falcons here at Balad. Although some had flown missions over Iraq from elsewhere in the region, the additions doubled to 50 or more the number of workhorse fighter-bomber jets available at bases inside the country, closer to the action.

The reinforcement involved more than numbers. The new F-16Cs were the first of the advanced "Block 50" version to fly in Iraq, an aircraft whose technology includes a cockpit helmet that enables the pilot to aim his weapons at a target simply by turning his head and looking at it.

The Navy has contributed by stationing a second aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and the reintroduction of B1-Bs has added a close-at-hand "platform" capable of carrying 24 tons of bombs.

Those big bombers were moved last year from distant Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to an undisclosed base in the Persian Gulf. Since February, with the ground offensive, they have gone on Iraq bombing runs for the first time since the 2003 invasion. ...

In addition, the Air Force is performing more "ISR" work in Iraq — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. "We have probably come close to doubling our ISR platforms the past 12 months," said Col. Gary Crowder, a deputy air operations chief for the Central Command.

And according to the article this is all focused on Iraq.

It's almost as if we are numbing somebody to all the extra power we have put in the Gulf region:

The Iranians have learned to discount any move as anything more than hyperbole and psychological warfare. If we strike, we will achieve a significant amount of surprise. He is so focused on getting to their final goals that they may be quite blinded to what we are doing in plain sight.

As I've written before, achieving surprise consists not of hiding what you are doing, but hiding why you are doing it. We can't hide moving forces into Iraq and the region. But if everybody thinks that every last reinforcement is focused on Iraq, we can achieve surprise if we use it elsewhere.

I've been wrong many times about thinking I see signs of attack preparations. But I can't shake that I do think I'm seeing signs. And maybe that's the way it is supposed to be.

The Press Sights Another "Tank"

I don't think that the press as a rule knows much about military matters. The most obvious display of this lack of knowledge is their tendency to call anything big and green a "tank." It's a pet peeve of mine.

Well, a man in Australia in a "tank" has gone on a rampage destroying cell phone towers:

"The tank left a path of destruction in its wake, bringing down a number of mobile phone towers and relay sheds," New South Wales police said in a statement.

The article helpfully has a photo:

That is an M-113-based vehicle. It is not a tank. The original M-113 is an armored personnel carrier. The Australian vehicle is perhaps modified to an extent that might qualify it as an infantry fighting vehicle. I'm not sure about that. The turret isn't big enough to be a fire support vehicle. But it is definitely not a tank. And would not be even if it had a large turret with a 3" gun.

Yes, I know, the police called it a tank. But nobody in the press organization knew enough to say, no, that is not a tank.

If the fashion reporter was told by somebody that a new dress was "blue" and it was really some obscure shade of blue that all fashion designers know, the fashion reporter would know that the dress was not "blue."

But everything big and green is a tank.

And you trust them to evaluate the war in Iraq?

Do We Have Enough to Win?

The talk of how we will lose the war in Iraq because we have too few troops repeatedly relies on numbers that don't reflect the reality on the ground. At its worst, critics count only US troops. As if no insurgency anywhere in the world has been defeated without US troops!

Reports recently highlighted contractor casualties:

The death toll for private contractors in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has topped 1,000, a stark reminder of the risks run by civilians working with the military in roles previously held by soldiers.

Clearly, the press is trying to paint the war worse than they've done thus far, by reporting casualties hitherto unconnected to our reported losses. They have a point. If we didn't have contractors doing jobs previously done by troops, we'd have suffered some of these losses.

And there are a lot of contractors:

In Iraq, their number is estimated to be close to 130,000 -- not much less than the 157,000 U.S. troops presently deployed to the country. Their work ranges from driving fuel trucks, cooking meals and cleaning toilets to servicing advanced weapons systems and guarding senior U.S. officials.

So if we should count these guys when tracking the price of war, shouldn't we also count these contractors as part of the forces fighting the insurgencies? After all, if they weren't there, we'd need troops to do the jobs. And if we had troops doing those jobs, we'd count them as US forces in Iraq.

So what do we have in Iraq to fight the enemy?

--160,000 US troops.

--345,000 Iraqi troops and police.

--140,000 Iraqi Facility Protection Service guards.

--20,000 Coalition.

This totals 665,000 troops. And we aren't done yet.

--Say 70,000 Kurdish forces.

--Add in local militias and tribes fighting on our side. This could be tens of thousands.

But let's ignore the Kurds and other militias to be safe.

However, we could add the 130,000 contractors who would need to be US troops if they didn't exist. If they were US troops they wouldn't have suffered as many casualties, but they would be counted as part of our forces.

So we have 795,000 security forces equivalents to protect or police 27 million Iraqis. That's about 2.9%. This is above the 2% number considered the minimum for success in counter-insurgency.

But this is too simplistic, as this post discusses and I've long argued. Not every area needs the same ratio. Let's ignore the Kurdish areas secured by Kurdish militias and call it 25,000,000 Iraqis to protect. There are 11 million in the Shia south. This area doesn't need nearly as many troops to protect them. Call it half the minimum. So we'd need 110,000 to guard this area.

The real area of contention is the mixed area of Baghdad and the north plus Sunni Arab Anbar province. These 14 million people could have 685,000 security forces allocated--4.9%. This is well above the 2% considered standard.

The only reason these numbers haven't ended the war as yet is the fanaticism of the enemy and the ample money that has always been available to pay Sunni Arabs for attacks. Syrian and Iranian support for violence doesn't help, either. And our domestic opposition keeps giving the enemy hope for victory, too. The problems we have aren't numbers related.

Still, despite these problems, I've consistently thought we are winning this war. Looking at the numbers gives me no worries about this assessment.

My only number worries are the 535 members of Congress.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Oath of Office

After worrying about our Congress and asserting that our President has to do his duty no matter what the political consequences to bolster the Congress in order to win the war in Iraq, the President has done just that despite the critics who kept insisting the President was about to retreat for this reason or that:

Over the last few weeks, all of these estimable entities--the Democratic party in Congress, much of the media, and the foreign policy establishment--have joined together to try to panic the country, and the Bush administration, into giving up. The story of the past week--an important week--is this: They failed. Many around Bush wobbled. But Bush stood firm. Most Republicans on the Hill stood firm. And, so far as one can tell, the country as a whole pulled back a bit from the irresponsibility of cutting and running.

Our troops our doing their duty. Our President is doing his duty. Our Congress--just barely--is doing its duty. Our President can't do much about our press efforts to lose this war, but he has done what he must thus far to keep Congress on the line.

Their Speed of Press Releases is Truly Awesome

You know, claims that our jihadi enemies are winning seem rather hollow when articles warning of their danger are reduced to praising the speed at which they release press statements:

When Islamic radicals killed 52 people in London two years ago, it took nearly a month for Osama bin Laden's top deputy to blame Britain itself for the carnage.

But this week, when the No. 2 man in al-Qaida decided to weigh in on Pakistan's bloody crackdown on a radical mosque, he was able to get his violent message onto hard-line Islamic Web sites in a matter of days.

Analysts and intelligence experts say the speed and frequency with which Ayman al-Zawahri has been issuing statements recently does not reflect the actions of a man cowering in a remote cave, cut off from the outside world and unable to direct terror operations.

If anything, the video and audio tapes offer chilling evidence that al-Qaida's leaders are in greater command than previously feared.

Our jihadi enemies are dangerous and we should kill them wherever we find them (even when they inconveniently fight us in Iraq), but when their press releases inspire pants wetting episodes and our own cowering, we should really be ashamed.

Yet at the same time, our press ignores the enemies daily murders in Iraq and atrocities.

Yes, fear their press releases!

Pointless Defiance

Putin suspended participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty:

But Russian military analysts have said the possibility of suspending participation in the treaty was a symbolic rising of ante in the missile shield showdown more than a sign of impending military escalation.

Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based defense analyst, said the moratorium probably won't result in any major buildup of heavy weaponry in European Russia. Russia has no actual interest in the highly costly build up of forces because it faces no real military threat and has no plans to launch an attack of its won, he said.

But, he said, it could mean an end to onsite inspections and verifications by NATO countries, which many European nations rely on to keep track of Russian deployments.

For the United States, the moratorium will mostly be a symbolic gesture, he said, since the U.S. has an extensive intelligence network that keeps close track of Russian forces. But it will still be seen as another unfriendly move in Washington, Felgenhauer predicted.

The treat was more important in the Cold War era when restrictions on Soviet force deployment helped reduce the chance of a bolt from the blue sudden invasion of West Germany.

The Russians today have neither the troops nor the will to invase Belorussia let alone NATO. In the end this was a tantrum. The Russians should be embarrassed by this display of pointless rebellion.

Well, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 so the new Russia is only just shy of its 17th birthday, really. Teenagers are a pain in the butt. I hope they grow out of it before they wreck the family car or something.

Saving the Village

Victor Hanson (tip to an email from Mad Minerva) slams the recent NYT editorial calling for our defeat in Iraq and what the editorial board assumes will be a subsequent slaughter of Iraqis.

Hanson leads off his rebuttal well:

On July 8, the New York Times ran an historic editorial entitled “The Road Home,” demanding an immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. It is rare that an editorial gets almost everything wrong, but “The Road Home” pulls it off. Consider, point by point, its confused—and immoral—defeatism.

The points are all excellent. He did what I wanted to do (but lacked the time to do).

But Hanson is quite wrong in the premise of his title:

The New York Times Surrenders:
A monument to defeatism on the editorial page

In fact the Times editorial was a bold ploy for victory. Hanson's mistake is assumig that the Times is focused on the same war as he is. The Times is ruthless when you remember that their objective is the White House:

Their eagerness to surrender is disgusting. But they'll deny that they want anything but victory. Just remember to ask them what war they are fighting.

And the Times will sacrifice any number of our troops or innocent Iraqi civilians, and inflict whatever damage to our country it takes, to accomplish their mission.

It's a total war as far as the New York Times is concerned.


Prime Minister Maliki expresses confidence in a post-US future:

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari warned earlier this week of civil war and the government's collapse if the Americans leave. But al-Maliki told reporters Saturday, "We say in full confidence that we are able, God willing, to take the responsibility completely in running the security file if the international forces withdraw at any time they want."

But he added that Iraqi forces are "still in need of more weapons and rehabilitation" to be ready in the case of a withdrawal.

Speaking of how the Iraqis will fight without us must take into account that even the Democrats would leave troops behind rather than pull out all US forces--say 7 brigades as a guess plus special forces and other support forces (such as Navy infantry to patrol rivers). So we might have 3 brigades plus other ground forces in direct combat, plus four brigades as a reserve and a force to deter Iran, and air and artillery support plus logistics and other intelligence and recon support. We could also get around some restrictions by making sure MPs and contract personnel escort convoys rather than combat units.

Plus, drawing down from 20 brigades to 7 would take time. Perhaps a year from when it begins.

So assuming that a real drawdown doesn't begin until March 2008, we must look at fall 2008 just to judge Iraqi capabilities at pre-surge American troops strength. And March 2009 before we are in minimal mode. Assuming casualties at 5 KIA per brigade per month, and assuming Iraq can fight without us at higher strength, we'd have casualties near Afghanistan levels.

Yes, there is a little bravado there. But it would make the situation no better if Maliki curled up in the fetal position now standard for our Congress, and wailed about the doom about to descend on Iraq.

I suspect that Maliki is right in his judgment based on my assumption that Iraq will be significantly better by fall 2008 and that the Iraqis could fight in our place.

Before that, the chance of civil war would go up, of course, which is why it is important to buy time--and use it wisely.

Plus, judging victory depends on whether you think Iraq can win using our gentle tactics to persuade Sunni Arabs to side with the government or whether you think the Shias and Kurds will just go postal on the Sunni Arabs to end the minority problem the traditional Middle Eastern way.

I think we can still get the former. And so create an example for the rest of the region and a real ally that will help us fight terrorism. One day, Iraqi troops will make good candidates for peacekeeping missions with their training and combat experience.

The Gangs of Iraq

One aspect of the fighting in Iraq that I have not fully appreciated is the gang factor. I've always known that their crimes add to the appearance of chaos and make the terror and resistance seem larger. I also knew that bombings for profit were part of their operations.

What I didn't fully appreciate was the lack of hard lines between the gangs and terrorists/insurgents. I viewed the gangs as background noise to be solved after the real threats of jihadis and insurgents were smashed.

Strategypage notes the more direct role the criminals have:

The war in Iraq is notable not because it is against guerillas or terrorists, but because of the large number of armed opposition groups that are, for all intents and purposes, criminal gangs. ...

Al Qaeda and Saddam's old allies had cash and cachet that made the gangs more powerful. All they had to do was support the bombing program and attacks on cops and soldiers (local and foreign). Since many of these attacks were paid for, the gangs treated it like another bit of business, even if 90 percent of the attacks on U.S. troops failed. Their paymasters understood.

Part of the reason for the Sunnis beginning to switch sided seriously and openly is the gang problem and not just fear of the jihadis:

Most Sunni Arabs now wanted the gangs gone, and were in an appreciative mood when American troops came in and took on the outlaws.

The deal was simple. We will run the local bad guys out, killing or arresting those we catch. In return, the local tribe and clan leaders will support recruiting for the local police force, and the tribe will recognize the Shia dominated government. If that happens, then American, or Iraqi, troops will be available if the bad guys try to return and reassert control. Thus peace will return, along with economic growth and a lot less violence in the streets.

So we have the gangs to defeat, too, as a primary and not a secondary goal. A large part of this is promoting rule of law in Iraq.

This fight will be helped by the fact that we've knocked down other primary threats, of course. But the gangs are in it for the money, so when the money stops, the gangs are more likely to disappear and hope to live a quiet life than fight to the death as the jihadis and high-ranking Batthists.

Four Carriers

We have two carriers in the Central Command area plus another off of Australia.

And now another is heading for the Gulf region (tip to Mad Minerva):

The Navy confirmed the departure of nuclear-powered USS Enterprise from it's home port of Norfolk, Virginia, with about 5,500 sailors and marines.

Am I insane to note that we have the possibility of having four carriers massed near Iran depending on where the carriers at sea go (home or remain in range of Iran)?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Ultimate Weapon

The story is headlined "Tamil rebels demonstrate military might ."

It is a lengthy piece:

Tamil Tiger guerrillas in green-striped camouflage assaulted a mock government fort with gunfire, rockets and explosives Friday at a secret training base in separatist-held territory in northern Sri Lanka.

Rebels escorted reporters along back roads to the live-fire exercise to demonstrate they are still a powerful military force despite the government's announcement Thursday that it had won full control of eastern Sri Lanka for the first time in 13 years.

The Tigers said they have simply switched from conventional warfare to guerrilla tactics in the east, noting they hold a swath of territory in the north that they run as a virtual state.

"Gaining territory is not victory, it is a false hope. We will again come out and attack," said Lt. Col. V. Nishaanthan, who led the drills Friday.

So losing territory is no big deal for the Tamils. And switching back and forth between conventional and guerrilla tactics is merely a matter of Tamil choice.

What rot. Strategypage explains:

In response to the lost of their eastern territory, which was about half the area controlled by the rebels, the LTTE said it would now concentrate attacks on economic targets, using its terrorist skills to cripple the national economy. There has been an increase in terrorist type attacks in the north, and the LTTE is apparently trying to goad the army and police into attacking the Tamil population around the capital and elsewhere on the island, to make these Tamils more willing to support LTTE terrorist operations. This shift to an emphasis on terrorist operations indicates that the LTTE is unsure of its ability to hang on in the north. ...

The government declared the LTTE defeated in the eastern part of the island country. The armed forces would now move most of their forces north, to take on the main LTTE force. This was a big boost for morale in the military, which had suffered many major defeats while fighting the LTTE in the past.

The Tamils, who have been fighting for a couple decades and have had enclaves they held against inferior quality government forces, lost one enclave in the east and probably can't hold the northern enclave. But the Tamils, who pioneered suicide bombings, called in the reporters to put on a big scary show. And the AP obliged with a long piece on the military might of the Tamil Tigers. The Tamils hope the AP and others will be the ultimate weapon to save them in defeat.

I suppose I should be encouraged that the press operates this way in areas outside of Iraq. It lends support to the theory that the press is simpy composed of idiots and not just reflexively anti-American.

But it should be useful to see how the press works with terrorists and insurgents without the heated environment of the Iraq War to hinder understanding. The enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan works the press the same way.

The press may neither know nor care that they are being played, but we who read them and make policy based on their reports darn well should care. Our enemies count the press as their ultimate weapon, against which we are helpless to resist.

Screw 'Em: Part Two

I mentioned that the loyal opposition has repealed the Pottery Barn Rule over Iraq ("you broke it, you own it"). Once, they at least figured we shouldn't leave Iraq until Iraq could stand on its own. We owed the Iraqis that much, they said, even if the Left still disagreed about launching the war and slammed it as ineptly run on a daily basis (as if they have a clue about war).

But no more (tip to Instapundit). When asked of the impact on Iraqis of our withdrawal, Senator Reid would not directly answer:

It is clear that the Iraqi people don't want us there. It is clear that there is now a state of chaos in Iraq. And it is up to the Iraqi people to make themselves safe….We can't do it. It's time the training wheels come off and they take care of their own country. We have spent billions dollars. We're now spending $12 billion a month on Iraq. That's enough. In the last six months of the surge, six months, 600 more dead Americans, $60 billion more of American taxpayers' money. We, Democrats, unitedly believe that's enough.

But who can blame the good Senator from Nevada? Iraqis don't vote here.

Screw 'em, as their side is prone to say. The anti-war side doesn't need no stinkin' evidence of how the war is going. They already know what they want.

The Iran Front

US and Iraqi forces continue to go after Iran's forces within Iraq, this time in the Amin neighborhood of Baghdad:

The violence began with a pre-dawn raid by U.S. forces that the military said captured two militants involved in kidnappings and planting roadside bombs against U.S. and Iraqi troops. Militants fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the troops, hitting a nearby building, the military said.

U.S. troops later surrounded the neighborhood, announcing via loudspeakers to residents that they were seeking militants and that they should stay inside, said an Iraqi police official who was at the scene. As the Americans withdrew around 11 a.m., they came under fire, prompting troops to move back into the district, assaulting several buildings, the official said.

The result was an exchange of fire that included mortars and rockets, the official said. Residents — many of them Shiites who fled to Baghdad from Baqouba, where U.S. forces have been waging a three-week-old offensive — said that during the fighting, a U.S. helicopter hit several residential buildings and a minibus.

Not even using an Iraq police uniform will protect the Iranian stooges:

U.S. forces battled Iraqi police and gunmen Friday, killing six policemen, after an American raid captured an Iraqi police lieutenant accused of leading a cell of Shiite militiamen, the military said. ...

The captured lieutenant was a "high-ranking" leader of a cell suspected of helping coordinate Iranian support for Shiite extremists in Iraq as well as carrying out roadside bombings against mortar attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces, the military said. The lieutenant is believed to be linked to the Quds Force, a branch of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, it said.

It is a delicate mission. Go after the Sunni Arab killers to protect the innocent Shias and go after the Iranian-paid Shia killers to protect the innocent Sunni Arabs. And all while holding off a Congress and press increasingly eager to run away--and perhaps nervous we will win before their efforts can take hold.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

With a Good Plan, Nothing Bad Happens

Yesterday on NPR, I was horrified to hear a story that said that we must plan for our pullout from Iraq thoroughly. Just like Vietnam, where proper planning prevented the worst from happening:

Supporters and critics of the war in Iraq predict that withdrawing US troops will lead to more violence there. But some say intelligent planning in Washington could avoid the worst, as it did when the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam. Anchor Lisa Mullins discusses the issue with Shibley Telhami, professor of political science at the University of Maryland.

The boat people, forced reeducation camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, a repressive and economically backward Vietnam, and a loss of US will for a decade were the result of planning that avoided the worst? That's just an amazing way to think. This is how the "reality-based community" thinks.

For people who think the Iraq War is the most ineptly run operation in military history and the biggest foreign policy mistake ever, they apparently have a mighty high threshold for what would have constituted the worst in Vietnam.

Of course, they'd have to to think that way to believe losing in Iraq is the right thing to do.