Friday, August 31, 2007

Proud Dissenters

If the government suppressed war dissenters' views about Iraq, Leftists would be screaming about censorship.

But when the military briefs troops with reference notes (as they brief troops on any alien culture they must interact with) on the views of visiting Congresscritters, the anti-war legislators are suddenly not so proud of their "patriotic" dissent:

The sheets of paper seemed to be everywhere the lawmakers went in the Green Zone, distributed to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank. So when Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) asked a soldier last weekend just what he was holding, the congressman was taken aback to find out.

In the soldier's hand was a thumbnail biography, distributed before each of the congressmen's meetings in Baghdad, which let meeting participants such as that soldier know where each of the lawmakers stands on the war. "Moran on Iraq policy," read one section, going on to cite some the congressman's most incendiary statements, such as, "This has been the worst foreign policy fiasco in American history."

The bio of Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.) -- "TAU (rhymes with 'now')-sher," the bio helpfully relates -- was no less pointed, even if she once supported the war and has taken heat from liberal Bay Area constituents who remain wary of her position. "Our forces are caught in the middle of an escalating sectarian conflict in Iraq, with no end in sight," the bio quotes.

"This is beyond parsing. This is being slimed in the Green Zone," Tauscher said of her bio.

The cards are accurate. And accurate descriptions of their past votes and statements "slime" them?

Now, hey, I agree that those are pretty slimy facts. But I support the war! I'm fairly shocked that statements and votes that these members of Congress proudly display for and Kos fans are now to be kept secret from the troops.

Aren't these Representatives proud of their "support" for the troops?

God, what I'd give to see the sheets for Pelosi and Reid! They'd be the size of a phone book, I dare say.

The WaPo writes of this as somehow ominous. I find it funny as heck.

Maybe our military should instead use signals like foot taps, hand gestures, and especially wide foot stances at parade rest to indicate anti-war Congressional delegations.

Leading Indicator

The military has a goal of not deploying National Guard troops for more than one year out of a six-year enlistment term. A task force (battalion-sized unit) heading to Kosovo shows how this will work (Tip to Stand-To!):

The ninth rotation of U.S. troops into Kosovo since 1999 will leave in mid-September with its 1,300 members of the Army National Guard and Reserves.

The rotation will last nine months, instead of the usual yearlong assignment. ...

The deployment, which includes a predeployment training of just 60 days instead of three months, reflects changes in Army mobilization policy for Kosovo, Davoren told Stars and Stripes in a phone interview from Camp Atterbury, Ind., where the task force is preparing.

Note that the policy doesn't slight training despite the loss of a month of pre-deployment training. The intent is that 5 or 6 ARNG combat brigades will be available each year. They will spend the previous 5 years gearing up with more training and new equipment as they approach their "on-call" year.

This is the template for the Guard as a whole. Though it will be several years before Kosovo policy can be applied globally.

Born for Greatness

Don't take talk of our decline based on fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan too serously. It arises at home and abroad on a fairly regular basis despite our continues rise to global dominance (tip to Real Clear Politics):

Are the declinists right about America’s impending demise? Perhaps. But perhaps they’re wrong: After all, declinism has a long history and a strange way of rearing its head when the U.S. is riding the waves of what Churchill called the “primacy of power.” Indeed, it is during periods of U.S. ascendance — or perhaps better said, periods that subsequently are recognized as having been ascendant — that the declinists usually start sounding the (false) alarms. The “decline and fall of America” mantra has become an almost-decennial prophecy.

We are not destined to sweep aside every threat we've faced, but we've done pretty well so far against monarchies, militarists, fascists, communists, managed economies, and post-conflict soft power, to stand astride the globe.

And to speak of our decline you must also ask who will replace us? Really, there aren't candidates for this job despite what you might read. Demographics aren't exactly catapulting any potential candidates past us:

The scope of the aging process is remarkable. By 2050 at least 20 percent of the citizens in these countries will be over 65; in Japan more than 33 percent will be. China alone will have more than 329 million people over 65. The populations of Germany, Japan, and Russia are expected to shrink significantly. Russia's population is already decreasing by nearly 700,000 people per year.

The aging problem in the other great powers is so severe that, in coming decades, they will lack the resources to overtake America's huge power advantages. Graying populations will hinder countries' economic growth as working-age populations (ages 15 to 64) shrink, and will strain governmental resources as public spending for retirees' pensions and healthcare balloons. This is true even for China, America's most likely future rival. Indeed, China's economic expansion is already threatened by labor shortages due to population aging. China is also particularly unprepared to pay for the costs of an aging population. China's elderly have very little savings, the government has set aside little money for their welfare, and the family structure (the traditional form of social security) is weakening. Exploding public elderly care costs are likely to force cuts in all other discretionary spending, including for economic development and defense.

Although America's population is also aging, this country is in much better shape. The United States is the "youngest" of all the Group of Eight nations. Because it has the highest fertility and immigration rates of all the great powers, it will maintain -- even strengthen -- this position in coming decades. America's working-age population as a result is expected to expand significantly in this period. Compared with other great powers, the United States also has a relatively well-funded pension system; its public welfare commitments to the elderly are modest; its citizens work many more hours per year and significantly later in life; and its tax burden is low.

Our economic, military, scientific, social, and demographic strengths have combined to place us at our present position. And even if we slip in one or two areas for a time, our breadth of power can allow us to recover. And nobody is positioned to catch up across this broad range.

It doesn't mean we must remain dominant, of course. We have to earn that every day. And remain committed to being dominant. Perhaps we're the only country that can knock us down from the top slot.

But a lot of people who thought we would slip up to their advantage are historical footnotes.

UPDATE: While Joel Achenbach cautions against assuming continued success, he says to bet on America:

But the burden of proof ought to be on the declinists. The evidence for our nation's downward spiral isn't sufficient to rule out the very opposite possibility: that the United States will become, in purely geopolitical terms, even stronger in coming decades. The mistake we make is not so much overestimating our problems, but underestimating the problems of our potential rivals. We think we're the only country with decline-and-fall issues.

Every despotism or socialist paradise that has tried to replace us (and this includes the European Union) has faltered. We may be replace one day as the top power, but not by the current crop of top-down stagnation masters. Let me know when a large technologically advanced democracy appears on the scene.

So maybe--if they resolve a whole bunch of problems-India will one day pass us.

But until then, I'd keep betting on America.

Invading Iraq Without Understanding the Local Culture

In a very good piece about the significance of the tribal movement from hostility to pro-government (or more accurately right now, to anti-al Qaeda), is this assessment of how al Qaeda alienated the local Sunni Arabs by ignoring local customs and practices in their effort to impose strict jihadi behavior during their period of alliance against the Shia-dominated Iraqi government:

But this alliance of convenience and mutual exploitation broke down when AQI began to apply the standard AQ method of cementing alliances through marriage. In Iraqi tribal society, custom (aadat) is at least as important as religion (deen) and its dictates, often pre-Islamic in origin, frequently differ from those of Islam. Indeed, as one tribal Iraqi put it to me, “if you ask a Shammari what religion he is, he will say ‘I am a Shammari’ ” – the Shammari being a confederation which, like many Iraqi tribes, has both Sunni and Shi’a branches.

Islam, of course, is a key identity marker when dealing with non-Muslim outsiders, but when all involved are Muslim, kinship trumps religion. And in fact, most tribal Iraqis I have spoken with consider AQ’s brand of “Islam” utterly foreign to their traditional and syncretic version of the faith. One key difference is marriage custom, the tribes only giving their women within the tribe or (on rare occasions to cement a bond or resolve a grievance, as part of a process known as sulha) to other tribes or clans in their confederation (qabila). Marrying women to strangers, let alone foreigners, is just not done. AQ, with their hyper-reductionist version of “Islam” stripped of cultural content, discounted the tribes’ view as ignorant, stupid and sinful.

This led to violence, as these things do: AQI killed a sheikh over his refusal to give daughters of his tribe to them in marriage, which created a revenge obligation (tha’r) on his people, who attacked AQI. The terrorists retaliated with immense brutality, killing the children of a prominent sheikh in a particularly gruesome manner, witnesses told us. This was the last straw, they said, and the tribes rose up. Neighboring clans joined the fight, which escalated as AQI (who had generally worn out their welcome through high-handedness) tried to crush the revolt through more atrocities. Soon the uprising took off, spreading along kinship lines through Anbar and into neighboring provinces.

Despite all the complaints of our failures (both real and imagined), it looks like we've done a better job of understanding the local culture than al Qaeda has.

You don't need to fight an error-free war. Just fight with fewer errors than your enemy.

Arms Race

Even as Iran and Syria arm up their jihadi buddies in Lebanon (Hezbollah, mostly), we continue to help the Lebanese army to fight jihadis and bolster the pro-Western government:

Washington and some of its Arab allies have airlifted supplies, mostly of ammunition, to the Lebanese army in the early days of the northern Lebanon fighting. The military in Lebanon is an all-volunteer force of 56,000, with about 220 battle tanks, no effective air power and no air defense system.

Murr, the defense minister, stressed in Wednesday's ceremony that arming the Lebanese army was a "vital necessity to defend Lebanon's sovereignty and existence and complete the war against terror."

He said it was a "joint interest" for countries to help Lebanon's military fight terrorism.

The United States has sharply increased its military assistance to Lebanon in the last year. U.S. military assistance surpassed $270 million in 2007, more than five times the amount Washington provided a year ago.

Players are jostling for position in the entire region. Many confrontations are brewing. My only question is whether these are all part of one looming confrontation.

Listen to What the Enemy Says (To Each Other)

Victor Hanson's site has an excellent review of jihadi talking points. Bruce Thornton spells it out:

Given that war, as both Sun Tzu and Mohammed preached, is deception, it behooves us to understand accurately the enemy’s motivations and not be fooled by his deceiving propaganda. Yet in the current war against Islamic jihad, the West has stubbornly refused to take seriously what the jihadists tell us, believing instead what Thucydides called the “pretexts” with which an enemy rationalizes his aggression. Osama bin Laden and his theorist Aymin al Zawahiri in particular have provided us with numerous texts outlining the Islamic foundations of their war against the West. A few of these pronouncements and manifestoes have long been available, but now thanks to Raymond Ibrahim’s The Al Qaeda Reader, writings previously unavailable in English can be studied and analyzed. Such study will provide powerful evidence that contrary to the deceptions of apologists and the na├»ve delusions of some Westerners, the bases of the jihadists’ actions lie squarely within Islamic tradition, not in the alleged Western crimes against Islam.

Fluent in Arabic and trained as a historian in the ancient Middle East, Ibrahim is currently a technician in the Library of Congress’ Near East Section, where he discovered al Qaeda documents that had not been translated into English. He has organized these writings into two sections: theology, writings intended for fellow Muslims that ground al Qaeda’s war against the West in the traditional Islamic doctrine of jihad; and propaganda, writings meant for Westerners that cast bin Laden’s war as a just response to the depredations of Western powers.

Doesn't the anti-war side find it terribly coincidental that the enemy talking points mirror the Left's critiques of our own society, policies, and government? Why would people with a different culture and history magically conclude what any gathering in a liberal arts faculty lounge in America spouts off about every day?

Our enemies hate us enough to kill us. So let's kill them instead, shall we?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't Fail Them at the Midterm Exam

The September reports are likely to show failures of the Iraqi government to meet certain benchmarks that Congress wants completed to show progress (or less charitably, Congress wants failures to justify retreating).

The Iraqi government is warning against prematurely declaring failure:

"The whole world is waiting anxiously to see what this report will indicate," Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told reporters. "I personally believe that this report would not provide any magical solutions or provide any instant answers to the difficulties and challenges we are going through."

The surge is in its early stage. It was never intended to win by September 2007. The surge was intended to change the vector in Iraq with new troops and--more importantly--new operational assumptions.

The September report should tell us if we've changed the vector.

Later assessments will tell us if the new direction will hold when the surge recedes.

Ultimately, we'll have to figure out when the direction is solid enough to draw down from pre-surge levels.

We have many months before the final exam is given. Let our people and the Iraqis get back to work.

Fire the Marketing Department

This site has Indian military news and resources.

It aims to explain Indian defense issues to a foreign audience. As a new ally, India is a nation we need to understand more.

While it is written in English, the unfortunate logo will cause problems over here. Though I understand that the logo doesn't have anywhere the same meaning in India.

Maybe they could try an axe and a bundle of sticks instead!

I took the time to email them and explain the slight marketing problem they have.

They could go the Hello Kitty route, I suppose. Heck, even the Chinese communists get it!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Brutality Doesn't Work for Long

Some war supporters want to bounce rubble in Iraq to win.

But that doesn't win the war. You can kill your way to sullen passivity in the locals, but winning hearts and minds really is the only way to win an insurgency for good.

Russia went postal on Chechens and snuffed out major resistance. But Russia has snuffed out major resistance periodically there for a century or so, I think.

And the locals are starting to recover from the beatings they received which did not, in fact, improve their morale. Nearby Ingushetia is showing signs of revolt:

In response to an escalation in attacks by insurgents, Moscow in late July sent in an additional 2,500 interior ministry troops, almost tripling the number of special forces in Ingushetia.

The escalation in violence shows that seven years after President Vladimir Putin came to power on a pledge to "wipe out" the insurgency in Russia's North Caucasus region that includes Chechnya and Ingushetia, the rebels are not beaten.

In Chechnya, attacks have grown rare, but the problems appear to have shifted next door.

Some people in Ingushetia draw parallels with Chechnya eight years ago. Then, after a lull in the fighting that had already dragged on for six years, troops were sent back in to respond to a wave of rebel attacks. That unleashed a new war.

Now in Ingushetia, reports emerge almost daily of gun battles or ambushes on police vehicles.

Our way in Iraq is producing an ally that fights alongside us against jihadi terrorists. Although it takes time, ultimately it won't take more time than the Russian method.

And a note to the nutcases out there, this is the difference between liberating a people and conquering them.

Bad Metrics

The international community is again beating us about the head and shoulders while our domestic Left cheers them on. This time it is our health care system. The world doesn't like it much and John Stossel is suspicious:

Michael Cannon, the Cato Institute's director of health policy studies, summed up what's wrong with the study: "The report does nothing more than reveal which nation does the worst job of satisfying the subjective preferences of the people who conducted this study."

Bad assumptions lead to bad metrics. Bad metrics lead to bad conclusions.

I suppose if you define beauty by girth and screechy volume, Rosie O'Donnell beats out Parker Posey or Meg Ryan. Or Jessica Alba. Or Grace Park, while I'm thinking of her. Or Jennifer Aniston.

Hey! This blogging is getting fun!

Erm, what were we discussing, again?

Oh, right. Metrics. I'm getting distracted here; but my point is, would any sane man with working eyes, functional ears, and a minimally sparking brain stem conclude that Rosie beats any of these women in the looks department? Or most women? Or even commercially available inflatable dolls? Choose the right metric, people.

When the values of the international community are imposed on us, we can look bad whether we are talking war or health care. Something to keep in mind as an American.

UPDATE: Engram describes how we do not in fact have 47 million impoverished working Americans (with families complete with John Edwards' coatless waifs coughing up bits of lung) who cannot afford health insurance. I'd read this inconvenient truth before, but didn't want to cite it without a reference. Thank you Engram.

And as long as I'm updating, Rosie is not more attractive than Liz Phair:

From Liz Phair's photo page.

Arthur K. said I needed to add control group pictures if I want to drive traffic.

If You Feel Oppressed, That Counts Too?

I find our political Left repulsive in many ways. I'm not talking your average Democrat or even your basic liberal. I hope I am clear about how I feel about the various shades of those on the other side of the war. It is the Left--a Left that can drive the policies of the other side and certainly drives the rhetoric--that I despise.

And one thing that forever drives me nuts is the repeated claims that the Bushtatorship has arrived or is about to be declared.

This article puts it well:

Well, this explains many things. It explains why poor Cindy Sheehan is now sitting in prison; why Bush critics like CIA retiree Valerie Plame have been ostracized by the corporate media and are wasting away in anonymity; why no critic of Bush can get a hearing, why no book complaining about him can ever get published, and why our multiplexes are filled with one pro-Bush propaganda movie after another, glorifying the Iraq war and rallying the nation behind its leader.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, Cindy Sheehan is running for Congress; Valerie Plame is rich and famous; the young Republican "thugs" made all of one appearance seven years ago--chanting "Let us in!" when Miami-Dade County vote counters planned to move to a small inner room with no observers present; and press censorship is now so far-reaching that you can't even expose a legal, effective, and top-secret plan to trace terrorists without getting a Pulitzer Prize. "What if the publisher of a major U.S. newspaper were charged with treason or espionage?" Wolf asks breathlessly. "What if he or she got 10 years in jail?" Well, journalists have been harassed, pressed for their sources, and threatened with prison, but not by George W. Bush and his people. Back in the real world, only one prominent journalist has been jailed by the federal government in recent memory, and that was Judith Miller, imprisoned for 80-plus days for contempt by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, the great hero of the anti-Bush forces for having indicted Vice President Cheney's chief of staff.

And let me add that is a strange dictatorship where the state television and radio (PBS and NPR) are relentlessly critical of the war and the president.

Lefties who think we are oppressed by our government are just plain loony. I don't really care how they feel about it.

And yes, the Right had its share of loonies back during the Clinton administration. I paid them no mind. And the press rightly ridiculed them and marginalized them. They got no traction.

I wish our press spend the same amount of effort pointing out the idiocy of the Lefty conspiracy-theorists. I guess the press and the Left share the same view of a vast right wing conspiracy.

An Interesting Admission

The Left is not amused at thought deviation (Tip to Real Clear Politics):

The intensity of the left's determination to abandon Iraq was reflected in the reaction to a single line in Hillary Clinton's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week. "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq," she said, referring to the surge, "and in some areas, particularly al-Anbar province, it's working."

That mild comment instantly drew fire from Clinton's Democratic rivals. John Edwards's campaign manager, David Bonior, warned her against "undermining the effort in the Congress to end this war."

What? Even mild dissent isn't the highest form of patriotism?

Speaking truth to power is bad? Well, sometimes, I guess.

Surely, you can't be telling me that mere words can undermine what you are attempting to do?

Hey, when the only war you are willing to fight for is the 2008 presidential election, you have to snuff out any talk that prevents you from winning.

Missing the Point

South Korea might adjust their sea border with North Korea southward. This South Korean diplomatic gambit contemplated by the government is foolish:

The two Koreas have yet to agree on their sea border more than 50 years after the end of their 1950-53 war. Instead, they rely on a line that the then-commander of U.N. forces, which fought for the South, drew unilaterally at the end of the conflict.

Conservatives in South Korea have long considered the Northern Limit Line, or NLL, an unquestionable sea border. But liberals have increasingly viewed it as a major source of military tension on the divided peninsula, and an obstacle impeding true reconciliation with Pyongyang.

The division came to the fore when Lee said earlier this month that he believed the sea border was not formally set, and that the nation should "reflect on" a 2002 naval skirmish with the North in terms of how best to maintain security.

What exactly is the point of giving in to North Korea on the sea border? If the South Korean government believes that such a gesture will satisfy North Korean border demands, they're seriously deluded. North Korea does not accept the legal existence of South Korea, period. Any concession will just be another way point on the goal of pushing the South Koreans to the Pusan Perimeter (figuratively, of course).

South Korean leadership might want to seriously reflect on that inconvenient North Korean outlook.

A Long Time Coming

We are still feeling the impact of our defeat in Vietnam:

This thesis is still somewhat new and controversial--but there is enough truth to it that it is beginning to stick. Whatever the failures of American strategy in Vietnam, there is no doubt that the anti-war left pushed for American failure and accomplished it by persistent and vigorous legislation. And that is the crucial issue. If the architects of the Vietnam War in the Johnson administration can be criticized (as Moyar does) for not doing enough to win the war, the later anti-war left actively pursued American defeat and humiliation as their goal. They didn't merely want us to withdraw; they wanted us to lose, and they did whatever was necessary to make sure that happened.

So instead of being a story of the failure of imperialist, war-mongering Republicans, the Vietnam War was the story of two separate failures by Democrats. The Democrats who started the war held back from using the force necessary to win it--and the Democrats who ended the war deliberately knocked all of the remaining props out from under the South Vietnamese government to ensure the defeat of an American ally.

This is the wider Vietnam story that the left has never understood. They have always regarded Vietnam and Watergate as the glory days they long to relive. It was a time in which their political faction was temporarily triumphant, hounding two hated presidents out of office in disgrace.

But for everyone else, those events and their aftermath--the whole "national malaise" of the 1970s--was a painful period of national humiliation, for which we are still paying the price. The collapse of American power and credibility, combined with the "Vietnam Syndrome" that enshrined timidity as the cornerstone of American foreign policy, emboldened the Soviet Union and encouraged its invasion of Afghanistan--which gave birth to the "mujahadeen," the movement that gave Osama bin Laden his start and established his reputation. It also led to President Carter's withdrawal of support for the shah of Iran, which assured the success of the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution.

So the twin pillars of the contemporary Islamist threat--al-Qaeda and the Islamic Republic of Iran--owe their origins to the collapse of American power in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. What new disasters wait to be spawned in the aftermath of a self-imposed defeat in Iraq?

And the terrible thing is, it didn't have to be that way. By 1974 and 1975, American draftees were not being killed in Vietnam. The Left succeeded in getting us out of Vietnam. Unfortunately, the Left really wanted us to lose in Vietnam. So they cut off funding for South Vietnam, refused to let our Air Force or Navy help our ally, and stopped anyone else we provided aid to from supplying South Vietnam. North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam.

What shocks me is the statement that this view of a war we could have won is only recently emerging. When I was but a lad, in an introductory political science class at the University of Michigan, my teaching assistant asked me what I thought would have happened if we hadn't cut off aid. I told him I thought that South Vietnam would be independent today. To my shock, he said that he thought that was quite possible. He was to become a Navy officer, as it turns out. I hope he's an admiral by now.

I welcome the new thesis. Will the dominoes first unleashed in 1975 keep falling? Or do we finally stop the Left's childish game of overturning the board when they don't like the results?

UPDATE: Mark Moyar explains his research on the dominoes that didn't fall:

It is also a mistake to assert, as many have asserted in recent days, that the United States never should have intervened in Vietnam in the first place because Vietnam was predestined to become capitalist. In my research, I found that American intervention in Vietnam saved Indonesia from going Communist in 1965. It probably also prevented countries such as Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia from becoming Communist or pro-Communist. Furthermore, American intervention fractured the Sino-North Vietnamese alliance and tamed China. In the absence of these developments, socialism might well have persisted in Vietnam and other Asian countries to this day.

President Bush has shown that he is up to speed on the latest historical discoveries on Vietnam. Those who are inclined to disagree should first get up to speed themselves.

I don't know why this is a new discovery. This concept has always seemed rather self evident. Even though we didn't need to lose in 1975, losing in 1975 preserved a lot that would have been lost if we'd been defeated in 1965 or hadn't fought at all. Remember, we fought in Vietnam as part of the Cold War struggle against communism. Without that context, we never would have fought there. So you cannot evaluate the Vietnam War withoug judging the whole Cold War context. Honestly, those historians ridiculing President Bush over his analogy are just making fools of themselves. It's almost as if they value their politics above their history!

No Golan War?

The Israelis are pulling back ground troops from the Golan Heights region:

The decision by Israel's military followed months of growing tensions along the frontier and concerns that the escalation could result in war. Over the summer, media reports of impending war alternated with announcements by Syrian and Israeli leaders that they had no interest in hostilities.

The Israeli officials said Syria's military has now reduced its war readiness, but offered no details because the exact steps taken by the Syrians are classified.

I never thought that Syria was seriously considering a ground attack on Israel. Their strategy seemed more likely to be a terror and missile war with dug-in infantry along the border fighting defensively to bleed any Israeli ground attack, like the Hizbollah War of last summer. Syrian action would be in coordination with any Hizbollah and/or Hamas rocket barrage.

So Israel must see something regarding Syria's missile forces, I'd guess.

And of course, this doesn't mean that Hizbollah and Hamas won't strike while Syria stands aside.

Fear and Loathing in Moscow

Russia has been cozying up to China, selling them advanced Russian weaponry and otherwise cooperating with China in an effort to contain us. At least a bit--they still like to trade with us.

China is a rising power (for the moment, anyway) and sees us as the obstacle standing in their way. It is somewhat natural for the Chinese to think this way, though I don't have to like it.

But what about the Russians? Just what the heck are they thinking they get out of this? Absent provoking a US-Chinese war that takes us both down a number of pegs to allow them to move up relatively speaking in the power rankings, the Russians are foolish to arm up China. Yes, the Russians loathe us for defeating them in the Cold War. But the Russians need to appreciate that a little fear of the giant they are building up next to them could stomp on them one day.

The Chinese will eventually look north and get all nostalgic for that land the czars took from imperial China. The Russians would be better served to take their place in the West rather than pretend to be a new and improved Soviet Union. And they should do it before we decide we don't want their kind (or rather, the kind of state they are becoming) in the West.

Fear should trump loathing in any rational calculation.

Uncertain Path

Sadr claims his militia will stand down for a short period:

The aide, Sheik Hazim al-Araji, said on Iraqi state television that the goal was to "rehabilitate" the organization, which has reportedly broken into factions, some of which the U.S. maintains are trained and supplied by Iran.

"We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," al-Araji said, reading from a statement by al-Sadr.

What is going on here? Sadr has been vacationing a lot in Iran since the surge started. And his militia has fragmented with some being trained and perhaps controlled directly by Iran. Others are drifting away, uncomfortable with death squad activities and fearful of American and Iraqi army attention. And Sadr's reputation among Shias has been tarnished by his ties to Iran.

Is this a ploy to get his guys off the streets while American and Iraq government forces kill and capture rival rogue elements and those controlled by Iran?

Is Sadr regrouping prior to an al Tet offensive next month?

Has the Iraqi government managed to strike a deal with Sadr to give up armed resistance and work purely within the democratic process?

The first may mean he is waiting to see which way the wind blows before deciding on the second or third course. The second means he is going for broke. The third means he is giving up.

I have no idea what this means.

But this information is probably related.

Boy, I can't wait until the mullahs have nukes!

I'm sure that when they have nuclear missiles Iran's mullahs will be far more reasonable and peaceful, secure in the defense provided by atomic weapons.

Not that the reality-based community will accept this information.

UPDATE: This is a useful breakdown of what is refered to as the Mahdi Army:

The Mahdi Loyalists: These are Muqtada al Sadr's true believers. They receive support from Iran.

Iranian-back Mahdi Army: These groups are what Multinational Forces Iraq describes as the "rogue" Mahdi Army. As Sadr lost operational control, Iran's Qods Force stepped in and took over direct control. The rogue Mahdi Army (along with the special groups, who are often one in the same) receive funding, weapons, training, and operational guidance from Qods Force, and in some cases cells are led by Iranians. The rogue Mahdi Army and special groups are essentially Iraqi Hezbollah.

Mahdi Criminal Elements: These are criminal gangs that fight under the guise of the Mahdi Army. This provides the criminal gangs with political cover, and provides with Sadr the ability to inflate his ranks and wield more power.

Mahdi Nationalists: These are the nationalist, anti-Iranian elements of the Mahdi Army which largely support Sadr due to loyalty to his father. The Nationalist elements form the "Noble Mahdi Army," which has agreed to work with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces.

Allied Shia: These are Shia groups that allied with the Mahdi Army as they feared violence from al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents. These groups turned to the Mahdi Army for protection due to a distrust of the Iraqi Security Forces or a lack of a security presence. Some of these allied groups have been pressed into service by the Mahdi Army. Elements of the Allied Shia are part of the "Noble Mahdi Army."

Some we must kill and defeat. Some we can flip to our side. And some are just criminals or opportunists who will run when there are no longer advantages to calling themselves "Mahdi Army."

These guys are a threat, but don't paint them as ten feet tall. We can take them down as we've taken down every other threat to the Iraqi government.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Self Defense Begins at Home

Even with troops and police living out in the field, they cannot protect everyone. Civilians cannot be protected when insurgents and terrorists first arrive where security forces are absent.

As I've argued, we need Local Defense Forces in Iraq as the first line of defense (well, second if you call good intelligence and recon the first line):

Could we form local defense forces and then recruit out of the militias? Pay them, equip them, lead them, and supervise them?

We don't want the Shia death squads. We need the Shias to defend themselves. But we don't want forces loyal to Iran or Sadr doing the protecting. And we sure as heck don't need to be blamed for every jihadi car bomb that goes off in a Shia neighborhood because Shias believe we won't let them defend themselves.

We need Local Defense Forces in Iraq. And peeling militia members away from Sadr is the way to build such a force.

Well, at least with the Sunni Arabs, we're getting them and they are working. This is what the defections of Sunni Arabs means:

This improvement, like the others, has been largely effected by volunteers who are now taking an active role in the establishment and maintenance of security in their neighborhoods. Some are former insurgents; all are unpaid. Still, according to the U.S. military, they are swearing their loyalty to the Iraqi government and openly repudiating al Qaeda.

And this concept must be broadened to Shias as I've advocated. While we can decry the Iranian-influenced Shias who acted as death squads, the bulk of Sadr's militias really were protecting their neighborhoods. We need to split these local defense forces from the thugs in the pay of Persians. Lieutenant General Odierno explains this aspect:

ASKED about Muqtada al-Sadr, Odierno responded: "He's a figurehead . . . erratic in his behavior . . . unpredictable. . . but he's the individual who reaches out to the Shia nobody else reaches out to. The problem is that he's lost control of some parts of his movement, the Special Groups and others - many of whom are funded by Iran.

"We need to separate those elements and kill or capture them - while working with those closer to the mainstream."

As for the militias that have alternately plagued Iraq and protected the people along sectarian lines, the general is convinced that "we must deal with the militia problem. . . Wherever possible, they'll have to be integrated into the security forces."

Local defense forces work. Properly screened, supervised, and supported, we will have a nation-in-arms hostile to insurgents and terrorists, tripping up and identifying the enemy whenever they try to move, and drawing in deadly conventional ground and air forces to pursue them and kill them.


LTG Odierno worries about southern Iraq:

"First, I worry about Shia extremism and Iranian interference, which is increasing. In the long term, Iraqis won't allow Iranians to take over their country - but, in the short term, I'm worried about Basra and the Port of Um Qasr."

Why is there this worry? Well, the British are in charge of Basra and the region but are planning to withdraw, and events on the ground don't seem to be slowing them down:

The last contingent of British soldiers based in the center of this southern city will leave by Friday, says a senior Iraqi security official, adding that a deal has been struck with leaders of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army to ensure their safe departure.

That's nice. The Idiot Sadr is their negotiating partner. Pulling out from Basra is just a step to getting out of southern Iraq.

This worries us greatly:

Gen Jack Keane, architect of the US "surge", said the British are more focused on training Iraqi troops than controlling "deteriorating" security.

He added that there is a "general disengagement" by UK forces in Basra.

Meanwhile, the US military's deputy commander in Iraq said Britain was on track to hand over responsibility to Iraqi forces in Basra later this year. ...

Gen Raymond Odierno told the BBC that a final assessment on whether the handover should go ahead would be made next month, but added that the US would not send troops to Basra when the British forces withdrew.

We may not need to send troops to Basra, since the Iraqis are sending a brigade to the city. But that is a separate issue of whether we need to send troops to southern Iraq outside of Basra, including Um Qasr. I wrote that we will need to send troops to southern Iraq just to protect our supply lines to our forces in central and western Iraq.

Our troops don't pull bullets, bandages, beans, and batteries out of their collective butts. They have to be trucked in every day. I cannot imagine we will leave that supply line to the mercy of Shia unauthorized militias and Iranian good will. We may not occupy Basra, but we will send a brigade or two to police the roads from Kuwait to the Euphrates at the very least.

This is the basic reason that I think calls to withdraw our troops to Kurdish regions are pure idiocy.

We Must Have Been Stoned to Believe This

Some opponents of the war in Afghanistan have claimed that the war has made things worse, invoking the claim that the Taliban actually cooperated with us to fight drugs back in the 1990s. (And I apologize for the vagueness of this statement, I'm going by memory and not pointing to a specific article.) With drug crops big right now, this development is supposed to be another indictment of the war that failed to see through to unintended consequences.

I never bought the idea that it was worth having a jihadi state in exchange for reduced drug traffic. To me, making that trade was worthwhile, but that's my opinion.

However, this trade off never actually existed:

It's a myth that the Taliban cracked down on the drug trade back then. For one year, the Taliban went through the motions of shutting down the drug business. They did this in order to qualify for foreign aid, which was money they desperately needed. But the drug taxes continued to roll in. That year, the drug gangs had a surplus of stuff to move, and the Taliban shut down many poppy growing operations, with foreign reporters looking on, to keep the surplus from getting any larger.

So, the Taliban didn't actually fight the drug trade. They were merely willing to play along to get our aid and in the process prop up drug prices to their benefit. Our press was willing to go along without probing whether this drug-fighting claim was true. And we were (and many still are) willing to believe their charade.

Heck, I believed it. That's all I've read. But this conventional wisdom apparently was not based on fact.

Go figure.

Monday, August 27, 2007

War By Press Release

Many writers have commented on the Taliban policy of reporting civilian casualties when there are none. Simply fighting among civilians to provoke civilian deaths hasn't worked as well as our enemies hoped given our training and equipment, so they just started claiming deaths without so much as a body as a backdrop.

NATO is finally calling the Taliban on this:

The U.S.-led coalition made the claim Monday after Afghan elders alleged that up to 18 civilians were killed late Sunday by coalition troops in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold.

Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a coalition spokeswoman, said credible intelligence suggested the claims were fabricated as part of a propaganda war. "The insurgents continue to follow their pattern of falsely reporting civilian casualties," she said.

NATO-led forces, whose operations in Helmand are being supported by U.S.-led coalition troops and aircraft, insist that no noncombatants were killed in the fighting. The claims could not be independently verified due to the remoteness of the area where the clash took place.

Reports of civilian casualties at the hands of foreign forces are highly sensitive in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly deplored such deaths, saying they undermine efforts to win the trust of the people.

You'd think that this strategy would clearly fail. But the strategy relies on our press to spread the certainty of collateral damage, so it has a real shot at working.

Remember, even if a tree doesn't fall in the woods but our press tells you it did, it will make a very loud noise.

How Deep Is the Conspiracy?

With hard core Leftists going on about how the White House is deviously planning to write the Petraeus report on Iraq (and other Leftists covering their bases by saying that Petraeus can't be trusted to write the report), Blackfive notes what I wrote about earlier. Says Blackfive:

There has been some talk in the press and on the blogs that suggests the White House intends to tamper with -- or simply write -- General Petraeus' assessment to Congress. In a discussion today with a DOD Legislative Affairs expert, we got the truth.

Congress itself mandated by law who will assemble each of the several reports due in September. It also, separately, mandated that General Petraeus be available to testify to them at this time.

Public Law 110-28 specifes that "the President, having consulted with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Commander, Multi-National Forces-Iraq, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, and the Commander of U.S. Central Command, will prepare the report and submit the report to Congress."

Yet another entry in the Pantheon of Plastic Turkey Issues.

So either another conspiracy fantasy is way off the mark--or perhaps the conspiracy is really, really, good. Just where is Rove, anyway?

Joining the Parade in Iraq

I wrote that the Sunni Arab leadership might find that refusal to deal with the Shias and Kurds to arrange terms of surrender was being made a moot point by bottom-up deals between the US military and Sunni Arab insurgents to fight al Qaeda instead. Local Sunni Arab leaders might find themselves elevated in status and pushing aside the current leaders who won't lead.

So, is this development the result of Sunni Arab leaders realizing that they are running out of time to rush to the front of the parade and pose as the leaders of the parade (Tip to Instapundit)?

Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, and fellow leaders in the country have reached consensus on key areas of national reconciliation, under mounting US pressure to demonstrate political progress on the eve of a key report to Congress on the Baghdad security "surge".

The Shia prime minister appeared on television flanked by Jalal Talabani, the country's Kurdish president, and the Sunni vice-president, Tareq al-Hashemi, to announce a deal on easing restrictions on former members of the Ba'ath party joining the civil service and military.

Easing de-Ba'athification laws passed after the 2003 US invasion has long been seen as a vital step if disenchanted Sunnis, who formed the backbone of Saddam Hussein's regime and, since its fall, of the insurgency, are to be persuaded to take part in Iraqi political life.

Agreement was also reported on holding provincial elections and releasing detainees held without charge across the country, two more of the "benchmarks" set by the Bush administration for political movement it hopes will stave off mounting congressional demands for a withdrawal from Iraq.

With al Qaeda on the receiving end of a Sunni Arab-Shia-Kurdish alliance, the Sunni-based insurgencies and terrorism will finally be defeated.

And in the face of this alliance, the remaining Iranian-supported Shia thugs will be outclassed and outnumbered. These Sadr thugs will be easily portrayed as foreign Persian puppets (as they are) and will further serve to unify Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Sunni Kurds inside a single Iraqi state.

Iraq will be less unitary than under Saddam, but it will be a stronger country nonetheless, based on shared interests. And a common enemy.

Despite the hard fighting still going on, there remains the real possibility that enemy resistance could collapse dramatically over a far shorter time span than appears likely at the moment.


China's booming economy is fueled by overseas trade that lies far beyond China's capacity to defend.

India has the naval power to stop China's oil imports from the Middle East and Africa.

And India's air force is expanding its scope of action to further increase India's ability to interdict Chinese energy supplies (via my Jane's email updates):

India is revising its defence doctrine and envisions the extension of the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) strategic reach from the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca; transforming itself into an air power as part of a move to cover the full spectrum of defence. The initial draft of the doctrine, which has been created under the supervision of newly appointed IAF Commander Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, is likely to undergo a "few" revisions before being finalised, official sources said.

No matter the periodic ups and downs of normal diplomatic tussling, this capability pretty much ensures that China will view India as a potential enemy. No matter how friendly these two growing powers could be, India's ability to choke off China's economy will be a prospect too frightening for China to ignore.

Fear is a powerful motivator and with domestic tranquility resting on near-breakneck economic progress, the communists in Peking will always view India as a potential threat to their economy and ultimately their rule, and not as a potential friend.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pressure Cooker

Traditionally, letting people escape impoverished countries is a safety valve to preserve the regime. For some time now, North Koreans have been successfully escaping North Korea.

The North Korean regime has finally decided that the potential for perhaps encouraging a mass exodus must be ended:

North Korea has started building a fence along parts of its border with China, a news report said Sunday, in an apparent move to prevent North Koreans from fleeing the impoverished communist country.

The North has put in place posts along a six-mile stretch along a narrow tributary of the Yalu River, which marks the border between North Korea and China, and has also built a road to guard the area, Yonhap news agency reported.

The North has yet to string barbed wire between the posts, Yonhap reported.

The problem is, a Berlin Wall-type barrier designed to stop embarassing refugee flight away from the regime requires a government powerful enough to suppress the unrest that no longer has a safety valve that vents discontent abroad.

Does the Pillsbury Nuke Boy have the power to keep the lid on the pressure cooker he is constructing?

UPDATE: Is this related?

Kim Jong Nam, 36, traveled from China to Pyongyang in late June, and his return "has decisive relations to the power transfer," the man told The Associated Press by telephone from the U.S. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue.

Could the regime be planning transition events that the regime fears could send people running for the border?

Nationbuilding and Enemycrushing

Major General Lynch describes the formula for handing off security duties to Iraqis:

This is going to take some time. You know, we've always said the level of coalition forces is a function of three things. It's the level of the insurgency, it's the capability of Iraqi security forces, and it's the capacity of the Iraqi government at the national, provincial and local levels.

I've explained this before. Not only do we want to build up Iraqi military capabilities, we want to degrade enemy capabilities. Making sure our allies are relatively better than the enemy is the key--and not making Iraqi army units equal to ours. And of course the government and society sukpporting the security forces must be robust enough to win.

We are succeeding. But it is going to take some time. How much time depends on whether the enemy reaches a breaking point and collapses or whether we must grind them down gradually.

A political settlement with the remnant Sunni Arab population would help isolate the remaining fanatics. If leaders from the bottom up keep cutting deals with our forces, pretty soon Sunni Arab "leaders" may find they need to catch up before they are irrelevant.

Features and Not Bugs

Let's take a stroll through the war and examine some myths and realities.

First, the talks with Iran over their nuclear ambitions continue to go on, as they have for years now. Talks with our enemies, as all Nuanced American know, should eventually reach that "eureka!" moment when enemies see how their emnity was always the result of misunderstandings.

So what of the Iranians and their nuclear ambitions? Have they eased up even a bit? Well, no:

"There has been no slowing down, no halt and no retreat. Our activities continue on the same basis we began our peaceful nuclear program," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

Hosseini was responding to speculation that the threat of more U.N. Security Council sanctions may have forced Iran to slow down its disputed uranium enrichment program.

Talks have always been a means to an end for the Iranians. And mutual understanding is not among those ends. Every conference is another centrifuge up and running. Every meaningless joint statement means another engineering detail is nailed down. Every agreement is one that "slows" a narrow area not currently needed while key programs roll forward unimpeded. What's not to like about talks from the Iranian perspective?

Next door in Iraq, the Iraqis continue to react to American politicians urging regime change in Iraq:

Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting to hold his government together, issued a series of stinging ripostes against a variety of foreign officials who recently have spoken negatively about his leadership. But those directed at Democrats Clinton, of New York, and Levin, of Michigan, were most strident.

"There are American officials who consider Iraq as if it were one of their villages, for example Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin. They should come to their senses," al-Maliki said at a news conference.

We set up Iraq's government to prevent a strongman from restoring a dictatorship. Have we learned nothing from Russia where a strong elected president has evolved into a new czar? And now, our left side of the political spectrum is calling for a strongman to get the result they want in Iraq--a strongman who will repress resistance enough to call it peace (and Iraqi democracy can take a flying leap).

Yes, I admit that this would actually be major progress over Saddam's regime. But it is amazing that so-called "progressives" would advocate such a surrender of democratic ideals and freedom.

We must work with the system we set up in Iraq because in the long run, a system that prevents a thug from arising is more important than the short term advantage of crushing resistance with brutality. And in practice, as the Russians demonstrated in Chechnya, cruelty and a heavy hand don't provide faster results. Patience, oh nervous ones. Patience.

Perhaps this is not so amazing, really, when you consider the fevered rantings of our hard core Left upon which progressives rely for their most fervent support. Our Left always seems to embrace the qualities they claim President Bush stands for. They see a Bushtatorship threatening every week yet it never seems to arrive. Even flipping Congress to the opposition without martial law being declared to stop it hasn't stopped that talk.

But the talk now includes advocating military intervention in our government to get the results that our Left wants but which our democratic process will not give them (tip to Instapundit):

General Pace - you have the power to fulfill your responsibility to protect the troops under your command. Indeed you have an obligation to do so.

You can relieve the President of his command.

Not of his Presidency. But of his military role as Commander-In-Chief.

You simply invoke the Uniform Code Of Military Justice.

Martin Lewis advocates a military coup under the color of law. But if it deposes President Bush, it is ok, he says. There is no thought to the long term harm to our nation of having a military expected to save us from our politicans (really, with our officer corps, will a progressive presidency last long?). Nor does Lewis consider the harm that politicizing our military will do to our military--a harm far worse than anything Lewis sees happening today at war (in addition to forgetting that the military exists to defend us and not simply to exist while our interests fall about us). The bonus is that the Left could blame Bush for this dictatorship that they invoke (he made us do it!).

Oh, and Lewis is wrong about President Bush having no military medals as opposed to General Pace. As a former Guard pilot, President Bush has some medals. And since Lewis is trying to imply that he with the most medals wins, let me ask how many medals Martin Lewis has. And then compare his awards to President Bush's military decoratons.

In the end, our progressive left cares about results, and democracy is only a means. One of many means that is ultimately to be sacrificed if it cannot lead to the greater Lefty paradise on Earth that they wish to bless our benighted nation with. (Recall how Castro's crimes are excused by by our Left with the wildly inaccurate claim that his universal health care actually benefits Cubans.)

And finally, Moslem jihadis struck India:

A pair of almost simultaneous bombings blamed on Islamic extremists tore through a popular family restaurant and an outdoor arena on Saturday night, killing at least 42 people in this southern Indian city plagued by Hindu-Muslim tensions.

The restaurant was destroyed by the bomb placed at the entrance. Blood-covered tin plates and broken glasses littered the road outside.

The other blast struck a laser show at an auditorium in Lumbini park, leaving pools of blood and dead bodies between rows of seats punctured by shrapnel. Some seats were hurled 100 feet away.

Officials said Sunday that foreign-based Islamic extremists may have been behind the attacks.

Ah yes, India is obviously reaping the results of their cultural imperialism, economic dominance, role in the Crusades, and of course their war effort in Iraq. It is no wonder that jihadis target Indians!

Nearly six years after 9/11, can we not finally accept that the jihadis hate non-jihadis, including Christians, nominally Christians, Leftists who believe all the right things, Hindus, Jews, and the vast majority of Moslems, too. It is futile to keep asking why they hate "us." "Us" encompasses far more people than our progressive Left imagines.

We have to stop looking for reasons to ignore the evidence that everyday events provide us about our world and the war we are in.

UPDATE: I'm kicking myself for not thinking of this title regarding the Martin Lewis fantasy:

"All we are saying is give Pace a chance."

Steyn, you magnificent son of a ...

Miles to Go Before We Sleep

I have not joined in the triumphalism of some war supporters who heralded the decline in deaths in the Baghdad area because of the surge. Even as the trend has lasted longer than I feared it might, I have not declared the surge a success based on casualties. As tempting as it would be to jump on the victory bandwagon, it would not be honest for me to do so.

I have not called it a success because I never liked the idea of judging the surge by the levels of civilian deaths. Six months ago, I wrote:

Are we really saying that we will define whether our surge is successful based on the number of attacks over the next six months?

This is what I'm worrying about. Certainly, victory in the end will be signalled by the great reduction of enemy violence. Eventually. But in the near term, this is problematic. An enemy determined to fight can pull off spectacular kills even with our troops all over the place. Terrorists need only the will to kill and nearby civilians grouped together.

And if there is little violence, it could mean the enemy is waiting until we leave as much as it means we have won. This metric of levels of violence assumes near-term success can be achieved when a counter-insurgency against a well-financed and fanatical enemy could go on a decade more.

I would rather have a metric of success that judges whether we have prepared Iraqis to fight this decade-long fight. If we have done that, even if the violence in Baghdad is roughly the same, we can call it a victory. But if we truly are judging the surge based on ending violence, unless the enemy suddenly breaks, I fear we are setting ourselves up for a paper defeat. Which in our political environment will quickly be translated into actual defeat.

We need a surge of patience in Iraq more than anything else. The plan we have is reasonable. The hopes we have for it may be dangerously unreasonable.

So when I read an AP article noting that already in 2007, the overall civilian death rate is higher than in all of 2006, my fears of judging the surge incorrectly could be coming true:

Nearly 1,000 more people have been killed in violence across Iraq in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2006. So far this year, about 14,800 people have died in war-related attacks and sectarian murders. AP reporting accounted for 13,811 deaths in 2006. The United Nations and other sources placed the 2006 toll far higher.

Declining deaths now do not yet erase the massive killings that took place over the last 12 months. It is far too easy for killers devoted to mass murder to kill innocents who try to live their lives. As I wrote about the initial signs of reduced deaths:

For this trend to be significant and sustained in the long run, it must be the result of political progress enabled by military actions and not from direct military pressure. As I've mentioned, levels of casualties are a troubling metric for me.

If the movement of Sunni Arabs away from terrorism and toward the government can be sustained, our surge will be a success.

And when that movement has advanced enough, we will be able to track down the killers and discourage new killers from coming to Iraq. And only then will civilian casualties go down.

Dramatically reduced civilian deaths will be the result of victory, not a metric of demonstrating the progress toward victory.

Our burden seems heavy. But we cannot yet set it down. Nor even think too much about the day when we will rest.

Do we have the patience to understand this? And act on it?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nye Onto Idiocy

Our Left doesn't like President Bush reminding American of how the Left betrayed our victory in Vietnam. Our Left doesn't like this because they want to abandon Iraq and so have every motive to deny that they betrayed South Vietnam or that this so-called betrayal had any bad effects after all.

Our Left doesn't understand Vietnam and surely doesn't understand Iraq.

Wehner reacts to an NPR interview with Joseph Nye the same way I did. Wehner quotes Nye, which matches my recollection, with offering this comparison:

But I guess the closest would be Vietnam in the sense that we've gotten ourselves into a war against the nationalistically mobilized population, which were not in the process of winning. And the difference with all analogies break down is that after we got out of Vietnam, the people who took over were the North Vietnamese. And that was a government which preserved order. And the problem in Iraq is who's going to preserve order after we get out? So like all analogies, it's imperfect. But I guess that would be the closest.

Even if you ignore our defeat of the domestic Viet Cong after Tet and the replacement of southern recruits by North Vietnamese recruits to insist that there was a nationistically mobilized opposition to us in Vietnam, to extend this to Iraq is ridiculous. There has been a Sunni-based nationalist resistance to the toppling of Saddam's regime. Perhaps it is chauvinistic because of its narrow appeal, but surely not nationalistic to imply that the Sunni Arab goals reflect Kurdish or Shia goals.

And second, is Nye serious in just tossing off that "preserving order" comment? He implies that it is a good thing that North Vietnam, after invading and conquering South Vietnam, imposed order with reeducation camps, despotism, and mass refugee movement with boat people and the high loss of life that went along with it. That was preserving order! Good God, people. This is an example of liberal compassion? (Oh, yes it is, in fact.)

Where does National Public Radio get these people? Already, they had another guest who thought the results of our defeat in South Vietnam for the region wasn't so bad and if we plan our retreat from Iraq, then the results will be just fine, too:

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.

And this isn't restricted to NPR guests. Check out this writer, Michael Hirsh:

Yes, a lot of Vietnamese boat people died on the high seas; but many others have returned to visit in the ensuing years. Above all, we have learned that Vietnam and Southeast Asia were never really central fronts in the cold war (although Korea at the time of the outbreak of war in 1950, when Beijing still kowtowed to Moscow and before the Soviet Union and China split, might have fit that bill). The decision to pull out had very little effect on the ultimate outcome. America triumphed in the cold war because it had the right kind of economy—an open one—compared to Moscow and Beijing, and its ideas about freedom were more attractive to the states within the Soviet bloc than their own failed ideas were.

Good grief, is he still on a bong bender from 1971? He argues our withdrawal from Vietnam worked!

See? Not all the boat people drowned at sea! Some survivors today visit Vietnam, so the dead don't count! And ask other historians such as John Keegan about the effect of our resisting the Soviets in Vietnam on Europeans in thrall to the hidden Soviet hand of "Eurocommunism" then running wild in France and Italy. Speak about the decade of progress in Thailand and Indonesia and Malyasia that allowed them to endure the collapse of Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam in 1975, when in 1965 the results could have been far different. And recall the advances the Soviet bloc made in the 1970s in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America in addition to the victories in Southeast Asia. Victory did not seem so foreordained then.

Remember that in 1975, people in our country spoke openly of how our now obvious superior economic system would evolve into a socialism closer to the USSR. And recall how so many in the West denied our concept of political freedom was superior to the "freedom" supposedly offered by communism and socialism from the uncertainties of market capitalism.

No impact on the outcome? Yes, we overcame the impact of defeat. But there was an impact without a doubt.

Hirsh forgets much in his piece. I hope Americans are not similarly foolish or forgetful.

Idiocy. Pure idiocy. And if I wanted to quote all the idiocy I'd run afoul of copyright laws by posting every last bit including the byline. Hirsh has a lot of nerve taking a shot at the President's command of political science.

Even a British author sees the obvious results of the Left's domination of their party over Vietnam policy:

In historical perspective, the Democrats do not come well out of the Vietnam debacle.

Mackubin Owens has a fine word for the people who think that we did not throw away a victory we earned at a high price in Vietnam and mock the President's comparison:

Bugs Bunny had a name for people like this: “maroons.” And Alan Dershowitz once wrote a book about them entitled Chutzpah!

A good word. Still, I'll leave the last word to Scrappleface.

Our Lefties really haven't a clue, do they?

UPDATE: James Taranto summarizes that cost-free withdrawal from Vietnam:

According to a 2001 investigation by the Orange County Register, Hanoi's communist regime imprisoned a million Vietnamese without charge in "re-education" camps, where an estimated 165,000 perished. "Thousands were abused or tortured: their hands and legs shackled in painful positions for months, their skin slashed by bamboo canes studded with thorns, their veins injected with poisonous chemicals, their spirits broken with stories about relatives being killed," the Register reported.

Laos and Cambodia also fell to communists in 1975. Time magazine reported in 1978 that some 40,000 Laotians had been imprisoned in re-education camps: "The regime's figures do not include 12,000 unfortunates who have been packed off to Phong Saly. There, no pretense at re-education is made. As one high Pathet Lao official told Australian journalist John Everingham, who himself spent eight days in a Lao prison last year, 'No one ever returns.' "

The postwar horrors of Vietnam and Laos paled next to the "killing fields" of Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge undertook an especially vicious revolution. During that regime's 3 1/2-year rule, at least a million Cambodians, and perhaps as many as two million, died from starvation, disease, overwork or murder. The Vietnamese invaders who toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979 were liberators, albeit only by comparison.

In the aftermath of America's withdrawal from Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. According to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, between 1975 and 1995 more than 1.4 million Indochinese escaped, nearly 800,000 of them by boat. This does not include "boat people" who died at sea, 10% of the total by some estimates.

And that's only the cost in Southeast Asia.

Like I've written, there is a price to be paid for our very vigorous domestic dissent. Don't ever be confused about that.

Little to Show for Their Effort

Jihadis massed 60 gunmen to attack Iraqi checkpoints and a police station:

Sixty suspected al-Qaida in Iraq fighters hit national police facilities in a coordinated attack in Samarra, sparking two hours of fighting that saw three people killed and more than a dozen insurgents captured, police said Friday.

Massing for direct confrontations is rare enough.

And the Iraqi defenders held firm.

Plus, the Iraqis didn't suffer many casualties in the attacks.

And the Iraqis captured about a quarter of the jihadis.

Being a jihadi is losing a lot of its scare factor with performances like this.

Oh sure, they can still slaughter civilians when they plan it in detail, but the jihadis are looking more and more like incompetent bad guys.

They're going down. We need to keep up the pressure to put them down in Iraq for good.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters agrees the jihadi enemy is going down:

Out here in Anbar Province, al Qaeda did what religion-driven extremists always do eventually - they over-reached, setting the bar so high that nonfanatics couldn't measure up (nor did they want to). The terrorists responded with a campaign of slaughter against their fellow Muslims.

Now the Sunni Arabs who were fighting so bitterly against us are fighting beside us to destroy al Qaeda in Iraq. And the terrorists are going down.

Out here in Anbar Province - long the most troubled in Iraq - the change has come so swiftly and thoroughly that it's dazzling. Marines who were under fire routinely just months ago are now directing their former enemies in battle.

Although this trend has been reported, our battlefield leaders here agree that the magnitude of the shift hasn't registered back home: Al Qaeda is on the verge of a humiliating, devastating strategic defeat - rejected by their fellow Sunni Muslims.

When winning, the proper response is to continue until we win--not offer a hand to the enemy, help them up, and offer our sword to a somewhat disoriented and bloody enemy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sequels Are Rarely As Good

Are we worrying too much about an enemy "Tet" offensive?

We worry that the enemy may surge an attack that kills lots of people and demoralizes us at home enough to pull the plug on our war effort. Indeed we worried about this piror to the November 2006 elections.

But remember that the original 1968 (Note: Corrected. I noticed that I'd typed "1969") Tet Offensive was a nation-wide attack by 84,000 troops organized in large-scale conventional organizations that tried to inflict a military defeat on a surprised South Vietnamese military which let its guard down on a major holiday. The effect on our home morale was not the primary objective. That's how it worked out, but that was not the plan.

Does anybody really think that the enemy can mount an offensive that could seize large chunks of territory and collapse Shia and Kurd morale?

As I wrote back in the fall:

It is only in retrospect that we call Tet a clever enemy victory that played on our home morale. But that was not the plan. The plan was to win on the battlefield by striking hard on a holiday. The target was South Vietnamese morale.

So when today we speak of whether the enemy is pulling a "Tet" on us and whether the prospect of perhaps more than 100 KIA this month indicates the enemy is succeeding in this, consider the vast difference from 1968 to 2006. The enemy isn't even trying to beat us in the field. They aren't trying to beat the Iraqi security forces. And they aren't trying to beat the Iraqi people. They are trying to beat the American people.

So instead of having a major military effort involving maneuvering battalions to strike us that unexpectedly turned into a propaganda victory as Tet was, the al Tet strategy of our enemy is skipping right to the propaganda aspect and we still see just IEDs and scattered small-scale ambushes. It cannot be glorified as an offensive by any stretch of the imagination.

Shouldn't it tell us something that the enemy can't even plan for a military victory and can only go for television victory?

Shouldn't we be ashamed to be a people who our enemies believe can be defeated this way?

Get a grip, people.

Really, even if Iranian support increases the ability of our enemies to mount some type of television operation, we should see it for what it is--a desperate attempt to scare us. The enemy might be prepared to lose lots of their cannon fodder to do this.

Of course, if the Iranians throw in their military to really escalate the war, that changes everything. The price will go up immensely to hold them off.

Regardless of the scope, if the enemy tries a Tet, we should have the brains and guts to immediately counter-attack and chase them down to Tehran if we have to.


A new National Intelligence Assessment by our 16 intelligence outfits is due out today:

The National Intelligence Assessment on Iraq is due to be released Thursday afternoon. The official discussed it on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it on the record.

He said the report will find there has been "some progress with Sunnis" fighting against al-Qaida. Sunni insurgents in some areas have turned on al-Qaida in a program in which U.S. commanders negotiate cease-fires and try to incorporate the fighters into Iraqi government security forces.

The report also warns, as some commanders on the ground have, that extremists could attempt sensational attacks to create a "mini-Tet"_ a reference to the 1968 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Tet offensive that undermined public support for the Vietnam War in the United States.

The assessment also expresses deep doubts that the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki can overcome sectarian divisions and meet benchmarks intended to promote political unity, The New York Times reported in Thursday editions. The report cited unidentified officials.

Some progress on the military front; slow political progress at the national level despite local defections of Sunni insurgents; and the possibility that the enemy will attack to shape domestic perceptions when the September report is digested by Congress.

We pay billions of dollars per year for this type of insight available from watching even CNN?

To be fair, this is a NYT report about the assessment. The Times is perfectly capable of misreading and misreporting pretty much anything but an opera or the latest fall fashions.

I'll wait for the actual publicly available portions before I mock it too much.

The Price of Cooperation

Iraq is going to start shipping discounted oil to Jordan via tanker trucks:

In June, Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr Solagh said his country will offer the oil at a preferential rate of 18 dollars below market prices.

Jordan was reliant on Iraq for all its oil needs before the start of the US-led war on its eastern neighbour in March 2003, importing 5.5 million tonnes annually by road, half of it free and the rest at a preferential price.

Under last year's deal, oil supplies from Iraq to Jordan were due to begin in September 2006 but have been delayed for technical and security reasons.

Shreideh said the first delivery of Iraqi crude will be considered as a "trial phase to deal with security conditions", which supplies starting at around 10,000 barrels daily and gradually increasing to reach 30,000 barrels.

Despite a generally pro-Western outlook, by 1991, dependence on Iraq for Jordan's economic health lead Jordan to take a pro-Saddam foreign policy. By 2003, Jordan helped us by letting us stage a light invasion of western Iraq via special forces and Army National Guard units that garrisoned captured airfields to use as bases. (I think some Marines may have been involved, as well.)

I imagine Iraq will now get more cooperation from Jordanian officials in efforts to shut down Baathist financing of insurgents and terrorists. Saddam's daughter should consider a fast relocation before she is sent back to Iraq for trial.

Force Multiplier

It looks like Taiwan will get its submarines after all:

U.S. Navy officials have told the Taiwanese government that European firms have been found who will collaborate with the U.S. to build eight diesel-electric submarines for Taiwan. No European country was willing to build subs directly with Taiwan, for fear of offending China. But China is vulnerable right now, with the Olympics coming up next year in Beijing, and much international tumult because of bad manufacturing practices for Chinese exports.

Delivery timeframe is not given. Plus the crews must be trained. If China wants to invade Taiwan before the Olympics or even shortly thereafter, the subs will not arrive in time.

But if China does not have any particular timeframe for invading Taiwan, the submarines will be able to threaten China's sea lines of supply. Taiwanese boats will deter tankers from arriving and container ships from sailing with Chinese exports.

And the subs will be a force multiplier. As long as a couple subs make it to sea, American nuclear subs will be able to quickly intervene in the fight. When submarine-launched Harpoons are hitting Chinese ships, who can say if they are launched from Taiwanese boats or American submarines?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Taking One for the Team

One million dollars to ship two 19 cent washers?

This story reinforces everything you've been led to believe about idiotic government, greedy defense contractors, and the evil of a military-industrial complex. You are disgusted, yet strangely satisfied that you knew this was going on all along. Confirmation feels good.

But hold on. Called as Seen explains that this is just one of the ways the Pentagon (via Congress) hides secret projects:

In essence, we may be seeing some funds "officially" being accounted for. Unofficially, though, I get the feeling something cool is being funded under the table.

But the explanation of idiocy, greed, and evil feeds into so many preconceived ideas that a secret is sustained. (Not that there isn't idiocy and greed aplenty in any area of the federal budget, mind you.)

As I've written on more than one occasion, hiding something usually doesn't mean keeping something absolutely hidden, but involves feeding a false explanation that enemies will readily believe because they already believed it.

Admit it, you believe a contractor can get away with billing a million dollars to ship two 19-cent washers.

Let's Recall This Iraq War Mistake

Iraq's Baathists are cutting ties with the jihadis inside Iraq:

Iraqi Baathists, led by Saddam's former righthand man Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, have decided to “disown al-Qaeda.” It is in an interesting development in the insurgency since Saddam's Baathists have fought alongside al Qaeda since the beginning of this war.

First of all, you mean secular enemies of ours can work with jihadis? Somebody inform the CIA and our foreign policy elites of this dramatic development! (Yeah, that felt good.)

Second, it has been a long time coming, but this development ratifies the call I made in June 2004 that the Baathist decision to throw in their lot with the jihadis would turn out to be their critical mistake in the war. A mistake that would lead to our ultimate success. I wrote:

I think the main reason for our success is that the Islamists with their foreign jihadis have screwed things up for the Baathists. That is, if the insurgents (or regime remnants or whatever you want to call them) had been able to target Americans and our allies without other complications, the vast majority of Iraqis might have decided to sit out the war as neutrals and just watch passively to see who will win. Absent a really ruthless American campaign, we would never win if we fought enemies in a sea of apathy that slowly turned against us as the violence continued.

The Islamists screwed up this possible path to Baathist victory. The Zarqawi memo highlighted the idea that the Islamists wanted to target the Shias in order to force the Sunnis to rise up out of fear. Then there would be a nice civil war and the Islamists would have their happy hunting ground of chaos in which to kill Americans. With high enough casualties and really bad press coverage, we might then have pulled out in defeat. Defeating us somewhere—anywhere—is the Islamist goal—not Islamizing Iraq in particular. Remember the reports that al Qaeda was turning their focus on Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan? The fight is the focus. Note, too, that the memo says that the Islamists would have to find another battleground if they cannot win in Iraq. The Islamists may not have had a choice since they don’t number very many. How could they take on the Army and Marines directly? Attacking civilians is a heck of a lot easier.

In this post, I was talking about how the unholy alliance drove the Shias to support our efforts against the Sunni Arab resistance. But with the Shias and Kurds determined to defeat the terrorism carried out by the jihadis, the Sunni Arabs couldn't afford to associate themselves from a bloody but losing ally.

The trend took far longer than I thought to take hold, but the refusal of the world to give up hope that the Baathists would win and the refusal of the Sunni Arabs to abandon habits borne of centuries of ruling Shias and Kurds (bolstered by plentiful weapons and money inside Iraq) meant that the Sunni Arabs refused to read the handwriting on the wall for many years longer than common sense would have indicated.

Even before the war, the Baathists thought that the jihadis were fools to be manipulated in the service of Saddam. The Fedayeen were just cannon fodder. During the insurgency, the Baathists still thought they could keep the rubes as a weapon they controlled. But the jihadis had a mind of their own and wished to kill on a far grander scale than the Baathists might have wished. The jihadis spoiled the planned party.

There is little excuse for so many in the West to fail to understand that a Sunni Arab minority could not sustain their rule and resistance in the long run. Their movement away from resistance and toward giving up continues at an accelerating pace.

A Sign of Victory

The violence in Iraq is less focused on defeating the Iraqi government and replacing it with insurgent/terorrist leaders:

“This is not black and white here. It’s all shades of grey, and there’s a mixture of extremist elements and terror elements and criminal activity. It’s all of the above,” said Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of Multinational Division Center and Task Force Marne, during a lunch with journalists.

In conversations with Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. in 2006, when Lynch was a deputy commander for Multinational Force Iraq and Casey the commander, the two agreed that the biggest motivator for violence in Iraq is the question, “Who’s going to be in charge?”

“We came to the conclusion that the primary concern inside of Iraq was a struggle for power and influence. It’s naive to believe that all sorts of violence inside of Iraq is Sunni vs. Shiia or Shiia vs. Sunni; that’s just not true. And when you find intra-Shiia rivalry, it’s primarily a function of the struggle for power and influence,” Lynch said. “We see that a lot across our battlespace.”

The Shia fanatics supported by Iran are a threat that is increasingly active. On the bright side, as the non-jihadi Sunni Arabs defect to the government side, there will be more force on the side of the government to defeat this threat.

It may be frustrating to see yet another task to accomplish on the horizon, but this is just one more sign that we have been able to defeat the Sunni Arab threats (Baathist, nationalist, and jihadi) to the survival of the Iraqi government.

A successful surge does not end the war. But it is another milestone on the road to victory.

Peaceful Coexistence

Soemtimes idiocy can stand alongside with common sense.

Case in point is a Huffington blogger who rightly condemns the idea that we should partition Iraq. His main cudgel to condemn this idea is to suggest that the walls built in Baghdad to separate Sunni Arab from Shia areas is part of a secret plan to partition Iraq.

He rightly dumps on the O'Hanlon idea (and others advocate this idea, as well), yet somehow sees a Bush hand in this talk:

Is the government listening? They've already tried to build the Wall.

Ah yes, "the Wall."

This is where the idiocy comes in. The Wall is both a reference to the security barriers that we have erected in Baghdad (the Iraqis did not stop the wall, though there were initial misplaced or self-serving reactions) and to the Israeli barrier built to keep out suicide bombers originating in Palestinian areas.

Even setting aside the ridiculous opposition to an Israeli defensive wall, the Baghdad barriers are simply counter-insurgency 101: You want to interdict the movement of the enemy insurgents. The wall, with access points guarded in order to screen people moving between the sections of Baghdad, prevents free movement of terrorists.

Stupid reasoning. Good conclusion.

Sigh. Ya take what you can get in this environment.