Monday, December 31, 2007

Risky Business

One of the things that amazes me in the commentary on the Iraq War is that so many anti-war people who now worry that incorporating lightly armed former insurgents into the security forces as Concerned Local Citizens is a mistake because they might turn their guns on the government are often also those who claim that it was a mistake not to incorporate former Iraqi army units under their Baathist officers in the new Iraqi military after we captured Baghdad in April 2003.

There is a world of difference between 2003 and 2007, as Strategypage summarizes:

As the surge forces proceeded to clear entire towns and neighborhoods of terrorist groups, the Sunni Arab civilians were offered a deal. If they would establish a local security force, and stop future terrorist operations, the U.S. would provide weapons, training and cash. If the local guard force could not do the job, the U.S. and Iraqi troops would be back, and that could be very bad for the neighborhoods. This had been tried before in Sunni Arab areas, but not with complete success. This time around, there was a widespread attitude change among the Sunni Arabs. The feeling was that the whole terror campaign had been a failure, and the only way out now was to turn on the terrorists. It was always obvious that the Americans could go anywhere and kill terrorists. But now the Iraqi army and police, made up largely of Kurds and Shia Arabs, was also able to fight. This was something new, and the Sunni Arabs didn't want to be on the receiving end of more counter-terrorist operations carried out by Kurdish and Shia Arab troops.

Now, the Iraqi government is strong enough to absorb former enemies without as much risk of defeat. Security forces are much larger, more experienced, and better trained than ever. Recall that in spring 2004, half the Iraqi security forces evaporated in the face of the enemy attacks. This last year, Iraqi forces have fought well despite the horrible toll terrorism was taking on civilians and Iraqi soldiers alike.

Now, the Sunni Arabs risk expulsion from Iraq if they turn on the government and fight after being absorbed into the security system. We have databases of biometric data and have put the new local defense force members into that database. Should they turn on the government, we can track them down more easily.

Could the Concerned Local Citizens turn on the government? Sure. But it is better that they have defected and are likely to remain out of the enemy column. In 2003, the Sunni Arabs still assumed they'd regain control of Iraq from the Shias, who the Sunnis considered inept rubes. This year, the Sunnis worry they could be driven from Iraq completely by the Shias and Kurds.

I'm far more confident that these people will remain on our side than I was that "former" Baathists would have stayed loyal in spring 2004 if made part of the army.

Or are you saying we can only kill our enemies and not talk to them and accept their surrender?

Welcome Wagon

I went to the University of Michigan and live in Ann Arbor. So when the idea of conservative women comes up, I may believe in them in theory but in practice I don't see them.

Fortunately, I have what may be an unhealthy attraction to liberal women. I admit that may partly be the result of the "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with" view of life. Hard to say.

So it will be nice to welcome Mad Minerva to Blogger in the new year. Make her feel welcome.

The Most Important Fraction

Counter-insurgency (COIN) is a form of war. Asserting that winning COIN is not mostly fighting doesn't mean that fighting is not necessary. That is where war critics often stumble, trying to insist that we don't need to fight a COIN campaign, but instead just build and talk our way to victory.

In a related matter, one of the complaints I had of the oil spot strategy was that it seemed to ignore the enemy forces in its focus on protecting the population. I was always on board with that protecting the people aspect, but never thought we could ignore the enemy outside the protected zones:

It is not sufficient to just build walls and patrol secured areas as the spot activists want. For if the enemy roams free outside the oil spots, they will eventually hit the "secure" areas and then infiltrate them as the feeling of security is eroded by attacks on the enclaves.

The calculus of security is not merely dependent on one variable--beefing up our defenses. A good result includes reducing the enemy capacity to attack. Atomize the enemy and make them expend effort avoiding our attacks, and even partially trained defenders can handle the reduced threat. But let the enemy spend all its time planning and be free to mass when they want to strike, and we ensure that even American troops won't be sufficient to stop determined attacks from succeeding on occasion and providing propaganda victories for the enemy. Oil spots will shrink and be absorbed into the sands of Iraq with this strategy.

Reading A Better War, a 1999 book by Lewis Sorley that focuses on the post-Tet Vietnam War, reminds us of the importance of military security for the population:

George Jacobson, an "old hand" who altogether served eighteen years in Vietnam and was a mainstay of the pacification program in these later years, often observed that "there's no question that pacification is either 90 percent or 10 percent security, depending on which expert you talk to. But there isn't any expert that will doubt that it's the first 10 percent or the first 90 percent. You just can't conduct pacification in the face of an NVA division."

That sums it up pretty well. Security may not be enough but is is necessary. And the only way to keep at bay those enemy divisions--whether real or figurative--is to hammer them away from the people you want to protect. When we sought to protect Baghdad, we didn't stop at the city limits. We hit the belts and regions around and the border itself to stop the forces from hitting Baghdad with a defense in depth. And we chased the enemy down outside Baghdad. We still pursue them.

Don't get confused about statements that COIN isn't mostly military force. That is a true statement. But security is the first part of successful COIN. And security includes atomizing the enemy and making them worry about surviving.

Near Historic Idiocy

On Saturday, with the New England Patriots playing for a perfect regular season, I sent Mister up to bed later than his usual time but before the game was over. Mister mildly protested, but he went up. When the Patriots scored to close the gap, I ran up to tell him as he got out of the shower. Not long after, I went up to tell him that the Patriots had scored again to go ahead.

I went down and after about ten seconds, I had a blinding revelation--I was being an idiot. I went upstairs and told Mister to come down and watch the rest of the game. He was thrilled.

Brady is a former Michigan player and this could be a record unmatched since 1972. And I was sending Mister to bed? During vacation?

So I redeemed my error in time for Mister to see this historic event in the sports world. To his credit, Mister had accepted bedtime easily though in retrospect I would have expected him to protest. He's a good kid. And he saw a moment in sports history. And I avoided a bad decision I would have regretted.

Approaching Victory

General Petraeus summarize trends in Iraq that I've discussed over the years. Let's look at them:

U.S. forces will thin out through the year, rather than abruptly handing control to Iraqis. First Iraqi politicians must work out "fundamental" governance issues, Petraeus said, and continue expanding the Iraqi security forces. The country's police and army added about 100,000 members this year and benefited from a 70,000-member, Sunni-majority U.S.-funded Concerned Local Citizens groups.

Iraq's forces needed time to get bigger, better equipped, and better trained. We have bought that time. Even as we reduce American troop levels, overall troop strength will be higher after the surge. And I was emphatic in urging the creation of local defense forces as the first line of defense for the government against the terrorists and insurgents. Related to this, I tried to emphasize that getting enemies to defect is part of beating an insurgency. If you say we can't trust enemies to give up, you are really saying we have to kill every one of them. Or you're saying the enemy should win.

It's unrealistic for U.S. forces to wait for car bombs and suicide vests to disappear before beginning to wind down, he said.

Since fall 2003, I've argued for this point. We don't need to kill the last enemy. We need to make sure the Iraqi government can do that. Some enemies will not flee or surrender. They must be killed to restore peace.

"The question is 'Are they reducing in number and effectiveness over time?'" he said. "I think the answer to that has been yes."

This is the process of atomizing the enemy so that they are weak enough to be handled by green and developing government security forces. Those that parrot the truism that insurgency is not primarily a military mission neglect that it is still war and that we must still kill the enemy.

Extremist militias could pose a long-term threat to the country, Petraeus said, but the most significant enemy for now is al Qaida.

"It is the enemy that carries out the most horrific attacks, that causes the greatest damage to infrastructure and that seems most intent on reigniting ethno-sectarian violence," Petraeus said.

Petraeus confirms the threat of the jihadis as the most prolific murderers but knows they can't actually take over Iraq. He knows that thugs among the majority Shias are the more potent potential threat to the government itself.

As fresh military units cycle into the country next year, Petraeus said they'll use "graduate-level warfare" that combines force, education, public relations, politics and economics to pinch terrorist operations. Deploying troops should be prepared for unconventional Gangs of New York-style work, as al Qaida becomes a Mafia-like organization that strong-arms its way into profitable Iraqi businesses to fund itself.

Before the surge started, I said this surge would be the last phase of the war where we'd dominate in combat. Our forces will recede from the day-to-day fight as we turn over combat duties to Iraqi security forces that have grown significantly this last year. Actually, we are well ahead of where I thought we'd be by the end of the year. We will need to move on--even while combat takes place--to supporting the rule of law by bolstering courts and fighting corruption and crime as our primary job.

We are winning. We must make sure we stick with our reduced sacrifices long enough to finalize the victory. Well, as much as any victory can be "finalized," of course. New threats always seem to arise. That's the way it goes.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

He's Dead, Jamal

Remember how the execution of Saddam last year was supposed to cripple attempts to reconcile the Sunnis with their loss of power and prevent our victory in the war?

Well, these AP reporters sure remember and they continue to peddle this line:

Footage of Saddam's Dec. 30 execution, filmed on a mobile phone and showing the former Iraqi leader being taunted just before he was hanged, was leaked to the media and shown across the world. It provoked an outcry, particularly among many of Iraq's Sunni Arabs, and sparked a horrific day of violence that left 80 people dead from bombings and other attacks.

Iraq then plunged into its bloodiest cycle of violence since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and American officials at the time feared the country was on the brink of civil war. The violence forced them to rethink their strategy and about 30,000 more troops were added.

Jamal Salman, a 35-year-old Sunni in Baghdad, said that "we had wished that Saddam's death would be part of the solution but it became part of a problem."

Part of the problem? There are some cause and effect problems here. Violence increased after Saddam's death? And the surge was then formulated after the post-election violence increase? Good grief! Signs of a new strategy in the form of the surge were evident long before Saddam's exectuion. And the surge in violence predated Saddam's execution and was largely committed by al Qaeda--not Saddam's followers--with their own surge of car bombs targetting Shias.

The authors at least mention that violence has since declined dramatically. Yet that is the most important part of the story and not the faux outrage of Baathists that their mass murderer leader was taunted at his execution.

In the end, the execution of Saddam was justice in action despite the Sadrist taunts. And the taunts were a fleeting embarassment submerged in the history since then of accumulating victory and increasing Sunni Arab acceptance of their defeat.

Be glad the vile monster is still dead. The world is better for it.

Wounded Inaction

The press at the end of the year is happy to discuss how this has been the year with the most American troops killed in action in Iraq. They are probably saddened that recent declines prevented them from celebrating the 4,000th KIA this year, too.

Overall, our casualties in Iraq have declined significantly since the summer. This month, 20 American troops were killed in action in Iraq. This is a record low considering that this many died in February 2004, which was a shorter month.

What is really amazing, however, is the dramatic drop in troops wounded in action. This month, only 36 American troops were wounded in action! This is just stunning. Even last month, 199 were WIA. The month before we lost 297 WIA. In September, we suffered 361 WIA. In August, 565. And yet this month we have suffered 36 WIA. Consider that in April 2004 and November 2004, during the two assaults on Fallujah, we suffered 1,213 and 1,431 WIA, respectively.

When we have suffered only 36 WIA in addition to 20 KIA in December, combat is really reduced both in scope and in the ability of the enemy to fight back when we engage them. I hadn't noticed this trend before, and it is just amazing.

May this trend continue.

UPDATE: My mistake. There is clearly a lag in reporting WIA. December saw 207 WIA. This is consistent with the usual ratio of killed to wounded.

Where the Grass is Greener

We continue to be distracted from the bigger trends in the war. The murder of Bhutto is a discreet event that is easier to discuss than the wider trend. While she is certainly a symbol of democracy and might have been important in restoring democracy in Pakistan, her corruption when she was a politician is one reason that democracy is not a part of Pakistan's civic life right now.

The trend is that the jihadis in Iraq are losing and the jihadis are turning on Pakistan as their primary target. As part of this shift of attention, the Iranians are shifting their resources east:

While the government has backed off on support for anti-American terrorism in Iraq, support for the Taliban in Afghanistan is another matter. Iran appears to have accepted defeat in Iraq, but still believed the Taliban had a shot in Afghanistan. This is not popular in Iran, because people remember the years of anti-Taliban propaganda, which simply reminded everyone of the widespread atrocities the Taliban committed against Shia Afghans.

The Taliban in Afghanistan will surely welcome this increased support but the Taliban are looking further east as well. The last jihad is being waged right now and the murder of Bhutto is just part of this crisis and not the entire crisis.

The Middle Kingdom

While discussions of Chinese power focus on statistics of their economy, few focus on the statistics of distance from China to areas of vital interest to us. South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, Thailand, Russia, and India are all close to China and Chinese power does not need to match ours to threaten us in real ways.

This article nicely summarizes a lot of the issues surrounding China's rise in light of recent revisions to China's GDP numbers. Basically, China's economy is less than half of ours rather than being over 80% of our economy.

The result? One, they can't afford to challenge us as once thought; two, they have powerful neighbors to pen them in; and three, they have lots of dirt poor or aging citizens that are a potential source of financial and political instability. Overall, China is far from overtaking America as the global power.

I've raised these issues time and again. Yet while I am not an alarmist over China's potential to match us as a global power (and even accept that China could evolve into a friend, as remote a possibility as that seems right now), I've also emphasized that China does not need to be a global peer competitor to harm our interests. Remember, neither Germany nor Japan were global powers when they threatened our interests in World War II.

This is the Pacific Century, and the Middle Kingdom is for once an apt description of China after centuries of Chinese pretensions to that title. If China can dominate east Asia and the western Pacific, they may cow Japan, South Korea, and Australia along with the rest of the region by using that power to smash and occupy Taiwan despite our greater power and alliances.

China could perhaps decisively harm our interests just by being a bad neighbor.

Can You Hear Me Now?

The Left is disappointed in Congress:

It's a painful irony for Democrats: In the space of a year, the Iraq war that was the source of party's resurgence in Congress became the measure of its impotence.

There is no irony. There was a translation problem. The problem is, after the Democrats campaigned last year with an explicit message that they were not going to undermine the Iraq War, once in power the Leftist leaders of Congress worked on the assumption that the public elected them to undermine the Iraq War. The Leftist leaders understood, as did their nutroots support, that they truly did want American defeat but prior to the election couldn't admit that to the patriotic public of all political stripes who aren't eager for American defeat against montstrous enemies.

The problem for the Left is that although the public did indeed react to the escalating violence in the Iraq War by electing enough Democrats to swing Congress, the public was never pro-defeat. Sure, the Left is disappointed by the failure of Congress to legislate defeat, but the broader pool of Democrats would rather win than lose the war. Independents and Republicans feel that way more so.

So when Congress relentlessly tried but failed to lose the war over the summer rather than change the war, the non-Left wasn't comfortable. Indeed, as the administration changed the war as the public wanted, Congress refused to admit that any change was happening. Worse, Congress persisted in promoting defeat even as evidence of accumulating success rolled out, so the non-left annoyance with Congress deepened.

At some level, the leaders of Congress understood that the public did not want defeat because Congressional majority leaders refused to speak in terms of winning or losing. Instead they trotted out terms designed to disguise retreat or promoted policies designed to indirectly force retreat. If these leaders truly believed they had a mandate to run away and lose, wouldn't they have simply advocated retreat openly?

Congress claimed a mandate for losing in Iraq that they did not publicly claim to want prior to the elections, and the public did not reward them in the opinion polls this last year for pursuing our defeat after the election.

Like so much about the war, the "reality-based community" leaders saw in our 2006 elections what they wanted to see and heard what they wanted to hear. We're not up to four bars yet, but as we win the war and the opinion polls continue to turn around, will the reality of what our people want finally sink in?

Ah, Nuance at Last!

France could teach our State Department some lessons in dialogue:

France "will have no more contact with Syria... until we have proof of Syrian willingness to let Lebanon appoint a president by consensus," Sarkozy told journalists following talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Former colonial power France "wants a president for Lebanon," Sarkozy said. "It's time to provide proof (of goodwill), it's time for Syria to show it."

"It's time for Syria to prove with facts what it has not stopped saying in speeches," Sarkozy said. "We are now waiting for acts on Syria's part and not speeches."

This is dialogue. I once had hope that Rice would tame the State Department and get them to promote American foreign policy as set forth by the administration. Instead, State Department goes on promoting State Department foreign policy. State never needs proof of foreign goodwill--everlasting hope of good will is enough for Foggy Bottom.

State still needs an America Desk.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Border Integrity

The Iraqis and Iranians seem to have accepted the Algiers Accord that settles the Iraqi border along the Shatt al-Arab in Iran's favor over previous agreements:

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's office said on Thursday the Algiers Treaty was "valid and not void," after telling journalists on Monday it had been "voided by the current government."

The treaty was signed in 1975 by Saddam Hussein, Iraq's then vice president, and Iran's former Shah and defined the border between the two neighbors.

Talabani's earlier remarks threatened to reopen a border dispute that caused the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

But Talabani's latest comments were welcomed by Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

I earlier wondered if Iraqi acceptance of this agreement was granted at the price of Iran calling off their dogs and therefore in effect admitting defeat in Iraq. Are the Iraqis just trying to remind the Iranians to keep their bargain?

Let's Talk Inept Wartime Decisions

Mistakes in war are normal. I don't think we've made terrible or irreversible mistakes in Iraq despite constant but ignorant claims of ineptitude.

I recently commented that once we win in Iraq, I won't mind all the books that will claim we could have done better if we hadn't made some specific mistake. When you win, such debates can be enlightening or just entertaining depending on the distance from the events in question.

We still debate World War II, for example (tip to Strategypage email updates). This article disputes the idea that capturing Iwo Jima at such a high cost still saved lives by providing an emergency landing strip closer to Japan:

[O]nly 2,148 B-29 crewmen were killed in combat, including those stationed in India and China as well as theMarianas. “The emergency landing theory,” Burrell notes, “claims that an additional 24,761 airmen from the Marianas alone would have died without the use of Iwo Jima. In other words, the theory claims that over eleven times the number of airmen actually lost in combat were saved simply by offering an alternative landing field between [the Marianas] and Tokyo.”

What, then, if Nimitz had heeded King’s admonition that Iwo Jimawas a“sink hole” not worth the effort? Earlier in the war American forces had bypassed the Japanese fortresses at Rabaul on New Britain and Truk in the Caroline archipelago, successfully neutralizing each through a combination of air strikes and a naval blockade. The same could have been done with Iwo Jima.

Had Iwo Jima been bypassed, the Pacific War would have ended at much the same time and in much the same way as it did. True, the American photo album would have been somewhat impoverished, for it would not have included the famous Joe Rosenthal shot of the dramatic flag-raising ceremony onMount Suribachi. But more substantively, the three marine divisions used in the capture of Iwo Jima would have been available to support the invasion of Okinawa. (Although originally scheduled for that assignment, the horrific battle for Iwo Jima left them too badly damaged to do so.) Moreover, the successful defensive tactics employed by Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the commander of Iwo Jima’s garrison, would not have been available as an example to be emulated by Okinawa’s commander, Lt. Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, who used them to advantage in the actual struggle for that island.

The battle for Iwo Jima, although a high point for American valor, was a low point for American strategy.

If my point isn't obvious enough, have you noticed any Congressional interest in impeaching Franklin Roosevelt or opening an inquiry into the military decisions and intelligence that led to the invasion of Iwo Jima?

War is not perfection. Even the simplest of maneuvers is done as if moving through water. That is true even in a desert.

The World's Most Powerful X

A German magazine is under a bit of fire for describing the Koran as the world's most powerful book:

The folks at Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading weekly newsmagazine, displayed a remarkable lack of judgment and timing in picking "The Koran: The World’s Most Powerful Book" as their cover story right before Christmas. While it is certainly true that the world’s most dangerous terrorists as well as their growing base of radical sympathizers feel inspired by the Koran’s radical interpretations, this does not necessarily turn it into the world’s "most powerful" book.

I can understand why there is some opposition to this. I don't know why, since we could also describe MOAB as the world's most powerful conventional bomb without people getting their panties in a twist.

Perhaps "most powerful" isn't really the best phrase. But Der Spiegel was probably wary of saying "most dangerous." Don't want to piss off those who might think the latter phrase is insulting. They'll kill you for that offense.

Like many things (including box cutters), in the right hands either can do good. But in the wrong hands? Well, innocent people will die in large numbers.

Stuck in Iraq

Even as al Qaeda in Iraq gets whomped, Osama bin Laden can't resist the fight there.

His latest tape displays that deep mind that has catapulted him to that corner cave office in Waziristan World Headquarters:

Bin Laden said U.S. and Iraqi officials are seeking to set up a "national unity government" joining the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.

"Our duty is to foil these dangerous schemes, which try to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq, which would be a wall of resistance against American schemes to divide Iraq," he said.

So let me get this straight. America is trying to join the Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds of Iraq. Ok, I'm with Osama so far. Apparently, according to Osama--and this is where his logic is confusing--we are joining Iraqis in a plot to divide Iraq.

Lost me there, buckwheat.

Now don't get me wrong. Osama is a murderer who should be killed. He is dangerous with a track record of mass murder. But he is also fairly stupid, despite some animalistic cleverness. He killed many in Iraq by invading Iraq in the belief he could win there, but that scheme always counted on our lack of will to fight.

I guess when you are a cave dweller with your mail-order associates degree in jihad hanging on a goat, you have to expect to get stuck in Iraq.

Still, one wonders how much more stupid his followers have to be to still call him their leader.

Friday, December 28, 2007

We Are Not Amused

Well, we knew this was coming. Raised from the dead, the European Union political union is coming back, but without the messy votes that risk actual Europeans rejecting political union again:

The leaders of 27 member states of the European Union met this month in Lisbon, Portugal, to sign a new constitutional treaty that will, they hope, replace the previous draft that was rejected in 2005. With his typical penchant for hyperbole, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso declared, "From this old continent, a new Europe is born." In fact, the planned ratification of the Lisbon Treaty smacks of old Europe - when the ruling elite got its way regardless of the wishes of the people over whom it ruled.

The Lisbon Treaty is a major new step toward the United States of Europe. It would be reasonable to expect, therefore, for the people of Europe to be given a say over its adoption in national referenda. So far, only the government of Ireland, where the EU is very popular, has decided to hold a referendum. Other governments will try to ram the Treaty through national parliaments. This is a blatant attempt to short-circuit the political process in countries where the EU's popularity is on the decline.

Clearly, the EU elite is trying to avoid the fate of the original EU constitution that was resoundingly defeated by the French and Dutch voters. Since unanimous approval among Europe's then 25 members was necessary for the constitution to come into effect, the elated opposition pronounced the document dead and declared victory. Abandoning the constitution was never seriously contemplated by the bureaucrats in Brussels, who declared a period of Europe-wide "reflection" and "consultation" - a meaningless drivel that turned out to be nothing but a prelude to a reintroduction of a "simplified" Lisbon Treaty two years later. Like a zombie, the EU constitution rose from the dead. Killing it for the second time will be much more difficult, however.

It is truly simple. The Euro elites will impose a political union on fragmented European states and micro-principalities and the people will be ground down with repeated attempts to create the European Union until the people give up and let the EU be born. Simple, eh?

It is a tremendous failure of our diplomacy that the Bush administration has continued to formally back European political union. While admirably adapting our foreign policy from the Cold War to fight Islamo-fascist terrorism, this adminstration remains locked in a Cold War template that saw a unified Europe as a bulwark against Soviet aggression instead of an abomination that must die.

Europe will not be our friend. European states can be our friend. And Europeans even in countries without governments friendly to us can be our friends. Why let these sources of support, friendship, and alliance be submerged in an EU supra-elite culture of hatred for America?

Our European friends need our help to resist the relentless drive for power that the Brussels elite and their national rulers have decided is good for Europe. They will divide Europeans into entities too small to effectively resist the will of the elites. If those elites succeed, we won't like the new Union of European Socialist Republics that will arise. The Euro elites think they are going to control the warlike impulses of the people wrongly blamed for Europe's violent past. In reality, these elites will commit bloodshed on the scale of past killing sprees in the name of unity and stability.

If the European Union becomes a reality, we will see our struggle during the long Cold War to keep the Soviet empire at bay lost by essentially creating a socialist empire across Western and Central Europe. The blindness of our own elites to this likely outcome is amazing.

Have a nice day.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Experiment in Real Time

Opponents of the mullah regime in Tehran who also vehemently oppose a military strike on Iran out of fear that such an attack will rally the people to Ahmadinejad now have, as a result of the NIE that has defused any efforts to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, an experiment in progress on their theory:

Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty, improve living standards and tackle unemployment. Now he is being challenged for his failure to meet those promises.

Reformists and even some fellow conservatives say Ahmadinejad has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-U.S. speeches and not enough on the economy — and they have become more aggressive in calling him to account.

In a rare gesture, Ahmadinejad admitted last week that inflation existed but blamed it on his predecessors, the conservative-dominated parliament, state-run media and bank managers who misused their power and printed too many bank notes.

"Inflation has its roots in the past," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech.

His comments were denounced from all sides, with economists and some fellow conservatives saying it is his policies that have led to higher prices.

Ahmadinejad's critics point out that more than 80 percent of Iran's government revenues come from crude exports and that inflation has risen under him despite sharp increases in oil prices to near $100 per barrel currently.

The growing discontent comes less than three months ahead of crucial parliamentary elections slated for March 14.

So we shall see if domestic opposition will oppose Ahmadinejad in the absence of a credible US threat to attack Iran.

I hope the experiment works. I've always preferred a regime-change solution in Iran but doubted either the Iranian opposition or our CIA could pull it off. Striking Iran to put off their day of going nuclear has always been my secondary position in case my preference cannot be implemented. Letting Iran go nuclear, I believe, should be ruled out even if it means we must strike Iran.

I doubt domestic opposition will lead to a mullah-free and nuclear-free Iran. But I'd like to be wrong.

UPDATE: Strategypage reports that US sanctions are biting in Iran and restricting the import of consumer goods to Iran. The people are angry with the mullahs about this:

This sort of thing may be the ultimate cause of a violent revolution, more so than the loss of other freedoms (press, expression and fair elections.)

I hope so. But after we captured Baghdad in April 2003, I hoped that the momentum would have led to regime change in Iran. It did not happen and since then I've been far less hopeful that the people can overcome the mullahs and their bully boys in the Basij.

The Tet Objective

The subject of North Vietnam's Tet offensive in 1968 (and their two subsequent offensives that year, the Mini-Tet and the Third Offensive) is in play. First, there is the general debate over the Vietnam War and who owns the history of that war. Second, there is the worry that our enemies in Iraq will stage a Tet of their own to break our home morale and snatch strategic victory from battlefield defeat. This is what Bay writes about and I commented on that article in this post. I was going to write an update but I think this justifies a separate post.

The guiding assumption of the latter worry is that Tet 1968 was cleverly aimed at our home front even as our forces crushed the enemy in the field. Bay even quotes General Giap, who ran the campaign, to support this contention. Said Giap, "The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion. ...Military power is not the decisive factor in war. Human beings! Human beings are the decisive factor." I figured it is wrong to quote the enemy when he could be defending his reputation after the fact.

My reading of the war holds that Tet was nothing about our home morale. Had we not abandoned South Vietnam in 1974 and 1975, and South Vietnam survived and thrived, nobody would remember Giap's so-called "brilliant" strike at our home morale any more than anybody thinks about Hitler's Ardennes offensive in December 1944 as a brilliant attack that split the Allies and allowed Nazi Germany to survive the war. But since our home morale did decline after Tet and North Vietnam did conquer South Vietnam seven years later, looking back it is easy to see a cause and effect and ascribe that to a deep plan.

It was nothing of the sort. Tet was about South Vietnamese morale and Tet was intended to spark an uprising of the assumed "oppressed" South Vietnamese. We crushed that and two subesequent offensives that year and demonstrated the hollowness of the claim that South Vietnames were eager for Hanoi's "help."

Yet most of my reading on Vietnam was done in college so my understanding may be old. So I pulled out A Better War, a 1999 book by Lewis Sorley that focuses on the post-Tet war, that is sitting on my shelves (along with a few score other books to be read; but suffering from a vicious Christmas flu, I'm home with more time to read) and started reading. My understanding is not obsolete based on newer research. Giap was wrong about strategy, but got lucky. And in 1989 when Bay quotes him, he probably was still fighting foes in Vietnam who believed he sacrificed tens of thousands of NVA soldiers for no good reason.

On page 78, Sorley quotes an enemy assessment of Tet dated March 1968:

Our armed forces failed to adequately perform their role of creating favorable
conditions to induce uprisings by the people in the towns.

On page 73, Sorley quotes the enemy again, in their history of their army, this time in regard to the two subsequent "Tets":

Thus "our main force units in South Vietnam endured continuous waves of vicious combat; they suffered losses, and their combat strength declined." Admitting that the summer and fall offensives of 1968 "did not achieve the military and political goals which they were assigned," the Communist historians nevertheless concluded that they had paid off in another realm because " they rained new blows on the already shaky will of the American imperialists."

That is, in looking back at that year, the North Vietnames assessed their goals as internal to South Vietnam, yet the North won a victory anyway because American morale at home suffered. This is not a deep plan. This is getting lucky.

As for why Giap would insist his plan was brilliant, Sorley writes that in the late summer of 1968, after the Tet and Mini-Tet offensives were turned back and the NVA was gearing up for the Third Offensive, the North Vietnames were debating their strategy:

Douglas Pike, then a political officer in the American embassy in Saigon, believed that the enemy was at that point going through "a period of great doctrinal indecision." Nothing tried to date had brought the expected victory, and factions in Hanoi were advocating a range of adaptations. One, led by Foreign Minister Nguyen Duy Trinh, favored negotiated settlement. Another, following Truong Thien, was for protracted war along Maoist lines. General Giap advocated "more of the same," a continuation of the current course of action. Pike, reported Ambassador Robert Komer, "feels in the end the protracted war school will finally prevail."

That was not to be. Instead of conserving their men and resources in the face of our military superiority by dispersing to guerilla war (the Maoist protracted war) or negotiating an end to the war they thought they could not win, Giap won the debate. The North Vietnamese would continue to wage a higher intensity big unit war. So far from a deep plan, Giap's plan was the "stay the course" plan when others in hanoi considered the approach folly. Given human nature, I'm sure that Giap was still defending his course in the face of attacks that held North Vietnam could have won anyway without the bloodshed Giap insisted on. Indeed, a North Vietnames history of the war insists that the NVA killed 43,000 American troops in Tet! (We lost 2,000 KIA.) Why insist on such a battlefield performance if your plan was so deep that enemy casualties were irrelevant when you can hit Walter Cronkite's morale back in the states?

So, it is best to understand Tet 1968 if you think an Al Tet in 2008 will defeat us. Tet was an effort to win on the battlefield. By chance, it hurt our morale at home. And even after South Vietnam stabilized, Tet only looked like an enemy victory because we threw it all away in 1974 when our troops were gone by refusing to support Saigon in the face of a direct conventional offensive by Hanoi that rolled into Saigon in early 1975 behind tanks and armored personnel carriers.

The enemy inside Iraq doesn't have the resources to launch a significant militarily significant offensive next year. Any Al Tet will thus simply be an effort directly aimed at our home morale. And it will rely on our side refusing to help Baghdad after the Al Tet, yet will not have any mechanized regular army ready to roll into Iraq to exploit our absence. And we'll still have 12-15 combat brigades in Iraq still ready to fight, even if Iran rolls the dice and directly intervenes with their armed forces next year to replicate the NVA offensives in 1974 and 1975.

If the enemy is thinking of a Tet without understanding what Tet was, we will have many opportunities to exploit their errors by smashing up anything that exposes itself to hit us.

If we keep our wits about us, of course. We can only hope that such a Tet takes place during summer Congressional recess.

Pakistan: Take a Deep Breath and Think

Jihadis, it would seem, managed to murder Bhutto:

Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday in a suicide attack at a campaign rally that also killed at least 20 others, aides said.

Bhutto's supporters erupted in anger and grief after her death, attacking police and burning tires and election campaign posters in several cities. At the hospital where she died, some smashed glass and wailed, chanting slogans against President Pervez Musharraf.

Blaming Musharraf is insane. This is giving the jihadis a two-for-one bombing--killing the likely future prime minister and crippling the president and likely future president. Even if it is discovered that some Pakistani security forces cooperated with the attackers, those conspirators would be motivated by jihadi hatred and not love of Musharraf.

The jihadis, the Taliban and al Qaeda, have decided that Pakistan is their main front. Defeated everywhere else, the jihadis since the summer have very clearly abandoned their ceasefire with the Pakistani government that let the jihadis live in the frontier as long as they attacked into Afghanistan. Instead, they decided to target the government.

This new front could be the last jihad:

I have hope that the Pakistanis are experience their own awakening and realize they cannot look the other way and hope for the best.

Still, with the Taliban getting waxed the last two years as they've sent cannon fodder to Afghanistan and jihadis thinking that they could win in Pakistan and possibly believing that the Islamic bomb is there for the taking, we might be seeing the end of the Afghan campaign of the Long War.

Not that the fighting there will end anytime soon. But the fighting in Pakistan may take center stage. With Pakistan's army finally entering the fight and al Qaeda looking to join in, the campaign is broadening. We are seeing the beginning of a general Taliban Campaign that spans Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And with our need to protect supply lines through Pakistan, we may begin to play a far more active role in fighting inside Pakistan.

All those in America who have urged us to abandon Iraq and focus on Afghanistan--with some even demanding we intervene in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden--may find that our dwindling role in Iraq will free us to do exactly that--join the Taliban Campaign in force to team up with Pakistani army forces to suppress the jihadis in the tribal areas and finally hunt down bin Laden.

I called this the Taliban Campaign. With the ceasefire dead, the jihadis are a threat to Pakistan itself. The assasination of Bhutto should be a reminder of this threat to Pakistan. If Pakistani security forces are implicated in letting the murderers through, this too should be a reminder that the jihadis are the threat. Both of these events are clearly part of the Taliban Campaign.

The Pakistanis must stand by their movement to return to democracy and face the real threats from the jihadis to that democracy. And the Pakistanis must root out the jihadis within their ranks while crushing the jihadis who have carved out a sanctuary on the western frontier.

The Pakistanis must embrace their alliance with America and welcome American and NATO help within Pakistan on a larger scale as a useful attack on the rear area of the Taliban Campaign that once focused on Afghanistan but not looks east to target Pakistan.

Pakistanis need to focus on the jihadis who are to blame for the murder of Bhutto and not just lash out at their political opponent Musharraf. If the Pakistanis focus on crushing the jihadis and not making futile deals with the devil, this will be the last jihad.

UPDATE: Wretchard seems onboard with the concept that we are in a broader fight than just Afghanistan:

The second is to forge a broad national strategy around the idea that Pakistan, not Afghanistan, is now the major theater of operations in Southwest Asia. Such a strategy may require military components, but for the moment it requires mostly competent political, intelligence and information operations. It may require joint diplomacy with China, India and Russia; it will require adroit political maneuvering within Pakistan. But above all it will require that we remember the names of our enemies -- the same ones who attacked Manhattan on September 11 -- require we remember their connections eastward to the centers of Islamic radicalism and their addiction to totalitarian processes. But my guess is that many will simply find the mental challenge too hard. Why can't we just "move on"?

As long as our enemies don't tire of killing us, we can't tire of killing them.

UPDATE: Strategypage notes both the shift by the jihadis to the Pakistan front after their defeat in Iraq, and also the great difficulties the jihadis will have winning in Pakistan.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Woodstock Experience

Austin Bay warns that the enemy will try a "Tet" offensive in the next six months to break our home morale over Iraq:

In the course of Tet 1968, North Vietnamese, American and South Vietnamese forces all suffered tactical defeat and achieved tactical victories; that's usually the case in every military campaign. At the operational level, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) suffered a terrible defeat. As NVA regiments emerged from jungle-covered enclaves and massed for attack, they exposed themselves to the firepower of U.S. aircraft and artillery. The NVA units temporarily seized many cities at the cost of extremely heavy casualties.

However, Tet achieved the grand political ends North Vietnam sought. Tet was a strategic psychological attack launched in a presidential election year during a primary season featuring media-savvy "peace" candidates. "Peace" in this context must be italicized with determined irony; in the historical lens it requires an insistent blindness steeled by Stalinist mendacity to confuse the results of U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam (e.g., Cambodia's genocide) with any honest interpretation of peace.

Reflecting on Tet in a 1989 interview with CBS News' Morley Safer, NVA commander General Vo Nguyen Giap said: "The war was fought on many fronts. At that time the most important one was American public opinion." He added: "Military power is not the decisive factor in war. Human beings! Human beings are the decisive factor."

Bay could be right. But then, I've worried for the past 2-1/2 years that the enemy would try to pull a Tet on us. Or a "Bulge" (1944 German counter-attack in the Ardennes). But they haven't. If they could have, wouldn't they have done something that dramatic already at any of a number of crucial elections or votes in Congress? Even though it makes sense that our enemies will try a counter-attack that seeks to reverse their looming defeat in Iraq with a desperate gamble, can they?

Back in August, I wondered if we were too spooked about another Tet. I cited a fall 2006 post of mine on the subject:

All the talk of whether the Iraqi insurgent and terrorist groups will succeed in doing a "Tet" on us--breaking our morale by increasing attacks and exploiting media coverage to undermine that morale--neglects the fact that the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong weren't trying to undermine our home morale when they struck in January 1968.

The enemy in Vietnam was trying to win on the battlefield. They struck nationwide (for example, hitting 36 of 43 provincial capitals) in South Vietnam to spark an uprising against the South Vietnamese government. Eighty-four thousand troops were involved in this offensive. Eight enemy battalions occupied Hue and had to be dug out in a month of house-to-house fighting.

The result of the month-long offensive was that South Vietnamese did not rally to the communists, the South Vietnamese army rallied after being taken by surprise, the enemy lost 32,000 KIA and had 6,000 captured by our forces. We lost 2,000 KIA and South Vietnam also lost that amount.

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.

I know that an aging Giap claimed that all along they were aiming at our home morale, but my reading of the history is that the North Vietnamese were aiming at breaking South Vietnamese morale. The heavy losses were accepted because they thought they'd crack the South Vietnamese by the shock of the wide offensive.

Might the aging communist have tried to rewrite history to make himself look like a tremendously deep strategist rather than the guy that got whipped and then got lucky? Losing nearly half of your force as killed or captured wouldn't exactly cover you with glory if you admit you won only because you got lucky.

Yet today, there is no chance that the enemy in Iraq could orchestrate an attack that might actually accomplish something on its own. The enemy has been atomized for so long that I don't see how they could emulate the North Vietnamese who maneuvered batalions and regiments on the battlefield. The enemy, if they try a Tet strategy, will aim to have the home front impact of a major military offensive without the actual military offensive that was part of the 1968 Tet. Bay recognizes this reality even as he warns the enemy will do something:

Actually executing a genuine Giap Tet-type offensive in Iraq, however, borders on fantasy. On a daily basis Iraq's assorted terrorist organizations and militia gangs want to cause such system-shaking, simultaneous carnage, but they don't because, well, they can't. A Giap Tet requires a level of coordination the terrorists have never exhibited because they simply don't have it. It requires internal Iraqi political support that the terror cadres and militias lack; fear is not a political program.

If the enemy strings together some extra car bombs, some high-casualty strikes on civilian targets, maybe a foot attack that penetrates the Green Zone, and some scary ass videos with masked thugs screaming "Death to America! Yadda, yadda, yadda" (hey, the Hollywood writers strike is hitting everyone), I think our home morale will withstand the uptick in casualties and the television pictures.

I think if the enemy exposes themselves to carry out such a Tet, that we will take advantage of their folly and wipe them off the floor. We won't lose 2000 KIA and neither will the Iraqi security forces. And remember, in 1968 we didn't have precision munitions and high levels of surveillance over the battlefield. Still, the enemy won't lose 38,000 for the simple reason that they don't have anywhere near that many thugs in the street.

Tet 2008 will be no more Tet than Woodstock 1999 was Woodstock. Bummer, huh?

They Are a Trusting Lot, Aren't They?

The Iranians will buy new Russian air defense missiles:

The S-300 anti-aircraft missile defense system is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missile warheads at ranges of over 90 miles and at altitudes of about 90,000 feet. Russian military officials boast that its capabilities outstrip the U.S. Patriot missile system.

The S-300 is an improvement over the Tor-M1 air defense missile system. Russia delivered 29 Tor-M1s to Iran this year under a $700 million contract signed in December 2005.

Those Russian salesmen are apparently pretty good. Russian-made (and their Soviet ancestor's) air defense systems keep getting trashed by Western air forces. So I really don't worry too much that Iran will buy these missiles. It will take a couple years at least for them to be integrated into Iran's air defenses, I imagine. And we have many weapons to exploit weak points in their defenses and take out the missiles.

Our enemies don't learn, it seems. When our enemies buy stuff like this, they play to our strong suit. If it comes to a fight, we will take apart Iran's air defenses and rip apart anything that can be seen, moves, or emits any signal. The S-300s will simply be some of the more expensive wreckage on the battlefield.

The Kurdish Front

The Turks seem happy with the results of their military strikes and the US help that made them possible:

Ankara says an estimated 3,500 PKK militants have taken refuge in northern Iraq, using camps there as a springboard for attacks across the border.

At least 150 rebels were killed on December 16 in the largest air strike in northern Iraq so far, when fighter jets bombed positions along the Turkish border and in the Qandil mountains to the east, the military said Tuesday.

The strike, it said, destroyed more than 200 PKK targets, including command, training and logistical bases as well as anti-aircraft defence positions and ammunition depots.

Following talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November, US President George W. Bush called the PKK a common enemy and promised "real-time" intelligence on rebel movement.

The pledge was seen as a US approval of limited Turkish military action in northern Iraq to head off the threat of a large-scale incursion.

The US fears that a large cross-border operation by the Turkish military might destabilise the relatively peaceful northern part of Iraq and fuel tensions between two US allies -- the Iraqi Kurds and NATO member Turkey.

Ankara has accused Iraqi Kurds of tolerating and even aiding the PKK.

The Pentagon said last week a coordination centre was set up in Ankara where Turkish and US military officials are working to share intelligence.

Iraqi officials have condemned the Turkish strikes as a violation of the country's sovereignty.

We can probably be happy with this, too. The PKK--a Marxist group that the Kurds of Iraq should avoid--has been hit hard as they prepared to ride out the winter months. So they must go on the move in poor conditions with US assets looking for them and Turkish aircraft and commando units ready to strike. During 2008, the PKK should be less capable of provoking the Turks into a larger action that could interrupt our progress. So despite the frantic worrying, Iraq did not unravel as the result of this limited campaign.

Plus the Turks see that we helped them when it wasn't the best option for us. Especially after Turkey refused to let us stage 4th ID from Turkey in 2003, maybe the Turks will be more cooperative if we need help in the future.

And it surely helps us keep the Iraqi Kurds from doing anything rash like declare independence with the example of what Turkey could do if our protection is withdrawn. Iraq's Kurds have a good future ahead of them--finally after their long tragic history--if they keep their heads about them and accept their status as a self-governing region of Iraq.

Reclaiming Our Honor

I have never understood how our Left could compare Iraq to Vietnam when it has always been apparent to me that our Left understands neither war, Iraq, or even Vietnam.

It has always been apparent to me that the Vietnam War was in fact a northern invasion of the south and not some civil war where we supported a narrow base of oppressers against the masses of "insurgents" struggling to gain their freedom. This article goes into great detail exposing the various myths of Vietnam, and goes a long way to explaining my utter contempt for our Left's opinions on matters of war or the military. They lost the war in Vietnam for us when we had it won. We needed only a little more patience.

I won't summarize the various points the article hits, but just note the following conclusions from the ending:

The British counterinsurgency expert Robert Thompson, who visited South Vietnam in 1974, wrote admiringly of “the resilience of the Vietnamese, their courage, stamina, and stoicism. . . . They surmounted national and personal crises that would have crushed most peoples.” But to many Vietnamese, it must have seemed pointless to fight on if their patron and ally was going to leave them in the lurch. As Kissinger confessed to President Thieu, “It is a fact that in the United States all the press, the media, and the intellectuals have a vested interest in [your] defeat.”

On April 23, 1975, even as the battered ARVN was fighting to the last round against a vastly superior NVA force at Xuan Loc, Ford proclaimed that “America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam. But it cannot be achieved by re-fighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned.” To most South Vietnamese, this signaled the doom of their country.

And not their country alone. The final conquest of South Vietnam by North Vietnam in April 1975 signaled the start of a domino-like process that antiwar critics had always ridiculed as fantasy. By the end of the decade, the much-derided “domino theory” had become fact.

The first to fall to Communist expansionism was of course South Vietnam itself. Its army had been the fourth largest in the world, and its navy the fifth largest; as a result of its collapse, masses of U.S.-made military equipment fell into Communist hands. The former Navy and Air Force base at Cam Ranh Bay became home to a Soviet submarine and surface-fleet presence—the largest such base outside the Soviet Union. A similar fate befell Vietnam’s nearest neighbors. The cessation of U.S. aid to the pro-American government in Cambodia delivered that country into the hands of the NVA’s ally, the Khmer Rouge, while Laos gave up any pretense at neutrality and became totally dominated by the Communist Pathet Lao.

Those who still cling to the Vietnam myth maintain that the falling dominos stopped there, since other Southeast Asian nations like Thailand and Malaysia did not succumb to Communist domination. True; but the domino effect was not limited to Asia alone. As the political scientist Michael Katz has pointed out, after Vietnam it was “politically impossible for the U.S. government to undertake large-scale military intervention anywhere in the third world,” a fact of which Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries took ample advantage. Even during the war, new pro-Soviet regimes had emerged in the Congo (1968), Benin (1972), and Ethiopia and Guinea Bissau (1974). At war’s end and thereafter, the list grew to include, in 1975, Madagascar, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Angola, then Afghanistan (1978) and Grenada and Nicaragua (1979). The fall of the shah of Iran and the establishment of the Ayatollah
Khomeini’s radical Islamic republic can similarly be seen as a result of America’s abandonment of Vietnam—and as itself the first domino in a second great revolutionary wave with which we are still trying to come to grips.

As for the people living in the affected countries, the result was a humanitarian disaster. The claim that there was no “bloodbath” in South Vietnam is true only by comparison with what happened to its neighbor Cambodia. On top of the more than 275,000 South Vietnamese who died fighting in the country’s armed forces, at least 65,000 were murdered or shot after “liberation”—the equivalent of three-quarters of a million people in today’s United States. According to the scholar D.R. Sar Desai, the Communist regime forcibly relocated or sent to “reeducation camps” somewhere between one-third to one-half of South Vietnam’s population; perhaps as many as 250,000 died of disease, starvation, or overwork, and the last inmates were not released until 1986. Ironically, the victims included many former members of the National Liberation Front and Vietcong, who realized too late that they had been puppets of the North all along. Another million or so Vietnamese, most of them ethnic Chinese, fled by sea from the new regime; an unknown number died or were lost at sea.

The cost in human lives did not end in South Vietnam, of course. Read the whole thing, as the saying goes.

I hope this history lesson also explains my intensity in blogging about Iraq for so long and my contempt for today's Left that wants to repeat history in Iraq by losing a war there despite our battlefield and political successes. Just as in Vietnam, in regard to our Iraqi allies we might say to them, "in the United States all the press, the media, and the intellectuals have a vested interest in [your] defeat.” Unfortunately for our elites, their voices were not the sole voices of our country. American supporters of the war and victory could bypass the elites and reach out directy to our warriors in the field.

If, as seems likely, we can push forward to final victory in Iraq in the face of the weakening resistance of our anti-war Left, we will have restored our honor by refusing to abandon people who hope that by siding with America they can build a better Iraq. That our Left in practice pines for the shell of a state that was just an extortion machine with a UN seat for the benefit of a narrow Tikriti elite beholden to Saddam for their wealth and status makes the attempted betrayal all the more disgusting.

And even better, perhaps this victory in Iraq despite all of the Left's completely error-filled comparisons to Vietnam will result in a real look at the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam that President Bush highlighted, but which even liberals and not just our radical Left rejected based on their bizarre myths of what they believe happened in Vietnam.

Maybe our warriors, who honorably fought in Vietnam for a just cause against the vilest of communist enemies who even jihadis cannot match in regard to the scale of the death and misery they caused, will finally receive the credit they deserve for achieving what they did despite our Left's opposition.

Maybe our Vietnam veterans will get the figurative victory parade home when our people recognize that our Vietnam veterans won their war only to have our Left hand our brutal enemies a victory while pretending to have compassion for those veterans by portraying them as demented victims of our government.

Maybe our country will realize that it is our Left that victimizes our soldiers by resisting victory, and victimizes our veterans by denying them the honor of recognizing them as heroes and warriors by stigmatizing them as mentally ill misfits.

Maybe our Vietnam veterans, who paid the price for winning on the battlefields of Vietnam, will reclaim ownership of the Vietnam War from those who claim the history of the war even though they partied their way through the war and embraced myths to explain their wartime summers of love.

Am I bitter about Vietnam and Iraq? You bet I am. And so should you. But maybe victory in Iraq will start to undo the damage that our Left celebrates with their bizarre embrace of their holiday from history and responsibility during the late 1960s and early 1970s. But hey, they were pretty stoned during that time, so it is understandable that they don't have a clue about what happened all around them. Let's give them the history lessons they skipped in order to go to Woodstock instead.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Growing the Army

This press conference discusses Army expansion.

Basically, we'll have 48 active combat brigades by September 30, 2011. This includes six brigades from the recent expansion authorized. All but seven will be based in the continental United States. I'm assuming one in South Korea, Italy, Hawaii, and Alaska, leaving only three in Germany.

We will add six infantry brigade combat teams (two each to Colorado, Georgia, and Texas) and eight support brigades, including a Military Police brigade which is rather like a light infantry unit.

To keep five brigades in Germany, we are going to leave two heavy brigade combat teams in Europe for two years longer than planned. One will come back to the United States by September 30, 2012 and the other the next fiscal year. Neither will be affiliated with a parent division. This would leave a single combat brigade in Germany when these brigades come home.

With 48 brigade combat teams, assuming a bit of overlap to rotate troops, we could have 14 Army brigades in the field at one time for one-year deployments with two years off in between. We could also add in a couple Marine regimental combat teams and 4 or 5 Army National Guard brigades each year representing 3 or 4 active brigades (because the NG brigades would deploy for 9 months out of a one-year activation period). So 18-20 brigades or regimental combat teams in the field at one time.

This doesn't represent reality until 2011, of course, so our troops will be stressed absent changes in missions. Funny enough, after resisting expanding the strength of the Army (even as the Army added 9 brigades within existing strength by reorganizing into smaller brigades, reallocating Army slots, and opening up some Army slots by using civilian contractors instead) on the assumption the Iraq War would be over before new troop strength could come online, it looks like the major fighting responsibilities will be over before the Army can deploy the newly authorized brigades.

UPDATE: See this earlier post on more details on ground force expansion.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Drawing to an Inside Straight

Pakistan seems to have become the site of al Qaeda's (along with their Taliban allies) last jihad. Unable to gain traction anywhere else and losing support in the Moslem world, the jihadis have decided to abandon their ceasefire with the Pakistani government. This has forfeited the safe haven that the jihadis had on the Pakistani western frontier as the price for trying to capture Pakistan itself:

Since the summer, it has looked like the combination of al Qaeda losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with their lack of support in the Moslem world, that al Qaeda would turn to Pakistan as an active front rather than a rear area. By provoking Pakistan this way, al Qaeda and the Taliban are forcing Pakistan to fight the jihadis in a sort of Pakistan Awakening.

It is an amazingly stupid move on al Qaeda's and the Taliban's part. They've lost their sanctuary by forcing Pakistan to fight and risk losing nearly completely in this new front.

This is a long shot born of desperation on al Qaeda's part and their fellow jihadis. The Pakistanis have already seen what the Islamists can do domestically and the recent jihadi terror campaign only adds to the disgust more Pakistanis have for the jihadis:

In 2002, Ibrar Hussein voted for an Islamic takeover.

Fed up both with Pakistan's military-led government and with the mainstream, secular opposition, Hussein decided that religious leaders should be given a chance to improve living conditions in this sprawling frontier city.

But five years after support from people like Hussein propelled the Islamic parties to power in the provincial government -- and to their strongest-ever showing nationally -- the 36-year-old shopkeeper is rethinking his choice.

"You can see the sanitation system here," Hussein said, pointing with disgust to a ditch in front of his shop where a stream of greenish-brown sludge trickled by. "People were asking for clean water, and they didn't get it. We were very hopeful. But the mullahs did nothing for us." Hussein's disenchantment is just one reason why, with Pakistan on the eve of fresh parliamentary elections, the religious parties are struggling to appeal to voters.

On the surface, at least, they have many things going for them: Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is deeply unpopular. So, too, are his backers in Washington. The leading opposition politicians have had their opportunities before, and failed. Overall, frustration in Pakistan is running high.

And yet the Islamic parties seem poorly positioned to benefit from that frustration. Beset by bitter internal divisions, they have failed to come up with a unified campaign strategy. Their candidates, meanwhile, have to answer for a dubious record in governing North-West Frontier Province, their traditional base of support. And out on the stump, they are finding that anti-American sentiments are not quite as raw as they once were.

Only four percent of Pakistanis say they will support Islamist parties in the January elections. I still think that Pakistan needs free elections to keep the jihadis from rebounding and again capitalizing on public disgust with the corrupt secular political parties and the military that seizes power. The past success of Islamists in elections provides a window to marginalize the Islamist parties:

Latif Afridi, a cleanshaven lawyer who helps lead a Pashtun-nationalist party, said the religious parties "are directly responsible for the destruction of Swat." He also said they are now vulnerable because they abandoned their promises.

While they ran in 2002 on a vow of clean government and improved citizen services, leaders of religious parties have fallen prey to the same allegations of corruption and lackluster governance that shadow the nation's secular parties.

"They've got a record now, and it's not a great one," said a Western diplomat, who would speak only on condition of anonymity. "When you're out of office, you can call for all sorts of things and be a paragon of virtue. But when you're in office, it's a different story. The glitter has worn off a little bit."

It is good that the jihadis compiled their record that puts off Pakistanis without gaining control of the central government where they'd be difficult to dislodge. Yet there are enough Pakistanis who want a religious dictatorship to sustain a terror campaign:

And yet, there is a more ominous explanation for the religious parties' struggles.

It's also possible, Ayaz said, that some of those who believe in bringing Islamic law to Pakistan -- particularly the young -- are giving up on the democratic process and on the Islamic parties. They're going underground instead, choosing insurgency instead of politics.

In the slums of Peshawar, where veterans of the war in Afghanistan hobble on peg legs through trash-strewn streets, that theory has some credence.

"The Taliban system is the best system," said Sabiq Shah, a 42-year-old peanut salesman. "It will come to Pakistan. Either through election or revolution, it does not matter which."

Pakistan can be the last jihad. The jihadis are staking everything on a front that is not very hospitable to them.

But we have to reduce the number of people who will vote for them or tolerate violent jihadis, and kill those jihadis who will wage war on the government.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Warning!! Vague Nonspecific Threats are Imminent!

Yet another academic claims Iraq distracts us from ... something.

I'd quote the article but it would be pointless. Nothing specific is even hinted at. But there are a lot of them, no doubt! Eleven to be specific. And our foes are downright "gleefully" taking advantage of our pursuit of victory in Iraq!

Really, this is just the mirror image of the past constant refrain of the anti-war side that Iraq distracts us from using our military elsewhere. So we needed to get out of the losing war in Iraq immediately to prepare our military for ... something nonspecific but clearly dangerous!

As if these people would use our military anywhere but New Orleans!

Still, at least the author had to conclude that we are winning in Iraq. But he is going to the fallback position that the cost of winning will be too much. So now vague nonspecific bad things are happening while we focus on stabilizing Iraq. Eleven vague nonspecific bad things.

As if our large government doesn't have plenty of civilian staff to focus on their own areas of expertise even as we focus on victory in Iraq. As if the Navy and Air Force aren't looking around. As if even parts of the Army and Marines aren't scanning the globe.

I can only conclude that tenure rots the brain. Or perhaps a sense of perspective.

What an idiot.

Gearing Up for the Last Jihad

Since the summer, it has looked like the combination of al Qaeda losses in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with their lack of support in the Moslem world, that al Qaeda would turn to Pakistan as an active front rather than a rear area. By provoking Pakistan this way, al Qaeda and the Taliban are forcing Pakistan to fight the jihadis in a sort of Pakistan Awakening.

It is an amazingly stupid move on al Qaeda's and the Taliban's part. They've lost their sanctuary by forcing Pakistan to fight and risk losing nearly completely in this new front.

Still, increased attacks in Pakistan in the absence of any alternative front (remember that Somalia was lost as a potential Plan B) at least raise the remote hope of possibly seizing Pakistani nuclear weapons. So even as the jihadis lose overall, they might draw to an inside straight and emerge with a tremendous victory.

Yet despite the losses al Qaeda and the Taliban have experienced in Afghanistan, a number of observers insist we risk a defeat there. I don't see it, and neither does Secretary Gates:

There is no doubt, as we've talked -- for those of you were in Scotland, that there has been an increase in violence over the past year, but in part it has been due to much more aggressive actions on the part of the NATO alliance and the U.S. forces that are there. There was -- the spring offensive we expected from the Taliban became NATO's spring offensive. And here again, I think that the challenge for 2008 will be to sustain the successes we've had; to hang on to places that we have cleared, like Musa Qal'eh; and create the conditions in which further economic development can go forward.

Gates also comments on the increased priority of Pakistan for the jihadis:

There is no doubt, as we've talked -- for those of you were in Scotland, that there has been an increase in violence over the past year, but in part it has been due to much more aggressive actions on the part of the NATO alliance and the U.S. forces that are there. There was -- the spring offensive we expected from the Taliban became NATO's spring offensive. And here again, I think that the challenge for 2008 will be to sustain the successes we've had; to hang on to places that we have cleared, like Musa Qal'eh; and create the conditions in which further economic development can go forward.

General Cartwright noted that Pakistan has stepped up on their side of the border:

I'd -- just on the Pakistani side, we are impressed with this new chief and how he has set some goals and a vision for their military. And already his leadership is starting to affect them. So that -- having that capability and that added capacity in Pakistan has an effect in Afghanistan as far as al Qaeda's concerned. It keeps them on the run.

Strategypage writes about the overall defeat that al Qaeda is experiencing that is pushing them toward attacking in what had been their rear area:

It's not been a good year for Islamic terrorism. In Iraq, al Qaeda was crushed when the principal al Qaeda supporters, the Sunni Arab minority, turned on the terrorists. Same thing happened, to a lesser extent, in Afghanistan, where some of the pro-Taliban tribes turned anti-al Qaeda, and killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters. ...

Al Qaeda is trying to shift resources to Pakistan, where it believes, in cooperation with some pro-Taliban Pushtun and Baluchi tribes, it can survive. Al Qaeda also believes that it has a shot at overthrowing the Pakistani government, and gaining control of nuclear weapons. This is a fantasy, as less than 20 percent of Pakistanis support Islamic radicalism, and there are many factions. But al Qaeda is running out of options. In the last seven hears it went from triumph (the September 11, 2001 attacks) to one disaster after another. Afghanistan was lost by the end of 2001, and operations in Iraq turned the entire Islamic world against al Qaeda. Pakistan has been a mixed success. Al Qaeda's usual suicide bomber tactics quickly turned most of the population against the terrorists, but some of the Pushtun and Baluchi tribes along the Afghan border kept the faith. This has changed in the past year, as some of those tribes have tired of the foreigners (al Qaeda) and gone to war with the terrorists. Despite all that, and major army offensives this year against Islamic radicals in the tribal areas, al Qaeda's position in Pakistan is precarious. Years of al Qaeda attacks on senior Pakistani officials, and suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of civilians, has turned the government and population against the terrorists. There are still terrorist supporters, but they are a minority, and have to be alert to getting turned in by a neighbor, or even family.

So, even though fighting in Pakistan seems scary because nuclear weapons are theoretically in play, this is a desperate move by the jihadis prompted by having no other real option to wage war. Defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, smashed up in Somalia, failing to gain traction in Algeria or other places where local jihadis adopt the al Qaeda franchise, and under attack even in Saudi Arabia. Even in Lebanon the jihadis were smashed up and in Gaza, the Israelis are a powerful force that will not let jihadis operate at too high a level without acting decisively. And Gaza isn't exactly a mountain redoubt.

So now the jihadis have broken the truce that says Pakistan will tolerate jihadis on their frontier as long as they don't attack Pakistan. This was always a stupid deal with the devil, since the jihadis always break their promise.

So, with operations in Afghanistan knocking back the jihadis and Pakistan a more active front, I'd suspect that Pakistan will be more willing to tolerate--and possibly eager to have--American and coalition operations against the jihadis inside Pakistan. I'd expect special forces and air power to work in Pakistan with even battalion-sized infantry forays likely.

We may yet see bin Laden frog-marched out of the area or killed before the end of 2008. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are staking it all on a last jihad in Pakistan. Let's send the bastards to Paradise.

Driving While Shia

Many Western analysts suffered from being prone to parroting Sunni predjudice against Shias when looking at Iraq's Shia community. Shias, said the Sunnis, were mere pawns of Iran:

Many Western analysts shared these views, and commented that while America had liberated the country from Saddam's dictatorship, Tehran would prove the real power broker in the new Iraq. A minority of analysts (Reuel Marc Gerecht in these pages among them) rejected this view. They argued that an independent Shiite religious leadership would flourish in Iraq, and ultimately come to challenge Khamenei's power over Shiites across the region, even in Iran itself.

So far, the minority view is prevailing, as the leaders of Iraqi Shiism have asserted their independence from Iranian authority. The reemergence of Iraq's Shiite leadership comes as the Iranian regime, having dropped all but the thinnest pretense of democracy, now stands only on the religious claims of authority made by Ali Khamenei. And there are indications that many Iranians reject these claims.

The majority view made it easy for war opponents to insist that overthrowing Saddam was a giant favor to the Iranians. Piffle.

I was always in the minority position here. Having written a manuscript on the Iran-Iraq War some years ago (which I came close to selling but no cigar. See a summary here), it was clear to see that Iraq's Shias proved able to slug it out and bleed for Arab (but Sunni ruled) Iraq against Shia (but Persian) Iran for eight long years. Some Iraqis would seek Iranian support, of course, but there was no automatic allegiance involved.

Most Arabists suffer from viewing Shias through the distorting lens of the hate, fear, and loathing that Sunnis have for Shias. Instead of looking for reasons to mistrust our Shia allies in Iraq, shouldn't we be looking to parlay that good will into an advantage in the wider Shia world? Play our cards right and we could see a Shia realignment in our favor. Even in Iran.

Bigotry is an ugly thing to hold dear, even if you think it is only the pursuit of stability.

They've Done Their Duty

Are our Army captains fleeing service and is this a problem? (Tip to Instapundit)

I don't know. But 20 months ago, there was another attempt to show a crisis of the captains and it wasn't terribly convincing to me:

I do not wish to minimize the importance of retaining these officers. We need them to stay in the service. I would, however, like to point out that the article speaks of retention since 9/11 but the helpful chart goes back to 1997. The loss rates for 1997 to 2000 were all higher than today's post-9/11 "high rate" (sadly for the article's premise, the trend ticks down for the first quarter of 2006). Indeed, in 1999 the loss rate was about a quarter higher than the 2005 year's rate.

So apparently, serving while at war is considerably less onerous than serving during peacetime in the late 1990s.

Just a little perspective, is all I'm saying.

It seems as if some are determined to show that Iraq is wrecking the Army. Yet superb performance after nearly 5 years keeps making the complaints hollow. Is the war stressing the Army? Yes. Do we need captains to stay in order to advance up the chain? Sure. Since I served one term and got out, how can I say that Army captains finishing one term of service are fleeing when they leave? I imagine these fluctuations are normal and the Army will adjust.

Next plastic turkey, please.

More Catholic than the Pope

Saudi Arabian authorities broke up a plot to attack during the hajj:

"Security forces have foiled a plot to carry out a terror attack on holy sites outside Mecca with the aim of confounding security forces," Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki told The Associated Press.

Nearly 3 million pilgrims came to Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj that wound up Friday with a final visit to Mecca after days of performing rituals in the surrounding hills.

"The group was arrested three days before the hajj season," he added, meaning that the men were taken into custody approximately a week earlier.

Clearly, the Saudis need to get out of Saudi Arabia. Let the "why do they hate us" debate begin.

Really, when the jihadis are eager to attack the Saudis, what hope do we have of adjusting our policies to placate them?

Friday, December 21, 2007

This Would Not Be Good

When you start to feel that the war against jihadi terrorists is all hype, think about this recent incident:

An underreported attack on a South African nuclear facility last month demonstrates the high risk of theft of nuclear materials by terrorists or criminals. Such a crime could have grave national security implications for the United States or any of the dozens of countries where nuclear materials are held in various states of security.

Shortly after midnight on Nov. 8, four armed men broke into the Pelindaba nuclear facility 18 miles west of Pretoria, a site where hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade uranium are stored. According to the South African Nuclear Energy Corp., the state-owned entity that runs the Pelindaba facility, these four "technically sophisticated criminals" deactivated several layers of security, including a 10,000-volt electrical fence, suggesting insider knowledge of the system. Though their images were captured on closed-circuit television, they were not detected by security officers because nobody was monitoring the cameras at the time. ...

Amazingly, at the same time those four men entered Pelindaba from its eastern perimeter, a separate group of intruders failed in an attempt to break in from the west. The timing suggests a coordinated attack against a facility that contains an estimated 25 bombs' worth of weapons-grade nuclear material. On Nov. 16, local police arrested three suspects, ranging in age from 17 to 28, in connection with this incident.

Torture, car bombs, chlorine gas, suicide vests, simple beheadings, and knocking down buildings with aircraft have just whet the appetite of the jihadis monsters who we've been fighting since September 11, 2001.

If you think that this much nuclear-grade bomb material loose and available for sale would never be acquired and used by nations or groups intent on destroying us, I really have nothing much to say to you about it. If you don't even believe we are at war, I guess only an atomic 2 x 4 figuratively whacked upside your head will get your attention.

Building that Bridge Back to the 20th Century

What will become of the progress our troops and allies have struggled, bled, and died to achieve?

As U.S. forces move into former insurgent strongholds in Iraq, the local people, both Sunni and Shiite, ask our soldiers not "When are you leaving?" but "Will you stay this time?" The rise of Iran's power has frightened many Gulf Arab states so much that they now ask the same question: Will the U.S. stand by them this time?

The notion that attacks on America result from the American presence in the Muslim world is nonsensical. America and its allies have been attacked when we had troops in the Middle East and when we did not; when we intervened in regional crises and when we ignored them. But our policies over the past few decades have resulted in the worst of both worlds--we have generated whatever irritant our presence in the region creates without giving our friends (and enemies) the assurance that we will actively pursue our interests and those of our allies.

It was one thing to debate how much support to offer authoritarian regimes providing questionable support to our efforts. Refusing now to defend states trying to establish constitutional and democratic government will be quite another. The immorality of such a decision is apparent. It would also be strategic stupidity.

It is time to move beyond reflexive Bush-bashing and antiwar sloganeering and consider our real interests in the Muslim world and how to secure them. It starts by declaring that we will stand by our friends in defense of common goals and against common enemies.

I know foreign policy realists are eager to erase the memory of the last seven years, but are we really ready to throw 50 million people away who have sacrificed greatly to achieve the hope of prosperity, freedom, and peace? Will we deny a billion others the glimmer of hope that this narrow progress offers?

We had to sacrifice so much this decade precisely because foreign policy "realism" was stuck in amber as the world evolved around them into a far different place. It is folly to insist that 1990s realism has any place in this decade or the next.

We crossed that bridge into the 21st century long ago. And jihadis knocked the damn thing down with a hijacked passenger aircraft. Move on, people.

Destroy All Monsters!

The Japanese, unable to wage war against Earthlings because of their pacifist constitution, are exploring legal roadblocks to waging war against alien invaders:

The Japanese Minister of Defense is calling for efforts to work out the military and legal issues that would result if Japanese were attacked by extraterrestrials. Two members of the Japanese cabinet have expressed personal beliefs in the existence of extraterrestrials out there, somewhere. Because of Japans 1947 constitution, there are restrictions on what actions the military can take. Basically, the Japanese military is, technically, a purely defensive force. But an extraterrestrial invasion might play out in ways that would find the Japanese military prevented, by lawyers, from moving against an extraterrestrial menace.

We're not making this up.

Fortunately, once the legal questions are answered, the Japanese have only to update War Plan 1968F: Code Name Kaij├╗ s├┤shingeki, which fended off the last invasion.

Oh, the humanity!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Creating More Anti-Jihadis

Can we end the talk of how fighting jihadis just creates more terrorists by noting this?

Three years ago, Saudi cleric Salman al Awdah, and 25 like-minded preachers, issued a religious ruling, that it was justifiable for Iraqis to fight American "invaders." Al Awdah had also been a supporter of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. But now al Awdah has changed his tune, as have many of his supporters, and he has come out against Islamic terrorism. This has ignited a controversy on pro-Islamic terror web sites, because al Awdah has long been seen as a major supporter of bin Laden among the senior Saudi clergy. While the Saudi government has been pressuring senior clerics to at least stop encouraging Saudis to support al Qaeda, the switch to being anti-al Qaeda appears to be a recognition that most Moslems have come to view the slaughter of so many Iraqis by terrorists as beyond the pale.

Our jihadi enemies are in retreat. Fighting them wasn't a bad idea.

First of all, when we weren't fighting back, the enemy didn't need to expand their ranks. Much like there were more Nazis fighting in 1944 than in 1940, surely once we started fighting the jihadis they reacted by trying to mobilize more resources. That's what wars are. Each side wants to win and tries to mobilize more resources to fight. Heck, our Army and Marine Corps are bigger now than in 2001. It is no surprise that the enemy would recruit more, too.

But to win you must fight even if the act of fighting obviously means more violence. Or are you really going to argue that when only we are being attacked, that counts as lower violence levels and is superior to more violence that includes our side fighting back?

In reality, before the Iraq War, jihad was all fun for Moslems when only distant infidels were dying and nothing bad happened to Moslems in response. Now that jihadis are killing plenty of Moslems who most Moslems don't consider worthy of killing, it is no longer so much fun.

To win you have to fight. It pains me to have to point out the bleeding obvious, but the need is there.