Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Loopy Links

Having switched to New Blogger, I can't say I've noticed too much difference. Though I was locked out yesterday evening. And today links to individual posts aren't working.

And as always, trying to get to a place where I can report a problem wore out my patience before I could find that elusive place. So the instructions to report the exact error code were rather pointless.

But I try always to remember that I'm feasting on free ice cream, so I shouldn't complain too much or with too much annoyance over a service that usually works just fine.

But if you are trying to click on links in my site and aren't getting anywhere, that's why.

Going Home With the One We Brung to the Dance

After World War II, some Japanese nationalists plotted a coup against the struggling democracy in Japan:

Declassified documents reveal that Japanese ultranationalists with ties to U.S. military intelligence plotted to overthrow the Japanese government and assassinate the prime minister in 1952.

The scheme — which was abandoned — was concocted by militarists and suspected war criminals who had worked for U.S. occupation authorities after World War II, according to CIA records reviewed by The Associated Press. The plotters wanted a right-wing government that would rearm Japan.

We too easily forget that it was not a given that militaristic and defeated Japan would emerge as a democratic and prosperous ally. In the middle of the Korean War, perhaps when the militarists felt we wouldn't risk resisting them when Japan was critical to supplying our military in Korea, anti-democrats plotted to seize power. And in our worries about running post-war Japan, we worked with some of the thugs we had defeated.

So don't be so eager to let high ranking Baathists back into the Iraqi government. Don't be so eager to side with the Sunni Baathists in some false compassion or bizarre view of balancing Shia thugs.

I guarantee you there are Baathists who are dreaming of 1952. We have to work in order to make Iraq a democratic and prosperous ally. And siding with the Shias and Kurds is a starting point. Sunni Arabs come in from the cold on our terms--not theirs.

A pardon and rehabilitation can mean Baathists without blood on their hands are not arrested and are free to work in the private sector. Only thoroughly scrubbed Sunni Arabs who are really ex-Baathists of high rank should be given the privilege of serving in the government.

Scary Talk

Too many people mistake Iran's scary talk and make-believe wonder weapons as signs of real power.

The Iranian regime is a challenge in many ways, but let's not get carried away in thinking they are stronger than us. Fouad Ajami asks us to simply look and analyze:

Iran is a radical player in the world of states, to be sure, but we should not overstate its power. We should not fall for the Persian bluff. It is important that we do all we can to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions and to checkmate it in arenas that count, but we should always remember that this is a society swimming against the tide of history and confronting the limits of its capabilities. There is an Iranian role in Iraq, but it should not be exaggerated. It is not true that the Iraqi political class marches to the Iranian drummer.

Through eight years of fighting in the 1980s, the Iraqis showed few signs of wanting Iran to win and control them. Let's not get carried away in thinking that the Iranians must win their plots inside Iraq.

The Iranians want us to think they can't be stopped--in Iraq, Lebanon, Iran itself, or in their nuclear ambitions. Don't fall for it. Remember:

Man cannot tell but Allah knows
How much the other side is hurt.
Iran just doesn't want you to know how much they hurt. Keep hurting them.

UPDATE: Victor Hanson wants to keep hurting our enemies:

Like Syria, Iran wants to end the democratic experiment in Iraq. Iranian money, weapons and expertise are used by terrorists in kill Americans in Iraq, and through Hamas to disrupt Palestinian peace efforts. Hezbollah, a group also backed by Iran and Syria, seeks to destabilize Lebanese democracy and restart a border war with Israel.

Such aggression is not symptomatic, as is often asserted, of confident regimes on the rise. Iranian oil production is declining. Billions in food and fuel subsidies are proving unsustainable, and scarce funds are siphoned off to foreign terrorists and nuclear proliferation. Beset by unsound economies and rising domestic unpopularity, the Iranian theocracy and Syrian dictatorship have become pariahs at odds with European diplomats, other Arab states and the United Nations.

Only the continued American policy of ostracizing Iran and Syria, galvanizing the international community to enforce U.N. compliance, supporting Iranian and Syrian reformers, and keeping a high-profile military presence in the area offers any hope that either nation will cease their subversion.

We need to keep the pressure up — without bombing, without bombast and without talking directly with these rogue and increasingly desperate states that have caused themselves and the world so much trouble.

I'm certainly in favor of keeping pressure on Syria. No war with them is necessary, though some direct force may be necessary given their support that kills Americans and Iraqis.

And I'd certainly like regime change in Iran rather than a war to stop their odious regime from getting nuclear weapons. What I don't know is if we have the time to spare to get regime change before they get nukes. I am not comforted by vague estimates of 5-10 years--an estimate that never seems to change. Given the pressure they face from a hostile Congress, media, and world that does not want to confront Iran, does anybody seriously think that President Bush is eager for war with Iran?

So if we strike Iran, I'll regret that we couldn't wait for regime change. But with the stakes as high as they are, I'll certainly support the judgment of an administration that could face the question of why we lost Charleston in a nuclear blast if we guess wrong.

Unusual Activity

The Chinese are unusually active lately in the realm of cyber-activity:

Has China created a spam monster? The use of spam (unsolicited email) has tripled in the last six months, and if the current growth continues, by the end of the year, over 90 percent of all email will be spam. ...

Yes, there are Internet criminals in China, but many are known to carry out their Internet scams only as long as they do not target Chinese (at least those in China), and "cooperate" with the government. There is not going to be a major criminal operation, via the Internet, based in China, for the last six months, without the Chinese government having a hand in it.

The Chinese government is not bashful about its Cyber War efforts, although officials are more reticent when it comes to details. It is known that the Chinese government makes use of civilian "irregulars," and even mercenaries, for some of its Cyber War tasks. The question is, what purpose is being served with the current spam flood? Just fund raising for the Chinese Cyber War troops? Could it be just one part of a larger campaign? A lot of nasty Internet activity has been coming out of China lately, including very targeted attacks on American military bases, and individual military personnel.

Before any sizable military operation, one can usually see increased military or related activity. Bolts from the blue are very rare. The signs might only be obvious in retrospect, but they are there.

Yes, I know, we are far more powerful than China despite the often hyped "rise" of the Chinese superpower. Whenever reports are out that point this out, I hasten to agree.

But we aren't more powerful in all areas of the globe at all times. If China wants to take Taiwan, for example, they need only maintain superiority long enough to conquer Taiwan. They are close. We are far. Our power will take longer to arrive than theirs. Longer enough for China to win? I don't know.

The Chinese have certainly expended efforts to deploy sea denial weapons to make us wary of sending in our naval forces to intervene quickly. Ideally, from the Chinese point of view, they overrun Taiwan before we can even decide to intervene let alone reach the scene with sufficient combat power to stop the Chinese.

If the Chinese can slow us down by non-military means, so much the better. The Chinese know we rely on the Internet and communications generally for our military, and so would seek to level the playing field by denying us one of our major advantages. With a recent anti-satellite test and ongoing cyber-activity, the Chinese show two ways of nullifying our advantage in battle. Two ways that might not trigger a decision by us for war the way a direct attack on our military units would.

And really, it doesn't even matter much to Chinese decisionmakers if we are stronger yet the Chinese believe we are weaker or just weak morally.

So I ask again, why the increased Chinese cyber activity?

UPDATE: Strategypage has an interesting post:

It takes a lot of special skills to build and maintain a botnet. Moreover, the larger botnets (100,000 or more zombies) can be used as military weapons. A botnet that size can shut down military websites, or be used to worm its way into classified sites. Do any governments maintain their own botnets? No one is admitting to it. But in preparing for a future Cyber War, whoever has the biggest botnets, will likely prevail. Currently, there is one huge botnet, with up to 100,000 zombies, that seems to be doing nothing. Rather ominous.

With the profit that such a botnet could provide criminals, who would set up such a botnet and then not use it to make money? The Chinese to attack us or somebody on our side preparing a counter-attack against China? I don't assume either option must be true.


E. J. Dionne is an insufferable partisan hack unable or unwilling to provide honest analysis of anything involving the war.

No, I'm not going to link to the particular piece that prompted this. Really, almost any piece he authors could be the objectionable link.

I'm sure with a little more effort, Dionne could reach Krugman levels of idiocy.

Focused Surge

Like I've argued in the past, a surge of effort and not force is what is needed to narrowly target Sadr and associated Shia death squads.

We are moving in Sadr City:

The pre-dawn raids appeared to highlight a strategy of pinpoint strikes in Sadr City rather than the flood of soldiers sent into some Sunni districts.

At least 16 people were arrested after U.S.-Iraqi commandos — using concussion grenades — stormed six homes, police said.

The U.S. military said the raids targeted "the leadership of several rogue" Mahdi Army cells that "direct and perpetrate sectarian murder" — an apparent reference to Shiite gangs accused of carrying out execution-style slayings and torture on Sunni rivals.

For most Sunnis to feel safe enough to essentially surrender to the new government, we must defang Sadr's death squads that target Sunni Arabs and force them to support Sunni jihadis and Baathists in a (futile) effort to protect themselves.

The other half of the problem is reducing Sunni Arab attacks that provide the anger that supports Shia death squads.

Ok, add a "third half" that stops Iran, Syria, and wealthy Sunni Arabs from supporting the killing of Iraqi Shias.

Remember, the majority of the "sectarian" killings are being carried out by organized jihadis or Shia thugs. Stop them and ordinary people won't be roaming the streets killing each other.

We understand that we are in a new phase of the war and have a strategy to win this phase.

Fear. On.

James Fearon (tip to Real Clear Politics) says we can't win Iraq's civil war. So we need to side more with the Sunnis to get the Shias to compromise.

Yet Fearon goes on to define civil war in an oddly broad fashion:

A civil war is a violent conflict within a country fought by organized groups that aim to take power at the center or in a region, or to change government policies. [emphasis added]

So violent Vietnam War opponents were proof we were in a civil war forty years ago? And the Animal Liberation Front is proof we are currently in a civil war here in America? Or weren't they organized, battling our government, and trying to change our policy?

This Fearon statement is consistent with the approach that seeks to prove that there is an ongoing pogrom against Minority A by using statistics that say 50% of Minority A have been victims of violence based on their minority status or perceive hostility or mistrust based on their minority status. Only when you read the details do you find that the study authors have deliberately padded a tiny record of violence with massive numbers of perceived slights to achieve their paper crisis. This is a meaningless definition of civil war.

Then Fearon oddly goes on to state:

When they do finally end, civil wars typically conclude with a decisive military victory for one side. Of the roughly 55 civil wars fought for control of a central government (as opposed to for secession or regional autonomy) since 1955, fully 75 percent ended with a clear victory for one side. The government ultimately crushed the rebels in at least 40 percent of the 55 cases, whereas the rebels won control of the center in 35 percent. Power-sharing agreements that divide up control of a central government among the combatants have been far less common. By my reckoning, at best, 9 of the 55 cases, or about 16 percent, ended this way. Examples include El Salvador in 1992, South Africa in 1994, and Tajikistan in 1997.

It is odd to say we have civil war in Iraq and then go on to say that the government crushes the opposition in most cases. And by excluding all civil strife that doesn't involve a struggle for control of the central government, Fearon seems to rule out a lot of civil strife well above that "change government policy" that Fearon in the first place says count as civil war. What gives?

We have civil strife going on in Iraq. But there are too many players across all sectarian divides to say it is a civil war. (Alternatively, if your definition of civil war is expansive enough to include the current fighting, the civil war has been going on for decades.) Some Sunni Arabs want to control the government. Some Sunni Arabs want to cooperate with the new government. Some Sunni Arabs just want to kill infidels. Most Shias want a democracy where their numbers will give them power (and justifiably so). Some Shias want a religious dictatorship. Some Shias love the Iranians. Some Kurds want an independent state. Some Kurds want to be part of a free and democratic Iraq. Various other minorities would just dearly love rule of law to preserve themselves.

There is too much Iranian, Syrian, and jihadi support for various factions that do not want democracy to call it a civil war. Without external support, the insurgents and terrorists would be defeated by now.

And mostly, there is too little chance of the Sunnis grabbing central power to call it a civil war (we have tossed that insane idea that fighting to change government policy counts as a civil war, haven't we?). When Shias represent about 70% of Iraq's population, how is it possible to think that Shias won't rightly dominate the security apparatus and government? How is it possible to think that a remotely fair fight between Shias and Sunni Arabs will result in a Sunni Arab victory? With the government having oil to sell, the government will have the resources to fight the Sunni and Shia thugs.

But Fearon thinks that we should balance the sides and push for power sharing:

To avail itself of more attractive policy options, the Bush administration (or its successor) must break off its unconditional military support for the Shiite-dominated government that it helped bring to power in Baghdad. Washington's commitment to Maliki's government undermines U.S. diplomatic and military leverage with almost every relevant party in the country and the region. Starting to move away from this commitment by shifting combat troops out of the central theaters could, accordingly, increase U.S. leverage with almost all parties. The current Shiite political leadership would then have incentives to try to gain back U.S. military support by, for example, making more genuine efforts to incorporate Sunnis into the government or reining in Shiite militias. (Admittedly, whether it has the capacity to do either is unclear.) As U.S. troops departed, Sunni insurgent groups would begin to see the United States
less as a committed ally of the "Persians" and more as a potential source of financial or even military backing.

This is hogwash. We should side with the Sunni Arabs who oppressed Shias and Kurds for centuries and who continue to slaughter Shias in terror bombings? Betraying the Shias will make them more cooperative? Why is it wrong for the Shias and their Kurdish allies to defeat the Sunni Arab terrorists? And why would a Shia-Kurd victory (with increasing numbers of Sunni Arabs joining) mean that we won't get a democracy in Iraq over time even if it doesn't appear tomorrow? First, why wouldn't the Shias want democracy to legitimize their numerical advantage? And why wouldn't continued American support to ensure rule of law help democracy along? We won't have instant full democracy in Iraq any more than we had it in 1777. We had a long road from 1776 to 1865-and even longer to 1965. But to argue that we are doomed to fail in Iraq seems incredibly short-sighted and shamefully eager for failure.

And even in his history to support his view, Fearon gets the entire Bosnia settlement wrong. He states:

Each side needs to come to the conclusion that it cannot get everything it wants by violence. For example, the Dayton agreement that divided power among the parties to the Bosnian war required not only NATO intervention to get them to the table and enforce the deal but also more than three years of intense fighting, which had brought the combatants essentially to a stalemate by the summer of 1995.

This is absolutely wrong. Yes, by the summer of 1995 there was stalemate. But Fearon ignores the August 1995 Operation Storm which coincided with our small aerial campaign. Operation Storm was a ground offensive that led Croatian and Bosnian Moslem forces to kick Serbs out of their holdings of Croatian and Moslem territory. The fighting could end under our watchful eyes because the Croatians and Bosnian Moslems captured their objectives in a lightning campaign and the Serbs feared losing even more if they kept fighting!

To argue for balancing based on misreporting the victory of one side as stalemate is outrageous. This seems like an essay designed to argue against a victory that we will achieve if we don't hand victory to the enemy in an unseemly display of panic or revulsion that we might win. Why does today's foreign policy "realism" always seem to focus on ways to save our enemies and deny us victory? You'd think "realists" would welcome even an imperfect Shia-Kurd victory that results in an authoritarian regime friendly to America rather than conspiring against such a victory.

Come on people, turn that fear switch to the fully off position. Dare to win. And dare to believe we should win.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Death of Panzers

The Germans became the world's leading practioners of armored warfare during World War II, and in the Cold War their tank divisions were heirs to that tradition which stood in Moscow's path along the Elbe River.

The Germans are downsizing their heavy armor holdings (via Jane's):

The German Army plans to retain 350 Leopard 2 tanks, including 125 Leopard 2A5 models and 225 Leopard 2A6s (of which 70 are in the mine-protected Leopard 2A6M version) that will be used to sustain the German Army's remaining six 44-strong tank battalions.

Six tank battalions totalling 264 tanks is the operational force? I dare say this is the end of the panzers. What industrial base could support replacing a mere 35o main battle tanks with new comparable vehicles?

I lot is riding on our new future combat systems to replace our proven monsters with light vehicles that substitute technology for sheer bulk in order to survive on the battlefield.

Although I freely admit that the side without air superiority will probably lose heavy armor as easily as light armor to enemy precision air power.

But since we aren't likely to be on the receiving end of such firepower, we still need heavy armor I think, to protect against ground threats that even low-tech forces can employ.

We shall see if the wonder tank is built. If it isn't, who knows what will provide fast, protected firepower for rapid offensive operations.

He Really Doesn't Want Plan B

The Iraqi Sunni Arabs show signs of continuing to be stupid as rocks:

The most prominent Sunni in Iraq's fragmented government said Monday that the United States is going to have to come up with a "Plan B" if the current crackdown fails to stem the violence in the capital.

Tariq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice president, also warned that the Shiite-led government has no choice but to use force against sectarian militias, even though it may be too late to keep them from resuming killings and kidnappings when the Baghdad security crackdown ends.

If the Sunni Arabs don't stop supporting killers who slaughter innocent Iraqis, Plan B will be the expulsion of Sunni Arabs from Iraq to become the new Palestinians.

Al-Hashemi really needs to focus on making Plan A work. He needs to get his people to reject the jihadis and accept minority status in a democracy. This is a better deal than his people gave the Shias. And the deal won't get better if we leave. Inshallah won't cut it this time.

At this point, comparing Sunni Arab Iraqis to rocks may be insulting to the rocks. Flipping amazing.

Learning from the Russians

We are winning in Iraq, yet opponents of the war continue to blast our fight as inept, brutal, and hopeless. I sometimes despair over the nitpicking nature of the criticism. Wars are a series of errors--people are trying to kill you while you are doing everything--from moving to building things to cooking food. Only fools imagine that war is fought without such friction. But those are the people complaining that we can't win.

One might want to contemplate a war ineptly fought, brutal, and at times hopeless. Chechnya comes to mind. The Russians won in Chechnya against Moslem jihadis. And they did it even though they really do want to control Chechnya. And after thirteen years, they do control Chechnya.

Let's look at that history:

It took a while, and involved some trial and error. When Chechnya first tried to separate itself from Russia (after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991), Russia responded with an inept military operation (1994-6) that killed over 35,000 people, and failed. Russia withdrew and left the Chechens to their own devices.

So the Russians made mistakes in their invasion. A lot of civilians died. And in the end, the Russians pulled out.

And what happened after pulling out? Surely the Chechens stopped fighting and stopped being a threat to Russia after the Russians were gone, right? Well:

Problem was, the Chechens could not agree on how to form a unified government, and stumbled into a perpetual civil war. Along they way, some factions adopted Islamic radicalism, and began moving into adjacent areas, that were still very much under Russian control. Other, less religious, factions, used Chechnya as a safe haven for smuggling and kidnapping operations throughout southern Russia.

So did the Russians manage to talk to all the neighbors and end the fighting in a triumph of chatting to their enemies? Well, no:

In 1999, the Russians came back in, and the second pacification campaign made greater use of Special Forces and better trained and led troops in general. This campaign killed about 5,000 people, but succeeded. The main reason for the success was the use of an ancient Russian technique. Basically, the Russians sought out Chechens who would be willing to run Chechnya, under Russian supervision, as long as they could keep the crime and terrorism under control. The Russians didn't care how "their Chechens" did it, as long as there was not a return to the 1994-9 era of rampant criminal activity. And no Islamic terrorism either.

Fine, military victory was achieved. But I'm sure this just created more terrorists to fight Russia. Not quite:

Over the last few years, the violence, and Islamic terrorism inside Chechnya, and Russia, declined.

So this victory--in conquering a Moslem region--didn't create more terrorists? Surely, the wider Moslem world never forgave Russia for this crime of subduing and controlling a Moslem region? Again, no. The Russians have helped the Moslem world (though it hurts us) and the Moslems shrug and move on:

This has worked, and Russia is now much more popular in Moslem nations, despite the defeat of the Moslem people in Chechnya. When reminded of this, the Russians merely point out that, currently, it's Moslems killing Moslems in Chechnya, and that sort of thing is accepted throughout the Moslem world.

So don't talk to me about our errors in Iraq. We've made few and they are hardly unique to the Iraq War or fatal if we keep pusing toward victory. If anti-war criticism was intended to help us fight better and win, I wouldn't mind. It is necessary, even. But the criticism is intended only to provide reasons to run.

Nor should you discuss withdrawing as a way of solving the problem. Abandoning a war mid-war just makes more problems that we will have to face again.

And don't talk to me about creating more terrorists by fighting this war. Fighting and losing creates more terrorists. Lots were created in the 1990s--back when we had that lip-biting sensitivity going for us. Fighting and winning reduces terrorism recruiting.

Finally, remember that just as Moslems forgave France for slaughtering Moslems, and forgave Egyptians for gassing Yemenis, and forgave Saddam for slaughtering Moslems, and forgave Russia for killing and subduing Moslems, Moslems will forgive us for liberating Moslems.

Or not. We never got much credit for a lot of other actions in support of Moslems in the past decades.

But if the Russians can blunder their way through to victory in conquering Chechnya, we can successfully liberate Iraq from killers.

And in the end, our strategy of standing up Iraqis to fight instead of us is the correct strategy. Because Moslems are fairly indifferent to Moslems killing other Moslems. We don't even need credit to enjoy that victory.

Fools' Paradise

Europeans are happy:

A pan-European opinion poll conducted for the European Commission and published on Monday showed that 87 percent of EU citizens considered themselves happy, with a record 97 percent in Denmark.

Yet full-throated drooling idiocy is not confirmed by these results:

But the Eurobarometer survey on "European social reality," conducted between mid-November and mid-December, found far lower satisfaction levels with retirement and employment prospects.

And two-thirds of the 26,755 Europeans questioned think life will be more difficult for the next generation because of unemployment, the cost of living and uncertain pensions.

Still, there's no reason why worry about the unsustainable comfortable lifestyle should interfere with their happiness now. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.

Happy Europeans will still be alive when that more difficult next generation arrives. That is the European social reality.

My, are the Europeans in for an unpleasant shock.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Dutch-Venezuelan Balance

I noted that I thought the Dutch could make Hugo pay a price for storming the Dutch islands off of Venezuela if the Dutch prepare a bit.

Strategypage looks at the balance. (What good timing! Thanks SP)

Basically, the Dutch have fine troops, good fighter planes, a good navy, and a long military tradition. But they are far away from the potential battlefield. The Dutch would need help to hold their islands or take them back if lost. One big problem would be the lack of air cover if the Venezuelans take all three islands. Other Dutch airfields in the area are far away at the edge of F-16 range. The other big problem would be the lack of logistics to sustain a joint force far from home.

I didn't figure that the Dutch could hold the islands with a little bit of preparaton, hence my suggestion that NATO's NRF could be used in response. But I did figure that Dutch military skills would make the Venezuelans pay for their land grab.

The bottom line per Strategypage?

The present Dutch deployment (a battalion of troops and a flight of F-16s over three islands) is small, and a bluff. If Venezuela calls the bluff, the Dutch are in trouble. Even if the Dutch forces were reinforced to include a battalion on each island, and a full squadron of F-16s, they are outnumbered by a potential invasion force. Venezuela has four battalions in their marine corps, plus an airborne regiment and a paratroop regiment. The local F-16s would be outnumbered by the Venezuelan Air Force, which has 15 Mirage 5s, 18 F-16As, and 18 F-5As, with 24 Su-30s on order. Reports of a Venezuelan purchase of MiG-29s appear to have fallen through. The Venezuelan Navy, with six Lupo-class frigates and two Type 209 submarines (plus nine Kilo-class submarines on order), could also create problems for any Dutch effort to recapture the islands.

Let me comment. If I was the Dutch and had two more battalions and the balance of a fighter squadron to add to the force defending the islands, I'd concentrate the defenders on the island best able to serve as a base to receive reinforcements to counter-attack rather than scatter them to futilely try to defend all three.

Holding one island would also make it more likely that NATO would vote to help the Dutch. If the Venezuelans quickly seize all three islands, the immediate crisis is over and Europeans might be inclined to shrug their collective shoulders and negotiate the formalization of the transfer. Holding one island and fighting on embarasses the Europeans over potentially abandoning an ally. And if the Dutch can hit Venezualan air and naval bases with air strikes or Tomahawk cruise missiles, the Dutch could impede Hugo's ability to wage a lengthy war.

I dare say logistics support from NATO (including us, of course) would help the Dutch deploy a force sufficient to isolate the lost islands and gain air and naval superiority in the waters around their lost islands. Like I said, holding one island would be pretty important in contesting the area. The Dutch might not even need to counter-invade.

And if NATO commits the land component of the NRF, the Venezuelans wouldn't be able to hold. This would be best because we surely wouldn't want the conflict to halt oil exports for long.

A lot depends on whether the Venezuelans could launch an amphibious invasion in the first place. I imagine they could. Especially against lightly held islands, jury-rigged forces can work out just fine.

But against an island defending by a full brigade with some attack helicopters and F-16s in support? This kind of force would guarantee that the fight would not be over fast. Could the Venezuelans support a drawn-out fight? Cuba won't help Venezuala and Iran won't help, either.

This question might depend on how much Venezuela's military has deterioriated under the bizarre guidance of Hugo Chavez and whether the entire military would obey orders to fight.

And if the Dutch were wise, they'd invite American Marines and the forces of NATO allies for frequent exercises down there to remind Hugo that the Dutch won't be pushovers. In the end, Hugo Chavez wants an easy victory and not a war. Make sure Hugo will face a war and there will be no war.

Of course, this assumes the Dutch even care to hold these islands if there is a price to pay.

Hopefully this just remains the subject for an obscure commercial wargame or something.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Air Power Can Wage This War

War with Iran is in the air as Iran skips another UN deadline to halt their nuclear program.

This article notes:

A BBC report citing unnamed diplomatic sources, however, said U.S. contingency plans for any U.S. attack go beyond targeting atomic sites to include most of Iran's military infrastructure. With the bulk of the U.S. military tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be unrealistic to imagine any military engagement with Iran would resemble the conflict in Iraq. One might imagine that, in a confrontation with the Islamic Republic, the U.S. would want to restrict the fighting to heavy use of the Air Force, guided missiles and seaborne bombardments.

The disadvantage of trying to win a war without committing ground troops by relying almost exclusively on superior air power was demonstrated last August when Lebanese Shi'ites of Hezbollah clashed with the Israeli army. Hezbollah dug in and waited for the infantry to arrive. That is when the real fighting began. In Iran's case, the United States will certainly not commit its infantry. However, Iranian ground forces might well choose to cross the border into Iraq and confront U.S. forces there, on what is almost home turf.

I noted that a war on Iran's nuclear sites would have to be very broad to shut down Iranian counter-attack options. Indeed, I too noted that a conventional Iranian invasion isn't out of the question.

That said, I have to quibble with the comparison to the Hizbollah War. Hizbollah merely occupied southern Lebanon and was not the Lebanese government. Wrecking the infrastructure of Lebanon was not Hizbollah's problem. Wrecking the infrastructure of Iran is the mullahs' problem. And if our objective is to wreck Iran's offensive capabilities and nuclear program, a wide-ranging campaign against military, WMD, and leadership targets can surely accomplish this mission. Israel's problem was that their air campaign was too wide ranging and did not focus on Hizbollah while leaving the Lebanese people alone; and their ground campaign was too narrow and hesitant.

We certainly won't be invading Iran and attempting to pacify this large country. But I do wonder if regime change is a possibility. We've had many years to make friends inside Iran who hate the mullahs. Could we be readying a military assault that will support an uprising? I'd like to note that in that old post I figured 5 Army brigades plus Marines striking from Iraq, the Gulf, and Afghanistan could support a revolt inside Iran and complement an air campaign against nuke sites. We are adding 5 Army brigades to Iraq, 1 Army brigade to Afghanistan, and nearly a Marine brigade to Iraq. The British and NATO are adding forces to Afghanistan, too.

All of these forces are purportedly for counter-insurgency missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as I've long said, we can't hide moving forces to CENTCOM. We can only provide a reason for moving them to the area that masks their real purpose. And I also think that we don't really need the extra troops to win in either Iraq or Afghanistan. They are certainly useful--but not critical. And so if we needed them elsewhere the counter-insurgency missions wouldn't miss a beat.

And even if we don't plan to hit Iran with these ground forces, they would be a powerful shield should Iran lash out and invade Iraq after we launch an air campaign against Iran's leadership and nuclear facilities plus other offensive elements. With this shield in place, if Iran tries a conventional invasion, our air power will rip apart the Iranians as they try to close with our forces. Our air power savaged the Iraqis in 2003 and we've had four years to get a lot better at this.

Our options are all hard. But Iran's aren't all that hot either.

Orange--Not Neo Red

A Ukrainian politician is coming to America to meet with our officials and warns of Russia's desire to reclaim Ukraine:

Ukraine's main opposition leader, on the eve of a trip to the U.S., warned Saturday that the former Soviet republic is at risk of sliding back under the influence of Russia.

Yulia Tymoshenko said she will reassure U.S. leaders on her visit starting Sunday that the Orange Revolution team which set Ukraine on its pro-Western path has reunited and will provide tough opposition to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's Russian-leaning government.

I noted this threat four days ago to the Orange Revolution.

Let's not lose the Ukraine to the stirring Bear. Fortunately, the opposition parties may have put aside their differences to promote their common interest of keeping Ukraine pointed toward the West and freedom and not east and Neo Red.

More than ever I'm glad we pushed NATO as far east as possible while we could. Perhaps Russians themselves will desire democracy if it is entrenched all along their western borders from Norway to Turkey.

The Infidel List Grows Longer

Sunni Arab worshippers were slaughtered at their mosque. This doesn't fit into the theme of sectarian violence:

At least 35 people were killed and 62 injured, said Lt. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed in Habbaniyah, which lies between the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah — both hotbeds of the insurgency.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on battles between Sunni groups in Anbar province west of Baghdad. Militants have increased attacks against Sunni leaders who support the government and denounce violence.

The Sunni Arab jihadis hate a lot of people inside Iraq: Americans, Coalition allies, Shias (naturally), Kurds, and now other Sunni Arabs who aren't convinced that the Viking funeral ride the jihadis want to take them on is the wisest thing to do.

If the government with our help can keep Shia death squads from killing Sunni Arabs who are just trying to live their lives (and I imagine that most who are left in Iraq can't afford to flee and so are not the ones who benefitted from Saddam's rule), such Sunni jihadi attacks will help move the Sunni Arabs from sympathy toward the insurgents and terrorists to neutrality; and from neutrality to sympathy and support for the government.

It really is time for Iraqis in central Iraq to unite and expel the common enemy of a prosperous and free Iraq.


The Iranians believe our threats are empty:

"We do not see America in a position to impose another crisis on its tax payers inside America by starting another war in the region," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters.

So explain to me again why Iran needs nuclear weapons to deter us?

Or are you seriously going to tell me that Iran is risking economic sanctions over their violations of nuclear accords they've signed in order to make nuclear fuel to generate electricity?

I think even the Europeans don't believe that farce any more. Of course, they may decide to surrender anyway. The mental gymnastics required to do that and still look at yourself in the mirror are much more nuanced than confronting evil as if it was a black and white question.

This Can Be Fixed

The Greatest Generation is still doing its job of letting foreigners know that you shouldn't mess with Americans:

A tour bus of U.S. senior citizens defended themselves against a group of alleged muggers, sending two of them fleeing and killing a third in the Atlantic coast city of Limon, police said on Thursday.

One of the tourists _ a retired member of the U.S. military aged about 70 _ put assailant Warner Segura in a head lock and broke his clavicle after the 20-year-old and two other men armed with a knife and gun held up their tour bus Wednesday, said Luis Hernandez, the police chief of Limon, 80 miles east of San Jose.

The representatives of the Lamest Generation who inhabit the State Department will have to work overtime to reverse this impression of strength and resolve.

But I know the nuanced folks of Foggy Bottom are up to the task. They've done so much for America already. I'm sure they'll have a formal apology to the family of the dead mugger drafted and sent in no time at all. And maybe even cash!

Determined to Die

The enemy in Ramadi is willing to die:

Commanders said a series of ongoing, coordinated operations between units throughout Ramadi would help to destabilize the enemy. At the same time however, Silverman said he and other commanders were not about to underestimate their foes.

“These guys have been involved since 2003,” Silverman said. “These guys are at their pinnacle. In some ways, they are almost as good as a professional army. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not enamored of the enemy. They are savages, absolutely. But they are not poorly trained savages.”

During the 3rd ID’s 2005 deployment to the areas of Balad, Tikrit, Samarra and Beiji, it was common for groups of 15 or 20 attacking insurgents to flee after two or three of them had been killed. Here, however, the same sized group will press their attack until most of them have been cut down, commanders say.

In a vivid example, officers said that U.S. snipers methodically killed 10 insurgent attackers recently as they attempted to crawl up a creek bed toward a combat outpost downtown.

The phenomenon, officers say, is linked to a breakthrough alliance here between U.S. forces and a majority of local tribes who once aided the Islamist groups. Until late last year, more than two-thirds of enemy fighters here were considered to be local Baath Party loyalists and/or from criminal groups. Now many of those local tribe members have opted out of the fight or joined the Iraqi police.

Those enemy who remain, officers say, are mostly hard-core Islamists who are increasingly desperate to break the alliance between tribes and the coalition.

The Americans interviewd call these enemies well trained, but well-trained insurgents wouldn't reinforce failure by continuing an attack until most are dead. The insurgents need the element of surprise, and if surprise wears off before the insurgents can inflict damage on defenders without suffering much themselves, they need to get the heck out of Dodge and try again another time. The counter-insurgent side with the power of the state can afford higher losses than the insurgents or terrorists. Direct combat while enduring losses is a mistake for insurgents. That's why the enemy usually uses IEDs and assorted suicide bombs.

The Americans quoted are mistaking fanatical for well trained, I think. Oh, the enemy may be skilled in terms of individual fighting abilities and small-unit tactics, but a well-trained insurgent enemy wouldn't persist in battering themselves against well-trained troops who are successfully shooting back. This is the difference between being a warrior and being a soldier. Fortunately for us, it is the difference between dead and living enemies.

The loss of the Baathists who were trained but not prone to welcoming martyrdom among the enemy ranks is a welcome change. It will help us kill more of the enemy. Determined and dead is fine by me.

Cast a Giant Shadow

Although I have long recognized the need to neutralize Moqtada Sadr's militias, I worried that Sadr had enough support to make taking him out directly by arrest or killing too dangerous to contemplate. For some time, I just couldn't conclude from what I read whether Sadr was too popular to target. I recently concluded that Sadr is weak enough to go after and that doing so won't cause a mass movement of support for him that also considers the government and our forces as enemies. Sadr's support was far more illusion than real.

If we take out Sadr's militia which is killing even innocent Sunni Arabs, and if the Iraqi government can provide protection to the Shias, then the Sunnis might feel secure enough to finally surrender and end their support for Sunni terrorists who pose as Sunni protectors.

I don't feel so bad about my long indecision because of my doubt about the apparent evidence I could see in public sources. I wasn't alone. Frederick Kagan, too, was in doubt:

"Attempting to clear Sadr City would almost certainly force the [Mahdi army] into [a direct] confrontation with American troops," they wrote in a January report for the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank. "It would also do enormous damage to [al-Maliki's] political base and would probably lead to the collapse of the Iraqi government."

Now at least one of the authors questions that view. In an interview yesterday, Kagan said some early signs of success, including al-Sadr's recent disappearance from the public scene and successful sweeps of other heavily Shiite neighborhoods nearby, suggest that U.S. forces could move into Sadr City earlier than Keane and Kagan had advocated."

It appears that I overestimated the Sadrists and underestimated Maliki," Kagan said. "Our troops have operated in these neighborhoods, and these neighborhoods are not resisting."

We still don't want to treat the Shia neighborhoods like Fallujah, but we have room to maneuver. If we do it quietly enough and with minimal firepower, we can probably pick apart the leadership of the death squads and neutralize them as anything other than local protective forces.

We need to exploit his apparent weakness now and pile on the negative impressions with our own information campaign to show him as a coward, Iranian tool, and corrupt fool. If we don't get him now--our third opportunity since Baghdad fell--he could regain his popularity and make my original worry true

Phase VI victory depends on neutralizing Sadr.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Wallet on a String

Austin Bay notes this good commentary on the North Korea agreement recently penned.

The bottom line is that this is significantly different than the 1994 agreement despite the cries of administration foes and even friends who belittle it as Clinton II and wonder why we didn't make this agreement years ago or ask we would repeat failure.

And given that many steps have to be taken to put it into effect, it is too soon to even tell if it is an agreement at all. But that is good since it took us 8 years to figure out the 1994 agreement wasn't worth the paper it was written on. We need time to see if Pyongyang is even remotely sincere.

A lot depends on what North Korea does in the coming months. And as these new talks to implement this proto-agreement drag on, North Korea continues to crumble. The oil we will provide initially is really just a token amount and not enough to save them and allow them to get all North Koreany again, confident that they've bought some more time. The Pillsbury Nuke Boy still needs to play by our rules to save himself. And by signing on to this agreement, the North Koreans have committed to playing along with this route a little longer. Long enough to die? We'll see.

Even if this agreement was 1994 version 2.0, we'd have the advantage of North Korea being far more feeble and four allies with us. But even this minimalist position is not true. This is--or could be--a better agreement. I'm getting a little more confident in judging this a reasonable agreement. Assuming we don't put somebody like Albright or Carter in charge of implementing or negotiating it, of course. And that can't happen for a couple years, at worst.

Hammer and Anvil?

American troop strength is rising in Afghanistan. That has been reported already.

And now British troop strength will rise in Afghanistan:

British media said 1,000 more soldiers would be sent to Afghanistan to join the more than 5,000 British troops already there.

Add to this that we have another carrier battlegroup heading to CENTCOM's area and that nearly six additional brigades of Army and Marine troops are going to Iraq.

And consider that I really believe our new strategy in Iraq is far more important than new troops.

And we've neutralized North Korea for a bit with the new agreement and planned talks that are required to implement it. Would North Korea attack us, South Korea, or Japan in support of Iran if Pyongyang thinks that will end the gravy train they think they've ordered?

So, are we building up strength to strike Iran and make sure we have sufficient forces to confront Iran in a conventional fight even as we maintain enough troops to continue the counter-insurgency fights in Afghanistan and Iraq?

If we are going to address Iran forcefully, we will need Britain. I think the British will help us. But to get Britain, we need Prime Minister Blair. The prime minister won't be here much longer than the summer.

Once again, I think I see signals of impending action. Of course, I've been wrong up to now every time concerning Iran. So my predictive powers aren't what I'd like them to be.

UPDATE: VP Cheney reminds us all that the European diplomatic initiative has failed spectacularly:

"We worked with the European community and the United Nations to put together a set of policies to persuade the Iranians to give up their aspirations and resolve the matter peacefully, and that is still our preference," Cheney said.

"But I've also made the point, and the president has made the point, that all options are on the table," he said.

When diplomacy fails, those other options become a lot more relevant.

An Inconvenient and Belated Truth

I post about global warming on occasion here because foreigners like to beat us about the head and shoulders for our failure to cripple our economy in order to fix what science has deemed a crisis.

I'm just not impressed with how the scientists involved are acting. Their thin skin makes it seem like they aren't too interested in defending their science or policy recommendations.

And science is not the infallible measure that the global warmers liket to pretend it is.

Case in point is the debate over the first Americans. Twenty years ago, at a previous job, I talked with a colleague who was in graduate school for archaeolgoy. He was amazed that the evidence that called into the whole Clovis theory into question was simply ignored. Anybody who tried to question that theory by bringing up evidence of prior settlements had no future in the profession. My friend told me there were sites that predated Clovis but his profession wouldn't deal with them.

Questioning Clovis was heresy. That was the state of the science then.

Well, Clovis is finally being questioned:

Using advanced radiocarbon dating techniques, researchers writing in the journal Science on Thursday said the Clovis people, hunters of large Ice Age animals like mammoths and mastodons, dated from about 13,100 to 12,900 years ago.

That would make the Clovis culture, known from artifacts discovered at various sites including the town of Clovis, New Mexico, both younger and shorter-lived than previously thought. Previous estimates had dated the culture to about 13,600 years ago.

These people long had been seen as the first humans in the New World, but the new dates suggest their culture thrived at about the same time or after others also in the Americas.

Michael Waters, director of Texas A&M University's Center for the Study of the First Americans, called the research the final nail in the coffin of the so-called "Clovis first" theory of human origins in the New World.

Waters said he thinks the first people probably arrived in the Americas between 15,000 and 25,000 years ago.

Scientists are not immune to bias. And this example is over a topic few people really worry about. Imagine how bias can insinuate itself when the scientists are straying from the pure science and advocating policy?

I wonder what the state of global warming science will be in twenty years?

Back to my regular programming.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Who Owns the Flag?

Whenever a suggestion is made that perhaps our enemy likes the Left's plan to retreat and surrender to them, the Left is fond of putting an an outraged air and sputtering that their dissent is patriotic and that conservatives don't "own" the American flag.

Yet when one war supporter tries to hand out small American flags to war protesters, once they figured it wasn't some post-ironic statement in support of their protest and that nobody would be following the flag distributor to pass out lighter fluid and matches, the protesters refused to touch them:

Ah, so now defeatist protests are considered "art," and passing out flags is "vandalism." Got it.

I'd be persuaded that conservatives didn't exclusively own our flag if Leftists didn't react to the flag like vampires reacting to Holy Water.

Dutch Treat

Hugo Chavez is simultaneously on a buying spree for modern weapons and purging any of his officers who might understand how to use them. That's about par for the course for nutcase thugs, fortunately.

And as he trashes his own economy, Hugo might try to pick on a neighbor to rally his people:

But for the last two years, Venezuelan officials, including the country's demagogic president, Hugo Chavez, have made numerous public statements about the "reunification" of the islands of the Dutch West Indies (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaτao) with Venezuela. Added to that there is the ancient claim on most of neighboring Guyana, some disputed Colombian territorial waters, and very flimsy claims on Caribbean islands like Trinidad and Tobago. There has been some actions as well. Venezuelan violations of Dutch air space and territorial waters, including illegal over flights by military aircraft, have occurred with some frequency. In addition, Venezuelan authorities have urged residents of the islands to form "Bolivarian" cells, in support of eventual "reunification."

If I was in charge of Dutch defenses, I'd be worried about Hugo. Of course, the Dutch have taken some actions that would be of use in case Hugo tries to self-promote to the Axis of Evil from the Axis of El Vil at Dutch expense. With a little preparation, I have little doubt that the Dutch could hold their own and make Hugo pay for any date in the Carribbean Sea.

And really, as a NATO country, The Netherlands would have reason to call on the NATO reaction force for help. I may not think much of the NRF given the lack of political will of the nations that contribute troops to the force (and an army directed by committee would only be as strong as the weakest member), but a direct attack on a NATO member by a nation with a military crippled by ideology would probably be considered an attack on all. Our 9/11 set the precedent for an out-of-area NATO response in the Western Hemisphere already.

If I was a betting man, I'd guess that if the new NATO force is ever used, the NRF sees service first in the Western Hemisphere rather than in Darfur or Afghanistan.

I still hope we can ignore the crazy man down south and that he'll self-destruct. But I don't know if we are that lucky.

Never Get Out of the Effing Boat

Our Navy is returning to the brown waters (via my Jane's email service):

After a near 35-year hiatus, the US Navy (USN) is returning in force to the riverine mission it quietly abandoned shortly after the Vietnam War. The Riverine Group, a battalion-sized unit conceived 17 years ago but implemented only after 2005, has stood up Riverine Squadron-One (RIVRON-One) and is in the process of standing up RIVRON-Two, using mainly ships borrowed from the US Marine Corps and navy special warfare units.

This is good. It seems unfair that there should be any bodies of water on this planet that our Navy does not dominate.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Collapsing North Korea Must Still Be Our Goal

Even if we have an agreement with North Korea that verifies they've shut down a reactor, I have little confidence that we can possibly keep them from pushing forward by different avenues to the same goal.

Two US nuclear experts think that North Korea could mount 5-12 nuclear warheads on shorter ranged missiles:

The non-governmental group's report added: "the warhead may not be reliable, and it may have a relatively low yield."

Many proliferation experts doubt whether North Korea has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile.

The ISIS report said North Korea had probably obtained technology from overseas that would help it make a crude nuclear warhead.

Experts do not doubt that North Korea has hundreds of missiles, including its modified Scud-type missile called the Rodong, that are capable of hitting all of South Korea and large parts of Japan.

This is different from past assessments that figured detonating a nuclear device is a far cry from actually making a warhead. Althoughthe experts do question the reliability of anything the North Koreans might slap together.

But this sort of debate kind of misses the point. It's the regime, stupid. Always has been. A decent regime would be no threat with 100 nuclear weapons (even I don't worry about nuclear-armed France). A hideous regime is a threat with no nukes and I don't even want to think about what they can do with nukes.

Squeeze Pyongyang. Even committed to supplying oil, we must make sure we dole it out slowly so that the North Koreans can't accumulate a stockpile or sell it for short-term gain to bolster their regime. Keep these negotiations going and only give the Pillsbury Nuke Boy the hope that he can avoid collapse by dealing with us.

We can't trust them, you know. We do realize that, right?

Born Again

Does the near-religious fervor of our anti-war Left strike anybody else as a little odd?

At first, when I heard about all the contenders for the support of the Left in the Democratic presidential primary race recanting their past support for the Iraq War, it struck me that we were having our own version of show trials. Trot out the guilty and have them renounce their past crimes and embrace the current regime.

But this isn't quite right. Nobody is being executed for their guilt. No, they are being cleansed and embraced.

Really, this is more about a pure priesthood (Kos and the DU and their ilk) demanding that the candidates be born-again Lefties and renounce the DNC devil that tempted them from the purity of that Eden of Vietnam War-era thinking. And the candidates have trotted out, confessing their sin of wanting to defend America and pledging that they have accepted defeat in Iraq as their personal savior. Truly, voting for the Iraq War is the secular Left's original sin. And the 2002 authorization to use force against Iraq was the Alar-tainted apple that tempted them from Paradise.

But those who have become born again Leftists are embraced by the loving and forgiving flock and told to defend America no more (Can I get a "Halliburton! from the congregation?!).

Hillary Clinton is refusing to completely accept her sinful nature, and so the high priests do not forgive her. She has not accepted defeat in Iraq as her personal savior without reservation. She is unclean. She must be punished for her blasphemy.

Kos the Baptist will see to that.


I'm Sure This is Our Fault

Our enemy in Iraq is using chemical weapons:

In Baghdad, a pickup truck carrying chlorine gas cylinders was blown apart, killing at least five people and sending more than 55 to hospitals gasping for breath and rubbing stinging eyes, police said.

On Tuesday, a bomb planted on a chlorine tanker left more than 150 villagers stricken north of the capital. More than 60 were still under medical care on Wednesday. Chlorine causes respiratory trouble and skin irritation in low levels and possible death with heavy exposure.

In Washington, two Pentagon officials said the tactic has been used at least three times since Jan. 28, when a truck carrying explosives and a chlorine tank blew up in Anbar province. More than a dozen people were reported killed.

Chlorine was the first chemical weapon used in World War I. I'm sure the outrage of the international community and assorted "progressive" and "human rights" groups over using banned chemical weapons will begin any minute now.

Yep. Any minute now.

Any minute.

Americans Still Want to Win

I mentioned that the national Democratic party is in danger of losing its credibility on matters of national defense by embracing defeat in Iraq.

Even if people (wrongly) think we are doing poorly in Iraq, most Americans want to win in Iraq and believe it is important to win:

57% believe “The Iraq War is a key part of the global war on terrorism.”

57% “support finishing the job in Iraq, that is, keeping the troops there until the Iraqi government can maintain control and provide security for its people.

50% want our troops should stay and “do whatever it takes to restore order until the Iraqis can govern and provide security to their country” while only 17% favor immediate withdrawal.

56% believe “Even if they have concerns about his war policies, Americans should stand behind the President in Iraq because we are at war.”

53% believe “The Democrats are going too far, too fast in pressing the President to withdraw the troops from Iraq.”

Opinion polls will turn rather quickly on the Iraq question if we manage to tamp things down in Baghdad--and if the press reports that to our people, of course. The press continues to report (as they have for several years) on the "increasingly unpopular" war in Iraq. The press won't come out looking too good either.

I'd love a two-fer.

Fardh Al-Qanoon (And Be Careful About Translating That)

The effort in Baghdad, code-named Fardh Al-Qanoon, is showing results:

Despite the jump in terrorist bombings in the last few days, the death toll in Baghdad, since the security operations began two weeks ago, have declined by over 70 percent. Shia civilians were afraid that, with Shia militiamen off the streets, there would be more attacks by Sunni death squads. This didn't happen, mainly because Sunni civilians, who provided safe houses for Sunni terrorists, have been driven from Shia neighborhoods. The Sunni killers have to travel farther to find a target, and that is more difficult because the Iraqi army and police have erected more check points over the last six months. American intelligence analysts have also used predictive software to analyze terrorist attacks and movements, and determined the best places to put the new checkpoints, and what to look for. Getting past checkpoints has become a major chore for Sunni terrorists, and many of them don't make it. When you hear of a suicide bombing with only one or two dead, that's usually a car bomber caught at a check point. Sometimes they take the bomber alive, which is an intelligence bonanza, as the bomb, and the bomber, can be examined at length.

Despite the cries of opponents of the surge that there is no new strategy involved, there surely is:

Adding 20,000 troops to Iraq in a five- to six-month window is a significant increase but in and of itself not decisive, and certainly not a "new strategy."

The relentless, focused targeting of Shia and Sunni extremist organizations is a far more important feature of what Iraqis are calling "the new security plan" than more U.S. troops. The coalition's effort to better integrate the economic and political development "lines of operation" with security operations could have greater long-term effects.

And of course, in the end, the military effort is just one part of the effort. The Iraqis are trying to sway the Sunnis by allowing the less tainted Baathists to rejoin the government:

Former Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi advocated a similar program in 2004, but Allawi's government was appointed, not elected. Saddam Hussein was also still alive. Maliki is an elected prime minister, and his government carried out Saddam's court-ordered death sentence. Maliki has the political capital to implement the program.

While I supported de-Baathification all along, I also recognized that not all Baathists can be pushed aside and given no choice but fighting or fleeing. And I have supported amnesty even when war supporters were outraged we'd allow those who killed Americans to get away with it. This view overlooked the objective of defeating the insurgency by substituting the objective of killing every enemy.

If we can draw in the Sunni Arabs (but not reverse the results of liberation, I should add), choking off the doomed but still lethal killers will pick up speed.

I worry a lot about using the level of violence as a metric for success or failure in this operation. In the long run, victory in the war will mean that the violence is squelched as the enemy is reduced. But in the short run, I hate to tie victory over a still-resisting (if doomed) enemy that just has to kill civilians in large numbers at least once a week to create that media effect of "resisting."

Oh, and check out the update to this post for an amusing aspect of the operation. Amusing in a tragic I-can't-believe-people-actually-think-this-way manner, but amusing nonetheless. The DU at work ...



Paul Campos has beclowned himself. He did it in the usual way, by arguing loudly about things he does not understand.

I find Campos to be amazingly ill-informed on the rare occasions his columns come to my attention. He seems to be a less talented and less well-groomed version of Paul Krugman or something. I sometimes wondered if I just caught him on weeks he picked to give up sniffing glue, or something. Apparently not.

Search TDR for "campos" if you really want to see my comments on some of his past articles. He isn't worth my effort to make the links. Sorry.

Building the Army

This is a good overview (via Stand-To!) of the direction of the Army from the recent past to the future.

It addresses a number of aspects so I can't really highlight anything of particular note.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Bear Awakens

When Putin's Russia is openly pining for the days when Moscow ruled an empire, events in Ukraine should make friends of freedom raise our defenses (via Jane's):

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has seen his position steadily undermined following the introduction of a new constitution in January 2006 as part of the package of agreements that saw him become president in December 2004. The main benefactor of the reforms has been his opponent Viktor Yanukovych who returned as prime minister and head of the anti-crisis majority parliamentary coalition government in August 2006.

The Ukraine was the greatest foreign asset of the Soviet Empire and Putin and other like-minded "former" Soviets are too keen for my tastes to get it back.

Secretary Rice should be in Kiev bolstering our friends and not chatting up terrorists in the Middle East.

UPDATE: In Berlin, Secretary Rice rejected Russian complaints about anti-missile systems in eastern NATO countries (see my post linked above). The Russians insist this is bad:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow sees the establishment of the missile defense sites as a signal that the United States wants to gain nuclear superiority over Russia. He dismissed U.S. claims that it was to counter Iranian threats.

"If they talk about potential threats coming from Iran or North Korea, missile defense elements should be located in a different place," Lavrov said in an interview published Wednesday in the daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta. "We can't help noting that these facilities would be capable of intercepting missiles launched from Russia."

Lavrov said that having the ability to shoot down Russian missiles could allow the United States to consider the possibility of a nuclear strike on Russia without fear of retaliation.

I can't help notice that in regard to North Korea, we certainly are putting missiles in a different place.

I can't help but notice that the Russians think that we can place missiles designed to protect Europe in locations other than Europe. Clearly the Russians don't want us to protect Europe from nuclear missiles.

I Also can't help noticing that the Russians still ponder lobbing missiles into Europe.

And finally, let's ponder that in that hypothetical US nuclear attack on Russia, a Russian counter-strike would be launched over the North Pole and not go anywhere near the anti-missile system's firing radius. So again, the Russians are worried about losing the ability to nuke Europe.

Lovely fellows, those Russians are lately, eh? I couldn't help but notice that.

My Semi-Annual Disclaimer

The Left has been annoying me more than usual lately. So it is time I dust off my semi-annual explanation of my contempt.

I don't use the terms "left" or "anti-war side" as synonyms for Democrats. There are anti-war Republicans, too, though admittedly they are in far smaller numbers.

I know many Democrats and they are fine people. On state level issues, I have no real problem with either party. These are things to be negotiated over in committees.

But at the national level when issues of national security are at stake, I cannot trust the Democratic party because they have been seized by a palace coup of Lefties and moonbat anti-war fanatics.

It is possible to disagree over policy. But what we have is a fundamental inability to even see the same world.

I cannot accept debate over whether we should win a war lawfully and justly begun. And I cannot accept debate over who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in this war.

As long as the national debate is over these issues, I will never trust the party that represents the view that we should lose and deserve to lose with the power to lead our nation.

And I don't like that situation. The Republicans deserved to lose the last Congressional elections, no doubt. But I could never say the Democrats earned the right to win.

I want that to change. We need two national parties that can be trusted with defending our country. We don't have that now.

Shrieking Weenie-Fest

With the latest faux armor crisis in full bloom, it might be good to recall the history of armor in Iraq that I wrote some time ago.

It is sometimes difficult to remember that critics of the war once bitterly complained that our troops in body armor and sun glasses were too intimidating and that we had to get our troops in soft caps walking about amongst the IEDs--I mean, walking amongst the people.

I would just add that if Representative Murtha's standards had been in effect in 1944, no American would have been allowed to hit the Normandy beaches that June. Because, without armor that cannot under any circumstances be penetrated, we can't win a war.

Victoryphobia is an ugly thing to see in action.

Thank You Canada

Canadian soldiers are doing an outstanding job in Afghanistan fighting our common enemies.

They are being recognized:

The heroic efforts of Canadian soldiers who've risked their lives in Afghanistan were recognized in a special ceremony in Ottawa Monday, as Gov.-Gen. Michaelle Jean handed out the first-ever Military Valour Decorations.

This is a vast improvement over past practices. Canada's soldiers deserve better and I'm glad to see them get the public accolades for their courage.

While I might (and do) lament the decline in the quantity of Canada's military, the quality of their soldiers is quite high and the willingness of the Canadians to actually fight with us when so many of our NATO allies will only sit and consume supplies is something I do not take for granted. Canada's military tradition lives on. This is good.

Thanks, Canada. Our common sacrifice will not be in vain.


I don't know why I ever read E. J. Dionne. He is such a party hack that I rarely bother, but Real Clear Politics noted his piece where he complained that the looming struggle between Congress and the President over waging war in Iraq is the President's fault:

The president is inviting a full-scale confrontation over his warmaking powers in the expectation that the Democrats' narrow majorities will deprive them of the votes they need to win such a fight. He is ready to split the country rather than give any ground to those who ask whether it's wise to risk ensnaring American troops in a Sunni-Shiite civil war.

The President is ready to split the country? Does Dionne even bother to look at the facts before he reflexively slams the president?

Congress, after supporting war against Saddam in 1991, making regime change in Iraq the official policy of our country in 1998, applauding the 1998 Desert Fox campaign, funding a decade of containment, and again supporting war against Saddam in 2003, now is getting its collective panties in a twist and wants to go full speed to the rear? And splitting the country and inviting a constitutional crisis is the President's fault ... how?

I mean, the President is properly waging war in Iraq with the object of victory, and we are doing a good job despite the Iranian and Syrian intervention that is fomenting the civil strife and killing of civilians inside Iraq. When Congress authorized war, I'm reasonably sure they expected both a vigorous execution and ultimate victory.

Or was it an authorization to use ineffective force? I guess I can't rule that out.

Congress, by advocating a reversal of course on a policy that stretches back more than 16 years, is the party courting a constitutional crisis by seeking to supplant our president as the commander-in-chief and put our Congress in the role of directing our forces in the field. Congress would, if it gets its way, split the country, split Iraq, and split from the Middle East entirely.

If Congress attempts to attach so many strings to their spending bills that the President cannot carry out his constitutional role of commander-in-chief, perhaps the President could request donations from our allies to fund our troop surge. Let our President seek the role of financing this part of our war effort apart from Congress. If Congress wants to violate the separation of powers portions of the Constitution, let the executive branch return the favor.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ramping Up

Our newly rediscovered Guam is getting another work out as it prepares for a larger role in projecting American power in the western Pacific:

"This exercise highlights GuamÂ’s strategic value and will show the world that we are prepared to defend our island and our nation from any threat of terrorism," Governor Felix Comacho said in his State of the Island address.

Guam and neighbouring US territories including the Northern Mariana Islands are considered by the US as strategic locations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Guam is home to one of the largest US military naval bases in the region and 8,000 marines will soon be relocated there from Japan.

The island, with a population of 170,000, is banking on the US military buildup to bail it out of its economic woes.

The US and Japan are spending 15 billion dollars on the relocation of the marines from Japan, which is expected to further boost Washington's military strength in the Asia-Pacific.

Guam will stand astride any Chinese attempts to push their sea frontier east.

And nothwithstanding the deal with North Korea to eliminate their nuclear programs (which I am refraining from praising or condemning until I see more), we perhaps are not so sure that the Pillsbury Nuke Boy won't try to earn some cash by selling what they have learned thus far.

Troubling Metric

Our plan for winning in Iraq certainly makes sense but I worry about the metrics for judging success.

Major General Fil describes the plan:

This new plan involves three basic parts: clear, control and retain. The first objective within each of the security districts in the Iraqi capital is to clear out extremist elements neighborhood by neighborhood in an effort to protect the population. And after an area is cleared, we're moving to what we call the control operation.

Together with our Iraqi counterparts, we'll maintain a full-time presence on the streets, and we'll do this by building and maintaining joint security stations throughout the city. This effort to re- establish the joint security stations is well under way. The number of stations in each district will be determined by the commanders on the ground who control that area.

An area moves into the retain phase when the Iraqi security forces are fully responsible for the day-to-day security mission. At this point, coalition forces begin to move out of the neighborhood and into locations where they can respond to requests for assistance as needed.

During these three phrases, efforts will be ongoing to stimulate local economies by creating employment opportunities, initiating reconstruction projects and improving the infrastructure. These efforts will be spearheaded by neighborhood advisory councils, district advisory councils and the government of Iraq.

We'll know when we're succeeding when the levels of violence are reduced. Some areas of the city will see rapid improvement, while others will take some time to make the same levels of progress. We are here for the duration.

The Iraqi people have not given up their hope for a prosperous and peaceful Iraq, and we should not give up on them. We're working literally day and night with the Baghdad Operational Command to help bring down the levels of violence, and the government of Iraq continues to move forces into Baghdad as we bring in more U.S. forces. It's an extremely complex and difficult mission, but together we are up to the task.

It's important to remember that all of this will take time, and the mission is going to be tough. It will take time for additional forces to flow in; it'll take time for these forces to gain an understanding of their areas and to establish relationships with the local Iraqi leaders and the citizens. It will also take time to conduct the clearing operations and then to build on our achievements.

All this makes sense. This is an appropriate approach to defeating our enemies inside Iraq.

But the metric is troubling. 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.

Feel the Love

The Russian missile forces chief Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, threatened the Czechs and Poles for wanting to defend themselves as part of NATO:

"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic take such a step ... the Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of targeting these facilities if a relevant decision is made," Solovtsov told reporters in Moscow, asserting the U.S. plan could upset strategic balance of power in the region.

Solovtsov spoke as Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and his Polish counterpart, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, both in Warsaw, suggested they were ready to move forward with a plan by Washington to put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar site in the Czech Republic.

Can you imagine that all the Warsaw Pact nations fled the loving embrace of the Soviet Union as soon as they weren't compelled to be members? And that then the Soviet Union itself fell apart?

The Russians need to stop pining for the days of their communist past.

UPDATE: The Polish prime minister is not so eager for the Bear's embrace:

"To make it clear — this is not about Russian security; these installations do not in any way threaten Russia," Kaczynski said on state Radio 1. "It's about the status of Poland, and Russian hopes that the zone, in other words Poland, will once again find itself ... in the Russian sphere of influence."

"From the moment the missile bases are installed here, the chances of that happening, for at least decades to come, very much declines," he said.

And note that the article understates the past by mentioning only the 45 years of Soviet occupation after World War II. No mention is made of the absorption of Poland for a couple centuries prior to World War I.

All Roads Lead to Home

Michael Barone slams the strange relationship our "reality-based community" has with intelligence:

Again we encounter the idea that intelligence agencies' conclusions should be regarded as Holy Writ, not to be questioned or analyzed critically by high government officials -- that there can be an intelligence product that is 100 percent accurate, and that every intelligence community conclusion must be treated as if it is.

The Bush critics' position is that we must believe without reservation or criticism any intelligence that can be used to argue against military action and that we should never believe any intelligence, however plausible, that can be used to argue for it. That's not very intelligent.

The Left has no clue about military matters and in the art of spycraft has just as little a clue.

When all intelligence is interpreted by our Left in a manner that always supports their preference to never confront our enemies, I think the proper response is to question the motives of our Left and not our intelligence reports.


Before the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Iraq's Sunni minority rulers worried that the Shias would not defend Iraq when faced with fellow-Shia Iranian enemies. Eight years of war ended that threat and Iraq portrayed itself as the shield of the Arab world against the ancient Persian enemy. Iraq as a nation was strengthened by this foreign threat despite Sunni domination.

But the shield of the Arab world was always a shield of the Sunni Arab world. The Shias counted as nothing but cannon fodder in service to the Sunni Arabs. Saddam's cruel era of oppression, torture,and mass murder eroded the common sense of Islamic solidarity.

And the post-Saddam support of the wider Sunni Arab world for the Sunni Arab killers inside Iraq who slaughter innocents has dealt perhaps a fatal blow to Islamic and Arab solidarity of Iraqis:

Suspicion toward foreign Arabs stems, in part, from the fact that the Sunni-led insurgency has included many foreign fighters, most of them Arabs, who are blamed for deadly attacks that have claimed thousands of Iraqi lives.

Could this alienation from the wider Arab world by Iraq's Shias help in Iraq?

With Kurds already suspicious of non-Kurd Moslems whether Turk, Arab, or Persian, with Sunni Arabs suspicious of Persians, and with Shias suspicious of foreign Sunni Arabs, do all Iraqis have a basis for unity on a rejection of foreign influence and foreign intrigue in Iraq? Are some speaking of splitting Iraq (as if we should draw borders as colonial powers once did!) just as the divisions this so-called solution are based on becoming less important than a shared anger at foreign intervention?

With massive oil reserves, a reserve of education that can be rebuilt, American influence that can build a more effective state and military, American friendship, and Iraq's geographic position, Iraq is in a good position to reject the region's hatreds and make the region adapt to Iraq.

While there is of course a danger of extreme Iraqi nationalism with great power in the long run, it is also often said that nations that must struggle for their nation's independence forge stronger bonds of nationhood than countries granted their freedom with no cost. Surely, the bloody intrusion of Syria, Turkey, Iran, and the Sunni Arab world into Iraq to fight their own wars at the expense of Iraqis of all stripes counts as a struggle for Iraqi independence.

We should all want a unified Iraq. Let's exploit the enemies' actions to help Iraqis unite to expel the invaders--all of them.

UPDATE: Oh yeah, how long do you think it will be before the anguished cries from the Sunni world of "why do they hate us?" erupt over this Shia anger?

Yeah, never mind. The Sunnis think little of Shia lives, so why would they think much of their opinions?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Always Faithless

We went 10-0 in our wars until Vietnam.

We actually won that war before we pulled out, but the anti-war Left reached back after the race was over to deny us the ability to defend South Vietnam against a North Vietnamese blitzkrieg that conquered Saigon the old-fashioned way.

So we were 10-1 at war.

We won some small ones after that and renewed our winning streak. Our Left tried to derail the Persian gulf War but our smallish aims could be achieved too fast to let the Left add another notch in their bongo.

And now, the generation that gave us defeat even after we won in Vietnam is trying to relive their glory days by defeating us in another war:

We'd have to go back to Benedict Arnold to find Americans as eager as Murtha & Co. to see an American defeat on the battlefield.

For all of President Clinton's faults, he at least removed the stain from his party that resulted in our people refusing to entrust them with defending our nation. But that gain is short-lived at the hands of the victoryphobic of the Left that wants our defeat so obviously that it is painful to watch.

But I guess if you are so ill-informed that you believe dissent is the greatest form of Patriotism, actively aiding the enemy must seem like the act of Jefferson himself. Funny, but a year ago, surrender wasn't quite so obviously the plan they trotted out.

The Left will ensure that nobody will trust their party for another generation. Any success at the national level will be as fleeting as Jimmy Carter's victory in 1976.

Raptors Rising

Our newest fighter, the F-22 Raptor, has deployed to Japan:

The total of a dozen Raptors and some 250 airmen from Langley air force base will conduct drills in Japan and South Korea.

The US fighters would be deployed for three to four months, according to Colonel Anne Morris, a spokeswoman for US Forces in Japan, who said the mission was a reflection of the US commitment to the US-Japan security alliance.

They didn't go to CENTCOM. Neither Iran nor Syria have earned that distinction. They didn't go to Europe. Sorry about that insult, Putin, but it's been awhile since the Red Army scared anybody but new Russian recruits.

The Raptor went to Japan because we have conventional threats on the Korean peninsula and on the mainland with an ambitious China that this hot-as-Hell fighter would tear apart if it came to a fight.

This single step has done more for the defense of Taiwan than the Taiwanese parliament has done in a decade.

The Surge

The so-called Surge in Baghdad has already begun.

A few Iraqi brigades, understrength and smaller than American brigades even when at full strength, have arrived in Baghdad to support an additional American brigade that has been deployed. More are scheduled to be sent.

In a city of 6 million, how is it possible that these first units, fewer than 10,000 additional troops, could count as a surge?

And how could these troops do anything when the loyal opposition claims there is no new strategy for these troops?

Yet already Sadr has fled to Iran and the Mahdi Army appears in disarray due to arrests of senior leaders and small numbers of the army itself. Sadr's forces are certainly quiet.

And jihadis have made for the exits in anticipation of the surge.

So deaths are down in Baghdad.

All this was achieved before our troops even really engaged the enemies and actually started operations.

All this is possible because, as I've argued, a surge of effort is necessary and not a surge of new American troops.

We have a better approach that recognizes that the Shia death squads are the primary obstacle to reaping the fruits of victory over enemy Baathist and jihadi attempts to defeat the new Iraqi government. There really is a cycle of violence in Iraq right now. The jihadis and die-hard Baathists with blood on their hands must be killed or driven from Iraq, but most Sunnis know thay can't shoot their way back into power. Even a couple years ago, it was possible to see that the Sunnis were attempting to surrender and move on.

But the Samarra mosque bombing of a year ago ignited the enemy strategy of provoking a Shia onslaught on the Sunnis so that the Sunni Arabs would embrace the jihadis as a source of protection rather than give up. Iranian and Syrian help to the Shia thugs helped this along nicely, of course. No point in leaving things to chance when you can support both sides involved in the killing. The Sunni Arabs became too afraid of the Shia death squads to surrender to the Shia-dominated government.

So knocking back the Shia death squads, of which Sadr's Mahdi Army is the most famous, is necessary to get the Sunni Arabs to quit the hopeless fight. The continuing flight of Sunni Arabs shows that the Sunni Arabs know that the jihadis don't actually provide protection, however. The jihadis just keep the cycle of killing going. The cooperation we've gained from Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar to fight the jihadis shows that the Sunni Arabs can be brought at least partly in from the cold.

So with Baghdad the key objective, we have new rules of engagement that allow us to fight both the Shia death squads the Sunni terrorists who still bomb innocents.

And we have political support in Iraq to do what is necessary. Not scorching the Earth as the Russians did in Grozny--but what is necessary.

The very fact that our surge is being spread out over several months should be a clue that the new American troops themselves are not the key to winning. Yet the focus on the new troops means that the surge of effort has some time to defeat the enemy before people impatiently ask if the surge has worked once all the new American troops are in place.

The talk of military force being necessary to militarily defeat the enemy is wrong. Military force is necessary--I would never say that is is not important. But the enemy which is indistinguishable from surrounding civilians (which is why they are unlawful combatants, if you remember) can disperse and hide when hit too hard, making military defeat of insurgents extremely difficult. A conventional enemy that is hit hard and dispersed loses its effectiveness because being organized and large is what generates power. Irregular and terrorist enemies don't lose their inherent strength when they hide.

What is important is that other elements of government power then exploit the limited achievement of the security forces. Military force is a shield that allows the non-military efforts to succeed in strangling the enemy by ending public support for the enemy. To be sure, the non-military efforts can't succeed without the shield that kills the enemy and atomizes their force as much as possible. But killing is not the measure of success.

The key to winning has been the political decision by Maliki to actually pacify Baghdad, including Sadr. Once that political decision was made, with the support of political decisions made by the Bush administration, the enemy wilted when faced with our newly focused power. This has nothing to do with the numbers, though numbers will help.

This does not mean the fight is over and won. The enemy will regroup and try to cope with the new situation in Baghdad. They will strike back. It will take time to win this new phase of the war. And winning will require the non-military efforts to exploit the atomization and fear of the enemy inside Baghdad. Unfortunately, victoryphobia at home encourages the enemy and undercuts what we try to achieve in the field.

But remember that we keep knocking down the primary threats inside Iraq. We will knock down the threat this time, too.

The victoryphobic among us actually seem to feel more comfortable losing even to vicious enemies who oppose every ideal our Left holds dear, except for a shared hatred of our president. That shared hatred is enough for our Left to overlook the ideology of the jihadis that would send women back to the 14th century, end our freedoms that the jihadis view as immoral, and kill homosexuals.

The enemy of their enemy is our anti-war movement's friend. Or if not "friend," then close enough for government work.

Let's not be so eager to surrender to the enemy that we are battering down every day.