Monday, April 30, 2007

The 2008 Staying-In Party

the 2008 Peking Olympics are often called China's "coming-out party" that showcases China's rise to global status.

This symbolism and the progress behind it are often given as a reason China would not invade Taiwan in the near future--and certainly not before the Olympics.

First, I've never predicted such an invasion though that is how my post is often described. I've said that if I was in charge, that's what I'd do.

But where does this logic go if China's economy really isn't progressing as they say they are, and as most observers believe?

The Western press is full of stories these days on China’s arrival as a superpower, some even heralding, or warning, that the future may belong to her. Western political and business delegations stream into Beijing, confident of China’s economy, which continues to grow rapidly. Investment pours in. Crowning China’s new status, Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

But China’s success is, at least in part, a mirage. True, 200 million of her subjects, fortunate to be working for an expanding global market, increasingly enjoy a middle-class standard of living. The remaining 1 billion, however, remain among the poorest and most exploited people in the world, lacking even minimal rights and public services. Popular discontent simmers, especially in the countryside, where it often flares into violent confrontation with Communist Party authorities. China’s economic “miracle” is rotting from within.

Without the economic growth they need to keep a restless population in line, old-fashioned nationalism fueled by conquest might be the only way for the Communist Party to maintain control of their continent-sized, fissured country. The entire rationale for believing that Peking wouldn't risk their economy by invading Taiwan disappears if the original assumption isn't true.

The Chinese want Taiwan. Peking firmly believes Taiwan is part of China. The Taiwanese shouldn't take too much comfort in being able to beat a Chinese invasion in 2012. That might be four years too late.

On the other hand, even if the 2008 Olympics are a Chinese coming-out party, isn't that what the Berlin Olympics were in 1936? I wouldn't think even the original assumption is terribly comforting, really.

UPDATE: And if you really are unconvinced that China has an obsession with capturing Taiwan, check out China's reaction to Saint Lucia's decision to restore diplomatic relations with Taiwan:

The resumption of ties with Taiwan was an "open violation" of a 1997 agreement that established diplomatic relations between St. Lucia and Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

This "is brutal interference in China's internal affairs," Liu said. "We express indignation and opposition."

China thinks that a tiny island nation of about 160,000 people is brutally interfering with China's internal affairs! How neurotic is that?

The Chinese want Taiwan. The Chinese are preparing their military to take Taiwan. The only question is when Peking pulls the trigger.

Of course, Taiwan has a say in whether they can resist such an invasion. I will say that precision weapons in sufficient numbers used by well trained military personnel would make a cross-strait invasion daunting for the Chinese. There really is no precedent for assessing the chances of a large invasion when the defenders can use precision missiles and bombs. We want V-22s that can make high speed dashes from over the horizon to avoid shore defenses.

How the Chinese could overcome such defenders is not clear to me. Special forces? Sheer mass and a willingness to endure casualties? Fomenting a coup? Poison gas? Surprise? I have no doubt the PLA is weighing their options carefully.

At the Eye of the Storm

Given that he was clueless about the intentions of our enemies back when he had the job of telling the President just that, it is not too surprising that George Tenet has trouble even recalling what his own government was doing back around 9/11.

Considering that the CIA has seemed far more skilled at destablizing the Bush administration than the governments of our enemies, this failing should not be a surprise.

When in the eye of a storm, all seems calm while in reality the storm rages about you, destroying what it touches. What comes after the temporary calm is worse than the first glimpse of the storm.

George Tenet's book title is revealingly appropriate.

All of the Above

We keep debating whether China will evolve into a democracy, stay a communist dictatorship, or collapse in economic and political chaos.

This article (tip to Real Clear Politics) describes China's apparent progress as a sham.

Two points leap out at me. One is in regard to the economic "miracle" taking place:

Doing his own calculations, adjusting for what he believes are fudged numbers, Mao Yushi arrives at a growth rate of about 8 percent per year. That’s a healthy rate, due principally to the shift of the idle or unproductive peasant population to industry, but as I point out to him, it’s no more than Japan and South Korea achieved during their take-off phases. “Correct,” Mao replies. “So it can hardly be called a miracle.” Moreover, the 8 percent doesn’t take into account the vast environmental destruction caused by China’s rapid development.

I've written about this again and again. The most efficient peasant put into the most inefficient factory will increase your GDP immensely, as the Soviet Union did for years. One day, Peking won't be able to move peasants to factories and the growth they absolutely need to maintain legitimacy will wither. With the example of the former Soviet Union nearby, I doubt the Chinese Communists will take this problem lightly.

The second is the cruel nature of the regime despite the hopes that economic growth will make China more free:

Villagers often told me that it wasn’t the local Party secretary whom they most hated but rather the family-planning agents. To ensure the proper implementation of China’s single-child policy (in some provinces, the limit is two children, if the first is a girl), the agents keep close watch on childbearing women, often subjecting them to horrific violence. In 2005, a family-planning squad targeted the city of Linyi and its surrounding rural area, in the Shandong Province, because the population had far exceeded the Party’s child quota. The agents kidnapped 17,000 women, forcing abortions on those who were pregnant—in some cases, immersing seven- to eight-month-old fetuses in boiling water—and sterilizing those who weren’t. The agents tortured the Linyi men until they revealed the hiding places of their daughters and wives.

No right to choose there, eh? This is cruelty on top of cruelty, courtesy of the Chinese state. They quite literally destroy families. Where babies are enemies of the state, who is immune?

With a state both cruel and failing economically, governing a continent-sized population with a history of fragmentation, I don't know why we need to guess which course the government of China will follow. The continent of China is big enough that it could follow all the possible paths.

The current Communist Party might retain control of Peking region south to the Yellow Sea, Manchuria, and Inner Mongolia in a rump (though still large) People's Republic of China.

Tibet and the Moslem far west could regain independence under local ethnic rule.

The central poor and rural provinces might revert to real Maoism that promises peasants a better deal.

The regions in the southwest, adjacent to Burma, could become simple military dictatorships of varying degrees of harshness and varying connections to the drug trade.

Hong Kong might become a new Singapore with real democracy.

The coastal provinces might become full blown free market economies with either democracy or autocracy, or steps in between.

In a country the size and complexity of a continent, many futures are possible.

A Bright Spot at Guantanamo

The poor darlings of Gitmo might get a tad sadder:

The Justice Department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to limit the number of lawyer visits allowed to three after an initial face-to-face meeting, to tighten censorship of mail from attorneys and to give the military more control over what they can discuss with detainees.

Lawyers for detainees believe that if their visits are limited, detainee desperation will deepen and more will try to kill themselves. On June 10, 2006, two Saudi detainees and one Yemeni hanged themselves with sheets, the first and only suicides since the 2002 opening of the detention center that now holds about 380 inmates.

"Visits by lawyers are one of the few bright spot these men have," attorney Zachary Katznelson told The Associated Press from Guantanamo, where he is spending two weeks to meet with 18 client detainees.

I'll ask it again, why should we care if they kill only themselves? Isn't that progress?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stockholm Syndrome

I've been rather critical of Congressional Democrats over the Iraq funding debate.

I don't like hammering the Democrats because I know too many who are decent people. I usually reserve my ire for the hard core Left that clearly wants to lose this war--if they think we're at war at all. I have as much disgust for the isolationist Right--but the Right isn't validated by a fawning national media. The isolationist Right is delegitimized by the press while the crazy Left is supported consciously and reflexively by a sympathetic reporter corps.

So I have a little comfort in reading this critique from the Democratic side that bemoans the apparent hijacking of the Democratic Party by the insane Left.

The Democratic wing of the Democratic Party needs to defeat these Leftists. Democrats don't want to lose a war. Leftists do. But right now the vanguard of the Leftists has the rest of the Democratic Party running scared and too afraid to slap down the fanatics. And rather than being disgusted by these fanatics, mainstream Democrats seem grateful for their energy. It's as if an entire party has been held hostage and is starting to identify with Kos and Democratic Underground as a survival mechanism.

So I don't think that I'm getting more intolerant. I think the Democratic Party is losing its soul to its intense Left and has not yet worked up enough resolve to reject and purge the nuts from the party.

I've always been disgusted by the Left. But the Left is moving mainstream, and so my disgust is following. It's not me. It's them.

I dearly want two national parties that are committed to defending our country.

UPDATE: I meant to work this article in. Too late. Just read it. It is fairly damning. It doesn't have to be this way. But it doesn't look like it will change any time soon, does it?


The question of Iraqi WMDs is still unanswered.

We know that Saddam failed to account for all of the WMD materials he purchased.

We know that Saddam kept his techinicians and scientists together.

We know that Saddam obstructed UN inspectors and moved material even as inspectors cooled their heels outside target buildings.

We know Saddam deployed missiles that violated his agreement to disarm.

We know that their was looting and removal of equipment and information even after we overthrew Saddam's regime.

We know Saddam needed WMD to deter the much larger Iran while Saddam's military was degraded from war and sanctions.

We know that it is possible for WMD to remain hidden from us given that we've found over 500 chemical shells. These were 1980s-era shells so not a smoking gun, but they do show that these wepaons van remain hidden.

The conventional wisdom is that Saddam was clean and merely bluffing.

Personally, I think that even if this conventional wisdom is right, Saddam would try to cover his bluff as soon as he could. And sanctions were faltering by early 2001.

But I remain convinced that the combination of our knowns indicates that Saddam had WMD at the time of our invasion. I only assumed he had chemical weapons. I worried we could be wrong again about the apparent state of Saddam's nuclear programs. And I was painfully aware of how easy it would be to hide a bio weapons program so had no idea what its state might be. Saddam could not be trusted regardless.

Remember that even Colin Powell, who critically examined the pre-war case, agreed that the evidence supported our claim (and the world's claim, too, recall) that Saddam had and actively pursued WMD programs.

Via Instapundit is the tale of one find that went unexplored. I remember this from way back and if I get the chance I'll look in my older archives. The article describes what one very credible witness, Dave Gaubatz, found in Iraq:

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq — two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.

This was, in the first place, because of the massive size of these sites and the extreme lengths to which the Iraqis had gone to conceal them. Three of them were bunkers buried 20 to 30 feet beneath the Euphrates. They had been constructed through building dams which were removed after the huge subterranean vaults had been excavated so that these were concealed beneath the river bed. The bunker walls were made of reinforced concrete five feet thick.

Oh, and Gaubatz and his team were exposed to radiation according to their medical records. He also believes--based on reports from various intelligence service contacts--the Russians helped Baathists and Syrians remove the contents of this site to Syria.

The bottom line:

The Republicans won’t touch this because it would reveal the incompetence of the Bush administration in failing to neutralise the danger of Iraqi WMD. The Democrats won’t touch it because it would show President Bush was right to invade Iraq in the first place. It is an axis of embarrassment.

Mr Loftus goes further. Saddam’s nuclear research, scientists and equipment, he says, have all been relocated to Syria, where US satellite intelligence confirms that uranium centrifuges are now operating — in a country which is not supposed to have any nuclear programme. There is now a nuclear axis, he says, between Iran, Syria and North Korea — with Russia and China helping to build an Islamic bomb against the West. And of course, with assistance from American negligence.

‘Apparently Saddam had the last laugh and donated his secret stockpile to benefit Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. With a little technical advice from Beijing, Syria is now enriching the uranium, Iran is making the missiles, North Korea is testing the warheads, and the White House is hiding its head in the sand.’

Of course, we don’t know whether any of this is true. But given Dave Gaubatz’s testimony, shouldn’t someone be trying to find out? Or will we still be intoning ‘there were no WMDs in Iraq’ when the Islamic bomb goes off?
So is this issue unresolved because the administration is afraid of being called incompetent and are the Democrats afraid of admitting WMD existed in pre-war Iraq?

Our apparent failure to exploit this lead is damning, if true. Yet our focus on WMD makes it difficult for me to believe we'd fail to look at this site at the time. I just don't buy that the explanation for this apparent oversight is reduced to a choice between administration incompetence and Democratic denial.

Did elements in the CIA or even the administration cut a deal with the Russians to let them clean this up for their help in some other aspect of the war?

Is the administration refusing to defend itself by exposing clear evidence of WMD despite constant and damaging attacks in order to further our national interests in some way that is not clear?

The administration has kept quiet on covert programs until our media has on several occasions exposed lawful and effective programs, when the temptation to trumpet some success based on those programs for political purposes was surely great.

I don't know what the real story of Saddam's WMD saga is, but I don't buy the current conventional wisdom that Saddam was clean, either.

New Strategy

Our current surge is a change of strategy to put American forces directly into the streets to police Iraq in order to tamp down violence.

Max Boot wishes we'd changed strategy earlier from the 2006 strategy of relying on the Iraqis to do that job:

I think the strategy sincerely came from General Abizaid and General Casey. I think President Bush was clear all along that he would take the best military advice that he could get, and that was the advice that he was taking, and it was a well intentioned strategy, it was the light footprint approach that Rumsfeld was in favor of, that Abizaid and Casey were in favor of, which basically thought that the less we did, the better, and the more the Iraqis would step forward to take control of their own affairs. That was a perfectly reasonable strategy, but it simply failed, and we know it failed, and so it was time to try something different. And you know, frankly, I wish President Bush had tried a different approach earlier, because I think it had been apparent earlier that that strategy wasn’t working, but better late than never, and finally, he decided to change his defense secretary, to change his commanders on the ground, to try something different, and that’s what we’re doing now, and I think it’s
incredibly important that we give General Petraeus and his team a chance to at least try to be successful, and to show what they can do over the course of at least a year or more without reaching to any premature conclusions about how the new strategy will work out.

Given the situation in January 2006, the former strategy was reasonable. The Shias had not at that point reacted to Sunni terror and the Baathists were defeated. It looked like the Sunni Arabs would finally surrender and the government would deal with Sadr as a political problem. We thought we could draw down our combat brigades by the end of 2006. Talk of 100,000 American troops in Iraq by the end of 2006 seemed reasonable.

The February Samarra bombing changed the war and made that strategy obsolete in regard to Baghdad. The war switched from a largely internal war that we had won to one where the still green Iraqi goverment faced a foreign invasion. Iranian and Syrian support for Shia death squads and Sunni Arab terrorists marked the start of this new phase of the war.

Pacifying Baghdad is key right now. To secure the city, it would have been far preferrable to change strategy in late summer 2006 when it became clear that the old strategy would no longer work. Indeed, I concluded this in April 2006 by calling for a more direct American role in Baghdad. So I recognize that our military was indeed too slow to react to the new situation. But it was not unreasonable to hope that we could push the Iraqi government to take care of the new problem.

By fall 2006, we decided that the old strategy would not work and that we could not rely on the Iraqis alone to handle the problem. Talk of how we might change approaches was clearly heard. I don't know if we could have changed strategy with an election coming up, however. We continued to try and secure Baghdad under the old rules through the fall. Now we are two months into a new strategy that relies on more aggressive methods. These methods are more important than troops numbers, I think.

The current track was not always the right course of action. But we are on the right track for the current problem. We will win this if we don't pack up and retreat on our own.

My Lucky Streak Continues

I'm lucky. Oh, not hit-the-lotto lucky, mind you. Though if I played it, who knows? And I don't mean to imply that life just flows along effortlessly with things just falling in my lap. Hardly! But I'm lucky in the sense that thing just seem to work out well for me. Even bad things seem to turn out ok in the end.

Case in point was my small household disaster this week. On Wednesday, I came home from work to find that my bathroom sink off my bedroom was filled with dirt that was clearly dried from some liquid soaking the whole thing.

Well that's odd, I thought. How on Earth did the sink back up like that? Everything around the sink was dry so there was no harm. But I couldn't figure out how the sink had backed up. What the heck happened? All the other sinks were fine. Oh well. I cleaned up the sink, tossed a nearby washcloth into the laundry just in case and forgot about it.

Thursday morning I woke up in a minor funk. Work has been insanely busy for three months now, and after catching up a bit a few weeks ago my backlog has shot up again. Even the Legislature's spring break didn't help much. Ugh. So I lay there about a minute contemplating just how I might play hooky. Sick? Nope. Ah, crap.

Nothing to do but get up and get on with it. So I showered and forgot about the brief flirtation with a day off. But as I'm brushing my teeth (man, this blogging stuff is fascinating, ain't it?), I glanced up and spotted a split in the seam of the ceiling. With a sudden understanding of what had happened yesterday, I stepped back into my bedroom still looking up. Yep, two big stains were over my desk and filing cabinet with all my important papers in there--from military records to divorce papers and mortgage information. I finished up that teeth-brushing I wrote of before and moved the desk and cabinet out from underneath the pre-waterfall. With rain threatening that day I discarded the thought of just going to work and dealing with the problem the next day. Funny how my first impulse was to go to work rather than deal with the leak problem, when fifteen minutes earlier I was imagining that I'd really like a day off.

But with rain coming that day, I knew that the leak had to be dealt with. And the water spots on the ceiling in my bedroom meant that I wouldn't be as lucky as I was the first time. Imagine, the leak was right over my sink! I don't know how long it leaked, but if it had been over wooden furniture or even the carpet, I would have had quite the damage problem. Plus, since I have a new roof no more than a couple years old, this could be serious. So I called into work and I called the condo management to report the problem.

And then I waited.

I couldn't even blog or read news. I just kept checking the ceiling every half hour or so as I watched the rain start and stop. Finally I called the company again to ask just where on Earth the crew was. Turns out there were actual emergencies. No problem, I said, I understand emergencies take priority. But I'd like to know when they might arrive. I could run errands if I only knew when they'd arrive. Heck, I could have done them all had I known that it would take this long.

By now it was raining quite a bit. And the leak was starting up. It wasn't much of a leak. Just drips--no pouring deluge or anything. Yet the water was splattering all over the place. Just on the counter, mind you, but the spray pattern clearly covered a large area. Luckily it didn't reach my contact lens stuff or electronics (just an electric shaver).

But my tooth brush holder was clearly in the splash zone ... Wonderful.

So I threw my tooth brush out--about two teeth brushings too late, mind you. Ah Crest with Attic Wash Enhancers! It doesn't bear thinking what that splashing water flowed through to get to my sink and tooth brush.

Really, though, my luck in having a leak precisely over my sink amazed me all the more. A leak over the carpet would have wrecked the carpet and done a job on the floor below it, too. Talk about a major insurance claim.

The work crew called and said they were on the way. The man asked if I knew where the attic access is. You bet. He asked if I would clear it so they could get to work when they arrived. No problem, I said.

So I cleared out the closet so he'd have clear access. Two men arrived and they tried to shake the ladder of the water. It was raining, you know. So I offered a towel and the assistant wiped it down. We shook hands all around and I showed them the way. The guy in charge checked out the leak location than headed into the attic. Five minutes later he was back down with pictures on his digital camera that showed the entire path of the water, from my ceiling leak up to the chimney where he could see light coming in. He said he'd have to come back to fix it. And he thanked me for clearing the closet. He said it saved them time and my condo association money. I said I figured they had plenty to do so why waste their time? I got the impression that when he asks people to prepare for his arrival that this request is not often fulfilled. Very odd.

With it raining on and off I was a bit worried that they'd have to come back to fix this problem. I was really eager to get this resolved before my ceiling caved in. As we walked down the stairwell, he pointed to the chimney on the other side. That's where your leak is. We walked outside and looked at my chimney. Well that's the problem, he said, your chimney cap is gone. See that chimney across the way? It is capped. Yours doesn't have a cap.

Come with me, I said, I think I know where we can find one.

Last Sunday, while I was outside playing with Mister and Lamb, I spotted a big metal thing with sharp edges and nails attached, sitting in the little alcove-like area between my place and the adjacent units' entry and stairwell. At the time I was pretty pissed off that somebody had dumped it there. What if Mister or Lamb had fallen on it and cut themselves? I picked it up and almost hauled it off to the dumpster. But then I stopped. What if someone needed it? Could I just really toss it in the trash without knowing why it was there? So I left it propped in the corner where it would not pose a threat to children. And then I forgot about it.

Until I found out about that thing called a chimney cap. Sure enough, that thing was a chimney cap. It must have blown off in the wind storm we had about a week and a half earlier. I wish I'd known it was a chimney cap--my chimney cap! I could have stopped the whole problem in its tracks. But instead, off and on rain worked its way toward the ceiling over my sink during that time.

But hey, now the crew could haul the cap up to the roof and nail it back in place. The damage was at least contained and my ceiling would not cave in after all.

Then I managed to go grocery shopping, buy a slip-and-slide at another store, and then grab a high ceiling cleaning kit that can be used to change high light bulbs. I've been casually looking for one of these for almost six years. My bulbs in my stairwell lights haven't died yet, but without this device I would have been helpless had they burned out. Now the Light Fixture of Damocles inspires no fear in me.

I need to find out if the crew will come back to caulk the chimney or whatever or whether the problem is considered solved. And I want the ceiling to dry before deciding whether I can just paint the bedroom ceiling stain and get the bathroom ceiling patched or whether both areas must have the dry wall replaced. The association should pick this cost up, I should think.

Then I read a bit and washed a sink full of dishes before picking up Mister and Lamb for the evening. And the next day it would be back to work. The pile on my desk could only grow while I was gone and not shrink (and since I checked my work email during the day I confirmed that it grew. Ugh).

So there you go. That was my lucky day. Luck the leak was over a sink that contained the damage to a tooth brush. And luck I hadn't let anger shoot me in the foot by unknowingly throwing away my chimney cap. And I did actually get a day off after all from the frenzy at work. Not that I'm not paying for a missed day of tackling that pile, of course.

Plus my digestive tract seems to have survived whatever it was that I brushed my teeth with.

So my lucky streak continues. Things really do just seem to work out for me.

Yeah, I know, not exactly Ferris Buehler's day off. But I said I'm lucky and make no claims to leading a particularly exciting life. I'll leave the lion taming to others.

Fighting the Wrong War at the Wrong Time?

Did the Army increase tours of duty to get more troops or perhaps to avoid offending Congress over the current funding flap?

General Casey wants the Army's planned expansion accelerated by two years:

The Army has set 2012 as its target date for a force expansion to 547,000 troops, but Gen. George Casey said he told his staff to have the soldiers ready earlier.

"I said that's too long. Go back and tell me what it would take to get it done faster," he said in an interview with The Associated Press during a stop in Hawaii.

The Army has 30,000 more troops to go for a new end strength since the increase in total numbers includes temporary increases already in place.

The need for the troops by 2010 rather than 2012 is clear from the increase in Army tours to fifteen months, right? Clearly we need more troops faster.

Apparently not:

When the U.S. Department of Defense announced that army troops would have their 12 month tours in Iraq extended to fifteen months, it was believed that a troop shortage was the reason. Well, that's what the Department of Defense was content to let the media and pundits rattle on about. But the real reason was money. Political grandstanding has delayed the cash for Iraq operations, and that causes all manner of administrative problems. A simple solution for many of those problems (which are difficult to describe in 25 words or less) was to simply extend the duty tours by three months. This actually costs some extra money, as troops are given extra pay and vacation days when they serve more than twelve months in a tour of duty. But in the end, being able to delay call ups and troops movements by three months, provides time for Congress to come up with the needed money, and for the bean counters to prevent legal and administrative problems arising from the absence of cash or credit.

You know, I've long thought the Army was too small. But I believed that efforts to transfer Army slots to civilian positions, switch units from Cold War-era tasks to what is needed now, and rebalancing active and reserve units were effectively expanding our Army. I believed these should have been given a chance before the costly step of increasing the total size was taken.

When the military said it needed more troops, I accepted their judgment and figured we must have reached the limits of working with what we had.

Now I am wondering about my assumption that we need more troops and that the past methods to expand combat brigades are exhausted.

I know the military plays games like any other bureaucracy to advocate for more money, but when a budget advantage is bought at the price of convincing a few more percentage points of our people that the Iraq campaign is breaking our Army, I have to ask what the Army thinks it is doing? We are in a race against Congress to win this war, and providing a little more ammo to the ranks of those who want to bug out before we win is short-sighted.

When the funding to expand the Army is voted for, perhaps the Army will reduce the tours to 12 months. I had assumed we must not have the rotation base to support 20 brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, though with close to 40 brigades in the active Army force and 9 more in the Marine Corps, I didn't really understand why we couldn't sustain one year on and one year off for about 20 brigades in combat even with a short overlap between units coming and going. Using a couple National Guard brigades each year would further reduce the strain. I was apparently hasty in assuming my rudimentary calculations were in error.

Win the war against our enemies first. Worry about budgets later.

Press Ignorance

This Time article asks if the surge is backfiring:

It remains to be seen whether the dozens of other combat outposts popping up around Iraq amid the surge will come to face similar attacks aimed at sending U.S. troops back into heavily fortified compounds and, in the hopes of insurgents, ultimately home to the United States in defeat.

Um, yes, our outposts will come under attack. But that is not the purpose of the surge--it is a result of the surge. The purpose of the surge is to directly fight the enemy and protect the population until the Iraqis can do the job with less help from us.

When I saw the headline, I wondered what the article would address. Is the strategic effect we are seeking backfiring? Are Iraqis turning against the surge?

But no, in a typical display of a failure to understand their beat that our press would never tolerate in a theater critic or food reporter, this story on the surge fails to understand the difference between what the new strategy is trying to do and what the military is enduring to achieve that objective.

We did not surge to reduce our casualties (not in the short run anyway). Increased casualties are a perfectly predictable result of the surge as our forces engage the enemy continuously and in greater numbers.

I'd say that I expect better from a major publication like Time magazine, but I don't.

A UN Success?

My Jane's email updates reports this (no link):

Lebanon's Hizbullah organisation is establishing a new line of defence just north of Lebanon's southern border district patrolled by the UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL).The emphasis on a new front line and the lack of military activity in UNIFIL's area of operations further south suggests that the Iran-backed Hizbullah has chosen to abandon any attempt to resurrect its formidable defensive infrastructure along the border with Israel for the time being.

I may have been hasty in predicting the UN force in southern Lebanon would fail. The UN appears to have been more effective than I dreamed possible last summer. But after reading articles about how Hizbollah has resupplied in Lebanon I'll reserve full judgment on this issue. The Jane's post after all doesn't address the rocket supply--just the bunkers that Hizbollah had last summer.

Of course, even if true, this still means that Hizbollah is a threat to the Lebanese.

But the UN may have seriously eroded the capability of Iran to use southern Lebanon as a point to counter-attack if we finally go after the mullah regime. If there is another round of fighting this summer, Israeli improvements and decreased Hizbollah capabilities will make it easier for the Israelis to win.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wrong From I to V

The press doesn't cover what actual military people think of the war in Iraq. Except for those who dissent. That's newsworthy. Unlike all those troops who want to win and think we can.

So it is no shock that the criticisms of one Army lieutenant colonel is receiving adoring press coverage. The press just loves a dissenter in uniform! They fairly swoon in their presence.

Look, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling has done more to defend our country than I ever have or will. He has served our country in two tours in Iraq, in Bosnia, and the Persian Gulf War. I thank him for that. But he is just plain wrong in his criticisms of the campaign in Iraq.

He thinks the military focused on a high-tech conventional conflict and had too few troops to fight an insurgency that the military underestimated. And the generals failed to tell the American people of the intensity of the fight, he says. This is all a failure of leadership and imagination, he says. Yingling speaks approvingly of General Shinseki's warning that we'd need several hundred thousand troops to pacify Iraq after the fighting. And his concluding call to Congress to fix the officer corps is laughable.

In his sweeping condemnation of our senior officer corps from Vietnam to today, LTC Yingling begins with such an error in his starting point that it is difficult to see how all that follows isn't built on this crumbled foundation. Yingling writes:

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America's general officer corps. America's generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America's generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

The first sentence is wrong and in the second sentence Yingling corrects the first sentence, but doesn't seem to even realize this. The Viet Cong were defeated by 1975. Even the North Vietnamese who replaced southern recruits for the Viet Cong after the Tet Offensive was beaten (to maintain the illusion of an insurgency) were knocked down. South Vietnam was pacified. Our supposedly unprepared armed forces defeated this Soviet- and Chinese-supported insurgency and built a South Vietnamese military capable of holding off the North Vietnamese. The second sentence, where Yingling concedes that the North Vietnamese conquered South Vietnam, should have been a big clue about how wrong Yingling is in his analysis about our defeat by insurgents. Good grief, he surely knows that a conventional North Vietnames mechanized army conquered South Vietnam. How can he possibly claim we were defeated by an insurgency?

Having wrongly identified the problem in 1975, one would think that YIngling's conclusion about the responsiblity of the officer corps would be one of crediting them with winning that difficult war rather than condemning them.

So, with a foundation based on a bad assumption and an incomprehsible condemnation, LTC Yingling moves on to Iraq. We'll skip over the same officer corps that provided victories in Panama and Kuwait, I guess.

The core of his criticism is here:

Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public.

Given the lack of troop strength, not even the most brilliant general could have devised the ways necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. However, inept planning for postwar Iraq took the crisis caused by a lack of troops and quickly transformed it into a debacle. In 1997, the U.S. Central Command exercise "Desert Crossing" demonstrated that many postwar stabilization tasks would fall to the military. The other branches of the U.S. government lacked sufficient capability to do such work on the scale required in Iraq. Despite these results, CENTCOM accepted the assumption that the State Department would administer postwar Iraq. The military never explained to the president the magnitude of the challenges inherent in stabilizing postwar Iraq.

After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America's generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.

After going into Iraq with too few troops and no coherent plan for postwar stabilization, America's general officer corps did not accurately portray the intensity of the insurgency to the American public. The Iraq Study Group concluded that "there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq." The ISG noted that "on one day in July 2006 there were 93 attacks or significant acts of violence reported. Yet a careful review of the reports for that single day brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.

Let me dig in. You might want to review our numbers of troops to fight the enemy here as an interlude. Too few troops, indeed.

The idea that it was a mistake to focus on high tech warfare when we invaded is laughable. Far from facing a stalemate and some mythical Stalingrad on the Tigris, we took apart Saddam's military in record time with amazingly low casualties. With a conventional enemy controlling Iraq and defending Saddam, just how were we supposed to take them on? Honestly, this criticism is just foolish.

I already addressed the Desert Crossing study. The numbers Yingling cites were probably just boiler plate language and not based on rigorous analysis. Heck, Desert Crossing said we'd fail even with 400,000. And the boiler plate assumptions of 2% of population in security troops may not be as accurate as the conventional wisdom says. And if it is dueling studies you want to get into, let me cite a post where I refer to studies that said we'd need 300,000 to pacify Afghanistan and 100,000 to pacify Iraq. We had enough troops to invade, and we've had enough troops to fight the terrorists and insurgents.

As for hiding the intensity of combat, that is ridiculous. Our press is all over every bit of violence. And if adding in crime violence as Yingling clearly must be doing (otherwise we'd face far higher casualties than we do now) is the correct way to measure stability, then lots of countries are failed right now. I imagine a lot of mayors over here wouldn't want this level of scrutiny. The attacks we track are military attacks and encounters. That is what we are trying to fight. Let the Iraqi police combat crime after we've defeated the Baathists, death squads, and jihadis supplied by Syria, Iran, and foreign Sunnis. Is Yingling really saying that we have to defeat crime in Iraq to succeed? Hell, we can't do that here at home! The criminal violence certainly adds to the mayhem but it is not our military's problem.

Look, I'd never claim we've made no mistakes in Iraq. But I am steadfast in claiming this has been a well-fought war. It is a war we are winning. Mistakes are made in war all the time. yet one side or the other wins.

Iraq is no Valmy no matter what Yingling writes. I'm impressed he knows of the fairly obscure Valmy, but just having some history knowledge doesn't mean he's applied its lessons to today with any accuracy. We face the same old type of insurgency and terrorism that have plagued many other places on the planet over history. Weapons may change but the basics of fighting them endure. We are not faced with some epoch-breaking new foe that makes old styles of fighting obsolete. If not, comparisons to Vietnam would be pointless even on Yingling's terms of the debate since that war presumably lies before whatever Valmy-like change we face today in warfare in Iraq.

So LTC Yingling is certainly free to think we are wrong, losing, and doomed. Yet in a time when war opponents are doing their best to cause our defeat in Iraq, I would have hoped that a responsibility to his Army and nation would have led him to phrase whatever critiques he has in terms of how to fight better and win. Instead he feeds the anti-war defeatists who have always opposed this war and who don't care what the consequences are to us or the Iraqi people for forcing a loss there.

We are winning this war despite mistakes that are minor compared to the mistakes that have routinely been made by armies throughout history. I would think that a combat veteran would have a better appreciation of this friction of war than he displays in this article.

If we have had too few troops in Iraq, explain how we have overcome problems and progressed since March 2003 to the point we are at now with an elected Iraqi government and increasingly effective security forces? I'm not sure whether we need 380,000 or 470,000 to win, but I am certain we have well over 600,000 fighting the enemy. And we are clearly winning, holding off threat after threat as the non-military means of winning progress.

And if we have too few troops, where is the evidence that the enemy has taken advantage of this so-called deficiency? Four years after the invasion and the enemy fights in smaller groups than they did in summer 2003. Far from building up larger and larger units as time goes on to actually control land and contest us in large forces as the enemy did in Vietnam, in Iraq the enemy is largely reduced to suicide bombers and IEDs. There are no regiments and divisions laying siege to provincial capitals or attacking major cities and bases. The enemy is atomized and doomed.

In the end, the freedom to dissent does not automatically mean the dissenter is correct. LTC Yingling is wrong in his critique. I won't say he is wrong from A to Z. That is far too sweeping. But he is wrong from Iraq to Vietnam.

And God help us all, but his conclusion that Congress would have a clue about how to fix whatever military problems do exist is a product of thinking from the echelon above reality. I don't know what idealized Congress he thinks would have a clue, but the Congress that we have couldn't pour an effective officer corps out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.

LTC Yingling's critique will be used by the advocates of defeat to try and ensure our defeat. I wish LTC Yingling has considered the effects of his ill-chosen words before penning them. He just undermind and nullified all the good that he has done in two tours in Iraq. We shall see if he has gone into negative territory in terms of serving or hurting his country. Remember, there is a price to be paid for exercising the right of dissent.

Never be confused about that. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword.

Spring Spasm

I didn't think the Taliban would pull off a successful spring offensive despite the Taliban hype and the annual hope of Iraq War opponents that finally the Taliban would prove that we are distracted by Iraq and letting Afghanistan be reconquered by the Taliban.

Strategypage notes the results thus far:

This year's Taliban offensive in Afghanistan is shaping up to be as much of a bust as last years. So far this year, about 900 people have died from Taliban related violence in Afghanistan. About two thirds of those have been Taliban, and most of the remainder civilians. Last year, there were 4,000 dead, with two thirds of them Taliban. In other words, this year is starting off looking like a repeat of last year. One difference is that the Taliban are not as numerous as last year. Recruiting, especially in Pakistan, has been more difficult.

Next year in Kabul is becoming their unofficial motto. Eventually, they'll just mutter it in exile in Pakistan without actually doing anything to accomplish it. Or more likely, decide Pakistan is an easier target.

UPDATE: The spring offensive is under way. NATO's, that is:

More than 3,000 NATO and Afghan troops are participating in the operation, the latest effort to bring Helmand province under the control of President Hamid Karzai.

I continue to believe that our fight in Afghanistan benefits from the focus of our anti-war side on Iraq. Without Iraq, I have no doubt that the American anti-war side would turn on the Afghan campaign.

Great Leap Forward

The Chinese have established "women's town," with special rules:

Chinese tourism authorities are seeking investment to build a novel concept attraction -- the world's first "women's town," where men get punished for disobedience, an official said Thursday.

The 2.3-square-km Longshuihu village in the Shuangqiao district of Chongqing municipality, also known as "women's town," was based on the local traditional concept of "women rule and men obey," a tourism official told Reuters.

"Traditional women dominate and men have to be obedient in the areas of Sichuan province and Chongqing, and now we are using it as an idea to attract tourists and boost tourism," the official, surname Li, said by telephone. ...

The motto of the new town would be "women never make mistakes, and men can never refuse women's requests," Chinese media have reported.

This is not quite as unique as you might think. The idea is far broader than the Chinese government states.

The real model is drawn from every other location in China, which are called "Commie Towns."

In those towns, all people must follow the basic rule that the communists rule and the people obey. In those towns, the motto is "communists never make mistakes, and people can never refuse the party's requests." So really, women's town is not so novel as a basic concept.

Yet it might be quite the subversive force in the long run. After decades of party rule of the vast majority of people, when half the population of women's town runs the place, even that will represent a giant stride in the concept of popular rule.

So I hope the women of Longshuihu village will rule wisely. Peking might rue the day they broke the party monopoly of power, even if only for a novelty tourist trap.

This could be a great leap forward, eh?


Hugo Chavez claims we are plotting to invade him at any moment. His forces uncover plots every day, he says. Conveniently, they are usually centered on his domestic political opponents.

Yet no American invasion fleet sails.

And no bombers sortie.

And Marines and paratroopers don't seem to be memorizing Spanish phrases.

One might almost start to conclude that America does not, in fact, plan to invade Venezuela.

What's an up-and-coming lunatic thug dictator to do in these circumstances?

Well, declare you've developed the perfect defense!

The leftist leader, who has repeatedly accused the United States of planning to invade his oil-rich nation, said Venezuela had test fired missiles on Thursday but it was not clear what kind of projectiles he was referring to.

"We're going to have a tremendous air-defense system, and with missiles capable of reaching 200 kilometers (124 miles)," Chavez said during a televised speech. "(It) will convert Venezuela into a nation truly invulnerable to any external threat, invulnerable to any plan of aggression."

Problem solved! We'd invade but for this wonder weapon that Hugo is deploying. That's certainly convenient.

It is fascinating to see a once promising nation utterly destroyed by an insane idiot savant like Hugo Chavez. Before it is over, America will be enriched by large numbers of Venezuelans fleeing this slow motion train wreck to build new lives here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Deviant Group

The Saudis still fund the Islamo-fascist ideology that spawns terrorism, but in the last few years at least the Saudis recognize that this support doesn't get them a pass from the jihadis.

The Saudis nabbed a whole bunch:

Police arrested 172 Islamic militants, some of whom had trained abroad as pilots so they could fly aircraft in attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil fields, the Interior Ministry said Friday. A spokesman said all that remained in the plot "was to set the zero hour."

The Saudis know they need to fight the jihadis, too. This is progress. Though given Saudi funding of the ideology that spawned this group, these terrorists are not so much deviant as a logical extension of Saudi policy. So we have more progress to make in regard to the Saudis.

But having them on both sides of the fight is real progress, sadly enough.

Worthless: No Debate On That

Real Clear Politics highlights an E. J. Dionne opinion piece. It is as worthless as I've come to expect of his work:

President Bush and Vice President Cheney cannot make the case that their Iraq policies have succeeded, so they are doing one thing they do very well: taking a serious argument over the future of American foreign policy and turning it into a petty partisan squabble.

This is not really an argument over the "surge" of troops into Iraq. It is a fight over whether we want to make an open-ended commitment to keeping combat forces in Iraq for many years or whether we anticipate pulling most of them out within a year or two.

With some in the loyal opposition changing their positions on the war over the years to suit the polls and election cycles, this accusation about who is responsible for turning this into a partisan political squaggle is rich (rising even to Frank Rich standards). When our Congress declared war on Iraq and now pretends this is the president's war, don't talk to me about political posturing. When the loyal opposition boasts of the gains they will make in 2008 over the war, a little silence on this partisanship question would be in order.

As for the debate really being an open-ended Ameircan commitment versus pulling most of our troops out in a year or two, I must respectfully disagree. This is a false choice and the wrong question.

We all know that our commitment is not open-ended. Our new Congressional leadership has made it clear we will go home some day soon. And the Left's nonstop yapping over the last four years has clearly sent the message that our commitment is not open ended.

The real debate is whether we have the resolve to win a war that our Congress declared (and yes, Congress did declare war with an authorization to use military force--we don't do declarations of war for a very practical reason). Do we fight to win a legal war? Or do we pretend we can end the war with no consequences by just wishing our enemies will call the whole thing off? This is the serious question at hand.

Oh, and our policies are succeeding in Iraq, notwithstanding Dionne's dubious judgment. And they have been for some time. But if you assert defeat as a given fact as Dionne does, it makes it easier to ignore the whole serious victory or defeat debate.

I don't know if Dionne is deliberately obscuring what the real debate is or whether he is simply unaware. I suspect the former.

E. J. Dionne is a worthless partisan hack. I don't have a nicer way of putting this. He is probably a decent and intelligent man, but I've long since despaired of getting an honest portrayal of events from him if President Bush is even remotely involved. I gave up on his NPR blathering because the contrast of David Brooks trying to be even-handed (though he represented the Right) while Dionne would respond as a full Left Operative was too much. Indeed, it was sickening.

It was not always thus. I seem to remember he once was a reasonable writer though I can't say he persuaded me on much. But I could read him without spewing my coffee. Perhaps as 2009 passes, Dionne's Bush Derangement Syndrome will go into remission and he will become readable again. I once did read his work, after all.

Big Fish

We nabbed a senior al Qaeda thug:

"Abd al-Hadi (al-Iraqi) was trying to return to his native country, Iraq, to manage al-Qaida's affairs and possibly focus on operations outside Iraq against Western targets," Whitman said, adding that the terror suspect met with al-Qaida members in Iran. He said he did not know when al-Iraqi was in Iran.

The Pentagon said al-Iraqi was born in Mosul, in northern Iraq, in 1961. Whitman said he was a key al-Qaida paramilitary leader in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, and during 2002-04 led efforts to attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan with terrorist forces based in Pakistan.
I heard on the radio we've had him for a year. Good. I assume we've rolled up as many terrorists as we think his answers will help us get.

He is now enjoying our hospitality at Guantanamo Bay. May he rot there.

Too Hasty?

Our troops are not perfect. But we do punish them when they commit crimes.

Sadly, too many Americans are too quick to believe enemy propaganda about our troops in a rush to judge.

The Haditha incident is a case where the rush to judgment may have been too hasty:

There is now evidence that backs the Marines charged with killing civilians at Haditha in Iraq. If true, the new evidence would indicate that al Qaeda carried out another successful information operation that not only diverted resources into an investigation, but also provided some anti-war politicians ammunition to not only claim crimes had been committed, but that there had been a cover-up.

The initial Haditha investigations uncovered some apparent discrepancies in the Marines' stories, and a criminal investigation by NCIS was launched. This led to some criminal charges being filed earlier this year. Now, some of the charges have been dismissed, and it is beginning to look like the accusations of a massacre may be untrue, making it look like the story may end up to be more a case of the media getting it wrong. If so, this would not be the first time.

At one time I thought the evidence discussed in public probably meant that some Marines did commit a crime. But I didn't assume it. And if true I never assumed it tarred all our military with guilt. We fight honorably.

I sincerely hope that the Strategypage report is correct and that the charges are wrong. War critics were eager to condemn the Marines, the war, the military, and the Bush administration for causing these poor victimized Marines to go postal. No actual massacre by our Marines really should undermine that whole chain of causation.

It should. But it won't. For the anti-war side, Haditha is too good not to be true no matter how this ends up. It will join the lengthening list of things that the Left believes but which are not true.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Not a Surprise

This result of the surge is being portrayed as a failure:

Since U.S. and Iraqi troops launched the security crackdown in Baghdad in February, Sunni militants are believed to have moved out of the Iraqi capital to seek haven in nearby areas such as Diyala.

Yet this was assumed before the surge went into effect, I believe. I recall some story (which I can't find) that said that most of the surge brigades would go to the surrounding areas rather than Baghdad itself.

Before the surge, Casey said two brigades would suffice for Baghdad. This made me feel better since I'd argued we really didn't need much of a surge if at all as much as we needed a change in tactics and a surge of patience.

I still want that patience. But with Congress voting to "change direction" in Iraq (i.e. "retreat"), I might do better to wish for a pony.

Once More Avoiding the Breach?

I keep assuming that our President and Prime Minister Blair are determined to do whatever it takes to stop the mullahs from getting nuclear weapons. Even as we go the extra bazillion miles pretending that diplomacy and non-military means might influence Iranian behavior.

Ledeen writes that we are once again trying to engage the mullahs of Iran:

The delusion that one can settle our little disagreements with the Islamic Republic, if only the right people sit around the right conference table, has seized every administration since Jimmy Carter. Every president has sent emissaries to talk, and every administration has made demarches to Tehran. To date, the net result is hundreds of dead Americans. And yet the delusion persists. Each time it fails, the deep thinkers at Foggy Bottom manage to convince the secretary of State of the moment that we are just one small concession away from success, and by and large the secretary goes for it, just as Secretary Rice has.

I admit that as time goes on, I lose more hope that we have the resolve to stop Iran before a nuclear weapon is used by Iran. If we've done nothing by the time Tony Blair steps down, I think I will finally have to accept that we are willing to absorb the first nuclear blow before we respond. The only question is whether Israel has made the same decision.

The only saving grace to this possible decision is the possibiity that we have time to build anti-missile defenses to intercept that first blow.

Of course, this still doesn't address the general support of terrorism that Tehran engages in or their support for terror inside Iraq.

So Much For the Pottery Barn Rule

Our Congress has voted to mandate a retreat from Iraq:

The 51-46 vote in the Senate was largely along party lines, and like House passage a day earlier it underscored that the war's congressional opponents are far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a Bush veto.

Democrats marked Thursday's passage with a news conference during which they repeatedly urged Bush to reconsider his veto threat. "This bill for the first time gives the president of the United States an exit strategy" from Iraq, said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin.

The legislation is "in keeping with what the American people want," added Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

The war is lost, they say. Who won they do not say. Tragically, all those stories about how Harry would resign his office if he could not fight in Iraq were not about Senator Reid. Our Harry wants out and to Hell with the consequences.

In 2002, a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House declared war on Saddam's Iraq. The Democrats voted for the war despite constant complaints by the Left that we hadn't debated enough. Others complained that George Bush was engineering an easy war to ease his reelection campaign in two years. The public supported the war, however, so Democratic leaders did what the people wanted.

Then the Left quieted down for a bit due to the rapid defeat of Saddam's military and regime. Yet it wasn't long before the Left restarted the never-ending debate about whether to start the invasion.

And then it was plastic turkey after plastic turkey as the Left tried to paint the war as an incompetent endeavor. But they did not want to lose, they said. Oh no. It was the Pottery Barn Rule, they said. We broke Iraq so we bought it. While viciously and ignorantly complaining about a series of plastic turkey faux problems, the loyal opposition said they simply wanted to fight the war competently. I vehemently objected to the idea that liberating Iraq "broke" that country, but I comforted myself with the fact that they said they wanted to win in Iraq. I could endure some unfair criticisms if they'd try to win. One can accomplish much if you don't worry about who gets the credit.

Despite the difficulties evident by November 2004, and the unrelenting defeatism espoused by the Left, the voters wanted the president reelected to fight the war. That's what the voters wanted.

So as the 2006 elections rolled around and the Left was angry and eager to surrender. But the national Democratic Party was not so eager to run on that theme. They professed a desire to win. We need more troops. We need to pacify Baghdad. We need to get rid of Rumsfeld. So they ran conservative Democrats and won. That's what the people wanted.

Now the Left runs Congress. Having not run on ending the war, they now declare the voters sent them to Congress to retreat from a lost war. With their record, I'm not so sure they can be trusted to know what the voters want. I'm pretty sure that they are sadly wrong if they think our President, who has nobly fought this war despite relentless and iditioc criticism, wants an exit strategy from the likes of these defeatists. He just wants them to pay for the war they authorized so we can win the war they voted to start.

The members of Congress voting to skedaddle sure don't know that we are winning this war. Amir Taheri writes:

That Reid is desperately trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory isn't surprising. His party requires an American defeat in Iraq in order to win the congressional and presidential elections next year.

What is generically known as "the war" is, in fact, three wars.

The first war was about changing the status quo in Iraq. America won by destroying Saddam's regime, ending Baghdad's stand-off with the United Nations and establishing that Iraq was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Victory in that war was achieved in 2003 with the completion of the U.S.-led investigation into Iraq's alleged WMD programs.

The second war was triggered by forces that wanted to prevent America from creating a new status quo that favored its interests along with the interests of a majority of Iraqis. This second war also ended in victory for America and its allies with the holding of free elections and, eventually, the emergence of a democratic Iraqi government in 2006.

The third and current war started toward the end of last year when the disparate forces fighting against the democratic government found a new point of convergence in a quest for driving America out. The Bush administration understood this and responded with its "surge" policy by dispatching more troops to Baghdad.

Unlike the two previous wars in which anti-American forces pursued a variety of goals, their sole aim this time is to drive the Americans out. In that sense, al Qaeda and other Islamist agents in Iraq have forged an unofficial alliance with residual Saddamites, criminal gangs, pan-Shiite chauvinists and small groups of Iraqis who fight out of genuine nationalistic but misguided motives.

Despite continued violence, America and its Iraqi allies are winning this third war, too. Their enemies are like the man in a casino who wins a heap of tokens at the roulette table, but is told at the cashier that those cannot be exchanged for real money.

The terrorists, the insurgents, the criminal gangs and the chauvinists of all ilk are still killing many people. But they cannot translate those killings into political gains. Their constituencies are shrinking, and the pockets of territory where they hide are becoming increasingly exposed. They certainly cannot drive the Americans out. No power on earth can. Unless, of course, Harry Reid does it for them.

I too wrote of the stages of the war we've gone through thus far, taking down one main opponent after another. They still kill, but if we fight they cannot win.

Senator Lieberman sadly represents the last remnant of the Democratic wing of the national Democratic Party as craven defeatists who will only fight for power have taken over. He writes that retreating from Iraq will not solve anything and will make things far worse:

Unfortunately, because this slaughter took place in Baghdad, the carnage as seized upon as the latest talking point by advocates of withdrawal here in Washington. Rather than condemning the attacks and the terrorists who committed them, critics trumpeted them as proof that Gen. David Petraeus's security strategy has failed and that the war is "lost."

And today, perversely, the Senate is likely to vote on a binding timeline of withdrawal from Iraq.

This reaction is dangerously wrong. It reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of both the reality in Iraq and the nature of the enemy we are fighting there.

I've mentioned that we would surrender to those we are defeating. This description of one of our enemies should remind us that our enemies have problems that we just don't see:

His story, which he tells through a Kurdish translator I brought along, takes us inside the secret world of the Iraqi insurgency. It does not fit what we think we know about the enemy in Iraq. It is not a saga of religious zealotry.

Mustafa smirks when he tells me he is a “secularist” who does not pray and boasts about enjoying whiskey, drugs and prostitutes. He is a Sunni who does not mind working for Shia, provided the pay is good. And far from being a patriot, he betrayed his country to work for Iran. Finally, his story shows that the terrorists are not supermen who are able to walk like ghosts through layers of security. At the street-level they are petty criminals who can be caught. What makes Mustafa’s story important is that it reveals the human side of the insurgency. It’s a tale of dirty cops, rivalry, revenge, recruitment and control that climaxes in a fireball in Halabja, Iraq in June 2005.

So the Congress repeals the Pottery Barn Rule. We broke it, they still insist. But now the Congress says President Bush owns it--not all of us. And the broken shards that we've painstakingly put together so far to build a free and democratic Iraq that will be our full ally in the Long War will be dropped if Congress get its way. You tricked us into picking up that pottery! It's not my fault you dropped it! You can't make me pay for it! Oh, and here's some pork for my district that you can pay for.

Our enemies are hurting. We are winning. Allah knows how much the enemy hurts. Sadly, this Congress remains ignorant of this fact.

A little backbone, please. For a little while longer, at least. You defeatists pretended for a good four years that you really wanted America to win. Would it really be that tough to pretend a little longer?

UPDATE: Live by the sword, die by the sword. Or in this case, polls about fighting in Iraq. Like I wrote, I don't trust Senator Reid to know what the American people want. If Senator Reid and his allies want to run away in defeat, that is their right. But don't they dare hide behind the American people.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Victory in Five Years

Even though a past article I read said that analysts thought China would simply bombard Taiwan in order to capture the island (which I thought was ridiculous), the Taiwanese ran an invasion scenario that they concluded they'd win:

A computer simulation projected that China could land forces on rival Taiwan, but they would be repulsed after two weeks of fierce fighting and harsh losses to both sides, Taiwan's military said Tuesday.

The details in the story were interesting:

In the simulation, Chinese ships ferry forces to the island, backed by heavy missile barrages and pinpoint airstrikes on Taiwanese military bases and other strategic facilities.

The "invaders" establish beachheads along Taiwan's west coast, though their arrival is delayed for several days by Taiwanese missile strikes on mainland military bases, and by Taiwanese navy counterattacks.

The simulation has western Taiwan radar stations, missile bases and airports taking a heavy pounding, but ground forces hold down casualty numbers by taking cover in specially prepared areas.

After two weeks of fierce fighting, Taiwan's army corners and destroys the mainland Chinese invaders.

In addition:

Taiwanese Lt. Gen. Hsu Tai-sheng said the simulation highlighted shortcomings in the island's military preparedness.

"The Chinese communists pose a severe threat to our naval vessels with their superior submarines," Hsu said. "And as their jet fighters far outnumber ours, we would suffer great damage to our air force."

He also said Taiwan's anti-missile and anti-submarine capabilities seemed hard-pressed to deal with the threats they face from China's continuing military buildup.

The computer simulation envisioned no role for the United States in the fighting, Hsu said, despite American hints that Washington would come to Taiwan's aid if China attacks.

I must say that I find it hard to believe that the Taiwanese would attack the Chinese fleet before the Chinese were actually at sea and heading for Taiwan. So I don't think that the Taiwanese could actually delay the landings by a few days.

I also doubt the Taiwanese army magically avoids being hit no matter how specially prepared their assembly areas are.

Plus, I really doubt the Taiwanese would hit the Chinese mainland before China actually attacks.

And I find it interesting that the Taiwanese assume they'd fight on their own. This is a great improvement. I'd read the Taiwanese assumed they'd need to fight no more than four days.

Heck, just assuming they have ammunition to fight two weeks is great.

Further, there is no mention of Chinese airborne landings.

Assuming that Taiwan maintains air and naval superiority despite challenges isn't out of the question, so I can buy this assumption.

Of course, the timeframe for this victory was 2012. Not next year.

I'd really like to know what improvements the Taiwanese assume take place over the next five years to bring this result. And I'd really like to know what the results of the simulation are for next year. Or even 2011. Did the Taiwanese report results for the earliest year that brought success? With assumptions that may or may not take place?

Still, I think it is wise to assume an invasion scenario when it comes to plotting possible Chinese actions to resolve the Taiwan question.

More important, I'd like to know what the Chinese simulations show. That's the important test. The Chinese will decide whether to attack based on their reality.

The Mild, Mild West?

As near as I can figure, this month we've lost 13 military personnel in Anbar through April 25. Baghdad is getting the attention these days, naturally, but is Anbar changing on the ground? Certainly, I think we've made progress, but what does this mean, if anything?

Given what seemed like a pretty heavy pace of casualties in Anbar in recent months, this seems like a striking decline. And Outside the Wire reports an Anbar vastly improved from the fall of 2006.

I did not waver even when a Marine report on the province painted the situation as dire. Or at least press reports about the report said it was dire:

Counter-insurgency has a military component but it is primarily a political problem absent an extermination campaign (and that only settles the problem for a generation). Our military can buy time for the political track and that is what we are doing. That, and atomizing the enemy so the Iraqi military can handle the threat. It isn't a matter of more troops in Anbar. It is a matter of Iraqi troops and a government presence being planted in the province to push the neutrals to side with the government and push the enemy to slide into neutrality or even pro-government attitudes.

The political change I said was necessary has happened with the decision by Sunni tribes to fight the jihadis instead of fighting the government. Although the defection was due more to jihadi atrocities than government inducement. And the extreme measures I thought would be put in place by the Iraqis if the Sunnis didn't come in from the cold fortunately won't be necessary in Anbar.

I hate to point to short-term casualty statistics, since that can change. One high-casualty event can change the averages quickly. Yet this low level of casualties in Anbar seems like something different and lasting since it is based on progress in the area that counts most--prying the people away from the enemy--rather than a short-term result of new troops or tactics.

If I had bet a year ago on whether we'd pacify Anbar or Baghdad first, I'd have picked Baghdad. But that may not be the way it is working out. Not bad for a supporting effort.

Death Wish

You know, the fury over the Baghdad barrier is ridiculous. Yet by calling it a "wall" and thus tying it to Israel's wall between Israel and the West Bank, Sunni terrorists who will be harmed by the wall have convinced Sunnis who will be protected by the wall to oppose it, as Omar Fadhil writes from Baghdad:

First and foremost, I don’t know why “The Wall” is becoming such an issue now. Work to construct similar walls started weeks ago in the Amiriya and Ghazaliyah districts. The “news” went utterly unnoticed then.

But that’s not what matters. What does matter is effectiveness versus side-effects. Neither should be neglected.

Yesterday leaflets were distributed in the streets of Adhamiya (or Azamiya, English doesn’t have the exact sound anyway). The leaflets — printed and distributed by persons unknown — called on residents to protest the building of the wall. Knowing that the only organized entity capable of such quick response to events in Adhamiya are either the insurgents or al-Qaeda strongly indicates that they were behind the planned protest. More important still is that it indicates they see the wall as a threat to their movement and ability to carry out their actions.

As I suspected, the enemy has engineered this opposition. This is just bizarre. If Israel had forbidden Iraqis from using a simple device that has proven effective in protecting Jews, Arabs and Moslems would justifiably be outraged. But stupidity has such a death grip on the bulk of Iraq's Sunni Arabs in central Iraq that I guess this is not too shocking.

I hope Fadhil is right that Maliki will relent on this issue. I too share the worry that such interference in the operation of the surge will harm it. Which of course is the whole point of the Sunni terrorist outrage. For different reasons, the Shias are happy to be outraged as well. Strategypage writes:

The call for American troops to promptly get out of Iraq raises the question of what exactly would happen if the U.S. forces did leave, say, by the end of the year. If we stay in Iraq, we delay, perhaps even prevent, the expulsion of the Sunni Arab minority (they used to be ten percent of the population, but are now down to about five percent, and are still the source of most of the terrorism.) As the Sunni Arab population gets smaller, the terrorists have fewer places to hide. This can be seen in the plan to wall off some of the remaining Sunni Arab neighborhoods in Baghdad. Analysis of terrorist movements had shown that these neighborhoods were the sources of most of the suicide bombing attacks. By restricting road access to one carefully monitored checkpoint, car bombers would be forced to find another base of operations, and be more likely to get caught. The wall would also keep out Shia death squads, who are expected to return once the security build up in Baghdad is over, later this year. But the way Arab politics works, the wall building got stopped when the Israeli security wall was invoked. Despite the fact that the Israeli security wall stopped terror attacks, that wall, and by association all similar walls, are considered evil. You can't do it, even though the purpose of the wall was explained to Iraqi politicians, who understood and approved it, before construction began. The Sunnis would rather be dead, than not be politically correct, and the Shia agreed. The continuing suicide bomb attacks on Shia Arabs has only increased the belief among the Shia that the Sunni Arabs have to go.

And the Sunni Arabs, most of whom are innocent but scared, are caught in the middle. For a while, anyway. If the Sunni Arabs don't get with the program, there will be no more Sunni Arabs left in central Iraq. They will all be in Anbar or exile--or dead.

I shouldn't be so amazed at how stupid the Sunni Arabs of central Iraq (those in Anbar have made the leap to reality) have been these last four years. It's like the entire community has become a metaphorical suicide bomber doomed to die in order to take out a few more Shias.

Blind Rage

Congress is holding hearings on the Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch episodes from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Give me strength. I guess I should be happy that the loyal opposition's desperate reach for a scandal leads them to allege scandal where there is really nothing. But this is standard operating procedure for these people, so I am not surprised one bit.

Congress thinks that the death of Tillman in a friendly fire incident and the incorrect initial reports that Lynch fought a brave battle when her unit was ambushed and pretty much wiped out in the invasion are both scandals.

Of course, this requires you to forget that the military reported the correct facts on Tillman's death about five weeks after his death. Whatever cover-up was localized and corrected. And the motive is not clear, either. This also requires you to neglect the fact that friendly fire is fairly common in war. That's war.

This line of reasoning also requires you to forget that our initial reports about Lynch were based on Iraqi intercepts that seemed to give credit to a blonde female soldier for putting up steadfast resistance. In fact, it seems likely that a blonde male soldier was the one who resisted above and beyond what one would expect of a rear echelon type (no disparagement intended as I was one myself). I've known this fact for years, so I don't know where the scandal is in this either.

Our Congress should establish a Committee on Plastic Turkeys for all the pretend scandals they will dig into.

What a Congress we have. Their arrogance is matched only by their ignorance.

UPDATE: Perhaps I should have written that their arrogance is matched only by their ambitions. The ability to pretend these two incidents are scandals is truly astounding. But politicians (of both parties) can be expedted to be shameless in pursuit of partisan political advantage. The willingness of our press to go along with this power grab is reprehensible.

Not As Dumb as They Look

Back in 2002 and 2003, we were treated to the sight of anti-war types trotting off to Iraq to be "human shields" to stop the overthrow of Saddam. These doe-eyed fools asked to be placed in orphanages and other such facilities, oblivious to the fact that the orphans actually worked pretty well to keep us from bombing them. The shields were horrified that the Baathists wanted to send them to strategic targets likely to be bombed. The shields didn't like that idea at all.

Fast forward to Iraq of 2007. The enemy slaughters innocents and blows up groups of children and other non-military targets, rejoicing in such victories. The anti-war side deplores this violence yet condemns we who have thus far failed to stop the violence.

Yep, no blame for those who inflict the carnage, but vile hatred of those who try to protect innocents. Austin Bay notes the bizarre logic of this situation that Senator Reid follows. Bay writes:

Saddamists, al-Qaeda and Iran-influenced Shia militias have had enormous information successes, with Reid's rhetorical surrender the latest. One reason for these successes is that they are not penalized by the conventional media and the political left for a campaign of mass murder overwhelmingly directed against Iraqi civilians.

Do you want to help end the terror in Iraq? Condemn the terrorists as the Cho Seung Hui-like psychopaths they are. Deny them the false celebrity they gain when dubbed "insurgents." Denis Keohane, writing for on Nov. 29, 2006, demonstrated why Harry Reid's planet is a truly dangerous place.

"Thanks to the development of mass media inclined to oppose the nation's efforts to obtain military victory," Keohane wrote, "a new path to victory has opened up for America's enemies."

Though the various terrorist groups in Iraq have failed "to gain even minor real tactical victories against coalition (and now Iraqi) forces, all are targeting civilians, with death squads and bombings that intentionally kill civilians in large numbers."

The death toll, Keohane concluded, is "presented as evidence that we are not winning, and cannot win. That makes the reverse true: that if they can merely kill, even civilians, they are winning tactically and even strategically. Merely killing a lot of civilians is not a high bar to attain, and that lesson will be learned and copied, again and again."

Really, you'd think that the anti-war types would be eager to head off to Iraq to act as human shields to protect Iraqi civilians from vicious killers. Sadly, the killers consider orphanages a target-rich environment and are eager to kill such concentrations of innocents. A human shield from the West would be a bonus death.

Which incidentally is why I have never liked the metric that is being applied to the surge.

So the shield recruiting base blames America for the violence--and stays home. They are apparently not nearly as stupid as they look.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

AFRICOM Approaches

Modern Islamist terrorism is too lethal to let them hide and train in even the most remote part of the globe. Because even there, terrorists can train and plan, and then catch a plane to our shores to carry out their evil intent.

We toured Africa to explain the forthcoming AFRICOM to regional powers:

We discussed different mission areas, as we've discussed with you before, emphasizing the humanitarian, the building partnership capability, civil affairs aspects, things that we can help in improving border and maritime security and the professionalization of the militaries there on the African continent.

And then we would also look to work with the host nations to improve their capacity to exercise sovereignty over any ungoverned spaces that they might have.

I still think that it makes more sense to keep African responsibilities divided between different regional commands. I'd split the continent among CENTCOM, PACOM, EUCOM, and SOUTHCOM if it was up to me.

But greater attention indeed needs to be paid to Africa. The following list of denials is a good list for why we are paying more attention:

We hopefully cleared up the misunderstanding that AFRICOM was not being stood up in response to Chinese presence on the continent. It was not being stood up solely for the effort of enhanced counterterrorism, and it was not being stood up in order to secure resources, a particular sensitivity to the oil resources.

All three reasons sum up why we will establish AFRICOM.

Plus we discussed where we might find a host for the headquarters. If I had my choice, it would be Kenya.

Plus I'd like to see some sort of base in the Gulf of Guinea--perhaps even a mobile offshore base to really reduce our footprint.

The Few. The Ruthless. The Nihilistic

I may not think much of Michael O'Hanlon's idea that we should partition Iraq (or many other of his policy ideas for that matter), but I will grant him that he isn't confused about either the popularity of our enemies in Iraq or their nature:

Admittedly, guerrilla movements are often relatively small, but Iraq's insurgency has been particularly so. Its al Qaeda element, responsible for most of the suicide attacks such as those that terrorized Baghdad April 18, has been downright tiny.

As for the character of our enemies, they have been unusually ruthless and nihilistic. This is not meant as a trite, nationalistic [a word or phrase missing here, I think] but a comparative comment. Looking back historically, at least some of our enemies can be respected, albeit begrudgingly.
I'll pass on his attempt to partially rehabilitate our communist enemies in the Vietnam War as less than reprehensible, but his point about our curren enemy is well taken.

I've written again and again that the enemy inside Iraq is fighting out of proportion to its numbers because of ample arms and money. Initially these came from Baathist stockpiles, and now Persians and Sunni Arabs funnel in recruits, weapons, and cash. They might not be able to win but they sure can kill in large numbers.

So I commend Mr. O'Hanlon for his clear-sighted appreciation of what we face in Iraq. Which separates him from the usual war opponents who think our enemies are popular, bound to win, and really not so bad after all.

We can debate how to achieve success in Iraq, but appreciating that we are fighting the bad guys is a major accomplishment. I'll give credit where credit is due.

It would be shameful to let such a small cadre of vicious killers destroy the democracy in Iraq that our efforts are building. We must kill these terrorists wherever we find them. Any we fail to kill will simply show up later to kill more innocents.