Sunday, September 30, 2007

Because I Can

Happy Fiscal New Year's Eve.

My Fiscal New Year's Resolution is to not read any NYT opinion columnist who was formerly available only to subscribers.

If you must ask why, I haven't the energy to explain. I'm off looking for the hot blonde standing under the used toner cartridge at the office party.

Inspector Clouseau

Thomas Friedman is the most over-rated "deep thinker" America has.

He was safely behind the Great Wall of NYT for some time, so I've been able to forget about him, But Real Clear Politics went and linked him. I'm not saying you couldn't drown in a pool of his analysis--but you'd have to be face down and unconscious. And then you might not survive.

Freidman thinks that catering to foreign fools who believe tourists to America end up in Gitmo is job one for the next president, and that the proper metric for our war is how many people visit us on vacation. Unmentioned is if he thinks a metric should be how many Moslems attend our flight schools and strip bars.

The bottom line is he's tired of 9/11. 9/11 is over, he writes.

Does Friedman dress himself in the morning? Does he trim that moustache without drawing blood?

We can’t afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.

We need to get our "groove" back, he writes. In a just world, any rebuttal of Friedman would stop there. No further words would be necessary.

But this is not a just world.

Yes, al Qaeda is about 9/11. Lots more of them. 9/11s with chemicals, or nukes, or dirty bombs, or just more hijacked planes. You bet the enemy is about 9/11. They rejoice in their success six years ago and dream of more--and damn their luck that they've not had more since then.

And fools like Friedman are tired of fighting al Qaeda. Too effing bad for him. Our enemies aren't tired yet.

Thomas Friedman is a successful columnist and writer. You bet we can afford to be this stupid. Or at least some us can afford to be this stupid. It hasn't hurt Friedman's bank account, that's for sure.

Sheer rock-pounding stupidity. I'm simply stunned.

How did I go on without Times Select for so long?

Democracy is Messy and Under Attack

Democracy is surely messy. But the answer as so many newly minted Left foreign policy neo-realists assert is not to abandon democracy.

Three examples are in the news today.

The Afghan government is seeking the surrender of the Taliban who are tired of losing and not as commited to the jihad:

[President] Karzai said Saturday he would be willing to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar and give militants a position in government in exchange for peace. Karzai spokesman Humayun Hamidzada on Sunday stressed that the militants would have to accept Afghanistan's constitution.

There is obviously danger to bringing in some Taiban. But remember that this is how we overthrew the Taliban--we gained the cooperation of the less committed Taliban allies in 2003.

If we can keep the institutions strong, the proto-thugs can be marginalized within the government where they will not try to bomb their way to power. And the Islamo-fascists from around the world will be denied a theater where they think they can bomb their way into creating a province in the caliphate they dream about creating.

In Ukraine, which is voting today, the people who managed the Orange Revolution are disappointed with the man, Yushchenko, they put in power. The deposed proto-thug, Yanukovych, still has the support of ethnic Russians who Moscow hopes will deliver Ukraine back to the motherland. And he softened his image to appear less threatening to ethnic Ukrainians:

Polls predict Yanukovych's Party of Regions will receive the most votes, with Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko in second place. Yushchenko's Our Ukraine-People's Self-defense, hampered by voter disappointment with his failure to fulfill reformist promises that brought him to power in 2005, is expected to wind up third. Ukraine has 37.5 million registered voters.

Yanukovych, an earthy 57-year-old former metal worker, has undergone a dramatic transformation since his humiliating defeat in the 2004 presidential race, when Ukrainians took to the streets in massive protests against election fraud dubbed the Orange Revolution, paving the way for Yushchenko's victory in a court-ordered rerun. ...

Yanukovych, who draws his support from Ukraine's Russian-speaking east and south, fiercely resisted Yushchenko's April decision to dissolve parliament and call new elections after the president accused him of seeking to usurp power. Yanukovych grudgingly agreed to the Sunday vote, but has hinted he would accept only one outcome: his victory.

He has accused Yushchenko and Tymoshenko's parties of preparing widespread falsifications, and warned he could organize protests similar to those during the Orange Revolution. His supporters warned they would erect a giant stage and tent camp on the same central Kiev square that was the epicenter of the protests three years ago.

Raisa Bohatyryova, a leading member of Yanukovych's party, said Friday that if it judges the vote fraudulent, Ukraine could end up with dueling parliaments and Cabinets and a campaign for early presidential elections.

Yushchenko, 53, has struggled with voter disillusionment and a loss of support among many voters now backing Tymoshenko, the telegenic Orange Revolution heroine known here simply as Yulia.

Reformers still can manage a majority with the two reform groups allied. This is good. But like any proto-thug, Yanukovych reserves the right to judge whether the vote is true. And his only criteria for truth is his victory. Democracy, in the end, requires people willing to defend it at the polls. And as long as Ukraine's ethnic Russians look to Moscow and not Kiev, democracy will remain a tool for despots to regain control. Ukraine must use the tools and power of democracy to pull the ethnic Russians away from loyalty to Moscow and gain a stake in a free and democratic Ukraine.

Counting on Russia to voluntarily renounce the possibility of reabsorbing Ukraine isn't going to happen under Putin and his people pining for the glory of the former Soviet Union. Russia will hover like a vulture and only the Ukrainians can prevent their politics from dying and becoming a corpse that Moscow will feed on.

And in Taiwan, democracy yearns for the international recognition it deserves. The governing Democratic Progressive Party passed a resolution urging a break with China:

The resolution for a "normal country" — passed after heated debate at a boisterous party congress — calls for general use of "Taiwan" as the island's name, without specifically abolishing its current formal name, the Republic of China. It also calls for the enactment of a new constitution, but gives no specific deadline for either that or the referendum.

The resolution, which passed 250-73, could rile China, which has repeatedly threatened war if Taiwan formalizes its de facto independence.

But the international community, as embodied by the UN, does not value democracy. And China would crush Taiwan if it could, to end democracy and absorb the island. I'd feel better if Taiwan could match their words with military power to defend their ideals. Unfortunately, too many on Taiwan would rather Taiwan be a Chinese province even at the price of democracy. So they have not bolstered their military power to match China's arms build up, and rely on us to keep China at bay.

The solution to protecting democracy from thugs who would exploit democracy in order to seize power is not to discard democracy and trust friendly despots to hold the people in line. I am amazed that so many who call themselves liberal are so ready to embrace authoritarian regimes that will work with us. The hard Left, of course, loves any thug despot who hates America (Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, etc.). But that's another story altogether.

The solution to the messiness of democracy is to strengthen rule of law and civic institututions that bolster rule of law so that proto-despots are marginalized and foreign threats nullified. (And as an aside, don't these examples of local dissidents willingly working with foreigners to seize power prove the lie of our Left that American government support of dissidents in Iran, or anywhere, only "taints" the dissidents? This is not how the world works, people.)

The solution to the problem of democracy being used by thugs to gain power (as was done in Gaza) requires us to keep foreign enemies of democracy at bay so that voting can't be manipulated by local thugs exploiting foreign help (direct financial support and violence to undemine the government) or simply nullified with foreign military power directly applied to the democracy.

It is a strange world where people like me favor democracy in the face of "progressives" who feel more comfortable with despots who keep their suffering people quiet and thus out of the news.

Land Warriors

Exploiting the technology that has made our air, sea, and ground "vehicles" so deadly in order to vive our leg infantry the same capabilities has been a goal for our mlitary. Land Warrior was the name of this project.

I remember seeing the original idea back at an AUSA annual meeting ten years ago, and getting a very distinct science fiction vibe. It looked cool. But I had to wonder about how useful it would be to the average joe.

The Army is lightening up and paring down technology for leg infantry. And restricting the most complicated stuff for leaders. Less ambitious than the goal I saw, the new goal may be more practical.

This article has a great description of a US battalion in Iraq using the gear:

I've just spent a week with Prior and the 4/9 (known as the "Manchus" since their assaults on China in 1901). And much to my surprise, a bunch of the soldiers in the unit are warming up to Land Warrior, especially now that the gizmo ensemble has been pared down and made more tactically relevant. So now the question is: can this once-doomed soldier-of-the-future ensemble spring back to life?

Troops can't be so bogged down with weight that they can't fight. And they can't be so focused on their computer screens that some low tech insurgent hits them on the head from behind with a rock.

In a sense we are lucky to have soldiers in combat to provide a ruthless assessment of the usefulness of the various components. Life and death outcomes will do that.

In the end, we may actually get something out of this project that helps our troops fight, win, and survive without saddling them with useless crap that some senior officer or politician with a defense contractor in their district wants to foist on troops. Peacetime procurement can do that.

And remember always, that superb training makes the most lethal land warrior. Expensive gear makes good troops even better and poor troops just more costly casualties.

UPDATE: A story on the cost of infantry:

In the 1940s, a GI went to war with little more than a uniform, weapon, helmet, bedroll and canteen. He carried some 35 pounds of gear that cost $170 in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Army figures.

That rose to about $1,100 by the 1970s as the military added a flak vest, new weapons and other equipment during the Vietnam War.

Today, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are outfitted with advanced armor and other protection, including high-tech vests, anti-ballistic eyewear, earplugs and fire-retardant gloves. Night-vision eyewear, thermal weapons sights and other gear makes them more deadly to the adversary. ...

Between 2012 and 2014, officials want troops to have head-to-toe protection, a weapon that can shoot around corners so soldiers don't have to expose themselves to their enemy and a helmet-mounted 1.5-inch computer screen showing maps of the battlefield.

Drawings of the gear — some parts already in prototype and in the field — look like futuristic "Master Chief," the human uber-soldier who battles aliens in the popular sci-fi video game Halo. Researchers prefer to call it "the F-16-on-legs concept," a nod to U.S. fighter jets.

The wide range in price — an estimated $28,000 to $60,000 a person — is partly because not all troops will have all of the equipment. Some of it, such as a planning tool, is only for unit leaders.

The Green Machine is no longer made of cogs that can be considered cannon fodder. And our enemies no longer mock us as too afraid to let our soldiers tangle with their so-called warriors up close. Our enemies, who favor the IED so they don't have to tangle with our soldiers, no longer mock our troops.

Well equipped and well trained, our soldiers and Marines dominate the modern battlefield.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Spasm and Not a Jihad

Al Qaeda's declaration of war on Iraq may be no more than a desperate effort to dislocate Pakistan's cooperation with us and Afghan forces in hammering al Qaeda. (Tip to Instapundit)

Indeed, we may have just missed getting bin Laden in August inside Afghanistan (this certainly assumes he's not dead already).

Apparently, reports in the summer that al Qaeda had abandoned a bunch of camps in Pakistan reflected an al Qaeda fear we were about to JDAM them into splinters, were correct. The reports, that is. I have no idea if we were really going to hammer the camps.

So as a result, they fled into Afghanistan. And we hit them there. Hard.

This doesn't paint the global jihad "reconstituting" in Pakistan in a very good light.

Unwilling to Take No For An Answer

Iran is unwilling to halt their nuclear program before they have atomic weapons.

The Iranians haven't been shy about making this clear in the past. Despite Iran's clearly stated intentions, the Euros keep setting new deadlines. It's happened many times already. Iran doesn't care. If setting yet another deadline makes some Westerners feel good, why should the mullahs mind since Iran just keeps rolling toward nukes.

And this pattern is continuing. We still refuse to take an Iranian no for an answer. Yet again, we hope a little more time will lead them to say that yes, they will end their nuclear weapons program:

In view of the fact that Iran has not fulfilled the requirements of UN Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747, including the suspension of its enrichment and reprocessing activities, we agree to finalize a text for a third UN Security Council Sanctions Resolution under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations with the intention of bringing it to a vote in the UN Security Council unless the November reports of Dr. Solana and Dr. El Baradei show a positive outcome of their efforts.

So, November 2007, it is. This time for sure.

Sure. Why not? I mean, it isn't like Ahmadinejad means what he says about caliphates and the blessings of a world without Jews or America, right?

Ahmadinejad gave two major addresses this week - at Columbia University and at the UN General Assembly. He devoted both to putting forward his vision for global Islamic domination. And while the Western media sought hidden meanings and signals for peaceful intentions in his words, the fact is that on both occasions, Ahmadinejad made absolutely clear that his vision of Islamic domination cannot coexist in any manner with Western civilization. Consequently, Ahmadinejad's statements were not negotiating stances. They were the direct consequence of the world view he propounds. As such, they are non-negotiable.

Yep. No doubt. The Iranians have probably come to their senses. I can just feel peace in our time.

Indian Air Power

India is shifting air power east to counter China's air power in Tibet and southern China (Tip to 1913 intel):

As part of the counter-measures against the Chinese build-up of military infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous Region and south China, India will progressively base squadrons of its most potent fighter Sukhoi-30MKIs in the eastern sector from 2008-2009 onwards.

"The first two squadrons, with 36 fighters, will be based at Tezpur airbase. The MiG-21s at Tezpur were phased out earlier this month. Now, the runway at the airbase will undergo a renovation, coupled with an infrastructure upgrade to house the Sukhois," said an IAF officer. The move is significant since the multi-role Sukhoi 'air dominance' fighters, which have a cruising speed of 3,200 km, can strike targets deep inside China after taking off from Tezpur.

These aircraft would also be useful during a war to strike Chinese assets in Burma to blind Chinese reconaissance capabilities in the Bay of Bengal.

Just another example of how China's increasing military power is triggering military reactions by neighbors to nullify that increased power.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Smoke 'Em If You've Got 'Em

Pakistan remains an asset in the war on terror even though the size of their population, geography, conventional military strength, and nuclear weapons make the country a danger should it be flipped to the enemy side. While jihadis are a clear minority now, how long can this endure?

Al Qaeda's ideological appeal to undermine Pakistan's military is quite possibly a real threat (tip to Instapundit):

Going forward in the global conflict before us, it is important to acknowledge and understand that al-Qaeda is currently engaged in an Information Operation (IO) campaign inside Pakistan. This is in addition to its efforts to gain influence outside of Pakistan, particularly with Muslims in Europe, the Middle East and in the US. The primary target of the Pakistan campaign is the Pakistani military and it is driven by al-Qaeda’s accelerating insurgency inside Pakistan. Understanding how and why al-Qaeda has undertaken this effort allows decision makers greater understanding of al-Qaeda’s aims and equips them with a ‘lay of the land’ required to counter al-Qaeda’s message and objectives.

Pakistan's physical power to destroy the jihadis is dominant right now. Al Qaeda's ability to undermine the Pakistani security forces will take time to achieve, if they can do this. But Pakistan holds back out of fear that destroying the jihadis will turn more Pakistanis into active jihadis.

But the soft approach hasn't eliminated al Qaeda and just gives these nutcases opportunity to undermine Pakistan's population and security forces. Their mere survival demonstrates Pakistani weakness and encourages the jihadis.

All the more reason Pakistan should go on the offensive now in the face of al Qaeda's declaration of war and use their manpower and firepower advantage to kill al Qaeda while they can localize the jihadis in remote border regions.


I wondered if reports of recent reductions in jihadis crossing into Iraq from Syria was the result of a decision by Damascus to reduce the flow or if it was because we were interdicting the route through Anbar and disrupting the reception points in Baghdad.

It was the latter, as Brigadier General Anderson explains in his announcement that we killed a major car bomber in Iraq:

Abu Osama al-Tunisi was killed along with two other terrorist suspects in a U.S. F-16 strike that dropped two 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a safehouse where they were meeting, said the U.S. Central Command Air Forces.

"Al-Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders ... the emir of foreign terrorists in Iraq and part of the inner leadership circle," Anderson told a Pentagon news conference.

Al-Tunisi was a leader in helping bring foreign terrorists into the country, said Anderson, chief of staff to the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno.

Making it a little more clear with the larger picture:

Anderson said recent coalition operations have helped cut in half the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, which had been at about 60 to 80 a month.

He credited the work of the Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement and U.S. teams.

Commanders have said that the increase in troops ordered by President Bush in January — and the increased operations that followed — have pushed militants into remote parts of the north and south of the country. Additional operations have been going after those pockets of fighters.

"We're having great success in isolating these pockets," Anderson said.

With our existing success in Anbar and the success in the Baghdad region of breaking up al Qaeda forces--including killing a major car bomb facilitator--means we have made it more difficult for jihadis to enter Iraq. And the ones who enter are less effective because the receiving end can't use them as easily.

We're hammering al Qaeda pretty hard in Iraq. When do they call it a day and switch focus? Or was their declaration of war on Pakistan a signal that they will abandon Iraq as the primary front in their war?

For the Long Haul

Winning the war in Iraq will require our troops to remain in Iraq a long time.

Since prior to the war until now, I've figured our long-term garrision for Iraq will be in the 4-7 brigade range for combat units on the ground.

My feelings on this number have ebbed and flowed based on my perception of the country's mood:

We will need to keep special forces to help kill al Qaeda. And we will need air power to support the Iraqis and logistics troops, too. And all the other combat support and combat service support functions that we are trying to build. Plus a cavalry regiment to screen the Iranian border and several brigade combat teams as a reserve and to deter the Iranians. Add a battalion task force in Kuwait, an afloat MEU, and several brigade sets of Army equipment and an afloat Marine set, and we'd have a potent force tethered to the defense of Iraq. Add, too, a parachute brigade in Italy and a Stryker brigade in Europe that can be flown into the area quickly. And yes, I've downgraded my assessment of what Congress will allow to remain in Iraq from a seven brigades to four with unit sets of prepositioned equipment to bring us up to seven or more by flying in troops. Oh, and add FBI help to fight corruption and other civilian assets to help the courts and the entire rule of law project.

In this press conference there is a reference to a statement that Secretary Gates made recently of a long-term presence of 5 American brigades.

This is certainly consistent with my estimate. I'd be surprised if this estimated 5 brigades included any Army forces in Kuwait or Marines afloat in the region. So we'd have a bit more in the region.

Remember, we need such a force to deter Iran or Syria from bullying Iraq while Iraqis focus on the counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism operations while building a conventional military capable in the long run of defending their borders.

Give us ten years, and we could be down to a token combat brigade as we have in South Korea.

... You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

Russia has a strange relationship with China. Russia both fears and needs China. Fears China's longing to recover Russia's Far East lost in the 18th century. And needs China to be a counterweight to our power.

Russia thought they had the ideal solution--point China at America with weapons sales uniquely useful for a naval campaign but not very relevant for a land campaign north.

China has gone along with this purchasing plan. Until now (tip to 1913 intel) :

Chinese wheeled APCs and 100mm self-propelled guns involved in Peace Mission 2007 had trouble operating over rugged terrain at the Russian 34th Motorized Rifle Division's training facility near Chebarkul in the Urals region.

Their suspension probably featured substandard steel and therefore was not dependable enough for crossing numerous moats and potholes. Consequently, the Chinese army would be quite happy to obtain the relevant know-how for manufacturing top-quality steel.

But Russia said that the Chinese proposals are excessive and even dangerous. Many officials at Russian security agencies are afraid the sale of high-tech offensive weapons, namely, tanks, anti-tank guided missiles, tactical missiles and hard-hitting Multiple Launch Rocket Systems to Beijing would impair the defense capability of the Russian armed forces, primarily its units stationed in the Far East and the Baikal region.

I hoped China would seek these capabilities to get them looking away from Taiwan and the Pacific. It looks like China is seeking to gain land warfare capabilities, perhaps without our nudging.

And as I've noted before, like the USSR and the Kaiser's Germany before them, China may find that trying to be a dominant land and sea power at the same time is too much to accomplish--and will achieve neither in the end.

Moscow thought it was a great idea to aim China at us. Of course, Russia could still lose an eye playing this game. They should be careful where they point those things.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Getting Away With Attempted Murder

When some analysts doubted that North Korea would ship nuclear material to Syria and thus triggering the whole Big Hole Incident, the objection was that North Korea would never risk aid in the Six Party Talks by doing this.

I wrote that the North Koreans would expect to get away with this if caught:

And to the professional diplomats who don't think North Korea would "risk" talks with us by selling WMD technology, get real people. Pyongyang doesn't believe there will be any fallout from such a deal. They believe we are so invested in talks that we will let such a side deal slide rather than risk the glamour of a signing ceremony with fancy bound documents affixed with impressive wax seals and colorful ribbons. I'm guessing the North Koreans are right.

I was apparently all too correct:

The US faces a dilemma going into the next round of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons: how firmly to press North Korea for details of proliferation of its nuclear technology to foreign clients.

Ahead of the Thursday meeting in Beijing, the issue has assumed critical importance with revelations of an Israeli raid early this month on a Syrian base where North Koreans were suspected of imparting not only know-how but also materiel needed for Syria to develop nuclear warheads.

"The US government has some evidence, but they seem to be deciding now is not the right time to talk about it," says Kim Tae Woo, senior research fellow at the Institute of Defense Analyses, affiliated with the South Korean defense ministry.

We should cancel the talks and cancel the aid already committed until North Korea explains this proliferation attempt and agrees to measures to stop future sales.

If we let the PIllsbury Nuke Boy get away with this, treating our discovery of their proliferation as an embarassment for us that we are too timid to bring up, why will North Korea abide by any agreement they sign? They'll know they can get away with anything because we're too timid to call them on violations!

Sometimes you have to walk away from a pending deal to seal the deal on acceptable terms.

UPDATE: Oh good grief. We've just announced we will provide aid to North Korea:

"This action is in accordance with the principle of 'action for action' under the six-party talks and demonstrates the US commitment to the denuclearization of the DPRK (North Korea)," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe of the US aid promise.

Johndroe said the 25 million dollars was for 50,000 metric tonnes of heavy fuel oil for the impoverished state.

Action for action? Is this some sick State Department joke? North Korea tries to dump some of their nuclear material in Syria for quick cash while trying to look clean, we catch them in this action, and our action is to dole out money?

Are we that stupid? Is it possible that we could teach North Korea any worse lesson by this aid grant? Why would North Korea ever play it straight with us? Why would they ever be afraid to cheat on an agreement?

Why do I expect any better of our diplomats?

Are we really this dense in learning how to treat enemies? Squeeze them until the just die.

Is it that difficult to treat enemies like the enemies they are?

When Realism Must Deny Reality

I've wondered why India has been so quiet in regard to the Burma protests.

India surely has an interest in prying Burma away from Peking, I thought. With the Burmese military in the pocket of China, siding with the people would surely be a good idea, I thought.

But there has been silence. I finally decided to look for something after not seeing anything reported.

But yesterday, India did react:

INDIA'S call Wednesday for national reconciliation and political reform in Burma has been rather late in coming. That India was thoroughly isolated from Western and Asian opinion on Burma, where the repressive military junta has begun a crackdown on a non-violent popular protest, was an undeniable fact. Equally significant is the reality that for more than a decade and a half, India has chosen to elevate its interests above values in Burma.

The author notes that foreign policy realism isn't going to work:

Two, New Delhi's passive policy has ceded the high ground to Beijing, which has positioned itself as the agent of influence as well as the principal interlocutor between the international community and Burma. By simply tailing China on engaging the dictators in Burma, India has abandoned its own strong and unique leverages. If India is serious about its regional role and wants to stay in competition with China for influence in Burma, New Delhi must differentiate itself from Beijing, and reestablish itself as an empathetic supporter of the Burmese aspirations for political change.

Indeed. China is establishing bases in Burma and building a road to make Chinese access to Burma more reliable. India really doesn't want a Chinese military presence capable of projecting power into the Bay of Bengal and possibly providing a land front away from the Himalayan Mountains.

The BBC explains India's basis for a policy of realism:

"India is desperate to counter Chinese influence in Burma. This, more than anything else, explains India's complete reversal of its Burma policy in the 1990s," says Rene Egreteau, author of an acclaimed book on India's Burma policy, Wooing the Generals.

India is now developing ports, building roads and railways and is competing with China for Burma's oil and gas reserves as part of its "Look East Policy".

What is it with oil and realism?

The Indians need to get over this. Burmese generals will not choose India over China. China, a communist thug state, is willing to slaughter protesters to maintain order. India, a real democracy, is not.

Why would the Burmese junta, who might want to slaughter civilians to keep control, ally with India over China?

In the 1980s, India supported democracy in Burma. India should do so again. Should the people overthrow the regime, a grateful people might ally with india and expel the Chinese military from Burma.

Surely, that is a goal India should desire, right?

It Isn't Rocket Science

Some scientists think our proposed missile defense system in Eastern Europe could indeed hit Russian missiles heading for the US:

A number of top U.S-based physicists have concluded that the United States used inaccurate claims to reassure NATO allies about U.S. missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.

The scientists say this is based on theoretical capabilities while the US says that actual hardware can't match the theoretical speeds the dissenting scientists claim.

Why it should be a bad thing that we might be able to shoot down Russian missiles based in western Russia from hitting us is not clear to me. And if that is bad, how would a small number of missiles threaten Russia's large inventory? And with Russian bombers and shorter range missiles nearby, why couldn't Russia destroy those bases to restore their nuclear strike capability should it come to war with us?

But wait, there's more:

While all six scientists are skeptical that the U.S. missile defense system can work, they believe that in terms of raw speed, U.S. interceptors in Poland could catch a Russian ICBM launched from western Russia at any part of the continental United States. In Postol's model, the intercept would occur at a point over the North Pole.

Let me get this straight. Based on speed alone--which we dispute--our proposed missiles could cathc Russian ICBMs. But that speed is moot based on the scientists' own conclusions about the missiles! They are "skeptical" it could work at all!

I suspect that the opposition of these scientists isn't about science as much as it is about politics.

They Know Crazy

The New York Times is worried about ElBaradei's foray into diplomacy:

Like Mohamed ElBaradei, we want to make sure what he calls the “crazies” don’t start a war with Iran. We fear his do-it-yourself diplomacy is playing right into the crazies’ hands — in Washington and Tehran.

Heck, I'm worried about ElBaradei, too. But to speak of "crazies" on our side is revolting.

The Times is bizarrely equating the craziness of a Jew-hating, gay-denying, sponsor of terrorism that kills American military personnel and Iraqis Ahmadinejad who wants nuclear weapons with President Bush who is determined that such a man should not have nuclear weapons!

How is it crazy to want to stop the mullahs? Is living with a nuclear-armed Iran really better than going to war with Iran to stop them? Does the NYT really think that Iran can be deterred?

Did the New York Times even send a reporter to cover Ahmadinejad's bizarre Columbia tirade?

The Times editorial board is just plain nuts.

Paranoid and Complacent

I've posted on probably a half dozen occasions serious discussions of why I think an attack on Iran is imminent. Those times come and go without action.

One explanation is that I'm seeing exactly what the Iranians are intended to see and so reacting as I should. Strategypage raises the issue of continually warning your foe about how you might strike:

On the other hand, surprise is best obtained by keeping your plans secret from the enemy. You want to hit your foe unexpectedly. Discussing openly that you are working on radical new techniques for attacking is giving the game away. Or is it? Maybe someone in the Pentagon has been paying close attention to what's going on inside Iran. The ruling clerical junta is composed of some very smart, and very insecure, people. There are also a lot of paranoid types. So bringing up Operation Checkmate, and its legendary capacity for creating unexpected tactics, is meant to freak out the easily frightened among the Iranian clerical establishment. Of particular interest will be what is said in private, and what Iranian military decisions that leads to.

I feel a bit better. And I have mentioned the need to make an enemy paranoid enough to crush.

I've also mentioned that repeated war scares could tend to lull the Iranians into seeing actual attack preparations as just more psychological warfare.

We could spook them into ineffectiveness and lull them into passivity with one information operation.

One More Explanation

The recent letter that the Left purports show President Bush vowing to invade Iraq regardless of what Saddam did proves no such thing as this post shows.

It does however show that we believed Saddam had WMD and believed that Saddam had them. The talk was that Saddam might leave Iraq if he could take $1 billion and his WMD files.

The Weekly Standard concludes:

The only logical reason for making this a condition of his agreement to exile was that he believed the program was more advanced than it really was, or that he intended to augment it. In either case, it further bolsters the case that Saddam remained a threat to the region (at least), and that it was wise to depose him.

Certainly, if Saddam was bluffing that he had WMD to keep Iran at bay, logically he would try to cover his bluff as soon as possible. Hence the clear ability to field chemical weapons as soon as sanctions weakened enough. Saddam wanted WMD and would get them if we didn't destroy him.

There is a third explanation. He had chemical weapons in 2002 but managed to get rid of them in the long "rush to war." Like I've said, I'm waiting for Conventional Wisdom 5.0 on the WMD question.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Big Hole Incident: Final Exam

Arthur K. got me thinking about the raid in Syria. I was going to let it go until more solid information comes up. Commenters are soaking up information released without considering whether the information is even accurate. Which would make speculation based on that information worthless. One could go mad speculating.

But let me try one. Who says Israel hit the target?

We clearly were in on this. Right now it looks like we procided intel and IFF codes so we wouldn't shoot down Israeli planes (or helicopters heading to Iraq with those ground troops--if indeed there were ground troops involved).

But what if we were the ones who hit the target?

Maybe we tested our F-22 Raptors to see how they'd do in a real life strike against Russian-made air defenses. Maybe all the activity of Raptors in the Pacific was a diversion for deploying some to CENTCOM.

Maybe the Israelis sent in their planes from Turkish air space to the target area with the mission of being spotted and taking the blame. The Israeli planes head west, dropping fuel tanks so even if nobody spots them there's physical evidence left on the ground fingering Israel; and our stealthy strike planes head east back to Iraq or Kuwait or Saudi Arabia (or north through Turkey and perhaps on to an East European NATO base), undetected and unsuspected. If invisible planes had blown up the target, we might have been the suspect since only we have stealth.

So perhaps the mission wasn't just about Syria. Maybe we want to know if our Raptors can kick down the door as advertised. Maybe we want to see if we can hit the Iranians without being spotted. And knocking out the Syria target was a bonus.

With so little information, one could go mad speculating. I think this will be my only pure speculation entry. I'll wait for more solid reporting on what happened, who did it, and just what did we accomplish?

One thing I agree on without reservation--the Iranians are scared. If they think unstealthy Israeli aircraft can cross Syria undetected, Iran can have little confidence that they can detect our aircraft penetrating all the way to Tehran.


The UN Security Council is "concerned" about Burma:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was expected to leave for the region immediately after briefing the emergency council meeting on the fatal violence.

China and Russia don't think the UNSC should bet involved.

So China's enthusiasm for this step should tell us a lot about how the UN works:

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters after the meeting that the most important thing is to see that the Myanmar authorities "restore stability," and to get Gambari into the country as soon as possible.

The most important thing for the one country most interested in protecting Burma and stopping any effective action to confront the government is to get the UN into Burma? Yep, that will get that invaluable "stability" restored. No matter how many civilians the Burmese government has to kill and no matter how long the country must remain enslaved.

And maybe we should get the military junta to stop using that alias "Myanmar" so the international community will know that the crushing of dissent is taking place in Burma.

UPDATE: Quick background on Burma (aka Myanmar). Tip to Instapundit.


The Axis of Evil, with Iran and North Korea as the charter members, is trolling for new members:

The leaders of Zimbabwe and Iran are looking to form a self-styled "coalition for peace" after receiving a joint tongue-lashing from US President George W. Bush, officials said Wednesday.

With Syria perhaps not living up to their responsibilities to hide material for Iran and North Korea, maybe the Axis of Evil needs a hiding spot a little farther from Israel.

Still, other than geography, Zimbabwe doesn't have what it takes for the top echelon evil axis. Perhaps Mugabe should lower his sights a bit. After all, the Axis of El Vil is recruiting, too.

The Axis of El Vil (Cuba and Venezuela) is looking for a replacement for Haiti. I feared Ortega's win would place Nicaragua on the fast track. Yep:

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega accused the U.S. of imposing a worldwide dictatorship and defended the right of Iran and North Korea to pursue nuclear technology in a speech Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly meeting.

Is Zimbabwe saying that Nicaragua can beat them out in the trials for the evil axis on training wheels?

Of course, as annoying as the Axis of el Vil is, the junior axis would love to join the senior axis:

During his election campaign, Ortega pledged to maintain ties with Washington but he also has reached out to Iran and Venezuela, which are courting allies in their fight against U.S. influence. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Nicaragua in January, and Ortega went to Iran in June.

We haven't enough problems without 70s retreads having Che flashbacks?

Why This and Why Now?

China is purging its senior leaders of the PLA:

China has replaced the head of its air force and other top military chiefs ahead of a major Communist Party congress next month at which President Hu Jintao is expected to fill several top posts with younger leaders loyal to his rule.

Lt. Gen. Xu Qiliang, a former deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army's general staff, has taken over from Gen. Qiao Qingchen as head of the PLA Air Force, the official China Daily newspaper said Wednesday.

Other recent appointments include the heads of five of seven main military regions, among them the one surrounding Beijing and the Nanjing Military District tasked with making war preparations against Taiwan, according to the Web site of the official Xinhua News Agency.

Wednesday's report comes just days after China publicized the appointment of a new chief of general staff in charge of day-to-day operations for its 2.3 million-member armed forces, the world's largest standing military.

Is this about loyalty in case of domestic unrest or effectiveness in case of war over Taiwan?

I'll certainly be looking for more information on this change.

Scream and Leap Tactics

In one sense, we are lucky that the Taliban rounds up ignorant hillsmen in Pakistan, pays them what is a fortune in their part of the world, and then marches them into Afghanistan to fight the Coalition.

These ill-trained fanatics aren't good at actual insurgency. They mass and then get slaughtered:

Two battles killed more than 165 Taliban fighters and a U.S.-led coalition soldier in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday [.]

Actual Afghan insurgents did a far better job when they fought the Soviet invaders. But today's Taliban cannon fodder are not locals, and so perhaps they fit the trend of yet another invading force getting whacked by the locals (with an assist from Mr. JDAM, of course).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

At Foggy Bottom's Gate

This is simply bizarre:

The scenes at Monday's question-and-answer session at Columbia University and the outpouring of venom toward President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by protesters during his U.S. visit could bolster the hard-line leader at a time of high tensions with Washington.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger's statement — including telling Ahmadinejad that he resembles a "petty and cruel dictator" — offended Iranians on many levels, not least that of simple hospitality. In traditions of the region, a host should be polite to a guest, no matter what he thinks of him.

The chancellors of seven Iranian universities issued a letter to Bollinger saying his "insult, in a scholarly atmosphere, to the president of a country with ... a recorded history of 7,000 years of civilization and culture is deeply shameful."

They invited Bollinger to Iran, adding, "You can be assured that Iranians are very polite and hospitable toward their guests."

Ahmadinejad, at the United Nations in New York Tuesday to address the General Assembly, was asked about his reaction to the confrontation at Columbia.

"I think the meeting at the university was sufficiently loud enough to speak for itself. I'm an academic myself," he said in Farsi, which was translated by the U.N. "I think the authorities and officials of the university should practice a little more listening to other points of view and listen to things they don't like to hear."

Ahmadinejad's popularity at home has been suffering, with many Iranians blaming him for failing to fix the faltering economy and for heightening the confrontation with the West with his inflammatory rhetoric.

But in the eyes of many Iranian critics and supporters alike, Ahmadinejad looked like the victim. He complained about Bollinger's "insults" and "unfriendly treatment" but kept a measured tone throughout the discussion.

"Our president appeared as a gentleman. He remained polite against those who could not remain polite," said Ahmad Masoudi, a customer at a grocery store who had watched state TV's recorded version of the event, including Bollinger's remarks. Iranian Farsi channels did not air the event live.

Ahmadinejad is a victim? A gentleman?

Ahmadinejad's presence in our country demanding the freedoms his country denies to Iranians is the insult. You can dress him up in bad suits, but Ahmadinejad is waging war against Americans and Iraqis by supporting terrorism in Iraq. Iran is supporting terrorism against Israel by supporting terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbollah. And God help us if he gets nukes.

This is not a matter of "what we think of him" or about him saying things we "don't like to hear." This is a matter of an enemy leader actively killing our troops visiting our shores and abusing our hospitality and patience.

In 300, the Spartans killed the Persian envoy who insulted the Greeks.

Vice President Cheney should have kicked Ahmadinejad into a pit. Or at least taken him hunting.

Ok, that wasn't going to happen. But we probably should have shot the SOB on sight. And then carried his corpse to Ground Zero so he could pay his proper respects to the victims of 9/11.

We've forgotten how to treat enemies.


We have supported EU efforts to talk Iran into making sure their nuclear programs are for peaceful purposes only. We have allowed the Euros to carry on this process for several years now.

Ahmadinejad has so much contempt for the Euros that he doesn't even care to pretend to talk anymore:

Ahmadinejad has defied two Security Council resolutions demanding Iran suspend enrichment and imposing escalating sanctions on key figures and organizations involved in the nuclear program. He made clear in his speech that Iran did not intend to comply with them now.

"In the last two years, abusing the Security Council, the arrogant powers have repeatedly accused Iran and even made military threats and imposed illegal sanctions against it," he said.

"Previously, they illegally insisted on politicizing the Iranian nation's nuclear case, but today, because of the resistance of the Iranian nation, the issue is back to the agency, and I officially announce that in our opinion the nuclear issue of Iran is now closed and has turned into an ordinary agency matter," Ahmadinejad said.

Iran has decided "to pursue the issue through its appropriate legal path ... and to disregard unlawful and political impositions by the arrogant powers," he said.

This would seem pretty final. But I've never been convinced that Europe will take no for an answer.

On the bright side, France and Germany each elected a spine:

The Iranian president spoke shortly before German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned the diplomats of "disastrous consequences" for Israel and the world if Iran acquires a nuclear bomb. "The world does not have to prove to Iran that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. Iran has to convince the world that it is not striving towards such a bomb."

Hours earlier, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the assembly that allowing Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons would be an unacceptable risk. "There will not be peace in the world if the international community falters in the face of the proliferation of nuclear arms," Sarkozy said. The Iranian crisis "will only be resolved if firmness and dialogue go hand-in-hand."

Iran must be stopped.

This Won't Get Much Press Attention

A pro-Bush dogcatcher losing his job gets plenty of press attention. It would represent a trend, no doubt.

So don't expect much press attention for the new Japanese leader who was the more pro-American of the two candidates:

Fukuda's top legislative priority was the extension of the naval refueling mission in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. The mission started in 2001, and Washington has called publicly for Tokyo to renew its commitment.

It is no coincidence that we support Japan's drive for a permanent seat on the Security Council. And no coincidence that at least some Japanese are determined to prove they have earned that power.

So congratulations to Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. May our alliance thrive.

Hollywood Goes to War

Hollywood is willing to lose any amount of money making movies to convince our public that war is wrong. Since we are at war, some might consider that a problem for defending ourselves. But while Hollywood make them, our public doesn't watch them. Hollywood is confused about the lack of audience:

What the hell is wrong with this country? We support the troops, showing them as the dysfunctional, murdering, drug-addicted, red-state crypto-rapists in need of psychoanalysis we all know they really are. Hey — even the Marine officer in Alan Ball’s award-winning American Beauty a few years back was humanized by making him a sadist and a closet queen. And this is the thanks we get?

The list of films past and pending attempting to lose the Long War is impressive.

It is almost like a "Why We Fight" series--but from the enemy's perspective, I suppose.

Sometimes the "dissent" of some of our patriots is very vigorous.

Nothing is Happening in Burma

I'm no expert on Burma. I know it is a harsh dictatorship allied with China (now there's a shock, eh?) that helps the Chinese monitor the Bay of Bengal that bizarrely calls itself Myanmar instead of Burma. Go figure.

So when I hear that the participation of Buddhist monks in protests against the regime is significant, I have to take this at face value.

And this development seems to indicate the regime takes the week-long protests seriously:

Soldiers, including an army division that took part in the brutal suppression of a 1988 uprising, converged on Myanmar's largest city after thousands of monks and sympathizers defied government orders to stay out of politics and protested once again.

Cheered on by supporters, the Buddhist monks marched out for an eighth day of peaceful protest from Yangon's soaring Shwedagon Pagoda, while some 700 others staged a similar show of defiance in the country's second largest city of Mandalay.

"The protest is not merely for the well being of people but also for monks struggling for democracy and for people to have an opportunity to determine their own future," one monk told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals from officials. "People do not tolerate the military government any longer."

Tuesday's protests came despite orders to the Buddhist clergy to halt all political activity and return to their monasteries.

And this is no fringe protest:

Warnings also were sent out against all illegal gatherings in a country where an assembly of more than five can amount to breaking the law.

On Monday, the demonstrations in Yangon reached 100,000, becoming the biggest demonstrations since a pro-democracy uprising 19 years ago. The authorities did not stop the protests Monday, even as they built to a scale and fervor that rivaled the 1988 uprising. The government, has been handling the monks gingerly, wary of angering ordinary citizens in this devout, predominantly Buddhist nation.

Joining the monks Tuesday were members of the pro-democracy National League for Democracy headed by Aung San Suu Kyi as well as university students. They marched more than a mile to the Sule Pagoda under a scorching sun.

The demonstrations have escalated in just one week from a marginalized movement to mass protests drawing not only the monks but people from all walks of life.

In Mandalay, ordinary people were starting to join the monks or follow them on foot, motorcycles, bicycles and trishaws, though many still appeared too afraid to show their open support.

Nothing can happen in Burma. Something is happening in Myanmar, however. We may yet see if the government's troops are willing to slaughter civilians to maintain the military's rule.

UPDATE: More on the situation and the China-Burma alliance.

And this article says China is leaning on Burma to restrain its response. The article nicely describes China's desire to have a Burma alliance for energy and access to the Indian Ocean and China's desire not to stir up bad press in the run up to the 2008 Peking Olympics by openly backing a client state as it guns down Buddhist monks chanting "democracy!"

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Road to Damascus

The Syrians may be shifting their support to non-jihadis in Iraq:

Anyway, given that Syria is suicidally pursuing WMDs, why has the flow of foreign suicide bombers from that country been on the decline? Here is one possibility from the article:

A National Intelligence Estimate last month attributed an apparent crackdown in Syria to that government's concern about the threat al-Qaeda posed to its own stability. The NIE also assessed that Syria had stepped up its support to non-al-Qaeda groups to bolster their influence -- and that of Damascus -- in Iraq. Several Iraqi Sunni extremist groups opposed to the United States and al-Qaeda in Iraq are present in Damascus.

I found that NIE here, and sure enough, it says:

Syria has cracked down on some Sunni extremist groups attempting to infiltrate fighters into Iraq through Syria because of threats they pose to Syrian stability, but the IC now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq in a bid to increase Syrian influence.

I guess all three stories make sense when considered in light of this. As with the Sunnis in Iraq, the Syrians seem to have turned against al Qaeda as well. Not because they favor stability in Iraq but because they, like the Sunnis of the Anbar Province, have come to appreciate the fact that al Qaeda is not good for them.

I had noticed the reports of recent declines in border crossings from Syria. I didn't know whether this was a result of our success in Iraq or just a Syrian decision to lay low for a bit. Was Syria distancing themselves from Iran, I wondered? Although I didn't blog about this news, I noted that Syria could experience blowback from their support for jihadis.

I also noted that our success with the tribes in Anbar should put a serious crimp in jihadi supply lines running from Syria to Baghdad.

So I don't know if the decline is the result of a Syrian decision to halt this flow. It could just be the practical difficulty of sending jihadis across Anbar (which is more difficult to traverse because of the Anbar Awakening) to the Baghdad region (where our operations have seriously degraded the ability of the enemy to receive jihadis for suicide bombings).

More illuminating would be to know if the jihadis are still flowing into Damascus. If they are not, this slowing of jihadis crossing into Iraq could be a Syrian decision to slow the flow. If the jihadis are still arriving, they could simply be stuck, reflecting the difficulty of movement and reception.

Even the report that the Syrians are supporting non-jihadi killers in Iraq and cracking down on jihadis inside Syria doesn't necessarily answer the question. Syria might simply want to put the jihadis back on a leash ready to send forth into Iraq at Syria's discretion.

Or Syria might be supporting non-jihadis as a backup plan to supporting the losing jihadis.

The Syrians had best hope that the stuck/restrained jihadis don't conclude that an Alawite regime ruling a Sunni majority is just as worthy of jihad as a Shia/Kurd government ruling a Sunni minority.

The road to peace doesn't go through Damascus. But the jihad road could go that way.

Quality Versus Quantity

Strategypage has an excellent overview of precision on the battlefield.

The conclusion:

Price is not really a factor when it comes to these weapons. The whole point of smart (much more accurate) munitions is to reduce the number of explosions, and to only blow up what needs to be destroyed. The proliferation of rockets, smart bombs and missiles, from those with a pound of explosives (LAW) to 500 pound bombs (with 280 pounds), gives troops a lot of flexibility on the battlefield. This makes American troops much more lethal, and greatly reduces friendly, and civilian, casualties.

Yet lunatics on the Left can still accuse us of killing hundreds of thousands or even a million innocent civilians in Iraq since we overthrew Saddam's cruel regime. Our weapons, tactics, and basic decency do not deter such accusations any more than the lack of bodies.

Strides in technology and careful use of firepower are no match for the strides in vile enemy propaganda and the willing suspension of disbelief about our military tactics that too many here exercise.

Marines Win Battles. Soldiers Win Wars

This opinion piece from the Strategic Studies Institute asks how we should coordinate our two ground forces--the Marines and Army. Metz writes:

Debate rages today about the future of America’s ground forces. Gone are the days when serious strategists could suggest that that utility of landpower was receding. Now no one questions its importance. But there is disagreement on the type and number of ground forces that the nation needs.

Among the most contentious points are the size of the force (by how much should the Army and Marines be enlarged?), specialized formations for irregular warfare and stabilization operations, and the role of the reserve components. All of these are vitally important. There is, though, another issue which receives less attention: the relationship between the Army and the Marine Corps—the two primary components of America’s ground forces. Does the United States need two ground forces with virtually similar capabilities? I once heard a perplexed foreign officer say, "I’ll never understand your military—not only does your navy have an army, but your navy’s army has an air force!" Is there a strategic reason for this beyond simple tradition? If not, what should the division of labor within the ground forces be? These are not new questions but are ones that should be asked anew, given the evolving national security environment.

Metz notes that the roles have been divided up by mission and that both have been viewed as interchangable forces with each service doing much of what the other does broadly speaking.

He then offers another option (though it is presented just as an option and not the answer):

But there is also a third option: a geographic division of labor. The Marines, for instance, might be the primary ground force provider for the Pacific Rim and perhaps Latin America; the Army for Africa, Europe, and Central, Southwest, and South Asia. This would allow the services some degree of focus concerning cultural expertise, language, and relationships with partner militaries.

This is an old question. It is one I attempted to answer six years ago (actually, seven, but the issue was published in 2001) in Joint Force Quarterly. I advocated a division in roles between Marine-led urban combat (remember the "three-block war" concept?) and Army-led, large-scale armored conventional warfare; and Marines taking the lead in early small-scale but rapid response and the Army taking the lead only in larger and longer wars.

Focusing on large-scale amphibious operations, I asserted, was a distraction from these Marine Corps major future missions. Non-paratrooper light infantry was a waste for the Army, which should heavy them up as medium forces. The Guard, too, must be prepared to support a longer and larger war, I stated.

I did not mention Army special forces, who in peacetime support local forces by understanding local cultures. This isn't a warfighting job, however. And Marines have joined Special Forces Command.

Nor did I mention the idea of simply making the Marines part of the Army. My background is Army (in the Guard variety), but I would not disband a separate Marine Corps as a duplication of effort. It has served us well and it has a tradition that could not be bought, and which must not be tossed away for some paper savings.

I don't like the geographic division idea. This requires each ground service to mirror each other to provide similar capabilities in each service's primary area of operations. As operations in Iraq are showing, brigade-sized units from each service can be commanded by generals from the other service when capabilities of Army and Marine units must be mixed. By letting each service do what it does best (with allowance for adaptation in a longer war), we provide a broader range of capabilities around the globe.

Don't Tase Me, Bro!

Ahmadinejad's interview by 60 Minutes was a joy to behold.

Oh, the Supreme Nutjob was annoying and a reminder of why we have JDAMs, to be sure.

But Scott Pelley redeemed the honor of CBS by refusing to repeat the shameful Dan Rather suck-up interview with Saddam prior to the war. Pelley treated Ahmadinejad the way any reporter would have treated any American politician, including President Bush, who didn't give a direct answer to a question. Pelley kept rephrasing the question and going back for an answer.

Ahmadinejad got fed up with this approach, telling Pelley:

Are you an American politician? Am I to look at you as an American politician or a reporter? This is what the American officials are claiming.

Hah! Ahmadinejad was clearly shocked and expected a very friendly interview from an American journalist. Later, he even implied Pelley was a CIA agent, saying:

Well, thank you for that. You are like a CIA investigator. And you are . . .

The interview is worth reading or watching, and consists of what you would expect of a certified loon dressed up in a leisure suit.

Victor Hanson notes the Leftist talking points that Ahmadinejad spewed out:

Scott Pelley did a solid job interviewing Ahmadinejad tonight on 60 Minutes. Two things were apparent from his non-answers: (1) he simply regurgitates American left-wing talking points about Katrina, weapons companies, wiretaps, etc...(2) his rantings and non-sequiturs make a mockery out of the Columbia claim that he will face cross-examination and must explain himself in front of a tough university audience. He won't.

He simply lies, evades, and smirks that he has found yet another Western media service for his "We don't want a bomb" message while thousands of centrifuges work overtime. His denials remind of an earlier protest, "This is last territorial claim which I have to make in Europe."

Ahmadinejad probably expected his fluency in Leftspeak to leave a halo around his head that would stun Pelley into mindless Ratheresque compliments. Or maybe Ahmadinejad figured he needed to save that skill for Columbia University's more pliant student audience.

More seriously, it took come courage for Scott Pelley, doing the interview in Tehran, to persist in his serious questions. Westerners have been tossed in jail for less. I hope Pelley is out of Iran before Ahmadinejad's plane lifts off from New York for the return flight home.

Heck, while I hoped Pelley could had gone Columbia to ask more questions, Ahmadinejad was not welcomed with open arms:

Ahmadinejad smiled as Columbia President Lee Bollinger took him to task over Iran's human-rights record and foreign policy, and Ahmadinejad's statements denying the Holocaust and calling for the disappearance of Israel.

"Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator," Bollinger said, to loud applause.

He said Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust might fool the illiterate and ignorant.

"When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous," Bollinger said. "The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history."

Ahmadinejad rose, also to applause, and after a religious invocation, said Bollinger's opening was: "an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here."

"There were insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully," Ahmadinejad said, accusing Bollinger of offering "unfriendly treatment" under the influence of the U.S. press and politicians.

Good for Bollinger. I don't think Columbia should have let this thug speak there. But given the appearance, this introduction at least prevents the mullahs from using a fawning tape of an introduction to imply Americans love Ahmadinejad.

I hope the rest of Ahmadinejad's stay was just as friendly. Perhaps it will disabuse him of the apparent notion that he is loved by our masses and that our people are misinformed about his monstrous regime and murderous ideology.

Ahmadinejad could use more of this shock therapy.


Iran's government controlled press reports that Ahmadinejad was warmly welcomed by the audience.

Columbia should make the actual video of the event available online and our government should broadcast it to Iran and the Moslem world so that this lie won't stand.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Choke Them Off

Iraq's border with Iran is the next key fight.

As long as the Sunnis were the main resistance, I figured controlling the Iraqi the border didn't matter as much. Ammunition and money were available inside Iraq from the stockpiles controlled by the Baathists. The only asset crossing the border was suicide bombers. That was pretty tough to stop unless you sealed the border completely. So allocating US assets to the border would have been a waste. That logic is at least a year out of date, I think.

With the Sunnis declining as a threat to the government, the Shia Sadrist threat means the border is important. Lacking access to the Sunni weapons and money, these Shia thugs need the supply line to Iran that exists:

Military spokesman Rear Adm. Mark Fox said U.S. troops were continuing to find Iranian-supplied weaponry including the Misagh 1, a portable surface-to-air missile that uses an infrared guidance system.

Other advanced Iranian weaponry found in Iraq includes the RPG-29 rocket-propelled grenade, 240 mm rockets and armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, Fox said.

This new development explains our new focus on the Iran border:

The area has attracted new U.S. attention as the military steps up allegations that Tehran is aiding Shiite extremists who have killed hundreds of American troops with powerful bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, believed to be brought in from Iran.

As we have knocked back the jihadis and gained the support of secular Sunni Arabs, the Shias backed by Iran have filled the gap. This has masked our decline in casualties against the Sunni resistance and terrorists.

Now the border is important to control in order to stop Iran's war against us in Iraq. We need to assert control fast if we want our surge success to translate into lower battlefield casualties soon.

UPDATE: The Iraqis are warning the international community that Iraq is under attack and the world won't like it if those enemies succeed:

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday that the continued flow of weapons, suicide bombers and terrorism funding into his country would result in "disastrous consequences" for the region and the world.

The world thinks it can screw with us and our friends and we'll pick up the pieces no matter what. Taking a stand against thug states is the risk--those nutcases will kill you if you cross them.

Accepting Their Surrender

President Karzai of Aghanistan has offered to talk to the Taliban to bring them into the goverment:

Karzai said the government and an independent national commission have been trying to bring back those Taliban supporters who are not part of al-Qaida and were "forced or found in a position to leave Afghanistan or to pick up guns."

I think I can guarantee that those who believe that talking is good will assume that this offer for talks means we are losing in Afghanistan. Don't believe it. This is essentially a government offer to accept the Taliban surrender after two years of Taliban offensives carried out by hired guns recruited in Pakistan that were crushed inside Afghanistan. The government figures that two straight slaughters of the Taliban will be seen by the Taliban as more than a coincident. And indeed, the Taliban do know they've lost.

We are winning in Afghanistan, too.

Why We Are Winning

Robert Kaplan sees victory in Iraq coming and a wider impact in the Arab World:

What I see unfolding is that there will be gradually a very uneasy Sunni-Shiite armistice. But that will not be the end of it. Iraq is going to have major repercussions on politics in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco. It’s really going to…what it’s really going to do is in a very uneasy, messy fashion is going to usher in more openness and decentralization in the Arab world. The next generation of Arab autocrats will not be able to rule as autocratically as the current generation, because of a lot of the changes that Iraq will have imposed. In terms of Iran, I think that Iraq may turn out to be Iran’s poisoned chalice, that the Iranians have been able to be spoilers in Iraq, but it’s unclear that they can make a peace any better than we have been able to.

This will be the result of the ongoing Iraq Sunni Arab decision to finally make a deal with the majority Shias and Kurds. It took far longer than I thought it would take. It has been obvious that the Sunnis lost since summer 2004 when the Sunni (led by jihadis who the Baathists thought they could use) and Shia (led by Sadr) spring offensive was turned back.

Yet hope springs a killing urge not quite eternally. The Sunni Arabs stubbornly thought they could bomb their way back to power over those hick Shias using jihadis as unwitting pawns and getting Sunni Arab state support for their efforts. That hasn't worked out as planned, and as a result a million Iraqi Sunni Arab exiles are enjoying the hospitality of foreign Arab states. And the Shias are really pissed.

The Sunni Arab states and the jihadis they allowed to depart their countries for Iraq killed lots of Shias and provided only death and misery for Iraq's Sunni Arabs. The Sunni Arab states were not realy interested in restoring the Sunnis to power enough to seriously intervene--they were only interested in allowing American troops to kill their own Islamists in Iraq to save the Sunni governments the trouble.

The Sunni Arabs of Iraq now know that the only real help they can expect is American help. And after really pissing off the Shias, the Sunnis need our help to avoid joining their brethren already in exile. And that help requires the Sunni Arabs to cut a deal. They are now doing that. A common Persian enemy (Iran supports Sadr) will help cement this alliance further once the Sunni jihadis are crushed.

Strangely, however, in a separate piece (tip to Weekly Standard), Kaplan thinks that the Middle East will crumble:

The twin trends of a rising Asia and a politically crumbling Middle East will most likely lead to a naval emphasis on the Indian Ocean and its surrounding seas, the sites of the “brown water” choke points of world commerce — the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the Bab el Mandeb at the mouth of the Red Sea, and Malacca.

The Middle East that will crumble is the Middle East of autocrats and dictators. Kaplan himself thinks that Iraq will help lead to reforms. But he still thinks autocrats will rule the Arab world. I think he underestimates the impact of democracy in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and Afghanistan on the other autocracies of the region. These democracies are hardly perfect and some are surely fragile, but they are real. And a small number of Arab intellectuals recognize that the Moslem world's problems are internal and not caused by Jews or Americans or the West in general.

This was an aside to Kaplan's discussion of how Asian states will increase their power in competition with each other, dominate the choke points of Asia, and displace American power. Kaplan thinks this competition will take place in an environment of our decline:

While the American government has been occupied in Mesopotamia, and our European allies continue to starve their defense programs, Asian militaries — in particular those of China, India, Japan and South Korea — have been quietly modernizing and in some cases enlarging. Asian dynamism is now military as well as economic.

The military trend that is hiding in plain sight is the loss of the Pacific Ocean as an American lake after 60 years of near-total dominance. A few years down the road, according to the security analysts at the private policy group Strategic Forecasting, Americans will not to the same extent be the prime deliverers of disaster relief in a place like the Indonesian archipelago, as we were in 2005. Our ships will share the waters (and the prestige) with new “big decks” from Australia, Japan and South Korea.

I have to disagree on many levels.

One, yes, our ground forces are clearly occupied in Iraq. These forces must win there. And even here we could triple our ground forces in combat for a national emergency. In World War II we did not rotate troops. We had zero strategic reserves. Even today we have twice as many combat brigades not in Iraq or Afghanistan (though most are in the Guard). I don't advocate ending the rotation policy. I'm just saying that we have options.

But more to the point regarding China and control of the western Pacific, our Air Force and Navy are not occupied in Iraq. They are very clearly occupied with China--the only one of the Asian states arming up that isn't an ally of ours.

And with allies constituting the majority of the arms build up in the region, how does this harm us? I am fine with allies being able to defend the western Pacific on their own.

In addition, there are no "big deck" carriers under construction out there. At best, our allies are building small carriers that are no bigger than the carriers our Navy operates just to haul our Marines about. Nothing in existence matches our big deck Nimitz class carriers. The French have one such ship and they and the British will build a few more--and even these are 60% of the size of our big carriers.

Finally, the only nation building their navy up that we would worry about is China. And all those other cited countries in Asia are building up to resist China. With our help to bolster these allies, fill in gaps, coordinate them, and provide offensive power, China will be toast if they push their noses far out to sea. The western Pacific is not threatened.

I will say, authors don't go broke predicting our imminent demise. I imagine it will continue to be a way to make money for decades to come.

For a big thinker, Kaplan seems to miss the major trends even as he perceives the short run local trend in Iraq. Yes, we are winning in Iraq. But no, the Chinese are not about to overtake us. And no, Asia's rise in military power does not foretell our decline since this power is largely aimed at each other.

Our continued success is not guaranteed. But we've been succeeding contrary to the prophets of doom for quite some time.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What Will We Do With This Evidence?

Well this is interesting (tip to Instapundit):

Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

I am not clear if the nuclear material captured was during the September 6 raid or retrieved earlier in order to convince Washington to support the Israeli strike.

This supports the North Korean origin of the material but does nothing to explain why it was in Syria. Did Syria decide that they have to have a nuclear program (because all the other cool members of the Axis of Evil have them)? Was Syria helping move material to Iran? Or was North Korea just hiding the stuff in Syria until the international community declared North Korea clean andthus eligible for lots of aid from a relieved West?

Oh, and it is believed North Koreans died in the strike, which as I suspected would explain why North Korea knew about the strike quickly and thus condemned it early.

Show Offs

Iran held a parade:

The parade outside the capital Tehran marked the 27th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Iran that sparked the bloody 1980-88 war. It comes as the U.S. and its European allies continue discussing a third round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment. It also comes days before the hard-line Iranian president is to address the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

"Those (countries) who assume that decaying methods such as psychological war, political propaganda and the so-called economic sanctions would work and prevent Iran's fast drive toward progress are mistaken," Ahmadinejad said.

Iran launched an arms development program during its war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own jet fighters, torpedoes, radar-avoiding missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers. Many such weapons were on display at the parade.

Some of the trucks carrying Iranian missiles were painted at the back with popular slogans such as "Down with the U.S." and "Down with Israel." The parade also featured flights by two of Iran's new domestically manufactured fighter jets, known as the Saegheh, which means lightning in Farsi.

This is for show. Iran believes their real security lies not in their facade of conventional military power, but in the use of terror and nuclear weapons.

It would be in our long term interest to demonstrate that no state pursuing such a strategy will survive or prosper.

Iran knows that Iraq fought Iran to a draw in the Iran-Iraq War for eight years (and earned a psychological win, by knocking the Iranians about at the end of the war) while we rapidly dismantled the Iraqi military twice in 1991 and 2003. In their sane moments, the Iranians know they don't want to tangle with us.

Iran under the mullahs has few sane moments.

Explaining the Fine Print

The Syrians are in North Korea:

Kim Yong Nam, head of the North's rubber-stamp legislature and titular head of state, had "a friendly talk" with the Syrian delegation, led by Saaeed Eleia Dawood, director of the organizational department of Syria's Baath Arab Socialist Party, the North's Korean Central News Agency reported.

The Syrian official expressed satisfaction that the "friendly and cooperative ties" between the two countries "are growing stronger under the deep care" of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, KCNA said.

I'm sure the Syrians are pointing out the fine print in their contract that absolves Syria of responsibilty for lost or destroyed property in their care in case of an "act of Israel."

The New Axis of Evil is in evidence. I'm reasonably sure that Damascus will regret this choice.

Friday, September 21, 2007

False Patriotism

I said that the "we support the troops" claim by the anti-war side was crumbling and that the assault on General Petraeus was just the beginning.

Well one Daily Kos writer admits that the Left has never really supported the troops:

This has been digging at me for, oh, about 4 years now. I have been hesitant to express this thought, in comments sections and in discussion with other people about the Iraq quagmire for fear of, I don’t know, being called mean. Or, un-American. Or something. ...

The only troop I support is the man or woman who refuses to be deployed so that they can make the middle east accessible to profiteers who don’t give a flying F about morality or democracy. Or a soldier’s life.

He has always despised the troops fighting a war he believes is an American war of aggression. He just felt uneasy expressing his feelings about the troops until now. What is that saying about false patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel?

I suspect he speaks for many Leftists (and again, no, not your basic Democrat). And I suspect that as the restraints drop away, we shall again see ugly sights of "peace" protesters committing violent acts against returning troops. These Leftists never supported the troops, and only the better disciplined of their ilk have managed thus far to grit their teeth and say the words "I support the troops" before launching into whatever attack on the war effort that they really believe.

These are the types of men and women this worthless writer so obviously despises:

Many of today's pundits and media commentators want to make them and their families out to be victims but they are wrong, and this only detracts from the decision these patriots made to step forward and protect the country that has given so much to all of us. We who are serving, and have served, will have none of that. Those with less of a sense of service to the nation never understand it when strong men and women stand tall and firm against the our enemies, just as they can't begin to understand the price paid so they and their families can sleep safe and free at night-the protected never do. What they are missing, what they will also never understand, is the sense of commitment, joy, and honor, of serving our country in its uniform, but every American veteran, and their loved ones who supported them and feared for them everyday, do.

It's been my distinct honor to have had the opportunity to be here today with you. Rest assured, my fellow citizens, the nation you are a part of, this young experiment in democracy called America started just over two centuries ago, will forever remain the "land of the free and home of the brave" so long as we never run out of tough young Americans willing to look beyond their own self interest and comfortable lives, and go into the darkest and most dangerous places on earth to hunt down, and kill, those who would do us harm.

On the bright side, the men and women who defend us don't need the faux support of the scoundrels that inhabit the universe of the Daily Kos. Screw 'em. But then, I've always believed that, and have never been shy about my disdain for such "peace" protesters.

Big Hole Incident Assumption

When Israel told us of their suspicions regarding the suspicious site in Syria, I assumed we shared intelligence. After all, we shared aircraft codes so we wouldn't shoot down the Israeli aircraft in eastern Syria near Iraq. And we were one of the first sources of sketchy information on the strike.

This article says we did indeed share information:

After Israel shared its intelligence with the Bush administration in recent months, which included satellite imagery, the United States provided Israel with some confirmation of the original information before Israel went ahead with the night air raid on September 6, the Post reported.

The quality of the Israeli intelligence, the nature of North Korea's assistance and the seriousness of Syria's atomic activities remained uncertain, the Post wrote.

Given that we talked early, indicating our knowledge, it stands to reason that North Korea commented early because they had reason to know. Probably because their people or material was struck on September 6th. Their outrage was a bloody give away, eh?

Job Security

Ralph Peters (tip to NRO) doesn't like the idea of mercenaries protecting State Department people. He wants them out of Iraq based on the recent incident in which it is alleged that trigger happy Blackwater security people protecting a State convoy killed a score of Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

Peters assumes that the events described by the Iraqi government are accurate. This could be an enemy disinformation campaign much as other allegations about military atrocities are made--and then disappear when no evidence appears. And if true, the guilty are prosecuted.

Perhaps many of these personnel are trigger happy. But even if true, it doens't mean this particular incident is true. And remember that some British like to call our troops trigger happy. I guess it depends on your definition of prudent rules of engagement.

And also remember that while the State Department doesn't mind Marines guarding their embassies, the department is the one that doesn't want our military escorting their people.

Also, Peters' slurs against the contract personnel run dangerously close to the "screw 'em" attitude some on our Left have toward the contract personnel they call mercenaries.

Certainly, some will be thugs. But let's not tar them all. And don't throw away a useful tool if misused. Fix the problem.

And let it be said that Iraq is sovereign. They could legislate on this subject as much as they want and if they enact laws too restrictive, the contract security personnel will pull out. And then Iraqis will face the consequences of a reduction in security. But if Iraqis as a whole are angered by actual or perceived abuses by contract security companies, this is a choice for Iraqis to make.

And in the long run, when American forces begin to pull back from combat, the Iraqi government would benefit from these security contractors remaining. I'd guess that in the end, Blackwater will remain. We shall see what restrictions are placed on them. The Iraqi government faces too much violence from enemies of the state to toss aside a useful force.

Oh, and if the allegations of this incident are true, can I be amused that the State Department (they of the violence-is-the-last-option school) chose trigger happy guards whose rules of engagement are apparently far less restrictive than those of our troops? I guess your views on violence in self defense vary depending on whether you are getting shot at.

Still, the State Department will review rules of engagement and other matters related to these companies. And Blackwater has resumed escorting State Department convoys to a limited degree:

"We take very seriously what happened," Rice said, noting she had called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday to express regret at the loss of innocent life.

Rice declined to comment on Friday's resumption of Blackwater-protected convoys but paid tribute to the guards from the firm, one of three that provide security for U.S. diplomats and other civilian government officials in Iraq.

"We have needed and received the protection of Blackwater for a number of years now and they have lost their own people in protecting our people in extremely dangerous circumstances," she said.

The United States and Iraq have agreed to form a joint commission to look into Sunday's incident and make recommendations on to clarify confusing rules and regulations that govern the conduct of private security contractors in Iraq.

Iraqi and U.S. witnesses have offered widely divergent accounts of what happened with Iraqis saying the Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation and the Americans saying the security detail was responding to an attack.

State appears not to be judging the company as harshly as the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

I'll wait and see on this issue.