Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Do We Have a Long Run?

Fighting between Pakistan's government and tribal Islamic fanatics is heating up:

Security forces backed by helicopters attacked a stronghold of a militant cleric in northwestern Pakistan on Friday, trading fire with his supporters near the scene of a suicide attack that killed 20 people, police said.

The fighting broke out in the village of Imam Dheri where the cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, has a sprawling seminary. Earlier this week, some 2,500 paramilitary troops were deployed in the surrounding district of Swat to combat his militant supporters.

Solving the problem of Pakistan to defuse the conditions that fuel Islamism when atomic weapons will go to whoever wins the struggle within Pakistan is a balancing act.

This article describes the balancing act with comments clearly highlighting the problems:

At the same time Gen Musharraf's dwindling popularity, his half hearted moves against the extremists and the army's stark failure in defeating the Pakistani Taleban in the tribal borderlands, contrast sharply with Ms Bhutto's determination to confront rather than appease the extremists.

Her defiance goes down well in Washington and other Western capitals, but not with the army which since 11 September 2001 has played a double game of giving sanctuary to some extremists while attacking others.

Moreover other political parties and much of the mainstream media are either too scared to condemn the extremists, or they sympathise with them and do not want to appear pro-American or antagonise that section of the public which has become far more religiously conservative since Ms Bhutto was last in Pakistan nine years ago.

Strategypage puts this situation in the context of a long half-century process of bringing the backward tribal areas into Pakistan and slowly undermining the power of the tribalists who rely on a poor and ignorant population that is fertile ground for Islamist preaching:

You cannot expect the unruliness of the Pushtun tribes to disappear quickly. The violence has been there for thousands of years, and the creeping pacification has been making slow progress over the last half century. It's a process of bringing government control to the major towns, and introducing new industries and businesses. More education causes more Pushtun to migrate out, and non Pushtuns to migrate in. The Pakistani army has recruited heavily among the Pushtun, and educated and changed those recruits, by exposing them to life away from the tribe. Eventually, as this process continues, the Pushtun will change. But it won't happen quickly, or peacefully.

That's fine as far as it goes, but not terribly comforting. In the long sweep of history, forces of modernization are surely advancing. The problem isn't the long run. The problem is that in the short run, even a losing force might have enough remaining strength to seize power. So can the Pakistanis afford ceasefires with these thugs?

Hundreds of civilians used a cease-fire Monday between government forces and militant supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric to flee a scenic valley where violence has killed more than 100 people.

And if Islamist forces capture Pakistan and have nukes, they could turn the region into glass slag.

Really, if it wasn't for the impact of nuclear weapons, there are a lot of places in the world we just wouldn't have to give a damn about. Let the Pushtuns of Pakistan take a decade or a century to integrate into Pakistan. Or if they don't ever do so, who would care?

Unfortunately, we have to care. And take actions to keep jihadis from getting nukes.

Lovely decade we're having.

UPDATE: Ceasefires with these types of thugs are not possible:

Security forces killed as many as 70 militant supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric, the army said Thursday, hours after a suicide attack on an air force bus killed eight and wounded 40.

I've mentioned this before.

UPDATE: And the Pakistani military is eroding as the Pakistani government strings out the conflict, refusing to decisively take action against the jihadis:

The Pakistani Army is "bleeding", and quite profusely at that, in its ongoing bloody skirmishes with extremists in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, with a "high" casualty rate as well as "unprecedented" levels of desertions, suicides and discharge applications.

This is the "assessment" of the Indian security establishment closely tracking developments in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas (FATA), especially the Waziristan region, as also the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan.

I'm sure the Pakistanis think they are avoiding stress on their forces by fighting intermittently and at a lower level, but all this is doing is exposing their forces to jihadi propaganda while denying the military victories that could dampen the appeal of Islamism while discrediting the Islamists by showing government strength.

The Pakistanis have to seriously fight these Isamist enemies. The slow and low strategy has just allowed the jihadis to claim they can't be beaten and spread to the cities away from the frontier areas and undermine the government in its strongholds.

Shh! Don't Tell Them We're Losing

It seems that the periodic claims we are losing in Afghanistan are getting sharper these days. Perhaps despair over the growing view that we won't lose in Iraq is sending some looking for another war to lose.

Regardless, please don't let these unhappy Taliban read that we are losing in Afghanistan:

The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Afghan government hopes to seal the deal this week with Mullah Abdul Salaam and his Alizai tribe, which has been fighting alongside the Taliban in Helmand province.

Diplomats confirmed yesterday that Mullah Salaam was expected to change sides within days. He is a former Taliban corps commander and governor of Herat province under the government that fell in 2001.

Military sources said British forces in the province are "observing with interest" the potential deal in north Helmand, which echoes the efforts of US commanders in Iraq's western province to split Sunni tribal leaders from their al-Qa'eda allies.

The Afghan deal would see members of the Alizai tribe around the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala quit the insurgency and pledge support to the Afghan government. It would be the first time that the Kabul government and its Western allies have been able exploit tribal divisions that exist within the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

The will to lose is strong among some. But not, I trust, among the hardened tribal leaders of the Alizai tribe.

I'm Feeling All Benchmarky

The Palestinians are insisting on a deadline for their own state:

The chief Palestinian peace negotiator raised the stakes Tuesday for a U.S.-sponsored peace conference, saying there will be no talks with Israel unless it agrees to set a deadline for establishing a Palestinian state.

Gosh. Love to. But our Congress is into this whole benchmark thing.

And in this case, I think they'd be right to insist on some benchmarks before entrusting thesefne gentlemen with an actual state.

Oh, and how are the Palestinians raising the stakes when they have, at best, a pair of twos?

I think we can tell them to enjoy their civil war and poverty while they up the ante.


Global warming is here!

Melting glaciers in Western Canada are revealing tree stumps up to 7,000 years old where the region's rivers of ice have retreated to a historic minimum, a geologist said today.


You know what this means, don't you?

The radiocarbon dates seem to be the same around the world, according to Koch. There have been many advances and retreats of these glaciers over the past 7,000 years, but no retreats that have pushed them back so far upstream as to expose these trees.

No retreats of the glacier have been this extreme!


Something seems wrong with this worry.

Let me see, the ice has retreated in a manner that is unprecedented? And underneath that ice there are ancient tree stumps? But this melting of ice has never happened before.


Well, the ice has never melted like this other than the time the ground was clear enough for the trees to grow in the first place.

So other than that time, this is unprecedented.

It's a wonder I'm not curled up in a fetal position, I suppose.

When Corruption is Not a Crisis

It seems that the press is focusing on Iraqi corruption lately and it is a subject of interest for Congress. This is a good sign.

Long ago I noted that when the enemies in the field are finally beaten, we'd need to shift to fighting corruption in the Iraqi government and society to help bolster the chance of democracy taking root. So I guess if the press is shifting gears from actual fighting, it is a sign that we are beating our enemies in the field.

But let's not get too worked up turning this problem into an unsolvable crisis. If you think that a large oil-exporting country in the Gulf with a fractured population that could break into civil war, rampant corruption, militias, kidnappings, and radical Islam potentially mucking up the whole place is a terrible crisis, why aren't you intensely worried about Nigeria?

Militants have kidnapped more than 150 foreigners this year to press their demands for local control of oil revenues. The attacks since late 2005 have cut Nigeria's regular output by about 20 percent, helping send crude prices toward all-time highs.

Locals for years have demanded a greater share of the wealth in Africa's largest crude producer, and the region remains desperately poor despite its great natural bounty.

Nigeria does rank a lowly 147 out of 179 in the corruption index (admittedly better than Iraq right now).

Come on, let's get with the program! Pull out our oil companies! Softly partition the country! End our aid and investment! Demand benchmarks!

We have problems in Iraq. Don't use these problems as an excuse to run away and let the killers win. We are making progress despite these problems.

Work the problems remaining. We're on the right path.

Why Are Their Personal Issues My Problem?

Apparently, some people are getting their panties all in a twist worrying about the fanciful worst case scenarios of global warming and ecological devastation:

Psychologists now have a name for Larsen's condition: eco-anxiety, the overwhelming and sometimes debilitating concern for the worsening state of the environment. As signs of global warming accumulate, therapists say they're seeing more and more patients with eco-anxious symptoms. Sufferers feel depression, hopelessness and insomnia, and go through sudden, uncontrollable bouts of sobbing. They're overwrought about where the polar bears will live if they lose their habitat. They fret about the Earth running out of fossil fuels and about the slow disappearance of the oceans' coral reefs. Sometimes, the worry is closer to home, about the loss of songbirds in the backyard or the fate of the squirrels after a neighborhood park was bulldozed for condominiums.

Good Lord, are these people dressing themselves in the morning without assistance and are they allowed to handle sharp objects?

And more importantly, shouldn't their neuroses be treated by medication and not socialist economies that cripple economic growth for everyone in the name of soothing their anxiety?

Why should crazy people have the default starting position for debating the issue?

The Victory of the Tempest-Tost

In many ways, contrary to the charge that we fight in Iraq for oil or Halliburton, our fight in Iraq is highly idealistic. Rather than settling for putting "our sonofabitch" in charge of Iraq, we are attempting to give the Iraqis the chance to live in a free country where ballots decide who sits in the government's offices.

Our Left, which you'd think would be sympathetic about this goal if not the methods, is strangely committed to the idea that Arabs aren't ready for democracy.

I've asserted that one day our president will be known as George the Liberator for his role in starting this process, no matter how long it takes to take root and spread:

Our victory in Iraq will change the rules in a region still frozen in the Cold War era standards of strongmen who rule without regard to their people or their well being. When the history of the Middle East in this era is written, President Bush may well be known as George the Liberator.

This article states similarly:

It may take a little time, but a democratic Iraqi people will someday get a government that reflects their new, hard-earned values. While it has been an often bumpy road, the Iraqi experiment now looks like it has a real chance of success. Hopefully George W. Bush, before his time in office expires, will be able to travel to Baghdad and deliver a speech that publicly recognizes the Iraqi people's will to join the family of civilized nations. Yes, American blood and treasure have given Iraq its freedom, but Iraqis have had to bleed to keep it.

When George W. Bush addresses a free Iraq, a heterogeneous Islamic nation that America freed and whose people of their own volition opted for a peaceful and tolerant democracy, it will represent one of America's greatest accomplishments. Iraq will truly serve as a beacon to other nations of the region. It's very presence will strike perhaps the lethal blow in the war of ideas we are fighting with fanatics across the region.

Not acknowledging the progress the Iraqi people have made is unconscionable. Abandoning them would be unforgivable.

I don't know how so-called progressives can write off Arabs as unready for democracy. Once, Asians were said to be too steeped in Asian despotism traditions. Once Latin America was viewed as too hobbled by Catholic centralism to have democracy. And once Eastern Europeans were said to be too crippled by Soviet domination and a lack of a democratic tradition even before that communist trauma. Indeed, the raw material we built our democracy on was hardly what you'd think of as fertile. We took in the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses whose only strength was their desire to breathe free and build a better life for their children.

Yes, ultimately it will be up to Arabs themselves to build free societies. We can't do it for them. But in the face of ruthless jihadi killers who will bomb and behead any who oppose the Islamo-fascist dream of a caliphate of the submissive, the protection of the homeless tempest-tost by our armed forces and our allies while they build the strength to fight the terrorists and despots is critical to success.

UPDATE: President Bush spoke on Thursday on exactly this topic:

And now we're at the start of a new century, and the same debate is once again unfolding -- this time regarding my policy in the Middle East. Once again, voices in Washington are arguing that the watchword of the policy should be "stability." And once again they're wrong. In Kabul, in Baghdad, in Beirut, and other cities across the broader Middle East, brave men and women are risking their lives every day for the same freedoms we enjoy. And like the citizens of Prague and Warsaw and Budapest in the century gone by, they are looking to the United States to stand up for them, speak out for them, and champion their cause. And we are doing just that. (Applause.)

We are standing with those who yearn for the liberty -- who yearn for liberty in the Middle East, because we understand that the desire for freedom is universal, written by the Almighty into the hearts of every man, woman and child on this Earth. (Applause.)

We are standing with those who yearn for liberty in the Middle East, because we know that the terrorists fear freedom even more than they fear our firepower. They know that given a choice, no one will choose to live under their dark ideology of violence and death.

We're standing with those who yearn for liberty in the Middle East, because we know that when free societies take root in that part of the world, they will yield the peace we all desire. See, the only way the terrorists can recruit operatives and suicide bombers is by feeding on the hopelessness of societies mired in despair. And by bringing freedom to these societies, we replace hatred with hope, and this will help us to marginalize the extremists and eliminate the conditions that feed radicalism, and make the American people more secure.

The lessons of the past have taught us that liberty is transformative. And I believe 50 years from now an American President will be speaking to Heritage and say, thank God that generation that wrote the first chapter in the 21st century understood the power of freedom to bring the peace we want. (Applause.)

This was just a coincidence of timing. And lest I lose my Rove email instructions privilege, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Have We Won?

This is good news:

At least 34 American service members have died so far in October, nearly a third from non-combat causes.

It is the lowest number since 32 troops died in March 2006 and the second-lowest since 20 troop deaths in February 2004, according to an Associated Press count based on military figures.

That would be the second consecutive drop in monthly figures, after 65 Americans died in September and 84 in August.

And while long-term trends have our noncombat casualties at about 20%, it is amazing that fewer than one troop per day is being killed in combat.

I'm hardly ready to declare victory from this trend since in March 2006, our casualties had declined from each of the previous 5 months. But back then, unknown to me, we were pulling back from combat so declines in casualties were from force protection and lack of combat. Now we are still out in the field more exposed (and effective) than ever. Thus dropping casualties represents a less effective enemy rather than lack of contact from pulling back to bases.

Civilian deaths are dropping, too, according to the article:

The current pace of civilian deaths also would put October at less than 900. The figure last month was 1,023 and for August, 1,956, according to figures compiled by the AP from hospital, police and military officials, as well as accounts from reporters and photographers. Insurgent deaths are not included. Other counts differ and some have given higher civilian death tolls.

Suspected Sunni and Shiite extremists appear to have stepped up attacks in recent weeks, however.

I'm on record as saying that the proper metric for determining the success of the surge is not civilian casualties. I've written that casualties will decline finally after we win the war. Surrendering jihadis is probably a better metric.

So is the decline in civilian casualties a sign we've won and the enemy is in permanent disarray and retreat?

Two months ago I wasn't ready to declare victory. Despite two more months of good trends, I'll wait before I'm bold enough to assume we are seeing victory rather than just a solid trend toward victory.

UPDATE: This article confirms the basis for my qualified optimism that current US casualty trends are based on defeating the enemy:

What makes it significant is that US forces in Iraq are still conducting operations, not "hunkering down" in the relative security of the many sprawling US bases.

We still need to pursue the enemy while they are weakened. Remember that the Taliban let the Northern Alliance survive in a corner of Afghanistan where the Taliban figured they were contained and helpless--until our special forces and spies went in and spearheaded the offensive by those "defeated" elements that began in October 2001 and toppled the Taliban regime.

The Sunni Alliance Breaks and Loses

Strategypage writes about the decline of the Sunni Arab resistance:

Saddam's henchmen, the main enemy, were no dummies. They were smart enough, and resourceful enough, to build a police state apparatus that kept Saddam in power for over three decades. However, for the last three years, that talent has been applied to keeping the henchmen alive and out of jail. But three years of fighting has reduced the original 100,000 or so core Saddam thugs, to a few thousand diehards. Three years ago, there were hundreds of thousands of allies and supporters from the Sunni minority (then, about five million people, now, less than half that), who wanted to be back in charge. Now the remaining Sunni Arabs just want to be left in peace. Thus the Sunni nationalists of in the Baghdad suburbs are shooting at, and turning in, their old allies from Saddams Baath party and secret police. This isn't easy for some of these guys, but it's seen as a matter of survival. While the fighting in and around Baghdad is officially about rooting out al Qaeda, and hard core terrorists, it's also about taking down the Baath party bankers and organizers who have been sustaining the bombers with cash, information and encouragement.

The Sunni Arabs were always the heart of the resistance to the new Iraqi government. They could not imagine Shias dominating Iraq and assumed that enough killing would put the Sunnis back in power. Their support was necessary to support Sunni resistance whether the Sunnis were Baathists, nationalists, jihadis, or foreign jihadis.

Increasingly, the Sunni fighters and terrorists are running out of friendly Sunnis to support their fight--they've run to Syria or Jordan or have switched sides recognizing that they were doomed to be defeated. The speed of their defeat is the big question, not whether they are beaten.

The Shia resistance based on Iranian-supported death squads, should be far easier to break since they are fighting a Shia government.

The Peasants Really are Increasingly Revolting

I've noted unrest in China and wondered if this was significant or just part of the normal fabric of Chinese society.

Strategypage writes that the unrest is rising and that the communist party leadership is worried:

The number of major demonstrations or riots per million people per week, is moving from one to two. Many of these outbursts are the result of corruption among local officials, including the police. This misbehavior also makes it increasingly difficult to collect taxes. Forcing the issue with corrupt provincial officials risks resistance, which could escalate into rebellion. The problem is particularly acute in western and central China, where half the population lives. This is the poorest half, misruled by the most corrupt officials. One reason for upgrading the military is to make it possible to attack rebellious factions while using a minimum number of troops. China has a long history of troops changing sides when ordered to attack their own people. Didn't happen all that often, but the Internet and all those cell phones have changed things. People are more connected to each other. This information access has made Chinese people more aware of the rest of the world, how it operates, and how China ranks.

If we had 300 major riots or demonstrations every week targeting our national government, I think we'd be nervous about our stability.

Of course, one danger is that the Chinese will try to divert attention with a nice war against Taiwan that whips up xenophobic nationalism to replace waning socialist solidarity. Not that this strategy couldn't backfire if the invasion fails, but when the peasants are revolting and you aren't sure if the PLA will shoot at the people, sending the military to take Taiwan may seem the safer bet.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Transition Team

I continue to believe that President Bush is serious about ending Iran's threat to us before he leaves office in January 2009.

Gerard Baker suspects that the adminsitration's request to convert B-2s to carry some really big bombs can only mean we need them against Iran:

Nestled deep in George Bush’s latest $190 billion request to Congress for emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a tantalising little item that has received scant attention.

The US Department of Defence has asked for an additional $88 million to modify B2 stealth bombers so that they can carry a 30,000lb bomb called the massive ordnance penetrator (or MOP, in the disarming acronymic vernacular of the military). The MOP is an advanced form of a “bunker buster”, an air-delivered weapon with an explosive capacity to destroy targets deep underground. Explaining the request, the Administration says it is in response to an “urgent operational need from theatre commanders”. What kind of emergency could that be?

First of all, does this mean we've lacked the ability to strike Iran's nuclear infrastructure these last several years? That would be a horrible oversight, if you ask me.

Or is this more psychological warfare?

If this is serious, it will take time to get the B-2 converted to carry the MOP. So will President Bush really open up a war with Iran (even if just the aerial kind) as the presidential campaign goes into full steam? I think not. So how on earth does a president launch a lame-duck war in November and December 2008?

On the assumption that Senator Clinton will win the 2008 presidential election, could the Bush administration cut a deal with Hillary Clinton to stand with President Bush as the President-Elect to announce the beginning of an aerial campaign to defang the mullahs in mid-November 2008? We know the President has briefed Senator Clinton quietly on foreign policy issues.

That would get the bombing out of the way and allow a president Clinton to avoid having to make that decision and enrage her own base. And it would signal the world that stopping Iran from going nuclear was a bipartisan effort.

And perhaps Hillary Clinton would agree to stand with President Bush even if she loses while the president allows the Republican victor to start their presidency without an Iranian atomic bomb looming over him.

I continue to hope that after all this time, our CIA will prove to be an actual asset instead of a waste of money. I hope we can help our friends inside Iran toss the mullahs out on their butts, and that any military force we use will be in support of a military coup or a revolution.

But if the choice is between a war and Iran with nukes, I'll choose a war with Iran. It's an easy choice, since if Iran gets nukes, we'll have that war anyway--but on Iran's timetable.

Now We Have Too Much Armor?

The new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle is only the latest chapter of the history of armor in Iraq. On the MRAP:

Beyond that [the increased supply needs of the MRAP that will increase supply convoys that could get hit], the notion of sealing troops in metal cocoons is contrary to the Pentagon's notion of counter-insurgency warfare, which requires soldiers and
Marines to mingle with the local population they are trying to win over. Winning hearts and minds in Iraq demands "close contact with the local population to provide them with security and to develop a working knowledge of the local environment that, together, produces the intelligence necessary to defeat an insurgent enemy force," a respected military think tank said in report released October 17. "The MRAP - at least in this situation - may send the wrong message to troops in the field," says the study from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

But it's not only retired ground-pounder officers like Andrew Krepinevich and Dakota Woods - who wrote the CSBA study - who are concerned. Conway, the Marine commandant, also said last week that while there is no questioning the imperative for MRAPs in Iraq, he wonders if their purchase will change the Marines' traditional agile and expeditionary nature. He basically shrugged his shoulders over the question of how useful the 8,800 MRAPs now on order will be after Iraq. "Can I give a satisfactory answer to what we're going to be doing with those things in five or 10 years? Probably not," the Marines' top officer said. "Wrap them in shrink wrap and put them in asphalt somewhere is about the best thing that we can describe at this point. And as expensive as they are, that is probably not a good use of the taxpayers' money."

Even in Iraq, there's a question of how well the new vehicles will protect against the growing threat posed by explosively formed penetrators, a new and insidious type of roadside bomb that Iraqi insurgents - allegedly with help from some forces inside neighboring Iran - are using more frequently against U.S. vehicles. An EFP uses an explosive charge to send a molten slug of copper through even the thickest armor. "If the use of EFPs becomes widespread," the CSBA report warns, "any advantage the MRAPs have against earlier forms of IEDs may be irrelevant."

The MRAP will surely help save the lives of our troops in many circumstances even as the enemy adapts to their presence. We are a wealthy nation and so the price is well worth paying. And as long as our troops exit the vehicles to patrol, live, and fight, protecting them en route better is a good thing.

But this new vehicle is not the end of the problem. Even in my brief history of armor in Iraq I noted the early appearance of shaped-charge EFPs. In the end, tactics defeat IEDs. We need to aggressively pursue the bomb makers and suppliers to protect our troops before the IEDs are planted.

After so much invested in complaining about insufficient armor, I am amused that the MRAP is viewed by some as having too much armor. Indeed, after this war, the best thing we can do with the MRAPs is sell them off because Iraq has been unique in the history of warfare in this regard and we are unlikely to face the widespread threat of IEDs again. The expense of operating these monsters in peacetime would break the bank when Congress stops writing checks as freely.

Of course, winning the war is the best solution.

Idiocy Itself

Before the Great Wall of NYT put Paul Krugman safely behind a subscription barrier, I'd vowed to stop paying attention to him as a giant time suck that degraded my level of knowledge. Whatever skills he has as a trained economist have taken a back seat to his career as a partisan hack.

So I reluctantly read his latest when Real Clear Politics linked to him. What an idiot. (And I am referring to myself for reading him as much as Krugman for what he wrote).

Krugman thinks that the very idea that we face a threat from Islamo-fascists is a fantasy concocted by the Republican Party.

Let's first just move past this bit of slander:

But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up — perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.

That's nice. Never mind that the Islamist terrorists mostly kill dark-skinned Iraqis, and Lebanese, and Indonesians, and Indians, and Afghans, and Pakistanis. And never mind that we are helping dark-skinned people all over the world, including in Iraq, to fight these terrorists.

Or is Krugman saying that we can only fight white-skinned terrorists? Perhaps dark-skinned terrorists have a privilege of attacking Americans without blame? I mean, should the jihadis stop killing dark-skinned Moslems long enough to work on plans to attack us.

But I shouldn't be distracted by this sideshow into idiocy from the primary fight against Krugman's insanity:

In America’s darkest hour, Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the nation not to succumb to “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” But that was then.

Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their campaigns.

And I thought that Iraq was a "distraction" from the "real fight" against bin Laden in Afghanistan! Huh. Now it turns out that there really isn't a fight at all against terrorism worthy of the name.

Krugman says that we have only fear itself to fear. And naturally, if only we'd realize we have nothing to fear, we would refuse to lower ourselves by fighting that source of our ridiculous fear.

Of course, Krugman truncates his quote of President Roosevelt enough to support Krugman's preference to do nothing in the face of murderous thugs.

In reality, FDR's quote was never about ignoring the Depression and just claiming worries about poverty and unemployment were baseless fears. No, it was about confronting that which caused those fears:

I AM certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our Nation impels. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

Was this a call to ignore our problems? Was it a call that ridiculed the idea that we had a problem? Did FDR belittle the idea that the problem could get worse?

Heavens no. It was a call to unite and confront the problem. To beat the problem. To end the threat the problem posed to our nation and to restore our nation. It was a call for public support to fight the problem and a plea to not let the fear of the problem paralyze us into inaction.

In this 1933 inaugural address, FDR wanted to turn retreat into advance.

Our Long War is doing exactly this. We are not reacting to every jihadi attack with cruise missile attacks and arrest warrants. We are striking at the enemy and working to undermine the source of fears within the Islamic world that blames the West for their problems and inspires fanatics to kill us in so-called retribution.

And Krugman makes much the same mistake as Zakaria makes in assuming that no threat that cannot conquer us is worth worrying about. But Krugman is sophisticated, after all. He mistakes paralysis in the face of danger for bravery, imagining he is refusing to succumb to fear.

Funny enough, Krugman can't even get the FDR quote right to hammer his idiotic point. He's learned much from Maureen Dowd in their cocoon. But as I learned long ago, Krugman is a waste of time. I'd kind of forgotten him as he was available only to the loyal few who subscribed to the NYT.

These are strange days indeed when gossip columnists and economists are judged to be the best foreign policy analysts that the New York Times can offer its readers on a regular basis (and surely the Times curses their bad luck every day not to have a film critic in their stable!). May I learn my lesson and leave this paper alone, as I vowed long ago.

CORRECTION: For some reason, I thought the Washington Post had the film critic-turned-foreign policy analyst. The Times does indeed get the hat trick. My apologies to the Post.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shirking Any Price, Shedding Any Burden

Plan B is in effect for those who opposed the war in Iraq and bizarrely (to me) argued we were doomed to fail:

The narrative on Iraq - the one you see in the media, that is - is changing. Claims that "we've lost" and that American soldiers have been beaten by opponents who are righteous heroes or nine-foot tall and bullet proof are being quite subtly shifted to arguments that no potential victory (if even grudgingly acknowledged) could be worth the price. This argument may prove irresistible to those who've invested heavily in defeat.

Yes, and victory in World War II could have looked pretty hollow if we hadn't helped push over the Berlin Wall in 1989 and if the Soviet Union itself hadn't collapsed in 1991. Until then, it could have been really easy to argue that our sacrifices from 19451 to 1945 only put the Soviet Union in control of Eastern Europe and created a tougher foe than Nazi Germany.

And what of our slaughter that we endured in the Civil War? After the failure of Reconstruction and the cruelty od Segregation, did those hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers really achieve any lasting good freeing our slaves? It took the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to fully cement the legal rights of African Americans.

And ecen our draw in the Korean War might look hollow despite the prosperity of South Korea should Pyongyang's Pillsbury Nuke Boy nuke Seoul. But if North Korea falls, the sacrifice of fifty years ago will look like a good price to have paid.

I don't think we will have to wait fifty or one hundred years to see the value of defeating Saddam's regime and planting democracy in Iraq. But that doesn't mean that those who think we deserve to lose won't shift their arguments to say nothing we achieve is worth the price we are paying.

Not that they'll argue we should give the place back to the Baathists. The anti-war side isn't that stupid. But they'll want to imply that it would have been better to leave them in charge rather than invade.


The anti-war protesters like to pretend that the people that come to their rallies are just everyday Janes and Joes tired of the war. They've been peddling this line since about March 2003.

So when 10,000 march in San Francisco (good grief, a gay pride rally draws 100,000 there!), the organizers work hard to portray the protesters as non-professionals:

No official head count was available. Organizers of the event estimated about 30,000 people participated in San Francisco. It appeared that more than 10,000 people attended the march.

"I got the sense that many people were at a demonstration for the first time," said Sarah Sloan, one of the event's organizers. "That's something that's really changed. People have realized the right thing to do is to take to the streets."

There were other protests, too, of even smaller "crowds."

But I love Sloan's comment. It's as if ordinary Americans are protesting.

But that isn't really the case. Ms. Sloan has been around the anti-war block, for example. She's no protest virgin:

Miss Sloan dropped out of college at age 17 to promote International ANSWER and other WWP front groups such as the International Action Center (IAC), of which she serves as youth coordinator. She also writes for Workers World, the WWPs newsletter, and was the news editor of the Iraq Resource Information Site, a website that refers to the pre-war sanctions against Iraq as a "holocaust" and "genocide."

A communist? Say it ain't so!

Another quoted protester has been at this a while:

Bal Pinguel, coordinator of the Peacebuilding and Demilitarization Program, gave a larger context of US nuclear proliferation in terms of a widening war on Iraq, Afghanistan, and others.

He's not just anti-Iraq War, he is against the "good war" in Afghanistan and looks to demilitarize America just to be safe. And I'm not so sure that Bal is on the same page as Sarah as far as getting those new protesters hauling signs around. Bal thinks the anti-war movement is too white and too male. I'm sure he wasn't speaking of Ms. Sloan, when he said that. I'm sure she's a fine looking woman in her own right.

Sadly for the anti-war side, the American people prefer to win our wars, and generally don't think we are genocidal maniacs when we go to war.

So those "anti-war" protests will remain largely white, male, middle class, communist, and badly in need of a shower and shave.

UPDATE: Yep, Main Street they ain't. Mom and pop aren't exactly joining the ranks of the protests.

UPDATE: Another sad "Democrat", this time from Florida:

An ardent lifelong Democrat, Hillary Keyes thought that when her party took control of Congress, it would finally bring an end to the Iraq war. After all, to her the 2006 election was a mandate on Iraq.

But Keyes is at the 2007 state Democratic Party convention this weekend, still pleading with members of Congress from her own party to end the war.

"It's so frustrating," said Keyes, of Boca Raton. "People I know are frustrated with the Democratic Party."

No doubt the people she knows are frustrated, because Ms. Keyes is a member of Code Pink, the radical anti-war outfit, rather than the lifelong Democrat she pretends to be.

If there are so many ordinary Democrats and other Americans turning on the war, why do the people interviewed in the news seem to be the Lefty whackos? What do they think this is, a FEMA press conference?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Preparing for the Next War

Instead of drawing up extensive reconstruction plans for the next post-war we face prior to attacking (and I'm not talking any particular country), why don't we take a page from our so-far successful campaign against the Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

Bin Laden recognizes he is beaten, though he does not indicate any real understanding of the reason for his loss, preferring to speak of vague mistakes and lack of unity:

Bin Laden doesn't discuss how the Americans defeated him. It was done with data. Years of collecting data on the bad guys paid off. Month by month, the picture of the enemy became clearer. This was literally the case, with some of the intelligence software that created visual representations of what was known of the enemy, and how reliable it was. The picture was clear enough to maneuver key enemy factions into positions that make them easier to run down.

Instead of drawing up nice plans of governing structures and new roads, why don't we spend our pre-war preparation time building up similar databases of leaders and groups in the target nation? This might be a good task for the CIA and other intelligence agencies to focus on, building on those country studies.

Such detailed knowledge of the society and political elites of a potential enemy would be useful for a lot more than just suppressing an insurgency. We could use it to target sanctions, foster a revolt or revolution, or sow dissent and suspicion among the ruling elites.

If we had a database of local actors anywhere near what we have today, we'd have rolled up the insurgency a lot faster and perhaps prevented al Qaeda from effectively invading Iraq and dragging the killing out years longer.

Self Esteem

Russia is not about to become a superpower despite their recent oil wealth and bluster, as I noted here.

Strategypage writes:

Putin's people have got the economy going (at six percent, Russia has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe), cracked down (but certainly not eliminated) on the lawlessness and corruption, and played to the popular affection for "restoring Russia's place in the world" (becoming a superpower again.)

Russia can't become a superpower again because it's population is shrinking (low birth rate, like the rest of Russia), and all those nuclear weapons are great for defending the country, but you need non-nuclear forces to throw your weight around. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, Russia has lost over 90 percent of its combat power.

Russia's GDP is about 6% of ours. Even if they spent half their GDP on defense, they wouldn't match our 4% of GDP defense spending.

In the end, Russia's bluster will accomplish two things. One, they'll rally Russians to accepting a benign dictatorship with only the forms of democracy. Two, Russia will scare their neighbors.

The result of this fright in the near term will be that Ukraine will enter NATO.

Looking further down the road, this fright will mean that should China confront Russia to overturn 18th century treaties that gave Russia Chinese Far Eastern territory, Russia will find theat their good friends in Belorus and Venezuela will be of zero help.

And keep in mind that Russia is portraying the West as a threat not because the West is a threat but because Putin wants his people to rally around the flag. Having a pretend foreign threat is safer than picking an actual threat to focus anger on. So let's end right now any talk of how we provoked Russia into hostility.

So good luck with that plan, Moscow. It's going to feel real good to be a revived Putin Russia right up until you crash and burn while we just watch.

The Big Hole Cleanup

The Syrians are erasing the signs of their nuclear reactor smashed by the September 6th Israeli strike:

Analysts said the cleanup will hinder a proposed investigation by international nuclear inspectors and suggests Syria is trying to conceal evidence.

"It took down this facility so quickly it looks like they are trying to hide something," said David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, which analyzed the images.

Albright said Syria may have acted so swiftly because the Israeli attack blew a hole in the roof, which would have exposed the building's contents to spy aircraft and satellites.

Had the building not been razed, inspectors would have been able to tell from its construction whether it was meant to house a North Korean-style nuclear reactor, Albright said. He said the fact that the structure got a roof so early in its construction also suggests that it was a reactor.

Apparently, the construction had been going on since at least September 2003, based on a commercial satellite photo taken then (but not intepreted back then, indicating one weakness of assuming that we can spot anything being built because of our satellites) that showed the building under construction. Clearly it began earlier than that. And the decision to build was earlier, certainly. We shall see if new information comes up that pushes the building date back to an earlier verifiable date.

Give the Syrians another month and they'll scrape the earth to eliminate radiation traces, build an orphanage, drop some bombs on it, and then invite the press in to see what the Israelis did.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Cylon Dreadnought

Robotic fighter aircraft will threaten our air superiority:

In effect, if you think about going to war with the United States, you take for granted that American aircraft will control the skies above. Robotic jet fighters could change that. And this is forcing American air force generals to confront a very unsavory prospect; a sixth generation fighter that is flown by software, not a pilot.

It's not just that most of the those American air force generals began their careers as fighter pilots. No, the reason is more practical. American air superiority has largely been the result of superior pilots. The U.S. didn't always have the best aircraft, but they always had the most talented and resourceful pilots. And that's what gave the U.S. its edge. Will that translate to software piloted fighters? Research to date seems to indicate it will.

Meanwhile, simulations, using fighter flown by software, versus those flown by humans, have been used for over two decades. The "software pilots" have gotten better, and better. Moreover, a fighter without a pilot is more maneuverable (because some maneuvers are too stressful on the human body.) UAV fighters can be smaller, cheaper, stealthier and more expendable. But the key to software pilots is the development of superior tactics, and artificial intelligence (AI) that is more capable than anything your opponent can come up with.

The U.S. Air Force, and several other air forces, have already created fighter pilot software, and now the United States, and Russia, are creating pilotless fighters. Many air force generals are convinced that the pilotless fighters will perform as well for real, as they have in the simulations. So convinced are U.S. Air Force generals, that they are seriously considering a sixth generation fighter that will not carry a human pilot. Otherwise, enemy pilotless fighters would have an edge over the U.S. sixth generation aircraft.

Much like the British launching of HMS Dreadnought a century ago made every existing battleship obsolete, robotic fighters able to fly and fight better than human pilots will make even the best manned fighter obsolete.

And just as the death of old style battleships erased Britain's naval superiority in an instant to one ship, leaving the question of who would dominate the seas to the nation that could build the most dreadnoughts, air superiority will rest on who builds the best robotic planes that will own the skies.

Of course, our superiority is built on more than just our superb pilots. Our entire system of air power that organizes and directs this air power in coordination with the other services simply exploits the abilities of our pilots, who in turn exploit the capabilities of their aircraft.

But robotic pilots will do a great deal in overturning the game board that we've dominated since 1944 and give our enemies a chance to play a new game that we may or may not learn to dominate.

Objection Duly Noted and Filed

Opponents of taking action against Iran like to say that any harsh measure just plays into Ahmadinejad's hands by allowing him to rally the Iranians against American interference.

I've long thought this notion rubbish in that it flies in the face of historical experience. But the Left thinks our recent imposition of new sanctions on Iran should rally the Iranian people who will forget their oppression to chant "death to America" just like in the good old days.

Apparently not:

Despite the government's insistence that U.S. and U.N. sanctions aren't causing any pain, some leading Iranians have begun to say publicly that the pressure does hurt. And on Tehran's streets, people are increasingly worried over the economic pinch.

The sanctions have heightened resentment of the United States among some in the public. But they are also fueling criticism among Iranian politicians that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is mismanaging the crisis with hard-line stances that worsen the standoff with the West.

Ahmadinejad and his allies are likely counting on sanctions to rally Iranians against the United States.

"Hard-liners in Tehran were looking forward for the sanctions. It helps them hide their incompetence behind the embargo," said political commentator Saeed Laylaz.

But many conservatives who once backed Ahmadinejad have joined his critics. They point to his failure to fulfill promises to repair the economy — despite increased oil revenues — and say his fiery rhetoric goads the West into punishing Iran.

If our Left had rallied to President Bush after any of the near-daily outbursts by foreign lefty or Islamist leaders attacking America, I might take the objection seriously.

Of course, it would help if President Bush gave a speech about Iranian freedom after the mullahs the way he spoke about Cuba's future after Castro.

Fatal Weakness

It is tempting to go through Fukuyama's (of "end of history" fame) recent article and detail my disagreements with him in arguing that we have alienated the world because of Iraq (I see friends when I review the world, or foes who predate Iraq), but the end of his article really summarizes the major problem with him and others of his ilk:

But the fundamental problem remains the lopsided distribution of power in the international system. Any country in the same position as the US, even a democracy, would be tempted to exercise its hegemonic power with less and less restraint. America's founding fathers were motivated by a similar belief that unchecked power, even when democratically legitimated, could be dangerous, which is why they created a constitutional system of internally separated powers to limit the executive.

Such a system does not exist on a global scale today, which may explain how America got into such trouble. A smoother international distribution of power, even in a global system that is less than fully democratic, would pose fewer temptations to abandon the prudent exercise of power.

Why on earth would he say that any country other than the US, "even a democracy", would act as we have, as if we aren't a democracy? Is he seriously questioning that we have a democracy?

And what is he talking about when he says we have a lack of restraint? I do believe Congress authorized our wars thus far: one against Afghanistan for hosting the 9/11 attackers and the other against Iraq, a rogue regime that had serially violated the ceasefire that suspended the war that Congress declared and the UN approved in 1991. Who else is Fukuyama talking about when he says we lack restraint to exercise our power? Did I miss the invasion of Norway?

We clearly self restrain under our constitution, which is fine by me. But you see, while Fukuyama recognizes that separation of powers exists at the domestic level in America, he doesn't think that is enough to restrain us.

At the heart of our problem, Fukuyama thinks, is that we are too strong. He doesn't say that, of course. He hides his meaning by advocating a "smoother distribution of power."

If only we were weaker and hamstrung by the rest of the undemocratic world, we wouldn't abandon the "prudent" exercise of power, he thinks.

I think we and the world are better served by an America with the most power, governed by a democratic constitution and led by those who our people elect. Let China or Russia or Iran increase their ability to check our options, and then we'll talk real trouble.

And Fukuyama still hangs on to his ridiculous notion that history could end in the sense that democracy would prevail as the governing model for all the world, claiming that Bush's mistakes are the reason his notion has not come true. Even if an accurate cause and effect model, that any so-called historian could fail to see that history runs on such little things as the actions of nations and their leaders should relegate his works to the bargain bin. Truly, it is the end of credibility.

It's always our fault, for some. That outlook, sadly, will never end.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Bang My Head Into the Wall Again

With new American sanctions placed on the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) of Iran, this article reminds us of who the 125,000-man outfit is and what it does. It starts:

The Guards are an elite branch of Iran's military, created in 1979 in the wake of the country's Islamic revolution to provide a counterweight to the then U.S.-trained military. At the time, Iran's new Islamic leaders worried the army might remain loyal to the deposed shah.

The Guards won widespread admiration and even reverence among Iranians in the 1980s when they defended the country from Saddam Hussein's regime during the Iran-Iraq war.

Yes, they grew from the new regime's bully boys into a parallel military structure during the Iran-Iraq War. But the regular Iranian military during that war always provided the more technical aspect of the war effort like artilley, air support, armor, and logistics. The Pasdaran and their cannon fodder auxiliary force called the Basij, who were mobilized in the hundreds of thousands to charge machine guns and clear minefields by stepping on them, mostly provided light infantry at best fired up by Islamist fanaticism.

Only after the war did they branch out into weapons and organization more in line with a conventional military force.

And they expanded out into commercial ventures, too.

But this article repeats a common mistake made by reporters who talk about the Pasdaran or any other spiffy force that bolsters the regime. The AP calls them "elite."

This is insane. The Pasdaran are not elite.

SEALs are elite. Delta Force is elite. Rangers are elite. Marine Force Recon is elite. Just listing these US forces should give you an idea of what elite means. It means well-trained troops who excel in battle and can be counted on to fight even when thrown into desperate situations.

The Pasdaran are not "elite." They are pampered, loyal, and have uniforms. They have no particular skill in fighting. You will see this term used for any Third World palace guard that has shined boots and new weapons--especially if they have chrome on them. The shiny weapons distract the reporters.

At best, as used by the press, the term "elite" might mean people so loyal to the leader and fanatical that they will die in place rather than give up. Usually, as with the "elite" Special Republican Guards who protected Baghdad in April 2003, it just means they are cruel to defenseless civilians but run when real soldiers fight them.

And the press just never learns this basic lesson.

My head hurts.

Limited War

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan will not let our objections stop him from hitting PKK terrorists inside Iraq:

The Bush administration "might wish that we do not carry out a cross-border offensive, but we make the decision on what we have to do," Erdogan said during a visit to Romania. "We have taken necessary steps in this struggle so far, and now we are forced to take this step and we will take it."

Of course, when we wanted to invade Iraq from Turkish soil in 2003, the Turks weren't so understanding.

But let's not dwell on that, I suppose. If the Turks "invade" Iraq to go after Kurdish PKK camps, it does not mean that it will automatically cause a crisis that splits apart Iraq. Indeed, I doubt it will. The Iranians have routinely shelled Kurdish regions in an effort to hit Iranian Kurds seeking shelter in Iraq. And we of course know about Iran's busy agents inside Iraq.

Even a Turkish military incursion is hardly unique. As the prime minister stated, they've taken necessary steps before. Back during the Iran-Iraq War, the Turks went into northern Iraq in force during early 1983:

In May, in Iraq's Kurdish regions where Kurds were rebelling in growing strength, two Turkish commando brigades supported by air power crossed into Iraq to battle the Kurds. Turkey's battle with its own Kurdish minority led her to cooperate with Hussein against a common enemy. Another operation saw Turkish troops enter northern Iraq briefly to help defend the oil pipeline that entered and crossed Turkey.

Saddam did not mind these incursions since it effectively helped him out.

I'm not saying I'd be happy with the Turks doing this now, but I understand their impatience that nothing is being done on the Iraq side that stops the PKK.

Of course, this problem has been going on for a long time, through Saddam's rule, de facto Kurdish independence after Desert Storm, and the current autonomous Kurdish area under a democratic government. Indeed, the Turks keep some troops on the Iraqi side of the border right now without complaints from Baghdad.

I trust this problem will be with us for a long time.

So if the Turks go in shallow and for a limited period of time, leaving some of the troops behind inside Iraq when the major forces pull back to keep the PKK from flowing back in too freely, I think things will be just fine.

Some people here think that everything that is happening now in the region is new and, of course, caused by us.

And more importantly, some people seem just primed to panic over every little thing that happens.

Yet He Fights for Us

Michael Yon raises a good point about "Shock Troops" author Beauchamp:

Lapses of judgment are bound to happen, and accountability is critical, but that’s not the same thing as pulling out the hanging rope every time a soldier makes a mistake.

Beauchamp is young; under pressure he made a dumb mistake. In fact, he has not always been an ideal soldier. But to his credit, the young soldier decided to stay, and he is serving tonight in a dangerous part of Baghdad. He might well be seriously injured or killed here, and he knows it. He could have quit, but he did not. He faced his peers. I can only imagine the cold shoulders, and worse, he must have gotten. He could have left the unit, but LTC Glaze told me that Beauchamp wanted to stay and make it right. Whatever price he has to pay, he is paying it.

Either Beauchamp earns the respect of his platoon and erases the stain of tarnishing their reputations as a writer or he does not. If he earns the respect of his fellow soldiers, the case is closed in regard to Beauchamp. If he finishes his term of service without earning their respect, that is punishment enough, I think. And either way, as a civilian I admire him for sticking with his unit when he could have gotten out.

I remember thinking at the time that it was the decent thing for him to stay in Iraq to fight, and it erased a whole lot of anger that I had for him in this whole incident. I wish I had blogged on that thought, but the role of one of our liberal media outlets in eagerly believing the tales and then publishing the lies with hardly any effort to check his claims, plus the eagerness of the anti-war side to believe every bit, was still too strong to have my more generous impulse win out and emerge. I'm still mad about the publishing angle and the happy reception it got in the anti-war camp.

So I'm glad Yon reminds me that Beauchamp, in the end, is fighting in Iraq and risks his life to defend us all despite his rocky start as a soldier.

I hope he comes home safe and sound, with the respect of his fellow soldiers for a job well done. And I'm sorry it took Yon's story to prompt me to write this.


The most recent Bin Laden tape, in which he complains of divisions and mistakes, has sparked anger among the nutball faithful:

But the Al-Fajr Media Center, which usually posts al-Qaida video and audio tapes on the Web, accused Al-Jazeera of "counterfeiting the facts" by making the speech appear as exclusively critical of insurgents.

"Al-Jazeera directors have shamefully chosen to back the Crusaders' side, and the defenders of hypocrites and the thugs and traitors of Iraq," Al-Fajr said in a statement posted on several Islamic Web sites.

Another Web contributor even rattled off a five-stanza poem of rhymed couplets, comparing the station to a "miserable fly in the garbage" and concluding, "Your day will come, vile one. As long as we live, you won't be safe, Jazeera."

Few of the thousands of messages posted by contributors on the Web sites — who are only identified by usernames — called for direct violence against Al-Jazeera. Most instead urged that the full bin Laden tape be distributed as widely as possible on the Web to show its true message.

Yeah, it sucks when your own press undermines your war effort and gives comfort to the enemy.

I extend my sympathies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Urban Renewal

Right now, even as Iraqi security forces fight alongside our troops or on their own with our advisors, we control the operations.

We hope to transfer authority over the more secure parts of Baghdad to Iraqis over the next 12 months:

"We are anxious for them to take over full responsibility as they are anxious to take full responsibility," Lieutenant-General Raymond Odierno, in charge of U.S. forces' day-to-day operations in Iraq, told a Baghdad news conference.

"You will see steady progress over the next 12 months of us turning large portions of Baghdad (over) to Iraqi security forces as we continue to have success. I think it will be somewhere between 40 and 50 percent by the end of the year."

I assume he means up to 50% Iraqi controlled by the end of 2008 and not this year.

This would be good. We have to sustain current trends without the same number of US troops, but with the enemy weakened and Iraqi security forces getting better, this should be doable.

I remain worried that another primary threat will emerge as we subdue Sunni resistance and terrorism and complete the task of disarming Shia death squads supported by Iran.

I worry mostly because Syria and Iran appear to want to beat us in Iraq, and I don't assume they'll stand idly by while we beat our enemies that they currently support in the field.

Culling the Axis of El Vil

President Bush demonstrates that freedom promotion is not just for the Moslem world.

While it is surely more urgent from a national security point of view to promote democracy in the Moslem world, decency requires us to address the ongoing human rights violation with a UN seat known as Cuba:

Bush was expected to tout peaceful, pro-democracy movements in Cuba and call on other countries to get behind them. In a direct appeal to ordinary citizens in Cuba, he was to tell them they have the power to change their country, but the White House says that is not meant to be a call for armed rebellion.

Bush proposes at least three initiatives: the creation of an international "freedom fund" to help Cuba's potential rebuilding of its country one day; a U.S. licensing of private groups to provide Internet access to Cuban students, and an invitation to Cuban youth to join a scholarship program.

The latter two offerings help the Bush administration underscore the kind of real-life limitations that Cubans now face, from blocked Internet access to restricted information about their leaders to denial of legal protections. The creation of the international fund is meant to speed up societal transformation.

"We all know that Cuba is going to face very significant requirements to rebuild itself," said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the president. "There's a whole set of challenges that Cuba is going to face. The United States will clearly want to help the Cubans as they define what it is they need, but we think the international community should be thinking that way as well."

Not that a free Cuba isn't in our national interest. But it has been a while since Cuban troops were the shock troops on the Soviet Union fighting in large numbers in Ethiopia and Angola.

Getting international help would be great. After nearly fifty years of the deadening impact of communism, bringing Cuba's infrastructure into even the late twentieth century is going to be pretty expensive. I'd like to see more detailed planning on aid and investment incentives that would be available should the Cubans throw off their dictatorship.

And it would be nice if Hugo got a little lonelier. He'd be far less annoying all by himself with only little Danny Ortega of Nicaraugua to share Marxist slogans.

Use It or Lose It

The Storm botnet that looked so ominous because of its size and unknown ownership, has dissipated:

There's never been anything quite like Storm, but the counterattacks against the network proved to be very effective. The Storm Network is now believed to contain a few hundred thousand PCs at most, and is shrinking daily because of security software being updated to do just that.

Being noticed means eventual death as defenders adapt.

Cyber-warfare assets are a fleeting weapon, it seems. Better to be prepared to build a botnet and then use it quickly while defenders are unaware than to store it away in the belief you can haul it out and use it at your leisure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Batter Up!

Iranian-backed Shias are now viewed by our military as the rising main threat in Iraq:

Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker have concluded that Shiite extremists pose a rising threat to the U.S. effort in Iraq, as the relative influence of Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq has diminished drastically because of ongoing U.S. operations.

This judgment forms part of the changes that Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, approved last week to their classified campaign strategy for the country, which covers the period through summer 2009. The updated plan anticipates shifting the U.S. military effort to focus more on countering Shiite militias -- some backed by Iran -- that have generated new violence as they battle for power in the south and elsewhere in Iraq, said senior military and diplomatic officials familiar with the plan.

I called this trend at least a couple years ago, with an emphasis on Iran's role in making this shift the rising threat. Not that other Sunni enemies were broken, but I figured they'd spent their bolt and couldn't defeat us--just go through the motions of killing, dying, and losing.

The Shia thugs backed by Iran were clearly the future threat to be beaten even two years ago. And with the Sunnis finally admitting defeat and defecting to the government's side, leaving the foreign-led jihadis hanging, by default the Shia thugs rise as a relative threat.

We keep knocking down the main threats. We will run out of them, right?

UPDATE: Strategypage writes about the transition:

Before the Summer ended, it was possible to shift many American combat units to the battle against Shia warlords. There are two of these, both backed by Iran; the Badr Brigades, and the Mahdi Army. While Iranian backed, the two organizations are still Iraqi, and keen to see a strong and independent Iraq (run by a religious dictatorship, with one of the two warlords pulling strings behind the scenes.) The two warlords (Abdul Aziz al Hakim, who commands the Badr Brigade, and Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the Mahdi army) are competing to be the kingmaker, but first have to get past the majority of Iraqis who don't want a religious dictatorship (they can see how badly that works next store in Iran), and don't want another warlord, like Saddam, taking over the government. Hakim and Sadr are seen as Shia Saddam wannbes, and both men are frantically trying to shed that image.

Keep in mind that over the last few years, Sadr has squandered whatever wide public support he had posing as a Shia nationalist after his August uprising was put down by our forces. His organization abused and stole enough to lose support. And they didn't stop Sunni Arab jihadis from slaughtering Shias in car bombs. Widespread perception of him as a Persian pawn didn't help either among the Shias.

We have to support the majority of unorganized Shias who oppose a religious dictatorship while we destroy the death squads and criminals posing as Shia patriots under the Sadr and Badr banners.

But Hollywood is Concerned About Darfur!

Bin Laden wants a jihad against peacekeepers deployed in Sudan:

Osama Bin Laden renewed his call for a holy war against a proposed peacekeeping force in Sudan's wartorn region of Darfur in a message that appeared on Web sites Tuesday.

The audio recording was accompanied by a still picture of the al Qaeda leader, and excerpts were aired Monday by Al-Jazeera television.

Bin Laden called for foreign forces to be driven from Darfur.

"It is the duty of the people of Islam in the Sudan and its environs, especially the Arabian Peninsula, to perform jihad against the Crusader invaders and wage armed rebellion to remove those who let them in," he said, according to a transcript provided by IntelCenter, which monitors extremist Web sites.

Islamists defend the right of the Sudanese government to slaughter black Sudanese?

But George Clooney supports doing something about the horrors of Darfur! Now we find that Darfurians should really start engaging in a self loathing session to understand why al Qaeda hates them!

The thing is, everyone knows that if we intervened in force in Darfur and al Qaeda resisted us, Hollywood would abandon their support for a Darfur rescue mission faster than you can scrape a "Save Darfur" bumper sticker from you sensible Volvo.

Moment of Clarity

Representative Stark apologized for his outrageous attack on the President.

So I guess he angers the Left as well as the right within a week.

Still, I'm glad he said he was sorry about his outburst.

The Mark of Sophistication

Zakaria doesn't think much of the Iranian threat or the Americans who feel threatened:

At a meeting with reporters last week, President Bush said that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." These were not the barbs of some neoconservative crank or sidelined politician looking for publicity. This was the president of the United States, invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.

The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.

Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?

Is Zakaria serious?

The threat isn't from a nationalist Iran that looks to its self interests, but from cultish Shia Islamists who simply have the luck to rule Iran at this period of history to use the power of Iran for goals unrelated to Iran narrowly. When Iran's ruling mullahs tell the world that they'd take one for the team and happily sacrifice Iran itself in order to annihilate Israel, in what sense is it relevant to recount Iran's history?

The most direct answer to his question about whether Iran is serious about ruling the Moslem world and dominating the rest of us is to note that this is exactly what al Qaeda wants. Are they nuts? You bet. Did this stop them from hitting us on 9/11? Nope. And if 19 guys with boxcutters can do that much damage to us, what could an Iran of 70 million people, an economy the size of Finland's, and $5 billion in defense spending do? The question isn't whether Iran is about to overturn the international system, as Zakaria falsely states the problem, but whether they believe god wills them to rule and how many will die in their efforts to fulfill that destiny.

And if it isn't "invading" what do you call Iranian efforts to subvert the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain? What do you call their efforts to control Syria and Gaza, and their efforts in the past to bully Kuwait? The aggression is clear enough.

More broadly, the threat of World War III is indeed real if Iran gets the atomic bomb. Even if Iran has but one bomb and wipes out Tel Aviv with it, Israel will hit Iran in response with multiple atomic bombs. How will the Moslem world react? How will Pakistan react if their people feel pressured to respond with the "Islamic bomb" they've long claimed to possess. How will nuclear-armed India react to Pakistan? And how will nuclear-armed China react to India? And how do we react to China?

What if Iran does something really nuts like nuke Israel but saves a few in reserve and announces they will nuke India if Israel retaliates? With little point in retaliating against Iran, already glowing from Israeli nukes, would India hit Pakistan just in case? Perhaps out of fear that Pakistan will seize the chance to hit India? Or out of fear that the Iranian nuclear strike will cripple India so much that India sinks below an undamaged Pakistan in the following decades?

Once nuclear missiles start flying, where does it stop? Do we count on Israelis, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese, or Americans to think that it would be overreaction to respond to a nuclear attack on their people and thus end a chain reaction?

And if Iran uses multiple atomic bombs, nearly wiping out Israel, will Israel restrict their nuclear response to Iran if the Israelis believe latent Arab hostility will exploit the chaos and destruction to renew the war on hold today only because Israeli strength deters them now? Will Israel strike their avowed enemy Syria, too, to be safe? Or add in Egypt and Saudi Arabia for good measure?

Even if Iran doesn't use their nuclear weapons, but just wants them to protect their terror campaigns or even just to deter us from invading, how long will it be before all those fearful Arab states Zakaria notes get nuclear weapons? Will they use them against Iran? Against one another? Will they lose one that gets picked up by terrorists? Will some hopped up jihadi infiltrate the nuclear arsenal and push the button in even one launch facility?

Is this close enough to risking World War III for Zakaria?

We are dealing with fanatics in Iran. Can they beat us? Unless we go all fetal and just give up, no they can't. We do have the power to crush them. But will we?

And what would the price be if Iran is nuclear armed? Even if we fight this enemy and ultimately crush them, Zakaria misses the point of the damage that they can cause until we win. Is Bin Laden's dream of a caliphate under his rule insane? Sure. Did he kill nearly 3,000 of us on 9/11? Yes. Zakaria seems to be claiming that any threat that can't destroy us utterly just doesn't count.

Zakaria's very question of why we deal with North Korea yet fear what Ahmadinejad would do with atomic weapons is a use of his knowledge to obscure rather than illuminate this critical point.

Why do we worry about an Iran that has not starved millions of its people while we talk to North Korea which has? Let me clue in Dr. Zakaria: Other than a few fans on American college campuses and International ANSWER, Kim Jong-Il has no potential Kimmunist recruits around the globe. Nor does the North Korean elite seem eager to commit suicide to advance Stalinism. Kim's North Korea is containable, in theory.

Ahmadinejad seeks the end of the world, it seems; and can hope to sway a billion Moslems even if 90% are Sunni and not Shia. Ahmadinejad can cause us tremendous problems--and kill perhaps tens of millions of us--by posing as Islam's champion against a West that he blames for Islam's problems.

In regard to this Islamofascism that Zakaria discounts, Christopher Hitchens has the right idea:

This makes it permissible, it seems to me, to mention the two phenomena in the same breath and to suggest that they constitute comparable threats to civilization and civilized values. There is one final point of comparison, one that is in some ways encouraging. Both these totalitarian systems of thought evidently suffer from a death wish. It is surely not an accident that both of them stress suicidal tactics and sacrificial ends, just as both of them would obviously rather see the destruction of their own societies than any compromise with infidels or any dilution of the joys of absolute doctrinal orthodoxy. Thus, while we have a duty to oppose and destroy these and any similar totalitarian movements, we can also be fairly sure that they will play an unconscious part in arranging for their own destruction, as well.

The fanaticism of our jihadi enemies lead them to kill us even as their eagerness to die in order to kill us makes it easier for us to kill them and beat them. This is true whether we are speaking of Sunni Arab or Shia Persian fanatics. But we have to choose to fight them to exploit this weakness.

Oh, and I remember that Bernard Lewis article that Zakaria ridicules as proof that Iran isn't a threat. Zakaria gets this wrong, too. Lewis didn't predict the end of the world on August 22, 2006, he explained the significance of the date and said it is something to watch. I wrote:

Bernard Lewis (via Real Clear Politics) is wondering about Iran, August 22nd, and nukes. He doesn't say it is likely that we would see a nuclear "answer" to our demands--just that it bears watching[.]

Follow the link in the quote from my post to read what Lewis said rather than trust Zakaria's description--or mine.

Zakaria is so sophisticated that he remembers not how Lewis actually wrote about that date, but how Lewis should have written about August 22, 2006 to bolster Zakaria's dismissal of the threat posed by Iran's mullahs.

Zakaria is too sophisticated to worry about the deaths of millions of Americans due to an Iranian atomic weapon as long as in the end we still win that struggle. Zakaria represents well that class of Americans who are so worldly that they affect a sophisticated disdain for the very idea that any threat must compel us to defend ourselves from them.

The question is, what planet is Zakaria on?

The Real Shock Troops

I guess the dehumanizing effects of war have been hard on al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq:

Other insurgent groups have begun to turn on al Qaeda. Asaeb al Iraq al Jihadiya (aka the Iraqi Jihad Union) up until a few months ago had conducted several operations in conjunction with al Qaeda. But now, Asaeb al Iraq al Jihadiya is accusing the terror group and its puppet political front, the Islamic State of Iraq, of
murdering and desecrating the bodies of its members
in Diyala province. "To make things worse, they dug up their bodies from the graves, further mutilated them, beheaded them, and showed them off from their vehicles while driving through the towns. [The Islamic State of Iraq] even killed our men’s wives and children."

Even bin Laden (or whoever got the job to play him on TV), who sees the Sunni Arabs of Iraq turning on his well-intentioned lads, seems a bit concerned about the bad reputation his minions in Iraq have earned by their head lopping, chlorine gas attacks, and suicide bombings on civilian targets:

"Everybody can make a mistake, but the best of them are those who admit their mistakes," he said. "Mistakes have been made during holy wars but mujahedeen have to correct their mistakes."

Yeah, not too many of his benchmarks for Iraq have been made these last four years.

Maybe The New Republic is interested in a new author to write about the Iraq War?

As for bin Laden's so-called "mistakes?" Yeah, correct your mistakes, you son of a bitch. You owe us four planes, two tall buildings, and about 3,000 innocent civilians. Rot in hell.

Putinkin Village

Putin is acting like the Soviet Union is back in town to scare Europeans and small children into panic.

But other than their oil wealth, which could begin declining soon as the Russians continue the Soviet tradition of mucking up the economy, the Russians are less than they wish to appear.

Having abandoned democracy, they face a government succession crisis; having failed to use their lottery winnings of oil sales to build a real economy, they are vulnerable to price or production declines; and their sabre rattling uses old weapons refurbished from Soviet glory days and a few new weapons manned by the painfully few troops with any idea of how to fight.

Right now, the Russians can nuke us or they can aid our enemies. They've got nothing in between. But what the Russians have done is remind people around the world that the only thing worse than Russia without power throwing their weight around is Russia with power:

Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Moldova and even Belarus have been threatened with cut-offs of energy supplies, much higher energy bills, and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude that has only encouraged centrifugal tendencies on the part of Russia's neighbors - many of them already seeking closer ties to NATO and the European Union as a hedge against Russian resurgence.

Beyond Russia's immediate neighborhood, its position has declined as well. Russian missile-rattling in response to U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defense components in Europe has deterred few on either side of the ocean and only boosted trans-Atlantic solidarity.

It has had the same effect on Europe, where missile threats, coupled with pipeline diplomacy, have helped heal divisions between "old" and "new" Europe and prompted stronger EU scrutiny of Russian actions.

The fact that the normally platitudinous EU-Russia summit in May 2007 ended in open disagreement between Putin and the leaders of the European Union should speak for itself.

Things are looking fine now, but Putin's successor - whether it's him or someone else - is likely to inherit a host of domestic and foreign policy problems that will require tough choices both at home and abroad.

Seriously, Putin should be embarrassed. Iran makes the Europeans wet their pants before Iran has nuke one and reach for a conference. Putin's nuclear threats actually stiffen European resolve!

Putin should just buy a sports car and some flashy jewelry, and spare Russia and the rest of the world the effects of his very public midlife crisis.

Putin is alienating the West even as he must face the prospects of a China that no longer needs Russian arms sales and perhaps a little more eager to reclaim their lost Far Eastern provinces from Russia.

Speeding Up Battle Tempo

Precision munitions aren't just about accuracy. They are about speed.

My Jane's email updates highlights another advance in precision:

Lockheed Martin has began marketing the Directional Attack Guided Rocket (DAGR): a semi-active laser-guidance kit that converts unguided 2.75-inch (7 cm) and 70 mm rockets - such as the Hydra-70 and CRV-7 - into guided missiles of similar accuracy to the laser-guided versions of the Hellfire II. The DAGR provides an off-axis capability, increasing the engagement envelope and allowing for moving targets and wind. At short ranges, it can engage targets moving at up to 60 mph (97 km/h) and up to 15° off boresight ...

The precision revolution continues.

In 1991, although precision weapons got the press, the vast majority of the munitions dropped by air and pretty much everything launched by artillery forces were dumb munitions. So we still conducted more than five weeks of softening up the target army with bombardment before the ground war began.

In 2003, our ground invasion preceded the aerial attack and our air power went to work while the Army and Marine Corps advanced to the enemy main line of resistance outside Baghdad.

Now our Army units have precision with guided rockets from MLRS, new guided shells, guided anti-tank missiles, and new guided aerial rockets (and they could be ground mounted on vehicles too, I assume). Add to this arsenal the guided missiles and bombs from UAVs and aircraft.

Coupled with recon assets that now roam the battlefield, precision strike capability will continue this speeding up effect. Our ground forces can look to the day in conventional combat where we kick off attacks and count on our forces to spot enemies during the advance and then destroy them with precision weapons when identified. The speed of reaction may very well allow us to fight in damn near march order in non-urban areas without having to pause to deploy against resistance unless it is a major force well dug in and concealed.

And precision fire support means that line units won't need to fire as much because supporting units to the rear and in the air will take out the targets. And those supporting units won't need to resupply as often, too. So pauses to resupply will dwindle.

Given that night vision gear and land navigation abilities based on GPS allow us to operate 24/7, the limits of human endurance will be the next brake on the speed of combat tempo. We're working on that, too.