Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hearts and Minds?

Feel the love!

Hey-hey, ho-ho, the Marines in Berkeley have got to go.

That's the message from the Berkeley City Council, which voted 8-1 Tuesday night to tell the U.S. Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station "is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders."

In addition, the council voted to explore enforcing its law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation against the Marines because of the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. And it officially encouraged the women's peace group Code Pink to impede the work of the Marines in the city by protesting in front of the station.

In a separate item, the council voted 8-1 to give Code Pink a designated parking space in front of the recruiting station once a week for six months and a free sound permit for protesting once a week from noon to 4 p.m.

Our military is obeying the "don't ask, don't tell" law passed by our civilian government. Why isn't the city council voting to keep all members of Congress out of Berkeley and why don't they reject all "tainted" money coming from the federal government? You'd think that cash would be uninvited and unwelcome.

After a year in Berkeley, the Marines have yet to win hearts and minds in city council. Council and their Code Pink allies portray Americans as hated occupiers in Iraq. Which is odd, since the Marines managed to win hearts and minds even in Anbar province. Consider the state of our hearts and minds campaign in Iraq:

While one gets the impression that most Iraqis hate American troops, that's only partially true. The Sunni Arabs have the biggest reason to hate, but these days, the few Sunni Arabs left in Iraq, are quite friendly with the U.S. soldiers and marines. These Americans are the main thing that prevents the Shia Arab death squads from resuming their mass murders. Kids in general like the American troops. The U.S. soldiers and marines are, well, just like the movies. Except the super soldiers are right in front of you. It took a while, but even the kids noticed that the Americans were careful with their weapons. None of this firing in the air, or at "anything that moves" stuff. The media concentrates on the few times that American troops do hit civilians, but the average Iraqi has did the math after a few years, and realized they were safer when around the Americans. The kids also like the spontaneity and generosity of these Americans with guns. The G.I.s and marines look intimidating as hell, but they will smile, and give you candy. While some kids worked for the terrorists, they eventually figured out they were on the losing side. Learning English has become popular with young Iraqis, as has figuring out how to get into the United States.

It's not just the troops that influence the kids. Stories of encounters with Arab-American soldiers and marines spread far and fast. Arab-American civilians serving as translators also help spread good will, by getting off to the side and just chatting with Iraqis about what it's like living in America, and getting along with non-Moslem, non-Arab Americans. All this fraternization is no accident. While the U.S. troops and civilians are inclined to be nice to Iraqis, there are also deliberate efforts to develop better relations between troops and civilians. This has been going on for years, and has paid off in more cooperation, and telephoned tips about terrorist activity.

Given this story about a report which says the American military isn't prepared to respond to a major attack on the United States (I find it hard to believe that our military won't respond with vigor. Just how do the study authors define an effective response, anyway? A WMD hit would be ugly, no matter what we do in response.), can't we reduce the strain on our military and get Berkeley to walk the walk by getting Berkeley city council to declare themselves outside the protection of the United States military? And then get the US government to renounce the use of force to protect Berkeley? Ah, a guy can dream, can't he?

Or do the Lefties there just want to pose while being parasites on the back of our military, enjoying the protection Marines provide them? Question asked and answered.

Our Marines managed to win the hearts and minds of Sunni Arab nationalists in Anbar province. Is Berkeley proving too hard because the Marines aren't good enough at that task? Or are the locals in Berkeley lacking hearts or minds? Again, asked and answered. After all, our Left is confused about whether our enemies are really all that bad.

But don't ever call them unpatriotic. And the Code Pink hags? Our Marines have faced far worse than those idiots.

Concerned Western Citizens

The Canadians may pull out of the Afghan mission:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reinforcing an ultimatum over Afghanistan, told U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday that Ottawa would withdraw its military mission next year unless NATO sent in more troops, officials said.

Canada, which has 2,500 soldiers in the southern city of Kandahar, is fed up with the refusal of other NATO nations to send more forces to the violent region of Afghanistan. The Canadian combat mission there is due to end in February 2009.

It is hard to blame them. Already, Canadians are generally opposed to the "good war."

And when Canadian troops fight and watch war tourists ironing their uniforms for the third time that day to stay all spiffy, it is hard to blame them for wanting to leave rather than suffer while most of NATO yawns and looks away. We're not that happy with the tourists, either.

Canada has done its duty. I think they continue to have an obligation to fight with the West against the jihadis, but I won't condemn Canada for wanting out. The jihadis have hit them hard in an effort to drive them from the field, after all. I want willing help. If Canada can't do that, I'd rather not have the entire country build up resentment against America. In time, the jihadis will bring down the CN Tower or actually carry out one of their sick plots and then Canadians will insist their government rejoin the fight as they see fit.

But in the meantime, even if Canada declines to fight, many Canadians I am sure would prefer to stand with us in our generation's struggle. We should aggressively seek recruits in nations that do not fight with us in order to get their willing citizens a chance to stand with the West. Why should Sunni Arabs be the only ones able to demonstrate they are Concerned Local Citizens? With our enemies recruiting from the whole world, why should we remain so state-centric in our approach to war? There are Americans in spirit all around the world, who value our freedoms and culture and would defend them if they have the chance:

Since Americans purportedly flee abroad (though our Hollywood types annoyingly remain despite promises) to live in a country more in tune with their beliefs, couldn't we host foreigners who wish to fight for our common freedoms and civilization despite their home governments' disinclination to fight?

This would also be a nice counter to the UN worship that some "citizens of the world" are prone to. Let's welcome Citizens of the West to our shores--and our military. We are in an ideological struggle and it isn't just for the hearts and minds of the Moslem world as we struggle to keep the jihadis from having the Moslem world's support. We need to struggle for the hearts and minds of Westerners so we will defend our common Western heritage.

I mean, Americans before Pearl Harbor enlisted in the Canadian and British forces to fight the Nazis when America was disinclined to fight that threat. And in the Spanish Civil War, International Brigades fought the fascists in Spain. Why couldn't we recruit abroad from people in other countries who want to contribute but whose own governments don't fight? I think we already have some type of program like this in the Philippines as a holdover from our colonial rule. Surely, there are Spanish soldiers getting out of their military who might like to actually take a turn on the ramparts fighting with us. Or other Europeans, or Asians, or Africans, or Latin Americans whose governments either provide small or no support in the field.

Get that Liberty Corps program going, I say.

Don't Go All Loopy On Us

As I look in Iraq for the next threat to arise after the Saddam regime, Saddam henchmen, Sunni Arab nationalists, domestic jihadis and al Qaeda supported by Syria, and Iranian-supported Shia thugs have been checked or defeated, I keep looking for the next threat that might interrupt our path to victory.

Absent a decision by Iran or Syria to openly attack Iraq, the Kurds still seem like the most likely source of a problem:

The Iraqi government, to protest a South Korean deal to develop oil fields for the local Kurdish government in northern Iraq, has cut oil shipments to South Korea. These shipments account for about four percent of the oil South Korea imports. The Kurds are determined to go forwards with developing oil deposits in territory they control, and the Arabs to the south are not capable to stopping them, yet. In another 4-5 years, the Iraqi Arabs will have built armed forces capable of forcing the Kurds to obey, repeating a pattern that has persisted for over a thousand years.

The Kurds need to be careful. I can understand their wanting to get as much as they can while they can. But the Kurds simply cannot thrive as an independent country. They are landlocked and surrounded by Turkey, Iran, and Iraq, who would all be very unhappy at the prospect of an independent Kurdish state. And so unlikely to let the Kurds trade through their territory.

And if the Kurds think they can count on our support in a clash with Baghdad, they can forget it. We had a common enemy--Saddam. And as long as the Kurds negotiate within Iraq, they can count on considerable backing from us to be treated well. But if we have to choose our allies in Baghdad or our allies in the Kurdish zone, we will choose Baghdad. We won't allow an Iraqi campaign of poison gassing and genocide to settle the question of the status of the Kurds, but we won't stop Iraq from ending Kurdish independence. And without our air power, the Kurds will have no more luck with defending their land than they had before the Persian Gulf War led to our no-fly zones that protected them in the 1990s.

The Kurds have achieved so much. And I'm happy for them. The reality of their history has been misery. Their current success is astounding given their history. But I hope they don't go all loopy on us with delusions of grandeur. Reality will not be kind to them if they succumb to reaching too far.

Springtime for Putin

The Russians are not happy about losing the Ukraine. And Moscow may yet get its way:

About this time next year people may very well be asking "who lost Ukraine," by which time the train will have left the station a long time back, so to speak. American and EU officials need to be spending time worrying about--and acting on--this issue now, rather than listening to the happy talk of the Russian delegation from Davos.

And if Ukraine goes down, Belarus won't be far behind in coming back to Mother Russia. I know there is only so much we can do when Ukrainians seem content to form the circular firing squad as they practice for their role of Czechoslovakia in the ongoing drama of Russia's superpower nostalgia tour. But I certainly hope our government is a little more engaged than it appears to be. Should Russia acquire Ukraine, that would be bad for us and bad for Europe. Not to mention bad for Ukrainians, of course.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why We Must Stay

When some consider a long-term presence in Iraq as unacceptable even when we've sacrificed much already in lives and treasure to achieve what we have, my mind boggles. These people are so wedded to their war opposition that they oppose even the prospect of a Korea-like presence for decades to come where few lives are lost in order to preserve our gains.

Despite our success, we still have an Iraq with ethnic divisions heightened by Saddam's misrule and years of jihadi terror. And we have an Iraq that needs to distribute money reasonably fairly within a new democratic framework. We need to ensure rule of law so that politics decide who gets what and politics are considered the only legitimate means of making such decisions. That is why we need to stay in Iraq.

Because even the appearance of "stability" is no such thing when politics are just the easiest means of distributing money, and if you lose in politics, the guns come out. Like Kenya:

Kenya hid its problems from the world very well. Usually the top African destination for tourists, Kenya cultivated an image abroad of moderate politics and ethnic tolerance. Having a one-party state run by strongman President Daniel arap Moi from 1978 to 2002 contributed to this sense of peacefulness, since dissent and protest were illegal and quickly swept out of public sight.

Today, Kenya's two top political figures – President Mwai Kibaki and populist opposition leader Raila Odinga – both continue to claim to have won the Dec. 27 presidential elections. Their intransigence has helped ignite bitter ethnic clashes that have left more than 850 people dead since the vote. Even so, a large and growing chorus of Kenyan and international experts agrees that Kenya's road map to peace is both clear and achievable.

"We don't expect the deal to come in one week," says François Grignon, Africa director for the International Crisis Group. "What we do expect is a breakthrough to allow a process to address the long-term issues."

The risks of a prolonged impasse were made plain Tuesday when an opposition parliamentarian was gunned down outside his home in Nairobi in what Mr. Odinga called a "planned political assassination." Ethnic fighting quickly broke out in slums throughout the capital as news of the killing spread. The unrest came as police and military forces tried to quell a fresh wave of reprisal killings in Rift Valley towns where the president's ethnic group, the Kikuyus, are dominant.

The stability of benign strongmen is over-rated. Funny enough, even while dead Saddam still cultivates an image of moderate politics (even women were equally persecuted!) and ethnic toleration (the Shias enjoyed their proper status peacefully!) among a number of Leftists.


As a sort of follow-up to my post on how to fight and negate the bad effects of a limited objective Chinese attack on Taiwan, I want to point out that Mad Minerva notes a Foreign Affairs article on Chinese democray. I appreciate the heads up since I long ago abandoned Foreign Affairs. Too often, big names in the field simply pass off banality supporting the conventional wisdom of the elites as a significant work. Aging gunslingers coasting on their reputations are all they are.

But there are useful pieces in there if you exclude anyone you've seen on the national news in the last decade. This article on Chinese "democracy" is all too willing to believe democracy is what China is developing by defining "democracy" to include liberalization of aspects of social and work life that are certainly an improvement over the poverty-inducing dictatorship China once was, but which are not actually democracy. The freedom to earn money and talk to foreigners is not the same as choosing your government and operating under rule of law.

The summary is a good place to start:

Is China democratizing? The country's leaders do not think of democracy as people in the West generally do, but they are increasingly backing local elections, judicial independence, and oversight of Chinese Communist Party officials. How far China's liberalization will ultimately go and what Chinese politics will look like when it stops are open questions.

You might almost think this supports the idea that China is slowly introducing democracy. But their use of our words don't imply our definitions. This detail should answer much:

Through their deeds, Mao and Deng showed that despite their words, such concepts held little importance for them. Still, the three agreed that democracy was not an end in itself but rather a mechanism for achieving China's real purpose of becoming a country that could no longer be bullied by outside powers.

So how far liberalization will go and what Chinese politics will look like are uncertain? Yes, those are open questions. But if the Chinese leaders have their way, the answers are already set. Liberalization goes only as far as the Chinese communist leaders will allow it while keeping in mind that democratizing is just a tool for expanding state power--state power ultimately wielded by the communists themselves. That's what they want Chinese politics to look like in the end. Democracy is only a tool to get those darned peasants and factory workers to work hard after decades of communist slogans and mass murder failed to motivate them enough.

Anything else is out of bounds:

Chinese leaders do not welcome the latitude of freedom of speech, press, or assembly taken for granted in the West. They say they support the orderly expansion of these rights but focus more on the group and social harmony -- what they consider the common good.

Funny how the common good of group and social harmony in China requires their particular communist group to run the show. It's almost like an excuse to steal from the people, eh? The article reveals much about the Chinese rulers that should indicate that democracy as we understand it has no place in communist China. It relies on examples of "democracy" that are certainly conditions that those who live in a real democracy enjoy but which in sum do not equal democracy. In college, I was continually frustrated by reading articles that argued that the Soviet Union was no longer the communist dictatorship it once was under Stalin because peasants were allowed to own a few chickens or some other minor concession by the state granted to the people. This is the same thinking applied to the People's Republic of China. It is equally wrong.

If China ever achieves actual democracy, it will only because the plans of the ruling communist elite go horribly wrong in the face of heightened expectations among a growing middle class to define a common good radically different than their overlords.

Staying in Their Lanes

President Bush will make the ultimate decision on US troop strength in Iraq. So when you read of "the military" recommending reductions because of this or that reason, remember that not everybody "in the military" making recommendations is responsible for winning in Iraq. Some advice simply isn't supposed to consider victory in Iraq when being formulated.

General Petraeus is the ony one in the military responsible for the question of what we need to win in Iraq. Pentagon Press Secretary Morrell tries to clear this up:

MR. MORRELL: I would not discount any other opinions that are involved here, I mean, including the secretary's, Admiral Fallon's and the Joint Chiefs'. As you saw in September, all four of those groups -- individuals and groups were -- had an opportunity to share with the president what they thought the way ahead was.

As the secretary has shared with you all, there was remarkable consensus about the way ahead. There may well be consensus this time again, but clearly you hit on something that -- you know, we heard the president in Kuwait after meeting with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker just a few weeks ago talk about that -- I think he said that General Petraeus should feel no pressure to draw down. I don't know the exact word, we can go back and look at it, but clearly he wants General Petraeus to come back to him with what he believes is the best plan for his mission.

And remember, General Petraeus's mission is only to win the battle in Iraq. Admiral Fallon has greater concerns. He's got to worry about the region. The chiefs have got to worry about the health of the force and our ability to handle other conflicts in the world. And the secretary has the overarching concern of the U.S. military.

So I think everybody's got their domain, everybody's going to present the president with what they think is best in light of their domain, and, of course, keeping in mind we're all on the same page. We all want to win in Iraq. We all wish to succeed in Iraq. But I think -- I wouldn't read too much into the fact that we keep talking about when General Petraeus comes back. Obviously, he is the most intimately familiar with what's going on Iraq and, therefore, what he says has special credibility, but I think everybody's opinions will be taken in consideration.

The emphasis on Petraeus' opinion carries the most weight with the president since the president shares the goal of winning in Iraq as the most important goal right now. And rightly so. The problems that the other advice seeks to avoid, whether strain or other potential threats in the region or globally, will only be much greater should we lose in Iraq.

Victory first. All else must wait.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Getting What They Wished For

Opponents of the Iraq War say they want us to stop fighting in Iraq and focus on Afghanistan and even enter Pakistan if we have to in order to kill al Qaeda forces.

Be careful what you wish for. We are clearly looking to the post-war phase of our presence in Iraq:

The U.S. will ask the Iraqi government for the right to conduct combat operations and detain prisoners and will seek legal protections for American troops in an agreement that defines a long-term relationship between the two countries, a U.S. defense official said.

Remember that except for the most extreme of the Left, the Democrats have mostly described a withdrawal from Iraq in terms of ending combat operations, with allowances for troops to train Iraqis, protect our support troops, and hunt al Qaeda. With Iraq asking the UN to butt out and not extend our operations under UN authority after the next expiration, we will have normal relations with Iraq as any two sovereign nations have. Obviously, the Iraqis know they need our troops. But our presence will change dramatically in a year or two.

In addition, we are looking to emphasize operations in Afghanistan and to expand into Pakistan to fight the broader Taliban Campaign that straddles the border and threatens Pakistan and Afghanistan:

In a shift with profound implications, the Bush administration is attempting to re-energize its terrorism-fighting war efforts in Afghanistan, the original target of a post-Sept. 11 offensive. The U.S. also is refocusing on Pakistan, where a regenerating al-Qaida is posing fresh threats.

There is growing recognition that the United States risks further setbacks, if not deepening conflict or even defeat, in Afghanistan, and that success in that country hinges on stopping Pakistan from descending into disorder.

Privately, some senior U.S. military commanders say Pakistan's tribal areas are at the center of the fight against Islamic extremism; more so than Iraq, or even Afghanistan. These areas border on eastern Afghanistan and provide haven for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters to regroup, rearm and reorganize.

Al Qaeda knows it is beaten in Iraq and since the summer has telegraphed its intention to focus on Pakistan where their Taliban allies have been fighting a two-front war against Pakistan and US/NATO-supported Afghanistan. We must follow them to this front and crush them there in what could be the last jihad.

Final Exam

We are about to make a push to clear terrorists out of Mosul. The Iraqis are describing this as the last offensive against al Qaeda but this is simply not the nature of the war:

"It is not going to be this climactic battle ... It's going to be probably a slow process," said Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq.

In a telephone interview from his headquarters in Tikrit, Hertling described the strategy for Mosul — Iraq's third-largest city — as the same step-by-step tactics used in the U.S.-led troop offensives in Baghdad: win control of a district and keep troops there to hold it.

Hertling said he was moving a considerable force of "enablers" into the Nineveh province and Mosul, its capital. He would not disclose numbers, but said the move on Mosul had long been planned.

But attention on Mosul has sharply increased in the past weeks with a rise in insurgent violence, including a bomb cache that tore through a poor Sunni neighborhood, killing about 60 people and wounding more than 200 last week. Then on Monday, U.S. forces were caught in a bomb-and-bullets ambush that killed five U.S. soldiers.

Al-Maliki has promised to send a wave of Iraq police and soldiers into the Mosul area to crush al-Qaida and its backers.

The offensive raised the possibility that Iraqi forces were moving toward a critical test by leading the difficult urban offensive in a city of 2 million people. Hertling's comments, however, suggested a heightened level of U.S. involvement and oversight.

Obviously, we are going to help the Iraqis. Virtually any of our allies would require our help in similar circumstances.

But this is clearly a test of how the Iraqis can move against the weakened jihadis with our forces in support.

This article is amazingly unhelpful and appears, as of late Tuesday, to be a placeholder article only. But it does indicate that the surge does not have to draw down completely if victory requires more than 15 brigades in Iraq.

The Ignorance of Hope

The International Herald Tribune article is titled "Hopes for new armored vehicle questioned after Iraq blast."

Hope are questioned? In what world do people hope an armored truck can withstand large explosions? Tanks can be destroyed, people. Even MRAPs can be destroyed. They are simply resistant to common land mines.

I'll admit the text of the article isn't as dense as the title. What is it with editors? They're worse than their reporters.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Two Chinas. One System

If the Chinese capture Quemoy, Matsu, the Pescadores Islands, and Taiwanese Spratly Island specks in a very limited war that seeks to break the Taiwan-United States defense links, how could we make sure the ceasefire that ends the brief First Taiwan War is not merely a lull during which the Chinese prepare to attack again, Americans resolve not to risk such a clash again, and the Taiwanese resign themselves to defeat?

We'd want to visibly control the escalation decision by demonstrating that we can win any level of fight that Peking contemplates; conduct the last offensive action of the war; make sure that Taiwan is not more vulnerable to the next Chinese attack; clearly strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan bond; and strengthen the U.S.-Japan bond on the Taiwan issue. Finally, we'd need to appreciate that a Chinese attack on Taiwan ends the agreement with China that holds that the Taiwan issue is narrowly about Taiwan's relationship with China. We'd need to make the crisis an issue of China's relationship with Taiwan and how we end Peking's strong desire to absorb Taiwan.

During the war, make sure we airlift a Stryker brigade into Taiwan and fly in fighter squadrons in the early phases of the war to get our people on the ground before any ceasefire is proposed by China. We must not wait until the Navy clears sea lanes to move forces in by sea. China might offer a ceasefire before that can be achieved.

Our forces should seek out the better PLAN warships wherever they are and target older ships at sea only when they are a threat. We'd rather impede fleet modernization by preserving the older derelicts than effectively scrap the obsolete PLAN ships with our missiles.

We should support Taiwanese missile strikes on the Chinese mainland against Chinese staging areas and ballistic missile sites used to hit Taiwan.

We must blockade China with sea and air assets during the fighting. And we should maintain a naval quarantine of China even while we negotiate. Let food and oil tankers in enough to prevent starvation but not enough oil to thrive or end Peking's worry of internal unrest. And of course stop their exports. We'll live without their toys and appliances.

After we dominate the air over Taiwan, we should focus our air power on achieving air supremacy over Chinese territory opposite Taiwan. Smash Chinese air defenses and sweep away their fighter defenses so we can demonstrate our ability to escalate over China at will to the Chinese people.

Get the Japanese to fly the air defense mission over Okinawa in order to free up our forces for offensive action. The Japanese navy should patrol to protect Okinawa and the sea lines of communication to Japan. This will hold our northern flank. And it will be a defensive mission that does not strain Japanese politicians as they seek to help us while observing the spirit of their pacifist constitution.

We'd want the last offensive action of the war to be American and Taiwanese to nullify the impact of absorbing the Chinese blow and falling back under the weight of the attack. Recapturing the Spratly Island specks will demonstrate our ability to reverse Chinese gains. If we can support Taiwanese marines in retaking Pescadores, that will be even better.

We should insist that our Stryker brigade and fighter aircraft remain on Taiwan after the ceasefire. The only way the Taiwanese and Chinese will believe the US commitment to defend Taiwan remains strong is to increase our tangible commitment to make sure that the next time the Chinese strike Taiwan, the PLA won't have a week or two of time before the Chinese have to risk tangling with American forces. We'd need to maintain fighter aircraft and Army troops on Taiwan, in at least the strength of our South Korean commitment. Our Marines on Guam would need to regularly exercise with Taiwanese marines to prepare for recapturing any islands lost to China in the war. And we'd need to insist that Taiwan build up its defenses.

We should develop a Mobile Offshore Base designed for use at sea. It would be based in Taiwan normally and towed east to deep waters between Taiwan and Guam during non-monsoon months to serve as a staging area for sending reinforcements and supplies to Taiwan or for refueling or staging Guam-based fighters for missions over Taiwan. Guam should continue to be reinforced. And we should look at restoring Wake Island as a military asset. All these things would establish depth to the defense of Taiwan.

National missile defense, sea-based missile defense, and airborne missile defenses must be strengthened to reduce Chinese temptation to consider nuclear weapons even as a signal to us.

A free trade zone between Taiwan and United States should be established to keep Taiwanese businesses from looking to the mainland too easily.

And obviously, once we've fought one war with China over Taiwan, we have to take the gloves off. Simply remaining on defense hoping we can hold off the next Chinese attack--or the one after that--is foolish. The Chinese would attempt to leverage the conquest of Taiwan into expelling us from the western Pacific and stripping us of our allies in the region.

China is vulnerable to internal unrest and fissures. Once Peking shows it will wage war to upset the status quo over Taiwan by use of force, we need to push back and attempt to end the threat at the source--by attempting to roll back the Communist dictatorship that will without a doubt launch the Second Taiwan War when the time seems right to them. Call our policy "Two Chinas. One System." The one system being Taiwan's system of democracy and free markets.

This approach will provide America and Taiwan with a political victory in the First Taiwan War in the face of any Chinese effort to fight a narrow war with the political objective of setting Taiwan up for the killing blow and expelling us from the western Pacific.

The History of the Iraq War

Strategypage offers the best succinct summary of the Iraq War after the fall of Saddam that you will find. My Iraq SITREP of over a year ago shares many of the same assumptions. The most important is that, broadly speaking, our strategy of standing up Iraqi forces to take over the fight is standard operating procedure for fighting domestic insurgents and terrorists:

The basic U.S. strategy in Iraq was, historically, sound. You help the locals get organized so they can take care of themselves. That means elections and help to rebuild local institutions. But there's never a guarantee that will work. The U.S. Marines were in Haiti for nearly 30 years (from 1914), and the country still reverted to dictatorship and poverty when the marines left. This exposes a truth that many refuse to acknowledge. Fixing countries isn't easy. The "civil society" that we in the West take for granted, cannot just be conjured up. The harmonious relationships that enable some democracies to work, are not a given. Those relationships often require a lot of bad habits to be changed. This is not easy. Just check a history book.

Further, the Sunni Arabs were too few to seize power in Iraq. All the Sunni Arabs could do is wreck Iraq, which they nearly did until we responded with the surge offensive.

Further, the fight must go on to fight corruption in Iraq and build rule of law even after our troops aren't being shot at on a daily basis:

Iraq can either be a turning point in Middle Eastern history, or the democracy can be corrupted, as it was in 1958 when the constitutional monarchy was overthrown by the Sunni Arab dominated military. To that end, the Iraqis are trying to negotiate a long term treaty with the United States that would include an American promise to "coup-proof" elected Iraqi governments. That's novel, but depends on the election process remaining uncorrupted. Nothing is simple in the Middle East.

We invaded Iraq for good reasons, and the chance to end the cycle of jihadis responding to despotic Arab regimes by attacking the West had to be ended once bugs, gas, nukes, and radiological weapons replaced scimitars and made mega-deaths at the hands of these nutjobs possilbe. If we fail in this, we will have simply achieved an old-fashioned victory of putting our SOB in the palace rather than an enemy. This is what foreign policy "realists" have wanted all along. But this will simply be a temporary victory under the old template that only plays whack-a-mole with the threats. And Iraq, like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, might become a "friendly" Arab state that nurtures jihadi grievances and jihadi recruits.

We are winning the Iraq War on the battlefield. We need to win the long-term battle for a free, prosperous, and democratic Iraq to start the process of providing an alternative to despotism or jihadi rule in the Arab Moslem world.

I will quibble with only one point. We did not conquer Saddam's regime with just three divisions. Commonly, it is said we hit Iraq with 3rd Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division, and a Marine Expeditionary Force (normally with a division-sized ground element). This ignores the British division. It also ignores the fact that we had 60 line battalions (a little over half were Marines) in our three divisions on the eve of war. This is the equivalent of line elements of 6 divisions (ten per division).

Since we used air power to substitute for artillery and didn't build up iron mountains of supplies prior to invading, we could deploy the frontline elements of six divisions without the usual support units for the same number of divisions. So we effectively hit Iraq with 7 divisions. This is well in line with our older policy of assuming a major theater war using 5 Army divisions and 1 or 2 Marine Expeditionary Forces.

Even aside from our fight against al Qaeda in Iraq, fought because al Qaeda invaded Iraq and became just another group of jihadis that the Baathists thought they could use to control Iraq, the Iraq War is truly part of the Long War on terror. A free Iraq could be the wedge that gives the Middle East an oppportunity to break their self-destructive past and defang the appeal of jihadi ideology as a source of solutions to their many woes. Don't dismiss the ability of Arabs to embrace democracy. Asians, Latin Americans, and East Europeans were all said to be too crippled by their histories to become democracies. Let's not forget Japan, Italy, and Germany, either, whose militarist and dictatorial pasts seemed unlikely ground in 1945 for democracy to take root. Just remember that democracy doesn't have to start with caucuses in Iowa to be authentic. Real democracies have different forms of democracy.

Realists would have written them all off and insisted on our thugs being put in power. It wouldn't be realistic to now argue that those countries are unsuited for democracy. One day, if we are successful in our broader struggle, the Iraq War will simply become the Iraq Campaign of the Long War. Like I've said, George the Liberator.

We may be proud of what our troops have achieved in Iraq in the name of America. We can build much more on this foundation if we maintain our resolve.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pyrrhic Victory

The Chinese don't think they can beat a fully mobilized and committed America. So they view a war with America as one in which they should seek only a limited objective before we can employ our full power. The RAND study on how China would open a war on us states:

Limited Strategic Aims
Chinese strategists recognize that they will not have to achieve a total military victory over the United States. Under conditions of local war, political goals are limited. As a result, China need only achieve a relative military victory to attain its larger political objectives. As one Chinese source (Jiang, 1997, pp. 115–117) notes,

since the end of the Second World War, in the majority of wars in which the side with inferior equipment has defeated an enemy with superior equipment, the inferior side has won a relative military victory, compelling the superior enemy to stop fighting or to retreat from the battlefield. [authors’ translation]

This has been the case for two primary reasons. The first is that the relative imbalance between the weapons and capabilities of the two sides in a conflict has “limited the scale, scope, and level of the victory” won by the inferior side, making it impossible for that side to seek a further expansion of its gains. The second is that the superior adversary in such conflicts has usually had limited strategic objectives. Consequently, “once the technologically superior enemy calculates that the risks and cost of the war are becoming too great, it often will give up on trying to use military actions to achieve its political objectives” (Jiang, 1997, p. 116 [authors’ translation]).

Thus, in a high-technology local war that pits a relatively inferior country against a superior adversary, China need not seek a purely military victory. Instead, it can achieve its objectives through a combination of “partial military victory on the battlefield plus ultimate political victory at the negotiating table” (Jiang, 1997 [authors’ translation]). This may require it to fight and negotiate at the same time and to use military pressure to gain an advantage in negotiations, especially if negotiations become complicated and protracted.17 The objective of such force is to position China to end the conflict on terms that are as advantageous as possible.

The principal challenges the PLA must confront are preventing the United States from prevailing in an initial engagement, controlling any subsequent escalation, and creating an environment in which it holds a strong advantage in negotiations (Jiang, 1997, pp. 116–117).

If we can either stop the initial Chinese attacks short of their objective or push the war to wider front where we blockade China and begin hitting them at home with our air power, we will have defeated the Chinese. This will give us the advantage in negotiations since continuing the war with China blockaded or Taiwan still standing (assuming no nuclear escalation) benefits us.

One thing I've assumed all along in a potential Taiwan War is that China will try to conquer Taiwan quickly. Taiwan is their objective, so that would be their limited war. But what if China doesn't see a war that way? What if the Chinese see their political objective as more limited and only the first step to actually conquering Taiwan?

So how could China prevail in the initial confrontation, prevent us from escalating at our choice, gain the advantage in negotiations, and win a limited objective?

What if the Chinese objective in a First Taiwan War is to break the American defense guarantee to Taiwan? Not conquering Taiwan, but weakening Taiwan for the next war?

If the Chinese begin the war with attacks on the islands of Quemoy and Matsu, as well as the Pescadores Islands, it would look like opening moves for an invasion of Taiwan. If the Chinese navy deploys to slow us down, we'd charge in seeking to defend Taiwan itself, viewing the defense of the islands by the Taiwanese as buying us time to defend the real objective--the main island. If the Chinese use the time it takes us to deploy forces to defend Taiwan to capture those Taiwanese outlying islands, manage to hit one of our carriers (even without sinking it), and then offer a ceasefire, would we take it?

Our choice would be deceptively easy. We could continue the war to retake some or all of the Chinese-held Taiwanese islands, with possible heavy casualties in both naval elements and Marines, risking an escalation with a nuclear power. Or we could accept the ceasefire and be relieved that we don't have to risk a bigger war. We could even tell ourselves that the ceasefire honors our commitment to defending Taiwan since the main island was not even invaded.

So what would be the result of Washington taking the latter choice? China would have swept away Taiwan's first line of defense in the Pescadores Islands. The Chinese would loom over Taiwan in a way that they don't now. Quemoy and Matsu aren't that important except that they'd represent a defeat with thousands of Taiwanese POWs held by Peking to push Taiwan to accept the ceasefire, too.

For America, we'd have seen that we can't intervene quickly enough to stop the first Chinese strike. We'd also see that we would need to accept heavy casualties to fight the Chinese to honor our commitment to defend Taiwan. Those in America who don't want to fight anywhere under any circumstances might take this brief war as a warning to quickly oppose any American intervention the next time. And even supporters of defending Taiwan might be more cautious with the lesson that we need too much time to effectively intervene and the next initial Chinese strike would be right for the main island.

The worst impact could be on the Taiwanese. The pro-independence Taiwanese seem to have child-like confidence that we will intervene in time to save them no matter what the Taiwanese spend on their defense and no matter how much the Chinese build up their military. Those Taiwanese who want unification with China might be emboldened to undermine Taiwanese defenses more openly. Businessmen on Taiwan might start hedging their bets, prepared to move whichever way the wind is blowing, convinced that being like Hong Kong won't be so bad, really. And ordinary Taiwanese might suddenly realize that America may be more powerful than China, but America is far away. China is powerful enough and very close. The confidence that bolsters the ability of fewer than 25 million Taiwanese to oppose 1.3 billion Chinese might be shaken so badly that the idea of legal independence will die and even de facto independence will start to seem like a dream that is slipping away.

A Chinese operation that captures some Taiwanese territory that serves as a staging area for the next attack, strikes a stinging blow at our Navy to bloody our nose yet offers us a ceasefire short of China conquering Taiwan, and breaks the US-Taiwan link that provides Taiwan with the confidence they can maintain their democracy despite Peking's hostility, might be the limited political objective that satisfied China's objectives. We'd even think we won the war--for a little while anyway.

I think there are things we could do to undermine this Chinese political objective even if we accept a ceasefire. The key is to appreciate what the Chinese are trying to achieve if they launch such a limited war. More on this later.

UPDATE: Add Itu Aba in the Spratly Islands to the PLA island target list. (Tip to the Weekly Standard for reminding me of this important little bit of land.) And Pratas Island while I was browsing Globalsecurity.

UPDATE: As Jeff at Caerdroia noted to me regarding this topic, the Chinese sure seem to be thinking like the Japanese prior to Pearl Harbor. Given that their strategy relies on a study of history, it is odd that the Chinese ignore that history. But since the quote above specifies a study of post-World War II military history you have to wonder if leaders didn't want a study of the biggest counter-example to the "US is too weak to fight" theme.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Who Will Be Determined to Fight?

So what if the Chinese believe that both we and the Taiwanese are too weak-willed to fight?

The RAND study on how China would try to fight us raises this scary possibility:

This strategy assumes that China can raise the costs of military action to a level the United States deems unacceptable. According to this author (Jiang, 1997, pp. 117–118),

if we can destroy a portion of the enemy’s effective forces, it will create a traumatic experience for the enemy; the resolution to fight the war of an enemy with high-technology equipment that is extremely sensitive to casualties and costs will be clearly shaken; and we will be able to compel the enemy to decide to withdraw from the war. [authors’ translation]
As a result, “smashing the adversary’s will to resist” has become more important than thoroughly destroying the enemy’s military forces in high-technology local wars (Peng and Yao, 2001, pp. 436, 486 [authors’ translation]).

This analysis may have worrisome implications if Chinese analysts are convinced that the resolve of China’s potential adversaries is relatively weak. Indeed, there is some evidence that Chinese strategists doubt Taiwan’s political will to resist Chinese attempts at coercion. For instance, one PLA researcher (Zhu, 2001) asserts that “resolving the Taiwan problem is not a matter of actual strength [􁅲􀡯]; it’s a matter of determination [􀞇􁖗].” Some of the same researcher’s comments suggest a dangerous overconfidence on the part of at least some in the PLA (Zhu, 2001):

Apart from the will of the people in Taiwan—practically everyone has a passport from another country—Taiwan’s 􁟬􁭫􀡯 [fighting capacity] is also doubtful. Moreover, there is the tradition of anti-Taiwan independence education, as well as anticommunist education in Taiwan. As soon as the fighting starts, whether the military would support a government that wants Taiwan independence is doubtful. [authors’ translation]

As we weigh the military balance in the Taiwan Strait, we have to seriously worry about whether China has an overly optimistic assumption about what it would take to beat us and beat the Taiwanese. It doesn't matter what the real balance is. That won't deter Peking. If the Chinese leadership believes we and/or the Taiwanese are too soft to fight the PLA, they will feel free to start a war.

Remember, when deciding whether they should launch a war, Peking will define rational. After reading the RAND study, that scares the crap out of me even more than it did before.

More Acceptable Terrorists?

A recent bombing in Mosul may have been carried out by a new group sent in by Syria:

Col. Jubair Rashid Naief, who also is a police official in Anbar province, said those attacks were carried out by the Seifaddin Regiment, made up of about 150 foreign and Iraqi fighters who slipped into the country several months ago from Syria.

Naief said the regiment, which is working with al-Qaida in Iraq, was supported by Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, 36, the eldest son of the Libyan leader.

"I am sure of what I am talking about, and it is documented," Naief said, adding that he was "100 percent sure" of the younger Gadhafi's role with the terror group.

Naief told The Associated Press his information about the Seifaddin Regiment and the younger Gadhafi's purported role came from "reliable sources" maintained by his Anbar Awakening Council within the ranks of al-Qaida in Mosul and elsewehere.

He said the information was passed to the U.S. military two or three months ago.

"They crossed the Syrian border nearest to Mosul within the last two to three months," Naief said of the Seiffadin Regiment. "Since then, they have taken up positions in the city and begun blowing up cars and launching other terror operations."

Khadafi's son? Well that is interesting, if true.

There are three things that indicate this could be true.

One, the former anti-Iraq fighters now employed by our forces to fight al Qaeda would be in a position to know things like this.

Two, Libya was the other Arab state besides Syria to support Iran against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Later in the war, Libya switched sides, but there would still be people around with ties to Syria.

Third, four months ago, one of the explanations for the reduction in jihadis coming into Iraq from Syria was the report that Syria was reacting to Iraqi anger against jihadi terrorism by shifting their support to non-al Qaeda forces fighting the Iraqi government, per a National Intelligence Estimate:

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.

Don't be confused by Iranian and Syrian actions that appear to lessen their policy to defeat us. Reductions are tactical. The hatred remains.

Less taint. Same targets.

And more ability to control them when they have to come running back to Syria when they are chased down. It would be a very bad idea for the Alawite minority regime to have lots of angry Sunni Arab terrorists inside Syria.

Friday, January 25, 2008

First Strike

One point of the RAND study on how China would open a war against us involves what China would do if the conflict is over Taiwan.

The study assumes that China would strike first and strike hard to give us a bloody nose so stunning that we won't intervene or won't intervene with enough in time to prevent China from achieving their objectives.

Personally, I've felt that the Chinese would move on Taiwan only, while placing their forces between Taiwan and our forces in order to make us worry about being attacked by Chinese forces. See this September 2005 post that reacts to RAND testimony to Congress in what sure sounds like the early version of the 2007 study cited above. The Chinese objective would be to slow us down, I figured. Given that the Chinese would argue that the China-Taiwan fight is an internal matter, I judged the Chinese wouldn't attack us or Japan and make it an inter-state fight. It would make it easier for us to intervene if China attacks us or Japan, but if China strikes Taiwan while avoiding an attack on anybody but the Taiwanese, that would allow Americans opposed to fighting China to argue it is just an internal matter.

The RAND study notes that China pledges not to strike first even as they assume they must strike us first to nullify our military advantages. The resolution of this dilemma is solved by China's definition of an enemy "first strike:"

This paradox is explained by defining the enemy’s first strike as any “military activities conducted by the enemy aimed at breaking up China territorially and violating its sovereignty” (Lu, 1996). By this definition, any U.S. military support or deployment to address a military crisis around Taiwan could be interpreted as a “military activity aimed at breaking up China” and thereby rendered the equivalent of a “strategic first shot.” This could serve as sufficient pretext for China to launch a military strike against U.S. forces (Lu, 1996).

War could break out in the no-man's land between China's assumptions and ours. Deep down, we view Taiwan as in independent democracy. We could easily start shipping in ammunition and weapons to Taiwan in the early days of a war while we refrain from shooting as we deploy more forces to the region. We would see this as activities short of war. We could tell ourselves the Chinese will see our resolve and back down.

The problem is the Chinese will see this as a first strike on themselves and they may react by shooting at our still-deploying forces.

This is only one of the problems of trying to assume that we can limit a war by signalling each other during a fight. And this is a problem for the first minutes of war. Imagine the difficulty of reading the other side after we've been shooting at each other and after we've suffered casualties.

We can't afford to let China conquer a free Taiwan. So as long as China claims Taiwan we have to push Taiwan to arm themselves and be prepared to beat China in a war over Taiwan. But it would be better if we could bend events so that either Chinas doesn't want to absorb Taiwan or China is unable to focus on Taiwan.

China thinks they can fight a nice limited war against our forces. I wouldn't bet on that assumption. We're not even speaking the same language.

Mastermind of the Axis of El Vil

Hugo Chavez seems so conceited that he believes he is Che reincarnated. And so he seems to think he is feared for his leadership that will unleash a so-called Bolivarian revolution across Latin America rather than mocked as a buffoon. Hence:

"A military aggression against Venezuela is being prepared" by Colombia, Chavez said. He warned Colombia not to attempt "a provocation against Venezuela" and said his country would cut off all oil exports in the event of a military strike from the neighboring country.

Chavez did not offer evidence to support his claim.

So when Hugo says Colombia is preparing to attack Venezuela, I worry that one day Chavez will lash out and attack somebody in the bizarre belief that he is striking first before his enemies can attack him.

The Netherlands should watch Hugo very closely.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nobody to Kill

When ambushed, the key is to get out of the ambush zone. Remember, the enemy selected that spot because they believed it was a great place to kill you. Staying put just gives the enemy more time to shoot at you in that killing zone.

So you need to push through to get out of the kill zone in order to either escape or counter-attack. And if you can't get out of the kill zone quickly, you need to counter-attack immediately. That is surely dangerous but it at least seizes the initiative and provides hope of getting out of the kill zone. You need well-trained troops for this, but we have well-trained troops.

Nearly two years ago, I read that we had decided to have our troops move slowly in convoy instead of racing down the road with orders to stop and fight in order to make an ambush an opportunity for our superior training and firepower to really punish the enemy. We'd essentially decided on the counter-attack method of escaping the kill zone instead of moving out of the kill zone.

Strategypage writes that we are giving ambush driving lessons to our troops:

The U.S. Army and Marine Corps have set up "combat driving" schools to show troops how to handle hummers and armored vehicles under combat conditions. In the past, military drivers were taught to proceed slowly, and in a disciplined manner, when under fire. The reality of Iraq, and now Afghanistan, quickly saw a new form of driving develop. Now speed and agility was paramount, in order to avoid ambush or roadside bombs. This has led to an increase in vehicle accidents, and the combat driving courses are the response to that.

Clearly, when the ambushes are mechanical with IEDs rather than direct fire ambushes, there is nobody to fight at the kill zone so it makes no sense to stay and "fight" when the "enemy" might just be another IED at the kill zone. So it is best to get out of the kill zone.

This is just another indication of how the enemy in Iraq is more of a terror campaign than anything you'd call an insurgency despite what the global Left believes about the so-called "resistance.". They are too weak to routinely take on our troops and rely on mostly paying poor Iraqis to place IEDs to kill our troops. That's no way to win a war. And they aren't.

Declaration of War

The Christian Science Monitor describes one town's decision to join the Iraqi government against al Qaeda by forming a Concerned Local Citizens force:

Dulim, Iraq - Masked militants of Al Qaeda in Iraq have been defeated – for the moment – in their battle to control this frontline farming village. For two years, this remote outpost 20 miles northeast of Baghdad, endured an Al Qaeda presence that imposed its will with killings and intimidation, forcing one sheikh out of town a few months ago.

Last week, that same sheikh returned with a US Army Cavalry unit backed by an Iraqi Army battalion. He had persuaded the Americans that his people were "desperate" to create a US-funded militia to take on Al Qaeda in Iraq.

But Sheikh Thamir Hassan Ali miscalculated, underestimating Al Qaeda's fearful grip. The imam at the Dulim mosque refused to cooperate, adamant that setting up a Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) group would be a "declaration of war" against Al Qaeda. Only days before, militants had come, warning villagers that "collaborators" would die.

The story of how this village weighed the risks and eventually chose to side with the Americans – after days of rancorous debate and prodding by US officers, the safety of their families and survival of the village in the balance – shows in microcosm how Al Qaeda is losing ground across Iraq. But it also illustrates the challenges faced by US and Iraqi forces as they sweep across parts of Iraq long under militant sway, making promises of support and armed backup that villagers have heard many times in the past, with little positive result. The current four-province offensive has "caused significant damage" to Al Qaeda and killed 130 militants, the US Army commander for northern Iraq Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling said yesterday.

Three years ago, based on trends I first noted in June 2004, I called the growing Sunni Arab-Shia-Kurd alliance against al Qaeda jihadis as a form of national resistance that would provide a basis for reconciliation by fighting a common enemy:

As sovereignty passes more and more to the Iraqis in concrete terms, it will be easier for the non-Baathist Sunnis to join other Iraqis to kill and expel the foreign invaders--the Islamists--and subdue the Baathists who aid the foreign invaders.

The Baathists screwed up big allying with the Islamists (as I noted in "Center of Gravity" in June 2004). They thought they could use the Islamists to spark a national revolt against American forces but instead the Islamists are giving all Iraqis a foreign enemy to rally against.

This will be our enemy's critical error in this war. Rumsfeld should be grateful he isn't their defense chief.

And Saddam better hope he never has to face his supporters for his role in this error. Apparently, the strategy to import the jihadis that are rallying Iraqis to our side were imported starting a decade ago.

As with many of the trends evident in Iraq, this one took far longer to bear fruit than I thought it would. But the Sunni Arab killerss remained stubbornly resistant to reality as they tried to kill their way back into power. And many Sunni Arabs have concerns that we won't stay long enough to finally break al Qaeda in Iraq completely (thank you, "dissenters.")

Should we worry that Sunni Arabs will flip back? You bet. But that is a problem far better than the problem of Sunni Arabs backing--even if under the pressure of terror--the jihadis in their fight against Iraqis and our forces. And these new allies have submitted to giving biometric data that goes into our database as a guarantee that they won't resume their life of crime.

Get a grip people. This is progress. Some problems (My gold bars are so heavy!) are better than others (I have no gold.).

When a Dragon Fights

This article (tip to Weekly Standard) reports on a RAND study based on Chinese language documents on how China would open a war against American forces:

Element of surprise
When it comes to conflict with the U.S., Chinese military analysts favor age-old schoolyard wisdom: Throw the first punch and hit hard.

“Future conflicts are likely to be short, intense affairs that might consist of a single campaign,” Cliff said. “They’re thinking about ways to get the drop on us. Most of our force is not forward-deployed.”

China’s experts concede its army would lose a head-on fight, with one senior colonel comparing such a scenario to “throwing an egg against a rock.” Instead, the Chinese would attempt what Rand calls an “anti-access” strategy: slowing the deployment of U.S. forces to the Pacific theater, damaging operations within the region and forcing the U.S. to fight from a distance.

“Taking the enemy by surprise,” one Chinese military expert wrote, “would catch it unprepared and cause confusion within and huge psychological pressure on the enemy and help [China] win relatively large victories at relatively small costs.” Another military volume suggests feigning a large-scale military training exercise to conceal the attack’s buildup.

The Dragon’s Lair
Striking U.S. air bases — specifically command-and-control facilities, aircraft hangars and surface-to-air missile launchers — would be China’s first priority if a conflict arose, according to Rand’s report.

U.S. facilities in South Korea and Japan, even far-south Okinawa, sit within what Rand calls the “Dragon’s Lair”: a swath of land and sea along China’s coast. This is an area reachable by cruise missiles, jet-borne precision bombs and local covert operatives. Air Force bases within this area include Osan and Kunsan in South Korea, as well as Misawa, Yokota and Kadena in Japan.

This scenario reflects what I've written in that I think China would hit hard and move fast to win a war quickly. I don't necessarily buy that all the tricks the monograph sets forth will work, but at least some Chinese authors believe they will work. The key point is that regardless of what specific weapons are used, the thinking behind their use reflects geography and the balance of forces. Overall, we are far superior in military power. But based on geography, China could have an advantage in power in the western Pacific for a short period of time before we can deploy our distant power to the western Pacific.

This is an "anti-access" strategy to deny our forces access to the theater. By delaying our deployment, the Chinese extend their period of advantage long enough to achieve their objective. And then they believe the war ends.

The Chinese hope to beat us before we can shift the balance of forces in the western Pacific, as the RAND publication states:

The net result of these effects could be that the United States would actually be defeated in a conflict with China—not in the sense that the U.S. military would be destroyed but in the sense that China would accomplish its military and political objectives while preventing the United States from accomplishing some or all of its political and military objectives. Moreover, even if Chinese antiaccess measures did not result in the outright defeat of the United States, they would likely make it significantly more costly for the United States to operate in the region, and these costs could even rise to the point at which the United States was unwilling to pay them. Finally, even if Chinese antiaccess strategies did not result in the United States being unwilling or unable to defeat China, Chinese decisionmakers might convince themselves that they would cause the United States to be unwilling or unable to intervene successfully. If the decisionmakers then chose to take actions that would cause China to come into conflict with the United States, the result would be a costly and bloody war that would not otherwise have occurred.

This also raises the point that I've made in the past that that if Chinese leaders believe that they can win because they've found our weak point to defeat us, that we can't move fast enough to effectively enter the fight, or that we won't risk a major fight because we are too afraid of casualties, the Chinese will risk war with America.

So discussions of China's vulnerability to a blockade of their energy imports and manufactured exports as a reason why China wouldn't dare risk a war with us fall flat when you realize that China does not share our assumption. They may very well believe that we simply cannot or will not fight a war long enough to impose a blockade. By assuming a short war, the Chinese leaders have eliminated the chance that they could be brought to their knees by a blockade--or that they might have to use nuclear weapons to get us to end our blockade.

The RAND study does not write about what the Chinese would do with the advantage they gain from a first strike. I have to wonder, given the Chinese assumptions in play about our will to fight, whether the rulers of China have even given much thought to what happens after their initial strike.

Too many here think that the threat from dragons is a myth. But that's our logic. But if you believe you are a dragon, you will fight like a dragon, no matter how illogical that might seem to us.

You Can't Go Home Again

The surge campaign for Baghdad has driven much of al Qaeda in Iraq from the city and the belts around the city where they staged bomb attacks into the city.

The success in Anbar to the west in getting the Sunni Arab population to turn on the jihadis meant that the jihadis could not find sanctuary in their former stronghold. With the equivalent of another Marine regiment as part of the surge, this meant the Marines and soldiers in Anbar were an anvil that they risked being shattered against if they ran west.

Going south into Shia areas wasn't going to help them find sanctuary.

So they had to go north and east.

In the north, Mosul is seeing violence from fleeing jihadis:

Brig. Gen. Saleh Muhammad Hassan al-Jubouri is the second Iraqi provincial police chief to be killed in less than two months and his death underscores the fragility of the security situation in northern Iraq which has seen numerous attacks in recent weeks. Al Qaeda-linked insurgents have fled to this area from Baghdad and Anbar Province to the south and are targeting new citizen militias, US officials say.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's "first choice [as a base of operations] was Anbar, and Mosul is the best substitute for Anbar," says Mustafa al-Ani, an analyst with the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

Yet as I understand it, it isn't so much that al Qaeda has increased violence in the area as much as it has sustained it at past levels even as violence in the rest of Iraq declines. And I don't think that the Mosul region is terribly great for the jihadis. They can't go further north since the Kurds and Turks represent an anvil of hard resistance to their movement. And as Iraqi security forces increase in strength, this hammer will shatter the jihadis in Mosul.

It seems that more jihadis have headed for Diyala where operation Phantom Phoenix has targetted these fleeing jihadis:

Iraqi and Coalition forces continue to press the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq in the northeastern province of Diyala, where the terror group maintains small pockets. In the latest series of raids as part of Operation Raider Harvest, Iraqi and US forces killed 30 al Qaeda operatives and captured 21, including a senior al Qaeda leader, during raids and operations.

So we will fight the jihadis as they keep moving. What is most interesting is where the enemy moves next.

The enemy in Mosul might find that its only avenue to retreat is west toward Syria. What happens when these jihadis try to seek safety inside Syria?

The enemy in Diyala might find that its only avenue to retreat is east toward Iran. What happens when these jihadis try to seek safety inside Iran?

The jihadis will find that their friends in Iran and Syria are not so friendly that they want to see the jihadis come back home. When the jihadis were sent off with the order to conquer Iraq or die, that choice was all they had.

UPDATE: This article states that violence levels are steady while much of the rest of the country shows declining violence. The problem is that Mosul is a place where foreign jihadis go and where al Qaeda in Iraq has chosen to stand. The Iraqis pledge to send additional forces to Mosul to fight the jihadis. If the Iraqis, with our help, can isolate the city (using a trench around the city as the initial article mentioned to restrict and control access) and kill the enemy within the city, this will constitute a major defeat for the enemy. Or will the enemy run west toward the source of their foreign fighters? Either way, the enemy is running out of places inside Iraq to run. Will their sponsors bar the door to them when the jihadis come knocking?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Right Strategy at the Right Time

In the fall of 2006, civilian casualties in Iraq skyrocketed following the ramping up of al Qaeda bombings of Shia civilians and Shia death squad murders of Sunni Arabs after the February bombing of the Shia Golden Mosque in Samarra. We had thought that we could pull our troops out of the fight with the Baathists, nationalist Sunnis, and jihadis checked from their efforts to defeat the government. The government of Iraq hoped to deal with Sadr as a political problem. The slaughter did not rise to the level of civil war, but it could have.

Our surge was our reaction to this killing spree. We added troops, concentrated on helping to protect Iraqi civilians since the Iraqis could not do this on their own, and carried out coordinated operations to secure Baghdad from local militias and from bombers sent in from the Baghdad belt and supplied from Iran and Syria.

Against the predictions of the anti-war side that the surge was doomed and despite my fears that the benefits of a correct approach in Iraq for the new circumstances of another phase in the war would be outweighed by the problems back home that the surge would cause, the surge has succeeded in reducing US and Iraqi casualties while hammering al Qaeda in Iraq. How did this happen?

Strategypage writes about this:

The question then becomes, "Why did the Surge work?" There are numerous factors that contributed to the success of Gen. Petreaus' Surge plan. The quick and simple answer is that it was the right plan at the right time.

The article addresses clear and hold with a focus on securing Baghdad, the improvements in Iraqi forces, the defection of Sunni Arabs who turned on the jihadis, the stand down of Sadr's militias, the Iraqi people who demanded their government provide security and provided tips, an elected Iraqi government that felt that pressure, and more US troops.

These are all true. But the quick and simple answer is the best answer. The surge approach probably would have failed in 2006 or 2005 and certainly wouldn't have worked in 2004. And 2008 might have been too late. I guess I'll reserve judgment about whether such an approach could have worked in 2003.

Truly, circumstances came together in 2007 to allow all the factors cited to work with the other factors to provide the clear beginnings of victory. Much like comedy, the key to war is often timing.

You need the right time for the right plan to work.

Reality Based Constituency

One thing that remains puzzling about the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination is their uniform refusal to accept the reality that we have achieved some success in Iraq that appears to have a momentum to carry us through to victory. They uniformly object to keeping troops in Iraq even when they are not in combat and want "an entirely different view" from this plan:

It's astonishing how casually the Democrats regard the fact that there is an "entirely different view" on Iraq waiting to confront them. It's particularly astonishing that they seem to regard this worldview as something exotic and peripheral to the campaign when it may be a defining issue in the general election: Does America want a president who thinks that victory in Iraq is possible and worth pursuing, or a president who is committed to defeat at any cost? In the Manchester debate Clinton refused to acknowledge that the surge had brought any meaningful progress to Iraq. Obama acknowledged some progress, but dismissed it as unimportant. The Democrats act as though victory in Iraq isn't even open for debate in the next election. It'll be interesting to see whether or not they're right.

The nutroots seem particularly resistant to adapting to change in their denial of even temporary success. Heck, throughout this war I've recognized even temporary setbacks, so I know that I'm not blind to reality. But I had confidence in the big picture and broader trends and facts. Yet our Left seems unable to admit even current improvements while insisting that in the long run we'll lose.

So I guess the candidates going along with this deeply held blind spot of their constituency seems natural enough (if depressing for me). That's the reality of their primary contest. But how will it play in the general election in the fall with voters not so invested in our defeat?

They Can't Handle the Truth

What is it with the anti-war types who continue to debate whether we should overthrow Saddam's regime by denying his efforts to support al Qaeda and build weapons of mass destruction? It's like a quagmire of fighting to take the same hill again and again.

Another group of the reality-challenged community is at it, this time purporting to tote up the times the President and his administration made "false" statements about Iraqi WMD or Iraqi-al Qaeda ties. Says the so-called Center for Public Integrity:

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism. ...

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

This would be funny and pathetic if the stakes weren't so high. We're at war and such over-the-line "dissent" kills people by encouraging enemies to fight on.

Saddam once had chemical weapons and programs to develop biological and nuclear weapons. Since the invasion, we have not found post-1991 chemical weapons but it is not accurate to say that Saddam was not prepared to create chemical weapons and other WMD if we hadn't stopped him. He had the infrastructure and raw materials to start up quickly. Even if he had none, just by bluffing that he had WMD he telegraphed his intention to get them.

And as far as I'm concerned, given the nearly unanimous opinion of the world that Saddam was continuing to seek WMD in 2002, the case is not closed on whether Saddam had chemical weapons and active programs on the eve of our invasion. If there was nothing there, what was being dismantled and carted off even after Saddam was overthrown? So allegations that hundreds of statements are false let alone lies are premature.

As for al Qaeda-Iraq ties, the restriction to "meaningful ties" is rather in the eyes of the beholder, is it not? I swear, people like these will admit to ties only if they shared office space and a common receptionist. The ties to al Qaeda were significant enough, and given Iraq's ties to terrorism in general under Saddam, why is it so hard to believe Saddam would reach out to bin Laden? And to the reading comprehension-challenged, this is not a statement that claims Saddam had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.

In the 1990s, the ideas that Saddam was pursuing or had WMD and had ties to al Qaeda were conventional wisdom even for journalists. But those are inconvenient truths, these days, for the reality-debased community.

If you want to discuss lies about the Iraq War, you'd do better to consult this post for a link to a better paper by Orson Scott Card on the topic.

UPDATE: Ah, George Soros is behind those organizations. Here's a critique of the so-called "study." It focuses more on the distinction between "lies" and "mistakes" and so is more generous than I am in my judgment on those statements touted as lies by the Left's hit piece.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


One of our representatives in Congress believes Iraq distracts us from the "real" war on terror:

The Bush administration's fixation on Iraq costs us dearly in the struggle to comprehensively confront the threat to global peace and stability presented by al-Qaida and its allies. President Bush's final term in office is almost up, though, and the next president will have the opportunity to forge a better strategy.

Our special-operations forces are the "tip of the spear" confronting al-Qaida and its allies — the forces in our military best trained at all the facets of counterinsurgency needed to confront these global terrorist networks. But, with the majority of our special operations forces in Iraq, al-Qaida members are freer than they should be to spread their totalitarian ideology and deadly tactics in other countries around the world.

Afghanistan has become the poster child for the Bush administration's neglect of key strategic fronts in the fight against al-Qaida and its allies. Afghanistan is roughly the same size as Iraq. It has a population comparable to Iraq. The country sandwiched between a now-destabilized Pakistan and Iran served as al-Qaida's launchpad for the 9/11 attacks. These terrorists and their Taliban allies have a safe haven just across the border in Pakistan and violence was up sharply last year.

Good grief. Will this rot never end? When al Qaeda has challenged us in Iraq, how is it tunnel vision to kill them right there? I do believe we kill more jihadis in Iraq than the rest of the world combined. If "tunnel vision" (as the representative called it) is seeing too narrowly, what do you call it when you can't see the bull's eye because of a blind spot to anything Iraq-related that clouds your judgment and makes you unable to focus on what is happening right now?

But instead of addressing his obvious vision problem of failing to see how we are decimating jihadis in Iraq or questioning whether it is really true that a majority of our special forces are in Iraq, I just want to ask where he'd send those special forces to fight al Qaeda if they have to stop killing jihadis in Iraq? He can't just be talking about sending them to Afghanistan since that is mostly a Taliban problem and the good representative says al Qaeda is spreading around the world because we are too focused on Iraq. So do we send these special forces into countries to kill al Qaeda whether the local government wants us to or not? I mean, the Pakistanis say they don't want our troops inside Pakistan to kill jihadis. The Iraqis are fine with our troops killing jihadis inside Iraq. Does this not matter one bit?

And if the representative is talking about going into Pakistan, doesn't he understand that our special forces operate best when they have lots of friendly forces suppressing the enemy and keeping them beaten down so they can't mass gunmen to kill our special forces or simply shrug off our attacks and replace their losses?

Given that Admiral Fallon is in Pakistan to discuss US-Pakistani cooperation in the emerging Taliban Campaign and that there is a growing appreciation for the regional nature of the threat, I'd say Representative Smith had best be careful what he is wishing for.

BDA Based on BDS

I'm sure you've heard the accusations of our brutality in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed during the war and the vast majority are from our bombing campaigns. People seriously believe this. Bush Derangement Syndrome has made a mockery of Bomb Damage Assessment.

The problem is that this charge of mass murder is ridiculous on the face of it. The vast majority of casualties in Iraq among Iraqi civilians have been caused by the enemy. You know, the ones who send suicide bombers against school children and send out death squads at night? Their rules of engagement target civilians. Our ROE seek to protect civilians.

The second problem is that we haven't dropped enough bombs on Iraq to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Strategypage has a useful post on how air power has worked in this war:

The coalition air forces in Iraq (mainly the U.S. Air Force, but also U.S. Navy, Marines and British Royal Air Force), dropped a lot more bombs in 2007 (over 1,500) compared to 2006 (under 200). ...

Despite the increased use of aerial bombing, civilian casualties were miniscule. By historical standards, there has never been a war this intense, that produced so few civilian casualties. Over 90 percent of Iraqi civilian deaths have been at the hands of Islamic terrorist groups, who use suicide bombers and death squads to slaughter those who disagree with them. While Vietnam saw thousands of civilians dying each month, for years on end, as "collateral damage" from aerial bombs, Iraq gets a few dozen such deaths a month, at most. Until the development of smart bombs, you had to drop a hundred or more bombs to hit one specific target. In Vietnam, over ten million bombs were dropped, that's over a million bombs a year. In Iraq, about a thousand bombs a year were dropped. It makes a difference.

The ability of those opposed to the war to make the most outlandish accusations about our brutality in defiance of all evidence just astounds me.

The willingness of Americans to believe this rot depresses me.

A Labor of Love

Mark Steyn addresses the compassion our media has for our twisted baby-killing monsters who've come home from Iraq and Afghanistan to terrorize innocent Americans in killing fields across our fruited plains.

The Times' love of our troops is so great that they don't flinch from reporting this carnage in the patriotic hope that somehow the word will get out that the poor victims of the Bushtatorship will get the government-run health care system they deserve in order to cure those murderous impulses.

Of course, when you've adapted your paper to a certain number of column inches devoted to how we are losing in Iraq, the lack of really good bad news from Iraq is a business problem as much as it is a matter of ideology. So the Times just switched gears and filled those inches with really good psycho veterans pieces. And they can claim it is done in compassion. Writes Steyn:

Our war has one of the lowest fatality rates of any war ever, and, when they get so low that even Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid temporarily give up the quagmire bleating, the Times invents bogus stories to suggest that the few veterans lucky enough to make it out of Iraq alive are ticking timebombs ready to explode across every Main Street in the land.

The Times didn't have much to go on, but they did give it their best shot. And in defense of the reporters and editors, when they were hired they were assured there would be no math involved in their work.

Perhaps next there will be a camo ribbon campaign to raise awareness of this Genghis Khan Syndrome.

After failing to lose the war for us, they've switched gears to convince us that the price of winning is too high. Luckily for the Times, their subscribers already believed the story before it was even written.

Advisors Give Advice

Never forget the difference between means and objectives; or between the tools and the task that requires the tools.

On the Weekly Standard blog there is another criticism of efforts to withdraw troops from Iraq to "save" the Army and keep it ready for other fights at the risk of losing in Iraq:

To the extent that ground forces would be needed, surely the Army and Marine Corps would be able to commit adequate resources. But to pull forces from Iraq in order to improve readiness and without regard for the impact on the security situation in that country just wouldn't make any sense. The point of maintaining readiness is to allow American forces every opportunity to secure victory in combat. To sacrifice victory in combat in order to improve readiness is a kind of backwards logic that obscures the real objective of its advocates.

Yes indeed. While the American generals back home responsible for generating forces surely don't want us to lose in Iraq, their job isn't to win the war in Iraq and so they don't make recommendations on what it takes to win the war. It isn't fair to say they are blind to victory (as I implied in the post of mine cited this paragraph), although many who are anti-war grab at the readiness issue to compel retreat and defeat in Iraq. Have no doubt about that. Good grief, what other fight would the anti-war side want to be ready for?

Again, it isn't fair to say that the generals back home are just dense or blinded by their jobs to sustain the Army that they are ignorant of the situation in Iraq. In fact, these generals have a separate job of saying what must be done to maintain the health of the Army.

The Army in Iraq has the job of saying what we need to do to win in Iraq. And if the Army must be harmed to win the war, that isn't their job to consider.

The President's job is to decide what to do with these conflicting recommendations.

Winning in Iraq is the correct basis for a presidential decision. So don't get too worked up over the Joint Chiefs' recommendations. They're not supposed to consider their judgment on the war when they assess the stress on the Army. They're just staying in their lane.

UPDATE: These officers know they are giving advice and right up front note that battlefield needs trump their hopes to reduce tours of Army troops to 12 months:

The proposal, recommended by U.S. Army Forces Command, is being reviewed by senior Army and Pentagon leaders, and would be contingent on the changing needs for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our top priority is going to be meeting the combatant commanders' requirements, so there may be no decision until we get more clarity on that," Army Col. Edward Gibbons, chief of the command's plans division, said Wednesday. He said the goal was to meet those demands while still reducing soldiers' deployments and increasing their time at home between tours.

If possible, the reduced tours would be phased in for the brigades currently in Iraq. And it all depends on whether we reduce our troops in Iraq from the surge peak as planned:

Gibbons said the new proposal assumes that commanders will maintain 15 combat brigades in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.

Sticking strictly to the Army issue and ignoring the 8 Marine regimental combat teams available, we have 42 active Army brigades (with 6 more coming over the next several years). We need 1.15 brigades to keep a brigade in the field for one year (allowing for travel and overlap). So 42 brigades would in practice mean 36.5 brigades in the field for one year. If you want them one year in the field and one year at home, we could keep 18.25 brigades in the field for 12-month tours. This fits the assumption of 17 brigades in the field. And this doesn't include mobilizing Guard brigades to the mix. Since Guard units mobilize for one year with 9 months in the field, we aren't taking about more than 3 brigade equivalents in the field for a year.

If we want to have units in the fight for a year with two years off, our ultimate goal, we'd need to get down to 10 Army brigades in Iraq and 2 in Afghanistan. Six more infantry brigades planned will give us a bit more to work with. But the key to eliminating stress is turning the fight over to Iraqi units that replace our units instead of reinforcing our units.

Unless the enemy can find a way to adapt to our success and regain the initiative in a way that requires us to keep fighting at current levels of troops, we are on the way to reducing stress on the Army without compromising ultimate victory in Iraq.