Monday, March 31, 2008

The Terror State

The report Saddam and Terrorism based on translated documents (the Harmony project) captured in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 demonstrate conclusively that Saddam's embrace of terrorism--including links that led to al Qaeda--were deeper than we thought:

Five years on, few Iraq myths are as persistent as the notion that the Bush Administration invented a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Yet a new Pentagon report suggests that Iraq's links to world-wide terror networks, including al Qaeda, were far more extensive than previously understood.

Naturally, it's getting little or no attention. Press accounts have been misleading or outright distortions, while the Bush Administration seems indifferent. Even John McCain has let the study's revelations float by. But that doesn't make the facts any less notable or true.

The Weekly Standard piles on:

Anyone with a basic knowledge of Islamic terrorism who read the early headlines and then read the report cannot help but come away with a severe case of cognitive dissonance. Iraq was a state sponsor of terrorism and had we not gone to war with Iraq after 9/11, it would still be a focal point in our fight against Islamic terror. That Saddam and bin Laden never shook hands--presumably the only "smoking gun" that the most obtuse analysts of this subject would accept--is hardly the point. Glomming on to that narrowest parsing of al Qaeda here is akin to saying Senator Lieberman is not a Democrat because he has donned the label of Independent.

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than documents from Saddam's own intelligence service, which confirm that the regime was funding the group Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the early 1990s.

Led by Ayman al Zawahiri, the EIJ eventually morphed into what most observers call "core" al Qaeda. Zawahiri became al Qaeda's second in command when al Qaeda was formed in the late 1980s. Saying Iraq was not supporting al Qaeda, when there was no meaningful distinction between the EIJ and al Qaeda, strains credulity.

I know the Left likes to assert that secular Iraq could no more cooperate with jihadis because of their differences than Hitler could cooperate with Stalin, but that only tells you about the limitations of our Left's knowledge of history and their stunted analytical abilities.

And once again, this episode reflects the one area that I truly believe the Bush administration has been thoroughly incompetent in carrying out--the failure to have constantly led the country in war by repeatedly reminding our people of why we fight and who we fight. I've complained about this failure off and on for nearly four years now.

Bush, having lost credibility by counting on winning in Iraq without mobilizing our country's hearts and minds, has allowed the Left to set the tone of even damning revelations that are spun to mean the opposite of what they actually show. The rock-pounding stupidity of our esteemed fourth estate is astounding in its breadth and persistence.

We will likely win this war regardless of this failing by the president and the laziness or incompetence of our press corps, but it has made the war more difficult to win.

Yet in the end, my complaint may be moot given that President Bush, for all his failings in rallying the country through these last five years of war in Iraq, has been steadfast in pursuing victory and appears to be achieving that victory. I may want soaring rhetoric and a determination to win our wars from our president, but I'll settle for the latter if I can only get one.

Not Born for Greatness

The American Army has become the killing machine that it is (and yes, killing our enemies is a good thing) because of many factors that have taken generations to complete.

Strategypage goes through them in some detail here.

I'd add only one: unit cohesion. Strategypage knows this well so I don't know why this wasn't mentioned separately. It may be assumed to be included in the general training category but I think it deserves a distinct discussion.

Rotating units rather than soldiers, and using stop-loss to keep critical personnel in their deploying units, have made our combat units more deadly and more resilient when few would have predicted in 2003 how well our Army would hold up despite the strains imposed by five years of war in Iraq and another year and a half fighting in Afghanistan.

As you see complaints about how long it is taking to create a competent Iraqi army that must fight while it is built, remember that a great army is made over a generation by many different strands of varying durations that must be pulled together. And only some of the strands are obvious without the rigorous scrutiny that combat provides.

We've built that Army (and Marine Corps), and we can see the results in action. And we don't see the casualties that an inferior army would have generated to get the same battlefield results.

I hope our Navy and Air Force have the same strands in place, but without combat in their core areas of naval and air supremacy, we can only guess with little hard information to guide us.

To Serve and Project

The Winter Soldiers are again recounting their blood-curdling tales of war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this time in one conference with programs to guide the haters of America.

Of course, since they take their name from a previous generation of the deluded, the deranged, and the lying, one would think that the truthfulness of the latest group should be treated with great caution by our press corps and given the same scrutiny that any claim of progress in Iraq is given.

Good grief. Sometimes I am a naive idealist.

From the Ashes of Defeat

Our press is working hard to lift the beaten Sadrists from the ground and dust them off.

Rather than seeing the drubbing the Sadrists endured as reason enough for them to call off the battle, USA Today looks for other reasons:

Iranian officials helped broker a cease-fire agreement Sunday between Iraq's government and radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, according to Iraqi lawmakers.

The deal could help defuse a wave of violence that had threatened recent security progress in Iraq. It also may signal the growing regional influence of Iran, a country the Bush administration accuses of providing support to terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere.

I suppose that even if it is true that Iran was responsible in full, you might ask why the Iranians would want the fight ended if the Iraqi government was losing. You might even ask why Iran should have such a level of control over supposedly native Iraqi gunmen. Heck, you might even ask why Maliki--long viewed by our press as an Iranian puppet--was fighting Iran's friends in the first place.

But those questions aren't asked since the only purpose is to kill any image of an Iraqi victory over the gangs in the minds of American readers. Indeed, the story paints this end of combat as a sign of Iranian dominance:

"The government proved once again that Iran is a central player in Iraq," said Iraqi political analyst and former intelligence officer Ibrahim Sumydai.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but an English-speaking "former intelligence officer" would likely have been a Sunni Arab Baathist with reason to undermine Maliki and paint him as a stooge of Iran.

The spinning of a Sadr victory continues:

Vali Nasr, an Iraq expert at the Council of Foreign Relations, said al-Sadr had emerged stronger from the battle, which killed more than 300 people. "He let the Americans and the Iraqis know that taking him down is going to be difficult."

Al-Sadr's militia stood strong, forcing the government to extend a deadline for them to disarm.

"Everything we heard indicates the Sadrists had control of more ground in Basra at the end of the fighting than they did at the beginning," said al-Nujaifi, the Sunni mediator. "The government realized things were not going in the right direction."

This is amazing stuff. The 300 people killed were basically Sadrist gang members. I'd say the Sadrists realized that fighting the Iraqis and Americans is going to be difficult. I'd say that the message has been sent that Iraqi troops will kill Sadrists if confronted.

As for the extended deadline, that was actually a separate deadline for residents in general to turn in certain weapons and not a revision of the original demand on the gangsters fighting in the streets to give up.

And again, relying on the judgment of yet another Sunni, al-Nujaifi, seems a bit farfetched. And once you realize that the bulk of those casualties cited were Sadrists, the idea that many would have survived their "winning" campaign had it gone on much longer is shown to be farcical. More dead Sadrists is the right direction as far as I'm concerned.

Further, even the article indicates that the spokesman for Maliki hardly sounds defeated:

Al-Rikabi vowed Iraqi forces will continue a broad offensive against "criminal elements" in the southern city of Basra and elsewhere.

So the battle will go on. Perhaps not kinetically as the past week was, but we'd rather have a low-key campaign of arrests and killings when the targets don't go quietly. The key will be whether the agreement just leaves Sadrists alone or whether it allows the low-key campaign to defang the militias to continue and accelerate.

Max Boot recognizes that the fight against the Shia militias is a necessary step to winning in Iraq:

While most news coverage has focused on the renewed fighting as signs of impending doom–or at the very least evidence that the surge isn’t working so well–the FT correctly detects a silver lining: “If the prime minister succeeds, the pay-off would deliver a big boost to the credibility of a shaky government, proving that the growing national army is capable of taking on powerful militia.”

Boot also believes the Iraqi security forces are fully capable of taking on the militias if the government's forces are led well. I agree. The degree of difficulty depends on how many of the Shia militias are the hard core Iranian-backed killers and how well the Iraqi army is directed and led. The average gang member cannot stand in battle against well-led troops nor are the Sadrists as vicious as the Sunni jihadi terrorists.

The conventional wisdom all around is that Sadr won this round. I guess I could be persuaded that Maliki has lost this round. But I don't see the evidence of this interpretation. I certainly didn't expect that three years of gangster dominance could be undone with three days of military force. And I didn't expect that the Iranian-supported "Special Groups" would dissolve in three days.

Saying Maliki lost is like saying D-Day was a failure because on June 14, 1944, the Third Reich was still standing.

Sadr was bloodied this round. If Maliki continues the campaign to clean up Basra and other areas of the Sadrist influence, this week will just be one battle in a campaign. Obviously, if Maliki gives up, he will lose the campaign and this battle will in retrospect be a defeat.

But despite their weaknesses, the Sadrists will always be able to count on our press to speak of their mere survival as great victories over America.

And our press will continue to display their general incompetence. The battle against the Iranian-backed Shia thugs and the Shia gangs has long been an obvious step toward winning. Yet our press acts like this is all a big surprise, and demonstrates their inability to distinguish between the many enemies we have and are facing in Iraq.

UPDATE: After hearing the near-absolute consensus from left and right yesterday that Sadr won this round and wondering just how on Earth they could conclude this, finally some sanity is breaking out. Belmont Club notes reports of Sadr's defeat. Dean Esmay writes about the "near swoon" of our media over Sadr and notes reports of nearly 600 Sadrist killed in action. Contentions also writes about the Sadrist defeat and the media's determination to paint Sadr as a victor.

The Warriors of Iraq

Strategypage writes:

Iraqis may differ on whether U.S. troops should be in the country, but all agree that the Americans are formidable warriors. Increasingly, Iraqi troops are wearing similar combat uniforms and driving hummers. TheIraqi soldiers consciously copy their U.S. counterparts. This includes handling their weapons, and moving around, in a similar fashion. Butit isn’t all superficial imitation, the Iraqis stand and fight now. U.S.troops, back in Iraq after having been away for a year or so, are pleasantly surprised to find, when called to reinforce an Iraqi unit (likea checkpoint, or a police station) under fire, that the Iraqis are nowfighting harder and smarter. In the past, the U.S. troops would often show up to find the Iraqi troops or police had fled.

Which brings up two points. One, the Iraqi army is progressing into a fighting force.

And two, American troops are recognized as formidable warriors. Remember when our enemies thought a few casualties would send us running? Remember when the Taliban and al Qaeda cursed us in the early days of the Afghan campaign for not fighting them on the ground?

You don't hear too many jihadis eager for battle with our soldiers and Marines anymore.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Killing Option

After the South Korean military testified that it would strike first at North Korea's nuclear capabilities if North Korea appeared about to use them, North Korea went all batty:

"Our military will not sit idle until warmongers launch a pre-emptive strike," said an unidentified KCNA military commentator. "Everything will be in ashes, not just a sea of fire, if our advanced pre-emptive strike once begins."

You see, the Pillsbury Nuke Boy likes holding South Korean civilians hostage. Extorting money is tough without a credibel threat to kill South Koreans. And even though North Korea's army is wasting away through neglect, they still have lots of artillery in range of Seoul which could slaughter civilians with high explosives or poison gas. This killing option rather than nukes has always been the North's trump card.

The interesting problem for the South Koreans is that if they really want to stop North Korea from killing southern civilians, they can't restrict themselves to just countering the nukes. North Korean conventional weapons are fully capable of turning Seoul into ashes, even if the North is losing the ability to invade.

Yet the testimony relating to nukes indicates the ROK military seems to be thinking about how to protect their people. Logically, this should mean that the ROK military is looking at how they could launch a narrow offensive north of the DMZ to clear out PDRK guns and rockets from a relatively shallow band of territory that threaten Seoul.

So I guess that it is understandable that the North went all batty. After years of assuming they can threaten Seoul at will, the power imbalance is finally shifting so much that the ROK military may be thinking about how to attack north for a buffer zone to protect their capital.

The killing option is shifting and the communists of Pyongyang know it.

Sounds Like Retreat

Sadr has called for his militia to clear the streets:

The government welcomed the move, which followed intense negotiations by Shiite officials, including two lawmakers who reportedly traveled to Iran to ask religious authorities there to intervene.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose offensive that began Tuesday in the oil-rich southern city in Basra sparked the crisis, called al-Sadr's statement "a step in the right direction."

But fighting continued in the Basra area after the announcement. Seven people also were killed when a mortar struck a residential district in Baghdad's Karradah district, and witnesses reported clashes in the Shula area in a northern section of the capital.

The nine-point statement by the anti-American cleric, which was broadcast through Shiite mosques in Baghdad and across the south, called for an end to the "armed presence" in Basra and other cities and urged followers "to cooperate with the government to achieve security."

Al-Sadr, however, also demanded that the Iraqi government stop "illegal and haphazard raids" and release security detainees who haven't been charged, two issues cited by his movement as reasons for fighting the government.

So Sadr tells his boys to get off the streets without conditions and simply asks the government to back off.

And without giving up their arms, the Sadrists will simply be pursued by government forces even if it is low key and not as loud as this military operation was:

Al-Sadr's order stopped short of calling on his fighters to disarm. And the government insisted it would still target "outlaws."

It sure looks like Sadr lost this round. Yet there will be another round.

But don't underestimate the ability of our press to spin survival into brillian victory.

UPDATE: The Long War Journal recounts the losses that the Shia thugs endured:

Sadr’s call for an end to fighting by his followers comes as his Mahdi Army has taken high casualties over the past six days. Since the fighting began on Tuesday 358 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 531 were wounded, 343 were captured, and 30 surrendered. The US and Iraqi security forces have killed 125 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone, while Iraqi security forces have killed 140 Mahdi fighters in Basra.

Back in 2004, we killed the Sadrists at just amazing kill ratios. This time the Iraqis did the same.

And if you doubt that this was a government victory, the terms of Sadr's retreat are clear:

"Sadr has sent a message to his loyalists urging them to end all armed activities," the Al Iraqiya television channel reported. Sadr "disowned anyone attacking the state institutions or parties' offices and headquarters."

Good luck storming the castle, and all. But Sadr won't be helping.

Remember, the Iraqi government doesn't need to kill all the Sadrists and Iranian thugs in battle. The government just needs to be free to pick up the leaders and hard core goons with raids that arrest or shoot the scum. Sadr just told the government that those still holding guns are fair game.

Remember also the tone of our press the last week. The press had you believe that the Iraqi offensive was stalled, that American air support was an act of desperation, and that the gains of the surge were about to be forfeited. Instead, we ripped the Sadrists a new one.

This didn't end the Sadrist threat. But it sure did teach all involved that the Sadrists will lose a stand up battle with the government.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Mouse that Roared

North Korea tested some missiles. Don't worry about it. They were surface-to-surface anti-ship missiles:

Yonhap reported that North Korea launched three ship-to-ship missiles at around 10:30 a.m. local time, citing unidentified government officials. News cable channel YTN, public broadcaster KBS and other media carried similar reports.

The article calls them a "barrage." Please. There were three missiles.

I personally think it is pretty sad that the North Koreans think that this is scary. Other countries might do this more frequently and call it "training." North Korea just lights some up as theater.

The White House shouldn't have dignified that test by taking notice of it let alone condemning it.

Olympic Warm Up

I'm looking forward to the Olympics this summer as a total disaster for Chinese public relations. They've written the script and have been envisioning how this will play for a decade. Their show is about the rise of China and all its glory.

But lots of Westerners who will be in China aren't using the script. And Western audiences aren't expecting the tale of Chinese glory. But they will see people upset with China. And they'll be told why all these people are upset. And they'll see Chinese officials completely unable to sound like anything but nonresponsive communist spokesman just sticking to the script written a decade ago, approved five years ago at the highest levels, and completely obsolete and just a little sickening.

To do our part in this lovely party, I think it would be hilarious to march our athletes through the opening ceremonies in warm up suits that look like Tibetan monk robes. Shaved heads optional.

China wants a coming out party to highlight their rise in power. The world may actually see just what is coming out.

The Pretend Debate

One of the frustrations I've felt over the last 5+ years of blogging is the inability of the Left to actually debate the Iraq War issue. "Debate" simply means we discuss the issue until 51% agrees with them. Until then, the debate is not over; and if they get that agreement, the debate is ended. Permanently.

Part of the strategy is a lack of honesty in discussing the issue. Whether it is in the big picture or in detailed points, distortions of the record are routine.

I've long felt that the Left is generally ignorant of military affairs and so their judgment is suspect on this level alone without addressing sheer dishonesty.

But when you see dishonest tactics with small issues like the plastic turkey issue of the "100-year war" it is obvious that more than sheer lack of knowledge is driving their approach.

Expected Support

American air power is supporting the Iraqi offensive against Shia gangs and Iranian-backed killers:

Maj. Brad Leighton, a U.S. military spokesman, said U.S. and Iraqi special operations forces had identified snipers on several roofs before the strike was ordered.

An AC-130 gunship then opened fire on enemy positions on three roofs.

"Initial reports indicate 16 criminal fighters were killed," he said in an e-mail response to a query by The Associated Press.

The American support occurred as Iraqi troops struggled against strong resistance from militia fighters in Basra, where Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has vowed to keep up the fight despite mounting anger among followers of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The government crackdown has prompted retaliation elsewhere in Shiite areas in Baghdad and other cities in the oil-rich south.

American jets were first called to attack militia positions in Basra on Friday, four days after al-Maliki launched the operation to clear the city of militia violence.

Remember, it should not be any shock that American aircraft are providing air support. Some media elements seem to think that this is a sign of disaster.

Remember, we still need to provide many support functions to the Iraqis. That's why we can't just get out. The Iraqis have decent light infantry forces and are working on their heavier forces and combat support elements for further down the line.

Also, it should not be surprising that pro-Sadr elements will protest the offensive. They like having guns. They like the money that the guns provide. They'd like the influence those guns can provide in new elections. And God knows what makes the SOBs from Iran happy. But they don't like being hunted. They'd like to scare us off.

But Maliki's determination to defeat them with Iraqi troops, with our support that we've always been counted on to supply, can beat these guys if we don't go all wobbly. AC-130 gunships will make the gangsters wet their pants, by the way. Very accurate. Very deadly.

Taking on the Shia thugs has always been a job we had to take on before we can win this war. And with the Sunni threats diminishing, the time seems to be now.

UPDATE: Anthony Cordesman seems to be afflicted with the problem of knowing too much about the internal workings of the Shias:

There is no question that many elements of the Mahdi Army have been guilty of sectarian cleansing, that the Sadr movement is hostile to the United States, that some of its extremists have continued acts of violence in spite of the cease-fire Mr. Sadr declared last summer, and that some of these rogue elements have ties to Iran. No one should romanticize the Sadr movement, understate the risks it presents or ignore the violent radicals in the Mahdi Army.

But it is equally important not to romanticize Mr. Maliki, the Dawa Party or the Islamic Supreme Council. The current fighting, which the government portrays as a crackdown on criminality, is better seen as a power grab, an effort by Mr. Maliki and the most powerful Shiite political parties to establish their authority over Basra and the parts of Baghdad that have eluded their grasp.

Moreover, Mr. Maliki’s gamble has already dragged American forces part-way into the fight, including airstrikes in Basra. Striking at violent, rogue elements in the Mahdi Army is one thing, but engaging the entire Sadr movement is quite another. The official cease-fire that has kept the mainstream Mahdi Army from engaging government and United States forces may well be rescinded if the government’s assault continues.

Sometimes, when you know the difference between the 90% nutballs and the 85% nutballs, you can fail to see the obvious as you try to make your knowledge of the shades of differences provide deep analysis.

First of all, we are not being "dragged" into the fight. When Iraqis need air power, we aupply it. That's the plan. Is Cordesman saying we should force Iraq to fight one-dimensional fights with only light infantry, machine guns, and light mortars? Are we to insist that Iraqis endure more casualties so we can watch after committing to helping?

Second, you don't have to romanticize Maliki's government to recognize he heads the legally elected government and is trying to suppress armed bands outside of the law. For all the howls about Blackwater, at least the company faces legal limits on its actions and can be held accountable. What mechanisms check Sadr and the Shia thugs? Well, the government security forces. Which Maliki is using.

So we get back to the importance of the first paragraph above where Cordesman recounts the obvious problems with the Shia thugs. And without the silliness of the next two paragraphs, we should see why Iraq needs to bring those goons to heel and continue the efforts to pacify Iraq. And we should certainly recognize that in providing support to the Iraqi line units, we are carrying out the plan for developing the Iraqi forces.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Shallowness of Sadr

The threat posed by Sadr and Iranian-backed terrorists to the Iraqi government is potentially the most potent threat because it comes from the 60% majority of Shias in Iraq.

But the immediate threat is low since most Iraqis want nothing to do with Iranian-backed mullah rule. And these militias, other than the Iranian-backed killers, are far less effective as fighters than the al Qaeda and Baathist killers that we've already defeated.

The Sunni Arabs are defeated in the sense that they no longer pose a threat to the central government. They still fight on in far lower strength, obviously. How long they sputter on if we resolutely pursue them is the main question.

The Shia thugss, having made a serious attempt in spring 2004 and another in August 2004 that were beaten down by our forces, are no longer even as potent as they were in 2004. Today, the Shia militias are mostly criminal gangs:

In the last year, the number of terror attacks has sharply declined, as the Shia Arab criminals and militias are not interested in slaughtering civilians. They were interested in maintaining control over neighborhoods, criminal enterprises, and augmenting political control. Many of these militias were supported by Iran, a neighbor that wanted to have more control over what went on inside Iraq. But Iran is run by the Shia clergy, and the prospect of a religious dictatorship in Iraq turned off many Iraqis. This was no secret to anyone, and the Iraqi government, run by more independent minded Shia, finally agreed that the Iran backed militias could not be tolerated. This has led to a recent campaign to take apart the more troublesome factions. The worst of the lot are in Basra, where Shia militias make a lot of money off the oil and port operations down there. These gangs were getting greedy, and stealing more than the government was willing to tolerate. Thus in the last week, thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers moved into Basra and began arresting members of the Mahdi Army (run by Shia cleric Moqtada al Sadr). At the same time, police moved in on Mahdi Army groups in Baghdad. But Basra was where the money was, and the fighting was expected to be long and difficult. On March 26th, the government gave the Mahdi Army three days to surrender, or face some real violence. For some Shia gangsters, this seems to mean American smart bombs. That rumor is all over Basra, and the bad guys are truly scared. Hiding out in a mosque won't help, because American ground troops are not involved. Iraqi cops have no problem clearing out a mosque.

They are defending their gang turf but they are in it for the money and if the Iraqi government is as resolute as the words imply, at some point the gangs will disperse since their members aren't looking for a vague reward in the afterlife--they want benefits now. And being dead harms that ambition.

Right now, there is a lot of smoke involved in the Iraqi campaign to defang the Shia militias in the south and in Baghdad. What is not clear is whether the boasting of the Sadrists can take them very far in a violent confrontation with the government security forces backed by our air power and troops if necessary.

So far, Maliki doesn't appear ready to back down:

The Iraqi leader made his pledge to tribal leaders in the Basra area as military operations continued for a fourth day with stiff resistance.

"We have made up our minds to enter this battle and we will continue until the end. No retreat," he said in a speech broadcast on Iraqi state TV.

Strategypage says this fight will be tough and will go on a while. I imagine this refers to the long process of rooting out gangs and the corruption they fostered. I can't imagine the overt fighting dragging on if the Iraqi security forces keep the pressure up on the Shia gangs.

The Iranian-backed killers are a different story altogether, but they are much smaller and without the sea of Shia gangs to swim in will be easier to tackle. Just as the lack of Sunni Arab resistance has made the Shia gangs more vulnerable to a government campaign right now.

The Sadrists need to be taken down. And they must be taken down well before the provincial elections to keep Shia gangs from corrupting the election process through armed intimidation.

I think the government has the power to take Sadr down and isolate the Iranian-backed forces for a further campaign against these tougher but smaller forces. We shall see if the government and Sadr agree.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Military and Political Surges

We will win in Iraq.

This describes how the military surge came about. Note especially the two attempts to retake Baghdad in summer 2006 that failed. I've noted that we weren't blind to the post-Samarra problems but tried to deal with them with the old rules. The surge was developed when it became apparent that we couldn't handle the new threat under the old template.

And this article describes how Iraqi democracy is developing. The deal-making is so normal from our point of view that I don't know how anyone can claim Iraq isn't a democracy. It has a way to go, of course, but it beats most countries in the world for freedom and representation.

Victory will result from thes two surges.

Hired Guns

Don't you dare be shocked by this revelation:

Saddam Hussein's intelligence agency secretly financed a trip to Iraq for three U.S. lawmakers during the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The three anti-war Democrats made the trip in October 2002, while the Bush administration was trying to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Iraq. While traveling, they called for a diplomatic solution.

Funny how our "dissenters" can be our enemies' allies.

The Next Threat

Well, with the Baathists, Sunni Arab tribes, and al Qaeda in Iraq declining threats, the Shia thugs have risen to the top of the to-kill list. This includes both Sadr's boys and Iran's puppets 9and some overlap, of course):

Iraq's prime minister warned gunmen in the oil port of Basra to surrender their weapons by Friday or face harsher measures, as clashes between security forces and Shiite militia fighters spread throughout the south and in Baghdad.

The fighting is still going on. I imagine that Maliki wants this to be done relatively low key to avoid providing the Sadrists with sympathy form the wider Shia population.

Given what I believe is Sadr's weakness, I truly would be shocked if this latest crisis explodes into levels of violence that past threats provided. For this to happen, the Iranians would have to decide to really escalate their level of involvement. Already they help shell the Green Zone:

In Baghdad, 16 rockets slammed into the U.S.-protected Green Zone, the U.S. military said, as the heavily fortified area was hammered for the third time this week. One soldier with the U.S.-led coalition, two American civilians and an Iraqi soldier were wounded in the attacks, it said.At least 11 Iraqis were killed elsewhere in the capital by rounds that apparently fell short, police said.

I assume these are the Iranian-supported terrorists. While it appears that the Iraqis can handle the Sadrists (and recall in 2004 that we had to fight them without the raw Iraqi security forces), we need to take down the Iranian-supported goons. It really should be unacceptable that the Green Zone is being shelled at will.

This is a necessary step in securing Iraq and not a reversal of the surge gains. The 3-day deadline to surrender should be interesting to observe. While I wouldn't expect surrenders, if the Sadrists are as weak as I suspect, they may disperse and disappear by the deadline and leave Iraqi security forces in control of Basra and the other cities in dispute.

Perhaps We've Been Hasty Comrades

Russia portrays the West as their near-enemy, thwarting their just goals at every turn with evil machinations:

The West may face new diplomatic problems with resurgent Russia because of European and U.S. efforts to stifle Moscow's influence, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in an annual review on Tuesday.

And actions like this over Serbia and Kosovo seem to show that Russia is intent on restarting the Cold War:

Russia on Monday announced plans to send humanitarian aid to Serb-populated enclaves in Kosovo at the request of the Serbian government, a step that underscored Moscow's rejection of Kosovo's independence.

Yet despite the harsh words, sending food and medicine to the Serbs of Kosovo is a far cry from airlifting a motor rifle regiment in to create a new Cold War line to confront the West.

And other actions show that Russia's leaders aren't determined to be our enemy despite the words.

After their sabre rattling over the declaration of independence from Serbia by Kosovo, Russia has not sent troops to leverage the crisis into an opportunity to display their military power:

Despite all the dire predictions, Russia did not mobilize troops and threaten violence when Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Russia did warn that this would lead to more separatist problems in Eurasia, as several other separatist regions use Kosovo as an inspiration to more action and violence.

So why didn't Russia ship in some troops?

And the Russians are getting set to let us supply our forces in Afghanistan through Russian territory, from a story a week ago:

NATO said on Saturday it was nearing a deal to use Russian land and airspace to supply its security forces in Afghanistan, but Western diplomats denied any trade-off with Moscow to keep Ukraine and Georgia out of NATO.

Still, the danger is that the cynical manipulation of public opinion by Russia's new autocrats will turn around and compel them--lest they lose power to Russians willing to adopt confrontational policies--to adopt the policies of confrontation that they only pretend to adopt now. The Russian leaders only want a pretend Cold War. But they need to convince their people it is real.

Yet while Russia is no democracy, it is not the communist dictatorship of the Cold War. Russian public opinion matters. and if the public is convinced that Russia needs to confront a supposedly hostile West, what Russian leader will risk telling the truth to the Russia people that the claim that the West is hostile was all a charade?

I think we need to be patient with Russia to allow the Cold War relics to pass from the scene. Bbut in the meantime we must make Russia's leaders suffer for pretending to be at war with us to make them stop, lest that hostility become the reality.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Shia Front

Shia radicals continued a low-level challenge earlier today to our forces and the Iraqi government:

Iraqi forces clashed with Shiite militiamen Tuesday in the southern oil port of Basra and rockets rained down on the U.S.-protected Green Zone in Baghdad as followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr expanded a nationwide backlash against government crackdowns.

The U.S. Embassy said no deaths or serious casualties were reported in the Green Zone attacks — the second major barrage this week launched from Shiite areas. Two rockets landed on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's compound, but did not explode, an Iraqi government security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the information.

Al-Maliki was in Basra, where he is supervising the operation against the Shiite militia fighters. At least 22 people were killed in the Basra fighting, officials said.

This opposition from within the Shia community represents a minority of Shia opinion. It is also divided into the Sadrist elements that Sadr commands and the Iranian-backed thugs who have some number who are actually just Iranians (there were plenty of refugees from Iraq from the Saddam era in Iran) slipped into Iraq. Remember, too, that there is no ceasefire from the Iranian thugs. They continue to fight us, ceasefire or no ceasefire by Sadr.

The vast majority of Shias want nothing to do with any of these elements, but the government and our forces must treat them carefully because though the Shia thugs may be thugs, they are still Shia and so can call on some sympathy from the non-violent majority if the government response is seen as too harsh. One can see why Maliki is in Basra to personally direct a very sensitive operation.

The news reports later in the day on the surface seem scary with spreading fighting against the Shia thugs:

With Iraq's top leaders directing the battle, Iraq's army and national police pressed a major operation Tuesday to wrest control of the southern port city of Basra from the Shiite Mahdi Army militia. Fighting between government forces and the militia quickly spread through Iraq's south and into Baghdad.

Yet the Shia thugs risk much by choosing to violently confront the government. We shall see if this is a spasm or a sustained effort by our Sadrist enemies. Talk of Sadr reversing the gains of the surge are misleading. Yes, if the Sadrists provoke a full conflict, violence will go up. But most of the violence will be government and American forces killing and capturing the Shia thugs.

And without the al Qaeda and Baathist resistance in the field fighting the government full throttle, the Shia thugs expose themselves to the full fury of our side's security forces. Never forget that the ceasefire has kept our side from overtly taking on the Sadrist thugs as much as it has kept the Shia thugs from killing civilians and attacking us. By striking at the government, the Sadrists give the government more options for using force without provoking sympathy.

And if we are going to have a confrontation with Sadr's goons and the Iranian-backed terrorists, it would probably be better to do it before we withdraw all of our surge forces. While Iraqi forces are fighting now, it is good to have US troops in the theater capable of helping out if needed.

Remember, too, that with provincial elections probably set for the fall, the Shia militias need to be defeated so voters will be able to cast ballots without fear.

This bears watching, but I don't think this is a threat that could defeat the government because I don't think Sadr commands enough support among the Shias to sustain a revolt.

Recruiting Jihadis

Iraq, our Left assures us, is just creating more jihadis than we kill. Actually, they say that about any effort to fight back. And while I do not question that a fight against jihadis requires nonmilitary means to undermine the appeal of jihad, making sure there are few survivors among the jihad recruits is a major element of undermining the appeal of jihad.

Strategypage writes:

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was seen by al Qaeda as a challenge (infidel troops in the Middle East) and a tremendous opportunity (infidel troops in the Middle East). For the last five years, Iraq became a magnet for al Qaeda fans, making it difficult to organize attacks outside the Middle East. Worse, the fighting in Iraq killed far more Iraqis than Americans. This eventually destroyed al Qaedas popularity among Moslems. Iraq is lost to al Qaeda, where it has been the most hated organization for the last three years. Al Qaedas poll numbers are down across the Moslem world. So bin Laden is playing to the few strengths al Qaeda still has. The cartoon controversy first showed up a year ago, when al Qaeda found out about Danish political cartoons that protested Islamic terrorism. Al Qaeda got on the web and turned this around by calling the images blasphemy. There were demonstrations all over the Islamic world, and dozens died. Then it all died down. Recently, one of the cartoons was published again, in response to the arrest of three Moslem men, in Denmark, who were accused of plotting to murder one of the Danish cartoonists. This time around, there are not as many demonstrations, and not as much violence. Al Qaeda sees it as a recruiting opportunity. However, the last time around, most of the recruits went off to Iraq, where they largely died. European counter-terror organizations are noting who is calling for violence against the cartoonists.

I find it fascinating that even though Iraq is supposed to be bin Laden's greatest recruiting tool, he is now fanning the flames of cartoon resentment as the appeal of fighting America in Iraq wanes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

You Get What You Pay For

We have a free press. I am thankful for that. But the herd instinct of our press corps means that the vast majority of "reporters" do nothing of the sort. The Saddam-al Qaeda link is a case in point:

Newly published Iraqi documents reveal just how extensive Saddam's involvement with international terrorism was. The summary of these documents, published under the heading Saddam and Terrorism, has been reported across the world and read by almost no one.

Its first paragraph reads: "The Iraqi Perspectives Project review of captured Iraqi documents uncovered strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism. Despite their incompatible long-term goals, many terrorist movements and Saddam found a common enemy in the US.

"At times these organisations worked together, trading access for capability. In the period after the 1991 Gulf War, the regime of Saddam Hussein supported a complex and increasingly disparate mix of pan-Arab revolutionary causes and emerging pan-Islamic radical movements."

We get too little real journalism about these subjects and too much "churnalism", in which a single sometimes misleading wire report is repeated by thousands of commentators while nobody bothers to read the source document.

The world was misled about this report because of the focus on one single sentence of the report, which said: "This study found no smoking gun (that is, a direct connection) between Saddam's Iraq and al-Qa'ida."

However, the report does portray a vast network of Iraqi support for terrorist organisations that includes numerous groups the report identifies as "part of al-Qa'ida". The misleading and declaratory sentence presumably refers only to Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida central itself.

For example, the report states: "Captured documents reveal that the regime (of Saddam) was willing to co-opt or support organisations it knew to be part of al-Qa'ida, as long as that organisation's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term vision." This included, for example, Saddam providing financial support for Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy.

Acknowledging this support, but saying there's no smoking gun directly to al-Qa'ida itself, means the report is taking an incredibly restrictive and precise view of al-Qa'ida.

But in any event this report is not claiming, as wrongly reported in the wires, that there was no link with al-Qa'ida, merely that it found no absolute smoking gun in the translated documents.

We continue to see the same churnalism among our elite reporters when it comes to the Iranian nuclear question.

One day, perhaps, we'll establish journalism schools to teach these people how to actually report on news events instead of issuing opinion pieces under color of news. But I'm a dreamer. Or perhaps naive. As if describing what you see should require a specialized degree in "reporting" rather than subject manner education!

So rejoice that we have a free press. But remember that sometimes you get what you pay for.

A Strange Way to Win a War

If, as our Left insists, we are losing both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, why do our jihadi enemies seem to be increasing their focus on Pakistan? (Tip to Gateway Pundit via Instapundit)

Pakistan is not only among the countries with the highest incidence of terrorism but it also tops the list of suicide bombings, leaving Afghanistan and Iraq behind during the first three months of 2008. During this period, Pakistan experienced eighteen suicide attacks in which more than 250 people died. Whereas in both war-ridden countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, had a fewer number of suicide attacks. Iraq experienced thirteen suicide bombings which claimed 274 lives while 15 people died in three suicide attacks in Afghanistan during the first three months of 2008.

In the middle of last year, I noticed that our jihadi enemies seemed to be shifting their focus to Pakistan at the expense of both Afghanistan and Iraq. In the fall, I openly called the new front as the main enemy effort.

So our enemies add to our coalition of the willing by denying Pakistanis the option of opting out of the Long War. Perhaps this will be the last jihad, after all.

The Army Not Broken

Major General Scales (retired) is a good military analyst. And when he said last year that our Army was broken, I paid attention. I didn't see any evidence that it was broken but the stress was clear and I worried he was right. Or would be right if we didn't reduce the stress on the Army at some point.

Well, he now says he was wrong:

"If you haven't heard the news, I'm afraid your Army is broken, a victim of too many missions for too few soldiers for too long. ... Today, anecdotal evidence of collapse is all around."

But now, one year later, Scales has done an about-face. He says that he was wrong. Despite all the predictions of imminent collapse, the U.S. Army and the combat brigades have proven to be surprisingly resilient.

One of the reasons?

Scales said he didn’t take into account that, unlike Vietnam, this Army is sending soldiers to fight as a unit — not as individuals. He also neglected the "Band of Brothers" phenomenon — the feeling of responsibility to fellow soldiers that prompts members of service to re-enlist.

I can understand this belated realization. It wasn't until I read a book on the Vietnam war recently that I was reminded of the terrible policy about withdrawing soldiers instead of units. At this point it finally hit me that this was a key reason for the resiliency of our Army and Marine units despite the tempo in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lawrence Korb disagrees with Scales. But Korb is unfit to comment on military matters as far as I'm concerned. Says Korb:

Not all the military analysts who made similar predictions last year agree. Lawrence Korb, who worked on personnel issues during the Reagan administration, testified to Congress last July: "As Gen. Barry McCaffrey pointed out when we testified together before the Senate Armed Services Committee in April, ‘the ground combat capability of the U.S. armed forces is shot.'"

Korb, a resident scholar at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, told FOX News the Army is worse off than it was a year ago. He suggested that the Army is not being honest with its re-enlistment and retention numbers, an accusation echoed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo.

The Army’s use of stop-loss — the automatic re-enlistment of soldiers whose units are being redeployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, even if their service time is up — has distorted the figures, Korb said.

He also said that while the numbers of captains leaving the military may not be alarming, the number of captains educated at West Point is. According to Korb, half of the eligible captains from West Point’s class of 2002 have left the service.

And then there are the re-enlistment bonuses, which rose from $50 million in 1998 to $562 million per year in 2007. The amount of re-enlistment bonuses paid is now five times what it was at the start of the Iraq war, according to U.S. Army figures.

Korb is mixing things up to argue the Army is broken. He says the Army is worse than last year and that our "ground combat capability is shot" is not the same as saying the Army is broken. Truly, our ability to fight conventional combat operations is shot. This means that the Army is "unbalanced" in that we are--rightly--focusing on counter-insurgency training to win the wars we are in. When we can free up troops--troops who've gained valuable combat experience--we will retrain them in conventional combat operations.

And Korb does not understand stop-loss. This is about defending unit cohesion when a unit is about to deploy so it will remain effective. It is not any type of "back door draft." This policy saves lives by keeping units intact when they go to war.

As for his charge of distorting retention numbers, the Army is expanding its ranks successfully during war so how exactly is the Army hiding something? Somebody is manning our new units.

On the captain loss, I've yet to see anything that shows we are losing more than we usually do to any significant extent. This charge has been raised before yet our Army still wins.

Finally, enlistment and reenlistment bonuses are certianly higher, but they are a tool to recruit troops. How on Earth is this proof the Army is broken? Korb may not like the fact that we've had to pay more to put soldiers into the field during war with an economy that still has historically low unemployment, but the fact is we have maintained our strength using tools like the higher bonuses.

Our Army is stressed. And we need to take actions to counter and eventually relieve that stress. So far, we seem to be doing that successfully. Don't confuse this, as Korb seems to do, with the other problem of being unbalanced--so focused on counter-insurgency that we are slighting conventional warfighting skills. But once Iraq deployments slow after victory, the problems of both stress and balance will be resolved. And we will retain the combat experienced troops for a generation.

But winning the Iraq War is priority one. Remember that the Army exists to win our wars--we don't lose wars to preserve the Army. And if we lose the Iraq War in order to relieve stress on the Army, the defeat will break the Army far more effectively than stress will.

Our Army has performed magnificently. And don't you forget for one moment that this pisses our Left off more than anything. They'd hoped for an Army that frags its officers, torches villages, and smokes dope.

Instead our Army is breaking enemies all over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Retention Isn't Even an Issue

Al Qaeda is having problems finding recruits for Iraq duty amongst the usual suspects of losers. Word is filtering back about the hammering they've taken and the sad (for them) fact that few wannabe jihadis get to kill American troops. Oh sure, they can slaughter kids and women in a pet market or mosque, but that's not exactly the stuff of inspirational videos:

No one there wants to admit that al Qaeda has been beaten in Iraq, but the more first-hand accounts that show up, the more convincing the stories are. The truth is this. The al Qaeda volunteers have long been enticed by the prospect of killing American soldiers. That rarely happens, and survivor accounts always make that point, and the fact that al Qaeda is mostly killing Iraqis. Last year, most of the Sunni Arabs turned on al Qaeda, and this has been most difficult for the al Qaeda recruiters to deal with.

Some of the volunteers get no farther than Syria, where they find that you can't always get across the border, or that the contacts on the other side are not up to the task of delivering the foreigners to operational al Qaeda units in the interior. ... For most of the last four years, the al Qaeda volunteers would go to Iraq and "die a glorious death." Now the trip tends to end in despair and humiliation. The word is getting around, and the recruiters don't like it.

This highlights the silliness of the anti-war side's claim that fighting the jihadis just creates more jihadis. Obviously, both sides mobilize resources as the fight drags on. But once we start really killing them and defeating them, the jihadis have problems recruiting for the cause.

This impact on enemy recruiting is really more important for the wider war on Islamo-fascism than it is for Iraqi itself. Inside Iraq, breaking up the cells that "manufacture" and deliver the suicide bombers is more important than drying up the supply of cannon fodder to detonate themselves. But the evidence of defeat in Iraq will discourage the vast majority of people who increasingly will now decide to limit their personal jihad to a really stinging flame war on a bulletin board.

We continue to recruit and retain troops to expand our ground forces while our jihadi enemies find themselves unable to scrape up the dreg suicide bombers they need to appear all powerful.

So we find ourselves winning in Iraq and winning the wider war against Islamo-fascism.

UPDATE: One element of the story is our rolling up of the al Qaeda recruiting teams who filmed videos to put on jihadi websites:

The U.S. military said on Saturday it had hampered al Qaeda's ability to recruit new members in Iraq by capturing or killing many of the people who make slick videos used to attract disaffected young Muslims.

U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Greg Smith said that in the past year, 39 al Qaeda members in Iraq responsible for producing and disseminating videos and other material to thousands of Internet Web sites had been captured or killed.

This highlights another element of the war--let's not get too wrapped up in the cyberwar aspects of the Long War. Yes, we need to fight the war on the Internet. But where a "conventional" Internet-centric analysis of the conflict in cyberspace would have argued for an online counter-attack, our military thought outside the box and simply nailed the offenders in the real physical world.

Death is the ultimate denial of service attack.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Still Not Chinese

Even though the Chinese have had since the mid-twentieth century to win hearts and minds in Tibet, all is not well in the imperial provinces:

China said 19 people died in riots in the Tibetan capital last week and official media warned against the unrest spreading to the northwest region of Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims bridle under Chinese control.

The Chinese are not amused:

"No matter whether it's Tibetan independence, Xinjiang independence or Taiwanese independence, their goal is all the same -- to create chaos and split the motherland," said a commentary on the official Xinjiang news Web site (

"China and Beijing's holding of the Olympic Games in 2008 has led separatists at home and abroad to believe they have a golden opportunity. To put it bluntly, if they don't wreck things, they won't feel comfortable, because they won't have achieved their goal of spoiling China's image."

Yes, people who don't like being under the heel of the communist Chinese are taking advantage of China's invitation to shine a spotlight on China. But the Chinese will not be kind to these people:

"We must see through the secessionist forces' evil intentions, uphold the banner of maintaining social stability ... and resolutely crush the 'Tibet independence' forces' conspiracy," the People's Daily said in an editorial.

The article refers to the People's Armed Police being used. These are basically army troops. Over the last decade, the Chinese have "downsized" their army by taking the poorly equipped foot infantry divisions and slapping "police" labels on the equipment. Voila! An army division is now a police division.

Despite the show of how China deals with people in China who should know their place, the KMT won the Taiwanese election and the Taiwanese defeated the referenda on applying to the UN for membership:

The Central Election Commission also said two referendums calling on the government to work for the island's entry into the United Nations failed. China had warned that the referendums threatened stability in the region.

Ma has based his campaign on promises to reverse the pro-independence direction of outgoing President Chen Shui-bian and leverage China's white-hot economic boom to re-energize Taiwan's ailing high-tech economy.

Economic worries trumped worries about Chinese intentions.

The Taiwanese are perhaps lucky that Tibet has muffled the impact of their vote on UN membership by limiting the immediate Chinese response. But if China ever decides to apply their 1950 solution to Tibet to Taiwan by invading that island democracy, the Taiwanese might find they made a very dangerous choice by giving Peking the excuse that Taiwanese rejected independence with their vote.

The Taiwan Strait Imbalance

The Chinese have been increasing their military power while Taiwan has dithered on new arms purchases. The Department of Defense annual report on Chinese military power highlights the trends. Arthur K. tipped me to this analysis:

In the 2002 report, for example, the Pentagon could still reassure itself with the knowledge that the air forces of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan not only have "enjoyed dominance of the airspace over the Taiwan Strait for many years," but still maintained "a qualitative edge over" the PLA Air Force (PLAAF). In contrast, the new report observes that the PLAAF and the PLA Navy now have approximately 2,250 operational combat aircraft, of which 490 are positioned within range of Taiwan and could conduct operations against the island without refueling. It also warns that "this number could be significantly increased through any combination of aircraft forward deployment, decreased ordnance loads, or altered mission profiles." Against the waves of fighters, ground attack planes, fighter-bombers and bombers—many of them fourth-generation aircraft—which Beijing could potentially send against it, Taipei only has some 390 fighters, most of which are American F-16s, French Mirage 2000s and Taiwan’s own Indigenous Defense Fighters (IDFs), which rely on 1970s and 1980s technology.

The naval balance has also shifted. The ROC Navy has a total of 97 ships, more than half of which are missile-armed coastal patrol boats. With 232 ships, the PLA Navy is the largest force of principal combatants, submarines and amphibious warfare vessels in Asia. Together, its closest naval forces to Taiwan, the Dinghai-based East Fleet and the Zhan Jiang–based South Fleet, include a nuclear attack submarine, 32 diesel-powered attack submarines, 17 destroyers, 36 frigates, 47 amphibious assault ships and 35 missile patrol craft. Even more ominously, the PLA has progressively increased both the quality and the quantity of its short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) systems which, in the event of conflict, could, according to the Pentagon report, be deployed against air defense systems "to support a campaign to degrade Taiwan’s defenses, neutralize Taiwan’s military and political leadership, and possibly break the Taiwan people’s will to fight."

Yet as I noted earlier about the report, somehow we've concluded that China is less capable of invading Taiwan than they were several years ago.

If Taiwan is to have enough military power to deter China from invading, or defeating such an invasion, or even just delaying a Chinese advance long enough for us to help, Taiwan needs to maintain their recent uptick in defense spending.

Yet right now, Taiwan's weaknesses give China an opening to secure naval and air superiority over the Taiwanese in the Taiwan Strait. The big question is how long it would take for Chinese forces to beat down Taiwanese air and naval power and whether China could translate that dominance into an actual ground invasion with airborne and amphibious forces.

The really big question is whether American forces like this (with help from Japan, I should add) can keep the air and naval balance from tipping in China's favor once shooting starts (tip to Mad Minerva for emailing me the link):

Aircraft carriers USS Kitty Hawk and USS Nimitz are both "conducting scheduled, routine operations in the Western Pacific," said Master Chief Shane Tuck, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. "With the Nimitz, that carrier's deployment includes its entire carrier strike group. For the Kitty Hawk, only the USS Curtis Wilbur is accompanying that carrier," Tuck said by telephone Thursday.

Forces like this will tip the balance back in our favor. Yet if the Chinese think that this is the year to finally solve their Taiwan problem, either before the Olympics or even after (and I've admitted that nothing is visible to me that indicates an invasion might be coming in the next several months), we'll need to see more "scheduled, routine operations" like this and other exercises the rest of this year involving Marine Corps and Air Force units, as well as reminders that our Ohio class cruise missile submarines are prowling the western Pacific ready for action.

It would be nice if the Chinese conclude they can't win when faced with our power, but they may believe they've solved the American problem.

It isn't like this would be the first time an enemy has miscalculated our resolve to fight.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Breaking the Army

North Korea continues its post-Cold War slide to oblivion. Not that North Korea was a prize before 1991, but at least they could maintain conventional armed forces to threaten South Korea.

But with resources tight and the elites determined to keep their privileged status and lifestyle, something had to give. So the North Korean regime decided on a strategy of spooks and nukes:

Secret police and nuclear weapons are the new leading instruments to keep Kim Jong Il and his merry band of murderers in power. Interesting priorities given that the North Koreans like to insist they fear we will invade them at any moment.

So the army was left to rot. Yet lots of armed men are a threat so this seems like a risk for the North Korean communists to take. And now the army is being stripped of financial resources:

The North Korean armed forces have lost the power struggle with the "economic reformers" in the government. Many senior generals have been forced to retire in the past few months. The military has been stripped of many of its economic assets, mainly because of mismanagement and corruption. The police have been given the power to arrest military personnel for "economic crimes" and corruption. ...

The North Korea military has been declining for over a decade, and the government has apparently concluded that there's no point in putting a lot of money into the military when the economic situation is so dire.

The elites may have just doubled down. Strapped for resources, the regime is putting the screws to the military and perhaps hoping that discontent in the ranks will simmer but not boil for the time it takes to revive the economy enough to generate sufficient wealth to again quiet the generals.

Based on their track record on their economy, and a new South Korean government less willing to shovel money north, my guess is that Pyongyang fails.

What an unhappy but still very large army will do when the flow of goodies does not restart could make for an ugly Romanian-style meltdown.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oops. Was This Mike Live?

Bin Laden, perhaps getting a little stir crazy in his double-wide cave somewhere in Pakistan, has let off a bit of steam by ranting against the West.

With setbacks in his fight with America in Afghanistan and Iraq, he has called on the old reliable standby for terrorists everywhere--solidarity with the Palestinians:

A day after a bin Laden audio on a militant Web site threatened Europeans, Al-Jazeera TV broadcast audio excerpts attributed to the al-Qaida leader that urge Palestinians to ignore political parties "mired in trickery of the blasphemous democracy" and to rely on armed might.

"Palestine cannot be retaken by negotiations and dialogue, but with fire and iron," he said.

So far, so good. Standard boilerplate for any rousing jihadi audio sermon that any self-respecting Leftist in America can agree is surely a good reason for jihadis to slaughter infidels.

But then bin Laden went and spoiled the happy progressive party line:

Bin Laden added that Palestinians who are unable to fight in the "land of Al-Quds" — a Muslim reference to Jerusalem — should join the al-Qaida fight in Iraq.

"The nearest field of jihad today to support our people in Palestine is the Iraqi field," he said.

You mean al Qaeda is fighting in Iraq? Say it ain't so, Osama! Am I to understand that the group of terrorists we are fighting in Iraq--called Al Qaeda in Iraq--is actually al Qaeda in Iraq?

Who'd of thunk it?

Not that we aren't also fighting Baathists and Sunni Arab chauvinists, and Iranian-sponsored Shia terrorists, too. But our enemy that struck us on 9/11 really is fighting us in Iraq.

Despite the bizarre denials of our Left, the real fight against al Qaeda is taking place right now in Iraq where we are crushing Osama's grand dreams of slaughtering infidels on his way to restoring the caliphate and moving out of that stinking cave he's lived in the last six years.

But the reality-resistant community will cover their ears and ignore this basic fact of the war in Iraq.

Dead Enders Losing Hope

I wrote that we have a coalition to pursue victory based on recent opinion survey.

Even though most Americans don't consider the Iraq War to be worth the price, only a little less than 20% of Americans want us to pull out of Iraq. The distribution of opinion for the remaining 40%, I wrote, means that a vast majority of Americans either want to win or are willing to win because they are too uncertain of the results to advocate withdrawal before winning.

So with the 20% withdraw-now people insisting they reflect public opinion for withdrawal now and damn the consequences, you'd think that with the prospects of reaching 4,000 killed in action by the fifth anniversary of the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom that the anti-war masses would be out in force.

The anti-war side was certainly out, but they couldn't even rally enough support from their 20% base to even pretend that they are the vanguard of the people:

On previous anniversaries, tens of thousands of people marched through major U.S. cities, and more than 100,000 gathered on several occasions leading up to the invasion.

Only a few hundred mustered for one of Wednesday's largest gatherings, in Washington, the crowds' size perhaps kept in check by a late-winter storm system that stretched the length of the country.

Yes, perhaps it was the weather. That's the reason. Any other reason was beyond the comprehension of the AP story author and numerous contributors to the story.

If the anti-war side couldn't work up more than a few hundred protesters for Washington, D.C., on the fifth anniversary of the war, I think I'm secure in my judgment that we have enough of a coalition of Americans to win this war.

No Blood for Ylang-ylang Oil!

This is interesting:

The first batch of African Union (AU) troops arrived on the Comoros island of Moheli Thursday, joining Comoran forces massed for a military offensive to retake the rebel island of Anjouan.

The Indian Ocean archipelago -- between Madagascar and Mozambique -- did not recognise the re-election of Anjouan leader Colonel Mohamed Bacar in June 2007 and a tense stand-off is now poised to turn into an AU-backed invasion of the island.

"Massing" is perhaps a bit misleading:

According to Comoran military sources, the first AU detachment consists of 200 Sudanese and 150 Tanzanian troops.

These troops are the first of a thousand African Union forces that will arrive to support 400 Comoran troops.

With a population of 240,000 (as of 1991), Anjouan would need to be policed by 4,800 if we are to accept the 2% rule about controlling a rebellious population.

Who is planning this farce with insufficiently resourced invasion troops? How much armor do they have? Where's the post-conflict plan in five parts and three appendices? Just where is Rumsfeld these days?

The French are transporting AU troops for the operation. I smell ulterior motives, here. I think we have a conspiracy unfolding before our eyes!

Consider that Anjouan is the primary source of ylang-ylang oil, which is an ingredient for almost all perfumes!

So who will benefit from the ylang-ylang oil pipeline contract?

What Chanel executive is bribing the French government to benefit from the French support of this blatant perfume grab?

Are poor minority soldiers (Well, they aren't minorities there, I admit. But you know what I mean) to die so French hookers (or New Jersey ones) can smell nice?

I blame the NeoCons.

No blood for ylang-ylang oil!

UPDATE: Sadly, I can't copyright the slogan. Someone else appears to have coined it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Refugee Weapon

This article about Zimbabwe highlights the effects of refugees on the internal political situation of a country:

Millions who fled Zimbabwe amid its economic collapse blame President Robert Mugabe, but their inability to vote in elections this month may boost his chances to stay in power.

Imagine what the presence of 3.5 million angry people now in exile could do if inside Zimbabwe?

Which is why I oppose efforts to spend money on the Iraqi Sunni Arabs who fled Iraq the last couple years. They are mostly Baathist supporters and their absence from Iraq helps the Iraqi government to win the war against the Sunni terrorists and insurgents.

And their presence in Syria in large numbers is a burden on Syria which supports our enemies inside Iraq. This is also good.

Further, I've opposed accepting Iraqis into the United States as refugees in large numbers precisely to keep people friendly to us inside Iraq who will fight for a free and democratic Iraq. It is counter-productive to let Iraqis into our country in large numbers when that will simply undermine the effort to stabilize Iraq as a friendly country. A lot of people from peaceful countries want to come here, remember?

Refugees are a weapon in war. We're doing just fine on this front.

Process--Not Puppet

After the much lamented delay in the provincial election law that our Left exploited to argue for retreating now, the Iraqis have passed the legislation:

Iraq's presidential council has withdrawn its objection to a provincial elections law. The announcement on the fifth anniversary of the war gives a major boost to U.S.-backed efforts to promote national reconciliation.

So October 1st elections should take place and bring the Sunnis fully into the democratic system.

But our Left will seize on something else to argue for retreat and defeat. They're tenacious that way.

Save Your Disdain for McCain

The Left is having a field day with this:

Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting, mistakenly said Tuesday that Iran was allowing al-Qaeda fighters into the country to be trained and returned to Iraq.

McCain, expressing concern about Iran's rising sway in the Mideast, said, "Al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and is receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran." He made the comments Tuesday at a news conference in Jordan; he made similar comments earlier to radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Iran is a predominantly Shiite Muslim country and has been at pains to close its borders to al-Qaeda fighters of the rival Sunni sect.

Iran has been accused by the United States of funding, training and arming Iraqi Shiite militants in their uprising against the United States. But there have been no allegations by Washington and no evidence that al-Qaeda has benefited from Iranian assistance.

The faux nuance of our Left insists that Shias and Sunnis can never cooperate. I guess somebody better remind Ahmadinejad that Hamas is Sunni. And I guess Libyan support for Iran during much of the Iran-Iraq War didn't happen.

All along, Iran has worked with Syria which is supporting al Qaeda, so at the very least Iran has indirectly bolstered Sunni Arab jihadis in Iraq. I remain convinced that Iran probably had a hand in supporting the destruction of the Samarra Mosque in February 2006. And Iran certainly supports Shia thugs in Iraq. Really, since Iran wants chaos in Iraq, what better way to start a civil war than to support both al Qaeda and Sadr to shoot at each other?

Heck, Persian Iranians probably thought it was fairly clever to get Arab Shia Iraqis and Arab Sunni Iraqis to kill each other.

And heck, I suppose I should be happy that our Left is falling over themselves to admit Iran is destabilizing Iraq by claiming McCain failed to see that Iran is arming and training Shia thugs! This is an improvement over the Left's past bizarre claim that Iran has an interst in a stable Iraq.

But inconveniently for the line of attack on McCain's charge, this report is also out:

The news that American forces had captured Iranians in Iraq was widely reported last month, but less well known is that the Iranians were carrying documents that offered Americans insight into Iranian activities in Iraq.

An American intelligence official said the new material, which has been authenticated within the intelligence community, confirms "that Iran is working closely with both the Shiite militias and Sunni Jihadist groups." The source was careful to stress that the Iranian plans do not extend to cooperation with Baathist groups fighting the government in Baghdad, and said the documents rather show how the Quds Force — the arm of Iran's revolutionary guard that supports Shiite Hezbollah, Sunni Hamas, and Shiite death squads — is working with individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al-Sunna.

Another American official who has seen the summaries of the reporting affiliated with the arrests said it comprised a "smoking gun." "We found plans for attacks, phone numbers affiliated with Sunni bad guys, a lot of things that filled in the blanks on what these guys are up to," the official said.

One of the documents captured in the raids, according to two American officials and one Iraqi official, is an assessment of the Iraq civil war and new strategy from the Quds Force. According to the Iraqi source, that assessment is the equivalent of "Iran's Iraq Study Group," a reference to the bipartisan American commission that released war strategy recommendations after the November 7 elections. The document concludes, according to these sources, that Iraq's Sunni neighbors will step up their efforts to aid insurgent groups and that it is imperative for Iran to redouble efforts to retain influence with them, as well as with Shiite militias.

Oh, and that report is over a year old, from January 2007. I commented on the article back then, too. But I guess we need a redo on this fact for the attention deficit disorder Left.

But no, the Left is chiding McCain for his supposed ignorance of reality.

I am continuously amazed by the certainty that people who know nothing about Iraq, Iran, or warfare display when criticizing our war effort.


Ronald Krebs displays the same sense of Leftist diversity that holds Blacks are only authentic if they are angry and loud, and that women are only real women if they are radical leftist feminists, when he writes this:

Next week, Iraq Veterans Against the War will hold "Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan"—a four-day extravaganza designed to draw attention to the failures of U.S. foreign policy, the dehumanizing effects of counterinsurgency, and the inadequate provision of veterans' benefits. Yet the event, meant to recall the famous hearings of 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War, highlights how little Iraq war veterans have featured in the national political debate over the war.

What a crock. What Krebs means to say is how little effect Iraq War veterans who oppose the war have had on the debate. The vast majority of Iraq War veterans who are proud of our war have contributed to the lame numbers of war opponents who want us to lose the war by running away now.

But perhaps you aren't an authentic veteran unless you've personally confessed to non-existent war crimes in Iraq--regardless of whether you've been there.

But if you want to see veterans of Iraq having an impact on the war debate, you might want to check out these guys. But Krebs won't count them because they want to win the Iraq War.

The New Iraq

I have very little respect for Fred Kaplan's analytical abilities. See here and here for just two examples. I make no apologies for thinking Fred Kaplan is an overrated analyst. I'm just putting it up front. If you admire him, ignore me.

Anyway, I was tempted to fisk this article by the man. But good grief, it is such a target-rich environment that I can't bring myself to have a go at it.

But let me comment on just one part, where he summarizes the horrible results of the war as he sees them:

...and the best we can hope for will be a loosely federated Islamic republic that isn't completely in Iran's pocket.

One, if the Iraqis want a loose federation, they are free to have it. But remember that a federation is the plan and not a flaw. We don't want a centralized state that another madman can control by seizing the capital.

Second, while Iraq is certainly composed of Moslems and will be a republic, it is not going to be an Islamic republic with all the baggage that term carries (and this verbal slam is made despite the Left's denial that Islam is anything but a religion of peace).

Third, Iran will not dominate Iraq if the Iraqi people have anything to say about it.

And fourth, the best we can hope for his a free and democratic Iraq that fights with us as an ally in the Long War and inspires other Moslems to want democracy in place of the deadening autocracies that have given them nought but misery and woe the last sixty years.

So in one portion of a sentence, Fred Kaplan gets four things wrong. So forgive me for not slicing and dicing the whole thing. Or even one complete sentence. I'm just one man, after all. I am unwilling to be a volunteer Slate editor.

Instead, read this and understand what we are in the process of achieving in Iraq:

So we did not turn Baghdad into a democratic city on a hill, and we learned that the dismantling of Sunni tyranny would leave the Arab world's Shiite stepchildren with primacy in Iraq. A better country has nonetheless risen, midwifed by this American war. It is not a flawless democracy. But compare it to the prison it was under Saddam, the tyranny next door in Damascus and the norms of the region, and we can have a measure of pride in what America has brought forth in Baghdad.

This is not a Shiite state that we uphold. True, the Shiite majority was emancipated from a long history of fear and servitude, but Iraq's Shiites have told us in every way they can that their country is not a "sister republic" of the Persian theocracy to their east. If anything, the custodians of political power in Iraq have signaled their long-term intentions: an extended American presence in their midst and the shoring up of an oil state in the orbit of American power.

But our Left sees nothing and knows nothing. And they want the keys to the national car?

Further, even with the outcome of our long range goals and hopes for Iraq in the balance, we achieved much just in getting rid of the Saddam regime:

What our troops found in Iraq following Saddam's removal was horrifying. They uncovered children's prisons, and torture chambers, and rape rooms where Iraqi women were violated in front of their families. They found videos showing regime thugs mutilating Iraqis deemed disloyal to Saddam. And across the Iraqi countryside they uncovered mass graves of thousands executed by the regime.

Because we acted, Saddam Hussein no longer fills fields with the remains of innocent men, women and children. Because we acted, Saddam's torture chambers and rape rooms and children's prisons have been closed for good. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer invading its neighbors or attacking them with chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer paying the families of suicide bombers in the Holy Land. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer shooting at American and British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones and defying the will of the United Nations. Because we acted, the world is better and United States of America is safer. (Applause.)

When the Iraqi regime was removed, it did not lay down its arms and surrender. Instead, former regime elements took off their uniforms and faded into the countryside to fight the emergence of a free Iraq. And then they were joined by foreign terrorists who were seeking to stop the advance of liberty in the Middle East and seeking to establish safe havens from which to plot new attacks across the world.

The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated -- but it is a fight we must win. So our troops have engaged these enemies with courage and determination. And as they've battled the terrorists and extremists in Iraq, they have helped the Iraqi people reclaim their nation, and helped a young democracy rise from the rubble of Saddam Hussein's tyranny.

So remember, for all that the future of Iraq is unclear, we and the Iraqis could not have embarked on this course--fought tooth and nail by Iran and Syria who have mobilized Shia and Sunni thugs to fight us in Iraq--if we had not destroyed the Saddam regime in March and April 2003.

This is a just war. And we are winning this war.

The Koran is Not a Suicide Pact

Al Qaeda in Iraq is using more female suicide bombers:

If the attacker's identity is confirmed, it would raise to eight the number of women suicide bombers so far this year.

That has raised concerns that extremists are making greater use of women as suicide bombers because explosive belts are easier to conceal under their traditional flowing Islamic robes and they are often not treated with the same suspicion as men.

The enemy is doing this since we've shut down other forms of attack that rely on vehicles or large bombs--or even male suicide bombers who can be searched readily.

It's bad enough that Islam in its harsher forms marginalizes women, depriving a country of half of its potential. It is hard to see the decline in economic progress in the short run with this attitude (but over the last 50 years it should be clear).

But when Islamic sensibilities lead to actual deaths on a larger and noticable scale, because nobody is willing to search Iraqi women, I think we can predict that before too long, women in Iraq will be scrutinized and searched for bombs despite the risk of men glancing at enticing pale female ankle flesh.

And so jihadi ideology will weaken just a little bit more in Iraq. Just another unintended consequence of al Qaeda deciding to invade Iraq which will marginalize those who survive the fight there.

Why They Hate Us

Bin Laden lambasts the Europeans:

Osama bin Laden, in a new audio message posted Wednesday, condemned the publication of drawings that he said insulted the Prophet Muhammad and warned Europeans of a "severe" reaction to come.

The caveman warned:

"The response will be what you see and not what you hear and let our mothers bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God," said a voice believed to be bin Laden's, without specifying what action would be taken.

Ah yes, slaughering civilians. So easy, a caveman can do it!

So explain to me again about how our invasion of Iraq has caused the jihadis to hate us?

Oh, right, invade Iraq or publish cartoons. One or the other will enrage the Islamo-fascist nutballs.

Glad we cleared that up. I await the judgment from the Nuanced-Americans about just how far we should retreat to satisfy our enemies' many and ever-expanding demands on us.

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

China still wants the Olympic torch run to go through Tibet despite the unrest that has broken out in Tibet:

"The situation in Tibet has essentially stabilized, the Olympic torch relay will proceed as scheduled," Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, told a news conference.

The crackdown in Tibet and nearby provinces, following riots that may have killed dozens of people, have sparked calls for a boycott of the August Beijing Games that China wants to turn into a celebration of its emergence as a world power.

But protests over Tibet are likely mar the torch relay as it travels through 19 cities outside China on its 97,000-km journey around the world in April.

The Chinese don't seem likely to accomodate the Tibetans to keep them quiet in order to have a lovely Olympics pageant to mark China's increasing power in the world:

Aides to the Dalai Lama said the Tibetan spiritual leader wanted to resume talks between his exiled government and China, but Beijing showed no signs of backing down in its campaign to crush opposition to its 57-year rule of Tibet.

"We are currently in an intensely bloody and fiery struggle with the Dalai Lama clique, a life or death struggle with the enemy," Tibet's Communist Party leader Zhang Qingli said in an editorial in the Tibet Daily on Wednesday.

The editorial also called for "a full victory in this intense battle against separatism."

A pageant would be nice. But iron-fisted control is essential. If I were the Chinese, I'd slap that torch runner in an MRAP for the leg through Tibet, just in case.