Saturday, May 31, 2008

So How's That Confidence Level, Again?

Even the UN can't ignore what Iran is doing:

An agency report Monday to the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA board suggested that Tehran was stonewalling investigators and possibly withholding information crucial to the U.N. nuclear monitor's probe of allegations it did nuclear arms research.

How much more pathetic is our media's portrayal of the NIE on Iran's nuclear programs as clearing Iran of any guilt?

Talking to Iran has been great for Tehran. They've proceeded full speed ahead on getting nukes.

The Europeans have to face facts that it may soon be too late to get American to take military action, even if the Europeans want us to after they finally admit their diplomatic approach has failed to halt Iran's nuclear weapons programs.

Code Green

The radical feminists in the enemy camp are of a different sort:

In response to a female questioner, al-Qaida No. 2 leader Ayman Al-Zawahri said in April that the terrorist group does not have women. A woman's role, he said on the Internet audio recording, is limited to caring for the homes and children of al-Qaida fighters.

His remarks have since prompted an outcry from fundamentalist women, who are fighting or pleading for the right to be terrorists. The statements have also created some confusion, because in fact suicide bombings by women seem to be on the rise, at least within the Iraq branch of al-Qaida.

Far from protesting suicide bomber recruiting, these feminists insist on being able to enlist themselves.

The Code Green types are surely more disgusting than the Code Pink hags we have, but you have to admire them, I suppose, for at least wanting to fight for their team.

Getting Sadder for Sadr

Perhaps if Moqtada al Sadr hadn't raised the bar by promising million-man marches to oppose the government and America, his latest feeble efforts to rouse the rabble wouldn't seem so pathetic:

Last week, Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist political movement, called for massive demonstrations against the negotiations between the US.. and the Iraqi government over the basing of U.S. troops in the country beyond 2008. This Friday, the Sadrist movement carried out its first nationwide protest. The turnout was a flop.

In Sadr City, where two million Shias live in what is called Sadr's stronghold, Sadr could only get 5,000 in the streets. On a Friday after prayers. In a city where the Sadrists claim we are violating truces and killing indiscriminantly.

He can still issue a scary press release that gets Western reporters to break into a sweat, but when he fights in the streets his militias gets trounced, and when he calls for his supporters just to stand in the streets, they turn out in numbers that Ron Paul can attract.

Mookie might as well stay in Iran where he is truly loved by his Persian paymasters.

UPDATE: Our press rides to the rescue of Sadr again:

"No, no to America. No, no to the occupation," demonstrators waving Iraqi flags and banners chanted after afternoon prayers in Sadr's Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City. "Yes, yes, Moqtada. Long live al-Sadr."

Some protesters carried pictures of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki dressed as former president Saddam Hussein. One group burned an effigy of Maliki, then danced and stomped on it, as Iraqi government soldiers kept their distance.

The protests highlighted Sadr's still-formidable power and popularity among poor Shiites, even as the Shiite-led Iraqi government, backed by U.S. and British forces, has waged a campaign in recent months to weaken his movement and undermine his leadership credentials.

After his Mahdi Army militia engaged in fierce battles with U.S. and Iraqi forces last month, resulting in hundreds of civilian deaths, Sadr negotiated a pact that allowed Iraqi troops into Sadr City but barred American soldiers. The arrangement was viewed as a victory for Maliki's government and for U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq.

But Sadr's image and popularity have since enjoyed a boost in Sadr City. Raids and airstrikes have decreased in the enclave, home to more than 2 million people, and U.S. and Iraqi government efforts are starting to bring basic services to his impoverished core constituency.

Friday's demonstrations were an attempt to bolster Sadr's nationalist aspirations and to rally more support among Iraqis who perceive that he has made face-saving concessions to the government and U.S. forces -- and as his militia comes under pressure in other parts of Iraq.

Still formidable power? When the numbers in the streets don't match the fury of the quotes of those Sadrists interviewed?

And why would Sadr need to "rally more support" if his "image and popularity have enjoyed a boost" since Sadr's retreat in the face of Iraqi and American power?

Further, since when is it a sign of defeat if the Iraqis can fight without us? Isn't this the mirror image of the charge of failure in Basra when we provided limited support to the Iraqis and our press claimed it was a failed offensive because the Iraqis needed our help?

The article admits that we haven't needed air strikes, presumably because those rallying Sadrists are keeping off the streers, and that we are providing basic services that the Sadrists used to provide to justify their control and abuse of the locals.

I'm sensitive to the possibility that Sadr could gain support from the 65% of the Iraqi population that is Shia. If we lose the Shias, we can't stay in Iraq. But time after time, the Sadrists have proven to be weaker than their rhetoric and chest-thumping claims.

Yet our press focuses on the rhetoric and chest-thumping claims when judging Sadr's strength.

I wish our media would actually report on events so I can judge what is happening rather than simply amplify the enemy's press strategy by printing their claims in Western newspapers.

A Belated Thanks

We have friends in Europe despite the widespread annoyance with us that polls indicate.

I don't think this ill will is deeply held except for a minority. Unfortunately, that minority tends to be over-represented in the ruling elites and media of Europe. And our liberal media picks this up eagerly. So it is probably easy to think that all Europeans have a deep hatred for us that is no different than our own Left feels.

Here, I can refer to our Left to distinguish from the broader liberal side of the aisle. The Left, with its reflexive anti-Americanism is repulsive. I disagree with liberals on most issues, but they are decent people. Our Left sadly infects liberal thought and pulls it left, I admit. But the Clinton administration shows how the Left can be shunted aside and marginalized in foreign policy by the broader left and middle of the Democratic Pary.

But for Europeans generally and countries in particular, whether Germany, France, or Britain, it is too easy to lash out at the French when I really mean the government or the elites.

So here's a belated thanks to the French for this thoughtful gesture of solidarity and appreciation for our past friendship.

Good Will and a Willing Suspension of Disbelief

When you can't deny we are beating our enemies, I guess the next best thing is to give our defeated enemies the credit for our victory.

Imagine this hypothetical assessment of the D-Day invasion made in May 1945 with the Western allies on the Elbe after driving all the way from the Normandy beachheads and the Russians in Berlin, with the Nazi regime defeated:

Well, the purpose of D-Day was to provide a secure space, time for the military build up to occur to advance on Berlin. That didn’t happen. Whatever the military success, and progress that may have been made, D-Day didn’t accomplish its goal.

And some of the success of D-Day is that the goodwill of the Nazis-they decided in Berlin when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Nazis.

Can you imagine such idiocy?

Well, no need to imagine. You see, one of our own leaders has judged the surge in Iraq a success only because the Iranians agreed to retreat.

Which is progress since it means our Left has to admit Iran is fighting us in Iraq.

And perhaps with this massive concesson by Iran without even talking to them, perhaps the world awaits us if we actually plan formal conferences with them!

I guess we now understand the full nuance of giving the gavel to the children.


One Army term I really cherished was the concept of the clusterfuck. That's a situation of chaos where numerous individual fuck ups cross paths, entwine, and fuse into a giant ball of fuckups. The mission may be completed in the end despite errors, but the appearance at least of chaos and pending disaster makes for the concept of the clusterfuck.

So when 111 nations of the world gather to ban cluster bombs, the term naturally came to mind:

Twelve days of negotiations ended after diplomats from scores of nations delivered speeches embracing the accord. It requires signatories not to use cluster bombs, to destroy existing stockpiles within eight years, and to fund programs that clear old battlefields of dud bombs.

I'm sure the speeches were moving.

But we will not sign the pact--well, not this year. Cluster bombs are very useful whether you are talking about massed infantry, air defenses, artillery emplacements, or truck convoys. It is possible that precision single-warhead or projectile buses that dispense precision sub-munitions will make cluster bombs obsolete, but the need for the effects that a cluster bomb now provides has not disappeared--at least not for serious nations.

Yet more illuminating was the exception that some of our allies insisted on:

Nonetheless, the treaty adopted Friday contains several concessions sought by the United States and its NATO allies, many of whom plan to sign the deal.

The pact would allow countries that sign the treaty to keep cooperating militarily with those that do not. Earlier drafts of the treaty sought to prohibit such cooperation, an idea fought by the United States and its NATO allies on the grounds this would make joint peacekeeping work difficult if not impossible.

And imagine the thought of having to go to war without the help of America. Our allies weren't going to extend the spirit of their speeches that far.

And if at war, our allies would be happy if America had the weapons we need to win. Hopefully, our allies won't take us to court if we use cluster bombs to drive off any attackers who strike the troops of our allies.

The Only Option Left

Our general who is leaving his command of the NATO contingent in Afghanistan has pointed out the gaping hole in our strategy in Afghanistan:

Gen. Dan McNeill, who leaves his post next week after 15 months, also said peace deals on the other side of the border — a reference to Pakistan — were behind a recent spike in violence in Afghanistan.

"If there are going to be sanctuaries where these terrorists, these extremists, these insurgents can train, can recruit, can regenerate, there's still going to be a challenge there," McNeill said in an interview with The Associated Press.

We can't cross into Pakistan in strength or with persistence to conduct a classic counter-insurgency to strangle the jihad base area.

And Pakistan, despite the continued jihadi determination to wage war against Pakistan, will not do more than raid into the frontier areas periodically and negotiate truces after bloodying the noses of the frontier tribes that support the jihadis too much. They just don't seem to appreciate that there can be no deal with the devil.

Not that we can't in theory win without such a strategy that targets the sanctuaries in Pakistan. We are doing so in Iraq without taking out the Iranian and Syrian staging areas. But we can't afford to put nearly as many troops into Afghanistan as we have in Iraq. Nor can the Afghans afford the size of the military that Iraq is building.

So is our only alternative a post-Westphalian campaign that ignores the Pakistani central government and seeks to gain the alliance of the tribes?

I'm not sure what else we can do. You don't really support the farcical notion of invading Pakistan with massed conventional forces to track down Osama, do you?

Friday, May 30, 2008

And Baby Makes Three

Already, I noted that Syria has effectively been annexed by Iran. Baby Assad turned his country into West Iran, which Ahmadinejad will sacrifice to shield Iran itself from paying too high a price for Iran's adventures.

Iran and Syria have signed a defense cooperation pact:

"The two countries pledge their mutual support regarding territorial independence and integrity in terms of international and regional authorities," the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

The accord, signed during a visit by Syrian Defence Minister Hassan Turkmani, also called for the withdrawal of "foreign and occupation forces, which are the source of insecurity and instability in the region."

I had long thought that Syria could be flipped. But over time, Syria made it clear that it was throwing its lot in with Iran. What do the terms and timing of this pact signify? Renewed attacks in Iraq, Israel, and Lebanon by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas alliance? Is it to be a general offensive to try to reverse our momentum in Iraq by widening the enemy offensive to the entire region? Was Syria worried about being left hanging by Iran after a Hamas-Hizbollah attack on Israel?

So the Axis of Evil is at full strength again. One Baathist thug regime replaced the defeated Baathist thug regime. The Assad regime must not be allowed to survive this choice and whatever the mullahs and their Damascus lap dogs have decided to do this summer to reverse their losses. The mullah regime, too, must not be allowed to call a "do over" if we blunt their offensive. If they start something, we have to finish it in Tehran.

Brace yourselves. This may be a hot summer.

Effectively Fighting

Fighting al Qaeda is doing what our nuanced anti-war side has considered impossible--we are defeating the jihadis and discrediting them:

In a strikingly upbeat assessment, the CIA chief cited major gains against al-Qaeda's allies in the Middle East and an increasingly successful campaign to destabilize the group's core leadership.

While cautioning that al-Qaeda remains a serious threat, Hayden said Osama bin Laden is losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Islamic world and has largely forfeited his ability to exploit the Iraq war to recruit adherents. Two years ago, a CIA study concluded that the U.S.-led war had become a propaganda and marketing bonanza for al-Qaeda, generating cash donations and legions of volunteers.

All that has changed, Hayden said in an interview with The Washington Post this week that coincided with the start of his third year at the helm of the CIA.

"On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said, ticking down a list of accomplishments: "Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally -- and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' -- as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam," he said.

The anti-war side has always said that fighting fanatics just creates more fanatics. This has annoyed me for years. First of all, in the long run, fighting ineffectively creates more enemies. Fighting ineffectively simply angers the enemy and prods them to fight us without putting any fear of defeat in their minds that will discourage them.

Second, the nature of war makes it a simply stupid claim to make. That is, for any conflict that lasts any amount of time, each side will increase the resources devoted to the fight in order to win. It's called "mobilizing." We don't say our entry into World War II made more Nazis just because there were more Germans under arms at the beginning of 1945 than the beginning of 1942.

If we hadn't fought back against al Qaeda, why would the enemy exert themselves to mobilize unneeded terrorists? They were doing just fine in gaining support from the Moslem world at their then-current level of effort.

But when we mobilized our efforts and put them up against the enemy's efforts first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, we started to fight effectively rather than just take the terror hits, launch a score of cruise missiles at empty tents, indict some leaders, and put a couple on trial. As we fought the war, we began to beat the enemy despite their mobilization of resources.

And now we are seeing the jihadi enemy being defeated in Iraq and elsewhere, with Moslems distancing themselves from the faltering jihad.

But as with the ability of the anti-war side to proclaim defeat simply because the enemy fought and reached deep to match our efforts, we can't say that the decline of the enemy means victory. We are winning. But until we win, it isn't over yet.

UPDATE: Recounting how bad our Left is at understanding military affairs:

The left's analysis of jihadism has been proved incorrect at every turn. It argued military power would be ineffective against the terrorists. Wrong. It argued that intervention in Iraq would energize bin Laden's movement. That movement is in shambles. The left argued Iraq was a lost cause. It isn't. The left argues that a "war on terrorism" is futile, that defeat is inevitable, because terrorism is a "tactic," not an enemy. Nonsense. President Bush has demonstrated through perseverance and (more often than not) sound policy that the war on terror can be won. And right now we're winning it.

The ignorance of our Left has been only matched by their certainty. My only question is whether their conviction that we must lose will switch to advocacy to ensure defeat even as their predictions are shown to be obviously wrong.

Better than the Statistics

May 2008 may be the lowest casualty month for the United States since the Iraq War began in March 2003:

Eighteen U.S. servicemembers have been identified as having died in Iraq so far in May, according to the Pentagon. To date, the least deadly month of the five-year war was February 2004, when 21 U.S. troops were killed in a 29-day period. The number of wounded also has fallen.

Enemy attacks are down as well:

Overall, militant attacks in Iraq have dropped to levels not seen since spring 2004, U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll said this week. Attacks are down 70% since President Bush ordered a U.S. troop increase, or "surge," early last year.

Sigh. After five years our enemies in Iraq are still just "militants." One wonders what they'd have to do to rise to the level of "miscreants" let alone "terrorists." But I digress.

The spring 2004 reference has been defined in other articles as March 2004. This is significant because until April 2004, we counted enemy attacks differently. Starting in April 2004, we counted every attack. Until then, I think we only counted attacks that inflicted casualties. Even better, more enemy IEDs are discovered before they detonate so more of the "attacks" are duds. So our May 2008 statistics are down to March 2004 levels--which undercount attacks as we now define them. Our progress is better than the attack statistics show since it is apples and oranges time.

Look at the KIA statistics chart in the article for support. In May 2008, barring a last day surge, we'll have suffered 18 KIA in May according to the article. In March 2004, we suffered 50. And we had fewer troops in Iraq in March 2004.

On the other end of the equation, Iraqi forces are better:

The U.S. is beginning its withdrawal from Iraq. U.S. troops strength is expected to decline from 170,000 to 140,000 by the end of the Summer. The reduction is made possible by the growing number of Iraqi army and police units that can do the job. U.S. military advisors have seen this coming for years, as they tracked dozens of different metrics (statistics on various aspects of Iraqi performance). ...

These metrics are kept secret, as the enemy would love to have some insight into the effectiveness of the security forces. But in the last year, many Iraqi army and police units have revealed their capabilities through their performance.

Iraqi troops never had to be as good as our troops. They had to be better than the enemy. Our surge broke the most effective jihadi enemies, making the enemy less effective; and bought time to improve the quality and quantity of Iraqi forces.

These are very good statistics. The enemy has had many months since our surge broke their momentum in September 2007. Yet our enemies have not regrouped and adapted to counter-attack us. Unless the Basra conflict actually preempted an enemy operation.

Unless our enemies can mount a new offensive, or a new more potent enemy arises, they indicate to me a real level of defeat for the enemy.


The Chinese apparently pulled off a little espionage stunt:

U.S. authorities are investigating whether Chinese officials secretly copied the contents of a government laptop computer during a visit to China by Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez and used the information to try to hack into Commerce computers, officials and industry experts told The Associated Press.

I'd be pleased if we pulled off something like this, so I can hardly complain too much about the Chinese. I can be upset we let them get away with this:

Surreptitious copying is believed to have occurred when a laptop was left unattended during Gutierrez's trip to Beijing for trade talks in December, people familiar with the incident told the AP.

I'm sorry, we what? We left a laptop unattended in China?

Good grief. I'm sure our security people have a technical term for this type of mistake. It's probably called something like "what those idiots usually do." But I'm guessing.

Apparently, the Chinese didn't actually penetrate Commerce computers, but they tried.

But this is a reminder that cyber warfare isn't all about long-distance penetration atempts. It involves real world idiots leaving real world computers lying around for real world spies to copy.

So, a hearty "bravo" to the Chinese.

Gadgets Don't Win Wars

The Army continues to evolve even as it fights in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army is rolling out Land Warrior systems that plug individual soldiers into the battlefield Internet:

As Land Warrior reaches its first anniversary in combat, the Army is seeking to equip an entire brigade combat team with the high-tech system which increases mission speed and effectiveness and decreases risks to the warfighter.

The Army has approved an Operational Needs Statement to field the Land Warrior system to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, in 2009. ...

Land Warrior is a modular fighting system that uses state-of-the-art computer, communications, and global positioning technologies to digitally link Soldiers on the battlefield. The system is integrated with the Soldier's body armor and has a helmet-mounted display.

Meanwhile, the Army is testing the more ambitious Future Combat Systems:

"Right now, Spin Out 1 is down at the Army Evaluation Task Force at Fort Bliss, Texas, getting ready to be tested by about 1,000 combat-tested Soldiers this summer who will be employing this new technology, said Maj Marty Hagenston, FCS system coordinator.

"They will be touching it, feeling it and learning how to fight it, then they will provide feedback to the program," he said. Spin Out 1 consists of unattended sensors, seismic acoustic sensors that can be employed remotely and detect enemy activity. It also consists of a Non Line-of-Sight Launch System - or six to eight "rockets in a box" - which can be deployed remotely.

"The other piece that Spin Out 1 contains is 'B kit' which consists of JTRS GMR (Joint Tactical Radio System Ground Mobile Radio) and that is the network pieces and parts we put inside current force vehicles that provide Soldiers situational awareness on screen, so it's three parts: a radio, computing system and an interface with the Soldier," said Hagenston.

The B kits will be used on Bradleys, Humvees and M-1 Abrams battle tanks.

This is just the first wave of a full system of systems. If it all works, it will be pretty cool. But never think that an Army wins with technology.

Well-trained soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen led by well-trained officers, fighting with appropriate tactics and plans in pursuit of realistic objectives set by our civilian leaders are the sources of victory. Technology is just icing on the cake at that point.

And without the sources of victory, technologically dazzling weapons just become so much destroyed junk littering a battlefield.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Air Supremacy More Vital than Ever

We've held air supremacy so long we just don't appreciate what it allows us to do and what it denies our enemies.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, our insurgent enemies could never step up the escalation ladder to fighting with formed units to actually conquer terrain and hold it:

The enemy had had a hard time adapting to smart weapons. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the enemy largely gave up trying to fight American troops head on. Ambush, roadside bombs and boobytraps became the preferred methods of attacking U.S. troops. This is a major concession by the enemy, and has been a major factor in the success of American forces since JDAM became available. You cannot win if you cannot eventually confront and defeat the enemy ground troops.

And this aerial dominance applies to conventional war, too:

As long as the U.S. maintains air superiority, as it has since 1944, enemy forces will not benefit from the new precision bombs. They will still be able to use precision ground launched missiles and artillery shells, but that will be small consolation when your forces are being pounded by thousands of JDAMs.

If we have air supremacy, those enemy artillery assets won't last too long, actually.

More than anything, our enemies need to find ways to nullify our aerial dominance if they wish to fight us.

That "something" might something as brutally simple as attacking our forces with 20:1 ratios of troops at a high tempo to crush our forces before all our firepower can wipe them all out.

Or it might be stealth applied to ground units. Or air defenses that reach into space to deny us our GPS and communications. Or electronics that nullify our system or just degrade it.

Or it might be an air force that allows our enemy to not just nullify our air power but gain air supremacy for themselves--or at least contest us for air superiority.

Our Air Force needs to stop arguing with the Army over their lost market share as the Army creates its own mini air force for recon and battlefield fire support. Air Supremacy is so vital that our Air Force should aim high to dominate the skies and space above that.

Where's the Supply and Who's Demanding It?

I mentioned that I suspect that there is a global effort to build oil reserves along with a Saudi preparation to surge production to prepare for an American attempt to destroy Iran's nuclear programs, or otherwise destroy the mullah regime in Tehran:

Adding a maximum withdrawal from the SPR even as Saudi Arabia opens their spigots would sure be helpful in a crisis. And how much oil is out there in Europe, Asia, and private floating reserves?

Such an effort to quietly buy and store oil would explain this puzzle:

Most Opec members would like to see lower prices, but there was little they could do as the market was responding to factors beyond supply and demand, the source said.

If those fundamentals dictated the price, oil would cost around $60 to $70 a barrel, the source said. The world oil market balance is similar to that in 1999, when the price was less than $20, he added.

Seriously, I keep hearing that we can count up to 15 or 20 dollars per barrel for war worries. How do we explain the consistent high price despite fundamentals that indicate prices should be half of what they are? Is it because oil is being purchased and stored? It is a strange shortage that doesn't actually lead to gas lines because gas stations can't purchase gasoline. That doesn't seem to be the problem. Yet prices are jumping up even as our economy slows and as we drive less.

And as long as I'm speculating, could we be building those long lead-time oil pumping machinery in case the Iranians wreck their own production facilities?

Orson Scott Card thinks President Bush may well be preparing to follow Lincoln's Plan B in 1864. President Lincoln worte this prior to the election:

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probably [sic] that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the Government President elect, as to save the Union between the Election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he cannot possibly save it afterwards.

I've wondered the same thing.

Have we come up with the mother of all plans to cope with the loss of Iranian oil from the market should we attack Iran?

The Morning After

At a time when Russia is pretending to be a great power again and treating the West as a virtual enemy, Russia itself is falling apart:

An alarming new word has been born. It is "hypermortality," which might be defined as an extraordinary tendency toward death. It jumps from the first page of the U.N. Development Program report entitled "Demographic Policy in Russia."

"The Russian phenomenon of hypermortality comes to be observed primarily in working-age populations," it says."Compared to the majority of countries that have similar levels of economic development, mortality in Russia is 3-5 times higher for men and twice as high for women."

What this means, the report says, is that the size of the working-age population "will fall by up to 1 million people annually already by 2020-25."

The effect of this will be to raise the dependency load (the number of young and old people dependent on those of working age) to 670 to 750 per thousand by 2020 and to 900 to 1,000 per thousand by 2025.

"This will inevitably influence economic growth rates," the report notes."At the moment, there are no grounds to believe that the crisis will be overcome and the size of the population will be stabilized," it adds.

Russia is drunk on an oil revenue binge and stumbling about Eurasia shouting angrily at shadows. But Russians are drunk and driving their country into an abyss that no amount of oil revenue will be able to counteract.

Russia could have joined the West after the Soviet Union fell apart, claiming they were victims of Soviet communism as much as Eastern Europeans. We wanted Russia to join the West. But no, Russia abandoned that sensible policy and instead antagonizes the West.

I have little doubt that the end result at some point in the future will be a Russia that is exclusively a European state, with Russia east of the Urals falling to the Chinese or breaking away from Russia to cut deals with China and become satellite nations of the new power in East Asia. Some of those states will be majority Moslem as Russians die off. Perhaps Russia will try to disguise their decline by adding Ukraine by force to mother Russia, but this may just make matters worse in the long run given Ukraine's own demographic decline.

It's amazing to see a nation committing suicide before our eyes. But drunks will do that.

Good luck with that path, Moscow.

Why the Debate is Shifting

For quite some time, the anti-war side has pretty much felt that war supporters were living in denial about Iraq. I can only assume that their extensive knowledge of military history and warfare led them to this conclusion. No, wait, that can't be the reason for their certainty.

While the post-war fight has been harder than I anticipated, given the rapid collapse of the Baathist regime without attempting any last stands in Baghdad or Tikrit, the main reason has been that new enemies have arisen to replace both the Saddam regime and the Baathist resistance. And these enemies have been supported from abroad by both Sunni Arab states who supplied fanatics and Syria and Iran which provided help to these thugs. I never imagined we'd allow such hostile actions to go unpunished. This is a far cry from the charges of the anti-war side in April 2003 that Iraq was the first stop in a series of invasion in the Middle East. Further, ammunition stocked by Saddam and money generated by oil-for-food were plentiful in post-war Iraq.

Yet we have beaten the series of enemies. I never doubted we could defeat even well-armed and well-financed enemies supported by only 20% of the population. We just needed time. I doubted as early as November 2004 whether our home front would give us that time, but it has. Just barely, I think.

With the always-approaching civil war on hold and the surge working to tamp down violence, it is getting more difficult to deny that the surge has worked, as McCain and Lieberman wrote at the beginning of the year:

After years of mismanagement of the war, many people had grave doubts about whether success in Iraq was possible. In Congress, opposition to the surge from antiwar members was swift and severe. They insisted that Iraq was already "lost," and that there was nothing left to do but accept our defeat and retreat.

In fact, they could not have been more wrong. And had we heeded their calls for retreat, Iraq today would be a country in chaos: a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, overrun by al Qaeda and Iran.

Instead, conditions in that country have been utterly transformed from those of a year ago, as a consequence of the surge. Whereas, a year ago, al Qaeda in Iraq was entrenched in Anbar province and Baghdad, now the forces of Islamist extremism are facing their single greatest and most humiliating defeat since the loss of Afghanistan in 2001. Thanks to the surge, the Sunni Arabs who once constituted the insurgency's core of support in Iraq have been empowered to rise up against the suicide bombers and fanatics in their midst -- prompting Osama bin Laden to call them "traitors."

I object to the charge that the war has been mismanaged. Yes, we needed the change that the surge provided. But the situation in Iraq is complex and evolving and our past strategies were grounded in the situations and enemies of the times, and largely worked to get us where we are today. But that is slightly off-topic. The real point is that the surge is working. Sadly, the state of our debate just about requires most war supporters to charge past incompetence. Failing to avoid the friction of war is now "incompetence." I don't have to go along with that nonsense, but that's the state of the debate.

And as much as the anti-war side now denies that the surge is responsible for the reduced violence, or that the cost of success is too high, or even that the war was based on lies (going back to an earlier argument), the significant thing is that the anti-war side doesn't want to debate what is happening right now. They know that violence is down and given that they said that could not possibly happen as the various factions in Iraq geared up for the inevitable civil war (if the argument wasn't that Iraq was actually in a civil war), isn't their credibility dented a bit?

And the history of the last couple years undermines their condemnation of democracy in Iraq. If conservatives had made the same arguments that our anti-war side has made that Arabs or Moslems (or, horrors, Arabs who are Moslem!) are incapable of democracy and may not even want freedom, it would be off to the diversity re-education camps for them. Yet somewhow it is "progressive" to believe that Arabs must be ground down under the heels of a dictator to make them behave. Go figure.

Yet even under a brutal assault by enemies so vicious that it would be hard to make them up if you were writing fiction, Iraq has stuck by its new democracy:

Considering the violent threats, fractured politics and bitter history it confronts, Iraq's democratic government has accomplished much in two short years.

For a variety of reasons -- most self-serving, a few disgustingly dishonest -- American and European debate over Iraq all too often loses or conveniently discards three pertinent facts regarding the Iraq of May 2008: It has survived in very complex conditions, it is the product of democratic elections, and it has several hard-fought but significant accomplishments in its two bloody years of existence. ...

Yet Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki never buckled. In late May 2006, the fractious parliament approved a cabinet -- another step in the birth process of democratic government in Mesopotamia.

Maliki faced repeated attempt to oust him -- attempts using terror and violence but also using parliamentary means, which are, paradoxically, a positive sign.

The Iraqi government hasn't met American expectations, which are largely shaped by the American presidential election cycle, but dismissing its achievements is arrogant and ignorant. It is also myopic, given the century-shaping regional and global implications of Iraqi success.

Our Left denies the great progress Iraq has made in only two years with the same fervor they make excuses for communist Cuba's tyranny after 50 years of governing.

We have won a great victory in eliminating the threat of Saddam Hussein and creating a friendly Iraq. This victory would have stood even if we could not help democracy grow in Iraq.

But democracy in Iraq provides us an opportunity for a victory in the wider Long War. In the beginning, I did not think that Iraq was a part of the war on terror except in indirect terms (Saddam's support of terrorism and the chance he could provide WMD to such terrorists). But I believed that destroying the conventional threat that Saddam posed was a necessary objective to protect our national security, regardless of the war on terror we found ourselves fighting.

Al Qaeda changed that by invading Iraq and making Iraq their primary battlefield. Our enemy made Iraq a part of the war on terror. And on this battlefield we have defeated the best the jihadis had to offer. This accumulating victory in Iraq has discredited al Qaeda in large parts of the Moslem world.

Yet even this battlefield victory is not the same as a victory in the Long War. Defeating and discrediting al Qaeda on the battlefield blunted them in this jihad. But to keep the Arab Moslem society that generated this jihad from spawning a new jihad with even more terrible weapons leeched from our society in the future, we need to change the society that creates jihadis. It isn't our fault that they have a faltering society. But we have suffered the consequences of their failure. Promoting democracy in Iraq to unleash the talents and hope for a better future that exist, in the heart of the Arab Moslem world, as an alternative to jihad or autocracy, gives us a chance of winning the Long War and not merely scoring a tactical victory over the current jihad wave.

As long as the Left doesn't deny us the victory we are accumulating, I can live with their continued denials about the reality of Iraq. Or the reality of the Long War. Heck, add this in to their denials about how Vietnam was lost and how we won the Cold War. I've lived with those denials without too much annoyance.

The debate over Iraq is shifting. It is shifting because we are winning. Get ready for the next debate over Afghanistan when this "good" war becomes "bad." When it becomes the only war we've got, it will be the only war for our Left to oppose.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wu Hu?

The leader of China, President Hu Jintao, is meeting with the leader of the Taiwanese KMT party:

Hu and Kuomintang chairman Wu Poh-hsiung were due to hold afternoon talks at the Great Hall of the People, in what would be the highest-level encounter between Taiwan and China since the two sides split nearly 60 years ago.

"We hope that through our continuous mutual efforts, we can put aside our differences, work on our common interests and create a win-win situation," Wu said after he arrived in China on Monday leading a 16-member KMT delegation.

So is it time to shout "wu hu" in joyous relief?

When China considers Taiwan a wayward province and the only question as far as Peking is conceerned is how Taiwan will be absorbed by China, I'm not sure what the two have to discuss.

If I was cynical, I'd say this was a charm offensive to lull the Taiwanese into a stupor:

Surprise will be important. The Taiwanese military has problems but it is far from toothless. And US and Japanese naval and air power are capable of defeating the Chinese at sea and in the air. With tensions high over the obviously increased Chinese military capabilities and their long history of saying that Taiwan must be absorbed into China, a nice charm offensive will be in order to lull potential enemies. In late 2007, China could initiate or accept more cross-Strait talks on various issues. They might even—in the spirit of the Olympics—suggest talks on how to have the Taiwan athletes march in the opening ceremonies. Perhaps behind a symbolic contingent of all Chinese marching under the PRC flag, the remaining Chinese athletes will march in under flags of their home provinces, so the Taiwanese could march under the Taiwanese flag. Whatever the details, the point will be that the warm fuzzy of the Olympics will be used to create a false thaw after years of tension.

So excuse me if I don't shout for joy over this meeting. The Taiwanese need to watch their backs. The agenda of China is the same whether they are lobbing missiles over Taiwan or hosting a lovely conference.

If the Taiwanese falter just once, they can kiss their democracy goodbye.

UPDATE: Explain to me how this even makes sense:

China has invited Taiwan to hold more talks, state media said on Thursday, as ties between the two sometimes bitter diplomatic and political rivals warm following the election of a new, more pro-Chinese president on the island.

From China's point of view, you are anti-Chinese whether you want independence or just warmer relations under the status quo. From Peking's point of view, only agreeing to unification under Peking's control counts as being pro-Chinese.

Or has China abandoned its claim on Taiwan as part of one China without telling me?

Another Step Forward

We are beating the Sadrists and stripping them of popular support.

Even though I credited the Iraqi government with a victory in the early stages of Knights' Charge in Basra even as our press was rushing to claim a victory for Sadr, one thing I said I did not know is how the people would react with the Sadrists gone. It seemed like the people of Basra were happy to have the Sadrists gone, but I was not sure about the support Sadr had. Sadr City, too, was a mystery to me. Were the people there supporters of Sadr or merely intimidated into backing him?

This situation is becoming clearer, too. The Sadrists are boasting, as always, but the reality does not back their bravado:

"Even some Iraqi people who were not sympathizing with us before have now started to feel and identify with the oppression on the Sadr people. It has become clear to them that we are being targeted," said Liqa Yaseen, a parliament member representing the Sadr movement.

But interviews with dozens of Iraqis living in Sadr City and other Shiite militia strongholds in Baghdad suggest otherwise. So do anecdotes from U.S. troops who have met with Sadr City residents and local leaders and who say there has been a shift in the things they hear.

"After March 25 was the first time I had anyone tell us, 'Go in and wipe them out,' " said Sgt. Erik Olson, who spends most of his time visiting residents of Sadr City's Jamila neighborhood gathering "atmospherics," the military's word for figuring out what locals are thinking.

Iraqis tolerated the abuses of the Sadrists because they provided some calm, and some food and support. Which should be a lesson to the government. "Clear, hold, and build" strategies can't halt after "hold." Cement the allegiance of the locals with programs that allow the people to take care of their families.

The Sadrists are fading now. Assuming the government does not blow this opportunity to gain the loyalty of the people of Sadr City and Basra, the main question is how long Iran can prop up this failing movement in the face of government and American military power and the support of growing numbers of Shia Iraqis who neither need the Mahdi Army nor appreciate the foreign Iranian support for the struggling movement.

This will be another turning point in the war.

I Think We Must Have Won the War

I'm listening to a television news report on a surge in shark attacks. I think our last summer of shark attacks was in 2001.

I don't remember if I've blogged this, but I've long considered that shark attack summer to be the high point of our holiday from history. War ended the trivial topic of shark attacks.

So does the Great Shark Summer of 2008 indicate we've won the war? Or am I premature in judging this a trend?

Prosecute the Bastards! Oh, Never Mind.

I'm sure your Leftist friends were outraged when they heard that soldiers and civilians free of any government control had sexually abused Third World children. Naturally, they assumed American troops were running amok. And those "mercenary" civilians, too, probably. Put them all in jail, eh?

But sadly, the show trials won't be taking place. You see, American soldiers and security contract firms aren't involved:

The report by Save the Children UK, based on field research in southern Sudan, Ivory Coast and Haiti, describes a litany of sexual crimes committed by peacekeepers and international relief workers against children as young as 6.

It said some children were denied food aid unless they granted sexual favors; others were forced to have sex or to take part in child pornography; many more were subjected to improper touching or kissing.

"The report shows sexual abuse has been widely underreported because children are afraid to come forward," Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK, told Associated Press Television News.

The UN and non-governmntal organizations (NGOs), pretty much the gold standards for the sainted "international community," were the guilty parties. So any criticism will be softened with understanding:

Save the Children spokesman Dominic Nutt said U.N. peacekeepers are involved in many abuse cases because they are present throughout the world in such large numbers. But he praised the United Nations for improving its reporting and investigative procedures regarding sex abuse.

"We're not singling out the U.N. In some ways they do a good job. It's [not?] all peacekeepers and all aid workers, including Save the Children," that are involved in sexual abuses, he said.

See? There are just so darned many of them you have to expect some to be bad eggs. They do much good in between romps with tots and a couple of innocent trysts. I mean who hasn't been tempted to trade high protein biscuits for a quick manual release or a hot photo? I mean, really. Hunger and desperation is sexy. Get a little perspective and stop picking on the UN! They care, dammit!

And the UN is really up front with documenting the crimes of their employees! They have procedures to follow. Procedures! They probably have manuals and rules to guide them, too. How much more serious can you expect them to take this? That counts for a lot, right?

Look, I'm not making light of this. Heads should roll. I assume these are individuals who are guilty and I don't damn the UN and NGOs as a whole for this. But I'm sick of our progressive Left speaking of our soldiers and Marines as psycho killers who are dangers to themselves and all around them, whether overseas or at home; while speaking of the UN and NGOs as hallowed knights of honor doing nothing but saintly good work to undo the damage America inflicts on the world.

Supporters of the UN have nothing to worry about. Panties on heads at Abu Ghraib stained America. Yet another case of corruption or child rape won't dent the reputation of the UN.

Saints can do that, you know.

Ninevah Nick

As the Iraqis scour Mosul for al Qaeda terrorists, the terrorists put out a mean press statement:

Officials have claimed initial success, saying more than 1,200 suspects have been detained, and Iraqi security forces have met little resistance.

But a man claiming to be a spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq in Ninevah province, which includes Mosul, warned in a videotape posted Tuesday that insurgents were prepared to fight back.

"Until now, we have not been engaged ... because we are the ones who control the hour to start the initiative and we will choose the time for retaliation or engagement," the unidentified spokesman said, sitting with his face covered behind a table with a laptop and wearing a white Arab robe.

"We are at full strength and have not had a single soldier killed or arrested contrary to your alleged reports" of major arrests, he said.

He said that during the first week "of the so-called the Lion's Roar operation" many people from Mosul were arrested, but he claimed they were merely former army officers, university teachers and students.

Certainly, the enemy will likely regroup after the dislocations of the Iraqi offensive. That is a natural course of events. Whether the enemy is strong enough to strike back in strength is another question. Sure, I figured most of those swept up were potential sympathizers rather than terrorists, but the idea that al Qaeda has suffered not a single loss is rather far fetched.

We shall see if the terrorists can regroup and work up actual attacks to match the defiant statements made by their press spokesman. At least in a recording, this Ninevah Nick won't face the embarassment of having American tanks rolling in the background even as he says we aren't anywhere near Baghdad.

The jihadis are still capable of killing. That doesn't mean they aren't losing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Afraid to Talk?

So what's up with those chatty Iranians all silent like over Arab requests to talk about three islands in the Gulf that Iran occupies?

The oil-rich UAE, supported by other Arab states, has repeatedly proposed resolving the dispute through direct negotiations or international arbitration, but Iran has always refused.

"If they want to have a negotiation about the occupied islands, this has been our demand for decades," the emirati official said, referring to Hosseini's remark that the issue can be resolved in bilateral talks.

Tehran gained control of the three islands after British troops left the Gulf in 1971.

I thought there is no harm in talking to enemies? It's almost like they are afraid. Or maybe they just lack nuanced thinking capabilities.

Making it Multilateral

This article on Iranian-held islands in the Gulf is interesting in light of history and what we might need to do to stop Iran from going nuclear:

"It seems the Iranian side does not want to understand. There is no 'misunderstanding' between us but an actual occupation" of the strategic islands controlled by Iran and claimed by the UAE, a foreign ministry official told AFP.

"There is no occupied land more sacred than another occupied land. Occupation is occupation, whether it is by Israel, Iran or any other country," he said, requesting anonymity.

Tehran gained control of three islands -- Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa -- after the departure of British troops in 1971, when Iran was ruled by the pro-Western shah.

It took possession of Greater and Lesser Tunbs, while Abu Musa, the only inhabited island, was placed under joint administration under a deal with Sharjah, now part of the UAE.

In 1980, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and part of the pre-war plan involved invading these islands in the name of the Arab world. Saddam wanted the Arab world to back him in a fight between the champion of the Arab world--Iraq--and Persian Iran. But at the last minute, the operation was scrubbed. So when the going got tough, the Arab world left Iraq to fight alone, providing only loans and other financial support to bankrole the fight.

Right now, the Arab world would be happy if we destroyed the Iranian regime's nuclear projects. But I wouldn't count on them to back us when the going gets tough.

But if we include the occupation of these Arab-claimed islands as part of an operation to secure the Gulf oil shipping lanes while we hammer Iran from the air, this would tend to bind the Gulf Arab states to our side and mute criticism from the wider Arab world.

Multiple Enemies. Multiple "Wars"

Belmont Club hits on something I've returned to the last couple years on occasion: the surge was not a last ditch attempt to retrieve victory from defeat. It was only the latest adaptation to the rise of a new threat. Writes Wretchard:

The campaign in Iraq, for example, was not one conflict but several, one form succeeding the other in rapid succession.

I wrote this back in September as the surge had an effect and war opponents derided this as yet another fake turning point in the war:

The trend has been to turn back attempts by Baathists and related nationalist Sunnis, al Qaeda and domestic jihadis, and Shia Sadrists to seize power. All the while the Iraqi government and security forces got bigger and better. This is not the record of a debacle. So the surge is not a desperate measure.

The reason the surge is needed is not because past statements of success were wrong, but because we don't face one single enemy in Iraq. After each success by our forces against the primary military threat, another threat has taken the lead.

Sadr and his Shia militias were supposed to be a political problem by 2006. Unfortunately, Iran then increased their support and direct control of Shia death squads. The increased death toll by Iranian-supplied EFPs has masked the decline of our military deaths from declining enemies. And the defeated but still murderous jihadis and other Sunnis backed by Syria and Iran add to the death toll caused by the Iranian-backed Shia death squads.

So our current surge aims to cut down the al Qaeda in Iraq forces to halt their attacks on Shias, take down Sadr's death squads to keep them from killing Sunnis, cut up Iranian agents who fuel the death toll, block the movement of insurgent and terrorist weapons to Baghdad from the Baghdad Belts, and so calm things so the Sunni Arabs will in essence surrender and the Shias will accept that surrender without wiping the Sunni Arabs out in revenge.

We have gone through a number of phases in this war. Beginning in the fall we will start to draw down the surge forces and the last phase of American combat dominance will come to an end. The next phase starting in the latter half of 2008 will see us begin the transition to Iraqis. And then Iraq will fight on its own with only our combat support elements filling in gaps in Iraqi capabilites for logistics and firepower. Hopefully all the Iraqis will unite to fight and defeat the Persian invaders and solidify a single though non-unitary Iraqi state.

The gangs of Iraq will then remain to be defeated. And corruption remains to be defeated to promote a real democracy.

The popular view promoted by our press coverage is that our "enemy" in Iraq is resistant to our efforts and keeps coming back for more. This is not the case. We've in essence defeated one enemy after another in Iraq. The anti-war side doesn't see this complexity. Which is odd considering they claim the nuance gene for themselves.

UPDATE: Ralph Peters has complementary and related thoughts.

To the Shores of Hainan

I've suspected that our Marine Corps is highly unlikely to need the ability to assault enemy-held shores in division strength again. Which is why I've wanted them to make urban combat their primary focus rather than amphibious warfare. The amphibious warfare priority resulted from World War II in the Pacific and is hardly the reason to keep that focus for all time.

China may have given the Marine Corps a new lease on amphibious life:

Several smaller naval bases and navy air fields already exist on Hainan Island, but the new base is shaping up as a major facility, one capable of supporting a much larger fleet than China now possesses. India is particularly concerned because the Hainan base is close to the Indian ocean, and areas where the Indian Navy has long been top dog. Many other nations note the proximity of the new base to the Straits of Malacca, the busiest shipping channel on the planet.

I've long figured that a war with China is one that will have limited ground combat. Even if it should expand to the Korean peninsula, it would remain a peripheral theater. We simply don't have the ground forces to invade China in anything other than a raid.

The point is that ground forces would support air and naval forces. I've even thought seizing Hainan Island would be a useful mission to make sure we have a bargaining chip. But with China making Hainan Island more important for Chinese power projection, capturing Hainan Island becomes a mission more directly supportive of the air and naval war. And a major base would require a major Marine Corps effort to spearhead the invasion.

What is really puzzling is why China wouldn't just build a base on the mainland that would not be vulnerable to an American invasion. The island is not significantly closer to the Indian Ocean or points south than a base on the mainland. But the island is more vulnerable to our forces.

Plan B

Iran is going to Plan B after their sock puppets, the Sadrists, took a beating in Basra and Sadr City:

On Thursday there was a bogus story from Iraq published by the Associated Press. The report claimed that the moderate Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq had issued a fatwa, or religious edict, encouraging Iraqis to kill US soldiers.

I was stunned when I read this original "news." I tried to figure out why Sistani would privately tell somebody that it was ok to kill US soldiers. I wondered, was he trying to settle down some individuals? Surely he wasn't preparing to oppose what he has supported these last five years, was he?

But as it turns out, the report seems to be totally false. Which makes more sense. Iran is trying to spread confusion and win with propaganda what they lost on the streets of Iraq.

Explosively Formulated Press Releases? But hey, our press will run with the story as long as they can, I imagine. Anything to stop a US-Iraq status of forces agreement that carries us through to a final victory in the next administration.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Controversy 2.06

Is another plastic turkey issue unfolding?

I ask this because of this story which slams the 5.56mm round compared to the heavier 7.62mm round that the old M-14 fires:

Fired at short range, the M855 round is prone to pass through a body like a needle through fabric. That does not mean being shot is a pain-free experience. But unless the bullet strikes a vital organ or the spine, the adrenaline-fueled enemy may have the strength to keep on fighting and even live to fight another day.

In 2006, the Army asked a private research organization to survey 2,600 soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly one-fifth of those who used the M4 and M16 rifles wanted larger caliber bullets.

Look, I've fired no rounds in combat. I fired M-16s in training and carried an M-14 for ceremonial purposes. I will say that as a left hander, I hated the M-14. I shudder to think what would have happened to my right hand if I was shooting in combat. And the damn thing is heavy compared to the M-16.

But as I say, I'm no combat veteran. Yet combat veterans have differing opinions.

And even as a former REMF, I can read. For a controversy damning the US military for using 5.56mm rounds, I find it astounding that an "issue" is being flogged over "nearly one-fifth" of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans wanting larger rounds.

This means that over 80% didn't think we needed larger rounds.

This is a crisis?

My understanding is that at longer ranges the 5.56mm tumbles inside the body and causes wounding more than deaths. In conventional battle, that is an advantage. A corpse is quiet and doesn't scream, spreading panic. A corpse doesn't need two unwounded soldiers to haul it back to an aid station. A corpse doesn't burden a medical system of the enemy.

Clearly, we need to adjust how we shoot when the fighting is at short range, and we'd rather create corpses since this is not conventional warfare.

But come on people, can't we at least generate plausible plastic turkey issues?

UPDATE: General Casey says that the Army will examine the ammunition issue. The article says:

The military is reviewing soldiers' complaints that their standard ammunition isn't powerful enough for the type of fighting required in Iraq and Afghanistan[.]

Interesting. Now the AP is talking about "soldiers' complaints" without noting that nearly 20% of soldiers surveyed complained. Now it implies this is a general complaint of all soldiers.

Is there a problem? I don't know. I'm no combat veteran. But again, when nearly 20% of combat veterans surveyed complained about our ammunition, is thisa really a crisis?

Who Says They're Dense as Uranium?

Sure, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been wholly ineffective in stopping Iran's nuclear weapons programs. But that doesn't mean they are effectively running interference for Tehran. The IAEA knows stonewalling when it sees it:

In addressing whether Iran was complying with IAEA requests, the report appeared to come down on the side of the U.S. "Iran has not provided the Agency with all the information, access to documents and access to individuals necessary to support Iran's statements" that its activities are purely peaceful in intent, it said.

"The Agency is of the view that Iran may have additional information, in particular on high explosives testing and missile related activities which ... Iran should share with the agency," the report said. It was referring to two alleged sets of tests that IAEA officials say could be linked to a nuclear weapons program.

But this is one of those harmless lapses into the realm of the obvious by the international community. Sure, Iran is hiding nuclear programs. But if we actually bomb one, the international community will be upset that we used bombs instead of reports, and fail to be upset with Iran pursuing nukes in the first place.

But still, let it be understood that the IAEA knows what Iran is up to. They aren't legally blind, or anything.

I state this for the inevitable look back after Iran demonstrates it has nukes.

UPDATE: Instapundit writes that this judgment undermines the NIE on Iran's nuclear programs, making the NIE shaky. Well, it only makes what the press has told us the NIE says shaky. The NIE itself was always far more damning of the Iranians--as long as you actually read the NIE public summary.

For a Better Peace

On this Memorial Day at war, let us remember the lives of all those who have died defending our nation. Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote:

“‘Let no ravages of time testify to the present or the coming generations that we, as a people, have forgotten the cost of a free and undivided republic.’

“With that solemn promise, Army General John Logan signed the order in 1868 that established Memorial Day. We have honored his promise faithfully ever since, and this year -- with our nation still at war and a new generation of heroes fighting and dying for freedom -- we will do it again.

“The ‘cost’ of which Logan wrote is, of course, the blood spilt of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It is the hardest currency of all, once spent never to be recouped, a debt we can never truly, fully repay.

“And yet, Memorial Day provides us the opportunity at the very least to acknowledge that debt, to recognize this incredible sacrifice and to recommit ourselves to making sure it wasn’t spent in vain.

“Upon the graves of our war dead -- be they from Lexington and Concord; Gettysburg and Antietam; the Argonne Forest or the beaches of Normandy; Chosin and Inchon; Saigon and the Mekong Delta; Baghdad or Kandahar -- rests not only the memories and the pride of valor past, but the hope and the vision of a better, more peaceful future.

“Please join me this Memorial Day in remembering, on behalf of present and coming generations, the deep and abiding debt we owe to our fallen and to their loved ones.”

It is all too easy to say these men and women died for nothing and that we should not have sent them abroad. If we did not fight, we would have peace and they would live.

It is true that they would live--for a while. Until a worse fight arose because we failed to defeat evil. Or perhaps someone else, or many others, would die instead of them.

As for the peace argument. It is true that failing to fight brings peace. Iraqis knew a sort of peace as long as they did not resist Saddam's butchers who slaughtered them into submission. During that time of submission, accepting the deaths or torture of some relatively small number taken in the night quietly let the rest of the surviving Iraqis pretend to go about their normal lives. But their lives were not normal. And the peace was the silence of subjugation, subject to the murderous whims of a dictator and his evil minions. Dying for a better peace is a far better deal in the long run. And many Iraqis fight with our forces to achieve a better peace.

So yes, our men and women die today in Iraq and Afghanistan. They die for a better peace than we could possible get by turning our backs on evil and hoping that evil people will tire of inflicting evil before they get to us in our homes.

I remember them all. May the current generation adding to the toll be a part of our history of fighting for a better peace.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shaping the Next Battlefield?

American troops are not scouring Pakistan's frontier areas for bin Laden. But American assets have penetrated Pakistan's frontier areas (Tip to Weekly Standard), which have aided our air strikes that on occasion appear to take out a leader of al Qaeda:

The increasing success and pace of airstrikes this year indicates that American spy agencies and their allies have made progress in infiltrating Al Qaeda in Pakistan, said Louis Caprioli, a former anti-terrorism chief of France's DST intelligence agency.

"You have to have good intelligence on the ground to hit a target like that," Caprioli said. "It requires human as well as technical intelligence. I think the money that the Americans are spreading around is having an effect.

"Also, there are troops in Afghanistan, prisoners being interrogated. This is a long-term effort that is paying off."

This is interesting in light of this recent post where I wondered if we were planning a post-Westphalian campaign in the frontier areas that bypasses Pakistan's government which has been unable to focus on defeating the jihadis in the tribal areas:

If we can't get Islamabad to control the frontier area, it is time to bypass Islamabad and deal directly with the tribes who don't recognize the control of Islamabad in the first place. We cannot allow the fictions of sovereignty to keep us from defending ourselves from fanatics who straddle the gray boundary that lies between reality and international law.

Using limited military assets such as special forces and drones to back civilian armed assets such as the CIA or contract personnel (with either former or seconded special forces from Western countries, or perhaps even hiring security companies to provide the personnel) or even Arab special forces that would live and work inside the frontier areas, we may be able to turn the frontier tribes against the jihadis who target us.

It would take time to implement such a strategy of working on the tribes directly. It seems that we have been taking that time for a while now.

If Pakistan won't control what they claim to be sovereign over, I don't know why we must let legal sovereignty stop us from penetrating this uncontrolled space.

My main question is whether the Pakistani government is cooperating. After all, the central government complained about our limited operations in the frontier area because the frontier tribes complained. If we gain the alliance of these tribes, will Islamabad care if we impose some sort of order in the area? I'd think not since the jihadis have pointed their bombs to the Pakistan lowlands and not just across the border into Afghanistan.

While it is nice to get some target data from this operation, the real success will come from allying with these tribes to control territory and deny that space to bin Laden, driving him into a smaller and smaller space until that target data leads to a JDAM on his location.

We've been at this a while, apparently. How long for the pay off? And is Petraeus the one who will lead us in this campaign?

The Peace of Retreat

There will not be war today in Lebanon:

The Arab-mediated Doha agreement reached Wednesday ended a standoff that had paralyzed Lebanon's government before boiling over into the worst violence since the 1975-1990 civil war, leaving at least 67 people dead and at least 200 wounded.

Suleiman's candidacy is unopposed, a compromise after the majority and the opposition withdrew their candidates. The army general bid farewell to fellow officers Saturday, and was expected to take off this uniform in a symbolic break with the military just after he is elected president.

The Qatar deal was a major victory for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies, who got their long-standing demand for veto power over all government decisions.

But most Lebanese just seem happy that the shadow of war has been lifted, at least for now.

Over the past two days, life has returned to Beirut's upscale downtown district — a symbol of the city's rebirth after it was devastated and rebuilt after the 15-year civil war. The area had turned into a virtual ghost town by a Hezbollah-led sit-in for the past 17 months.

For now, Hizbollah and its allies--Syria and Iran--have scored a victory. The Sunnis and Christians (and any reasonable Shias) retreated from the radical Shias. We shall see whether this victory satisfies Hizbollah, Syria, and Iran or whether it whets their appetite for total victory.

But until then, we have "peace" in Lebanon.

You Are the Weakest Link

The British are pulling out of Iraq.

But even when you run, sometimes your enemies want you to run faster and farther:

Iran has secretly paid Iraqi insurgents hundreds of thousands of American dollars to kill British soldiers, according to a leaked government document obtained by The Telegraph.

So here's where those talks with the Iranians can bear fruit! I'm sure the Iranians had no idea that the British might find it objectionable that Iran hires Iraqi Shia thugs to kill British military personnel!

All a misunderstanding, don't you know? Glad that's all cleared up, now.

Flickering Out

It is difficult to portray this as anything but a good statistic:

The U.S. military says attacks have dropped dramatically — down to an average of 41 a day across the country, the lowest rate since 2004 — amid the crackdowns and truces.

Remember that the number includes small arms fire, indirect fire (mortars and rockets) and roadside bombs--including bombs discovered by our troops as well as those that go off. Back in 2004, this would have included more small arms fire and fewer roadside bombs, I think. As time progressed, the enemy resorted to roadside bombs more and more. And we are better at spotting those roadside bombs today. So the same level of attacks as in spring 2004 (by August 2004, I recall the level was up to 90 per day, although I think we started counting attacks differently in April 2004, making comparisons a little difficult prior to this) is a less effective level of fighting against us. And we have far more government forces to fight the enemy today than in 2004.

Our enemies have not yet been able to adapt to the gains made by the surge. It looked like the Iranians and their Sadrist hand puppets had attempted to go on offense, but the Iraqi government knocked them back in Basra and the south of Iraq, while we and the Iraqis knocked them about in Sadr City.

The Sunni Arab resistance in flickering out. The Shia resistance is failing to catch fire. And the Kurds seem to be content not to overreach.

We are winning this war. Will our Left celebrate this growing success? They've always said their opposition to the war was based on their superior knowledge that led them to conclude we could not win the war rather than just being pro-defeat. So logically, the Left will celebrate along with war supporters over this trend toward victory.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Gates Doctrine

This author speaks of Secretary Gates and his vision for our military.

I admit, I had worries about Gates when he came on board:

When Gates was nominated in late 2006, conservative suspicions and liberal hopes coincided. Gates, then a member of the Iraq Study Group, was expected to ease the American retreat from Iraq and begin the American engagement with Iran. Foreign-policy realism was back.

I may have had worries about Rumsfeld's commitment to ground forces and remained suspicious of revolutionary approaches to military hardware, but he fought the war. I did indeed worry that Gates was brought on board to retreat under the cover of "realism" that had nothing to do with the reality of the Long War.

So while I think Rumsfeld gets too harsh a rap for his tenure and deserves credit, too, for that time, I stopped worrying about Gates a long time ago. He, too, fights.

And he has an attitude on the war in Iraq that I share:

Far from treating Iraq as a distraction, Gates has posed the question: Why not concentrate on winning the wars our soldiers are currently fighting? In a series of groundbreaking speeches, Gates has argued that asymmetrical conflicts in the "long war" against "violent jihadist networks" will remain the likely face of battle for decades to come, that "procurement and training have to focus on that reality," and that shaping civilian attitudes in these conflicts will be just as important as winning battles.

Yes, we must win this war. The military is a tool to win our wars and not a tool that must be maintained at the price of losing wars. You could certainly make the argument during Vietnam that it was not worth risking NATO Europe to win in Vietnam. But in practice, we lost in Vietnam and wrecked our Army anyway. Would it really have been worse to win in Vietnam? How much more harm could victory have done to the Army?

I break with Gates in assuming we must focus on counter-insurgency as the main focus of the Army and Marines. Who believes our country will enter battle like this again in the near future? When the counter-insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan are won, that's it for a decade at least.We need to maintain that knowledge in the military and be prepared to teach allies how to fight counter-insurgencies, but I just don't see and American army going overseas to fight an insurgency again for quite some time. Congress won't declare that war.

But for Iraq and Afghanistan, this is quite appropriate:

There have been at least three practical outcomes of the nicely rhymed Gates Doctrine -- "the war we are in ... is the war we must win" -- in Iraq and beyond.

Quite. we must win this war.

First, Gates has pushed to deploy technologies immediately useful in low intensity conflict, particularly unmanned aerial vehicles.

This is the logical path to win the war we are in right now. Planning for the next generation's weapons is surely appropriate. But the priority is what helps the troops heading out next month.

Second, Gates is institutionalizing the teaching of counterinsurgency strategy. The old theory, says my contact, went: "If we could do the big stuff -- major combat operations -- we could take care of the little stuff, the asymmetrical stuff. But the little stuff turned out to be more prolonged and difficult."

This is only partly true. Yes, the knowledge of counterinsurgency (COIN) must be institutionalized. But any good soldier can fight COIN if well led. Remember that the surge offensive that used classic COIN approaches used the basic American soldier and Marine who had been trained as general purpose soldiers. The troops didn't change. The officers and senior NCOs changed how they used our excellent troops.

Third, Gates argues that while American military power can be a prerequisite for stability, winning asymmetrical wars requires other elements of American power.

Yes, the military needs help from the rest of the government. COIN is not all about military power, though security that military power provides is the requirement for all else. The rest of our government must be deployable just as our military is. And our public must support our efforts that will take time to get results.

But this isn't even just about indicting the State Department. Or Treasury or Agriculture or Energy or Justice. Even our military isn't entirely focused on winning the war we are in:

Elements of the defense establishment, he charges, have been "preoccupied with future capabilities and procurement programs, wedded to lumbering peacetime process and procedures, stuck in bureaucratic low-gear." Recently -- seven years after 9/11, five years after the Iraq War began -- Gates noted that portions of the military are still not on a "war footing."

I've never bought the argument that we have to mobilize our society for the Long War. We have a long fight and struggle ahead of us, and we should not exhaust our will to wage war by pretending we can gear up for an all-out effort for three years and then declare peace and go back to normal. This doesn't mean our public should ignore the war or the military personnel fighting the war. But our efforts need to insulate the civilians world from the effects of war to maintain support over years and decades.

But our military has no excuse for not being fully involved. Surely, with the Navy and Air Force playing supporting roles while the Army and Marine Corps bleed, it is natural that the ground forces expend more effort (and blood) in the war and stay focused on these fights right now.

And it is natural that the Navy and Air Force would look more broadly than Iraq and Afghanistan and look ahead for future wars that they might have to bear the burden in fighting.

But the priority must be supporting the ground forces right now. When the choice is between supporting the ground forces now or buiding a great weapon for a decade in the future, the latter goal must take lower priority. The future Navy and Air Force won't escape the fallout from a war that the Army and Marines are allowed to lose by failing to support them.

Win the war we are in right now, and the military that wins it will be better prepared to win tomorrow's war--even if it doesn't have the weapons that we planned to have by then.

Heck, with victory, our people might even be more willing to fight a COIN war if we are faced with such a threat.

Gates fights. That's a good enough attitude for me. And really, it's the most realistic approach available.

I Appreciate the Gesture

Let me just say that this was the right thing to say:

The panel's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Mich., a frequent critic of the war, also praised both men for their continued service in Iraq – Petraeus has been serving three tours of duty over four years and Odierno serving two tours over two years – acknowledging that the approach under both men has brought some stability to the country.

"Regardless of one's view of the wisdom of the policy that took us to Iraq in the first place, and has kept us there over five years, we owe General Petraeus and General Odierno a debt of gratitude for the commitment, determination, and strength that they have brought to their areas of responsibility," Senator Levin said at the outset of the hearing.

I surely disagree with Senator Levin over that question of wisdom and the five-year fight, but commending these two generals was the decent thing to do.

Too many who oppose the war act like they'd be crushed to hear of American victory.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The March of the EUndead

If you thought the European Union treaty of unification was dead because the French and Dutch voted it down in 2005, guess again:

The German parliament's upper house approved the European Union's new treaty on Friday — the document's last legislative hurdle in the 27-nation bloc's most populous country.

The document, known as the Lisbon Treaty, easily won the necessary two-thirds majority in the upper house, which represents the country's 16 state governments. All but one state voted in favor, giving the treaty 65 out of a possible 69 votes. ...

The treaty would alter the EU's decision-making process, envisioning more decisions by majority vote rather than unanimous endorsement. It would also provide for an EU president and a more powerful senior foreign policy official to give the bloc a stronger voice in global affairs. ...

The new treaty must be ratified by all 27 EU members to take effect. Only one country, Ireland, is holding a referendum, set for June 12.

I believe I've been clear on my opinion of the EU as a political entity.

Will Ireland, that country on the edge of the continent, be able to save the Europeans from their own rulers?

Care to Clarify This?

The Russians and Chinese are in agreement over our plan to build missile defenses:

Chinese President Hu Jintao and new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev say in a joint statement that the plan "does not help to maintain strategic balance and stability or strengthen international efforts to control nonproliferation."

I'm sorry, but I think that nonproliferation is served by making sure every tinpot dictator knows that a single nuke doesn't make them master of all they survey.

And I really want them to explain the strategic balance item. Do either Hu or Medvedev want to explain why they think they should retain the right to nuke us without any problem?

Or do they just want Iran and North Korea to retain the ability to strike us with nukes? At least that situation keeps nukes pointed at us that don't result in a devastating American nuclear retaliation on Peking or Moscow, eh?

Or perhaps, do either think we are contemplating a first strike behind such a shield?

Come on, speak up! Hu? Medvedev? Bueller? Anyone at all?

I thought not. Build the global missile defense system. And send Rice to explain this--again. Well, it's my fantasy conversation anyway.

Oh, Hogwash

I have no problem in calling the Palestinians the world champions in being their own worst enemy. They have botched up their opportunities so much that even though I wondered if the Sunni Arabs of Iraq might outpace the Palestinians in stupidity, the Sunni Arabs have recovered from their flirtation with stupidy and left the Palestinians as the champions.

But I think it is ridiculous to call the Palestinian self-destruction reflex a common feature of Arab Islam. The following examples are provided:

• The first case is that of Saddam Hussein, who in 2003 could have avoided war and conquest by allowing UN inspectors to search for (the apparently non-existent) weapons of mass destruction wherever they wanted. Yet Iraq's ruler opted for war, knowing full well that he would have to face the might of the US.

• The second case is that of Yasser Arafat in 2000, who after the failure of the Camp David and Taba talks had two options: continue talking to Israel - under the leadership of Ehud Barak, this country's most moderate and flexible government ever - or resort to violence. He chose the latter, with the result that all progress toward Palestinian independence was blocked. The ensuing loss of life, on both sides, testified to Arafat's preference for suicide over compromise.

• The third case is that of the Taliban. Post-9/11, their leadership had two options: to enter into negotiations with the US, with a view to extraditing Osama bin Laden, or to risk war and destruction. The choice they made was obvious: Better to die fighting than to give up an inch.

These are not examples of suicide. Far from it.

Saddam Hussein in 2003 was not suicidal, defying the United States knowing that destruction would follow. He believed we would not come to Baghdad. He believed we would use air power and if troops entered Iraq they would not attempt city fighting. Saddam assumed his French and Russian friends would save him trhough the UN. Saddam was wrong. He was not suicidal.

The second case is wrong, too. Arafat did not choose to be destroyed by the Israelis. He chose not to be murdered by Palestinian fanatics had he chosen peace with Israel on any terms that Israelis would have accepted. Remember Sadat? Arafat did and he did not wish to commit suicide by agreeing to a "compromise" peace deal that most Palestinians would have rejected as nothing but a surrender.

The third is like the first case. The Taliban were not out to commit suicide. But they did beat the Soviet-backed regime and were allied with al Qaeda which boasted they had driven the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. The Taliban simply did not anticipate our ability to reach around the globe to strangle the Taliban government and send bin Laden fleeing to Pakistan caves.

One could say with more certainty that the Finns were suicidal in 1939 when they defied Soviet Russia's demands and went to war instead.

One could say that about America in 1812 when we defied the British superpower and decided to fight.

It is not uncommon for small powers to defy larger powers.

Heck, you could say that about Russia which is posing as the enemy of the West while their military ability to back their defiance continues to wither. Moscow could have joined the West but they've decided to be our weak enemy. Now that's suicidal! They're just lucky we don't really take their bluster seriously.

The Palestinians are collectively stupid and self-destructive. But this is not an Arab Moslem failing. So no luck for them in blaming the Jews or Arab Moslem culture. They've only got themselves to blame for the mess they are in.

The Lexington Campaign

Pakistan's refusal to take responsibility for their frontier areas while refusing to let us violate their so-called sovereignty isn't going to last much longer in the face of bin Laden rebuilding his terrorist organization there. General Petraeus is moving up to CENTCOM and will focus on this issue:

General Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee here that is weighing President Bush's proposal to promote him to head of the Central Command that one of his first actions would be to visit Pakistan and meet with leaders there to discuss strategies for taking back control of the tribal border provinces where Osama bin Laden and his deputies lurk.

I think the article is wrong about this affecting the presidential campaign since there will not be enough time to work on this problem. But there may be a solution to the problem:

Al Qaeda exercises de facto control in the Pakistan border area by intimidating and eliminating tribal leaders that challenge the group's authority. If General Petraeus can find a coalition of sheikhs willing to work with the Pakistani military in the border provinces, as he found sheikhs willing to work with American and Iraqi troops in Anbar, it's possible he could capture Osama bin Laden.

It is about more than bin Laden. But without routinely violating the border to attack targets inside Pakistan and without accepting perpetual defense as we do in Iraq in the face of Syrian and Iranian aggression, we may have an opportunity to use a post-Westphalian Lexington Rule to fight al Qaeda in Pakistan.

If we can't get Islamabad to control the frontier area, it is time to bypass Islamabad and deal directly with the tribes who don't recognize the control of Islamabad in the first place. We cannot allow the fictions of sovereignty to keep us from defending ourselves from fanatics who straddle the gray boundary that lies between reality and international law.

Using limited military assets such as special forces and drones to back civilian armed assets such as the CIA or contract personnel (with either former or seconded special forces from Western countries, or perhaps even hiring security companies to provide the personnel) or even Arab special forces that would live and work inside the frontier areas, we may be able to turn the frontier tribes against the jihadis who target us.

We should be able to start at the Afghan-Pakistan border and extend the network of anti-al Qaeda tribes toward the interior of Pakistan. Already this year, despite the bleating that we are losing this war, our forces are on the offensive in Afghanistan and tearing up the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies:

Heavier losses while crossing the border have caused the Taliban to shift tactics in how they get from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Taliban gunmen are now trying to pass as family members of family groups that travel into Afghanistan every day. The families go along because of bribes or threats. Gunrunners from Iran bring in weapons to equip these young men, who cross the border unarmed. Afghan police are now questioning young men crossing the border more closely. Even that is safer than trying to sneak across, where better NATO and U.S. surveillance catch these groups, and often wipe them out. Recruiting gunmen inside Afghanistan is getting more difficult, and higher wages have to be offered. Many Taliban leaders are offering to pay more than twice what a cop or soldier gets. Even that is not enough, because the annual death rate among Taliban fighters is over a third, while it's only a few percent for police or soldiers. Most Afghans may be illiterate, but they can count.

Beefed up US and NATO forces that crowd the border would be in a position to provide firepower support to friendly tribes while interdicting cross-border traffic attempting to destabilize Afghanistan or reinforce Pakistani jihadis. With our forces at their backs, the friendly frontier region tribes would be better able to stand up to the pro-jihadi tribes and jihadis. With time, we will reduce the area that bin Laden has to operate within and increase the chances that we will kill him with drones or rewards.

When national sovereignty protects thugs who kill us, we need to work in a post-Westphalian mindset. This operation will take a lot of time to carry out and will face setbacks as some tribes become unbought, but it offers hope of pacifying the frontier when Pakistan is unable to do so.

UPDATE (A short time later): Petraeus may be able to pull this off if our leaders recognize that no matter how deeply you really believe Iraq has distracted us from the Afghanistan campaign, just pumping more troops into Afghanistan (even if it is wise to put a quarter million troops there given the supply situation) won't do much good given the problem there that spans the border with Pakistan. The GAO reports:

The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan’s FATA. According to U.S. officials and intelligence documents, since 2002, al Qaeda and the Taliban have used Pakistan’s FATA and the border region to attack Pakistani, Afghan, as well as U.S. and coalition troops; plan and train for attacks against U.S. interests; destabilize Pakistan; and spread radical Islamist ideologies that threaten U.S. interests. GAO found broad agreement that al Qaeda had established a safe haven in the FATA. A 2008 DNI assessment states that al Qaeda is now using the FATA to put into place the last elements necessary to launch another attack against America. The United States has relied principally on the Pakistani military to address its national security goals in the FATA. Of the approximately $5.8 billion directed at efforts in the FATA border region from 2002 through 2007, about 96 percent ($5.56 billion) was U.S. CSF, used to reimburse the Pakistani military. U.S. and Pakistani government officials recognize that relying primarily on the Pakistani military has not succeeded in neutralizing al Qaeda and preventing the establishment of a safe haven in the FATA.

A comprehensive strategy would involve bolstering the Afghan security forces, bolstering the Afghanistan civic institutions and economy, controlling the border using our troops, getting the cooperation of Pakistan at least minimally, limited US military forces crossing into Pakistan, and a militarized-political offensive at the sub-national level to bribe, impress, and bully the tribes of the Pakistan frontier area into giving up Osama and his thugs.