Monday, June 30, 2008

The Two-by-Four Strategy

Don't believe press reports that once again the Taliban are winning in Afghanistan. These stories appear frequently. So far they've been wrong. I see no reason to believe that the budding Von Clausenitwitz in our press are correct this round.

So far the enemy is farther from taking power than they have ever been. They mass--we kill them. And increasingly, Afghan forces are built and participate in killing them. The enemy is weaker than the Northern Alliance was just prior to Operation Enduring Freedom kicking off in October 2001.

Yet we can't win in Afghanistan the way we did in Iraq by spreading out Coalition and Iraqi security forces to protect the population and kill the enemy in classic counter-insurgency. We can't afford to risk that many US troops with our supply line running through Pakistan, NATO can't/won't commit many troops, and Afghanistan can't afford that many troops.

So without the ratio of troops for a classic pacification campaign, we have to kill them into passivity with our superior communications, training, and firepower:

U.S. and NATO commanders know they cannot be beaten. The combination of more capable troops, air reconnaissance (especially hundreds of UAVs) and smart bombs, enables Taliban fighters to be killed quickly, whenever the enemy stays in one place too long. But there are more groups of Taliban running around southern Afghanistan than there are Western troops available to go kill them. NATO commanders know their history, that the Pushtun tribes can be beaten, but that it will require,they calculate, another three brigades. This will enable a large enough number of Taliban fighters to be killed, in a short enough period, to break the morale of the Pushtuns still willing to go out and carry a gun for the Taliban.

So we need to hit them hard across the forehead--repeatedly--to induce fatalism rather than fanaticism.

This happened to the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Iraq killed lots of Iranian fanatics.

So this strategy can work. It is interesting that our planners think three more brigades will allow us to do this. It would be nice if the Europeans would provide two. I'd settle for one.

Eventually, even religious fanatics grow tired of dying for no gain. But it takes time and lots of dead enemies.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hopefully Plan A

Striking Iran to damage (hopefully decisively) Iran's nuclear programs is hardly ideal. Even a successful American-led strike that damages Iranian assets enough to prevent effective counter-attacks would leave a hostile regime in place ready to continue waging war on us through non-nuclear means. That regime would continue trying to build, steal, or buy a nuclear weapon.

Yet letting Iran get nuclear weapons would be a disaster even if Iran never uses a nuclear weapon. Behind a shield of nuclear arms, Iran may well be emboldened to conduct terror and aggression on a grander scale. Sanctions may crumble as nations participating fear an Iranian nuclear strike or terror offensive for not trading with Iran.

I've long assumed (as I wrote in November 2004) that we plan a revolution to take advantage of the polls that show a majority of Iranians don't like their government and admire America:

Do you really think we’ve done nothing? Was the Axis of Evil speech meaningless in directing our efforts?

I’m betting on a student revolt and armed uprising by elements of the Iranian military to be supported by US special forces, air power, and a handful of brigades (like up to five) to provide support to hammer any military units that remain loyal to Tehran. And to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, of course.

So using the same arrows, we have US operations in the south and east as above. And the major thrust lines are spearheaded by revolting Iranian units that open the way for US troops to march with them on Tehran. The prospect of US troops, air power, and money will help the Iranians move with us. And will terrify units not absolutely loyal to the mullahs.

With Iranian military units on our side, the post-conflict stabilization mission will be taken care of by Iranians. We’ll have those MEK guys with our units for translators and liaison. We’ll pound the Iranian nuke facilities from the air.

I don’t believe we’d risk containing Iran as we will with North Korea. I don’t believe we’d subcontract the hit to the Israelis. I don’t believe we’d carry out an air campaign because even with our much greater power, we couldn’t be sure of getting everything from the air.

If we can't engineer a revolt in these circumstances, there should be no raises at the CIA this year.

Seymour Hersh says we are a year into a major effort to destabilize Iran:

Funding for the covert escalation, for which Bush requested up to $400 million, was approved by congressional leaders, according to the article, citing current and former military, intelligence and congressional sources.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. U.S. Special Operations Forces have been conducting crossborder operations from southern Iraq since last year, the article said.

These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of "high-value targets" in Bush's war on terrorism, who may be captured or killed, according to the article.

But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which include the Central Intelligence Agency, have now been significantly expanded, the article said, citing current and former officials.

Although this is Hersh and so suspect in details, broadly speaking I assume we are doing something like this. And I've assumed it for far more than a year.

It would be nice to have extra units in Iraq and Afghanistan not needed for fighting the counter-insurgency campaigns to intervene to support an Iranian army revolt against the mullah regime. Are we adding troops to Afghanistan and holding off on reducing combat troops in Iraq below what the attack statistics suggest to me are necessary with an eye to Iran?

But I'm just guessing, of course.

Thanks for Letting Us Know

As I've said, we can't let Israel strike Iran's nuclear infrastructure in the belief that we can escape the fallout. The Iranians have made explicit what was always clear, Iran will hit Hormuz, Israel, and America (probably in Iraq):

[Pasdaran general] Jafari warned that if attacked, Iran would strike back, including choking off the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a narrow outlet for oil tankers leaving the
Persian Gulf. ...

Jafari also warned that an attack against Iran will also prompt Muslims, including Shiites, to harm U.S. and Israeli interests throughout the Middle East in retaliation to any attack against Iran. He mentioned the Tehran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

So Iran launches missiles at Israel, tries to block Hormuz and otherwise tear of the Persian Gulf region, and orders proxies like Hizbollah and Hamas to strike Israel and the Mahdi Army to hit America in Iraq. This is about what I figured.

Which means that Iran has given us notice that any strike against Iran's nuclear programs needs to be much broader right off the bat in order to damage Iran's retaliatory capabilities.

This is the basic problem of hoping Israel can solve our Iran problem for us. Israel cannot conduct such a broad attack. Even assuming you add in Israel's submarine capability and perhaps some special forces/intel direct action people, that 100-aircraft practice run (which included support aircraft and helicopters in the total rather than being 100 strike aircraft) does not mean Israel can conduct the breadth of strikes needed for long enough to really cripple the mullahs.

Strategypage sees the exercise as a signal to Iran and not as practice for a strike on Iran:

Unmistakable signs of preparations for an air strike on Iran? Probably not. This looks more like an Information War operation, intended to put some fear into the hearts of anti-Semitic Iranian leaders who insist that someday, somehow, they will destroy Israel.

Still, I imagine the Israelis will conduct such an inadequate raid if they feel they have no choice but to let Iran go nuclear. Better to buy time than live under the Iranian nuclear shadow, I assume.

It is good to know all these things ahead of time. Do not be confused. I don't think we can get away with a "surgical" strike--ours or Israel's--that eliminates Iran's nuclear threat.

If we strike Iran, it will look an awful lot like war.

Near Future Combat Systems

The FCS project is being reorganized to put systems into the hands of the infantry as soon as possible when once it was focused on high intensity armored warfare:

Soldiers in Infantry Brigade Combat Teams now get the first crack at Future Combat System technology, Army officials said during a news conference at the Pentagon June 26.

That capability, initially meant to be delivered first to Heavy Brigade Combat teams, will now be delivered to IBCTs by fiscal year 2011 -- three years earlier than previously planned.

The changes come after Army studies showed it was infantry units who were highest in demand in Afghanistan and Iraq, and infantry units with the most capability requests.

"As a result of capability gaps found in these IBCTs, the Army is accelerating the FCS complimentary programs to provide capability to infantry units first," said Lt. Gen. Michael A. Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. "These capabilities will increase their capability and survivability in offence, defense and stability operations."

Included in the equipment meant to be fielded to Soldiers is the Tactical and Urban Unattended Ground Sensors, the Non Line of Sight-Launch System, the Class I Unmanned Airial Vehicle, the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle and network kits for the Humvee platform.

Also closely associated with this initial 2011 spinout of FCS equipment will be the Ground Soldier Ensemble. Though the ensemble is not part of the FCS lineup, it does contribute to Soldier effectiveness, and it will be accelerated so it can coincide with the FCS spinout.

Winning the war we are in now takes priority over all else. Which is as it should be.

Going to the Source

Taiwan just wrapped up parts of their annual wargames, this year assuming the Chinese land on Taiwan after defeating Taiwan's air and naval forces.

What is most interesting is what I missed from last year's exercise (or forgot):

After simulation exercises last year, Taiwan announced for the first time it would fire missiles at Chinese airfields and missile launch sites if Beijing attacked.

Good. Anything to gum up the works on a conveyor belt of Chinese troops attempting to cross the Taiwan Strait.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No Operational Link

Our Left and al Qaeda certainly have no operational links. But they do have common enemies, it seems:

[VP Cheney's chief of staff] Addington told [Representative] Delahunt he couldn't discuss specific techniques being used, or even discussed for use, by CIA agents because terrorists may be watching his appearance and would gain insight into what U.S. intelligence agents are up to."You kind of communicate with Al Qaeda if you do. I can't talk to you because Al Qaeda may watch C-SPAN," Addington said.

Delahunt responded: "I'm sure they are watching. I'm glad they finally have a chance to see you, Mr. Addington, given your penchant for being unobtrusive."

I'm sure Representative Delahunt meant no harm at all by that little joke.

But I'm sure psychologists would have a field day about what it says about who the good representative considers his real enemy and his real ally.

Khyber Pass

The Pakistani government is taking military action to protect our supply line to Afghanistan:

The offensive in the Khyber tribal region marked the first major military action Pakistan's newly elected government has taken against the militants operating in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The government had said it preferred to try to defuse tension with the groups through negotiations, but with threats by Islamic militants to the city of Peshawar growing in recent weeks, the military decided to take action.

Khyber also is a key route for moving U.S. military supplies into neighboring Afghanistan.

I would never rule out deals with the nominal national government in a Lexington Campaign inside Pakistan that tries to work directly with sub-national entities to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan.

And I'd like to remind people who say we should dramatically increase our forces inside Afghanistan, do we really want to put them at the mercy of Pakistani good will to maintain our supply line?

Greater China

I didn't realize that China was quite so active on the Indian border, which saw India and China fight a war in 1962 that India lost rather decisively:

India claims some 38,000 square kilometers of territory in Aksai Chin in the northeastern corner of Jammu and Kashmir, an area which China occupied and continues to control. Beijing is also holding 5,180 sq km of land in Kashmir ceded to it by Pakistan in 1963.

China lays claim to around 90,000 sq km of territory in India's northeast, roughly approximating the India state of Arunachal Pradesh. China refers to it as "Southern Tibet".

What is worrying about the incursions over the past year, say intelligence officials, is not just "the increasing frequency" but also "the fact that the Chinese are making deeper forays into Indian territory".

What has irked India about the incursions into Sikkim is that China, after virtually acknowledging Sikkim to be a part of India, is bringing this part of the boundary back into the border dispute. Over 65 incursions have taken place in Sikkim this year.

China's reopening of the Sikkim front and its increased military pressure on India along all sectors of the disputed border appears to be aimed at pushing India to concede to its demands in Arunachal Pradesh, more specifically Tawang. And its claims over Tawang are linked to its bid to cement control over Tibet.

Tawang is situated in the southwestern extremity of Arunachal Pradesh. Its shares borders with Bhutan to its west and Tibet to its north. Nestling in the eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 3,400 meters, Tawang is known for its stunning view of the mountains, alpine weather and Buddhist monasteries.

However, it is not its dramatic landscape and tourism potential that makes Arunachal Pradesh or Tawang a coveted piece of real estate in China's eyes.

Indian army officers say that control over Arunachal, and Tawang in particular, will enable China to militarily overrun the Brahmaputra Valley and the rest of northeastern India. Tawang is a critical corridor between Lhasa and the Brahmaputra Valley.

Should any of these incidents expand, China plans a short and sharp war that thumps India and attempts to end the fight immediatley, the article states.

India seems to have a similar idea in regard to Pakistan with their Cold Start Doctrine. Although some read the doctrine as an attempt to overrun Pakistan, that makes little sense. Nuclear weapons limit wars out of fear of somebody getting antsy and lighting up a nuke; and so conventional wars must be brought swiftly to a victorious end before escalation rears its ugly head. There is no way the Pakistanis would accept major losses to their territory without using nukes to save themselves.

The question is, how does India respond to a Chinese version of their own strategy against Pakistan?

First, even if China wins that first round, the strategy says that China halts their offensive without exploiting the success. So India will have a chance to build up forces for a counter-attack. Of course, India will have to do this in the face of Chinese efforts to "diffuse" the crisis and end it with a Chinese win.

Then India will have to mount a counter-attack into prepared Chinese positions to retake what they lost.

Or, India could expand the war to strike a less defended Chinese position in order to barter the land back to the status quo ante.

Much depends on the value of the land that China grabs. If India loses Tawang, given that this could be used as a springboard for a further decisive attack, India needs to regain that land directly by force rather than try to bargain for it.

Or ultimately, India may need to redeploy armored forces and supporting arms from facing Pakistan to facing China for a decisive counter-attack early in the fight before China can halt and declare victory.

India may be able to accept that sitting on defense in the west will not affect low-intensity warfare against terrorists from Pakistan and nuclear weapons will deter a major Pakistani attack into India. Conventional Indian forces without major armored elements should be able to defend their border with Pakistan without giving up too much if the Indians move their limited mobile forces east to face China. What India will give up is a near-term offensive option against Pakistan.

I'm amazed that so many people insist that China's soft power is making friends and influencing people at our expense. China is just accelerating India's movement to alliance with the West with threats like this to India.

Which is as it should be. The world's largest democracy never belonged on the other side of the old Cold War alliance system.

The Iraq Distraction

I've argued this again and again, but it bears repeating that Iraq was a distraction for al Qaeda and not America. Al Qaeda is defeated in Iraq and on the run. And that defeat has had ripple effects:

The problem was that too many terrorist resources were being poured into Iraq, where the main result was the loss of many terrorist leaders and specialists, and even more innocent Iraqi civilians. That led to a loss of popularity throughout the Moslem world, and even fewer recruits and contributions. While al Qaeda still has some popular support, the organization itself has been reduced to a few hundred members hiding out among Pushtun and Baluchi tribes in Pakistan.

Remember, too, that far from being a training ground for terrorists, Iraq was a killing ground. And those who escaped went home telling tales of woe. Remember that to maintain their dignity they have an incentive to inflate the power of America and the depravity of al Qaeda to explain why they did not die a glorious death in the jihad.

We've won the real battle against al Qaeda in Iraq. Now we need to pursue them into Pakistan.

When Everyone Lied Us into War

A lot of people fervently believe that President Bush "lied" us into war. This relies on massive suppression of actual events but a whole lot of people succeed in this effort. So what to do?

A trip down memory lane:

Convincing Congress that the United States enjoyed a right of “anticipatory self-defense” against Saddam was hardly a difficult task. On the contrary, in September 2002 the Senate virtually arm-twisted Bush into giving it time to pass a new and more specific resolution than the Clinton-era one authorizing regime change in Iraq. In ringing the tocsin, moreover, leading Democrats spoke at least as assertively as leading Republicans. One of them was Charles Schumer:

"Hussein’s vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and his resent and potential future support for terrorist acts and organizations . . . make him a terrible danger to the people of the United States."

Another was Hillary Clinton:

"My position is very clear. The time has come for decisive action to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s WMD’s."

John Edwards was still another:

"Every day [Saddam] gets closer to his long-term goal of nuclear capability."

Howard Dean, then the governor of Vermont, was of a similar mind:

"There’s no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the U.S. and our allies."

More than half of Senate Democrats, including John Kerry and Joseph Biden, joined with Republicans in authorizing the President “to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq,” and in so doing to enforce all the relevant but ineffectual resolutions passed by the UN Security Council. In the House, 81 Democrats (out of 209 in total) concurred. Later, many would claim that they had been tricked or misled or even lied to. In fact, the vote reflected nothing more than an affirmation of the old Clinton-era position, now urgently reinforced by the experience of 9/11.2

It was, after all, California’s Nancy Pelosi who had warned the nation on December 16, 1998, during Operation Desert Fox, that Saddam’s “development of WMD technology . . . is a threat to countries in the region.” During the House debate in October 2002, Pelosi sounded the same urgent theme, summing up a threat whose imminence the Democrats had been insisting upon for years. “Yes,” reiterated the tireless Pelosi, “[Saddam] has chemical weapons. He has biological weapons. He is trying to get nuclear weapons.”

Funny, Pelosi doesn't look NeoConish. Who knew?

It is certainly the right of one-time war supporters (left and right) to change their minds about the Iraq War. I don't think much of them exercising that right since for members of Congress I would assume that a declaration of war assumes we fight until we win, but this is a free country.

But what I don't like one bit is the refusal by the anti-war side to admit that all of us made choices in good faith based on what we knew at the time.

I believe even in retrospect knowing what we (think) we know now, that Saddam was a threat that could not be allowed to continue. I think we needed to destroy Saddam's regime and it is good that we did. It is also good that we stayed to defeat the al Qaeda and Iranian invasions of Iraq. These victories will serve us well in the decades to come if we don't blow our gains.

The cries that Bush lied us into war are shameful. And all war supporters need to do to defend that claim is to quote current war opponents from 1998 to 2002. Heck, once we do claim the fruits of the victories we are winning in Iraq, those current war opponents will no doubt be quoting their old statements.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Two Down?

I hate to be afraid to accept yes for an answer regarding North Korea's nuclear disarmament negotiations, but did North Korea say yes?

Their full and complete nuclear disclosure seems to be less than full and complete:

The list was not expected to provide details on nuclear weapons that the North may have produced.

And also this:

The declaration was not expected to include details of the North's alleged attempts to enrich uranium — the dispute that sparked the nuclear standoff in late 2002.

Oh yeah, and this:

The list also will not describe how the North allegedly helped Syria build a nuclear plant.

And this is before we examine whether we think they've been truthful in the narrow areas they are supposed to explain.

Ultimately, I think the way to solve the North Korean problem is not through negotiations that get North Korea to voluntarily disarm, but negotiatons that buy time for the regime to collapse.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Drang Noch Osten?

Der Spiegel does an excellent job wondering why Russia is risking a new cold war with NATO and hits the pertinent points (which I raised here):

--Russian military deployments are ego exercises while the Russian military continues to deteriorate.

--The Russians continue to focus on the non-threat of America and NATO while ignoring the China threat.

Are the Russians so vodka-addled that they really believe they need to "stand up" to the West while a real threat in their east goes unnoticed? Do they really believe that joining the West is wrong and picking a fight with us is wise when Moscow will desperately need help to face that threat?

Christ almighty, Russians. Get over the Cold War. You lost. We've got bigger problems than coddling your fragile egos.

And you've got bigger problems in your Far East.

Under the Green Banner

I simply don't understand why so many people seem more worried about carbon footprints than car bomb footprints.

The idea of putting global warming "deniers" and now oil industry executives on trial for high crimes against humanity seems normal to some. Indeed, these climate defendants would be lucky to have the standards for fairness that the same people deem inadequate for suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay.

Yet we can see this bizarre notion again with the attitude about importing Canadian oilsands-derived oil:

A resolution passed at their annual conference this week urged U.S. mayors to forbid use of oilsands-derived gasoline in municipal vehicles.

Considering that by 2020, Alberta's oilsands will pump four-million barrels of oil a day -- about a quarter of total current U.S. oil consumption, it could prove challenging and costly for these high-minded local politicians to find a separate spigot that will deliver only non-oilsands based fuel to their vehicle fleets.

They don't like the oilsands because production of a barrel of synthetic crude emits higher CO2 emissions than conventional oil.

Give me strength.

Canada will produce that oil. But instead of shipping it here they will simply ship it overseas if we won't buy it.

And then our money can perhaps go to Venezuelan, Nigerian, Saudi, Iranian, and Russian oil exporters to replace those Canadian imports? None of that revenue will find its way to terrorists, eh?

Friggin' idiots.

Good Enough for Government Work

Given the consensus about climate change that climatologists insist they have, this comment is pretty funny:

As an engineer, I can say that climatologists are held in very low regard by the scientific community as a whole. They make claims about systems that are clearly too complicated for them to understand, based on data that does not support those claims and then they give a policy prescription fueled by their emotional involvement in the subject. In the scientific hierarchy they are somewhere above phrenologists but below weathermen, who at least ackowledge the limitations of their understanding.

But other than those failings of scientific rigor, they're just fine.

Don't you all feel much better about justifying massive government intervention in our economy and personal lives based on our climatologists' views?

The Center Cannot Hold

If we really are moving toward a post-Westphalian campaign in Pakistan, this demonstrates the need for working directly with the sub-national groups to defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban:

The Bush administration has paid Pakistan more than $2 billion without adequate proof that the Pakistani government used the funds for their intended purpose of supporting U.S. counterterrorism efforts, congressional auditors reported yesterday. Their report concluded that more than a third of U.S. funds provided Pakistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were subject to accounting problems, including duplication and possible fraud.

At least if we are hiring and bribing groups within Pakistan directly, we will lose less money to corruption as the funding works it way through the bureaucracies.

Winning is Good

I think the Iraq War has been worth the price. As long as we win, of course.

While some deny we have won much, it is getting tougher to deny that we have victory within our grasp:

But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

But the full magnitude of what we achieved in Iraq must wait on both time and what future leaders do with the victory:

The full effects of the vigorous martial response of President Bush to the attacks of Sept. 11 will not be known for decades. But if history is any indicator, military courage, persistence and a capacity to kill the enemy in large numbers usually work to the benefit of such nations.

It never hurts for potential enemies to know that we will kill them until they are ground into the dust if they fight us.

And it never hurts for allies to know we will stand with them until victory if they side with us.

These are two reasons our Left doesn't want us to win, of course. But that's another issue altogether.

History may yet judge Bush 43 as George the Liberator.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Speed is Life

Given the need to reinforce Taiwan fast in case China invades, China's stronger navy and air force make it unlikely we can get naval elements into the fight quickly. We will have to cautiously approach Taiwanese waters with our carriers to avoid Chinese subs, mine fields, aircraft, and surface forces that might ambush us if we charge in.

But the need for speed remains. Already, we have tested moving aircraft from the continental United States to the western Pacific (with South Korea the proxy for Taiwan, I think).

And now we've demonstrated another method of really complicating any Chinese invasion planning--air-dropped naval mines:

This month, several U.S. B-52 bombers practiced dropping naval mines off the coast of Guam, in the central Pacific. The bombers dropped 162 inert mines.

So, say we can start dropping mines on the fourth day, with deployed fighters protecting the bombers. I discussed this capability here.

China, too, needs speed to win any invasion. And we are working to use our air power to deny China that window of opportunity.

This Blows My Timeline Off Track

I've long speculated that China might use the Olympics as a distraction to invade Taiwan.

One element of that speculation gained traction when I read that the non-typhoon season in the area is May to July and October.

This article, discussing a typhoon this month, led me to look at this issue:

The remnants of Typhoon Fengshen bore down on Taiwan and southeast China on Wednesday, after leaving a trail of destruction in the Philippines, where hopes faded of finding more survivors inside a capsized ferry.

During what I thought was the non-typhoon season? Oops. I don't watch the Weather Channel much and it shows.

So I looked at last year's weather pattern, and find that the typhoon season is more like May to November.

The storms can strike any time, but these months are most common. May was sparse and June had no storms last year. August through November were the most active months last year.

This is not to say that China could only strike from December to April. China just needs a window in the Taiwan Strait area to strike and gain a foothold. Perhaps only a week of local good weather would be enough to get ashore in sufficient strength. Heck, bad weather after China gets enough troops ashore might harm our air and naval power trying to intervene.

Nonetheless, the windows I thought China had to invade are way off. I assumed the source I used was good enough to trust their statement. I recall doing a quick Intenet search back then to check but came up empty. But perhaps my memory is faulty, since my quick search today turned up this information easily. Three years is a long time on the Web, I know, but still. I apologize for that error standing for so long.

While this does not change the basic conclusion that China is gaining the ability to invade and will do so at some point, it does weaken (but not wreck--only time can do that) the pre-Olympics timeframe argument.

Defending Self Esteem

Joe Klein dismisses the threat of Iran to America:

"Why the rush now to bomb Iran, a country that poses some threat to Israel but none--for the moment--to the United States...unless we go ahead, attack it, and the mullahs unleash Hezbollah terrorists against us?"

So writes Joe Klein over at Time's blog. (We'll leave unaddressed his intellectual flailing on Jews, Commentary magazine, the Iraqi government, 100 years, etc.)

Interesting way of looking at things. Iran is killing Americans right now--let alone the history of Iranian attacks on American targets starting with our embassy in Tehran--yet Klein doesn't feel any threat to America from Iran. I guess our soldiers and Marines in Iraq don't count as being Americans threatened by Iranian actions. For Klein, they are separate entities distinct from America.

This is part of a larger strategy that our Left promotes--the dismissal of any threat to America. Islamo-fascism, for example, is no reason to get upset according to our elite media:

Just imagine the world picture of somebody whose primary — or even (God forbid!) sole — source of news is the New York Times.

In particular, imagine that person’s image of Islam — and of the problems and issues surrounding the growing presence of Islam in the West today. At the Times — as at other important news organizations — the slant on Islam has been shaped almost exclusively by apologists like Karen Armstrong (author of Muhammed: A Prophet for Our Time) and John Esposito (director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University). In March, the New York Times Magazine published a long essay by another major apologist, Harvard law professor and Times Magazine contributing writer Noah Feldman, who took (shall we say) an exceedingly generous view of sharia law and its proponents. Last Sunday, the magazine ran a new piece by Feldman, arguing that Muslims are Europe’s “new pariahs” and that the only real problem related the rise of Islam in Europe today is — guess what? — European racism.

It’s a familiar claim, to put it mildly, and Feldman served up the usual rhetoric, conflating the nationalist bigots of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang party with people like the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, whose views on the Islamization of Europe are rooted in liberal values. Feldman dismissed as “prejudice” concern about first-cousin marriages among Muslims — never mind that almost all such marriages are forced, that the overwhelming majority involve rape and abuse, and that those who have campaigned hardest against them are not “racists” but women’s rights advocates. Feldman deep-sixed the catastrophic rise in rape, gay-bashing, and other crimes by young European Muslim males, the extensive abuse of European welfare systems that is helping to destroy them, and the broad-based cultural jihad which ultimately seeks nothing less than the replacement of democracy with sharia. Feldman insisted that “a hallmark of liberal, secular societies is supposed to be respect for different cultures, including traditional, religious cultures — even intolerant ones.”

If you are unwilling to defend our society, your self esteem is bolstered by denying that there is any threat to defend against. That way you are not displaying fear by arguing we must not fight. Instead, you are far-sighted. And tolerant. And deep down you know that those Red State rubes who cling to guns and God will keep the enemy you dare not name at bay while you condemn your defenders.

Some things are worth defending, after all. No matter what the price. No matter what the burden.

Putin's Russia

This is today's Russia:

The most striking thing about everyday life in the Russia of Vladimir Putin (and make no mistake, it is Putin's Russia, despite the election of a new president, hand-picked by the great man) is the incredible corruption of the courts, the police, the special forces -- all the institutions that are supposed to uphold law and order in a democracy and that in Russia today have been transformed into a cancer that's devouring the state.

Russia has rejected the West but is so screwed up that they can never be a real threat to the West again. Moscow has chosen the middle ground of alienating us with no real power over us.

It should be obvious why Eastern Europeans newly freed from the Soviet Union's crushing embrace want to get into NATO. Don't bother wondering about that.

What should be a subject of inquiry is why Russians seem to be happy with their new commissars. Russians will find that their attitude is of little help when a resurgent China presses Russia in the Far East to redress 18th century grievances.

Russians may be devouring Russia from within, but the final bite will come from the outside.

Good Luck, Chuck

Syrian claims to be ready to come in from the cold come out of Damascus occasionally, and Western diplomats, ever hopeful despite past disappointment, rush to provide inducements for Syria to end their support of terrorism. The Western press, with the attention span of gnats, cheerleads from the sidelines. It's like watching Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown one more time.

We have another effort teeing up right now:

Syria and Iran may be better friends than many thought. Reports indicate that the two might have been cooperating on nuclear weapons research. Now, though, Damascus may be rethinking those ties and looking for friends in the West.

Things are taking a dramatic turn in Syria these days, just as a team of United Nations nuclear weapons inspectors arrives to probe allegations that Damascus is hiding secret atomic activities. And as information emerges that Syria may have been cooperating with both Iran and North Korea on the development of nuclear weapons.

Syria supports Iran in their joint effort to kill Americans and Iraqis inside Iraq, assists Iran with its nuclear weapons program, destabilizes Lebanon, facilitates the support of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon, and otherwise acts like the Axis of Evil candidate it is, yet letting a United Nations team in to a limited area for a limited purpose is a "dramatic turn."

Look, in theory, I think it would be great if Syria turned on Iran and abandoned its support of terrorism and thuggery. But Syria has tied their fate to Iran's victory over the ongoing confrontation with the West. I seriously doubt they are looking for friends in all the West places.

Syria is just trying to buy time by relieving the pressure we exert, at worst; or hoping to get cash, at best. While this report might be true, don't forget the past and don't forget that Syria knows how to get in our good graces:

My opinion on engineering a defection by Syria is an abstract theoretical position. If we can turn Syria to a neutral or nominal friend, I'd have no problem with letting them off the hook for now.

But we sent the signal with Libya about what a rogue state needs to do to avoid our wrath. It is possible to survive having once been our enemy. But to move from the enemy column to the tolerated column, you have to come clean completely about WMD and end terror sponsorship. That's the deal. Period.

We established the Libya template for "talking." We have no need for a lesser Syria template. Settling for anything less than the Libya model in regard to Syria destroys the template we established with Libya about what a rogue state needs to do to come in from the cold.

Explore the Syria option, but don't commit to any aid to Syria and don't get your hopes up. And by all means, keep up the pressure on them to give them incentive to flipping. If we let up the pressure hoping to induce them, Syria recovers and loses the need to deal with us. Then we have to start the pressure all over again.

So far, Damascus has pulled away the ball at the last minute every time, with Western envoys ending up flat on their backs. Because that's what friends are for in Lucy's view.

UPDATE: Ignatius fails to explain what the Israelis hope to accomplish with their talks:

The Israeli military brass favored engagement with Syria because they didn't think the status quo in the region was sustainable. Lebanon had become a surrogate battleground between Israel and Iran, and the Israelis arguably had lost the first round. Meanwhile, the Syrians were increasing their arsenal of missiles and other weapons. The judgment in Tel Aviv was that Israel stood to lose strategically by letting things continue as they were.

Yes, but what does Israel hope to achieve? Syria wins just be stalling and possibly loosening pressure even a short time. That alone is an achievement.

As for flipping Syria?

Israel's overriding goal has been to draw Syria away from its alliance with Iran. So far, the Israelis see no sign that the peace talks have achieved this goal. Syria-watchers caution that this sort of decisive transfer of loyalties is unlikely.

Indeed. No sign. Syria has supported non-Arab Iran through the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, pausing only to drive a tank division a few miles in the desert in 1991 as part of the Coalition of the Not Needed to oust Saddam from Kuwait, and then went on to support Iran in waging war against Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and America up to this very moment.

Is Syria really interested in ending a nearly three-decade alliance with Iran? I say get ready to meet Mr. Turf.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cutting Out the Middle Man

Pakistan does not control its border with Afghanistan. And it seems like we are moving toward ignoring the Pakistani government:

Militants in Pakistan fired rockets at NATO bases across the border in Afghanistan, killing three children in a village and prompting the alliance to launch a pair of retaliatory artillery strikes, officials said Sunday.

So we have artillery near the border and we fired into Pakistan.

I get the impression that after trying to get Pakistan to control the frontier, we are coming to accept that Pakistan's nominal central government will not make the effort. Sure, the officials in Islamabad have the UN seat and official seals (and hopefully the nukes), but they live in a world separate from the daily life under multiple armed and warring factions that make up Pakistan.

Strategypage describes the internal factions of Pakistan:

While the Taliban get most of the media attention, they are but one of several religious conflicts going on in Pakistan. In addition, there is tribal and ethnic violence. From the Pakistani point of view, al Qaeda and the Taliban are just the latest source of religious violence to show up. Note that on many weeks, from a third to half the war or terrorism related deaths in Pakistan are not Taliban or al Qaeda related, but caused by the other groups described below. Terrorism based on religious, or tribal, hatreds is old news in this part of the world, and all these other, underreported, conflicts are connected with the Taliban violence. That's because the most violent zealots tend to get involved in more than one cause, or at least have connections with other violent groups.

Which looks downright pre-Westphalian, really. The stakes are too high to let Pakistan maintain the fiction that they are a national government responsible for their own national territory.

We seem to be preparing a post-Westphalian campaign against the Taliban inside Pakistan by using limited direct force and seeking sub-national alliances inside Pakistan to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda. We need to directly interact with the tribes and hire them ourselves as we did the Sons of Iraq and as we paid Afghanistan tribes. We used to fight our wars this way. And against enemies who operate below the national government level, we need to match them and beat them at their own game.

Indeed, it may be starting right now in Pakistan. It may not be ideal but it's our only option left.

A Funny Thing Happened in the Distraction

I know, Iraq "distracted" us from the real war against al Qaeda and Islamo-fascism. That's what our anti-war side says all the time.

Yet the Arab Moslem world has turned against the jihad even as we smash up the enemy inside Iraq:

Most Arab nations have agreed on a new set of regulations to crack down on terrorist fund raising and money laundering in their countries. Until the recent defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, it was considered too politically risky to go after wealthy donors to Islamic radical groups.


It's no longer fashionable to rejoice whenever a Islamic terrorist bomb goes off in the West, or anywhere else for that matter. Since 2003, most of the al Qaeda violence has been against Arabs, and after a few years of this, public opinion turned on the Islamic terrorists.


Another aspect of the crack down on money laundering is the growing popularity of honesty is business and government.

Isn't it odd that victory in Iraq--a fight that our Left insists has nothing to do with al Qaeda--is changing attitudes in the Arab world about jihadists and their society?

Probably just a coincidence.

The Audacity of My Hope

When I first read an AP article bemoaning the disasters of the world (Under Bush, you understand. This isn't just general angst) I was tempted to blog it. The key nonsense:

Is everything spinning out of control? Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism. Horatio Alger, twist in your grave. The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country's sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance.

The sheer rock-pounding stupidity of the article put me off. What hope do I have in the face of such fact-checked and three-layers-of-editors writing? That piece is clearly what our press want and expects from their writers. Who am I to rub their noses on the mess of writing that the authors left on the floor? As if that would do any good.

Luckily someone else tackled it, noting: "The 'article' made me weep for my chosen profession."

Oh, and Lileks hit it. Do check that out.

This AP article isn't journalism. It is a sad cry for help by two writers too ashamed to seek help for their obvious psychological issues.

One day, perhaps, if my idealism lives long enough to see this hope become reality, we'll create schools for reporters where they will learn how to report the "who, what, when, and where" with some skill, while clearly separtaing their own opinions as to the "why."

Call me crazy, but I'd call these institutions "journalism schools." Can you imagine what we'd get if our reporters were actually trained in their profession?


After two years of United Nations peacekeeping in southern Lebanon, Hizbollah is tanned, rested, and ready to fire:

Israel believes that, despite the presence of UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon, Hizbollah has smuggled thousands of short range (6-20 kilometers) rockets into the area and hidden them in anticipation of another attack on Israel. If that happens, Hizbollah expects the peacekeepers to stand aside, as they did in 2006, once Hizbollah gunmen show up. The peacekeepers did not crack down on Hizbollah smuggling the rockets south and burying them or hiding them in basements. Hizbollah terrorized the peacekeepers with a few deadly attacks on them. The UN protested, Hizbollah quietly let it be known that more peacekeepers would die unless Hizbollah smuggling of weapons south was ignored by the peacekeepers.

Are you shocked? Why? It was obvious from the start when the UN "beefed up" their congingent in southern Lebanon after the Hezbollah War that this would be the result:

You scoff at the idea that the international community will stop Hizbollah? You simpleton!

The international community must be angry with Hizbollah. I mean, the UN didn't authorize Hizbollah to attack Israel. So there was no international test, right? Hizbollah launched an illegal war, right?

Given the history and capabilities of the UN, I suggest the new UN force in Lebanon be called UNIFAIL. Or possibly UNIFUTILE.

So Hizbollah stands ready to fight and kill civilians under the noses of the UN. Funny how passing that "international test" doesn't seem to get us much.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Can I Get a Second Opinion?

Once again, the Global Left is charging America with war crimes:

Despite claims uncritically repeated in some media outlets, medical examinations of 11 former detainees of U.S. military prison facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba advanced by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) do not provide open-and-shut examples of prisoner abuse. Instead PHR offers up one-sided accounts based largely upon allegations made by former detainees to an organization with a predefined political agenda and financed in part by Bush Administration opponent and convicted felon George Soros and his group, the Open Society Institute.

And once again, the Left labored mightily to come up with nothing.

You'd think that if America was routinely committing war crimes it would not be so difficult to find an open and shut case against America.

But no, the Left keeps finding frauds and nut cases to make their case.

Hurt Me, Baby

I'm not so wound up over foreign opinion polls that claim foreigners don't like America. Even if deeply held, I've seen no evidence that it impacts us in any way.

Nor is there much evidence that this is really new. As the dominant power we are easy targets for such venting. And it is safe to vent at us since we never make anybody pay for such venting (nor should we, I hasten to add).

Yet our Left seems to perversely enjoy these public opinion hits:

American liberalism is heavily invested in this narrative of U.S. isolation. The Shiites have their annual ritual of 10 days of self-flagellation and penance, but this liberal narrative is ceaseless: The world once loved us, and all Parisians were Americans after 9/11, but thanks to President Bush we have squandered that sympathy.

It's like the Bush presidency is biting the apple and our Left has been suffering from that original sin.

Yet our alliance with Europe is as strong as ever, with the French and Germans electing pro-American rulers to replace their former leaders who exploited domestic annoyance with America for political gain.

Foreign opinion polls are just the irritants that spark runny-nosed bouts of Bush Derangement Syndrome in our own Left.

Four Bars

You'd think a "resurgent" Taliban could actually defeat us every once in a while to earn that media label.

The problem the Taliban have in fighting Western forces in Afghanistan is highlighted in this latest one-sided battle:

The major battle began Friday in Paktika, one of the Afghan provinces along the porous Pakistani border where clashes between Taliban militants and security forces have intensified in recent months.

The coalition said militants ambushed the patrol on a road in Ziruk district with rockets and gunfire, prompting U.S.-led troops to return fire and call in warplanes.

About 55 insurgents were killed, including three key leaders, a coalition statement said. It did not identify them. Twenty-five militants were wounded and another three detained, it added.

"Patrols in the ambush area continue to report additional enemy casualties," it said.

Nabi Mullahail, the provincial police chief, said the fighting had continued into Sunday. He said militants suffered "huge" casualties, but had no details.

As long as Western troops have a functioning radio, enemy attackers are dead men walking. Patrolling aircraft need only the GPS coordinates to smash up any enemy concentration.

So the enemy needs to win decisively in the opening minutes of an attack. Large numbers of troops are necessary for that. But when the enemy does not win in those opening minutes, and thus far they have not, the enemy forces is hammered and chased down.

Explain to me again how the Taliban are resurgent?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It Isn't Domestic Spying

Our Left refuses to debate actual issues, instead they insist on mischaracterizing the issue to make debate seem, dare I say it, un-American.

The current phone "spying" bill is a case in point:

Warrantless wiretapping, which went on for almost six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, was revealed publicly in late 2005 by The New York Times and then discontinued in January 2007. Some 40 lawsuits have been filed against the companies by groups and individuals who think the Bush administration illegally monitored their phone calls or e-mails.

The White House had threatened to veto any bill that did not shield the companies, which tapped lines at the behest of the president and attorney general but without permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the special panel established for that purpose under the 1978 law.

This has always been about foreign communications that only happen to cross our territory because of the structure of the global communications network.

It is not "domestic" spying, and the program raised no opposition at first. It is foreign intelligence collection designed to prevent another 9/11. But that isn't how our press describes it.

How our Left can expend so much effort to undermine our defenses is beyond me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Governing Temps

Can a private company clean up the Somalia pirates?

For the second time in three years, the Somali government (a ramshackle collection of clans and warlords that represent about half the population) is negotiating for a private security company to patrol its coasts and suppress the piracy that is now rampant out there.

The money for the company would bypass the corrupt government.

Actually, I don't know why more Third World governments interested in clean government don't contract with companies to run their mineral extraction operations and build infrastrucuture with the bulk of the profits, turning over only a fraction to the hiring government's general fund.

Right now, Nigeria is a cess pool of corruption and declining oil production. The people are impoverished and the environment is polluted.

Why couldn't a foreign company run their oil industry, use mercenaries to run off the gangs, and build roads, health clinic, schools, and telecom networks with the funds?

Perhaps after a generation during which the corrupt politicians who siphoned off oil wealth retire or die off, return the operation to the national government (or better yet, sell it to private companies).

Do the same in Congo or other poor nations cursed with a valuable mineral that seems to be enriching the elite without reaching the people.

When Tyrants Pout

So delays in selling arms to Taiwan are coming from our government now?

And a posting on Strategypage says:

The U.S. ambassador to China, Clark T. "Sandy" Randt, opposes Bush administration plans to sell advanced F-16 jets to Taiwan because of concerns that Beijing has grown "angry" over protests and harsh reaction around the world to China's Olympic torch relay.

So let me get this straight. China is attracting the ire of many groups that notice China's various forms of tyranny. China doesn't like that attention. China is mad at us about that attention.

And we are the ones who are supposed to change our behavior in response by stalling F-16 sales?

And it gets more bizarre:

Taiwan's government privately had requested that the administration not send the notifications in the next few weeks as China and Taiwan complete negotiations on launching charter flights and expanding tourism between the two countries, according to diplomatic sources familiar with the discussions. But top officials such as Rice were irritated by Taiwan's protracted domestic wrangling over the sale and appear wary of irritating China during the negotiations over North Korea's nuclear programs.

At stake are $11 billion in weapons deals, including 30 Apache helicopters, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, eight diesel-electric submarines and four Patriot air defense missile batteries, which Taiwan's legislature approved in separate budgets in June and December of last year. For two years, the administration has also refused to accept a "letter of request" from Taiwan for 66 F-16 C/D fighters -- estimated to cost $5 billion -- that would lead to a potential sale.

So the Taiwanese government wants a delay? And we think China might not help on North Korea if we sell arms as we always have?

The former reason is just astounding given that this charm offensive might just be to get Taiwan to let down their guard.

The latter is idiotic considering that it is a vital Chinese interest and not a favor to America to keep North Korea from going nuclear.

Oh, narrowly speaking, China wouldn't mind if North Korea had nukes pointing at us and Japan, and the issue stopped right there. But in response to a North Korean nuclear arsenal, Japan and South Korea--and maybe Taiwan--would go nuclear in the years to follow. It is the latter that China fears. So stop thinking China is doing us a favor by working with us to halt North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The scary thing is, this appeasement of Peking over Taiwan makes sense to our State Department.

Dumb Enough and Crass Enough, Thank God

Ireland rejected the European Union political union, technically killing it (but don't you believe that the EU is permanently dead--it may stink but it is just very, very quiet for now).

Roger Cohen pens some idiocy regarding Ireland's voters:

Europeans have spent a lot of time in recent years asking Americans how they could be dumb enough to make the same mistake twice in electing George W. Bush. But when it comes to sheer electoral crassness, it’s hard to beat what the Irish have just done.

I can’t think of a country that’s benefited from European Union membership more than Ireland. It has catapulted itself in a few decades from beer-soaked backwater to the Celtic Tiger whose growth rates, foreign investment and rags-to-riches story were the envy of every languishing small nation with a thirst for a makeover.

Ireland did not owe it to the European Union to approve a proto-empire that will suppress democracy and freedom in Europe. And it isn't just the BDS-tinged preamble to a story on the European Union that tips a reader off that this article's point is absurd.

Why is it dumb or crass for Ireland to have rejected the EU superstate? Why is success in the past and current EU an obligation to approve a future EU that is a political as well as economic and monetary union?

Heck, perhaps it is a sign of Irish gratitude for what the old EU did for them that they killed the future EU that will undo the good that the old but less ambitious EU did for Ireland.

And to add insult to injeury, the Irish did it with the vote of their people--an error the EU tried mightily to avoid in their hatred of democracy. They will not make the same mistake again.

Europe was within a few percentage points of Irish voters in seeing the lights go out all over Europe, as far as I'm concerned.

The EU bureaucrats will no doubt succeed in their goal in time, but you won't be able to blame the Irish for that. They tried to save Europe.

Is You Is or Is You Ain't?

I'm confused. Is Iran innocent and talk of attacking Iran is just NeoCon warmongering? Or is Iran such a big threat that we dare not attack them? Pick only one, please.

I already wrote that Iran would fight back if we strike them. We should not assume a passive response. The Christian Science Monitor examines this as well.

I personally think the retaliation will be mostly in the Gulf, Iraq, and Israel, using air and naval assets, terrorist bombs and rockets/missiles, and rockets from Lebanon and Gaza, respectively.

This talk is probably fanciful:

"One very important issue from a US intelligence perspective, [the Iranian reaction] is probably more unpredictable than the Al Qaeda threat," says Magnus Ranstorp at the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.

"I doubt very much our ability to manage some of the consequences," says Mr. Ranstorp, noting that Iranian revenge attacks in the past have been marked by "plausible deniability" and have had global reach.

"If you attack Iran you are unleashing a firestorm of reaction internally that will only strengthen revolutionary forces, and externally in the region," says Ranstorp. "It's a nightmare scenario for any contingency planner, and I think you really enter the twilight zone if you strike Iran."

Recall that prior to both the 1991 and 2003 wars against Saddam, that analysts predicted a global terrorism counter-attack by Iraq. Despite Iraq's ties to terrorists, nothing came of that threat.

Perhaps Iran is more capable, but this worry should not be the reason that stays our hand if we think we need to strike.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Audacity of Hopelessness

Israel may be concluding that America is not going to do anything about Iran's drive for nuclear weapons:

Earlier this month, Israel conducted training missions over the Mediterranean Sea and Greek territory, the New York Times reported on its Web site last night. The tests were conducted at the same distance required of Israeli jets to fly to Iran, and included helicopters in case any jets were downed and pilots had to be rescued, according to the Times.

The military training missions come as Israeli officials are speaking more openly about ending Iran's nuclear ambitions. Earlier this month, the Islamic Republic refused an offer from the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council to build a peaceful nuclear energy facility in exchange for halting the enrichment of uranium in Natanz.

As I've noted before, our refusal to act does not mean that there will be no action--just that it will be less effective. Any attack that could also weaken the mullahs and destroy much of their retaliatory capability can only be done by America.

An Israeli strike could narrowly disrupt the nuclear missile threat to Israel, but that is not the end of the problem with Iran. A problem that we will then continue to face at perhaps a more intense level in the years following the Israeli strike.

Israel must defend itself, confident that our irrational hopes offer Israel no hope at all.

Clinging to God and Guns

The recent Grand Taliban Mega Offensive is over, it seems. The Taliban had their hats handed to them:

Afghan and NATO forces killed or wounded several hundred Taliban who had come together south of Kandahar, and tried to take over seven villages. As usual, an examination of the dead, and interrogation of prisoners, showed that most of the gunmen were from Pakistan, recruited from Pushtun tribes, and religious schools for boys. Not exactly a great source of skilled warriors. Give them an AK-47, a few days training, a pep talk by a preacher and send them across the border. If they don't come back, and many don't, declare them martyrs for the cause.

The press continues to speak of this event as evidence of the persistence of the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan.

But really, it isn't "resistance" when the cannon fodder is imported from Pakistan, now is it?

This is about the persistence of the jihadi ideology that allows a discredited ideology in Afghanistan to fight on despite the casualties the cause endures inside Afghanistan.

Which is why we can't settle for a tactical victory over al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Pakistan. We need to destroy the ideology that allows thugs to recruit idiots to go and die in a foreign land.

Yes, the tactical victories are important, but unless we destroy the ideology, much like young men travel to Afghanistan to kill again and again, young jihadis will again reach our shores to kill us again in large numbers.

Why Do They Hate Them?

My Jane's email update reports:

Al-Qaeda 'likely to attack Denmark'
Al-Qaeda has become more organised and a planned attack in Denmark is likely in the short term, the Danish Police Intelligence Service (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste: PET) announced on 13 June. According to the agency, terrorist attacks in Denmark are being planned and directed by Al-Qaeda's leadership[.]

Well, at least you have to admit they have it coming.

I mean, really. Cartoon-drawing Crusaders deserve what they get, right?

Explain to me again how invading Iraq is the reason that jihadis get that tingly gotta-kill-a-Westerner feeling?

Solving the Amphibious Lift Problem

China has not apparently built a dedicated amphibious invasion force. I don't think it is necessary for China to emulate our thinking to invade Taiwan, so this is interesting:

Taiwan will discuss opening a direct sea link with China to cut the cost and time of shipping across the Taiwan Strait, a newspaper said on Thursday. The move comes after the decision to open a direct air link with China earlier this month.

Chiang Ping-kun, Taiwan's top negotiator with China, was quoted in The Commercial Times as saying the establishment of a direct sea link will be among the issues discussed in the second round of Taipei- Beijing talks to be held in autumn in Taipei.

Five thousand cargo ships per year cross the strait, stopping in Okinawa formally on the journey. With about 14 ships per day on that route, the PLA could jam quite a few light infantry battalions into the ships that could be the initial wave of an invasion disembarking in Taiwanese ports coupled with similar forces coming in as tourists on new air flights.

This initial wave of forces carried on civilian ships and planes directed at Taiwanese ports and airports would be followed up with conventional airborne assaults and an amphibious assault aimed at the ports using converted obsolete warships, civilian ships, amphibious warfare ships, and other unconventional assets to reinforce and exploit the surprise seizure of the initial bridgeheads and airheads.

Of course, the timing of the planned links for the autumn may mean that the Olympics will go ahead as planned. So perhaps it will instead be an October surprise after all, this fall.

You and What Army?

Moqtada al Sadr and his Mahdi Army complain a lot about the ongoing campaign against the Shia thugs, but in the end we keep nailing them:

Iraqi troops on Thursday arrested the top official in Amarah, a Muqtada al-Sadr loyalist, officials said, drawing swift condemnations from followers of the anti-U.S. cleric and raising tensions as a military operation against Shiite militias got under way.

Rafia Abdul-Jabbar, who also was acting deputy governor for Maysan province, was seized from his office Thursday morning along with a member of the provincial council, a local official said.

The arrest came as Iraqi troops fanned out and gunmen tossed weapons on the streets or in canals with the official launch of the military crackdown in Amarah, a stronghold of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia and the purported center of weapons smuggling from neighboring Iran.

The military action came a day after the expiration of a four-day deadline for militants in Amarah to surrender their arms or face arrest.

Yet Sadr retains his image of strength. Go figure.

They Forgot Cynicism

Global warming is responsible for everything from hurricanes to polar bear extinction. For all I know, it is the reason I seem to be attracted to women who are emotionally, ah, challenged. But perhaps I've revealed too much.

Anyway, I know that with all the things that have been blamed on global warming, you are tempted to ask whether there is anything that global warming can't accomplish?

Well, this site compiles all the things that have been blamed on global warming. (Tip to NRO)

The compilers of the lists forgot one thing that global warming has created: cynicism.

When I see scientists and global warmers advocating socialist economic and governing policies--this time in the name of saving the planet--I develop an attitude that would look with suspicion on a scientific claim that beer and pretzels are good for my heart and cholesterol levels.

The scientists and near-scientists and drooling idiots promoting global warming are just another liberal advocacy group, and I see no reason to give them special deference just because "it's science, damn it!"

Curse you, global warming! My trust is just another casualty.

So what is Courteney Love doing these days?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Plan B

I would bet good money (were I a betting man) that Iran was ultimately behind the Samarra Golden Dome bombing in February 2006. Iran and Syria wanted a Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq and that darned near provoked one, fueled by Syrian-supported Sunni al Qaeda suicide bombers and Iranian-supported Shia Sadrist death squads.

Our surge crippled al Qaeda in Baghdad, so I was a little surprised by the recent bombing that killed over 60 Shias in Hurriyah. I assumed it must have been al Qaeda, but wondered how they'd penetrated Baghdad again. It certainly isn't impossible, but I wondered how we slipped up. Isn't al Qaeda rather under a lot of pressure and just evading at this point? Have they managed to strike out even as they flee from the Mosul area operations?

But we think it was carried out by Shia thugs:

No group claimed responsibility for the blast, which devastated a bustling commercial street in Hurriyah, scene of some of the bloodiest Shiite-Sunni slaughter in 2006. That fueled speculation Sunni extremists may have been behind the attack.

However, U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. Steven Stover said the American command believed the bombing was carried out by a Shiite splinter group led by Haydar Mehdi Khadum al-Fawadi, also known as Haydar al-Majidi, who has been sought for months for kidnapping, murder and other offenses.

"We believe he ordered the attack to incite (Shiite) violence against Sunnis; that his intent was to disrupt Sunni resettlement in Hurriyah in order to maintain extortion of real estate rental income to support his nefarious activities," Stover said in an e-mail.

While the Iraqis aren't convinced, this makes sense. Somebody on the Iranian payroll is trying for that low odds civil war project. And if you can't get Sunnis to murder Shias, get loyal Shias to do the deed.

Apparently, the Sunnis never really operated in that section od the city. And we suspect Shias carried out a similar bombing back in November, pretending to be al Qaeda.

One day soon, we really need to make the mullahs of Iran pay for their crimes.

FATA Attraction

The Taliban Campaign is approaching, with signs of a post-Westphalian campaign inside Pakistan's frontier tribal areas taking shape, perhaps without much Pakistani help. Al Qaeda is attempting to regenerate its ability to attack our homeland, which has gained added urgency given our defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq. With the Pakistanis unwilling to pacify the area and with our inability to invade and pacify the area, the only alternative left to win is to focus on the tribes of Pakistan and get them to fight al Qaeda.

Michael Hirsch has a bit of useful information regarding this in a piece that is mostly just drivel (Gee, Pakistanis blaming their tribal area problems on George Bush distracted by Iraq? Shocking!):

NEWSWEEK has learned that the energetic Petraeus is already informally involved in talks with the new Pakistani government, including its ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, about counterinsurgency plans for the tribal regions, where Taliban and Al Qaeda elements still hold sway. And in his discussions with the Pakistanis, Petraeus has indicated he would add up to two additional Coalition brigades to Afghanistan once he takes over CENTCOM, according to a senior diplomatic official in Washington who spoke on condition of anonymity owing to political sensitivities.

An offensive that requires only up to two additional Coalition brigades, which may mean only one will be American, does not rely on drastic reductions in American combat brigades in Iraq. Remember, our Army is still growing to its 48 brigade target. Further, we really don't want to put too many troops into Afghanistan when the supply line is tenuous at best.

Yet we are drawn in for lack of alternatives other than just giving up. This will be a delicate operation requiring persistence, restraint in the direct application of Coalition force unless a decisive opportunity presents itself, and a lot of diplomacy to keep Pakistan quiet while we work on the tribes in the Federally Administerd Tribal Areas.

Both presidential candidates are fully committed to fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan and even in Pakistan. For one candidate, this may well be the curse of getting what he wished for.

The Trouble With Tribbles

China may be a rising power but their rulers sure do seem nervous about their stability:

Floods sweeping southern China seem to have fulfilled the final stanza of an Internet curse involving Beijing's Olympic mascots, but censors have been quick to remove postings that might fuel the superstition.

After a devastating earthquake struck Sichuan province last month, Internet users tied four of the five "Fuwa" mascots to the calamities that have struck China in the run-up to the Games, which begin in August. One Fuwa is a panda, the totem of Sichuan.

Apparently there is chatter on the Internet with one user quoted wondering what they should do with the curse apparently taking shape.

That and similar posts have disappeared quickly this week. China's censors monitor the Internet carefully and remove any posts deemed inflammatory or not in line with government policy.

Major calamities, earthquakes in particular, were viewed in imperial China as a sign that a dynasty had lost the mandate of Heaven.

Although the Communist Party has tried to stamp out "feudal superstition" since it took power in 1949, the Beijing Games will start on the auspicious moment of 8:08 pm, on August 8 2008. Eight is a lucky number in Chinese.

It's like the Japanese getting all sweaty over Hello Kitty omens.

It's like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse with cute cartoony heads storming the castle. Yet for the Chinese rulers, this is deadly serious. If everyone believes the superstition, they will act is if it is real.

And then the government loses the mandate of Heaven.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Get Him While We Can

Back in 2004, it wasn't uncommon for political opponents of President Bush to wonder if we had Osama bin Laden in custody to spring him in an October surprise to swing the November election. Those were foul accusations based on the assumption that our President is as political as his opponents, who would use any tool to gain the White House.

So I take this report with a grain of salt:

President George W Bush has enlisted British special forces in a final attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden before he leaves the White House.

Defence and intelligence sources in Washington and London confirmed that a renewed hunt was on for the leader of the September 11 attacks. “If he [Bush] can say he has killed Saddam Hussein and captured Bin Laden, he can claim to have left the world a safer place,” said a US intelligence source.

We are clearly preparing to fight inside Pakistan. But I can guarantee that it isn't because President Bush wants to get bin Laden for any personal reason.

Perhaps the report is an attempt to deflect the enemy inside Pakistan from understanding the scope of the pending campaign, relying on our press bias to broadcast an unflattering reason for the preparations.

Or maybe it is as simple as worrying that the next president might not be interested in fighting the "good war" no matter what they say now.

Given that executing Saddam depressed the Baathists in Iraq, it is not out of line to think that killing or capturing bin Laden after their drubbing in Iraq will really depress the jihadi world.

Not to mention the satisfaction of finally nailing that murdering bastard.

But for Iraq?

It seems that a recent thread in the Left's complaints about Iraq is that focusing on Iraq prevented us from stopping the rise of Iran's threat.

First, good for our Left in admitting that Iran is a threat. All this time their cries of "prove Iran is making nukes or shipping IEDs to Iraq" made me think they viewed Ahmadinejad as a friendly if outspoken friend. Soo good for them! Reality does have a place in their community.

But the biggest problem with the claim that Bush has made the problem worse is the implied result that Bush could have--with the anti-war side's support--ended the Iranian threat.

What world of delusion to you have to inhabit to believe the anti-war side would have supported any effort to defang Iran and stop their nuclear progress?

Sanctions? Blockade? Air strikes? Covert operations? Coup? Give me a break. The Left's idea of "solving" the Iran problem consists of shoveling money at Tehran and then pretending to believe Ahmadinejad's solemn vow that he will never develop nuclear weapons.

And obviously, their plan of just giving up is not inhibited by any number of troops fighting in Iraq.

Try a more plausible line of attack, please.

Wrong Number

Strategypage writes that we are sending a message to North Korea:

The U.S. Air Force is sending a message to North Korea this month, as 90 warplanes fly into South Korea to demonstrate how quickly (about four days) forces can be brought in from Guam, Hawaii and Alaska, and North America. The aircraft will include AWACS, B-52s, F-15s, F-16s, A-10s and KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft. Such a wide ranging "surge" of aerial reinforcements has never been carried out before.

Four days? Why the rush? As the Strategypage post notes:

South Korea has a large, modern, well trained and led air force. The South Korean are expected to destroy most of the North Korean Air Force (which is poorly trained because of a decade of fuel shortages). Most of the American reinforcements are for supporting the South Korean counterattack.

The South Koreans are not going to start a counter-offensive that quickly, I dare say.

I have a suspicious mind, so whenever we practice or write about moving forces to South Korea from the United States these days, I assume we are actually talking about moving forces to the equally distant Taiwan. Given North Korea's eroding army, defending Taiwan is the only scenario that requires fast reinforcements from a standing start to avert defeat.

The four-days timetable kind of gives it away:

According to U.S.-Taiwan defense doctrine, the Taiwanese military would have to fight an invasion alone for at least four days until American naval forces arrive.

Personally, I think the Taiwanese need to be prepared to fight alone longer given the increasing need for time to fight our way through Chinese blocking forces (air, surface, and submarine assets). But perhaps psychologically we need to get something on Taiwan fast to keep the Taiwanese military fighting. Just knowing that the first elements of America's military is moving to help could keep the Taiwanese from giving up from hopelessness.

Yes, we dialed Pyongyang's number. But we know that the phone will ring in Peking.

This At Least is Debatable

The heart of the war on terror is whether you believe we are at war or not with jihadists. I think we are, and must fight them. Others think we are not and must arrest them. This is the debate at its core:

What 911 really did was shift the counter-terrorism argument from, "we have to cope with the terrorists," to, "we have to deal with them." Even before 911, Islamic radicals with long memories tried to warn Osama not to mess with the Westerners, because they will eventually mess you back, big time. The black bird is on Osama's back for now.

But many people, especially outside the United States, are trying to convince America to go along with the more popular "coping with terrorism" approach, rather than chasing after the bad guys with military forces. That's because this approach could, according to many non-Americans, create more "Black Swans". But counter-terrorism experts in the United States disagree with this more passive approach, because they fear that, without the pressure provided by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Islamic terrorists would come up with more "Black Swans". No one is sure which approach is right, and the loser here will get a "Black Swan" as an unwelcome prize.

[The "black swan" is the unanticipated event that our Pentagon is trying to anticipate.]

The heart of the difference is whether we cope with attacks, hoping our enemies don't hurt us too badly, and hoping our enemies tire of attacking us on the assumption that if we don't provide reasons for them to attack us they won't come up with excuses of their own; or attempt to stop the attacks by killing the enemy and actively discouraging them before they really hurt us badly. The assumption of the latter approach is that our acts or non-actions are merely excuses to kill us.

On the latter side there is also a division over whether we should fight this as a narrowly focused battle against jihadis or whether we need to reform Islam to keep it from sending out jihadis.

This is at least a useful debate to have instead of the vile accusations masqerading as a debate that Bush lied us into war. I wonder what our Left wants to have? A debate about our national security or a Bush-bashing therapy session?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No Mobilization Surge

The first thing I thought when I read this release that showed we had mobilized 115,950 reservists, my first thought was that we'd called up 16,000 troops in one week, since last week's number was 99,159!

But the recent release explained:

DoD will now publish the number of National Guard and Reserve personnel activated in both a voluntarily and involuntarily status, as well as the total of all reservists deactivated since Sept. 11, 2001. Previously, the majority of the reservists who were voluntarily activated for federal service were not counted in the weekly report.

So we are up only 158 over last week. And amazingly enough, a quarter of our mobilized reservists are volunteers for active duty.

A Reporting Quagmire

The Associated Press rewrites the Taliban press release about their recent occupation of a number of villages in Afghanistan:

Taliban militants destroyed bridges and planted mines in several villages they control outside southern Afghanistan's largest city in apparent preparation for battle, residents and officials said Tuesday. ...

The Taliban assault Monday on the outskirts of Kandahar was the latest display of strength by the militants despite a record number of U.S. and NATO troops in the country.

Another demonstration of their strength? Ah yes, the always imminent American defeat in Afghanistan that our press and Left have been droning on about these last six-plus years.

Do recall the actual events of the last couple years:

When I came in we had a force -- 36, 37 nations and an aggregate number of troops that was about 36,000. When I left, we were up to 40 nations declared. There are actually a few more that don't really advertise they're there, but there's a few more than 40. NATO recognizes 40. And the figure was a lot closer to 52,000.

And I bring that point up just to remind all that much of the reports about Afghanistan in late 2006, 2007 had to do with the alliance will fracture, the alliance is frayed and the alliance cannot get this job done. And in fact, that has proven not to be the case. The alliance is a far more capable force and, certainly in aggregate numbers, far more bigger than it was when we first took over last year.

The news also at that time had the Taliban as a resurgent force, as the force on the battlefield. They were coming with a spring offensive, which did not pan out. Then next, they were coming with a summer offensive in '07 which did not pan out, then an Eid offensive, then a Ramadan offensive, then a winter offensive and all. It simply didn't happen. And I believe that's a statement that the combination of the international force, the OEF forces along with their Afghan brothers are indeed the credible force on the battlefield today.

If the Taliban actually abandon their past practice of bugging out ahead of the NATO counter-attack, sticking around in their "conquests" only long enough to get the press reports like the one above, I will be shocked. Taliban "strength" tends to consist of running off the local constables, issuing a press release while posing with ammo belts across their chests, and then running as fast as their warrior legs can carry them when they think actual military forces are approaching.

If they are gearing up for a fight against Canadian and Afghan forces backed by American air power, those Taliban are already dead. But in the media war, they will always live on as resurgent warriors.

UPDATE: The Pentagon can't confirm the presence of a Taliban occupation force (It is from a June 17, 2008 press conference that isn't yet available online):

Q Geoff, as I think you're probably aware, there's been a lot of conflicting reports that have been coming out of Afghanistan. And I'm wondering if you could clarify to any degree some of the reports we're hearing where we're hearing that hundreds of families, thousands of people may be fleeing, that the Taliban may have taken over several of the towns in that area and yet the military there is putting out releases saying they're seeing none of this. The contradictions are pretty dramatic. Is there anything you can tell us?

MR. MORRELL: Lita, I don't know that I can offer much more clarity other than to tell you I've seen the reports you've seen. I've read the press accounts, as you've read them. And they do not jibe with what the commanders in the field are telling us.

And I think you'll notice that they went to the unusual step of releasing a press release to characterize the situation on the ground. And they talk about how -- this is from Bagram Air Field, that the Afghan National Police and coalition forces completed a patrol of the Arghandab district of Kandahar province today and found no evidence that militants control the area.

While in the area, coalition forces moved freely and met no resistance. Recent reports of militant control in the area appear to be unfounded.

So that is what we're left with. The commanders on the ground are telling us that their patrols have seen no sign of increased Taliban control of any areas, and yet I know the press reports are saying otherwise. I defer to the commanders in this case.

The Taliban press release seems to be a work of fiction that our press fell for hook, line, and sinker. Our press falls for the ploy every single time, learning nothing from previous false claims of enemy success. Our enemies know how to play our Western press and play to their bias.

I'm not saying our enemies can't hurt us in Afghanistan. But don't believe those first reports of spectacular enemy success before you let the initial propaganda broadside subside.

UPDATE: By Wednesday, the situation is still unclear as to the level of Taliban activity:

Troops in Arghandab district just outside of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan's largest city, exchanged fire with militants during "a few minor contacts," NATO spokesman Mark Laity said.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said more than 20 Taliban fighters had been killed in Tabin, a village in Arghandab, while three other fighters were killed in second village. Two Afghan soldiers also were killed, the ministry said in a statement. ...

Canadian military officials who patrolled through Arghandab over the last day reported "no obvious signs" of insurgent activity. But that didn't mean there were no Taliban there, a NATO news release said. Pentagon officials said reports of hundreds of Taliban in Arghandab were being overstated.

Just because we haven't found them yet doesn't mean somebody isn't there, but I'd think that a large number of Taliban claiming to control a large number of villages with mines and blown bridges would be easy to spot.

So wait a bit before judging an imminent catastrophe for the good guys.

UPDATE: By Thursday, when the NATO/Afghan counter-offensive kicked off, it looks like the Grand Taliban June Mega-Super-Offensive is rolled back already:

NATO has said the offensive, which began on Wednesday, was expected to last until the weekend, and it estimated that some 600 Taliban fighters had slipped into the Arghandab valley.

Kandahar provincial governor Assadullah Khalid told a news conference that the Taliban had been driven out, and troops were searching villagers' houses for fighters left behind.

"The Taliban have been cleared totally from Arghandab district," Khalid said.

"They have suffered hundreds of dead and wounded and many of their casualties are Pakistanis," he said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimi also said Arghandab district had been retaken, and 56 insurgents killed. Azimi said two Afghan army officers had been killed and two wounded.

Yet, NATO officials said there had been no major encounters or heavy ombardments and it was too early to agree with Governor Khalid's assessment that the Taliban had been evicted.

I'll still wait to see if the Afghan statements are close to the truth or whether the counter-attack is really just getting under way.

But that isn't stopping the press from assuming the Taliban are strong foes, as The Economist notes:

There is a risk of terrorist attacks in Kandahar in the coming week. But there is no realistic chance that Kandahar city will fall, and the insurgents are unlikely to stand and fight long in Arghandab. In the nearby district of Punjwai, up to 1,500 Taliban were killed in September 2006 when they rashly concentrated their forces around the village of Pashmul. NATO spokesmen boast of the speed with which a battalion of Afghan National Army soldiers was deployed to Kandahar. They said it showed the improving capability of Afghan security forces. That may be true. But in the war of perceptions, the Taliban will consider that they have had the best of the past week. [Emphasis added]

The enemy does not beat us but knows the press will do their duty and inflate any Taliban activity--even those that result in high enemy casualties--into a week of stories about the "resurgent" Taliban.