Thursday, July 31, 2008

Building Task Force Smith--Again?

The Pentagon is preparing to get out of the warfighting business, apparently:

The Pentagon's new national defense strategy calls for a shift in focus from conventional warfare to mastering the complex threat of global extremism, a published report said Thursday.

"The use of force plays a role, yet military efforts to capture or kill terrorists are likely to be subordinate to measures to promote local participation in government and economic programs to spur development, as well as efforts to understand and address the grievances that often lie at the heart of insurgencies," the document said.

"For these reasons, arguably the most important military component of the struggle against violent extremists is not the fighting we do ourselves, but how well we help prepare our partners to defend and govern themselves."

This is how militaries prepare to fight the last war.

It is true that the Long War will go on a long time. The name provides that clue. And it is true that the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan won't define the Long War. Non-military means to end the appeal of jihadi ideology are necessary to gain a strategic victory. Using our military in Iraq and Afghanistan occurred because those situations were too far gone to be addressed by more subtle means. In other locations, our advisors or just limited support will help us win battles. Remember the Philippines early in the war where our advisors worked and Somalia where we helped the Ethiopians smash up the Islamic Courts movement? And consider too, that Iraq is starting to stand up to fight the jihadis inside Iraq with only our limited support.

So without the need to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan with a third to half of our ground force combat units, we will use our military for the tasks needed to bolster other countries to resist jihadis before they reach the level of an Iraq (or Algeria). These tasks will involve small amounts of our military. And they will require the non-military parts of our government to contribute more.

So why would we de-emphasize conventional warfare capabilities in armed forces--the only part of our government able to fight enemy armies, navies, and air forces--to wage the Long War that ideally won't require combat brigades in large numbers overseas?

We need a full spectrum military capable of training local forces, advising local forces, supporting local forces in a fight, fighting insurgents ourselves if necessary, and defeating major combat formations in conventional warfare. For the lower ends of the spectrum we need more help from the rest of the government rather than just letting our military take on that burden at the expense of conventional warfare.

Don't start believing that crud that nobody would dare to take on our conventional forces in a straight-up conventional war based on our prowess in past fights. We've been down that path before.

UPDATE: Ok, the document itself doesn't sound like conventional warfare is being slighted as much as it is just recognizing that we can't consider Iraq and Afghanistan as interruptions in business as usual. And Secretary Gates adds what I've mentioned before, that we need to institutionalize the counter-insurgency knowledge we've gained in Iraq even as we prepare for the admittedly less likely--but more serious if we lose--conventional war:

If I could describe the new National Defense Strategy in one word, it would be "balance," balance between the range of capabilities to prevail in persistent asymmetric or irregular conflict, and sustaining our conventional and strategic force superiority as a hedge against rising powers.

Now, the reality is that conventional and strategic force modernization programs are strongly supported in the services and in the Congress. I also support them. Indeed, in the 2009 base budget, of the $104 billion in procurement and about $80 billion in research and development, the overwhelming preponderance is for conventional modernization programs. And nearly all of these programs are multi-year.

The principal challenge, therefore, is how to ensure that the capabilities gained and counterinsurgency lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the lessons re-learned from other places where we have engaged in irregular warfare over the last two decades, are institutionalized within the defense establishment.

Excuse me, but I'm sensitive when I read reports about downgrading our conventional warfighting abilities. We heard this in the 1990s when everyone knew we'd never need more than peacekeepers and air power.

Victory Nullifies Predictions of Defeat

David Kilcullen is a respected counter-insurgency expert. I respect him both for his knowledge and for his desire to win the war in Iraq despite his disapproval of starting the war. That is a refreshingly grown-up attitude rather than insisting on redebating the decision to declare war in 2002 (and yes, that's what the authorization to use force was).

Kilcullen defends himself against a quote that can easily be misread as implying that his disapproval of the war outweighs his desire to win the war.

I want to take exception to one part, however, in Kilcullen's reasoning for opposing the war:

Like every other counterinsurgency professional, I warned against the war in 2002-3 on the grounds that it was likely to be extremely difficult, demand far more resources than our leaders seemed willing to commit, inflame world Muslim opinion making our counterterrorism tasks harder, and entail a significant opportunity cost in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Extremely difficult? When we look back at this war, will we really think that a 5-year struggle with casualties well under Vietnam rates was difficult in historical terms? I'm not dismissing over 4,000 American deaths, mind you. But these deaths did not prevent Americans from sustaining an all-volunteer military to wage it. Further, the Baathists, representing at most 20% of the Iraqi population, were actually defeated by the end of 2003. Who believed such a minority could not eventually be defeated?

What gave the Baathists a new lease on life was their decision to ally with Syrian-supplied jihadis from the Sunni Moslem world and Sadr's Iranian-backed uprising in spring 2004. When few thought we were stopping at Iraq's borders, I don't recall anyone suggesting we had to fear an invasion by Syria and Iran. This is what made the post-war so bloody, not the admittedly well-financed, trained, and well-armed minority Baathists after they lost Baghdad.

As for American resources, despite complaints from the anti-war side about the cost, we have in fact committed the resources--both manpower and money--to get us to this point where Iraq can soon take over the fight with only our combat support and training help.

Regarding Moslem opinion, as I've written elsewhere, only fighting ineffectively inspires resistance. Believing we were the weak horse, jihadis did flock to Iraq. Yet this was effective only because the Baathists could organize them and arm them in 2004. In time, al Qaeda surpassed the Baathists as the main force for Sunni resistance, but could al Qaeda have established themselves in 2004 without Syria and the Iraqi Baathists? In the end, however, the American/Iraqi victory in Iraq has made the jihad there rather less appealing to volunteers.

And the "street" has turned against bin Laden and al Qaeda as the Moslem world has seen jihadis slaughter other Moslems with fanatical glee. Don't forget that Afghanistan seems to have inspired enough jihadis. Was Afghanistan a mistake, too? The Arab world seems to have cooperated with us very nicely, thank you, despite the Iraq War (or maybe because of it in the case of Saudi Arabia which saw al Qaeda turn on the Saudis in frustration).

As for the lost opportunities in Afghanistan and elsewhere? Hogwash. Unless you see the need for 10-15 brigades fighting somewhere outside of Iraq, don't be silly and repeat this distraction tale. We are capable of fighting on more than one front.

Nor would I want to put many more brigades into Afghanistan. We can't easily or cheaply supply them, can't risk them at the end of a supply line through Pakistan, and don't have the same interest as we did in Iraq or even face the same situation. Afghanistan is not Iraq with mountains instead of desert. And most of our enemies aren't even in Afghanistan at this point. Even 45 brigades wouldn't be enough to invade and pacify Pakistan.

Other than Afghanistan, I'm not sure where Kilcullen could think we lost opportunities elsewhere because of Iraq. Iraq became the central focus of the war on terror because al Qaeda decided to make their stand there. Fighting anywhere else would have been a distraction from the war on al Qaeda.

Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of destroying the Saddam regime. Kilcullen is surely a reasonable man. And in our successful effort in Iraq, we've surely made mistakes. That's war. And I trust Kilcullen's sincerity and knowledge on the subject. And I trust that Kilcullen would rather win than lose, and does not wish to walk away from Iraq. Indeed, given that an American victory makes his stated reasons for opposing the war incorrect predictions, he displays admirable integrity.

I believe we had to destroy the Saddam regime. Iraq has been no disaster at all and may yet turn into a major victory in the Long War with effects that reach beyond the borders of Iraq. But only if we keep our heads about us and don't walk away from Iraq.

The Only Option Left

The inability of the Pakistanis to end the threat to Afghanistan with agreements or keep jihadis from using Pakistan as a base to plan future 9/11s means we can't trust the Pakistanis to look after our interests.

I've just been speculating that we will try a new type of Lexington Campaign inside 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.

Shifting two or three new brigades to Afghanistanisn't enough to pacify Afghanistan. But it may be enough to interdict the borders to support such a new style campaign inside Pakistan.

The signs that we can in fact gain the aid of tribes inside Pakistan to wage such a new style of campaign, indicate that this is a very real possibility.

We're shifting focus all right. But any "surge" in Afghanistan next year will not look like Iraq.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Thank Goodness This Isn't Torture!

Human rights organizations have noted with little outrage apparent that Palestinians are being tortured routinely:

Two human rights groups on Monday decried widespread torture of political opponents by bitter Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah, and Associated Press interviews with three victims and a doctor backed the reports of abuse.

But since neither Israelis nor Americans are responsible, nothing will come of this report. The Global Left has priorities, and picking on Palestinian torturers interferes with them.

Ours to Lose

The surge has ended and we achieved more than I thought possible in this limited time. This is excellent. A new phase of the Iraq War is upon us. We need a new strategy for this phase:

Top US commanders have said the surge of forces will have met their goals only if the improved security on the ground is "irreversible." The fear remains that the gains could all slip away if the Iraqi government doesn't cement the progress with political reconciliation on key issues and an increased level of governance.

The Government Accountability Office warned earlier last week that with the new- found security in Iraq, the US now needs a new strategy. The report noted that surge of forces, the last brigade of which returned home this month, is now over, and the war in Iraq is entering another phase.

As Gen. David Petraeus prepares to move to his next post at US Central Command and Gen. Ray Odierno succeeds him in Iraq, the GAO says there is the need for a new plan.

I called this stage our Phase VII of many phases in the war. Phase VII as I saw it would be critical to winning the war:

Whether Congress mandates retreat or not, we will face pressure to start pulling out in 2008. Maybe that pressure will be resisted until fall 2008, but we will start to pull out. Perhaps it will only be a brigade per month actually deploying back to their bases, but we will pull back from offensive combat faster.

Then we will need to prepare to participate in Phase VII of the war where we help the Iraqis finish off their enemies with the government and security forces we helped them build[.]

I am happy to say that I was too pessimistic about what our Congress would allow us to do. Because the surge was so successful, we've bought the space to win Phase VII.

The Iraqi operation in Diyala that just kicked off involving 50,000 Iraqi security forces is a good example of what we will need to do in this new phase:

The operations were primarily carried out by Iraqi security forces in the latest display of Iraq's readiness to take over its own security and enable American troops to eventually withdraw.

The U.S. military was providing intelligence, fire support and logistics as Iraqi forces gradually assumed front-line roles, a factor that contributed to sharp decrease in the number of U.S. troop deaths this year.

In time, we will train Iraqis to fill these roles, too. And before you ridicule the Iraqis too much, remember that most of our established allies need our intelligence, fire support, and logistics to fight at our side. Yet this is relatively little effort to cement a lot of effort these past 5+ years.

We just need to avoid blowing it to finish this off with a victory. With an explicit strategy that addresses this phase, war opponents won't be able to argue we are just executing the same strategy of staying in Iraq forever. A strategy will explain what we hope to achieve in Phase VII.

With that, even our Left can't succeed in losing this, I think.

UPDATE: Victor Hanson sees victory in Iraq:

There is a growing confidence among officers, diplomats, and politicians that a constitutional Iraq is going to make it. We don’t hear much anymore of trisecting the country, much less pulling all American troops out in defeat.

And Kissinger says it well about the need to define Phase VII so we can win it:

The American presence in Iraq should not be presented as open-ended; this would not be supported by either Iraqi or American domestic opinion. But neither should it be put forward in terms of rigid deadlines. Striking this balance is a way for our country to come together as a constructive outcome emerges. Thirty years ago, Congress cut off aid to Vietnam and Cambodia two years after American troops had been withdrawn and local forces were still desperate to resist. Domestic divisions had overcome all other considerations. We must not repeat the tragedy that followed.

Now is the proper time for the Vietnam analogies to be hauled out--how our Left lost the war for us two years after we left.

Straight Talk Needed

This post argues that defending Taiwan is essential to defend America. I agree. There isn't much novel in this piece (which doesn't make it less true, of course, but I won't quote that material) but there is one aspect that I want to highlight (since I've mentioned it myself):

In short, America needs something it has not had in decades; a strong Taiwan policy. Instead, we have had the disgraceful equivocation of the Bush administration. Before that, Washington maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” which just encouraged the Chinese to test American resolve.

Strategic ambiguity was fine as long as China could not actually invade Taiwan. China's uncertainty about our response to a Chinese attack on Taiwan paled in comparison to the absolute inability of China to mount an invasion if we responded with just about any level of force.

Those days are gone. China now seeks the capability to grab Taiwan while holding us at bay long enough to complete the conquest. Strategic ambiguity just means we will waste precious time debating whether to intervene.

So we need strategic clarity to show China that attacking Taiwan means war with America (and Japan). And that clarity will focus our minds on what we need to do should China lunge across the strait with little notice.

Ambiguity worked when we had absolute superiority in the air and water around Taiwan beginning on day one. We may be able to wrest that superiority given several weeks, but with strategic ambiguity we may not get those weeks.


Even as Iraqi forces take the lead in going after the depleted al Qaeda in Diyala province, the United States reports that al Qaeda in Iraq is no longer able to focus on terror alone. They must raise money, too:

The Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy has issued five reports on the documents, the latest focusing on funding and the entry and egress of outside fighters. Most were conveyed through professional smuggling networks, according to the report.

As income had dried up from foreign fighters, the group has in the past two years adopted criminal tactics against Iraqis to raise money — carjackings, kidnappings for ransom, hijacking fuel trucks, counterfeiting and demanding protection money of local businesses, the senior official told The Associated Press. Al-Qaida in Iraq's total budget is unclear, the official said.

"A year or two ago they were able to receive funds from couriers from the greater al-Qaida organization. A lot of that outside access has been cut off," the official said. "Most of the funding for al-Qaida in Iraq is now internally generated."

This is good. More time spent trying to raise money takes the jihadis away from mass murder, tarnishes the purity of their jihad, and tempts the jihadis into a criminal lifestyle rather than a jihad lifestyle. Common criminals are far easier to combat than fanatical suicide bombers.

And as a bonus, after years of not noticing that Iraq is where al Qaeda chose to fight us, is this part:

Iraq for several years has been the central battlefield between U.S. forces and al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists. But in recent months violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan has increased relative to Iraq. It is unclear whether al-Qaida has consciously decided to change its focus, or whether the shift was forced by U.S. success against the Iraqi insurgency in the past year.

Al Qaeda has been fighting their main battle against us inside Iraq for several years? Gosh!

I won't complain about the author, Pamela Hess, since my impression of her is pretty good as a reporter. But admissions such as this from our press have been rare in the rush to ignore al Qaeda in favor of painting the bombers as noble resisters of our so-called occupation.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The Russians are seriously annoying. They could have been part of the West but instead they've decided to just be a thorn in our side out of some strange Cold War nostalgia for their glory days when people feared them.

The proto-thugs in Moscow actually have the nerve to be upset that joining NATO has become fairly popular amongst the formerly Soviet satellite nations and even parts of the old Soviet Union. Instead of wondering why the tender loving attention of Mother Russia scares the crap out of these people eager to join NATO, the Russians are busy whining and blustering even as their military continues to rot and their economy enjoys a temporary oil-fueled bubble that will leave Russia like any other Third World oil exporter--poorer and unfree.

The Russians want to scrap NATO in favor of EATO--the Euro-Atlantic Treaty Organization--which will have Russia as a charter member and have all the teeth of the United Nations. Which would be fine with Russia, since they have good luck in bending the UN and less luck pushing NATO around. All EATO is good for is being the tool to eliminate NATO. Call the Russian proposal NYETO if you like, but don't consider it a real security organization that would actually promote Western security.

The Russians whine that NATO pushes east and that if Ukraine, for example, joins NATO, then Russia won't respect Ukrainian sovereignty:

Mr. Trenin argues that if Ukraine is admitted to NATO's membership action program, which could happen as early as December, "that would start a political warfare campaign in Ukraine," he says. "I see Russia ceasing to value the sovereignty of Ukraine now that it's dropping into the US lap. I see a harshening of the tone in Moscow. The whole foreign policy of Russia will change."

And why is it unthinkable for Ukraine to join NATO?

"Russia's view is that NATO creates new divisions in Europe," says Tatiana Parkhalina, director of the official Center for European Security Studies in Moscow. Unlike the previous cycle of NATO expansion, which took in Eastern European states of lesser strategic concern to Russia, the new candidates are part of the core of the former USSR. "Ukraine is felt by Russians as part of traditional Russian lands. To many Russians it's just unthinkable for it to become part of an outside military alliance," she says.

Because Russia currently has no respect for Ukrainian sovereignty!

As for the Russians harshening their tone? That ship sailed a while ago when the old KGB took control of Russia. The Russians are developing a whole "stabbed in the back" theory to explain their loss in the Cold War:

"Gorbachev made deep concessions to the West in order to break out of the vicious cycle of the arms race. But later, when Russia was going through a painful economic transition and we needed support, the West turned away," says Andrei Grachev, who was a Kremlin adviser and Gorbachev's presidential spokesman at the time. "Despite promises that had been given to us, the West decided to use [Russia's weakness and economic turmoil] in order to expand NATO to the east. I believe that the anti-Western moods present in Russian society today can be explained by the fact that the West treated Russia as a vanquished enemy," rather than a potential partner, he says.

Russia isn't a part of the West because Russia's leaders lately have been a bunch of a-holes. Right now I'm glad we've pushed NATO east as fast as possible. Russia has a lot further to go if it ever rebuilds its military and that alone will deter the Russians. I seriously get an eerie inter-war feel for the whole situation.

You know, the common wisdom is that the Treaty of Versailles was too harsh on Imperial Germany after World War I, which led to the rise of Hitler. When you compare the occupation, dismemberment, and de-Nazification of Germany after 1945 which created a prosperous and democratic allied Germany, you have to conclude that the Allies weren't nearly harsh enough in 1918.

And since 1991, we've treated the Russians with kid gloves, and now they too think they've been betrayed and deny they were really defeated in the Cold War. Now the Russians pretend they were being reasonable and just voluntarily gave up their empire. Of course, occupying Russia and de-Commiefying Moscow was never going to happen. We didn't have much choice at the time since Russia still had lots of working nukes. But the result has been a Russia that increasingly acts like they want to be our enemy.

So expand NATO and patiently wait out the ex-Soviet generation. In time, more Russians will realize that the real threat to Russia comes from the Moslem south and Chinese east, and that Russia has been busy alienating the very organization that might save them.

Right to the Heart of the Matter

We may have nailed a senior al Qaeda leader inside Pakistan with what was likely a Predator strike.

The article highlights the basic problem we and Pakistan are having:

The recent missile strikes in the border region have strained Pakistan's relations with Washington, particularly since a new government took power nearly four months ago and sidelined the U.S.-allied President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani officials are seeking peace agreements in the border region in hopes of curbing Islamic extremists who have been blamed for a wave of suicide attacks across the country in the past year.

NATO contends the cease-fire deals have allowed militants based in the frontier region to step up attacks in Afghanistan, while U.S. officials warn that al-Qaida leaders hiding along the border could be plotting another Sept. 11-style attack on the West.

Pakistan won't control their border to keep jihadis from attacking us in Afghanistan. Instead the Pakistanis make deals with the jihadis to keep them from attacking Pakistani cities. The Taliban and al Qaeda attack us in Afghanistan from their Pakistan sanctuary. Our occasional strikes on jihadis inside Pakistan show we don't buy the Pakistani line and highlight the failure of the Pakistani policy to actually control their frontier areas.

Monday, July 28, 2008

This is Seriously Effed Up

The British are bringing manslaughter charges against one of their soldiers for giving one of our pilots the wrong coordinates, resulting in some Brits instead of enemies being hit by our pilot.

Can we guess what one result will be? Strategypage can:

By holding pilots and ground controllers criminally liable for mistakes made in combat, there will be less incentive for anyone to do either job. It's somewhat easier for pilots these days, as the latest systems take the GPS coordinates in digital form, from the guy on the ground, and enter them into the GPS guided bomb.

Ya think?

Friendly fire is so rare that it is almost laughable that anyone would prosecute a case like this. We should be celebrating and not filing charges!

But there will never be a trial over dead soldiers or civilians who might have lived one day in the future but for the fact that trials today persuaded capable individuals to refuse to join the military and volunteer for the job of forward air controller.

Or maybe a soldier will decline to call for fire because he just doesn't think the troops on the ground in contact are in enough danger to risk a criminal charge for making a mistake.

Or maybe after double- and triple-checking the coordinates, it will be too late to call the fire to save the friendly troops.

Bad Data. Better Reality

Our casualty rates in Iraq have plummetted. While it is true that casualties in Afghanistan are up, the main reason Afghanistan exceeds Iraq is that Iraq is quieting down. It is common for analysts to cite violent incidents in Iraq as reaching down to levels we haven't seen since March 2004.

This is very good news. This is even better than you think. I've mentioned this before but haven't seen it mentioned in the media, but March 2004 is the last month we measured violent incidents the old way. That is why March 2004 has emerged as the point of comparison.

Data on vilence in Iraq beginning in April 2004 is not comparable to data from March 2004 and earlier because in April 2004 we began counting every single incident as part of the attack data. Before then, I think we may have only counted incidents that inflicted casualties as an official incident. Or it may have been some other screen that left out many incidents that we now count as attacks.

Our March 2004 casualties were 52. You tell me whether our casualties today, 12 dead through 28 days of July 2008, are comparable or better than March 2004. [UPDATE: Note that 2 of our dead were discovered this month, but actually murdered by the enemy last year after they were captured.]

So Iraq violence in recent months using a broad definition that counts everything is now down to levels in March 2004 that did not count everything as attacks. If March 2004 had been measured the way we measure months since April 2004, I have no doubt that our current situation would be significantly better than March 2004 and not just matching that month.

Our enemies in Iraq appear to be defeated. If they have anything left in them, they'll try to pull an al Tet Offensive before our elections this fall. But do they have the power? They haven't managed anything in nearly a year and I find it hard to believe that they've willingly let themselves be hammered for this long in order to lull us prior to an offensive.

The war is not over. But we've done well to get to the point where our military can serve as a reserve, provide combat support to Iraqi line forces, guard the Iraqis from foreign invasion threats, and train the Iraqis while we use non-military means to bolster the Iraqi economy, society, and government.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

They Had it Coming to Them?

Jihadis kill non-Moslems. Actually they kill non-jihadi Moslems.

Many of the anti-war persuasion like to argue that it is understandable, at least in part, that they kill us. If only we didn't export our Britney Spears videos, put bases in Saudi Arabia, support Israel, draw offensive cartoons, fight them in Iraq (and some would say Afghansitan, too), exploit them economically by buying their oil at $120 per barrel, and insist they live under our laws when they live in our society, then the jihadis would have no reason to kill us.

Oh, wait. What's this?

An obscure Islamic group claimed responsibility for a series of synchronized explosions that killed at least 45 people in western India, warning of "the terror of Death" in an e-mail sent to several television stations minutes before the blasts. ...

"In the name of Allah the Indian Mujahideen strike again! Do whatever you can, within 5 minutes from now, feel the terror of Death!" said an e-mail from the group sent to several Indian television stations minutes before the blasts began.

Huh. Not Westerners at all. Hindus. Indian Hindus.

Let the why do they hate them discussions begin.

It's almost like it isn't our fault that nutball jihadis want to kill us in all sorts of gruesome fashions.

Just Another Battlefield Victory

This is interesting. Our jihadi enemies inside Iraq waged war from inside prison at our main prison at Camp Bucca:

"We were having people who weren't insurgents who were being forced to be insurgents because of the power of these courts, the power of al-Qaida and other extremist groups," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Plowman, a spokesman for Task Force 134, which operates coalition detention facilities in Iraq.

He told The Associated Press Friday that the jailhouse Sharia courts were formed, despite the presence of U.S guards, to enforce an extreme interpretation of Islamic law. They were then used to convict moderate inmates, who were then tortured or killed, he said.

In comments published in the Sierra Vista Herald in Arizona, Brig. Gen. Rodney L. Johnson, commander of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, put the number of detainees tried by the courts in the double-digits. Neither he nor Plowman would give specific numbers.

The courts were eradicated and none has been detected in six months although some gang-related issues persist, Plowman said.

This is not surprising. The Nazis did this in World War II and it was a constant struggle to fight them. The North Koreans did it in the Korean War, with some camps effectively controlled by our enemies who cowed other prisoners. We even had major fighting against "surrendered" enemies who rose up inside the camps.

So we've done pretty well to have kept enemy attempts to wage war within the prisons limited and to have suppressed it.

We Aren't the World

Lileks isn't impressed with world citizenship:

Novel sentiments aside, “World citizen” is used as a badge of empathy that carries no responsibilities. The more it’s used, though, the more it dilutes actual national citizenship, which naturally takes second place to World Citizenship.

That pretty much sums it up. No responsibility for action but plenty of obvious feel-good empathy. And funny enough, it is only Europeans and their admirers here in America who define that attitude as "world" citizenship. You don't hear too many Chinese or Indians spouting such nonsense, lopping off a third of the globe right there for that category of citizenry.

So just when are the world's citizenry going to get around to saving Darfur? Or Tibet? Or Burma?

But I digress.

Look, it is no surprise that plenty of Americans are all thrilled about such global nonsense. We have plenty of Europeans-at-heart in America who define this attitude as the world's standard. It's all about doing nothing until the most pacifistic Belgian is convinced to take action, while in the meantime holding lots of conferences that issue weighty reports on the problem every few years documenting the descent into hell for some particular group of citizens in the world.

But joining the world isn't going to protect us. Heck, even Le Monde did not assert, for that fleeting moment after 9/11, that "we are all citizens of the world, now." Americans need to defend America, and defend the West that relies on us for protection, from that part of the world's citizens who'd slaughter us in our offices every day if they could.

Me? I'd seek protection not by groveling for help from the "citizens of the world" but by tapping into the pool of Americans-at-heart who inhabit every corner of the globe, who would defend our common values if only given the chance. The jihadis recruit from every country with Moslems. Why can't we recruit from all the West and those who aspire to enter the West?

Because Bush Would Not Lose

The question of the day is have we won in Iraq? This is an astounding piece from the Associated Press:

The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had. The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, restraining the flow of illicit weaponry from Iran, supporting closer links between Baghdad and local governments, pushing the integration of former insurgents into legitimate government jobs and assisting in rebuilding the economy.

Indeed. Eleven months ago it took a willing suspension of disbelief for some to see the first signs of our victory over al Qaeda. Even I was unwilling to declare victory from the first signs of winning.

Now two senior AP writers see military victory.

They are wrong that Bush declared the combat phase over in May 2003. He declared the end of major combat operations--we'd defeated the organized military forces of Saddam and there were no more to fight. It was a declaration, as I understood it, designed to signal that allies who would not fight major combat operations that they could commit troops to the post-war stabilization phase. Violence led those unnamed "allies" to back out, it seems.

We are still needed for the new phase. Don't believe we can run as fast as we can just because the military operations are ending. There is more to winning than defeating our battlefield enemies. Building a government and the economy still requires our help. And the Iraqi military needs our help to build a force capable of defending against conventional enemies. Our forces are still able to help against al Qaeda, too.

And just because the war in Iraq is mostly won does not mean the Long War is over. Al Qaeda is weakened but not dead. Enough Moslems still sympathize with the idea of killing us to provide recruits. And enough states are eager to use these jihadis to kill us to keep us busy for years to come.

Never forget that we have reached this stage because President Bush stood nearly alone in our government in refusing to lose the war in Iraq. We came within a few wavering United States Senators of losing the war about a year ago. It was that damned close.

We still have miles to go before we sleep. The war is dead. Long live the war.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

From Sovereignty to Reality

President Bush will be having quite an interesting conversation, I should think, with our Pakistani friends:

Speaking Friday in Australia, Rice suggested to reporters that a surge in Taliban-related violence in Afghanistan had its source in the restive semiautonomous tribal areas along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

"We understand that it's difficult, we understand that the northwest frontier area is difficult, but militants cannot be allowed to organize there and to plan there and to engage across the border," Rice said. "So yes, more needs to be done."

The strong message to Islamabad comes just a few days before Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is scheduled to meet with President Bush at the White House.

The Pakistani prime minister doesn't seem eager to do anything to actually prevent their frontier areas from serving as a jihadi staging area to fight us in Afghanistan:

Before his departure, Gilani told reporters that Pakistan was fighting the war on terror in its own interests.

"This is our own fight. This is our own cause," he said, noting that his ruling party's leader, Benazir Bhutto, had died in a terrorist attack on Dec. 27.

Gilani's three-month-old government is persevering with efforts to negotiate peace deals along the wild frontier and stabilize a country roiled by Islamist suicide attacks. Force will be used only as a last resort, he reiterated this past week.

"Pakistan's national security and internal stability is paramount," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said. "Pakistan is making its own policy for its own problems."

Look, we aren't going to invade Pakistan. That would be foolish. Why risk turning Pakistan into an enemy or neutral just because they are not helping enough? Face it, unless we open up a supply line through Iran, we are dependent on Pakistan just to feed our troops in Afghanistan.

But just as Pakistan has there own interests that define their fight, we have inerests that define our fight. And our interests mean we are being pulled into going to go after al Qaeda inside Pakistan, I think.

Just not the way everyone assumes. Pakistan is giving us little choice.

One Step Closer to Electric Power!

Iran claims to have 6,000 centrifuges:

The new figure is double the 3,000 centrifuges Iran had previously said it was operating in its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz.

"Islamic Iran today possesses 6,000 centrifuges," Ahmadinejad told university professors in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

The assertion that Iran has reached that goal is certain to further rankle the United States and other world powers. Washington and its allies have been demanding a halt to Iran's enrichment out of fear it is intent on using the technology to develop weapons.

Iran vehemently denies those allegations and says it is interested in enrichment only for its nuclear power program.

Don't let anybody tell you that Iraq distracted us from dealing with Iran and that is why Iran is closer to a crucial enrichment capability. Our anti-war side just grasps at any argument to support losing in Iraq. These people would never under any circumstances have supported forceful action against Iran if we weren't fighting in Iraq.

Friday, July 25, 2008


This is hilarious. Though my tears of laughter threatened to become real since I'm not sure how much longer this will remain just a joke. Our problems with Europe's lack of seriousness cannot be solved with a speech.

My God, don't talk to me about sophisticated Europeans any more. They're all a bunch of Chris Matthews getting one more Love Parade in for the year under the shadow of the giant victory phallus.

Make Sure It is an Anti-Terrorism Agency

A group of world citizens wants to set up an anti-terrorism agency in the United Nations:

U.N. ambassadors from Costa Rica, Japan, Slovakia, Switzerland and Turkey suggested that the U.N. General Assembly create an agency for counterterrorism along the lines of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

To make sure that it passes any international test that might be given, right off the bat we're told it shouldn't focus on killing the troubled young waifs self-detonating in markets:

The panel, launched by the Swiss U.N. mission in November, is an attempt to involve more of the General Assembly's 192 member nations in fighting terrorism. It also seeks to shift some of the emphasis away from military or police work and onto grappling with interrelated social, economic and health factors.

And not just move it away from killing terrorists, move the struggle away from even arresting them.

Being a UN body, much like the UN Human Rights Committee membership is easily mistakable for the Most Wanted List up at your local post office, the Terrorism Committee will surely have a membership well versed in terrorism. It will probably be chaired by the Hamas delegation with al Qaeda given a non-voting observer status.

And the association with the IAEA is perhaps telling given this story about Iran and the IAEA:

A senior envoy said Friday that Iran wants to expand its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, but said the IAEA should not be cast as a "U.N. watchdog" looking for signs of secret nuclear weapons programs.

I'm not sure why the Iranians have any worries that the IAEA might function as a watchdog. Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons since 1984 or so without any hint that the IAEA wishes to slow down Iran's progress toward nuclear weapons. So of course Iran would like to expand cooperation. Look what its done so far in running interference for the mullahs!

So look forward to the UN Terrorism Committee. I'm sure it will promote terrorism quite well. With reports in English and French, nicely bound and affixed with official seals and bright ribbons! Citizens of the world can expect no less.

Too Nervous to Think Straight

Al Qaeda is shifting their focus to Afghanistan. So as al Qaeda and other threats in Iraq are ground down, we will follow this enemy focus. But let's do this calmly without a ridiculous sense of panic that seems to be brewing.

We are limited in what we can do because the enemy is using Pakistan as a sanctuary. It isn't a perfect sanctuary since the Pakistani government periodically has a spasm of military activity to knock the jihadis back, but it is a place to run and survive if necessary.

Also, we are limited by the fragile supply lines running through Pakistan in what we can do in Pakistan or even in Afghanistan.

And if you are worried about the cost of war, supplying a single soldier in Afghanistan is much more expensive than in Iraq. And we are stuck with a lot of NATO tourists who won't fight but suck up supplies.

Nor do we have the same objectives in Afghanistan as in Iraq. As long as we can strengthen the Afghan security forces to keep al Qaeda from establishing a safe haven and keep the Taliban from capturing the government, we can afford to have lesser standards of success. Once we knocked off the Taliban government and scattered al Qaeda in 2001, Afghanistan became a lesser problem not requiring an intense military effort. I still think this is true whether we fight in Iraq or not. I worry that we are going to send more troops to Afghanistan not because they are needed to achieve our objectives but because they are becoming more available as we win in Iraq.

And even if you have grander goals, unless we can deal with the Pakistan situation without making our problems worse, we can't actually do much more inside Afghanistan even with more troops.

As our focus begins to shift to Afghanistan from Iraq, we need to calmly assess the situation and our goals before just going off half-cocked. Just what are the extra troops supposed to do. Please try to avoid hysteria:

I just want to make one additional point on this. I think we all are -- I think we're all getting a little bit -- overwriting, perhaps, some of this stuff, which is that the sky is falling Afghanistan. I don't think that the secretary believes that is the case. I think he believes that there are -- it is a mixed picture in Afghanistan; that we are seeing some areas clearly where there has been an increase of violence -- most notably in RC East, where we have seen, because of a lack of pressure on the Pakistan side of the border, an increase in the flow of foreign fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and that is causing real problems for our troops there.

Just because we soon can send three brigades to Afghanistan doesn't mean we should.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Good Enough for Government Work

In the campaigns to root out al Qaeda and Sunni Arab backers north and northeast of Baghdad, the Iraqis are taking the lead:

The Iraqi Army and police are doing most of the fighting up north, which is bad news for al Qaeda. Iraqi security forces speak the language, and have a good understanding of the social dynamics. Many of the tribes and clans (including some of the Sunni Arab ones) up north are pro-government, and as the terrorist organizations get chewed up month after month, more and more locals decide that loyalty to Saddam just isn't worth it any more.

Knocking down the various enemies inside Iraq while building up the capabilities of the Iraqi government's forces has finally, this year, allowed the Iraqi government to take on the insurgents and terrorists with minimal direct help from our forces. This is the benefit of atomizing our enemies to keep them from being able to mass in units too large for the improving but still fairly green Iraqi security forces. Iraqi forces will never be as good as our units. But the Iraqis no longer have to be that good because the surge.

No Waiting Until January

If Peking is giving us something for our stall on arms sales to Taiwan, the Chinese aren't getting much:

President Bush is committed to an $11 billion arms package for Taiwan, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said Wednesday, amid reports that the U.S. is freezing such sales to the island to avoid angering China.

It may simply be an Olympics gift. Which is fine. If the Olympics turn out to be a public relations disaster for China, best not to be an obvious target for blame.

But it is good to know that the sale won't be put off until the next administration.

UPDATE: As long as bargaining over Taiwan's defense needs doesn't become routine, I've no problem with a short interruption for cosmetic purposes. But this assumes that we never forget that our help should never actually hurt our allies on Taiwan. I will say that I'd be far more comfortable decoupling Taiwanese arms sales from other issues. Defending an ally should not be a debatable matter lest our enemies (and friends) come to believe we will throw anybody under the bus if convenient.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This Will Leave a Mark

Lileks is back.

Now this is a screed.

I almost felt sorry for Garrison Keillor.


OK. Not at all.

Alright, I'm disappointed that the pen isn't as physically damaging as the sword.

The Blonde Leading the Blind

As an example of both how bad much of our elite press is and how divorced from reality our "reality-based community" is, this is amazing. First, the question by Katie Couric:

But talking microcosmically, did the surge, the addition of 30,000 additional troops ... help the situation in Iraq?

I thoroughly checked my DOD dictionary (danger: 780 pages of PDF), but could find nothing about "microcosmically" analyzing military campaigns. I am at a total loss to even understand the question. Still, I should at least give credit for the surprising line of questioning that Couric made to actually get an answer. An incoherent answer, to be sure, but an answer that well reflects his hard core base.

Of course, being thrown off by that word might excuse the response, I suppose, that denied any success for our surge in Iraq:

Katie, I have no idea what would have happened had we applied my approach, which was to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation. So this is all hypotheticals. What I can say is that there's no doubt that our U.S. troops have contributed to a reduction of violence in Iraq. I said that-- not just today, not just yesterday, but I've said that-- previously. What that doesn't change is that we've got to have a different strategic approach if we're going to make America as safe as possible.

So microcosmically, the issue of the surge is hypothetical. Except that without the money, troops, and strategy applied to Iraq for the surge strategy, Iraq could be much better today.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, few on the Left understand anything about the military. They may be good and decent people. They may have well-grounded and thought out positions on a variety of domestic and foreign policy areas (though I may disagree with those positions). But when it comes to military matters, most on the Left simply have opinions based on virtually no knowledge at all on the subject matter.

Wait, I think I understand "microcosmically" now: tiny brain off in its own universe. That explains the press aristocracy, anyway! Now can we research the certitude of our Left on war?

We are Not Losing in Afghanistan

I get tired of reading the comments of our Panicky American community every few months that we are losing in Afghansitan. They've been shrieking this prediction for nearly seven years now, beginning in the first week of Operation Enduring Freedom.

So it is nice to read this in the paper:

The Afghan insurgency has no broad popular base and doesn't mirror an obvious religious or ethnic fault line. It is also far more linked with Pakistani support than the Iraqi insurgency or militias were with Iran. Afghanistan needs a better president, judiciary and police force -- and a Pakistani government that is not playing footsie with the Taliban.

In Afghanistan, the situation can differ radically in provinces just a half-hour helicopter ride away. There has been much recent hysteria about an incident on July 13 when nine American soldiers were killed in an insurgent assault on a combat outpost in Want, in Nuristan (mistakenly reported as taking place in Wanat in neighboring Kunar Province). This was the deadliest attack on American soldiers since 16 troops were killed in Kunar in 2005. It was a tragic event, but does not demonstrate that the American effort in Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster, as some commentators have risibly argued.

Afghanistan does not need a surge, the author states. I agree. I can be persuaded that a brigade or three can accomplish some particular mission, but Afghanistan and Pakistan have too many people to attempt an Iraq-style pacification campaign.

Further, even if appropriate to mirror Iraq, we simply can't supply that many troops in Afghanistan. I'd be wary of risking more than ten percent of our active brigades in that potential Stalingrad pocket.

Besides, other than keeping the country from becoming a training area for al Qaeda, our interests in Afghanistan are more humanitarian than strategic these days. I simply don't aspire to very much out there.

Now, what we do need to do is address Pakistan where the enemy masses, rests, trains, and strikes from. The Pakistanis seem worried that we might invade to knock out the Taliban and al Qaeda:

Over the last week, the Pakistani press has been filled with commentaries warning that American attacks without Pakistan’s permission would further inflame anti-American sentiment, drive more people into the camp of the militants and fatally undermine the already fragile civilian government. Privately, one senior government official said American strikes would produce “chaos.”

But the English-language newspapers have also stressed that the Pakistani government has failed to deal with the Islamic militants, and they have made repeated pleas in recent days for the government and the military to take on the militants before Washington does the job, uninvited.

I, too, would like the Pakistanis to act. And I think it is in their long-term interest to defeat jihadis who would just as readily plant bombs in Pakistani cities as in Afghanistan. But Pakistan does not seem to have the will to act.

So we will act. But not an invasion. Even three more brigades would be swallowed in the vastness of Pakistan's tribal areas. Talk of invading Pakistan is stupid.

But we will act. With a new style of campaign if my hunch is correct, using the concept of the Anbar Awakening within Pakistan's frontier are itself:

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. ...

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.

Several more brigades would make sure that success in a Pushtun Awakening does not lead to jihadis fleeing freely to Afghanistan. With our increased presence on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the jihadis will be killed if they head west into our blocking positions, hammered by our air power, artillery, and damned fine soldiers and Marines.

We won't be foolish enough to invade Pakistan to get at bin Laden and the Taliban. But we will undertake a campaign in Pakistan. The only question is when we go. I'd prefer a winter campaign that makes enemy movement difficult since if we force them to move from their winter encampments they will die even without fighting. But it will be a year before we get three more brigades in place, I'd think.

So perhaps in fall 2009, we begin the Lexington Campaign.

We aren't losing in Afghanistan--we're about to attempt to win in Pakistan.

UPDATE: Related thoughts by Ralph Peters.

Talking Has Worked Out Well for Iran

The Iranians are apparently planning for years of talks in multiple stages regarding the nuclear issue:

"The paper calls for a huge exercise in talking," the Times quoted an unnamed senior European official as saying. "If you were to try to implement it, it would take a minimum of several years."

The newspaper said it obtained a copy but did not say how, and added that Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Kisliak, "could not suppress a laugh when he read it, according to one participant."

I thought the mere mention of hope and change would have convinced the Iranians to settle the issue early next year.

But talks with the EU have bought Iran five years so far. Why shouldn't the Iranians think they can string things out for years longer if America--thinking like proper Europeans--joins the talks next year in earnest?

It should be long enough for Iran to go nuclear, eh?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

So They Hate Pakistanis and Cartoons, Too

Please, after more than six years at war against crazed Islamo-fascist nutballs, can we finally stop worrying about what we do or don't do to inspire them to fits of beheading orgies?

A senior al-Qaida leader has urged Pakistanis to help Afghans fight U.S.-led coalition forces and condemned President Pervez Musharraf for arresting Arab and Afghan fighters and handing them over to Washington.

In a rare on-camera interview given to Pakistan's Geo TV and broadcast late Monday, Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed reiterated al-Qaida's claim of responsibility for the June 2 suicide car bombing on the Danish embassy in Islamabad that killed six people.

What doesn't set them off?

Just kill the bastards.

I Gotta Go Kill These Guys First

The details of the battle in Wanat are so confusing that it may not even have been at Wanat but in Want in another province altogether:

There has been much recent hysteria about an incident on July 13 when nine American soldiers were killed in an insurgent assault on a combat outpost in Want, in Nuristan (mistakenly reported as taking place in Wanat in neighboring Kunar Province).

One thing that was not confusing to me, however, was that our troops must have put up one hell of a fight in very desperate conditions. A lot of well-earned medals for heroism will come out of this fight, I figured.

The enemy pressed the attack with exceptional vigor. I didn't know the half of it:

Outnumbered but not outgunned, a platoon-plus element of soldiers with 2nd Platoon, Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team accompanied by Afghan soldiers engaged in a fistfight of a firefight.

I can't do justice to all that the article describes without just copying the entire piece. The enemy clearly wanted a massacre of an entire American unit and persisted in their attack instead of running. So read the conclusion and then read the details:

"It was some of the bravest stuff I’ve ever seen in my life, and I will never see it again because those guys," Stafford said, then paused. "Normal humans wouldn’t do that. You’re not supposed to do that — getting up and firing back when everything around you is popping and whizzing and trees, branches coming down and sandbags exploding and RPGs coming in over your head … It was a fistfight then, and those guys held ’ em off."

Stafford offered a guess as to why his fellow soldiers fought so hard.

"Just hardcoreness I guess," he said. "Just guys kicking ass, basically. Just making sure that we look scary enough that you don’t want to come in and try to get us."

Far more of the enemy are dead rather than scared, but point taken. It has been years since our jihadi enemies derided us as 15,000-foot warriors and invited us to close quarter combat.

Lesser troops would have folded and been slaughtered or led off to be tortured and killed on video. The paratroopers of 173rd Airborne Brigade held a hasty position against high odds and denied our enemies a victory that they very clearly desperately wanted.


As I suspected, we will probably draw down our combat brigades in Iraq by one this year:

Iraq's security has improved so much, even as US troop levels have dropped, that President Bush seems likely to order thousands more soldiers home by year's end.

That was not the widespread view only three months ago when Bush announced there would be a temporary halt to troop reductions once the last of five "surge" brigades left Iraq this month. Many believed the country would remain too fragile to justify thinning American combat lines before 2009.

However, two weeks of observing US and Iraqi troops in and around Baghdad, coupled with Associated Press interviews with commanders and planners, suggest a likelihood that Bush will move to reduce the US force by perhaps another combat brigade, or roughly 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers, toward the end of the year. More cuts seem possible next year, but the scale and timing will depend on who replaces Bush in the White House.

As a further guess, I'd say that early in the new year, we draw down an additional Army brigade and a Marine regimental combat team. The replacement Marine unit will go to Afghanistan.

If present trends continue, of course.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Same Debate. Different Subject

Remember the Iraqi political benchmarks of early last year? The ones that Iraq has largely met?

Iraq missed the original Congressional deadline and the anti-war leadership in Congress tried to use the failure to fully meet those goals as an excuse to abandon Iraqis to their jihadi and militia enemies.

I argued they were useful as goals to push the Iraqis to meet, but that deadlines were not a tactic to ensure victory.

But however late, the benchmarks were reached and Iraq is emerging as a victory in the war on terror, with al Qaeda and Iran's proxies down and out.

So now, anti-war advocates want a hard deadline while war supporters want no such thing. The Iraqis won't insist on hard deadlines and we don't want them:

The White House said Monday that a planned US-Iraq long-term strategic agreement will not include a specific date for a withdrawal of US combat troops.

"What it will not do is have any sort date tied to combat troops, like how many American troops would be in Iraq at X date. That would not be included," spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters.

But the pact is expected to include an "aspirational date" for Iraqis to take over security for all of the war-torn country's provinces, she said amid a confused back and forth between Baghdad and Washington on the issue.

"It might be something along the lines of 'we think that Iraq would be able to take over its security for all of its provinces by this aspirational date,'" Perino said.

"But I don't know exactly how it's going to read, but it would not include anything about troop levels," she said amid a bitter back and forth on the issue between the leading US presidential hopefuls ahead of November elections.

So, if these aspirational goals are met by various dates, we could then--based on the conditions on the ground--pull troops back to bases inside Iraq or pull them out completely.

If the goals are not met, we keep working the problem so the Iraqis can meet the goals without pulling troops back or out.

Always remember, the "pro-war" side wants to end the war by winning. The anti-war side just wants out and they don't have any particular investment in winning. Indeed, some on the Left hope to ride our defeat to political victory at home. That didn't work so well in the long run after Vietnam, but who said our Left was historically minded?

What Diminished Threat?

Boy are we sending mixed messages:

The U.S. has turned down a Taiwan attempt to buy 66 late model F-16 fighters. These would have cost about $75 million each. The deal was strongly opposed by China, and the U.S. justified its refusal to sell the jets by pointing out that a newly elected, more pro-China government, in Taiwan, diminished the threat of a Chinese invasion. It's also possible that the U.S. is rewarding China for help in negotiations with North Korea over the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Then again, whoever really knows, isn't talking.

So we are telling Taiwan that if they "increase tensions" by hinting at independence we will sell arms to them? But if Taiwan makes nice with Peking, we won't sell arms because lower tensions mean less likelihood of war?

Even though China seems to be no less intent on conquering Taiwan despite their charm offensive?

In the short run, this arms refusal doesn't matter. No new arms purchases can have any effect on a near-term conflict. It takes too long to integrate them into Taiwanese forces. (Now maybe if we'd sold them all this stuff back in 2001 ... But then Ma's KMT was blocking arms sales.) Maybe we are really thinking about all the angles and just want to get Taiwan through a danger period until we are better able to fend off China.

Or maybe we're just making a mistake thinking that we can trade away degrees of safety for a democratic ally on Taiwan for the hope of progress on North Korea's nuclear programs.

Of course, the only ones talking are those like me who really don't know what is going on.

Standard Operating Procedures

I have expressed confusion over the battle at Wanat, Afghanistan, where we lost 9 soldiers. Where were the troops killed? Why was the base so poorly situated? Why abandon the base and give the enemy a victory?

Well, as it turns out the press got the story wrong and our military actually just did what it was supposed to do. From Strategypage:

American troops in Afghanistan are not happy with how a July 13th battle with the Taliban was reported. In that action, some 200 Taliban attacked a U.S. “base” and killed or wounded more than half the 50 or so U.S. and Afghan troops found there. Actual U.S. casualties were nine dead and fifteen wounded (including walking wounded).

U.S. troops were irked that, once again, the mass media got lazy and didn’t bother to report the action accurately. For one thing, there was no “base”. What the Taliban attacked was a temporary parking area for vehicles used to conduct patrols of the area. These are set up regularly, and have been used for years. These are secure areas, but basically a parking lot surrounded by barbed wire and several sandbagged observation posts. This one was set a few days before the attack, and was due to be taken down soon, as the patrol activity moved to another area.

The "base" was no base at all. Which is why we "abandoned" it. We "abandon" "bases" all the time, I imagine, as we move around.

Perhaps reporters thought it was a base because, like the Romans, we dig in whenever we stop moving. Other armies break out the cigarettes and rations when they stop, so when an enemy attacks, the troops get overrun and killed. We prepared and so saved the unit. The press does not understand what we do and so thought our temporary preparations amounted to a "base."

Which makes holding that position all the more impressive.

So really, our military peformed as professionals as they were trained; and our professional press corps doesn't understand what it is reporting on.

Standard operating procedures, all around.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just What is the Point?

China is engaged in a charm offensive toward the Taiwanese people. Tourism, sympathy for China's earthquake victims, business ties. Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou campaigned on better relations with China, but what is the point?

Taiwan's president isn't satisfied with the military and diplomatic status quo despite the Chinese charm offensive:

Ma said China must address the issue of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the World Health Organisation, and must remove the missiles deployed in recent years on China’s Fujian coast facing Taiwan. “There are more than 1,000 missiles targeting Taiwan. We cannot negotiate with China under military threat,” Ma said.

Ma will find that China is not interested in any steps that imply Chinese recognition of Taiwan or reduce the threat that China's military can pose to Taiwanese independence.

Missiles will remain pointed at Taiwan. And China will constrict Taiwan's international space as much as possible to deny Taiwan any semblance of internaional recognition.

So who exactly is being charmed by the Chinese?

And why are the Chinese bothering to charm the Taiwanese when Peking will not address Ma's concerns?

It is very odd.

Ready to Lose the Only War We Have

I can only assume that the recent panic focused on Afghanistan is based on the ongoing success in Iraq. The domestic urge to panic is constant, so when you squeeze the balloon in Iraq it comes out in Afghanistan.

The overall level of violence in Afghanistan is down, as far as I can tell. Although civilian casualties are up as the enemy targets civilians instead of our troops. And with more of our troops in Afghanistan acting more aggressively along the border with Pakistan, it is natural that there will be more combat and more US casualties. Remember that the enemy is suffering heavily, too. Pakistan's failure to police their side of the border plus al Qaeda's decision to focus on Afghanistan after losing in Iraq make the border area more dangerous.

General Petraeus has noted signs of the al Qaeda shift:

He said there are signs that foreign fighters recruited by al-Qaida to do battle in Iraq are being diverted to the largely ungoverned areas in Pakistan from which the fighters can cross into Afghanistan. U.S. officials have pressed Pakistan for more than a year to halt the cross-border infiltration. It remains a major worry not only for the war in Afghanistan but also for Pakistan's stability.

And Ralph Peters comments on what I've been hammering at for a while now:

The partisan hacks who insisted that Iraq was a distraction from fighting al Qaeda have missed the situation's irony: Things are getting worse in Afghanistan and Pakistan not because our attention was elsewhere, but because al Qaeda has been driven from the Arab world, with nowhere else to go.

Al Qaeda isn't fighting to revive the Caliphate these days. It's fighting for its life.

Unwelcome even in Sudan or Syria, the Islamist fanatics have retreated to remote mountain villages and compounds on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border. That means Afghanistan's going to remain a difficult challenge for years to come - not a mission-impossible, but an aggravating one.

Pakistan is the problem now--not Afghanistan. Pakistan-based gunmen flow into Afghanistan where they kill and die, but the problem is not basically about Afghanistan. Which is the problem.

I once thought that the Pakistanis had finally figured out that they could not keep making deals with the jihadis. I thought that al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq and failure to gain traction anywhere else meant that we would witness a final jihad in Pakistan as the Pakistanis destroyed the jihadi sanctuary in the frontier areas:

If Pakistan may finally realize that they cannot make deals with jihadis, al Qaeda and their jihadi Taliban allies may be waging war on Pakistan because they have no choice.

If Pakistan will fight this war with no quarter, this could be the final jihad.

But sadly, the Pakistanis keep shrinking from this logical step and hope they can get the jihadis in Pakistan to leave the Pakistani cities alone and go and die in Afghanistan instead.

Not that we can't finally push Pakistan to waging a war without quarter against the jihadis. If we can engineer a Tribal Awakening movement in the frontier areas with a Lexington Campaign, we might defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban in the frontier 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.

This might have the effect of driving the jihadis into Pakistan's cities where the jihadis will naturally try to kill Pakistani civilians. Then, with the threat right in their faces, Pakistan's leaders may finally recognize that they have no choice but to fight the jihadis.

We have problems in the theater, but Afghanistan is not an imminent disaster. We need to work the problem and not get our panties in a twist.

Just remember, before our Left can turn on the Afghanistan War and attempt to lose this newly bad war, they have to portray it as unwinnable.

Please, don't tell me that you actually believed the anti-Iraq War side was really resolute in wanting to win in Afghanistan?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Down and Out

Al Qaeda in Iraq is on the ropes with the home office in Pakistan refusing to return the calls of their Iraqi pals. Al Qaeda seems to be downgrading the Iraq Front:

"We do think that there is some assessment ongoing as to the continued viability of al-Qaida's fight in Iraq," Gen. David Petraeus told The Associated Press in an interview at his office at the U.S. Embassy.

Whatever the result, Petraeus said no one should expect al-Qaida to give up entirely in Iraq.

"They're not going to abandon Iraq. They're not going to write it off. None of that," he said. "But what they certainly may do is start to provide some of those resources that would have come to Iraq to Pakistan, possibly Afghanistan."

So we have to make sure the Iraqis can chase down al Qaeda thugs and provide whatever help we can. This will be more of a special forces-led operation as long as the Iraqis can keep al Qaeda from grouping in any geographic area.

The Iranians, who have been driven from Iraq in large measure, are still trying to push their people and weapons into Iraq. Major General Oates described how we will focus on the border with Iran to shut down this smuggling route to prevent Iran from having a free hand in restarting violence:

For much of the war, U.S. and Iraqi forces were focused mainly on al-Qaida and other insurgent forces that threatened to plunge the country into all-out civil war. Shiite extremist groups inside Iraq took advantage of that narrow focus to develop a network of weapons supply routes from Iran, he said.

"Now that al-Qaida is hurt very badly, we're able to shift our emphasis and take a look at this other threat — and this is a significant threat that these Iranian-based extremist groups are attempting" to carry out, he said, not only by killing American troops but also seeking to topple the Iraqi government.

Oates called the weapons smuggling from Iran "the last remaining major threat" to be handled for Iraq.

I'd be more specific and call them the last remaining armed major threat. We still have corruption to address as part of our effort to keep quarrels in Iraq limited to political means within a democratic system based on rule of law.

So just think of the defeat of this armed threat as a mission to be accomplished. We have more missions to go.

But even as the anti-war side claims Iraqis (or perhaps all Arabs--I'm not sure how their supposedly progressive nature judges this) are incapable of democracy, remember that they said that we were incapable of defeating the various enemies inside Iraq aided and paid for by Iran and Sunni Arabs.

At the end of the day, however, I'm sure all Americans can rejoice that we've defeated the killers inside Iraq and have them on the run. Surely no American would want to risk losing this accomplishment, right?

You Can't Say We Didn't Try

Well, those talks with Iran were fun:

A U.S. decision to bend policy and sit down with Iran at nuclear talks fizzled Saturday, with Iran stonewalling Washington and five other world powers on their call to freeze uranium enrichment.

In response, the six gave Iran two weeks to respond to their demand, setting the stage for a new round of U.N. sanctions.

Iran's refusal to consider suspending enrichment was an indirect slap at the United States, which had sent Undersecretary of State William Burns to the talks in hopes the first-time American presence would encourage Tehran into making concessions.

After five years of Europeans chatting with the Iranians, at least our involvement led to a time limit on Iran's reply. It's been one long "no" thus far, so I don't expect the Iranians to abandon their drive for nuclear weapons just because one of our diplomats was sitting there. I know our Left has said that our mere appearance would make Iranians melt and give up their nuclear ambitions, but were some of our diplomats that deluded? Sorry. Asked and answered.

So we talked. Or just listended, depending on who you believe. Nothing changed. I say we leave the talks to the Europeans who seem to enjoy that sort of thing and start preparing to destroy the mullah regime and actually do something about the gathering threat.

On the bright side, at least we're checking off those boxes on the "last resort" before going to war list.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Dramatic Shift in ... Vocabulary

The United States and Iraq may have a rough framework to conclude a status of forces agreement by the end of the month to govern our forces in Iraq and their level over time:

President Bush and Iraq's prime minister have agreed to set a "general time horizon" for bringing more U.S. troops home from the war, a dramatic shift from the administration's once-ironclad unwillingness to talk about any kind of deadline or timetable.

The announcement Friday put Bush in the position of offering to talk with Iraqi leaders about a politically charged issue that he adamantly has refused to discuss with the Democratic-led Congress at home. It also could complicate the presidential campaign arguments of Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama who have staked out starkly opposite stands about the unpopular war.

I don't think this is anywhere nearly as dramatic as the article makes out. A "general time horizon" sounds vague enough to allow Iraqi leaders to mollify domestic critics who worry that we won't leave when not needed and allow us to actually stay long enough to both nail down a battlefield victory and to help build an Iraqi democracy.

And if I may be so bold to point this out, there is no contradiction between talking to Iraqis about our forces leaving Iraq and refusing to talk to the Pelosi- and Reid-led Congress about the exact same topic. Quite simply, the difference is that Iraqis want to win the war and so have no reason to talk about a timetable as a means of losing the war. Look me in the eye and tell me Pelosi and Reid are committed to winning the war--or even vaguely interested in that result.

So what will the "time table" look like? Bush and Maliki set forth a general focus:

The two leaders agreed that improvements in security should allow for the negotiations "to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals, such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq," the White House said.

So it looks like goals rather than strict dates to draw down. If an "aspirational goal" is met, then some troops will come home. If the aspirational goal is not met, we keep working with the troop level stable until the goal is met. It might be tough for a future president determined to retreat to insist that an aspirational goal is met when it is not.

Maliki's confidence from our recent winning record will take him only so far in negotiations. Yes, Maliki needs to silence critics at home and give supporters a reason to support the agreement. But Maliki needs a good agreement that keeps us fighting at his side. Does Maliki really think he can wait for the next administration to get a deal that will provide more security? That sounds awfully risky to me.

It would be foolish to have a strict timetable. I don't believe that the Iraqis are going to insist on something like that. But the wording will be vague enough to make it look that way.

Kampfgruppe Victory

The latest buzz is whether we've won in Iraq (see here for example). Yes, terrorists are still there and militias could become a greater a problem if we let up, but corruption and rule of law are fast becoming bigger issues than these declining internal armed threats. The former can be fought by Iraqi forces with decreasing direct US action over time. The latter will need our help for years to come. And we need to base 4-5 combat brigades and aircraft for external defense for a decade, I should think, unless Iran and Syria become friendly countries before then.

Ever fearful of the many ways our Congress could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I'm hesitant to say more than that we are clearly winning. Sure, the anti-war side that just wants to end the war isn't happy that President Bush chose a course to end the war by winning it, but it is ending. It would look bad for the anti-war side to complain too loudly about that inconvenient aspect. And there seems like less and less chance that we could blow the battlefield victory with stupid actions in Washington.

Nor do I see any other armed threat waiting to take the place of al Qaeda or the Mahdi Army. Absent direct Syrian or Iranian intervention with conventional forces, only open revolt by existing Iraqi forces (army, police, or Kurdish regional forces) could pose an armed threat to the Iraqi government.

I guarantee that President Bush won't declare victory given the unfair hammering he took in 2003.

But there is a way to declare victory in Iraq without the words. We should convince the Iraqis to send an infantry battalion to Afghanistan. We want to send more US troops but we can't shake loose more than a single complete brigade until next year probably, so if we want to send something to Afghanistan in 2008 that isn't taken from Iraq, it will have to be odds and sods.

So why not send a provisional brigade to Afghanistan composed of one Iraqi infantry battalion and one American infantry battalion plus American support formations to round out the unit? It could be for a seven month tour to bridge the gap until we can flow American brigades. We wouldn't ask Iraq for more than one tour. And maybe it would shame some of our NATO allies into letting their soldiers fight in Afghanistan.

Imagine the signal that would send about Iraq's place in the world. From an enemy to ally in the Long War in less than six years. That would sure look like victory, eh?

Only We Can Do the Job

While I am coming to the conclusion that we won't initiate any aerial campaign against Iran until they roll out a missile that glows brightly enough for the New York Times to see, when that time comes, this will be a weeks long campaign that will be far more intense than the Kosovo War in 1999.

Ralph Peters thinks that Israel can do no more than hit Iran's nuclear facilities while it will be necessary to hit a broad target set to blunt an Iranian counter-attack. Peters sets forth the target sets.

I think his list is too short, as I wrote two and a half years ago.

Yes, such a campaign may make Iranians hate us, as Peters writes. So it is hardly ideal. But perhaps not for long. Our Left got over their "we're all Americans, now" moment within a couple years of the 9/11 attacks. I bet another attack on our country would lead large portions of the Left to argue Bush is responsible.

And as I've said many times, why would it be superior to have Iran's mullahs armed with nuclear weapons ruling a population that likes us over an Iran defanged with their people angry at us? I repeat, I will not take much comfort that the Iranian people are really sad that Iran nuked Charleston.

Unless we get lucky, there is no easy solution to the Iran problem. And an aerial attack would be no surgical strike that quickly and cheaply ends the problem.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is Unworthy of a Great Nation

This had best be a false rumor:

The United States will announce in the next month that it plans to establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran for the first time in 30 years, a British newspaper said on Thursday.

Unless CENTCOM establishes our presence, we should stay out of Iran as long as the mullahs rule in Tehran.

Why deliver hostages to Tehran? Make them take them in the Persian Gulf the old fashioned way.

And if the Iranians want our "presence" that badly, they can give us back our effing embassy.

Do Not Stand in His Line of Fire

James Lileks goes off. Rather nicely.


Ignoring Reality at Their Peril

Israel gave up enemy bodies and five terrorists for the bodies of their dead soldiers captured in the Hizbollah War.

So what's wrong with this sentence from this story?

The prisoner exchange with Hezbollah closed a painful chapter from Israel's 2006 war against the militant group.

Astute observers will note that only Hizbollah got back prisoners. Israel got corpses. So this was not a "prisoner exchange."

But I guess Israelis need to feel better about signing the death warrants of future soldiers captured. Why should jihadis keep Jews alive when dead Jews get live terrorists out of Israeli custody? All for the false comfort of having a funeral for a coffin with a body in it.

And not just Israeli soldiers but Israeli civilians will die, too.

How do I know this?

In Lebanon, attention centered on Samir Kantar, who spent nearly three decades in an Israeli prison after being convicted of killing a father, his 4-year-old daughter and a policeman during a 1979 attack. He denied killing the little girl.

He and the four other freed militants visited the grave of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a car bomb blast in Syria in February. Hezbollah blamed Israel, which denied playing any role in his killing.

"We swear by God ... to continue on your same path and not to retreat until we achieve the same stature that God bestowed on you," Kantar said. He referred to Mughniyeh's "martyrdom," saying: "This is our great wish. We envy you and we will achieve it, God willing."

The Israelis expressed shock that gambling is going on upstairs:

Israeli government spokesman David Baker denounced the celebrations in Lebanon, particularly the warm welcome given to Kantar.

"Kantar is a brutal child murderer who instead of being rejected upon his return was cheered and greeted like a rock star, and this is disgusting and deplorable," Baker said in a statement.

As the saying goes, that disgusting and deplorable behavior is not so much a bug as a feature. Baker's denunciation is hollow. Israel pretended to close a chapter but another one is already scripted by Kantar and his cheering squad.

But hey, the Israelis kept Ehud Barak after he screwed the pooch on the Hizbollah War. They have the leader they deserve at this moment.

So get ready for the next ugly chapter. We know how that story will end. The Israelis should be ashamed. They should know better.