Tuesday, June 30, 2009

An Orgy of Sectarian Bias

Our press corps is screwing up right to the end in reporting on Iraq.

We have pulled our troops from combat in Iraq's cities. This is a good thing under the circumstances made possible by our victory over the various terrorists and insurgents we faced the last 6 years. Iraqis are right to be happy over this. I wish them all the best. They've had horrible lives given the despotism and many wars that Saddam and then terrorsists inflicted on them.

It is dreck like this that makes me despair of our press corps:

More than six years of U.S. occupation and the orgy of sectarian violence it unleashed have left most Iraqis feeling at best ambivalent about U.S. forces.

Many complain their lives have improved little since then, with daily struggles caused by power cuts and water shortages.

"They did a good job getting rid of that tyrant, Saddam, and we thank them for that, but it's really time for them to leave," said Talib Rasheed, 70, sitting outside in one of Baghdad's leafier suburbs. "Maybe they could leave us some electricity?"

Oh really? We caused the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq? I thought the underlying cause was the general Shia-Sunni division in the Moslem world. And I thought that several centuries of minority Sunni rule over the Shias and Kurds in Iraq contributed. And add in several decades of Saddam's cruel regime. Oh, and a nice al Qaeda terrorist campaign aided by Syria and supplemented by Iran's Sadrist thugs on murder sprees.

Silly me, our "occupation"--otherwise known for defending Iraqis against all the thugs and terrorists shooting and bombing innocent Iraqis--was the cause of the bloodshed. Thank God the press corps cleared that up!

As for the electricity crack, reality should really raise its ugly head after all these years. This is our so-called failure:

Electricity Minister Karim Wahid said in Babil Province on February 18 that the country's power output has reached 6,760 megawatts, some 2,500 megawatts more than the amount being generated in 2003 before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Wahid added that the country will get a substantial increase in power this summer when several large energy-producing projects will be finished and provide an additional 2,000 megawatts.

Huh. So we did leave them with some electricity.

Well what about water shortages? Well:

USAID has refurbished 10 sewage treatment plants in eight cities in Iraq providing sewage treatment to an additional 5.1 million Iraqis, processing 300 million gallons daily. 3.1 million Iraqis who had no clean drinking water in 2002 now have access to safe, potable water following USAID efforts to refurbish and expand 19 water treatment plants in five cities. Providing clean water and efficient sewage treatment has greatly improved sanitation and contributed to a decrease in waterborne disease. USAID's rural water program installed 70 small water treatment systems in rural communities throughout Iraq, providing clean water to almost 500,000 villagers each day. USAID also provided plant-level operations and maintenance (O and M) training at major water and wastewater plants nationwide to ensure that these plants remain functioning.

In addition, USAID's rural water program will install over 70 small water treatment systems in rural communities of less than 5,000 people. As of May 2006, 51 sites have been completed with the rest coming online by August. Countrywide, the rural water program will help to supply clean water to almost 500,000 villagers each day.

I guess we've done some good there, too.

But other than gross anti-American bias masquerading as news, the press corps has covered the war just swell.

Worse Than I Thought

I will never try to step on the boring demographic stuff that Mark Steyn keeps reminding us about, but I have to point this out about the little Swedish tot called Pop:

Pop’s parents [see footnote], both 24, made a decision when their baby was born to keep Pop’s sex a secret. Aside from a select few – those who have changed the child’s diaper – nobody knows Pop’s gender; if anyone enquires, Pop’s parents simply say they don’t disclose this information.

In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The child's parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.

Pop's wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop's hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.

On a continent suffering from demographic collapse, one of the few couples who actually want a child do this?

This will work out just swell for Pop, I'm sure.

The Way Home Goes Through Baghdad

Our way home from Iraq has always been through Baghdad.

And isn't it so much better that we leave as victors rather than running?

Not even the best Sadrist or al Qaeda propagandist can spin our withdrawal into a defeat.

And stop talking as if we are pulling out for good. We are just pulling our combat units from the cities. We remain in the cities to help the Iraqis. We remain in Iraq to provide combat support and logistics to the Iraqis as we train them. And we remain to protect Iraq from foreign enemies until Iraq can stand up there, too.

Even as we draw down from our current strength, we'll have 50,000 or so troops in Iraq until the end of 2011. And I bet we'll eventually have an agreement to keep tens of thousands there after that.

I know many on the Left thought it would be good for America to get a good beating in Iraq, but does that still hold true for Obama's America?


With my original The Dignified Rant site at Yahoo!Geocities closing some time this summer, I've saved my posts from there and I'm going to start cutting and pasting into this blog. So it will have all my posts since July 2002. Eventually. I hope.

This will take a lot of time and be a very boring task. But it seems the best option. And I'll lose the graphics I had put in the old posts.

And then I have to figure out what to do with the other material over there ... Ugh.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Restoring Our Reputation Abroad

Thank God President Obama is restoring our reputation abroad!

We're restoring it with one-way demands on Colombia:

Obama to Colombia: Military base now, free trade later.

Now that's nuance!

And we're rebuilding ties with Old Europe. Well, there's a hiccup there, apparently, since the German elites and other Europeans still don't like America:

The scorn from the traditionally anti-American magazine, this time aimed at the sainted Obama, is really quite something, and the comparison of Obama to Bush and Summers to Cheney is arresting.

Let the "why do they hate us?" debates begin! Or perhaps our State Department hasn't gotten around to explaining that George W. Bush is no longer our president?

And of course we're listening to Latin America and becoming good neighbors again. But then we go meddling in the internal affairs of Honduras:

The Obama administration and European governments denounced the coup. U.S. officials said they were working for the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya and European officials offered to mediate talks between the two sides.

If you think the president boldy sided with the good guys, guess again, as the very same article explains despite the use of the word "coup" early on. Says the President of their Congress:

The Honduran constitution limits presidents to a single 4-year term and forbids any modification of that limit. Zelaya's opponents feared he would use the referendum results to try to run again, just as Chavez reformed his country's constitution to be able to seek re-election repeatedly.

Micheletti said Sunday that the army acted on orders from the courts, and the ouster was carried out "to defend respect for the law and the principles of democracy." But he threatened to jail Zelaya and put him on trial if he returned.

Micheletti also hit back at Chavez, saying "nobody, not Barack Obama and much less Hugo Chavez, has any right to threaten this country."

It seems rule of law is not on the side of the removed president, who appeared to be seeking to extend his term of office. The first clue might have been the vocal support Hugo Chavez gave to the removed president.

Still, we're aligned with Hugo, so that's good, right?

And of course, that meddling in Somalia. Isn't it shocking that we'd do this in a Moslem country?

Thank God we have nuanced, smart diplomacy to restore our reputation in the world.

Victory in Iraq Day

Iraqi forces are taking over primary responsibility for controlling their cities:

Al-Maliki's government has declared Tuesday National Sovereignty Day and decreed a public holiday.

"June 30 is an important turning point on the civilian, security and political levels, and this is the feeling shared by all Iraqis," Salim al-Jubouri, spokesman for the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, said in a statement.

He also said "terrorist elements" would try to disrupt the withdrawal but added that Iraqi forces were capable of ensuring security. Although considerable progress has been made at reconciling Sunnis and Shiites, there is still a divide between the two Islamic sects that nearly brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2006-2007.

And as Strategypage noted (I think that's my source), given that our troops have been preparing to pull out the last month, urban security already is a primary Iraqi responsibility.

I just don't sense that the current violence is a sign of security breaking down. The Iraqis can handle the threat, given time.

And with the situation secure enough to begin this withdrawal from the cities (though we still have a large supporting role, remember), I'd like to call November 27, 2008 the official Victory in Iraq Day.

We still have more to do to help our Iraqi allies, as we still do for South Korea long after the "end" of that war, but we've won this war. The Iraqi government will survive.

Now we have to shape what kind of government that will be over time.

Aiming for Those Who Count

Iran's regime is staging a faux partial recount:

In an attempt to placate protesters, Iran conducted a partial recount Monday of votes cast in its disputed presidential election, and the hard-line president asked for an investigation into the shooting death of a young woman who has become a potent symbol of the opposition's struggle.

I have to disagree with the analysis. The protesters are risking their lives because they believe the system cheated them all. How would a partial recount placate them? The recount won't placate protesters and it is unlikely that it is intended as such.

Rather, it is aimed at placating those in the middle who neither support the regime nor support the protesters. By appearing to be reasonable, the regime seeks to keep the protesters' support narrow enough to defeat with controlled violence and arrests under the cover of darkness.

Just Escalating the Violence

Fine, we're meddling in Somalia's internal affairs:

A Somali radical Islamic insurgent says weapons and ammunition the United States recently supplied to Somalia's embattled government will only increase violence in the war-wracked country.

Sheik Hassan Ya'qub, a spokesman for the militant group al-Shabab in the port town of Kismayo, was responding to an announcement by U.S. officials last week that the Obama administration had supplied arms and provided military training worth just under $10 million to the shaky official government.

So where are the concerned Leftists over here decrying our promotion of violence? This has been a common enough argument against our interventions in the past.

And truth be told, our aid to the government, such as it is, will increase violence. That is, if we did nothing and just let the better armed and more determined jihadis win, the fighting would end.

Resisting evil (not to imply the government is, objectively, good) means more violence. In such cases, more violence is a good thing. Let the meddling continue.

An Interval? Simplisme!

While our adminsitration seeks a decent interval between the time of the last dead Iranian protester and the beginning of negotiations with Ahmadimejad, the Europeans see no need for even a fig leaf of time to pay our respects to the victims of the mullah regime before chatting up the mullahs again:

"We would like very much that soon we will have the possibility to restart multilateral talks with Iran on the important nuclear issues," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters in Corfu before the meeting.

Oh those Euros! They just don't get discouraged when it comes to sitting down and arranging their surrender to the Iranians.

Because talking to the Iranians has worked out so well in getting the Iranians to abandon their nuclear programs these last several years.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


The Iranians are paying a bit more attention to Western embassies--or Britain's anyway:

Iran's arrest of eight British embassy staff in Tehran is "harassment" and "intimidation", Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Sunday.

"The United Kingdom is deeply concerned at the arrest and in some cases continued detention of some of our hard-working staff locally engaged in Tehran," Miliband said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe on the Greek island of Corfu.

"This is harassment and intimidation of a kind which is quite unacceptable. These are hard-working diplomatic staff," he said, adding that the government has protested "in strong terms" to the Iranian authorities.

He said that the release of the embassy staff was Britain's "top priority."

"We want to see (them) released unharmed and back to work," Miliband said.

The Fars news agency earlier reported the arrest of eight members of the local staff at the British embassy who were accused of having a "considerable role" in the riots over Iran's disputed presidential election.

When the Iranians are thinking of our embassies, it is bad. I hope the British are taking precautions. The Iranians might take their Gulf routine to land.

At least today's Iranian students are friendly toward us--well, until the survivors of this election crisis start thinking about how much we helped them in their hour of need.

The Fat Lady Sings

Well, I think we can say the Iranian democracy protesters are screwed. Celebrities are singing for them:

They wouldn't be allowed to perform in Iran, but singers Joan Baez and Jon Bon Jovi are showing their support for protesters.

In videos carried on YouTube, the artists perform songs — with a few lines in Farsi — that call for peace.

We're in to "Free Tibet" territory where everyone of impeccable moral credentials is against the Iranian regime but none of them is willing to do anything about it.

I think we can all look forward to the 50th anniversary of the Free Iran movement when more aging rockers will voice their concern.

Is This Nuanced Enough Yet?

The North Koreans already threw a hissy fit when we assured the South Koreans that our nuclear umbrella applied to North Korean nuclear threats.

And now Iran's Ahmadinejad is going all anti-hopey in response to our president's very mild criticisms of their crack down on protesters:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Saturday to make the U.S. regret its criticism of Iran's postelection crackdown and said the "mask has been removed" from the Obama administration's efforts to improve relations.

Ahmadinejad — with his internal opponents virtually silenced — all but dared Obama to keep calling for an end to repression of demonstrators who claim the hardline leader stole re-election through massive fraud.

"You should know that if you continue the response of the Iranian nation will be strong," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to members of Iran's judiciary, which is directly controlled by the ruling clerics. "The response of the Iranian nation will be crushing. The response will cause remorse."

Um, yeah ... That's normal. For nutcase countries that hate us and expect to have nuclear weapons soon, that is.

If President Obama would kindly recognize that these two states are on the Axis of Evil for very good reasons notwithstanding the inconvenient fact that President Bush named them as such, we can get on with that smart foreign policy we've heard so much about.

North Korea and Iran under the mullahs are mad dogs, and we need to put them down for the safety of the world. Not a whole lot of nuance is required to understand this basic fact.

Just Do It

The Iranian authorities seem to be smothering the protests against the election:

Even as unprecedented protests broke out on the streets after the June 12 disputed presidential election, the most stinging backlash from authorities has come away from the crowds through roundups and targeted arrests, according to witnesses and human rights organizations. They say plainclothes security agents have also put dozens of the country's most experienced pro-reform leaders behind bars.

The Iranian government says only that unspecified figures responsible for fomenting unrest have been taken into custody.

The arrests have drained the pool of potential leaders of a protest movement that claims President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the election by fraud.They also point to the potential for high-profile trials — and serious sentences — before a special judicial forum created to handle cases from the unrest.

With the main reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi under constant police surveillance, protests demanding a new vote have withered. Many of those rounded up during demonstrations have been released within days.

But most of those detained in raids against potential opposition remain in custody. That has spread fear among Mousavi supporters and left the opposition movement reeling.

The regime has wisely avoided mass murder that would test the loyalty of security forces ordered to commit a massacre on the streets.

Even if the revolt is fizzling in Iran, the right thing to do is support those who want more freedom.

What is really puzzling to me is the apparent argument by some observers that it is progress to strip away the veneer of "Islamic" from the "Islamic republic" and showing the regime to just be your basic dictatorship. Getting a plain dictatorship rather than Islamic republic is a sorry sort of victory, if you ask me. People being arrested and killed by secular thugs is no noticable improvement over being arrested and killed by religious thugs.

We should try to bend events because this crisis may not be over. I might be premature in thinking it is dead, depending on what is going on inside Iran that I can't see. Protesters might be quietly seeking broader strength or factions within the government itself may see advantages to siding with the protesters.

Even if our actions are futile in turning Iran into a better government, it is good to be on the right side of history in this struggle. One day, the good guys could win. And they'll remember we stood with them when they risked all and all we had to risk was "engagement" with an inherently untrustworthy regime.

Don't think that supporting Mousavi in this crisis means we are supporting Moussavi. We need to support the man who would break the rigged system that perpetuates mullah rule. And who knows, Mousavi might become more because of those who support him:

As Mousavi hovers between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, between reformer and revolutionary, between figurehead and leader, the revolution hangs in the balance. The regime may neutralize him by arrest or even murder. It may buy him off with offers of safety and a sinecure. He may well prefer to let this cup pass from his lips.

But choose he must, and choose quickly. This is his moment and it is fading rapidly. Unless Mousavi rises to it, or another rises in his place, Iran's democratic uprising will end not as Russia 1991, but as China 1989.

I've noted that even our revolution started with our efforts to assert our rights as Englishmen. Only a year later did we seek independence.

Support the good guys. Even if the good guys can't win this fight. It is about them, and not us, if you'll recall.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Just Say No and Here's a Check

Our envoy for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, talks about our change in strategy on the drug front in Afghanistan. We're abandoning eradication programs and switching to efforts to get farmers to go legit:

"We're essentially phasing out our support for crop eradication and using the money to work on interdiction, rule of law, alternate crops," he told the AP. At the same time, Washington is upgrading its support for agriculture programs.

"That's the big change in our policies," he said. "This was widely accepted as the right thing to do."

Costa said the United Nations had determined that eradication programs were inefficient since too few hectares (acres) were being cleared at too high a cost.

The U.S. strategy of phasing out eradication in favor of agricultural development and drug interdiction "seems to be the winning strategy, and I'm glad that all of this has received support from the G-8 ministers," Costa told the AP.

Holbrooke said the previous U.S. policy to combat Afghan poppy, which focused on eradication programs, hadn't reduced "by one dollar" the amount of money the Taliban earned off cultivation and production.

"It might destroy some acreage," Holbrooke said. "But it just helped the Taliban."

Strategypage provides some useful background:

Herat province was declared "poppy free". Most of Afghanistan is also, and the Afghans have gotten the U.S. to halt the spraying of poppy fields with herbicide. While the spraying has been successful in other parts of the world, in Afghan, local officials have shown that they can persuade farmers to stop planting poppies via a combination of threats and rewards. This policy has worked in the north, but is more difficult to implement in the south because of the large Taliban presence, and the formation of several powerful drug cartels. The latter are your typical warlord operations, but in this case armed with lots of cash (for bribes) as well as gunmen (Taliban contractors, as well as fighters working directly for the drug boss).

It sounds as if only the farmers were being harmed by eradication without harming the Taliban and gangs further up the production and distribution chain.

By giving the farmers alternatives to poppies, we can hopefully split them from cooperating with the Taliban.

While some pundits have argued we should ignore the drug trade in Aghanistan because it just drives people to the Taliban, I think we must go after the drug trade to dry up Taliban money sources. More troops in the south will help nullify the impact of those armed cartels.

I'm perfectly fine with altering strategies to be more effective in curbing the drug trade without harming the farmers who suffered the most from the old strategy.

Blown to Bits

We need to build a cyber command center:

One thing Cyber Command will need is something the air force was already building; a Cyber Control System. This is a hardware and software system that would enable the Cyber Command to monitor, in real time, the security state of all military Internet activity (or enough of it to be useful). If any of these networks were attacked, the Cyber Control System software would immediately alert Cyber Command, and recommend a course of action. Think of this as a war room for Cyber War. Many people, deluged with TV and movie representations of high tech military command centers, believe such a Cyber War center already exists. It doesn't, and the Cyber Command will have to build it.

One thing I worry about is getting so caught up with cyber war that we forget that cyber warriors die just like any other human if hit with bombs and bullets.

In case of a cyber war that takes place in a shooting war, I hope we remember that a bunch of JDAMs brought down on the enemy cyber war center will work far better than trying to outwit them on the Internet.

And I hope we remember that any big cyber command center is similarly vulnerable to enemy bombs.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dueling Redundancies Departments

The Iranians think that some of the protesters deserve to be executed:

"Anyone who takes up arms to fight with the people, they are worthy of execution," Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami, a ranking cleric, said in a nationally broadcast sermon at Tehran University.

Khatami said those who disturbed the peace and destroyed public property were "at war with God" and should be "dealt with without mercy."

I think what the mad mullah means is that protesters deserve to be executed after a trial. The regime has been simply dispensing with formalities and shooting Iranians down on the streets for over a week now. That ship has sailed. We know the mullahs think protesters should die.

Our president, too, is frustrated by Ahmadinejad's demand for an apology over President Obama's fairly mild statements objecting to the Iranian crack down:

State TV in Iran quoted Ahmadinejad as saying on Thursday: "We expect nothing from the British government and other European governments, whose records and backgrounds are known to everybody and who have no dignity. But I wonder why Mr. Obama, who has come with the slogan of change, has fallen into this trap, the same route that Mr. Bush took and experienced its ending."

The Iranian leader has told Obama to "show your repentance."

Obama said he doesn't take such statements seriously.

"He might want to consider looking at the families of those beaten or shot or detained," Obama said. "That's where Mr. Ahmadinejad and others need to answer their questions."

First of all, it must be frustrating to the president that Ahmadinejad seems stubbornly resistant to hope and change. Second, since the president has basically issued a global apology to the world for everything we've ever done prior to January 2009, it is rather silly to him that he should have to apologize for such a specific event.

It is all rather redundant.

Once Again--Seven Divisions Beat Iraq in 2003

It is distressing that the idea that we conquered Iraq with just three divisions has settled in to the conventional wisdom. Even Strategypage, in a good discussion of FCS recounting the value of our legacy heavy armor, repeats this so-called fact.

Let me correct this. We conquered Iraq in 2003 with the line equivalent of seven divisions. The hallmark of our invasion was the use of air power in place of the artillery and other support units that supported Desert Storm in 1991.

Without the need for traditional Army support units, we deployed 60 line battalions (infantry, armor, and cavalry), about equally divided between the Army and Marine Corps, plus 10 British line battalions.

Our single Marine "division" had 28 line battalions, or the equivalent of the line elements of 3 divisions. The Army had the line equivalent of 3 divisions. And the British added a division.

These seven division equivalents were completely in line with our post-Cold War thinking that we'd need 5 Army divisions and 1-2 Marine Expeditionary Forces to handle a Major Theater War against either North Korea or Iraq. The difference was that instead of the heavy presence of support units behind that front line strength, we relied on air power and more just-in-time logistics instead of ample separate artillery units and iron mountains of supplies.

Seven divisions--not three--defeated Saddam's military.


I've written that I think the spearhead of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan will come from civilian ships hitting Taiwan's ports in a surprise assault with hidden army troops aboard:

One of the means I speculated on for doing this was for the Chinese to use merchant ships to carry troops and equipment in before Chinese military forces attakced overtly. By unloading troops from civilian ships in unguarded ports, the Chinese could hold them until their small amphibious forces could race reinforcements in, and then the roll on-roll off ships bring in the heavy equipment to exploit the bridgeheads and link up with airborne forces to seize Taipei[.]

Well, it will be a little easier for the Chinese to load those troops on civilian ships:

BEIJING is following up its trade initiative with Taiwan with a plan to convert part of naval facilities in the western Taiwan Strait to commercial use.

Now it will be easier for Chinese "civilian" merchant ships to load up with army units and equipment for that first assault.

Every Idiot and Their Grandma

The Ethiopians are dipping their toe into Somalia again in the face of rising jihadi activity.

But the Ethiopians are a little hesitant about fully committing, as their prime minister explained:

We do not want to find ourselves in a situation where a so-called Ethiopian horse would be trying to take the chestnut out of the fire on behalf of everybody else...and this horse being whipped by every idiot and his grandmother.

Yeah, America understands. No good deed goes unpunished.

Especially now that a new administration is in power here. Two and one-half years ago, when the Ethiopians went in, they at least knew they'd get support from that "cowboy" Bush.

Brother, I feel your pain.

Tainted Meddling

I must say I'm shocked at the Obama administration's actions in Somalia:

The United States has sent a shipment of weapons and ammunition to the government of Somalia, according to a U.S. official who said the move signals the Obama administration's desire to thwart a takeover of the Horn of Africa nation by Islamist rebels with alleged ties to al-Qaeda.

The shipment arrived in the capital, Mogadishu, this month, according to the official, who is helping craft a new U.S. policy on Somalia and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

"A decision was made at the highest level to ensure the government does not fall and that everything is done to strengthen government security forces to counter the rebels," the official said.

So now we meddle in a Moslem country between the government (such as it is) and opponents of the government?

We aren't worried about tainting the government of Somalia by supporting it?

Huh. It's almost as if the administration is just making stuff up as they go along.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Do They Hate Us?

I find it fascinating that it is so easy for many to claim we went too far in waterboarding three al Qaeda detainees in our unjustified fear following 9/11, but that it is perfectly understandable that Iran would support terrorism and seek nuclear weapons after we branded them a member of the Axis of Evil:

Ayatollah Khamenei condemns the attacks of 9/11 and many Iranians hold candlelight vigils. After the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan topples the Taliban government, American and Iranian diplomats meet together in Bonn, with a handful of representatives from other UN members, to form a new government and constitution for Kabul. Iran also cooperates with the United Nations to repatriate nearly one million Afghan refugees residing on its soil and provides support to the Northern Alliance. The brief U.S.-Iranian cooperation ends after President Bush labels Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” in his 2002 State of the Union.

This is a common belief on the left side of the aisle but is complete rubbish. Iran was our enemy before 9/11 and Iran has been our enemy since 9/11. They are evil not because we called them evil , but because they are evil. Heck, Ahmadinejad doesn't even think Obama is much different than Bush:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Barack Obama on Thursday of behaving like his predecessor toward Iran and said there was not much point in talking to Washington unless the U.S. president apologized.

I guess that whole outreach thing isn't really clicking.

Can we sink to any depths in a clear conscience because the Iranian mullahs constantly call us the Great Satan and don't see the nuanced smart diplomacy of President Obama as any different than that cowboy Bush's policies?

Buying Into Their Delusions

There is some worry that the Obama administration will trade away our missile defenses in exchange for mutual reductions in nuclear arms in a treaty with Russia:

The Obama administration is currently focused on a deliverable for the President’s summit and, despite the best efforts of missile defense supporters in the House and Senate, appears to be considering a trade of missile defense for Russian acquiescence on a new arms reduction agreement. As Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said in a statement released on Wednesday, “’Arms control for arms control sake’ is what appears to be guiding these negotiations, and it simply does not work.”

Arms control just for the sake of arms control is the least of our worries. I'd have no problem with a treaty that simply reduces our nuclear missile levels. I'm fine with this even though Russia's missile strength will decline with or without a treaty--they can't afford to maintain their numbers.

But by linking our missile defenses in Eastern Europe with Russian nuclear weapons levels, we implicitly buy into Russia's argument that our missile defenses are somehow aimed at Russia and not Iran.

No good will come from validating Russia's paranoia.

God, Give Me Strength

How is it even possible for the Army to wonder if heavy armor might be of use in Afghanistan? After relearning the value of heavy armor in Iraq during the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaigns, we have forgotten already?

Canadian officers in Afghanistan are having a hard time convincing their American counterparts to bring some M-1 tanks along with the additional combat brigades arriving this year. The Canadians have found tanks very useful while fighting the Taliban. In addition to being immune to enemy fire, the tanks can smash through the walls that surround the many family compounds that dot the Afghan countryside. There is also the fear factor. The Canadian tanks are scary, as well as deadly. When the Canadian troops have a tank along, the Taliban are usually very reluctant to fight.

Good grief. Canada was on the verge of abandoning heavy armor altogether and their Afghan experience taught them otherwise.

We don't need a lot. Even a company per combat brigade would allow for a platoon or two per battalion.

Send the heavy armor. Or is the Somalia heavy armor debacle also forgotten?


Al Qaeda in Iraq is abandoned by AQ Central, unpopular, less effective, and dwindling:

Battered by the surge of U.S. and allied troops into Iraq, and the slowly increasing effectiveness of Iraqi security forces, al-Qaida's franchise in the war-worn country is finding fewer foreign fighters to tap for suicide bombings, said U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials who have been studying the terror group's activities.

Those changes, officials say, suggest that the terror group is evolving to one more heavily dependent on local militants who are less committed to broader jihadist goals.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports, said that the number of foreign fighters coming across Iraq's borders had dropped from hundreds to "tens," and the membership of al-Qaida in Iraq, or AQI, has plunged from thousands at its peak in 2006-2007 to hundreds now.

Intelligence reports indicate that not only has AQI become less effective and less popular, it's become a different operation, said one senior counterterrorism analyst.

During its heyday, al-Qaida in Iraq had ties to the terror group's leadership with an eye to expanding beyond Iraq's borders to a broader jihadist effort against the west.

Once Iraq was al Qaeda's central front. But we beat them and now, it is no place for an ambitious jihadi to make their mark.

It's funny how Iraq no longer "creates" jihadis who flock to Iraq to wage war on us. I mean, we're still there--they're just not coming any more.

Still Fighting the Glass Ceiling?

This is kind of humorous. Is Hillary Clinton still running for president?

I guess my joke wasn't as silly as I thought.

It would explain a lot about our State Department's foreign policy, actually.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We'll Reschedule, Then?

The president has cancelled the invitations to the Iranians for our July 4th parties at our embassies:

The White House announced Wednesday that it has rescinded the invitations made to Iranian diplomats who may want to barbecue and watch fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.

"As you all know many weeks ago the administration extended an invitation to celebrate the freedom that this country enjoys. not surprisingly based on what we see in Tehran, no one has RSVP'd," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

"Understand that July 4th allows us to celebrate the freedom and liberty that we enjoy. I don't think it's surprising that no one has signed up to come given the events of the last few days. Those invitations will be no longer extended.

Of course, it may be more that no Iranian diplomats wished to extend their own open hand.

And this is hardly a great stand for freedom, given earlier administration explanation for wanting to cancel the invitation:

But officials said the violence against protesters that has ensued since the June 12 election has caused the administration to rethink the timing of such engagement.

Ah yes, the "timing." As I've written, the administration just wants a decent interval between the last dead protester and our first social occasion with the mullahs.

I assume the administration hopes nobody lingers on in a coma or anything, lest the fall back Labor Day weekend is scuttled.

Task Force Duke Defends in Depth

Defense (or attack) in depth applies to conventional warfare and counter-insurgency.

One of the problems I had with arguments over the so-called "oil spot strategy" in Iraq was that it focused too much on defending the civilians that live around you. If you ignore what is outside your local perimeter, you just allow the enemy to organize, train, and plan outside those oil spots--and then hit those oil spots again and again.

The origin of this false choice is Vietnam where we went out into the border areas to fight main force North Vietnamese army units while the Viet Cong terrorized the South Vietnamese civilians we were supposed to be protecting. Yes, we needed to protect the civilians directly (and eventually we did), but the solution was not to abandon keeping the big enemy units away from the South Vietnamese cities. The solution was to do both jobs until the South Vietnamese could. And we finally did. Only Congress and the Left kept us from winning the Vietnam War.

Fighting the enemy far from the civilians is not counter-productive to securing the civilians. The problem in Iraq was that we relied on Iraqis to protect the oil spots directly while we hit the enemy further out to pursue them and keep them off balance. The Iraqi security forces weren't capable of doing that, so that's why we had to take on the job in the surge.

Task Force Iron Duke's commander describes his mission in Afghanistan quite well if you think of it as a defense in depth of the people:

In November, the Afghan National Army added a battalion in this region, and in February we added one of our own with the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment from the 10th Mountain Division, who's ably been interdicting the enemy's ability to freely move from safe havens in Pakistan and back over in Afghanistan, specifically the Kunar province.

In May, we welcomed an agribusiness development team from Kansas into the Laghman province to assist with farming and livestock development. And earlier this month, we added the 759th Military Police Battalion, also from Fort Carson, like the 44 ID, and they're here to partner with the Afghan uniformed police, in all of our four provinces and 50 districts. All these new assets are here, and they're giving people faith in their government and hope for their future.

We've continued our efforts in Operation Lionheart, which I spoke to you about last year, which is the operations along the border with Pakistan where we conduct complementary operations, making it difficult for the enemy to function and eliminating their safe havens. I believe we are showing great signs of success with this within the central Kunar region especially. The combination of the Pakistan military operations, 1st of the 32nd Infantry interdiction, and 1st of the 26th Infantry combat operations have taken a serious toll on the enemy and have kept the dangerous Korengal Valley calm for most of the past two months.

We've continued efforts on what we call Operation Open Highway, where we've dedicated ourselves to protect the main avenue for supply, Highway 1-Alpha, also known as Highway 7, with a grand -- a grand trunk road, which runs through Nangarhar and Laghman. But it really is the main road through the Khyber Pass from Pakistan to Kabul. It is essential that supplies and citizens are able to traverse the road freely, both for the country here and for the NATO forces. We've successfully encouraged and incorporated Afghan security forces to do the vast bulk of this mission.

We've also provided humanitarian assistance to earthquake victims here in Afghanistan. In April, an earthquake in Nangarhar destroyed more than 200 homes and damaged hundreds more, leaving 650 families, almost 7,000 people, homeless. Our U.S. Air Force Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team delivered immediate relief supplies, such as water, beans, rice, flour and blankets, to the disaster area in Sherzad district, which was hit the hardest. But in truth, the Nangarhar provincial government, in conjunction with relief agencies, ably handled this crisis.

Our 64th Calvary Regiment, also with the local government up in the northern Kunar and eastern Nuristan region, participated in the distribution of wheat and grain from the Afghan Ministry for Rural Regional Development and the World Food Program to prevent hardship in these remote areas during the past winter.

In addition, the task force has obligated $102 million in CERP funds to date this year on development, with the primary focus being transportation and education. This is on top of a total of 162 million (dollars) from last year. We've developed over 540 miles of improved roads, and 97 schools are either completed in construction or in the process. Roads are providing security, micro-commerce and access to services, and also access to the government and for the government.

Forces partnered with police to protect the people where they lived.

Forces provided humanitarian and development aid directly to the people.

Troops defended the highway to allow people to make a living.

Troops fought on the border fight the enemy in their bastion and to interdict the border to keep reinforcements and supplies from entering the area of operations to threaten the people in their homes.

His troops work with indigenous forces as much as possible.

And forces outside his control, Pakistani forces and our drones, hammer the enemy in their sanctuary across the border.

This is defense in depth. This works. And it all has to work to keep the war from dragging on for decades with our forces at the tip of the spear. We can't just sit in the "oil spots" and expect to win the war. Concentrating our forces in the cities and villages would just cede to the Taliban the rest of the country right into Pakistan.

Spooks, New Kook, and Nukes

The Frolicking Philly of Fantastic Fortitude (or whatever The Un is called these days) has taken over the spies:

Kim Jong Il's 26-year-old son has taken charge of the country's spy agency as part of preparations to succeed his father as leader of the communist nation, a news report said Wednesday.

Kim ordered senior officials at the State Security Department in March to "uphold" his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, as head of the agency, while doling out foreign-made luxury cars to the officials as gifts, Seoul's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported.

When you rely on spooks and nukes to maintain your rule, this all makes sense.

The nukes aren't quite ready yet, but the North Koreans sure do like to pretend they are:

"If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will ... wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all," the official Korean Central News Agency said.

This is completely the mirror image of reality, of course. Should it come to war, the North Koreans will be the ones wiped out. I'm not so sure the North Koreans realize this, making their threats not as ridiculous as they appear.

Though to be fair to their logic, North Korea will surely be the aggressor since our side has shown no interest in starting a war.

The Amazing Techicolor Yawn had best refine his bloviating skills if he wants to carry on the family tradition of being a respectable despot. I'm guessing he'll be strung by his heels in the central square of some small city in North Korea as he flees the collapse of the regime. I'm sure the last thing he'll hear from his entourage caught with him will be "this is just brilliant, comrade."

This Could Get Enjoyable

Does the counter-offensive against the global warming fanatics begin in Australia?

The best line?

Green politics have taken the place of failed socialism and Western Christianity and impose fear, guilt, penance, and indulgences onto a society with little scientific literacy.

Failing to note the obvious factor in our climate is one factor.

UPDATE: Yes indeed, this could be a very good year for Neanderthal-American citizens like myself: victory in Iraq and turning the tide against the global warming inquisition.

Going for the Jugular

Strategypage notes the relative value of some of Taiwan's islands in the Taiwan Strait in a war scenario:

Any Chinese plan to invade Taiwan would probably ignore the Kinmen and Matsu islands. But a group of larger islands, the Pescadores, are within artillery range of Taiwan itself. The Pescadores have an area of only 127 square kilometers, and a population of 90,000. There is a military garrison on the island, which includes an armored brigade, lots of infantry, anti-aircraft missiles and mobile anti-ship missile units. The Pescadores are doubly important, as they are opposite the most important landing beaches on Taiwan. Any invasion force must seize a port as soon as possible, in order to bring in more troops and supplies. You don’t have much chance of conquering the island until you’ve done that. The two best landing are areas, for seizing nearby ports, are in the northwest and southwest regions of Taiwan. The better of the two is in the southwest, where the ports of Kaohsiung and Tsinan are near the landing beaches. Those beaches are also near the Pescadores islands.

If China uses some of its airborne and amphibious forces to take the Pescadores, they will have a base for the next stage of the operation; the landing on Taiwan itself. But it is likely that speed will be the most important element. The faster the Chinese establish themselves on Taiwan, the better their bargaining position with the United States, and the rest of the world.

I agree that the islands close to the mainland will be bypassed and isolated.

I tend to think that the northwest approach is more likely as a more direct effort to bounce Taipei. And I think that the ports would be the initial targets rather than a secondary one after hitting the beaches.

But the Pescadores would be important to secure to spread out the Taiwanese by providing a staging area for secondary attacks (that could become serious if not defeated or contained by Taiwanese defenders).

Speed is key. If China takes too long, Taiwan can mobilize and America and Japan can decide to interven and reach the theater in time to defeat the Chinese. Which is why a one-dimensional missile bombardment or a blockade of Taiwan will never be the military action of choice for Peking if they want a military solution to their "Taiwan problem" (although if justice is high on your list of priorities, the situation should be called Taiwan's "China problem").

Although there is a scenario for the Chinese picking solely on Taiwan's islands.

Once More Into the Breach

The Ethiopians are returning to Somalia, it seems:

With or without an international mandate, Ethiopian forces have entered Somali territory to back up a fast-failing Somali government.

Sources close to Western embassies in Nairobi confirmed news reports that Ethiopian troops have taken positions in the Central Somali town of Beledweyne, and that Ethiopian troops were also active in the Gelgadud region north of the capital of Mogadishu. Kenyan forces, too, are reportedly amassing along the Somali border as a defensive measure, in what Kenya's foreign minister described in a press conference as a matter of "national security."

The intervention – officially denied by the Ethiopian government – comes as Somalia's parliament speaker, Sheik Aden Mohamed Nor Madobe, sent an urgent call Saturday for military intervention by Somalia's neighbors within the next 24 hours. At present, pro-government militias and a 3,000-strong contingent of African Union peacekeepers control a few city blocks around the presidential palace in Mogadishu, along with the airport and seaport. The rest is firmly in the hands of hardline Islamist militias. ...

Security experts say that the influx of foreign fighters into Somalia have created a more credible regional threat, not just to Somalia but to all of its neighbors. "We are getting reports that perhaps 1,000 trained Al Qaeda insurgents have come to Somalia, along with mid-level commanders," says Ms. Roque. "With Al Shabab in control of southern Somalia, it might be viable for Al Qaeda to have a base of operations, which they haven't had before."

I guess we'll go in there eventually, in some form greater than our minimal presence, given that it seems as if al Qaeda are fleeing to Somalia.

Rebooking That Trip to Vienna

There are more rumors that the Russians plan to attack Georgia and finish the job from last August:

"... violent incidents and the lack of an effective security regime in and around the conflict zones of South Ossetia and Abkhazia create a dangerous atmosphere in which extensive fighting could erupt again," the ICG [note: International Crisis Group] said in a policy briefing.

"Russia has not complied with the main points of the truce, and the sides have not engaged in meaningful negotiations to stabilize the situation."

I always did wonder why the Russians started to take Tbilisi, yet did not take Tbilisi.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Keeping the Spigot On

Our little contretemp with Kyrgyzstan over access to the Manas air base for supplying our forces in Afghanistan appears to be over:

The United States has agreed to more than triple the rent it pays to continue use of an air base in Kyrgyzstan crucial to operations in Afghanistan, under a deal approved Tuesday by a Kyrgyz parliamentary committee.

The accord continuing U.S. use of the Manas base as a "center of transit shipments" comes four months after the Central Asian nation ordered the eviction of U.S. troops.

The deal appears to give U.S. forces unfettered access to transporting weaponry and ammunition via the base — providing a much-needed boost as the U.S.-led coalition ramps up operations against increasingly bold Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.

Good for the administration on solving this problem.

I just hope our payments don't include a secret deal with Russia that undermines other interests we have.

Tainted Love

The president is worried less and less about appearing to embrace the Iranian protesters:

"I have made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not interfering in Iran's affairs," Obama said. "But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place."

Obama noted the killing of a young woman, Neda Agha Soltan, whose apparent shooting death was captured on video and circulated worldwide.

"We have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets," Obama said. "While this loss is raw and painful, we also know this: Those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history."

Asked if Iran will face consequences for how it has acted, Obama said the world is watching and Iran's handling of dissent "will help shape the tone not only for Iran's future but also its relationship to other countries."

This makes it more difficult for his defenders to argue his earlier soft response was appropriate.

And given that it does not appear that the protesters are gaining momentum in either building the breadth of their opposition or causing cracks in the leadership, this ramping up of rhetoric is interesting.

Does the president now believe hopes for talks on nuclear issues with Iran are pointless so tougher language won't hurt things practically speaking?

Does the president have information indicating that the unrest is more serious than the lack of numbers on the streets of Iran indicate?

Does the president worry that his failure to speak up will harm his domestic agenda?

Or, more generously, is the president getting information indicating that it really wouldn't hurt the protest movement to hear support from him? Is he now doing what he would have liked to do all along but for his worry about harming the protesters?

I haven't jumped into this issue with predictions, with both a sense of humility that I don't know enough to predict and a sense that events are made and not predicted. Much depends on the actions of Iranians--the protesters, regime, security forces, the non-regime mullahs, and the masses of ordinary people--as well as America and other foreign countries. Ledeen puts it well:

Those who think they can foresee the outcome of this revolutionary war have greater confidence in their prophetic powers than I. I don’t think Mousavi or Khamenei has any such confidence; they are fighting it out, as they must. Victory or defeat can come about slowly or rapidly, the result of cunning, courage or accident, and most likely a combination of all three. One thing seems certain: the Iranian people were right when they realized that nobody in the outside world would help them. They’re on their own.

I still have no idea what will happen, though right now I lean to the fizzle side. I'm just saying that if the protests are fizzling, this is an odd moment to speak out in favor of the protesters--or a really cynical ploy to get in a good word before the protesters are suppressed and rounded up by the regime.

And even if President Obama's words of support are just a cynical ploy, it is still an action by America. And it could affect decisions that Iranians make in the days and weeks ahead that will determine whether the protests fizzle or explode.

The International eBrigades

Iran's protesters are recruiting cyber-help from abroad:

Within an hour after I received a plea for help from Iran, a regular commenter on this blog recruited me into a hacker network that has been forming to support the democratic Iranian revolutionaries by providing them with proxy servers, Tor anonymizers, and any other technologies neededfor them to communicate over channels the Iranian regime cannot censor or control.

These are private citizens waging war against Iran's mullah regime. This is the beginnings of cyberbooters.

The next step is Internet-enabled remote war.

Taking Credit for the Results of Not Meddling

Perhaps I was a bit generous in understanding the president's dilemma of speaking out too much in order to avoid owning the Iran protests should the protesters rise up, trigger a blood bath by the regime, and thus have a moral responsibility to use our military to rescue the protesters.

It seems that the president's people are taking credit for the protests:

Obama's approach to Iran, including his assertion that the unrest there represents a debate among Iranians unrelated to the United States, is an acknowledgment that a U.S. president's words have a limited ability to alter foreign events in real time and could do more harm than good. But privately Obama advisers are crediting his Cairo speech for inspiring the protesters, especially the young ones, who are now posing the most direct challenge to the republic's Islamic authority in its 30-year history.

One senior administration official with experience in the Middle East said, "There clearly is in the region a sense of new possibilities," adding that "I was struck in the aftermath of the president's speech that there was a connection. It was very sweeping in terms of its reach."

I thought the president was reaching out, in the spirit of foreign policy realism, to the rulers of the Moslem world. They seem strangely unaffected by the president's words about new possibilities in ruling their people. But no, it was all an effort to convince Moslems to challenge their despotic rulers. Who knew? The president doesn't even look NeoConish.

So now we're to believe the president's outreach speech was all about meddling in the internal affairs of all Moslem states and not just Iran's? If so, why the hesitation to make any statements of support of the protesters in the first week of the crisis? When did counter-productive words become words that give a sense of new possibilities?

These guys just make things up as they go along.

UPDATE: Steyn, too, isn't nuanced enough to understand how reaching out to Moslem despots has led to Moslems rising up in protest against their despotic rulers. I'm sure E. J. Dionne could explain it. Or Eleanor Clift.

And now we reach out to the lad Assad:

The White House says President Barack Obama's decision to return an ambassador to Syria is part of fulfilling his promise to show more U.S. engagement in the Arab world.

First of all, wasn't liberating 25 million Iraqis and defending them from jihadis and Iranians at the cost of over 4,300 of our military personnel rather reaching out to engage the Arab world rather directly?

But I digress.

So now we're reaching out to another Moslem despot? Look out, Assad! The people will clearly be revolting any day now.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taliban Safe Houses

I fully understand that we have to adjust our already careful and restricted use of air power in Afghanistan in order to win the war, but this decision really hurts our ability to fight the battles:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who took command of international forces in Afghanistan this month, has said his measure of effectiveness will be the "number of Afghans shielded from violence," and not the number of militants killed.

McChrystal will issue orders within days saying troops may attack insurgents hiding in Afghan houses if the U.S. or NATO forces are in imminent danger and must return fire, said U.S. military spokesman Rear Adm. Greg Smith.

"But if there is a compound they're taking fire from and they can remove themselves from the area safely, without any undue danger to the forces, then that's the option they should take," Smith said. "Because in these compounds we know there are often civilians kept captive by the Taliban."

This seems rather a bit much. Just as the Pakistanis are finally taking down the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan we are creating them inside Afghanistan?

We've just guaranteed that the Taliban will fight amongst the civilians even more than they do now. The enemy will make sure they have a house full of civilians to run to when they get in trouble.

I hope that in practice this isn't as restrictive as it seems on paper.

UPDATE: Strategypage has a good discussion of the issue. Again, to win the war it is certainly right--and justified just by lower US casualties in the long run--to make our troops risk their lives a bit more in the short run by restricting air power. Our troops our well trained enough to execute this policy even if it hurts morale a bit. I'm just worried it is a little too restrictive now. I'd bet we loosen up the restrictions in time.

Rediscovering the Axis of Evil

The Obama administration is perhaps starting to realize that President Bush's description of Iran and North Korea as members of the Axis of Evil isn't quite so laughable:

President Obama took office loudly promising to be the anti-George W. Bush of foreign policy, vowing to "extend a hand" to adversaries "willing to unclench" their fists. What he has received instead is an education in the reality of global rogues, and how he responds has become a major test of his Presidency.

The immediate challenges are North Korea and Iran, governments that the American left claimed were "evil" only because Mr. Bush had declared them so. Perhaps Mr. Obama believed this too, though five months later he has learned otherwise. North Korea has rejected his every overture and is now defying the U.N. to press its nuclear and proliferation ambitions. As for Iran, the mullahs are attempting to crush a popular uprising after a stolen election while also showing disdain for Mr. Obama's diplomatic entreaties.

Indeed. Some people really are evil and need to be fought tooth and nail. And those people aren't former members of the Bush administration.

Who knows? The Obama administration may even learn to appreciate that the Axis of Evil isn't at full strength with Saddam and his demon spawn running the show in Baghdad.

Waiting for the Howard Dean Scream

Yesterday I wondered if the protests were fizzling in the face of a regime that has not broken.

There is no evidence that the protests are expanding. Indeed, only the die hards headed for the streets, only to be suppressed:

Despite the warnings, some 200 people heeded a call on Persian-language blogs and Twitter feeds to rally Monday at Tehran's Haft-e-tir Square in memory of Neda Agha Soltan, the young woman shown on video as she apparently bled to death, and other "martyrs."

Witnesses told The Associated Press that helicopters hovered overhead as riot police fired live rounds and lobbed tear gas to break up the gathering.

Security forces ordered people to keep walking and prevented even small groups from gathering — at one point taking the extraordinary step of separating couples who emerged from a subway station, the witnesses said. They asked not to be identified for fear of government reprisals.

An Iranian woman who lives in Tehran said there was a heavy police and security presence.

"There is a massive, massive, massive police presence," she told the AP in Cairo by telephone, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was worried about government reprisals. "Their presence was really intimidating."

"What you see is nothing (compared) to what is really happening," said the woman. "People are very, very despondent. There is an air of sadness around."

At night, she added, cries of "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" echo through Tehran, saying that was "the only way that they are able to express themselves."

As Stratfor.com noted today in their email update, this hasn't really gone beyond the twittering class in Iran.

The protesters may think they are going on to Isfahan, and Abadan, and Qom. But all they appear to have is a forlorn hope that somehow God will deliver them from their government.

I share the feeling of sadness in the air. Unless this is just a lull as the protesters work on a really massive and nationwide strike or demonstration, the forces of evil appear to have won this round.

UPDATE: This is just shameless betrayal of a genuine desire for freedom in Iran by our diplomats on the day we celebrate our freedom (Tip to Weekly Standard):

President Barack Obama's administration said earlier this month it would invite Iran to US embassy barbecues for the national holiday for the first time since the two nations severed relations following the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"There's no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters.

"We have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran," Kelly said. "We tried many years of isolation, and we're pursuing a different path now."

Could the administration at least pretend to be sad about the suppression of the Iran protesters before they gleefully move on to chatting up the Tehran thugs?

Failure to Foresee the Obvious Reaction

I really tire of all the assertions that China has deep long-range plans that will run rings around our short-term foreign policy.

Explain the depth of China's North Korea policy given this reaction:

A draft of Japan's new mid-term defense policy guidelines is calling for the reinforcement of military personnel and equipment in the face of growing regional tensions, Kyodo news agency said.

The draft, obtained by Kyodo, says Japan needs to reverse its policy of reducing its defense budgets in light of North Korea's missile launches and nuclear tests, as well as China's rise to a major military power, the news agency said.

To me, it looks like China can't see the results decades down the line of their policy that seeks to enjoy North Korea's threats to America and the lack of North Korean refugees tomorrow. I suppose we'll still have people arguing this line even after Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan all have nuclear missiles.

Isn't this exactly the reverse of how the Chinese leaders supposedly think long term?

Tough Talk

The North Koreans are waving their nuclear sabre:

North Korea reminded the U.S. on Monday that it has nuclear weapons and warned it will strike back if attacked, as a U.S. destroyer continued to trail a North Korean cargo ship suspected of carrying illicit weapons.

In their dreams. North Korea doesn't have nuclear weapons. They have nuclear devices. The only way the North Koreans could strike our people is if we send our people to their nuclear test sites. Barring that level of American cooperation, the North Koreans have few means to attack us at home.

The only reason we don't destroy North Korea is the cost of doing so. Should North Korea start the war, however, that consideration is ended.

North Korea will not survive a war it unleashes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Ultimate Goal

I've repeatedly warned that the Chinese charm offensive does not mean that relations between China and Taiwan are "improving." Peking still wants to own Taiwan despite the kinder words and gentler actions from the mainland. The one-China policy has not been discarded by the Chinese communists, just soft-pedaled.

The Chinese are clear on this point, as the chief of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the Chinese State Council, Wang Yi, said in Los Angeles:

He said that during the past year, the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have developed their ties under the spirit of "building trust, laying aside disputes, seeking consensus by shelving differences, and creating a win-win situation," which has been widely recognized and accepted by people from both sides.

While mutual trust is the key to and basis for the cross-Straits ties, the core of such mutual trust between the two sides lies in the adherence to the framework of both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan belonging to one China, he said.

Wang noted that the more the cross-Straits ties progress, the deeper the mutual political trust between the two sides should be, thus the relations can stabilize and last long.

The basics of China's policy have remained steady, although my guess on the timing was obviously off.

Pause or the End?

After Iranian regime violence against the protesters but without, apparently, a massive killing spree, the protesters are absent from Tehran's streets:

On Sunday, the streets of Tehran were eerily quiet.

Perhaps events are taking place in other cities. Or perhaps the opposition is planning.

Or maybe the regime has won.

I just can't know. And nobody else seems to really know.

It's So Obvious Now!

Silly me, I thought our president's recent declaration that our nuclear umbrella applies to South Korea was in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests.

Lacking the keen insights of the North Korean elites, I missed the obvious, that it was all a ploy to prepare to attack North Korea:

In North Korea's first response to last week's meeting between Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington, its government-run weekly Tongil Sinbo said that Obama's commitment to South Korea's security, including through U.S. nuclear protection, only revealed a U.S. plot to invade the North with nuclear weapons.

"It's not a coincidence at all for the U.S. to have brought numerous nuclear weapons into South Korea and other adjacent sites, staging various massive war drills opposing North Korea every day and watching for a chance for an invasion," said the commentary published Saturday.

Which raises the question, why on Earth do the North Koreans insist that they want a pledge from us not to attack them?

Why would the North Koreans believe us? Clearly, if we ever did formally pledge, in writing, with nice wax seals and a full-blown signing ceremony with MSNBC covering the whole thing, Pyongyang would conclude it is all a conspiracy to conceal our imminent plans to attack them.

As if we even want that piece of sub-prime real estate.

They're total nut cases in Pyongyang. And they are developing nukes.

Have a nice day.

Back When We Were Winning in Iraq

The idea that seems to be taking hold among Iraq War opponents that we were losing the war until we risked it all in the surge and got lucky is just wrong.

The events of fall 2006 did require a new American strategy after the February 2006 Samarra Mosque bombing that triggered sectarian killings on a larger scale, but we had made progress in Iraq through that horrible event. And even as killings rose following that bombing, we still made progress in preparing Sunni Arab tribes in Anbar to flip to our side, which would be a key part of our new strategy in the surge.

Our prior victories of 2003 to 2005 weren't nullified by the new challenges of 2006 through fall 2007, but we did have to defeat that new challenge. And we did.

If you doubt that in 2005 it looked like we could wrap up the war with victory rather than just being another year of fiasco yet to be redeemed by a gamble, recall that some began to see improvements in the Middle East as a result of our apparent win in Iraq during 2005:

The mood at the White House, on Capitol Hill and in the punditocracy has been transformed. The weapons of mass destruction fiasco is forgotten, the deaths of US troops have slipped from the front pages. Even Senator Edward Kennedy, bitter Democratic critic of the invasion, admits that Mr Bush deserves credit "for what seemed to be a tentative awakening of democracy in the region".

Or were the Lebanese impressed by our fiasco?

So today, after beating down the attempt to ignite civil war and going on to win in Iraq with our Iraqi and Coalition allies, we again see a tenative awakening of democracy in the region with Iranian demonstrators protesting the regime.

President Bush made this awakening possible. Can President Obama see it through and nourish it?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Little Sympathy for the President, Please

While I find it objectionable that the president has waited so long to make statements in support of the protesters in Iran (because I believe he wanted to negotiate with Ahmadinejad as he's long promised), President Obama is finally tilting toward the protesters. We have no interest in stability in Iran right now, when that just means the regime wins.

But for those who want far more from our president, I can only say that while more verbal support might be good, we have to be careful. If we say too much, we own the revolution. Oh, not that we'd "taint" it or some such rot (are Obama supporters now saying that any American president taints dissidents and not just George W. Bush?), but if the protesters act more aggressively because of our president's statements of support, we have a moral responsibility to help them if the regime strikes back.

The risk is that like the Shias in 1991 in Iraq or the Hungarians in 1956 against the Soviets, that the demonstrators seriously rise up and find themselves being brutalized by the regime. Will we intervene with our many troops in Iraq and Afghanistan or will we watch the Basij and other security forces kill their way to "stability?"

Unless we are willing to intervene militarily, we must be careful in how we talk about the crisis in Iran. I would have liked the president to more rapidly have made statements like he did today, but at least he's finally made that statement.

Who knows? Maybe there could be a role for our military if bloodshed grows and the UN authorizes safe zones inside Iran, as was done in Bosnia, to protect Iranian dissidents from the Tehran regime. But with American troops taking the lead they'd actually be safe, I'd say.

With our troops concentrating outside Iraq's cities, theoretically we'd be in a position to push troops into Iran if needed.

And perhaps if the Iranian army and significant parts of the Pasdaran refuse to fight the dissidents and turn on the regime, our miltiary intervention could be decisive.

But a lot of responsibility lies on the shoulders of our president, so have a little sympathy when you complain that he hasn't calibrated his response exactly as you'd like.

And who knows? Maybe we're working behind the scenes. As I've said many times before, if after 6 years of being on notice our CIA can't engineer a revolt in Iran, with contacts with opponents of the regime, what the heck have we been paying them for?

Standing on the Right Side of History

President Obama was right to speak out against Iranian government violence against the demonstrators. He even referred to part of his Cairo speech:

The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

That's good, too. But he would have been better to repeat more of it in the speech I'd like the president to give.

Who Shoots at Who?

This report of violence doesn't indicate widespread fighting, but it is a violent government reaction to the Iran election protests:

Witnesses said police beat protesters and fired tear gas and water cannons at thousands who rallied in Tehran Saturday in open defiance of Iran's clerical government, sharply escalating the most serious internal conflict since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square in central Tehran after some 3,000 protesters chanted "Death to the dictator!" and "Death to dictatorship!" Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

The witnesses told The Associated Press that between 50 and 60 protesters were seriously beaten by police and pro-government militia and taken to Imam Khomeini hospital in central Tehran. People could be seen dragging away comrades bloodied by baton strikes.

We shall see if this shot across the bow sends the protesters home or not.

TV news reports of a bomb blast at the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini sound to me like a Reichstag fire ploy by the mullahs to discredit the protesters and excuse any violence against them.

If the protesters don't disperse and stay home, the Basij and secret police will start shooting at them.

Then, much depends on what the regular police, army, and even Pasdaran do.

Will the army and Pasdaran shoot at the people, too?

Or will they seize on rumors of foreign Arab-speaking goons acting for the government to beat and shoot protesters as an excuse to fight foreign enemies, as they see their mission.

The rumors of imported thugs aren't fantastic. Remember Saddam's Fedayeen were imported hopped-up Islamists who were there to smash the Shias in case of a revolt against Saddam, filghting at the side of Baathist party officials and secret police if the army wouldn't do the job.

There is still no way to know which way this crisis will go. And I can't even guess.

UPDATE: A report on the bombing:

A suicide bomber blew himself up near the shrine of Iran's revolutionary founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in Tehran on Saturday, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

I don't think suicide bombing is a mark of the protesters. And it was only near the shrine, doing no damage. That sounds more like true-believer regime type--perhaps an imported non-Iranian fanatic. Not a good sign as far as regime intentions.

Although it perhaps speaks of their fragility with a need to create a good incident to inspire perhaps shaky security forces to stay on the line when the order to shoot comes down.

Again, I just have no way to judge how events will unfold.

Tiring of Democracy

European democracy is in peril in the long run as long as the European Union drives European action.

Mark Steyn is right as far as it goes that the Europeans are reaping the results of their efforts to limit acceptable debate in polite society:

[In] the western half of Continental Europe, politics evolved to the point where almost any issue worth talking about was ruled beyond the bounds of polite society. In good times, it doesn’t matter so much. But in bad times, if the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain issues, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones.

And if the people keep insisting on electing crude politicians who will discuss what is not permitted to be discussed?

Aside from professions of “horror” at the success of the neo-nationalists, there is now talk of shutting down these parties by using the legal system (as was done in Belgium) or by denying them the public funding to which their share of the vote entitles them.

I'm sure the European elites are thinking about something along the lines of Iran's Guardian Council that keeps those unwilling to stick with the Islamist program out of politics.

Remember, the EU is all about keeping those bloody peasants from turning the lights out all over Europe and plunging the continent into another civil war after the two world wars nearly destroyed Europe. The elites really believe only they stand between civilization and goose-stepping fascists arising all over Europe.

If a pan-European parliament with the power over nations isn't enough to keep national voters from electing bad people to national parliaments who will plunge Europe into war, the Euro elites will stop elevating the jursidiction of power and just stop letting those bloodthirsty people vote at all.

Europe, as an institution, cannot be our friend.

When Firepower Works Against You

Secretary Gates spoke on our need to reduce Afghan civilian casualties:

Another important takeaway from last week, and one of the highest priorities for General McChrystal, is a commitment from NATO to do everything possible to prevent civilian casualties during ISAF military operations. It is clear that we need to do much more to overcome what I believe is one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities. The Afghan people must be reassured that U.S. and NATO forces are there as friends, partners and, along with Afghan security forces, they're protectors as well.

Yes, it is unfair that we risk our troops to avoid Taliban-set slaughters so they can get a good story about us killing innocents. But we have to do this to win the war:

Yet we will do what we need to do in the area of restricting our use of air power rather than whine about the unfairness of hobbling our air power. That's the smart thing to do. In the long run we lose more troops if the Afghans reject our presence than we will lose due to more restricted air support.

Frustrating, to be sure, but smart. COIN isn't a firepower-centric fight.

If you doubt the wisdom of risking our troops in the short run to win in the long run (and avoid even more casualties), would you really want to reap what the Taliban get for their efforts to kill civilians?

While the Taliban have been successful with their human shield tactics, they have done so at great cost to the popularity of the Islamic radical group. The Taliban were never noted for their desire to be popular. These guys are on a mission from God, and earthly trifles do not concern them. While the frequent use of human shields has spared the Taliban some casualties, and sometimes made it easier to escape death or capture (mainly because the propaganda value of dead civilians has caused the rules of engagement for foreign troops to become more restrictive), the practice has increased Afghan hostility to the Taliban. This means that the Taliban increasingly find themselves operating in a hostile environment as they move through Afghanistan.

We're playing it smart. They're playing it stupid. We'll win the battle for hearts and minds. And kill our enemies, too.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good To Go

The Iraqi foreign minister thinks Iraq can handle security duties after June:

"The Iraqi government, about the security forces, are confident (they) are capable of taking over its full responsibility after the withdrawal of American forces" from cities, Zebari told a news conference on a visit to Tokyo.

"We are confident about the ability of our security forces. They've become more mature, more efficient," he said.

U.S. combat troops, who invaded Iraq in 2003, are scheduled to leave urban centers by June 30 and redeploy to bases outside to hand control back to Iraqi security forces, according to a security pact that took effect in January.

Well, we'll still provide lots of logistical and intelligence/recon support, of course. So they aren't really on their own (which is the situation in NATO for most of our allies, for some perspective).

And having lots of well-trained American soldiers nearby is a nice booster of confidence, knowing that they can get help if they really need it.

I think the Iraqis can handle the job as long as we continue to supply needed capabilities until Iraq can do those jobs, too. But we'll have to endure some unpleasant periods, I'm sure, as the Iraqis stand up.