Monday, August 31, 2009

Chutzpah Syrian Style

Iran already set the tone for nerve in regard to Iraq, so it is no surprise that Syria--Iran's tamed lap dog--is just lying through its teeth when Iraq insists Syria stop killing Iraqis, as the Syrians have done for years:

Syrian President Bashar Assad sharply criticized Iraq for linking his country to the bombings without providing the evidence that Syria has demanded.

"When Syria is accused of killing Iraqis at a time it's hosting around 1.2 million Iraqis ... the least that can be said about this accusation is that it's immoral," Assad said Monday during a joint press conference in Damascus with visiting Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias.

"It is unacceptable to have irresponsible accusations (against Syria) that hurt the developing path of Syrian Iraqi relations," Assad said later during a meeting with Davutoglu, according to the official Syrian Arab News Agency.

I will not cry the day Boy Assad dies.

Out of the Frying Pan

One reason for seeking alternative supplies of energy is that our oil comes disproportionately from thugs or jihadi-friendly countries (Canada excepted, of course).

So electric cars and wind energy can in theory reduce our need to send money to people we really don't want rich.

There's a catch, of course. There's always a catch:

The Prius hybrid automobile is popular for its fuel efficiency, but its electric motor and battery guzzle rare earth metals, a little-known class of elements found in a wide range of gadgets and consumer goods.

That makes Toyota's market-leading gasoline-electric hybrid car and other similar vehicles vulnerable to a supply crunch predicted by experts as China, the world's dominant rare earths producer, limits exports while global demand swells.

Worldwide demand for rare earths, covering 15 entries on the periodic table of elements, is expected to exceed supply by some 40,000 tonnes annually in several years unless major new production sources are developed. One promising U.S. source is a rare earths mine slated to reopen in California by 2012.

Wonderful. One day we might look with fondness to the day when China only sold us cheap electronics, toys, and clothing.

And don't you just know deep down that major rare earth deposits will be discovered in Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma, Iran, and North Korea?

Stalingrad in Central Asia

President Obama seems likely to propose sending more US troops to Afghanistan:

Many of President Barack Obama's top advisers on Afghanistan agree with military commanders that more troops are needed to reverse Taliban gains in the country's east and south, U.S. officials said on Monday.

I remain intensely worried about putting more troops into Afghanistan when we don't have secure lines of supply to the landlocked country.

We're already at the limit of how many brigades I feel comfortable risking there should things go totally balls-up. And we're to send more, it seems.

Is our military really unworried about supplying our troops in that God forsaken place for years on end?

Brought in from the Cold

So did Israel arrange for crooks to hit the Arctic Sea because it carried a hidden load of missiles for Iran? The circumstances if not the direct evidence are suspicious:

But as details of the hijacking emerged, the tale got murkier, and Moscow's explanation does little to clear things up. Why, with so many other ships carrying much more valuable cargo, would the hijackers target the Arctic Sea and its small load of timber? Why didn't the ship send out a distress signal? Why did Israeli President Shimon Peres pay a surprise visit to Russia a day after the ship was rescued? Why did Russia wait so long to send its navy to find the ship? And what did the brother of one of the alleged hijackers, Dmitri Bartenev, mean when he told Estonian TV on Aug. 24 that his brother and the other suspected pirates had been "set up ... They went to find work and ended up in a political conflict. Now they are hostage to some kind of political game"? Bartenev's lawyer tells TIME that his client was "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

And there's more that is odd, so read the rest. This has been an odd affair, to be sure.

It is plausible. I've certainly wondered if we might have quietly pointed pirates at Iranian ships in the Horn of Africa region.

So what was the shipment? Advanced surface-to-air missiles?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Santa Sink?

I mentioned it might be a good idea to establish a Polar Command (or Santa CINC).

The Russians have christened a Santa sub:

Russia is naming the fourth of its Borei class SSBN (ballistic missile carrying nuclear submarines) Syvatitel Nikolay (Saint Nicholas). That's the same Saint Nicholas who serves as the model for Santa Claus in the West.

So when does the Krolyek Paschee set sail?

UPDATE: The US Navy is looking north:

By midcentury, the Navy could be faced with providing maritime security for a new ice-free Arctic and a commercial shipping boom on par with the Suez Canal, the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca, said Rear Adm. David Titley, commander of Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.

"As the ice melts back … how do we work this as a seasonal-type area?" said Titley, who heads the Navy’s Task Force Climate Change. "I think this is an area that is going to be very, very important to the Navy in the 21st century."

The unique environment of the Arctic Circle deserves is own command.

UPDATE: The Russians have a new song for the boat:

You better watch out
You better not flee
Better not vote
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is nuking your town
He's making empire
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's Western and nice
Santa Claus is nuking your town
He sees you when you're resisting
He knows when you're NATO
He knows if you've been Orange or Rose
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not flee
Better not vote
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is nuking your town
Santa Claus is nuking your town

The kids will love it!

Blood for Oil

I worry far more about giving in to thug regimes for oil than I worry about going to war for oil (tip to Instapundit):

The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.

The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.

When we let Libya come in from the cold and avoid military or other sanctions over their past support for terrorism, we were supposed to flip them. Remember, diplomatic efforts as an alternative to war are supposed to be just another aspect of the Long War against Islamo-fascism.

The British appear to be unclear on the concept and have themselves flipped a bit.

Khaddafi isn't a born-again good guy. He's a thug who was worried. Worried enough to abandon his nuclear and other WMD programs and lay low from supporting terrorists.

Now he isn't so worried. I'd worry about him flipping back if this is how we wage a nuanced non-military foreign policy against our jihadi enemies and their state supporters and sympathizers.

Not Very Coup-Like

I remain amazed that the Zelaya Affair is still called a coup. The Hondurans stopped a proto-dictator from seizing control in a creeping coup has Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela.

And the interim so-called coup leader is willing to step down as long as Zelaya is not allowed to return to the presidency:

"If need be, I will resign, as long as Zelaya does not return to the country. And if he comes ... let him come and face justice," Micheletti told Channel 10 television.

And late Friday, the interim government issued a statement saying it had sent Costa Rican President Oscar Arias — who has served as a mediator in talks on the dispute — yet another set of proposals.

Odd behavior for a so-called coup leader, no? Meanwhile, Zelaya insists on returning to power.

The Organization of American States also insists the thug Zelaya must return to power. Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are his big allies. We side with them. Gosh, I'm so proud of our diplomacy!

Well we're not totally siding with them fortunately. We have yet to officially call the events a "coup" which would trigger sanctions.

I hope we realize that a coup was stopped--not started. But we may be too embarassed to admit our initial error and backtrack.

I hope the Hondurans with our refusal to call the Zelaya Affair a coup can run out the clock until the November elections in Honduras put a new president in office.

President Refuses to Apologize for Past!

Well, the president of Russia refused:

Dmitry Medvedev says anyone who lays equal blame on the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany for the war is telling what he calls a "cynical lie."

He's speaking of the Tuesday 60th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact that divided Poland and freed Hitler of the worry he'd fight a two-front war when he invaded France the next year.

I don't know, but that sounds an awful lot like the two of them being responsible for the start of the war.

Unless we're supposed to believe that Britain and France interrupting Hitler's plans by declaring war in solidarity with their Polish allies was the cause of war.

That's likely to get a sympathetic ear in the modern West where failure by a Western state to give in to aggression is often painted as the real act of aggresssion.

From the 'If Bush Had Done This' File

The administration wants the power to shut down privately owned computers (tip to Instapundit via Day by Day):

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They're not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

Strategypage mentioned a vaguely similar idea nearly two years ago to fight cyber-enemies. But it didn't reach anywhere near this level of control over individuals. I suggested an alternative.

Can you imagine the outcry in the media if Bush had done this? Truly, Obama can do anything. Perhaps he is a god after all.

Good Observation

In Iraq, the enemy relied on IEDs to fight us--not a tactic likely to win as was demonstrated in Iraq.

So how are the "resurgent" Afghans doing? Surely they are pretty impressive in driving us out, right?

Not quite, as one Marine who also fought in Iraq stated:

"I'm not impressed with them," Leon, 25, of Herndon, Va., said this past week from a Marines camp deep in the southern province of Helmand, where U.S. forces are challenging Taliban insurgents and their devastating use of IEDs, or homemade bombs. "I expected more of a stand-and-fight. All these guys do is IEDs."

On the other hand, they do evade to live a bit longer. Which makes them tougher to kill.

And of course, they both used human shields to fight us.

Just stop thinking of the Afghans as ten-foot tall warriors who can't be beat.

Say It Ain't So!

I was led to believe that the Obama administration would inspire pro-American governments in contrast to the way the Bush administration alienated the world.

So what is happening to Japan?

The Obama administration will be watching closely how the Democratic Party of Japan will govern should it gain power after Sunday's vote. All major media polls have forecast that the ruling, conservative Liberal Democratic Party will lose badly in balloting for the 480 seats in the powerful lower house of parliament.

Opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama, in line to become prime minister, has pushed for his country to be more independent from Washington and closer to Asia. His party has raised questions about a major realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, close ties with the United States and continuing Japan's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean in support of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Oh, Japan will still be our ally. But this "Independence" is contrary to what was supposed to happen seven months into that "repairing our foreign relations" job.

UPDATE: The opposition party has won:

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan was set to win 300 of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament, ousting the Liberal Democrats, who have governed Japan for all but 11 months since 1955, according to projections by all major Japanese TV networks.

In the macro sense, it isn't bad that Japan would have a real democracy instead of the 1-1/2-party democracy it has basically had since World War II. I hope governing has a sobering effect on the Democratic Party. And the Liberal Democrats, too, who've had little enough reason to fear voter repercussions for screwing up.

And despite rumblings about distancing Japan from America, we will still be allies. More importantly, the election was really about the economy--not America.

So I won't blame President Obama for this election. Yet I'm sure that our press would have described in detail why the election was an anti-Bush referendum had it taken place in 2008.

A lot of times, it just isn't about us.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chutzpah Iranian Style

Iran's foreign minister expressed his "concern" over Iraqi stability:

"The lack of stability and security in Iraq will definitely affect the region," Mottaki said at a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari. "All of Iraq's neighbors should work seriously and help Iraq in providing security and stability."

Oh, that's rich. Given Iran's role in supporting Shia terrorists and backing Syria (which supplies Sunni terrorists), Mottaki has a lot of nerve to make that observation. We just lost two soldiers in Iraq to a explosively formed penetrator weapon--the signature weapon of Iran's proxies.

If Iraqis are at fault for failing to stem violence instigated in part by Iran, I guess that's a green light to overthrowing the Iranian regime, eh?

Friday, August 28, 2009

And The Answer Is

This analysis paints a poor picture of the Afghan elections:

Inconclusive election results in Afghanistan, disappointing voter turnout and the prospect of rising ethnic tensions and political turmoil are new roadblocks to the Obama administration's plan to turn around a backsliding war.

The U.S. had hoped the national voting, run by Afghans themselves with heavy international backing, would demonstrate that stability was within reach in Afghanistan and worth the steep price in dollars, time and American combat deaths.

Instead, the presidential election last week highlighted old problems and pointed to disturbing new challenges, including the prospect of political paralysis and parochial squabbling while U.S. combat deaths soar.

First, it is a little early to be painting pictures of reverses.

Second, is the alternative no voting? That hardly seems to be a solution to a "failure" to vote in the numbers and manner we'd like.

The problem isn't voting or the way the Afghans are voting. The problem is we're having them vote for the wrong things.

We shouldn't be trying to compel Afghans to vote for a strong central government when Afghanistan just isn't unified enough for that. Worse, with so much power allocated to the central government, it gives locals more incentive to fight hard for victory--or use extra-legal means to achieve a share of that power.

If the national government had limited powers, nobody would get too upset about the results of the national election and worry too much about how many of the people in their province voted. As long as the provincial election was the most important for their daily lives, it wouldn't matter as much if their turn out was 90% or 20% since at least only locals--and not distant foreigners from other provinces--would be voting and determining their futures.

The elections may yet turn out fine. But we're taking a needless gamble having the voting done this way. We should aim for a confederacy with strong local authority with a national government having limited powers.

Trying to make Afghans fit into a modern nation state will indeed place our objectives in jeapordy.

One Big Island of Separatist Activity, Actually

President Ma of Taiwan will allow the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan to comfort Taiwanese typhoon victims. The Chinese are not amused:

"We have decided to allow the Dalai Lama's visit to pray for the souls of the deceased and seek blessings for the survivors of the typhoon," Ma told reporters in central Nantou county.

The Dalai Lama, whom Beijing has accused of trying to split Tibet from China, confirmed his trip after the president's announcement.

The visit, scheduled for August 30 to September 4, was harshly criticised in Beijing, according to state media.

"The Dalai Lama is not a pure religious figure," an unnamed spokesman for the mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office was quoted saying by the Xinhua news agency, hours after Ma approved the invitation.

"Under the pretext of religion, he has all along been engaged in separatist activities."

The Chinese don't like the exiled leader of a conquered region of China (Tibet) to visit a region of China (as the rulers in Peking see Taiwan) that China still wishes to conquer? Fancy that. I guess charm has its limits.

Really, Taiwan's existence is one big stew of separatist activities mocking China's communist rulers.

My hope is that the Dalai Lama finds the time to remind Ma and the Taiwanese people that they would be fools to let their defenses deteriorate so much that China can turn Taiwan's leaders into exiles without homes and the people of Taiwan into just another subject people slaved to the will of the CCP.

UPDATE: The Dalai Lama did remind the Taiwanese that they should cherish their democracy:

"You enjoy democracy, you must preserve it. I tell my friends no matter what political party (they belong to)," he said. "I myself am totally dedicated to the promotion of democracy."

As bad as the typhoon was, the biggest disasters are man-made, after all.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don't Forget to Kill the Enemy

Counter-insurgency is about using restrained force and non-military means to defeat insurgents by separating them from the population. Even at the hardest moments of the Iraq War, I never succumbed to the temptation to argue we needed to go all mediaeval on the enemy--to "take off the gloves" as many frustrated war supporters argued. Patiently defeat the enemy without driving Iraqi civilians to support the enemy, I said.

But one thing I was also firm on was that we needed to defeat the enemy in the field. I don't know if defeating insurgents and terrorists is 10% military and 90% non-military or some other percent, but I'm sure that the first X percent has to be the military side:

Don't get confused about statements that COIN isn't mostly military force. That is a true statement. But security is the first part of successful COIN. And security includes atomizing the enemy and making them worry about surviving.

Taheri notes that too many in Afghanistan may be forgetting that just because defeating an insurgency relies on non-military means doesn't mean that military force is unimportant. It is common for our officials to emphasize the non-military goals:

If pressed, they offer various answers: Afghanistan's poverty, gender inequality, corruption, the drug trade, ethnic rivalries and intrigues by rival powers such as Pakistan and Iran.

Obviously, none of those problems has a military solution. But the main problem Afghanistan faces today is the threat posed to the security of its citizens and infrastructure by insurgents using terror tactics such as roadside bombings and suicide attacks.

And that problem does have a military solution -- indeed, the only solution is military. The insurgents must be defeated on the battlefield.

This is correct. We mustn't be shy about chasing down and killing the enemy. Dead jihadis are always a good thing. Dead jihadis don't halt those efforts to build and educate.

Selling Brand Taliban

Press reports that the Taliban disrupted the elections seemed far fetched given the failure of the enemy to actually carry out more violence than they normally do. That, I felt, wasn't the sign of a powerful force on the verge of defeating us in Afghanistan. I just don't see the signs we are losing the war.

Strategypage has my six on this:

The Western media reported numerous problems and much violence associated with the Afghan vote. But for those in touch with people in Afghanistan (email and blogs makes this pretty easy), the reports were far different. The Taliban huffed and puffed (mainly for the benefit of the foreign media) and generally did not deliver the violence and terror they promised. A lot of the reported "Taliban violence" in the south was the usual Pushtun tribal politics (which tends to be murderous even in the best of times). In most of the country, the only violence is the normal banditry and tribal type long typical of the region. The "vote fraud" was more common than in the West, but was mostly carried out by major politicians, not the Taliban. This form of corruption is endemic to Afghanistan and the region. That is not news, so it is not reported as it is, but embellished with tenuous Taliban connections. Makes for great headlines, but a false description of what is actually happening.

It goes on about the "new Vietnam" angle, too. Read it all, as they say.

We'll File Your Complaint

The Chinese want us to stop watching them from international waters and air space:

China believes the constant U.S. military air and sea surveillance and survey operations in China's exclusive economic zone had led to military confrontations between the two sides," the official Xinhua News Agency said, quoting a Defense Ministry statement.

"The way to resolve China-U.S. maritime incidents is for the U.S. to change its surveillance and survey operations policies against China, decrease and eventually stop such operations," the statement said.

What did we say?

No immediate information was available on how the U.S. side responded to China's demand.

The Chinese are really starting to piss me off. We're in international waters. I hope our response was "get bent, you wankers."

We'll file their protest in the appropriate place:

The Chinese have a lot of nerve complaining about espionage, I say.

UPDATE: Strategypage describes the issue, including increased Chinese military activity in the region and the ability of America to observe China's military and equipment from international waters--including new capabilities that will come on line. The big question?

China knows that all this new tech is coming, and wants to keep it as far away from their coasts as possible. The question is, will China risk war by playing rough to keep the Americans away.

We can't let them push us out of international waters. We'd best be prepared to return the roughness. Considering our unarmed EP-3 knocked down the PLA fighter sent up to harass our plane eight years ago, I guess we could manage that.

Try Embedding With the Taliban

I can't believe journalists are officially throwing a hissy fit that our military exercises some discretion over who they allow to embed with our units:

The International Federation of Journalists complained Wednesday that news people covering the war in Afghanistan are being monitored by the U.S. military to see if they are sympathetic to the American cause.

The federation said journalists seeking to travel under the protection of U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan may be screened first by an American public relations firm to see if their coverage portrays the military in a positive light.

We deny that is what we do, but why the heck wouldn't we?

The military's job is to win the war. Journalists can write whatever nonsense they wish, but our military is under no obligation to spend time and possibly blood to put reporters who are prone to writing misleading articles that harm our war effort into our units.

Next plastic turkey issue, please.

The Herd Shot 'Round the World

Our press corps can usually be relied upon, within the limits of their knowledge, to report on routine events fairly accurately. The problem comes when the issue is politically charged. Then, the press corps likes to quickly come to an agreement on a politically acceptable line of reporting and stick to it. It was glaringly obvious in the reporting about the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear programs.

A plain reading of the summary clearly showed that Iran was progressing, but the media all reported it as clearing Iran of the charges of pursuing nuclear weapons work. It was amazing to behold.

The whole so-called "torture" issue is another case in point:

Whoever advised people to be skeptical of what they read in the papers must have had in mind this week's coverage of the documents about CIA interrogations. Now that we've had a chance to read the reports, it's clear the real story isn't the few cases of abuse played up by the media. The news is that the program was thoughtfully developed, carefully circumscribed, briefed to Congress, and yielded information crucial to disrupting al Qaeda.

Too late. The media has collectively settled on rash, out of control, hidden from Congress, and did not work. Add in illegal and you have the press collectively on the verge of a wet dream of hauling Dick Cheney into court in irons.

The current administration is well within its rights to alter any program the prior administration instituted in our defense. I don't like that, but they won. If they want to read our enemies their newly created rights, assign them each a Dream Team of attorneys, and release them into downtown Manhattan before their trial, they can. But don't pretend this is all just a matter of following the law. It isn't.

The Left is politicizing policy differences. Which is safer for them, of course, because if a jihadi kills a whole bunch of us when our guard is lowered, they can claim they aren't to blame at all--just following the law that prevented them from protecting us.

And the Left knows that's how the press will collectively report on that event.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nothing to See. Move Along

September 11th will just be a national day of service if the administration gets its way, rather than a day to remember that Islamo-fascists struck us that day, murdering nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Those on the left side of the spectrum like to show outrage over the idea that conservatives "own the flag" or have a monopoly on patriotism.

It would help their argument if they didn't react to the flag and defending our country the way vampires flinch in the face of holy water.

I personally will commemorate September 11, 2009 as a national day of killing jihadis as a service to the world.

Those who want a national day of service can put their collectivist green day of shame where the sun don't shine.

Rants in Space

Knowing that the Sun is actually a star is pretty much the extent of my knowledge of astronomy.

Sure, I had a freshman astronomy class, but it was weeks before I got the textbook. A couple weeks before the mid-term exam, the professor got a little agitated about how many of us didn't have textbooks yet. He warned us, "What are you going to to the day before the mid-term when you don't have the textbook?!"

To which I replied, "Well, I'm just hoping for a clear night."

I guess he couldn't stay mad after that. He laughed.

My point is, I have no basis for challenging astronomy stories like this one about a dying planet:

The star is called WASP-18 and the planet is WASP-18b because of the Wide Angle Search for Planets team that found them.

The planet circles a star that is in the constellation Phoenix and is about 325 light-years away from Earth, which means it is in our galactic neighborhood. A light-year is about 5.8 trillion miles.

The planet is 1.9 million miles from its star, 1/50th of the distance between Earth and the sun, our star. And because of that the temperature is about 3,800 degrees.

Its size — 10 times bigger than Jupiter — and its proximity to its star make it likely to die, Hellier said.

I read this stuff a lot--some massive planet so close to its star that it circles it in a day or so.

I call bullshit.

I just don't buy it that there are massive planets whizzing around stars that fast.

There has to be some basic mistake in the theory that lets them plug in their observed data and get that result. I'm just saying.

Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby?

The simplest explanation for the Arctic Sea hijacking is that stupid criminals did a stupid thing for a near-worthless ship carrying a penny ante cargo of wood.

But with Moscow involved, you never can tell:

The Maltese-flagged vessel with a crew of 15 Russian sailors was officially heading to Algeria with a cargo of timber. But Moscow's top investigator, Alexander Bastrykin, cast doubt on that theory.

"We do not rule out the possibility that the Arctic Sea transported something other than wood," Bastrykin told the official government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"This is why we asked the crew to remain in Moscow, as we must figure out if any one of them was involved in those events," added Bastrykin, who heads the investigative committee of Russian prosecutors.

The reported detention of 11 Arctic Sea sailors by Russian authorities and claims that they are prohibited from communicating with their families have fuelled speculation of a cover-up.

Strangely, just hours after Bastrykin's interview was published, his press service issued a statement denying that the ship had been on any "secret mission" or that it had been carrying illegal materials.

Seriously, what is going on?

Nice Guys finish Last?

The State Department is getting tougher with our friends in Honduras than they'd dream of doing for any enemy regime or hopped up jihadis:

The OAS Foreign Ministers mission is in Honduras seeking support for the San Jose Accord, which would restore the democratic and constitutional order and resolve the political crisis in Honduras. In support of this mission and as a consequence of the de facto regime’s reluctance to sign the San Jose Accord, the U.S. Department of State is conducting a full review of our visa policy in Honduras. As part of that review, we are suspending non-emergency, non-immigrant visa services in the consular section of our embassy in Honduras, effective August 26. We firmly believe a negotiated solution is the appropriate way forward and the San Jose Accord is the best solution.

As I've mentioned, Micheletti needs to rogue up if he wants respect from our current government.

This is repulsive. We should be ashamed to be taking the side of Zelaya and his Axis of El Vil friends against the true democrats of Honduras trying to defend their constitution.

Let's Enjoy This Moment

The Russians are deploying anti-missile assets to their Far East. Why?

"We have an S-400 division there," said General Nikolai Makarov, chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, confirming that Russia had deployed its most advanced anti-missile defence system near the border with North Korea.

"We are indeed worried about the way testing, including tests of nuclear devices, is being conducted in North Korea," said Makarov, who was accompanying President Dmitry Medvedev on a visit to Mongolia.


Yet the Russians think we needlessly worry about future Iranian nuclear missiles and don't think we should deploy anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe to protect us and NATO states.

Gosh, just where did the Russians leave that reset button we gave them?

Why We Win (and Don't Die Too Much)

Strategypage has an excellent summary of why our troops are doing so much better (in terms of suffering a third the casualty rate) in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to Vietnam and World War II:

One of the more amazing, and underreported, aspects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the dramatically lower casualties compared to Vietnam, and previous 20th century wars. The casualty rate (adjusting for the number of troops involved) in Iraq was a third of what it was in Vietnam. It's even lower in Afghanistan.

Read it all, as they say, and impress your friends and neighbors (who don't have a clue) with your knowledge.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bottom Line on the Strait

This is an interesting article on why financial news about Taiwan is slanted pro-KMT and anti-DPP:

As long as big business, MNCs and their financial backers see the DPP as a "destabilizing" threat to Taiwan Strait economic integration, we can expect that the media conglomerates that are increasingly beholden to (if not part of) those giant, multifaceted corporations will continue to disparage the DPP and favor the KMT via stock market analysis.

Those anti-DPP business people should be careful what they wish for. That is a Chinese curse, isn't it?

Yes, Moscow Was a Threat

Strategypage again raises the idea that the Soviet Union was a paper power and no match for us:

With a GDP more than ten times the size of the Soviet Unions, the U.S. could spend five percent of GDP on defense, and far outspend the Soviet Union.

This is true, but Russia spend far more of its GDP on defense giving it far greater power than just a GDP comparison would indicate.

And more important, Russia just needed to mobilize their power at the point of attack in West Germany. Make it to the Rhine before we could mobilize our power and get it to Western Europe and the Soviets would have won.

I like Strategypage but I heartily disagree with the implication that the USSR was a paper tiger.

Recall that Japan in 1941 had a GDP a tenth of ours, yet they expanded greatly after Peark Harbor before we halted them and counter-attacked. We had the advantage of being far away from Japan, so their initial rush did not overrun anything critical to our defense.

As I wrote before in regard to the Cold War, location matters:

The most important consideration in assessing the Soviet threat must recognize that the Soviets in the Cold War had one great advantage over World War II Japan: The Soviet objective was less than a couple hundred miles from their starting point.

To break NATO, the Soviets had but to reach the Rhine River and crush West Germany. Yes, Soviet military spending was at only half our level, but the Soviets had their best forces in Eastern Europe. Our superior power had to make it across the Atlantic in time to make a difference. If the Soviet fleet died buying Moscow the time to take West Germany, we'd still lose the war. And our NATO allies were a variable bunch yet held frontage in West Germany. In between high quality American, West German, and British forces there were less capable Dutch and Belgian forces.

We won the Cold War without a fight. Good thing. I think that by the late 1980s we stood a good chance of stopping a Soviet drive west, but don't dare think that there was no threat from the Soviet Union.

Using the V-Word in Afghanistan

You know the press is going to turn on Afghanistan, stripping it of its "good war" status, when they start tossing about the V-word. No, they aren't cheerleading victory:

“The analogy of Lyndon Johnson suggests itself very profoundly,” said David M. Kennedy, the Stanford University historian. Mr. Obama, he said, must avoid letting Afghanistan shadow his presidency as Vietnam did Mr. Johnson’s. “He needs to worry about the outcome of that intervention and policy and how it could spill over into everything else he wants to accomplish.”

That's right, Vietnam. Our Left has no clue what happened in Vietnam but they always label a war they oppose as the "next Vietnam." Afghanistan is now the "next Vietnam." Which means, for the Left, that it must be a "bad war" after all.

They still have that pot/protest buzz going from the era and constantly seek to relive their glory days when opposition to basic hygiene and the Vietnam war defined their generation. I wish President Obama good luck dealing with his loons.

Defending Iraq in Colombia

All along I've noted that our pre-surge strategies in Iraq weren't bad--just inappropriate for the new circumstances post-Samarra. Until then, it made perfect sense for us to use American forces in the clear phase and rely on lesser quality Iraqi forces for the hold phase.

This is what the Colombians have done to begin winning their decades-long war:

The campaign against the leftist rebels and drug gangs grinds on. It's a slow process of moving elite army and police units in first to clear out rebel and drug gang bases and gunmen. This is followed by regular police and rehabilitation specialists, to restore government services, and the economy.

The problem in Iraq was that the enemy was too well-armed, well-financed, and bloodthirsty (and right in the cities, too) for the poorer quality Iraqi forces to deal with even in the hold mission. The surge was more about our troops doing the holding, too, to atomize and smash the enemy to a level that the Iraqis could then hold without our help. It has generally worked out that way.

And this also shows that when you discuss troop numbers needed to win a counter-insurgency, not all the troops need to be of the highest quality. Different levels of quality will suffice for different missions, and it will actually be a tremendous waste to put a Navy SEAL on guard duty in a traffic circle.

Saying Goodbye is Hard to Do

An interesting article on the complexity of pulling out of Iraq after fighting there for six years.

This is one very basic reason why pulling out fast while under fire when the war was raging could have looked like a Dunkirk withdrawal rather than going home after victory.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Admiral Mullen thinks the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. The article gives this reason:

The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating along with U.S. public support for the war, Washington's top military officer said on Sunday as he left open the possibility of another increase in troops.

"I think it is serious and it is deteriorating, and I've said that over the past couple of years -- that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated," said Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The so-called "resurgent" Taliban hasn't managed a spring offensive despite ominous warnings the last several years.

The so-called "resurgent" Taliban couldn't disrupt the recent elections with many more attacks than usual.

The "more sophisticated" enemy attacks mean more IEDs, but that is a step down the escalation ladder to mere terrorism. Road bombs are no way to win a war, as the Iraq campaign demonstrated. So while deaths may go up, this should only anger the Afghans and make them hate the Taliban all the more.

And more US casualties are caused by far more US troops being used more aggressively in Afghanistan.

The enemy is resilient, in no small part due to their sanctuary in Pakistan and their drug revenue. But don't mistake that for America losing. I just don't see it.

That isn't to say we are winning--but since I'm not sure what our objective is for our Afghan escalation, I can't really assess that chance.

Learning to Run from Radical Islam

Fareed Zakaria was one of those experts that Yale University Press relied on when deciding to remove drawings of Mohammend from a book on the issue:

Fareed Zakaria, editor for Newsweek's international edition, host for CNN, and member of Yale University's governing body, tells the Boston Globe that he was consulted about Yale University Press's publication of a book looking at the Muhammad cartoon crisis in Denmark, and that he recommended censorship of the book.

Ah, Zakaria. When it comes to analyzing radical Islam, what can't he screw up? Is this how he thinks we're supposed to learn to live with radical Islam?

I wondered what planet he lived on. Now we know--Yale.

When the Truth Hurts

I can't believe the Georgian defense minister had to backtrack on the value of US training for their Afghanistan deployment:

Georgia’s defense minister asserted Friday that U.S. training for his Afghanistan-bound troops could also be put to use in any new flare-up with Russia, then he retracted the statement amid American hand-wringing.

The Georgians must be a little nervous if our hands are wringing over that statement of the obvious, which I noted:

A company will deploy in the fall and a battalion the next year. The Georgians will deploy with no caveats--limits on deployment. So combat veterans will return home where new conventional skill sets will enhance their veteran status.

Combat veterans (after retraining from COIN to more conventional skills) will be a great use to Georgia--whether it is polite to note the obvious or not.

The Newly Possible

Four years ago, the idea I put forward that China could have the ability to invade Taiwan 2008 was largely derided. The "million-man swim" it was called. But as I wrote, were I the king of China, I'd use the Olympics in 2008 as cover to achieve surprise. Were I king.

Well, we've gone from the 1,000,000-man swim to the 1,300-missile barrage rather quickly, haven't we?

Wargames and detailed analysis of possible Chinese attacks on Taiwan, indicate that the basic Chinese strategy might work, and do so within days. The key to such a blitz is the 1,300 Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles. Most of these are based on the coast opposite Taiwan (180 kilometers away across the Taiwan Straits). The Chinese missiles carry one ton or half ton conventional (high explosive or cluster bomb) warheads, and were expected to be used to try and cripple Taiwanese air force and navy, as well as attacking headquarters and communications targets. Almost simultaneously, China would try to invade with airborne and amphibious forces. Without those missiles, Taiwans's superior air and naval forces would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the invasion force to cross the straits. The wargames play out various targeting strategies, and defensive moves the Taiwanese could take. In most cases, the Chinese succeed. The barrage of missiles do serious damage to Taiwanese air and naval forces, giving Chinese air and naval forces an opportunity to get ground forces ashore.

I think I noted this when Strategypage first put it out. But it bears repeating, as I did in early 2005 when I looked at what I thought China could do to conquer Taiwan. I thought ballistic missiles would play an important role in suppressing Taiwanese air power and air defenses, among other targets:

A ballistic missile barrage will hit Taiwanese airfields, naval bases, army barracks and vehicle parks, leadership targets, air defense and anti-ship missile batteries, and ammunition depots shortly thereafter. Perhaps the Chinese use electromagnetic pulse weapons to fry Taiwanese electronics. Perhaps the Chinese use chemical weapons. This is Chinese territory after all and so not an inter-state issue. The chemicals won't kill many but they will slow down the Taiwanese who will have to avoid contamination, decontaminate, and otherwise cope. It will also tend to show the Taiwanese that the Chinese are deadly serious. ...

A dribble of ballistic missiles will continue to hit Taiwanese airfields to disrupt operations and slow sortie rates with aircraft continuing to roll in regardless of losses. Even crappy 1960s-era aircraft can knock out modern fighters if they are on a runway refueling and rearming.

My broader point was that the balance was shifting. What had once been impossible was clearly becoming possible.

The China-Taiwan/US balance has tilted ominously in only four years, with analysts now seeing the day in the near future when China could take control of the air over Taiwan and take a shot at conquering the island before America can react and send sufficient forces.

Taiwan (and America) had best get a little sense of urgency in addressing this imbalance (tip to The View from Taiwan).

UPDATE: Here's the actual RAND report. Keep in mind that the report doesn't actually say China could successfully invade and conquer Taiwan under their scenario--just that China would likely gain air superiority over the strait using their missiles in an opening salvo. Which is quite helpful to invading, of course.

But stopping the conventional invasion would require someone to hit the Chinese amphibious and commercial shipping. Of course, they do seem to think that a bolt from the blue with decapitation strike as I have suggested could also have a shot at working.

I've just skimmed through the actual report so far, but it doesn't seem to address what I've mentioned as a possibility: that of the Chinese trying the Egyptian strategy of 1973, which just aimed to get across the Suez Canal and survive there.

What if the Chinese just want a foothold on Taiwan? How would we get them off if they came ashore and aimed to create a "liberated zone" as a step toward absorbing all the island?

At some point we will need to get off the treadmill of trying to buy time for us to intervene with sufficient force deployed from far away and either put a tripwire force on Taiwan or seek to undermine China and end the threat by going on offense. Or, as some (cough, CATO, cough) will argue, abandon Taiwan to the tender mercies of Peking.

From Damascus, With Love

The Iraqis tracked down part of the network that executed those horrific bombings last week:

Attackers paid $10,000 to get a bomb-laden truck past checkpoints and next to the Iraqi Finance Ministry in last week's attacks, one of the suspected masterminds said in a confession broadcast Sunday.

The trail goes to Syria:

Ibrahim said the operation was ordered a month ago by a Baath Party operative in Syria in a bid "to destabilize the regime."

Al-Moussawi aired only Ibrahim's confession but said more than 10 people comprising the whole network involved in the attacks have been arrested. He did not mention the Foreign Ministry but said other confessions would be shown in coming days.

The war in Iraq (and Syria's and Iran's war against Iraq) aren't over despite the vast reduction in overall casualties. As we look for open hands from Iran and Syria, remember that their clenched fists keep killing Iraqis.

UPDATE: Al Qaeda claims responsibility. I assumed this, since high-casualty suicide bombings are their preferred method of killing. The Baathists find the fanaticism of al Qaeda useful and the jihadis find the money and organization of the Baathists useful.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hitting the Deset Button

It's kind of funny to read this Time story. Once, bad US-Russian relations were all George W. Bush's fault and the new Obama administration would heal all.

But now that Russia is still acting like Russia and US-Russian relations don't look like they are improving as promised, it is all Russia's fault:

The reset, announced by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in February, was meant to signal the rebuilding of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia that had soured under George W. Bush. But despite some progress on issues such as arms control and Afghanistan when U.S. President Barack Obama visited Moscow in July, it's back to business as usual for Russia with its neighbors, as it tries to assert its authority despite the U.S.'s disapproval. "The one thing that could most endanger the reset policy would be really bad Russian behavior in the post-Soviet states," says Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. "The Russians don't want to recreate the Soviet Union, but they do want a sysem in which their neighbors pay close deference to what Moscow determines to be its vital national interests. The United States has a different view."

Fancy that. We have different views.

My only surprise is that the Time-based Obama interns didn't try to continue to blame bad relations on Bush.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our State Department Sees Progress

Our president is waiting for the unclenched hand from Iran.

Ahmadinejad gave us the finger (tip to Weekly Standard), first with rigging an election and now this:

Ahmad Vahidi, nominated Thursday by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to serve as Iran's defense minister, is a suspected international terrorist sought by Interpol in connection with a deadly 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Argentina.

I'm sure our State Department is insisting that one finger extended is just the first step to unclenching the whole hand.

Mission Being Accomplished

The Thais--without experiencing the pleasure of the Western press corps second-guessing their every step--are beating down the jihadis in their southern regions:

In nearly six years of violence, there have been over 8,800 terrorist related violent incident, and 3,500 deaths. There are believed to be about 8,000 Moslems carrying out the violence, and (mostly) providing support. The government has brought down up to 90,000 additional troops and police to the south, and recruited nearly as many local defense volunteers.

We have a victory building there. And note the use of local defense volunteers who appear to represent nearly half of the force involved in winning.

I'll admit that the threat there was much lower in sophistication or numbers so the Thais could probably rely more on such volunteers than we can in Afghanistan. We never relied on them to that extent in Iraq.

But local defense forces are useful in defeating insurgencies. Remember that when considering the amount of force needed to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, we don't need that entire force to be American.

The Road to Somewhere

Canada is paying more attention to their north to bolster their claims of exclusive sovereignty over the waters up there. This includes military exercises:

The exercise involving a range of military forces is part of Ottawa's increasingly high-profile push to assert Canada's sovereignty in the vast but sparsely populated region that includes the fabled Northwest Passage waterway.

Some of Canada's claims to the Northwest Passage have been challenged by other countries, including the United States, and interest over the Arctic's natural resources has increased with the prospect that global warming and disappearing sea ice will make them easier to get.

Russia is more of a problem for Canada in the Arctic Sea than we are, I dare say. We can probably come to some sort of agreement that limits the physical and practical scope Canadian claims in exchange for our acceptance of official Canadian sovereignty (e.g., in some places we accept Canadian sovereignty but Canada agrees by treaty to never interfere with travel through those waters).

Ultimately, Canada is becoming the frontline of NATO as Russia looks north.

I still think we need a Polar Command.

Well That's a Bloody Giveaway

Chinese-Taiwanese relations are supposedly all on a warm and fuzzy vector what with Peking's charm offensive.

Yet the Chinese keep aiming missiles at Taiwan and building up their military in the Taiwan Strait region. And the Chinese still insist they own Taiwan and will exercise that authority at some point--by force if necessary.

If force wasn't contemplated, why would the Chinese even care what weapons the Taiwanese bought? Under the warm and fuzzy scenario, it's all a waste of money for Taiwan, but otherwise irrelevant since China would never fight Taiwan.

Sadly, it is not a waste of Taiwanese resources and the Taiwanese need to buy more and prepare more for the onslaught that will take place one day. The PLA chief of the army kind of gave the game away:

Chen said the United States has sought China's help in international operations such as the war in Afghanistan or in fighting piracy off Somalia but undermined the mutual trust needed for such cooperation with its arms sales to Taiwan."

"Once the United State needs us to cooperate, they are good to us, they are friendly to us. Otherwise, they can do anything they want, even to offend the Chinese people. But I don't think that kind of cooperation can continue," Chen said at the meeting, which was open to the media.

Arming Taiwan "offends" China? Wow, that doesn't sound like a warm and fuzzy thought at all.

And guess again that China has no interest in suppressing jihadis in Afghanistan or suppressing pirate attacks around Somalia. China has restless Moslems who might draw inspiration from a Taliban victory and China relies on secure oil supply lines from Africa and the Middle East.

Nice try General Chen, in portraying your minimal help in both areas to leverage our far greater efforts that benefit both of us. Oh, and stopping North Korea from going nuclear isn't a favor to us either, if that comes up. Or does China wish to welcome Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan--for a start--as nuclear club members?

China isn't our enemy, but it isn't our friend yet. Taiwan would be wise to take it a step further--China is definitely their enemy, charm offensive notwithstanding.

The King is Dead

In our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, precision air power and relatively small numbers of artillery pieces using precision munitions have been sufficient to fight irregulars and terrorists.

So there is no real urgency to replace our nearly 50-year-old M-109 design. The FCS program replacement was killed:

The U.S. Army appears to have lost its second replacement vehicle for the half-century old M-109 self-propelled 155mm howitzer. The new XM1203 NLOS-C self-propelled 155mm howitzer has been, well, if not cancelled, then suspended.

The king of battle, the cannon, isn't getting a lot of respect. I don't miss the Crusader--it was ridiculously heavy. But the XM1203 seemed to be a good next step. But apparently not.

So we'll make do:

In the current war on terror, even the M-109 has not been used much. The lighter, towed, M777 has proved more useful, especially when using the Excalibur shell. Currently, the army plans to keep M109s around until 2050, just in case. You never know, and it pays to be careful. Meanwhile, the army is planning to make a third attempt at a M-109 replacement. This will also borrow from Crusader and NLOS-C, and might even succeed. Eventually.

If we ever face another large army on the battlefield with an air force that can at least run interference against our air supremacy, we'll miss having a decent sized artillery force.

Reality As They See It

I'm still not clear what our objective is in Afghanistan.

I know what I want it to be.

I worry about putting too many troops into landlocked Afghanistan with lines of supply through Pakistan and Russia not as secure as I'd like. One additional reason I worry is that I'm not sure what we want them to achieve.

I worry that we will put too many troops into Afghanistan, build up a central government security force that can't be maintained without Western financial support, and otherwise try to turn Afghanistan into a modern state governed from Kabul.

Frederick Kagan debunks the idea that we might put too many troops into Afghanistan and alienate the people by rightly explaining that our war is way different than the brutal Soviet war that inspired mass resistance:

For all of these reasons, there is absolutely no basis for assessing that an increased ISAF/US military presence along the lines being considered will result in some kind of "tipping point" at which local Afghans turn against us because they see us as a Soviet-style occupation force.

I'm sorry, but the preceding essay on the brutal Soviet methods does not lead to this conclusion.

Remember, we don't have to be the same as the Soviets. The Afghans just have to believe we are the same as the Soviets were.

And the way the press has reported on the rare casualties our air strikes cause, do you really think that result is unlikely? Come on, the global Left believes we slaughtered Iraqis on a massive scale despite the lack of any evidence that we actually did that.

Still Building Our Future

One reason the tale of America's eclipse by China seems to take hold here is the assumption that our manufacturing sector is dying.

This is simply not true:

According to data from the 2009 Economic Report of the President, as gathered and reported recently by George Mason University economics professor Don Boudreaux, since 1987, real U.S. manufacturing output has increased by 81 percent. And as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, American real manufacturing value-added — the market value of manufactured goods, over and above the costs that went into their production — reached a record-high level in 2007 (the last year for which final data are available), breaking the record set in 2006, which broke the
record set in 2005, which broke the record set in 2004. Notwithstanding the recent recession that has affected all sectors of the economy, U.S. manufacturing has been thriving in recent years.

Relatively speaking, it is true that our manufacturing sector is a smaller part of our economy than it was fifty years ago. But we still produce more than 50 years ago. I mean, are we starving because so little of our economy is now agriculture? Do we no longer grow food? Of course not.

Just stop panicking. The American century is not over yet and I don't see it ending any time in my life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Wish Come True

Afghanistan has held another election.

The Taliban failed to mount a really substantial offensive against the widespread soft targets of polling places. Said President Karzai:

The president said militants carried out 73 attacks in 15 provinces — a 50 percent increase in attacks compared with recent days, according to NATO figures. Karzai's ministers of defense and interior said attacks killed eight Afghan soldiers, nine police and nine civilians. A U.S. service member was killed in a mortar attack in the east Thursday, bringing to at least 33 the number of U.S. troops killed this month.

For a "resurgent" Taliban, this is fairly weak evidence of strength.

We shall see if voters took advantage of the security to vote.

Still, as in Iraq, the real problem lies not in the theater of operations but back here in America. The "good" war is losing support--especially among President Obama's constituency:

Now that the Republican's national security strategy has succeeded in Iraq, freeing U.S. troops for deployment elsewhere, the Democrat is in the rather awkward position of likely arguing for the second troop surge of his own young administration.

Less noticed during the campaign was Obama's oft-stated belief that the real war on terror was in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of adjacent Pakistan, which he promised to pursue actively.

Support for fighting there has not been strong in the last couple of years but is decreasing now as American casualties increase along with troop strength and their anti-insurgent activities. According to the Post poll of 1,001 adults between Aug. 13-17 (error margin +/- 3%), adults (51%) now say the war is not worth fighting. ...

Only 47% say the war is worth it, while strong opponents outnumber strong proponents, 41-31.Sixty percent of all Americans still approve of Obama's war-handling, with special approval coming from Republicans who strongly support the war (70%) and conservatives (58%).

What's alarming for the liberal president, who recently approved an overall increase in the size of the Army, is that his bipartisan support on the war is quickly melting away. But the losses are mainly coming from among his own party faithful -- 70% of Democrats now say Afghanistan isn't worth it.

Worse, less than 20% of Democrats favor sending more American troops.

Opponents of the Iraq War often said they'd rather fight in Afghanistan. They got what they wanted, which I warned them about:

All those in America who have urged us to abandon Iraq and focus on Afghanistan--with some even demanding we intervene in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden--may find that our dwindling role in Iraq will free us to do exactly that--join the Taliban Campaign in force to team up with Pakistani army forces to suppress the jihadis in the tribal areas and finally hunt down bin Laden.

I bet the "good war" in Afghanistan won't be viewed as favorably by our anti-Iraq War side once this campaign gets underway in earnest--as they've always claimed to want.

But then, I always knew that the proponents of the "good war" theory would turn on the Afghanistan campaign when it was the only war they had to protest:

If we are not fighting in Iraq, I've long held, the so-called "good war" in Afghanistan will become bad in the views of our anti-war side. Now the anti-war side protests Iraq and claims that they oppose Iraq in order to commit resources to the "real" fight in Afghanistan. ...

You wait, when the Iraq War is won, our Left will be opposed to the only war we've got--the "good war" in Afghanistan. Our Left can never find a war they can support. But that's a statement about them and not our wars.

We're escalating the war in Afghanistan, adding Pakistan to the mix, and winding down in Iraq, and still the Left isn't happy. Go figure.

I know the anti-war protests are on hold for now, with higher priorities taking the war off the table. But this won't last and the polling shows that. In time, the anti-war side will take out their materials and scratch out "Iraq" and write in "Afghanistan." Then it will be "Hey, hey, BHO, how many of those dead kids did you know?!"

I find it somewhat amusing that the president will rely on people like me to support our war effort while many who voted for him are turning on him as fast as they can. I may not be sure the president has the right focus to win, but I still want us to succeed. Victory is still my goal.

Congress will likely make its unease over the war felt next summer. We shall see how President Obama faces down any defunding efforts in comparison to President Bush's efforts to win in Iraq in the summer of 2007.

The Limits of US Tolerance

I don't want Iran to get nucler weapons. Even if Iran isn't determined to take a spear for the Islamic team and strike either America or Israel at the price of their own nuclear annihilation, Iran with nukes is a threat to us.

Even if Iran's nukes never get slipped--through design or error--to terrorists who would use one against us in a heart beat, Iran with nukes is a threat to us.

How do we deter nuts with nukes when they already engage in terrorism against us and our allies when we have nukes (and conventional superiority) already?

Ponder this future:

This doesn't mean that regional adversaries will be spoiling for a fight with their neighbors or the United States once they acquire a nuclear arsenal. The risks of taking on the world's most powerful state will remain substantial. So the military superiority that the United States enjoys, in both conventional and nuclear forces, will remain valuable as a deterrent to aggression.

That said, these new nuclear adversaries may be more likely to challenge U.S. interests and probe the limits of U.S. tolerance. Thus, should conflict occur, it would carry costs and risks for the United States and its allies that are exponentially greater than those associated with conflicts that have occurred since 1990. This reality will limit U.S. freedom of action: Military operations that have become mainstays of the U.S. military repertoire, such as large-scale invasions leading to regime change or intensive air campaigns aimed at crippling the adversary, are likely to be off the table.

Instead, U.S. policy makers will be compelled to reacquaint themselves with stratagems that were prevalent during the Cold War: limited war and escalation management. In doing so, U.S. and allied decision makers in regional crises should seek to devise policy options that avoid putting the enemy leadership in a position where nuclear use seems to them to be the least bad option available.

We'll deter "aggression" by nuclear-armed nut regimes but we'll face foes who will "challenge U.S. interests and probe the limits of U.S. tolerance?"

Good grief, the latter is aggression.

The Iranians are already willing to kill American troops in Iraq (and Afghanistan to a lesser extent) and take on the task of attacking our allies from the Gulf to Egypt (and don't leave out Israel). Right now they need to consider the limits of our tolerance when all we have to calculate is the price of a conventional tangle with them.

What will Iran be willing to do when our calculation has to consider a nuclear exchange? Even a nuclear exhange we technically win (we lose Charleston and Los Angeles but wipe out all of Iran--we "win"?)?

Right now we actually place some limits on Iranian terrorism because they know if they go too far we will invade. Two examples on their border back up this threat.

But what happens to the limits of American tolerance when Iran has nukes and an invasion of Iran to overthrow their regime is no longer on the table except for after Iran already uses nuclear weapons?

A nuclear attack is not the only bad thing that can plague us if Iran gets atomic weapons.

What a wonderful decade we're having. And what a wonderful one the next decade will be.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Some Sort of Scam

It has always seemed odd that somebody would hijack the Arctic Sea given the relatively paltry value of the ship's cargo. And the ship itself isn't much of a target.

This explanation is certainly interesting:

The official version of events was questioned by Yulia Latynina, a leading Russian opposition journalist and commentator.

"The Arctic Sea was carrying something, not timber and not from Finland, that necessitated some major work on the ship," she wrote in the Moscow Times newspaper on Wednesday.

During two weeks of repair works in the Russian port of Kaliningrad just before the voyage, the ship's bulkhead was dismantled so something very large could be loaded, she wrote.

"To put it plainly: The Arctic Sea was carrying some sort of anti-aircraft or nuclear contraption intended for a nice, peaceful country like Syria, and they were caught with it," she said.

That would explain the motive since the value of the cargo--and the value of the secrecy about the cargo--would make an operation like this worth it.

It does not, however, explain why criminals would believe they could extort money from a Russian government's secret project to export such a sensitive cargo. Who did they think they are, SPECTRE? More like KAOS, under the circumstances.

Which may mean that the simple explanation is real--stupid criminals went after a ship that just really wasn't worth it.

But this is Putin's Russia, so I can't quite buy the simple explanation yet.

Just what was on the Arctic Sea?

UPDATE: Interesting. So it took three large cargo planes to move fewer than a score of men and they were taken to the former KGB's infamous prison?

Russian federal investigators said they were questioning the sailors and the eight suspected hijackers. Interfax news agency said both groups had been brought to the notorious Lefortovo prison run by the main KGB successor agency.

The group was reportedly brought to Moscow in three heavylift Il-76 transport planes, each capable of carrying 40 metric tons (44 tons) of cargo.

It was unclear, however, why three planes were needed to fly a small group to Moscow, and why one of Russia's largest planes — often used to transport heavy weapons and other balky cargo — were used for the operation.

The Russians sure take their timber thefts seriously. One shudders to think what the Russians would do if state security was involved.

Unacceptable Deaths

July wasn't too bad as far as civilian casualties in Iraq went, but August is shaping up to be a relatively bad month:

A series of explosions targeting government and commercial buildings struck Baghdad Wednesday, killing at least 75 people and wounding more than 300, Iraqi police and medical officials said.

The blasts in the capital followed a string of attacks in Iraq this month that have claimed hundreds of lives and raised concerns about the ability of Iraqi security forces to keep the lid on violence in advance of an American withdrawal.

The deadliest was a car bomb near the foreign ministry, which killed at least 59 people and wounded 250. Officials said the toll may climb as rescue workers continue to search through rubble and debris. The ministry is close to the fortified Green Zone. The officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

This is unacceptable. You can't stop every suicide bomber on a bike or on foot, but security had darn well be tightened up enough to keep suicide truck bombs away from major targets.

I know that the physical barriers are coming down in Baghdad and everyone is happy that tangible sovereignty has passed to Iraqis, but heads should figuratively roll in the Baghdad security ministries. The Iraqis are still at war and they can't pretend that victory means fighting is over. Yes, the Iraqis (and America) won the war by blunting and gutting the major armed threats inside Iraq. But these threats were defeated and not destroyed. (Note Syria is still funneling in killers.)

I assume our guys are on this trying to help the Iraqis, but a sense of urgency needs to make itself felt aong the Iraqis to tamp this violence down before it really does trigger inter-communal warfare.

UPDATE: Reversing on the barriers, questioning security personnel, and a greater sense of urgency:

Al-Maliki convened an emergency meeting late Wednesday with senior security and military officials to discuss "rapid measures to achieve security and stability" in Baghdad and surrounding areas, to prevent insurgents from rekindling violence ahead of next year's elections, his office said in a statement.

It did not elaborate, but two government officials said the decision was made to keep the blast walls around markets and other vital areas in Baghdad and to set up mobile checkpoints to enhance searching and observation abilities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.

Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, the chief Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad, also said 11 police and army commanders overseeing security, traffic and intelligence services in the targeted areas have been detained on suspicion of negligence.

This is good. And I assume that aggressive counter terror measures will be taken in addition to the passive measures. We shall see if this energetic response can be sustained and dampen the attacks.

Everybody Can Play!

With the world's thug states eager to play "grab a Westerner" to "improve" relations with the West by later releasing the hostage, can anybody be surprised that Bashar Assad wants in on the game?

Syrian President Bashar Assad opened talks with Iranian officials Wednesday in a visit expected to include an appeal to free a French academic accused of plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime.

Assad is a close Iranian ally and also is using the trip to personally congratulate Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his re-election, which touched off massive unrest after opponents claimed the results were rigged.

You have to hand it to Ahmadinejad's loyal boy toy. Assad actually expects to get in on the benefits of hostage taking without actually taking his own hostage!

The Iranians should be insulted by this freeloader trying to act all open handy without doing the heavy lifting.

Still, I'm sure our State Department will have suitable rewards for Assad ready--anything to keep former President Bill Clinton from getting any more credit and attention for hostage releasing.

From the Department of Obvious

I can't believe that the Georgian government only just got around to doing this:

One year after its short war with Russia, Georgia on Tuesday (18 August) became the first country to withdraw from the grouping of former Soviet republics, in a sign of rebellion met with disdain from Moscow.

The Georgian foreign ministry said yesterday that all legal procedures related to the country's withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have been finalized.

Actually, I'm being unfair. The Georgians sent notice a year ago and under the CIS rules, a member state needs to give one-year notice before getting out. You'd think that there might be an exception for when one member is invaded by another member--but no.

But now the papers are all finally in order with the right stamps and signatures, so Georgia is officially out of the Russian-dominated CIS.

Plan Z From the Taiwan Strait

Even as China prepares for a blue water navy they pursue options to dominate the Taiwan Strait.

I noted their small combtatants.

Chinese naval helicopters are also being armed with anti-ship and anti-helicopter weapons:

Chinese Z-9 helicopter gunships stationed near the coast opposite Taiwan, have been spotted carrying a full load (eight) of TY-90 air-to-air missiles. The TY-90 is a modified version of a shoulder fired anti-aircraft missile, designed specifically to be carried by helicopters, for use against enemy helicopters. ... This would be done
over the Taiwan Straits, during an invasion of Taiwan.

The Z-9 is a license built version of the French AS 365N Dauphin. It's a four ton chopper with a two ton payload. China has built over 200 of the Z-9s and many have been armed (with twin 23mm cannon, torpedoes, anti-tank missiles and air-to-air missiles.)

China has also introduced a new air launched anti-ship missile, the TL-10, for the Z-9 helicopter gunship.

The Chinese are preparing to control the Taiwan Strait long enough to invade and conquer Taiwan. Notwithstanding their ongoing charm offensive and the willingness of so many to believe that Chinese-Taiwanese relations are actually improving rather than just being papered over with happy talk.

More Slips Please, If This Be a Slip

Leslie Gelb doesn't think much of our decision to welcome a Georgian army battalion to the war in Afghanistan.

He thinks the help is minimal considering the needs and that we not only risk resetting relations with Russia but also encourage recklessness by the Georgians in provoking Russia.

What rot.

First of all, I suppose it is refreshing to hear, after years of hearing how "unilateral" George W. Bush was, that getting an ally willing to fight and die with our troops is no big deal now.

Second, is Gelb seriously arguing that we can do anything to calm down Russian paranoia? Seriously, what price are we willing to pay in re-subjugated people to "reset" relations with Russia? As if it is our fault they are nuts and our relations are suffering.

Besides, isn't Russia helping us in Afghanistan by letting us use their territory for supply missions? Why should Russia mind if we get help from someone else to win a war that Russia presumably has an interest is us winning?

Third, is it not possible that by fighting side by side with Georgians we gain some influence in restraining Georgia? I assume we are telling the Georgians to behave and move smoothly toward NATO membership without provoking Russia. I surely wouldn't want to have the US dragged into a war to recover South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Also note that surely the Georgians learned that having many more troops in Iraq at our side than they will deploy in Afghanistan didn't get us to militarily intervene when Russia invaded last August.

Fourth, is Gelb really saying that Russia has a veto on our choice of allies to fight at our side?

We got an ally to fight with us without caveats. How many of our established NATO allies can that be said of?

Celebrate this success, for it is a success. Deal with Russia separately. This issue isn't making the Russians more paranoid than they'll be all on their own. Seriously, we're in bounce the rubble territory if that's the issue.

Assume the Worst

I recently mentioned that it is a mistake to assume the most virulent and hateful brand of Islam is the true form of Islam:

We do our jihadi enemies a great favor by simply assuming that their form of Islam is the true form of Islam. Our jihadi enemies seek to expand their view of Islam even as they seek to kill us. The two are not unrelated.

Yet we have Yale University kowtowing to the most radical elements of Islam, as Hitchens states:

The capitulation of Yale University Press to threats that hadn't even been made yet is the latest and perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism—particularly Muslim religious extremism—that is spreading across our culture.

Don't think this is unrelated to this development in Gaza:

Two years after its takeover of the Gaza strip, Hamas has faced down its greatest challenger: A militant, Al Qaeda-inspired organization that says Hamas is not Islamic enough.

Last Friday, Hamas forces and the Jund Ansar Allah (Soldier of God) movement fought a day-long gun and artillery battle that killed about 30 in the southern Gaza town of Rafah after the group's spiritual leader, Sheikh Abdel Latif Moussa, declared an Islamic emirate in Gaza and denounced Hamas. Mr. Moussa was killed in the fighting, centered on the mosque where he and his followers had gathered.

It was the first time an Al Qaeda-inspired group had directly challenged Hamas' rule in the Gaza Strip but it may not be the last. Fueled by the failure of Hamas to address the area's growing poverty and isolation, and Hamas' relative recent restraint in its confrontation with Israel, analysts say such organizations are growing in the territory.

How are moderate Moslems supposed to retake their religion if the West takes the same position on Islam's true nature as the radical nutballs?

The Yale book incident is disheartening. No matter how good our soldiers are, our society needs to be just as strong. Winning the war on terror would take a great leap forward if only we had the confidence in our own society that we deserve to beat the jihadi scum.

UPDATE: Even moderate Malaysia will do this in the name of religion:

A Muslim part-time model will be caned next week, becoming the first woman in Malaysia to be given the punishment under Islamic law, after she pleaded guilty to drinking beer, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

An Islamic court in July ordered that Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, 32, be lashed six times with a rattan cane after she was caught drinking alcohol in a raid on a hotel night club in eastern Pahang state last year.

In Malaysia, bartenders aren't required to inquire about the religion of those who buy a pitcher of beer.

But perhaps we should take bets about which Western jurisdiction will be the first to require bartenders to not sell alcohol to Moslems. It's not a real big step from banning pictures that displease radical Islam to banning pitchers.

I'll take Malmo, Sweden, as the likely suspect.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why Killing Jihadis is Never a Mistake

What mayhem will this escape result in?

Eight members of an al-Qaida-inspired group sawed bars off their cell windows in a high-security Lebanese prison Tuesday, scaled down the building using blankets tied together, then stood on each other's shoulders to help one jump over a wall and escape, security officials said.

Prison guards scrambled and managed to stop the other seven from fleeing, the officials said.

The officials described the escaped prisoner, Taha al-Hajj Suleiman, as a "dangerous" member of the Fatah Islam group, which fought a three-month battle against the army inside a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon in 2007.

They sawed through the bars? Nobody heard that? And they had that much time?

They'll likely run for the border and gain safety in Syria.

Well, before they're sent out to kill for their masters again.

UPDATE: Oops, I thought 8 got away. Only one did--and he was caught by the Lebanese army before he could get far.