Saturday, October 31, 2009

Distracted By the Shiny Objects?

Taiwan would be happier if they weren't under the gun of Chinese missiles:

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday called on China to withdraw missiles targeting the island to ensure peace between the two former bitter rivals.

China now has nearly 1,500 missiles pointed at Taiwan, with no signs that the build-up is about to stop anytime soon, according to defence officials here.

"We hope that the Chinese communists will consider removing the missiles facing Taiwan to create a peaceful environment for both sides," Ma said as he met a group of former soldiers.

While this is an understandable request, I hope the positions of China's missiles don't become the standard to judge China's intentions and capabilities. To me, "removal" isn't a clear enough request since removal could easily be mere movement and not scrapping of missiles.

China would only use a fraction of their deployed missiles in the opening hours of an invasion. Some percent will be used in the days to follow. So if China moves only the missiles not needed in those first 24 hours out of range of Taiwan, the Chinese threat is not actually reduced one bit.

The Chinese would spend that first 24 hours moving missiles back into range of Taiwan to continue the missile barrage to pin the Taiwanes military down while the Chinese send in the airborne and amphibious invaders.

Yet by constantly asking China to move their missiles rather than scrap them, after repeated Chinese refusals to remove them, will a sudden agreement to move some trap the Taiwanese into publicly accepting that as a reduction of the threat?

The Taiwanese should be demanding the destruction of Chinese missiles and not their movement out of range. The latter is too easy to reverse on short notice.

UPDATE: Is the issue of destroy or withdraw just one of translation? This article says Ma wants the missiles "scrapped," a clear reference to destruction:

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, in his first interview after taking on the chairmanship of the ruling Nationalist Party (Kuomintang), again urged China to scrap missiles that stand along its coast, aimed at the island.

Of course, even if the current Taiwanese demand is for China to destroy the missiles, the Taiwanese should be aware that Chinese refusal to destroy them doesn't mean that the fallback demand should be for China to move them from striking distance of Taiwan. There is a big difference between the two demands.


As much as we speak of India modernizing, which is true, we shouldn't forget that the public face of India hides a lots of potential unrest in the Indian states:

Chhattisgarh is different. With a population of 22 million, it has the highest proportion (about a third) of tribal peoples of all the states of India. Now most people don't think of tribes in India, but this is a complicated country. With over a billion people, and 19 major languages, India is more complicated, culturally, than Europe (which has half as many people and fewer different cultures, and no tribes left active). While India eliminated most feudalistic practices half a century ago, after the British left, there were still a lot of old customs left that rankled. The tribal peoples survived by staying out of the mainstream. As happens to tribes everywhere, they got screwed, and the Maoists found this fertile ground for their radical ideas about how to make everything better. Actually, the Maoists do not have a large following among the citizens of Chhattisgarh. But it's enough to enable the Maoists to raise several thousand dedicated followers, many of them armed.

Yeah, a country that big is a continent all by itself. We're lucky to be largely a country of immigrants who mostly become American and leave their tribe behind given enough time to assimilate, even if it takes generations.

China too, really, despite the apparent dominance of Han Chinese. Though China has relatively small ethnic minorities, as a continent-sized country even the Han Chinese speak dialects that can be incomprehensible to other Han Chinese in other provinces, notwithstanding the common written language.

I would not trade places with a "rising" China. Or India, for that matter.

Happy Birthday!

Lamb had an eventful birthday, what with Build-a-Bear Workshop, a trip to a water park with Mister and their mom, and a trip to Dallas featuring a flight back home in first class! (Amazing. My first trip on a jet was a 737 taking me to basic training.)

And cake, of course:

Ah, the joys of cake for a child!

Of Idiots and Villages

Stephen Hayes reacts the same why I did to an AP story on the Affaire de Plame. Hayes writes:

In his review of the episode, the writer gets so carried away with his attempt to make it look like Cheney was behind the leak -- "In the FBI's interview, Cheney's memory of key events appeared hazy" or "Cheney's occasional denials that he talked about Plame to various people at the White House are among the few things in the lengthy interview with the FBI that Cheney appeared certain about" -- that he forgets the single most important piece of information about the case. What is it?

The identity of the leaker: Richard Armitage.

It's amazing. The press is generally so left-wing that even though they had to report on the facts briefly when the news came out that the anti-Iraq War side leaked Plame's identity (and she was no longer a field agent so it violated no laws anyway), the fact did not displace their built-in hatred of Cheney and their conviction that the Bush administration was punishing a poor dissenter trying to save us from lies and war with Iraq.

I was so tired of this trait of the anti-war Left that I was not going to blog on it after I read it this morning. Hayes reminds of what I wrote here--the Left relies on failures to point out their spin of history to rewrite it. So thank you Hayes, for reminding me that it is dangerous to let their spin go unchallenged.

So let's review, shall we?

Armitage did the leaking and an innocent man was convicted as a proxy for a Cheney frog-march from his office.

Wilson's public conclusion about Iraq's Niger outreach was nonsense (and did I mention that Armitage did the leaking?)

And in light of Wilson's truly bad espionage efforts, the real question of the whole affaire is why was the buffoon Wilson sent on such an important mission? The man is our very own village idiot.

That question is still not answered. But that's just because all of Wilson's neighbors work for our press corps. Professional courtesy, don't you know.

Iran Continues to Say No

Iran has--once again--said "no" to yet another Western offer designed to slow Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons:

Senior Iranian lawmakers rejected on Saturday a U.N.-backed plan to ship much of the country's uranium abroad for further enrichment, raising further doubts about the likelihood Tehran will finally approve the deal.

The UN-brokered plan requires Iran to send 1.2 tons (1,100 kilograms) of low-enriched uranium — around 70 percent of its stockpile — to Russia in one batch by the end of the year, easing concerns the material would be used for a bomb.

After further enrichment in Russia, France would convert the uranium into fuel rods that would be returned to Iran for use in a reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.

Iran has indicated that it may agree to send only "part" of its stockpile in several shipments. Should the talks fail to help Iran obtain the fuel from abroad, Iran has threatened to enrich uranium to the higher level needed to power the research reactor itself domestically.

My guess is that we will continue to refuse to accept "no" for an answer. The Europeans followed this for years. And now we promise to be more like the Europeans.

Is it any wonder the mullahs of Iran believe God is on their side? How else would you explain the refusal of the leading Western powers to stop you?

Fighting (and Dying) for the Man

Remember the claim that only the poor and minorities die in America's wars started by old white men?

Sure you do. It was always bull and always thrown out by the anti-war side to stop us from fighting our enemies. But while you remember it, you have to admit that you certainly haven't heard recently the charge that the poor and minorities are doing all the dying, despite being at war for eight years.

Why is that? The reason is that a BS charge is even more BS today:

In the last decade, the recruits from the poorest families has gone from about 20 percent, to about ten percent. Meanwhile, those from the top 20 percent of families (in terms of income) has gone from under 20 percent, to about 25 percent.

And no, I shall never complain that rich white kids are dying for an African-American president sending them to war. This is America's war and Americans are enlisting to fight that war and die in it. Period.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Nuance of Explosions

Secretary Clinton has gotten an earful in Pakistan over our Predator strikes:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over U.S. aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that U.S. officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders.

I confess I never thought we'd keep this up this year. I thought we were just trying to keep the jihadis off balance during the presidential transition to give whoever won some breating space to get set to take over the war effort. I thought that the price we'd pay in alienating Pakistanis and risking their (imperfect) help would be too high to pay for killing al Qaeda leaders.

Instead we keep going. On the bright side, any anger in Pakistan has not kept their government from waging war against the domestic and imported jihadis in Swat and South Waziristan.

I hope we continually run cost-benefit analysis on this tactic.

Letting the Wolf Guard the Chickens

Well, our foreign policy establishment got what they wished by bullying little Honduras into risking their democracy:

Representatives of ousted President Manuel Zelaya finally reached an agreement with the interim government that could help end the monthslong dispute over Honduras' June 28 coup, and possibly pave the way for Zelaya's reinstatement.

Zelaya is happy, of course:

"We are optimistic because Hondurans can reach agreements that are fulfilled," Zelaya told Radio Globo, an opposition station. "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras."

Bizarrely, we apparently celebrate this as a victory:

The agreement, if it holds, could represent a much-needed foreign policy victory for the United States, which dispatched a senior team of diplomats to coax both sides back to the table.

I fear we can look forward to many more such victories in the next three years.

Oh, by the by, the Library of Congress refuses to recant its legal analysis that states Zelaya was properly removed although exiling him was outside the law.

I'm sure our State Department will really pop the champagne when Zelaya calls on his Venezuelan and Nicaraguan buddies to keep him in office at gunpoint after the November elections are over.

UPDATE: Ok, the title should be something on the order of foxes guarding the hen house, but give me a break. I was born and raised in Detroit. Squirrels and small grey birds are all I know.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal thinks that there is no way Zelaya will be allowed back into office and that this is a victory for the Hondurans and a way for our administration to claim victory and back away from supporting Zelaya over democracy.

I hope so. If the Honduran legislature refuses to reinstate Zelaya, will our State Department continue to support the deal?

Too Sophisticated to Win

One of the psychological defenses our anti-war side uses to rationalize their advocacy of retreat is the comforting illusion that we are doomed to defeat. Urging retreat and defeat under those circumstances isn't cowardly or anti-American, but wise in minimizing losses in a losing effort.

The formerly "good" war in Afghanistan is now getting the nuanced treatment of proclaiming it to be a sure loss if only you understand the war well enough:

America’s unwise, unwarranted, and sadly unwinnable war in Afghanistan—hastily initiated and then abandoned for Iraq by President Barack Obama’s ideologically blinded predecessor and dumped into Obama’s lap in the worst possible way—is beginning increasingly to smell like the 1964-68 war in South Vietnam that swallowed up the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.

Get that? "Sadly unwinnable." Oh, if only Sorensen believed the war winnable! Then he'd go to the gates of Hell to achieve victory. Alas, it is not to be for Sorensen. Add in unwise and unwarranted for the full Monty of retreat advocacy.

Of course, the title to the article gives the game away: "America's Next Unwinnable War." So the last one was Iraq? The one his side says we had to lose? Sadly for him, we won that war. So, no, not iraq. It is Vietnam the author reaches back to as the last unwinnable war. The war we could have won but for the anti-war Left snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by compelling the Ford administration to abandon South Vietnam to the mechanized juggernaut that swept south from Hanoi into Saigon. The war no anti-war Leftist remotely understands, even as they cite it repeatedly as the reason to abandon any fight. That's the war.

We are not doomed to losing Afghanistan any more than we were doomed to lose in Iraq or Vietnam. Strategypage provides some perspective on the poor hand our enemies in Afghanistan are playing--as long as we don't fold and leave our four aces on the table convinced the Taliban have a royal flush:

If you look at this war from the viewpoint of the enemy, things don't look very good at all.

Read it all. And don't let panic--or false sophistication--guide our actions. Our anti-war class knows nothing of war or history, yet pretend to understand war so thoroughly that they know trying to win in Afghanistan (or anywhere, really) is futile.

The war is ours to lose. And God help us, our leaders may very well choose to lose.

Gut Check for the President

David Brooks hits the nail on the head with this article about the key question over Afghanistan (because I've raised them all myself has nothing to do with this judgment, of course). It has nothing to do with troop numbers, really. I believe that troop numbers are an important but not vital question to answer about our war effort. Even strategy is not the biggest question, though it is surely important. No, the vital questions are about President Obama, and defense experts aren't too concerned about the president's choices on strategy and numbers:

But they do not know if he possesses the trait that is more important than intellectual sophistication and, in fact, stands in tension with it. They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.

Their second concern is political. They do not know if President Obama regards Afghanistan as a distraction from the matters he really cares about: health care, energy and education. Some of them suspect that Obama talked himself into supporting the Afghan effort so he could sound hawkish during the campaign. They suspect he is making a show of commitment now so he can let the matter drop at a politically opportune moment down the road.

Finally, they do not understand the president’s fundamental read on the situation. Most of them, like most people who have spent a lot of time in Afghanistan, believe this war is winnable. They do not think it will be easy or quick. But they do have a bedrock conviction that the Taliban can be stymied and that the governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan can be strengthened. But they do not know if Obama shares this gut conviction or possesses any gut conviction on this subject at all.

Bingo. On all three questions.

And while I will not speculate about the motives of a president visiting Dover to see the caskets of our fallen military and civilian personnel coming home from Afghanistan, I do worry that he will use the surely real sorrow he feels for being the man responsible for ordering them to Afghanistan where they died as an excuse to pull back from deciding to win.

I titled this sparse post, "Thus Conscience Does Make Cowards of Us All?" because I want our president to make the fundamental decision to win the war in Afghanistan. All other questions are less important than that basic decision. And the title hits to the concern I have over President Obama's Dover visit. Will he decide to lose our war in Afghanistan--whether quickly or slowly--because the guilt of ordering our best young people to defend us who then die in our defense, is too overwhelming for him to bear?

The president should always be aware of the price real people pay defending our country. But his reaction to that awareness--that guilt even--must not be to hide our troops and refuse to use them to win. Our president must make sure our troops die for a good reason, die for victory, die despite the best training, leaders, and equipment we can provide them, and die knowing that their sacrifice will not be in vain.

If he does those things, our troops--as well as friends, allies, and neutrals--will know that when we go to war, we go to win. That's what presidents are supposed to do.

War is always Hell, whether a "good" war or "bad" war. Soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen will all die, clutching their spilling guts and crying for their mothers; come home mangled physically or psychologically; or bear the burden of wondering if they can be proud of the terrible things they had to do to fight, survive, and win, no matter how the people back home judge their war.

All a president can do is make sure that the Hell our troops endure leads to a better world than it would be without their sacrifice. I just don't know if our president can do this.

Strap In Tight, This Will Get Rough

Victor Hanson has a basic question about our president's foreign policy direction:

Will an inexperienced Barack Obama, in the fashion of Harry Truman, learn quickly that the world is chaotic and unstable—best dealt with through strength and unabashed confidence in America's historic role galvanizing democratic allies to confront illiberal aggressors?

Or will a sermonizing Mr. Obama follow the aberrant Democratic path of the sanctimonious Jimmy Carter: finger-wagging at allies, appeasing enemies, publicly faulting his less than perfect predecessors, and hectoring the American people to evolve beyond their supposed prejudices?

America awaits the president's choice. The world's safety hinges upon it.

I think the answer is clear. I wish the president's instincts were based on amateur status. If so, we'd have hope:

I wish I could say this was amateur hour in the White House. But that would imply that they'll eventually learn. No, this isn't going to get better. What we are seeing is based on ideology that thinks America is almost always wrong and American power is a force for evil.

Only our great national strength will allow us to endure the pain our president's approach will bring.

The question will then be whether the president and his national security team are capable of learning from a beating with the clue bat.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This is Hopeful

As our president works on deciding what to do in Afghanistan, this is the first hopeful sign I've seen in a while:

President Obama has asked senior officials for a province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, information that his advisers say will guide his decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to the battle.

Obama made the request in a meeting Monday with Vice President Biden and a small group of senior advisers helping him decide whether to expand the war. The detail he is now seeking also reflects the administration's turn toward Afghanistan's provincial governors, tribal leaders and local militias as potentially more effective partners in the effort than a historically weak central government that is confronting questions of legitimacy after the flawed Aug. 20 presidential election.

Good. We need to go local and bypass Kabul by understanding that there is no central government capable of running all of Afghanistan. As I wrote 10 months ago:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

The Westphalian impulse to treat only Kabul as the legitimate reperesentative of all that lies within the geography of "Afghanistan" must be ignored to deal with the reality of provinces, valleys, and villages that are their own little worlds with little regard for the foreigners in Kabul.

Not that this focus should be an excuse to abandon defeating the Taliban. The nominal central government's inability to defeat the Taliban should be no excuse for retreating from Afghanistan. Going local should be about learning how to defeat the Taliban with the right tools.

Death and Destruction

While I worry about the failure of the Iraqis to finally squelch al Qaeda in Iraq and their jihadi friends, these attacks themselves won't destroy the Iraqi government at this point.

Stratfor discusses how the size of the attacks shows that the jihadis still have an infrastructure to plan and execute such a big attack as they recently carried out in Baghdad. And that the jihadis live on because they remain a wild card the Sunni Arabs can play to get a better deal from the Shia majority.

While these attacks are deadly and cause personal tragedies, they do not approach the potential of breaking up Iraq in violence the way the Kurdish-Arab divide does:

An Iraqi Kurdish lawmaker says his fellow Kurdish legislators are boycotting a parliament session on a crucial election law needed for the upcoming January balloting.

The election law has been held up over a key issue — whether to use voter lists favoring Kurds or those favoring Arabs in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Both groups seek to control Kirkuk.

The boycott is complicating the country's political deadlock.

The Iraqis need to set the ground rules for their fledgling democracy that removes the option of using violence to advance political objectives.

Getting What They Wanted

The Europeans have complained long and loud about how George W. Bush supposedly just acted without bringing the Europeans on board.

Today, the Europeans are frustrated that America won't make a decision on Afghanistan, according to Der Spiegel:

There is no doubt that hardly a day passes in Europe without criticism of US policy. This has become a trans-Atlantic ritual. But despite this ritual, Europeans are still looking for one thing from the White House: leadership.

We're waiting, Mr. President.

Huh. Relish those three sentences. European criticism of America doesn't much depend on who is in the White House. And Europe needs America to make a decision before the Europeans will do anything.

Again, huh. I guess they'll always be waiting for us to do something or to stop doing something. When they lack the military power to control their own destiny beyond their borders, they'll always complain about America who they rely upon to keep them safe in their giant EuroDisneyland world of soft power and social spending.

Remember What Some of Our Guys Do

Read one part of the October 3rd battle at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan (tip to the Corner).

How can we even think of letting our troops down by deciding to lose?

Blithering Half-Baked Idiots

What is it with our big-brained, nuanced class that they insist on entrenching fantasy history?

Fareed Zakaria, of course, is one of them. I couldn't even get beyond this line in his latest drivel:

Dick Cheney has accused Barack Obama of "dithering" over Afghanistan. I suppose if the president were to quickly invade a country on the basis of half-baked intelligence, that would demonstrate his courage and decisiveness to Mr. Cheney.

I'll not address the dithering issue. What gets me is the charge that President Bush invaded Iraq on the basis of half-baked intelligence. We debated invading Iraq from about the time of the fall of Kabul to fall 2002 when Congress voted to go to war. Then we waited until March to actually attack. That's quickly invading a country?

As for the half-baked intelligence issue, I suggest Mr. Zakaria take that up with the intelligence agencies of all the Western powers who believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. I certainly believed Iraq had chemical weapons and if given time would develop nuclear weapons. I had no idea of the status of biological weapons. We were apparently wrong about the WMD issue, but to suggest this was anything but the best judgment of all the leading intelligence agencies is ludicrous. But this is Fareed Zakaria, so I expect no less.

Lawrence Korb is another leading star in the fantasy-based intelligentsia. Check this out:

If the planning on how to go into Iraq was as good as the planning on how to get out, we would not have created such a big mess in 2003 after we invaded under false pretenses with no plan on what to do the second day we were there.

Ah, the no-planning charge. Plus we invade on a false pretense as Zakaria implies. And we created the mess. First, the Baathists created the mess. They started shooting up the place and called on their jihadi imports to help out. Second, there was no false pretense. The declaration of war on Iraq was based on a whole list of problems with his regime, and WMD was only one (albeit the one we emphasized believing it to be the strongest and most ironclad charge). We were apparently wrong about that charge, but the rest hold true. There was no false pretense.

And we certainly had a plan for the post-war. Heck, we even had a plan to build democracy in Iraq--it was never an after-the-fact justification for invasion after we failed to find new chemical weapons in Iraq. Don't believe me? Read the New York Times, then:

President Bush's national security team is assembling final plans for administering and democratizing Iraq after the expected ouster of Saddam Hussein. Those plans call for a heavy American military presence in the country for at least 18 months, military trials of only the most senior Iraqi leaders and quick takeover of the country's oil fields to pay for reconstruction.

The proposals, according to administration officials who have been developing them for several months, have been discussed informally with Mr. Bush in considerable detail. They would amount to the most ambitious American effort to administer a country since the occupations of Japan and Germany at the end of World War II. With Mr. Bush's return here this afternoon, his principal foreign policy advisers are expected to shape the final details in White House meetings and then formally present them to the president.

Many elements of the plans are highly classified, and some are still being debated as Mr. Bush's team tries to allay concerns that the United States would seek to be a colonial power in Iraq. But the broad outlines show the enormous complexity of the task in months ahead, and point to some of the difficulties that would follow even a swift and successful removal of Mr. Hussein from power, including these: ...

Huh. Plans. Who knew?

The problem isn't that we didn't plan. The problem is that our plan didn't survive contact with the enemy. Our assumptions were wrong.

So to review. We had many reasons to overthrow the Saddam regime. Indeed, there was bi-partisan consensus that Saddam had to go until about early 2004.

We may not have found WMD in Iraq, but Saddam was hardly innocent and not even the current anti-Iraq War people believe he was innocent. I don't think we've written the final chapter on that issue, in any case.

One of our assumptions for the post-war that didn't hold was that we could use a de-Baathified Iraqi army to police a largely peaceful Iraq. But the Iraqi army self-disbanded during the war.

That was one of many assumptions that didn't hold--but that's a far cry from saying we didn't have ideas about what would happen after we won the conventional war. Did you read that Times article?

The anti-war side tosses in these falsehoods as casual asides hoping nobody will notice the lie as they move on to the main issue of the article. By this tactic they hope to change the history. But the archives remain. And the truth is still there if we will remember it.

Shame on Zakaria and Korb. They're free to disagree over policy, but revising the facts of history is dishonest. Indeed, it's half-baked

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Learning About Taiwan

Knowledge can be used for good or evil.

Chinese espionage targeting Taiwan just got a little easier:

Taiwan has relaxed rules for Chinese media, long regarded as spy organizations for the Communist government, as relations warm between the two long-time political rivals, officials said on Wednesday.

Effective immediately, Chinese media, which include state-run giants such as Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television, can increase staff from two to five people apiece and travel to any part of Taiwan or its outlying islands, officials said.

Expect a multi-part series on the bridges, tunnels, and other chokepoints of Taiwan. Plus a nice picnic show in the wildflower fields just outside the Patriot missile batteries southwest of Taipei.

This article is a little more hopeful. Although it starts with a gross misreading of the cross-strait tensions:

AFTER only 18 months as President of Taiwan, Harvard-educated lawyer Ma Ying-jeou has become a hero figure across Asia, in the wider Chinese world and in Washington and Tokyo, for defusing tensions that for decades threatened war with China across the Taiwan strait.

Good grief. China still wants to own Taiwan. That hasn't changed. What has changed is that Ma pretends not to notice that China's smiles barely conceal growing military power directed at Taiwan. Pretending your enemy is not your enemy is not the same as defusing tensions. If it was, sticking its head in the sand would be a fine protective measure for Ostriches.

What is hopeful is this part of the article:

"Our factories are still going to China, and Ma lets them go. He gives our jobs to mainland Chinese. I lost my job too, as a tour guide." Taiwan recently started letting Chinese visit as tourists. They are now arriving at the rate of almost 400,000 a year. At first, they were expected to spend big in Taipei's famous night markets, but now the pattern is set: they stay in their hotel rooms at night, sitting agog in front of TV screens, dazzled by the spectrum of energetically and freely expressed views, and especially by the public criticism of the government.

It is hopeful that Taiwanese aren't reliant on increased Chinese tourist spending. That isn't panning out. So the mainland isn't pulling Taiwan into its orbit economically quite as much as Peking surely hoped.

And what is really hopeful is that the Chinese tourists (well, just the actual tourists and not the short-haired softball teams that "tour" Taiwan) sit agog in front of their TV screens at night, taking in the freedom to criticize their own government. I have to believe that taking that knowledge back to the mainland won't be good for the communist party overlords in the long run.

When the PLA learns more about Taiwan, that's bad for Taiwan. When Chinese civilians learn about Taiwan, that's bad for China.

Going to School

Secretary Gates wants military-to-military exchanges with China to get on a sound, continuous footing.

I remain dumbfounded that we think the Chinese will learn to fear tangling with our military when all we will do is allow the PLA leaders to believe they've found ways to exploit perceived and actual vulnerabilities.

These exchanges are madness. They won't learn what we want to teach them.

Ten Stalingrads

Lord knows I'm all in favor of setting an objective and strategy for the war in Afghanistan. But the objective shouldn't be to run away a little and hope nobody notices.

This "strategy" smacks of idiocy:

Obama's advisers, after weeks of in-depth meetings, are coalescing around a strategy aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers in Afghanistan, The New York Times said.

The strategy would fall short of a full counter-insurgency strategy against the Taliban and other elements but still seek to foster stability, the newspaper said, quoting unnamed senior officials.

Stressing the president had yet to make a decision, the Times said the debate was not about whether to send more troops but how many more would be needed to safeguard most vital parts of the country.

The report mentioned four brigades, of about 4,500 troops each, that might form part of the new strategy. Cities meriting protection would include Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat and Jalalabad, the Times said.

We can't just sit in the cities. What do we do? How will we run even supply convoys through the countryside to the cities? Hah. We'll abandon the roads (which will be filled with IEDs, rendering them useless to civilians) to the borders and fly everything in to airports at those cities? Make every urban resident a ward of the international community reliant on hand outs because no trade is possible with the countryside or even other cities?

And if we abandon the people outside the cities, we doom them to making peace with the terrorists who will reach the edges of the cities to rocket the cities and airbases in a continuing reminder to all that they dominate the cities. Our enemies will have virtually all of Afghanistan as their safe haven.

What will we do then? Declare the countryside a free-fire zone to bombard at will to kill rapidly regenerated Taliban gunmen? That will make friends, huh? Now it's starting to sound like the Soviet strategy. But we'll try it with only one or two battalions per city.

And kiss our caveated allies goodbye since I hardly think they'll want to take up garrison duties in one of those enclaves where they'll be expected to hold the perimeter against constant skirmishing.

Plus, for those dismayed at the time it takes us to build the Afghan security forces, we'll make it far more difficult than it already is to build Afghan security forces because we'll be accepting the status of a besieged force on the defensive. It will look like just an interim step to running away completely.

Look, much of the debate over what to do in Afghanistan seems to center around the idea that we face formidable enemies who are so tough to defeat that we'd best look for ways to avoid trying to defeat them. This is ridiculous. Our enemies are trying to scare us:

What the Taliban, and especially the drug gangs, want to do is use the foreign troops casualties to persuade the foreign governments to remove those troops. The main reason for all this is to enable the drug gangs to keep manufacturing (via growing and processing poppy plants) heroin. This has made many Afghans (mainly Pushtuns) unimaginably wealthy (not hard to do in the poorest nation in Eurasia). While the Taliban have illusions about ruling Afghanistan again, the majority of Afghans (especially the 60 percent who are not Pushtun) want none of that, and have the guns and determination to get their way. But with the foreign troops gone, the drug gangs can buy the cooperation of most warlords, politicians and tribal leaders in the country.

While the drug gangs are rich, they are not a military match for the foreign troops. So they are basically running a propaganda game on the foreign governments providing those troops. The deaths of those foreign troops are made to look like the harbinger of some military apocalypse. So while the Taliban and drug gangs are losing militarily, they are winning the mind games.

The enemy tries to scare us. And luckily for our enemies, too many of our leaders are pre-scared. They want to run from Afghanistan. That's their real objective. And they'll settle for running just a little ways right now as long as they know they can continue the great skedaddle after the 2010 Congressional elections.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Year of the Trojan Horse?

The Chinese know our military is bigger and better than their military. Yet they assume they'll eventually have to tangle with us before they can hope to match our raw military power. So what to do?

Outsmart us:

China plans to disrupt the American military, not destroy it. China takes for granted that they will be on the defensive, and forced to deal mainly with American air and naval forces. Methods discussed include attacks via the Internet (hacking and such) and electronic warfare (jamming and deceptions). China has been very active in controlling its domestic Internet users, and an increasing number of hacker attacks on U.S. military targets are being traced back to China. There, the government denies everything. Yet their professional journals talk about all the opportunities in this area. There are similar discussions of electronic warfare opportunities.

Remember, that in the main scenario China envisions for fighting America, China doesn't need to defeat America--just slow us down while the Chinese invade and defeat Taiwan.

Could the Chinese infect enough of our weapon and command and contol systems to shatter our confidence--at least in the short run--in all of our forces?

Despite a six-year effort to build trusted computer chips for military systems, the Pentagon now manufactures in secure facilities run by American companies only about 2 percent of the more than $3.5 billion of integrated circuits bought annually for use in military gear.

That shortfall is viewed with concern by current and former United States military and intelligence agency executives who argue that the menace of so-called Trojan horses hidden in equipment circuitry is among the most severe threats the nation faces in the event of a war in which communications and weaponry rely on computer technology.

If American forces begin to maneuver to strike Chinese naval forces poised between our naval/air forces and Taiwan while other Chinese forces invade the island democracy, and some of our weapon systems and command and control gear start going loopy, what will we do?

Will we continue to advance and risk that more systems will fail at critical times in combat? Or will we pull back to figure out what happened? And then watch Taiwan fall while we do that. Will we counter-attack Chinese force dug in on a conquered Taiwan once we've secured our chips weeks or months later?

Remember, if China attacks Taiwan, they'll do so expecting to win despite their inferiority in combat power. Some factor will be the key they believe will allow them to win.

Is this potential chip integrity problem something that Peking thinks will slow us down enough to win?

The Friends He Keeps

Zelaya counts on leftist friends to leverage him back into the presidential palace in Honduras.

One of those friends, in addition to Venezuela's nutcase ruler Chavez, has decided to do what Zelaya tried to do--extend his term of office with questionable means:

Leftist President Daniel Ortega appears to have won the right to seek re-election in 2011, though opponents call the decision illegal and vow to fight it.

The constitutional commission of the Supreme Court on Monday overturned a ban on consecutive re-election and on serving more than two terms, and the head of the Nicaragua's electoral commission said the ruling is final.

Only members of Ortega's Sandinista party took part in the ruling by the heavily politicized court.

But the president of the Supreme Court, a member of the opposition Liberal Party, refused to recognize the decision on Tuesday.

Effing communists will stab you in the back every time. Voting is just a means to achieve power, and Ortega may find voting quieter than shooting to stay in office, but he'll make it just as permanent if he gets away with this.

This should be a lesson to the Hondurans--do not under any circumstances allow Zelaya back into the presidency no matter how "temporary" it is supposed to be.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Be Still My Heart

The Europeans seem downright worried that we will retreat from the pursuit of victory in Afghanistan:

During a trip to Germany and the Czech Republic earlier this month, I was surprised to find that many of the Europeans I spoke to seemed more cognizant than the Obama administration of how important it was to commit the resources necessary to win in Afghanistan.

This has not always been the case. The Bush administration tried repeatedly to obtain increased troop commitments from NATO allies and was often rebuffed. The soldiers that were sent were often of limited utility because of political restrictions placed on the areas they would deploy to as well as their rules of engagement.

In its nine months in office, the Obama administration has been unable to turn the president’s vaunted popularity in much of the world into major new international commitments of troops. Now, just as the president is publicly agonizing over what the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan should be, some European leaders seem willing to consider making increased commitments to Afghanistan.

Is it possible that President Obama is playing good cop, bad cop with our European allies over Afghanistan?

Lord knows I worry that our president is looking for any excuse to retreat. But is he still committed to winning but using his Left base and VP Biden as the bad cops to persuade Europeans to step up lest we run away? "Gosh Europe, I'd love to fight in Afghanistan. But my base wants me to run, and I don't know how I can send more troops in the face of that kind of opposition when you won't send more."

Given that European public opinion is even more against the war than our people, that seems risky. But who knows? I have to at least contemplate the possibility that our president is leveraging European help.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Progressive Logic Condemns Them All

I continue to be shocked that after 8 years of battling Islamic jihadis, much of the progressive world in the West can't bring itself to say aloud that Moslem terrorists are at war with us (and by "us" I mean anyone who is not a nutball jihadist--including the clear majority of Moslems who provide most of the victims of the jihadis). Sundry "youths" of this or that geographic place may be identified as the rioters or killers or beheaders or car torchers, but the religion is strangely not mentioned that often.

The reason, of course, is that our betters fear that the unwashed masses clinging to God and guns will get all riled up, grab a jug of 'shine and their favorite shotgun from Uncle Festus (who died defending his still in the Great Revenuer Raid of '97, God bless his soul), and go out for a fun night of Musselman Shootin'. Using the word "Moslem" might give our peasantry the idea that all Moslems are bombing and killing and celebrating our deaths. It reads better (and would run to 200 foot-noted pages) if written by a highly educated ethnic studies major, but that's the main point.

But that is insane logic. By this reasoning, our progressives are saying that any Moslem will be offended by noting that a particular Moslem is a jihadi motivated by their twisted view of Islam. And it assumes that our people are unable to distinguish the crimes and atrocities of a small subset of a group from the entire group--notwithstanding the fact that the American people have not retaliated against Moslems since 9/11 (or since the Persian Gulf War of 1991, for that matter, when the fear of "reprisals" against Moslem Arabs over our first war with Iraq was raised).

By failing to finger particular killers as Moslem--when it is pretty clear the killers are Moslem jihadis--our progressive media elites cannot fail to leave the impression with at least some viewers or readers that it is a touchy subject because any Moslem must naturally identify with particular criminal Moslems rather than being repulsed by what one nutball has done in all Moslems' names. It's like the media's refusal to see any member of the developing world as "authentic" unless they spew anti-American venom.

And by making jihad sympathy the default view of all Moslems, our media makes it difficult for non-violent Moslems to speak out publicly and consistently against the jihadis and marginalize them.

Our media and progressive elites believes it is dangerous to all Moslems to identify the people we fight as drawing their inspiration to kill us from Islam (albeit their twisted version of it). But their refusal to identify this subset simply tars all Moslems as complicit in the killing. We're not at war with all of Islam. Moslems are suffering the vast majority of the casualties from jihadi violence, for Pete's sake. But by their silence on the "M-word," our media and progressive elites don't seem to really believe that.

Semi-Post Bleh

I wrapped up pretty well to take Mister to the Penn State game:

Actually, that was from the Delaware State game (as you can tell from the score board), but it was too rainy for me to take pictures yesterday. And the wrap-up level was about the same (minus the rain gear we took yesterday), so it's good enough for blogging.

About the best thing I can say about the game is that I didn't relapse because of sitting in the cold and rain. I actually felt better at the end of the game then at the beginning. But Mister got pretty cold, so we left with maybe five minutes to go.

We never do that. I figure the team should see fans no matter what. But his feet got wet ... So we beat the rush and went home to get hot food.

Actually, the best thing I can say is that I had a good outing with my son. That's always pretty good. If we keep doing that for decades to come, I'm just fine with that.

And today, as I promised Lamb we'd do before her birthday this week, we went to Build-a-Bear where Lamb built Pinky (after Mister bought a couple books to occupy him--he loves Dilbert and Calvin and Hobbes). This was Lamb's first time, and she loves her new "pet" that she built. they even put a heart inside the creature before sewing it up. The sales woman was very nice with Lamb.

And a unicorn bed. Of course. She really liked making her "bear" and filling out the birth certificate they printed out.

And no health relapse for me yet. I'm just relieved Lamb didn't pick the Hello Kitty creature. I'm reasonbly sure that would have induced projectile vomiting.

Then we finished up the trip with Icees and came home. A nice weekend, after all, despite my worries of pulling it off.

Troop Numbers Again

As I said, I'm ambivilant about the surge question. The bottom line is that I support the military's request for more troops notwithstanding my many worries. So the question is, can we win with those troops? Let's look at the data with my amateur number-crunching again.

Looking at the regions of Afghanistan, the capital district (3.5 million people) is fairly secure but critical so let's allocate the assumed minimum of 2% troop strength compared to the local population, for 70,000 security forces to secure the area.

Regional Command East (7-10 million) and Regional Command South (3.2 million) total 12 million people for this example. With extra troops needed to interdict the border, let's call it as needing 2.5%, or 300,000 troops at the high end. But if we are pulling back from the border, 2% might do, or 240,000 security forces.

Regional Command West (3 million people) and Regional Command North (7 million) are not peaceful, but let's assume a level that I assumed for the Shia south in Iraq and call it 1%, or 100,000 troops in these areas. Maybe we could get by with only 0.5%, or 50,000, since we don't face the equivalent of the Iran-backed Sadrists in those areas.

So we'd need 410,000 troops for a proper counter-insurgency campaign in the populated areas.

Maybe 360,000 would be enough, however. Especially if Pakistan controls their side of the border.

Or maybe we'd need 470,000 if we want to interdict the border seriously from the Afghanistan side.

So what do we have?

Right now we have 68,000 on the ground or to be there soon.

Add in about 32,000 other Western troops.

For the rest, let's say 85,000 Afghan army and 82,000 national police.

Interesting enough, we can throw in 71,000 contract security personnel, too. I'd never read anything until recently on this force.

I have no idea if there are many reliable local police. I assume from everything I've read that the answer is "no."

The total is about 340,000 security personnel.

Are you telling me that we can't get 20,000 more security personnel from local defense forces or regional defense forces for the minimal number? Or even 70,000 for the middle number if we really focused? I think we had Sons of Iraq in those numbers. And our program didn't count Kurdish Pesh Merga, so we should get up to 130,000 militia type local defense forces or regional defense forces to supplement national security forces, shouldn't we, if we needed the high number?

It is also quite possible that we don't need as many troops in the higher threat areas as the percentages I assign them. The Afghanistan insurgents and terrorists aren't as well armed or financed as those in Iraq were. We may be able to get by with lower ratios in some or all of the regions.

Remember, just as in Iraq, many of the forces can be glorified security guards. As long as better quality units are on call, which can call on even better quality troops if needed, plus our firepower and advisors, we can get the numbers to wage a proper counter-insurgency strategy.

Certainly we can't get all those indigenous forces at once, which is surely why our military wants 40,000 (or 60,000 or 80,000--or even just 30,000--if some reports of actual wishes are credible) more US troops, so we can buy time for training locals.

But even without a surge of forces, we aren't doomed to lose the war. We could start proper counter-insurgency in smaller areas that are critical to the enemy and expand from those areas once they are tamped down.

But given the speed our leaders are losing heart and the wholly predictable desertion of Democrats from the so-called "good war" now that they don't need it as a cudgel to lose the "bad" Iraq War (because we won there) I can fully understand why our military wouldn't want to count on the patience to muddle through in Afghanistan.

I always thought that with patience, we could have muddled through in Iraq without the American surge. But since patience might have required us to still be supporting the Iraqis in fighting the insurgents and terrorists rather than just mopping up a much-reduced enemy today, in retrospect that probably would not have worked given the 2006 and 2008 US election results. And at the time, given the situation, I backed that surge despite what I thought was a risk to losing domestic support here faster than we could achieve results. In the end, our surge did produce results faster than heightened American casualties eroded support back home.

And on the positive side, my back-of-the-envelope numbers for Afghanistan seem to indicate that a surge of just 40,000 should be enough to defeat our enemies in Afghanistan despite the conventional wisdom that we'd need 600,000 security forces to control Afghanistan. And Pakistan is fighting on their side of the border, so there is hope there.

So again, despite my concerns, I back the proposed surge and will hope my worries don't come to pass.

UPDATE: This story puts the Afghan security forces at 200,000, or about 30,000 more than I thought:

There are already more than 100,000 international troops in Afghanistan working with 200,000 Afghan security forces and police. It adds up to a 12-1 numerical advantage over Taliban rebels, but it hasn't led to anything close to victory.

The story puts the Taliban at 25,000. What I don't know is if this is the total or just the estimated full timers. As a rule, if memory serves me, you can probably count on 9 part-timers (who may observe, supply, shelter, and sometimes fight) for every full-timer. So are we talking a pool of 250,000 total Taliban or 2,500 full-time fighters in the field at any one time? I suspect the former.

This is simply not an insurmountable force to defeat, assuming the people generally support us and we have the patience to fight long enough to train locals to fight instead of our troops.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Clod Warriors

Twenty years after we won the Cold War, this (from 2004--and a tip to Instapundit) is a useful look back at the apologists for the Soviets and all things communist.

And this is too true:

As Haynes and Klehr note, the world's final redoubt of communism is not Havana or Pyongyang but American college campuses: "The nostalgic afterlife of communism in the United States has outlived most of the real Communist regimes around the world....A sizable cadre of American intellectuals now openly applaud and apologize for one of the bloodiest ideologies of human history, and instead of being treated as pariahs, they hold distinguished positions in American higher education and cultural life."

Communists were (and are) disgusting monsters, and I never understood why any Westerner would defend them. I undestood that basic truth when I was ten years old, for God's sake, yet there are many educated fools who still deny the evil in the system they love. No amount of evidence will sway them. We'll always be the bad guys in their tales of the Cold War.

And I firmly believe that it was only our military victory against the Iraqi replica of the Red Army in 1991 that prevented these apologists from portraying us as something other than the victor of the Cold War:

The Persian Gulf War was more than the liberation of Kuwait. We learned we beat a second-rate military power, but by smashing a scaled down replica of the Red Army, America really beat the USSR by proxy. The Gulf War was the military victory that confirmed the end of the Cold War as a decisive Western victory. With the obvious domination of American ground and air power culminating in the 100-hour ground war, no revivalist Russian nationalist can argue that the West did not really beat the Soviet Union.

Victory also reassured Americans that we won the Cold War--we did not merely falter last in an exhausting struggle between two teetering systems. Victory made America a "hyper power" feared or envied. Without the military victory of the Persian Gulf War, we may have viewed ourselves as lucky survivors of that struggle rather than the victors who dominate the globe. Remember that the fall of the Berlin Wall took place scant years after the argument was made by Professor Paul Kennedy that America was a declining power burdened by "imperial overstretch."

But our Leftists will still try to portray the Soviets as the good guys who lost--or at least as the misunderstood idealists who just got a little cranky.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Damage Control

While I still think that on the merits of missile defense, the decision to scrap the Bush-era plan for the Obama plan is a mistake, I'm glad that the administration seems to have reassured our new NATO allies that they aren't outside our defense perimeter:

Warsaw and some in Prague were also stung because the new system would give them reduced roles, a disheartening prospect because they counted on Bush's plan to tie their security destinies closer to the U.S., which is still viewed as the only credible guarantor of stability as Russia grows more assertive.

But those fears seem to have dispersed with Biden's stops this week in Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic.

Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Biden appeared to achieve Washington's objective of reaffirming U.S. interest in Central Europe.

"The Biden trip was principally an effort to calm nerves and to reassure countries of Central Europe that the U.S. was not losing interest and pursuing rapprochement with Russia at their expense," Kupchan said.

So kudos for successful damage control. Still, there was damage to control. With such big-brained, nuanced thinkers at the White House, you'd think we could have discussed the replacement plan with our allies before making the midnight call to cancel the original plan.


Stratfor has an interesting take on Afghanistan.

Strategypage, too, has good information.

I'm ambivilant about the right approach to winning. I don't think our approach has been a failure. I don't think the enemy is winning. I don't think that we must start to obviously win in the next year with 40,000 more US troops or we are doomed to defeat.

And I'm very worried about putting too many troops into landlocked Afghanistan, where we rely on Pakistan and Russia for the security of our supply lines.

I'm also very worried about whether President Obama--pushed by his Left base both in and out of Congress--will stay the course long enough to win.

But the Afghan Taliban are hardly that formidable. They're simply not as good as the Iraqi terrorists and insurgents that we beat. The Afghan enemies rely on drug money that is vulnerable to being stopped if we occupy the drug-growing regions.

On the other hand, the Afghan insurgents aren't as atomized as our enemy was in Iraq. Iraqi insurgents rarely struck in anything larger than a platoon-sized attack (30-50 men). Afghan insurgents have attacked in small battalion strength (several hundred men). That means that spreading out in Afghanistan risks outposts being overrun unless we can respond quickly with troops and firepower.

So we can beat them even if we risk some small-scale disasters (a platoon or company outpost being overrun) that our enemy will hope cracks our will to fight. And I think we can beat them with the troops committed using a more appropriate strategy as long as we build up Afghan national forces and local defense forces--assuming we stay long enough to achieve that increase in numbers.

But I worry that not escalating our troop strength to bridge the gap in troop numbers that locals will eventually need to provide will signal to Pakistan that we aren't serious about winning. Which could lead the Pakistanis to pull back from defeating the jihadis on their side of the border.

The bottom line, as I've expressed before, is that I support our military's request for more troops notwithstanding my worries and beliefs about what we can do in theory without more troops.

Once again, I worry about whether we have the patience to win; and it is probably a wise gamble to try and win faster before our national patience either wears out or appears to our allies and enemies to wear out.

From Nonsense to Likely in Only Four Years

Four years ago, I sparked some derision in the blogosphere with my (it would have been nice if the biggest blogger to attack my guess had at least gotten my name right...) argument that China was getting ready to invade Taiwan with a fast blitz designed to win before we could intervene (and part of China's strategy would be to delay our intervention by posing a threat to our fleet charging in).

I wrote that if I was in charge of China, I'd invade on the eve of the Peking Olympics. Obviously, China did not invade last year. Despite reports then of a crash-building program for their navy, that hasn't happened. Just as obviously, I'm not in charge of China. But my invasion scenario featured a missile barrage as a key door opener for the Chinese assault. I still stand by the broad outlines of that scenario.

Yet only a year after the time I stated that I'd try to conquer Taiwan (remember, I wasn't arguing that China had the capacity in 2005 but that they were quickly gaining the ability to invade), the Taiwanese are convinced China's missile arsenal could allow China to get ashore in a blitz of airborne and amphibious attackers:

There are various Chinese targeting strategies, and defensive moves the Taiwanese could take. In most cases, Taiwanese planners now believe that the Chinese could succeed. The barrage of missiles can do serious damage to Taiwanese air and naval forces, giving Chinese air and naval forces an opportunity to get ground forces ashore.

Taiwan appears ready to redress their defense deficiencies. Will they repair the damage done by a decade of standing still while China raced ahead in their capabilities before China decides to go?

Taiwan needs to take this threat seriously notwithstanding the mainland's charm offensive. Four years ago, a Chinese invasion was a "million-man swim." Today, Taiwan worries China could pull it off. What might the balance look like in four more years?

I Stand Corrected

I wrote that the Europeans love our president because they assume he won't press them to do more in Afghanistan.

I guess President Obama improved our standing in Europe so much that the Europeans are now more supportive of our official Afghanistan strategy outlined by the president in the spring than we are:

At a meeting of 28 NATO defense ministers in Bratislava, Gates said he did not seek specific promises of military assistance, and none was given. He described, however, "a renewed determination to see this through."

"There were a number of allies who indicated they were thinking about, or were moving toward, increasing either their military or their civilian contributions, or both," Gates said at a news conference. "And I found that very heartening."

He praised NATO nations for already doubling the number of troops they have sent to Afghanistan over the last 15 months. "People really have been stepping up to this," Gates said.

Gates also sought to assure allies that the United States also will remain in the fight, despite the Obama administration's ongoing indecision over a war strategy.

It's kind of humorous in a sick I-wish-this-wasn't-about-our-safety sort of way.

Perhaps it's just the old curse of the Europeans getting what they wished for?


Home today fending off the virus that struck me last Sunday. Swine flu? How the heck would I know? I'm a friggin' history major. And I'm not going to go to a doctor to wait in an office amidst God knows what viruses only to be told to rest and drink fluids. Unless I start coughing up green flecks of lung material, this is just a virus to ride out on my own.

Not the worst virus I've ever had, but it sure is persistent. I thought I was on the mend Wednesday morning and went to work--bad call. Thursday morning I felt worse than ever. Today, I feel better than yesterday.

I probably could have gone to work. But I thought that Wednesday, too. What the heck, I have 14-1/2 weeks of sick time accumulated. Why not use some of it? Besides, Mister is awfully worried that I won't be able to take him to the Penn State game tomorrow. I promised him I would, so I'll stay home and recuperate some more to build up a cushion of health to lose at a rainy, cold football game.

And then the next day I'll take Lamb to Build-a-Bear Workshop so she can, well, build a bear, of course. Our birthday is coming up and I promised her this would be one of her presents.

And add in another bleh--Yahoo!Geocities is shutting down Monday. This weekend I need to scour my files there to make sure I saved everything I want. I'm sure I have 95%, but I'd hate to miss something I later find I really want.

So, like losing the revolving globe here that previously resided on that site, I'll lose my fancy borders. And several links on the side bar to pages on the first generation TDR site. So soon I'll probably just go to a different template.

Not that I'm complaining. Y!G was great (and free) for many years. I had stuff there for over a decade, I think. And management gracefully gave me lots of advanced warning they are closing. So thanks to them for the good years, despite my complaints of dealing with the closure.

And I'm way behind in cutting and pasting archives from the old site into this site. So lots of old stuff will be gone until I hopefully add it here over the next year. And many links will just be dead. I doubt I'll ever try to fix those.

Which brings up another problem. I have well over 5,000 posts already--which is apparently the limit the dashboard will show me. Like I said. Bleh. Maybe a new template will solve that? (He writes hopefully)

To avoid a complete whine-fest, enjoy the Man Cold video:

I am really going to hate this winter.

Not that I'm complaining--much. But I won't turn down any sympathetic "poor little bunny" messages.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sound Track for a Coup Leader

Zelaya attempted to subvert the Honduran constitution and Brazil is colluding with Zelaya by giving him sanctuary in their embassy. The interim Honduran government is obviously unhappy with both--and they're showing their displeasure:

Ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who is holed up with a group of 30 supporters at the Brazilian Embassy in Honduras, complained Wednesday about loud music blasted by soldiers posted around the diplomatic compound.

Soldiers "are using powerful sound systems that can be heard from 20 blocks away. ... We can't fall asleep," Zelaya told a news conference.

Army chief of staff Gen. Romeo Vazquez denied claims of harassment, saying the all-night broadcast was a "serenade" intended to celebrate the country's Armed Forces day holiday.

For a wannabe dictator, Zelaya is proving to be quite the wuss. Everyone knows it isn't torture until the Up With People theme is played.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Appearance of a Breakthrough

Iran is supposedly about to offer a major concession by accepting our offer to ship Iran's low enriched Uranium out of Iran for enrichment elsewhere:

Iranian negotiators on Wednesday expressed support for a deal that — if accepted by their leaders — would delay Tehran's ability to make nuclear weapons by sending most of its existing enriched uranium to Russia for processing, diplomats said.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said that representatives of Iran and its three interlocutors — the U.S., Russia and France — had accepted the draft for forwarding to their capitals. ElBaradei said he hoped for approval from all four countries by Friday.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's chief delegate, praised the draft, saying it was "on the right track," while emphasizing that senior Iranian officials in Tehran still had to sign off on it.

By taking the Uranium out of Iran's hands, it is thought, we prevent them from diverting it to weapons use while out of Iran.

Of course, the Iranian "concession" may be nothing of the sort:

Since you're probably not a regular reader of the trade publication Nucleonics Week, let me summarize an article that appeared in its Oct. 8 issue. It reported that Iran's supply of low-enriched uranium -- the potential feedstock for nuclear bombs -- appears to have certain "impurities" that "could cause centrifuges to fail" if the Iranians try to boost it to weapons grade.

If true, that means Iran gets the West to repair their impure Uranium for civilian use while allowing Iran the option to take a year to replace the Uranium sent out of Iran with low enriched Uranium that won't threaten their centrifuges.

With Iran and ElBaradei (or am I being redundant?) agreeing this is the "right track," there's no reason to worry we'll sign on to the appearance of progress rather than admit that talking has failed, right?

Face it, we're screwed. Iran will pretend to stop seeking nuclear weapons and we'll happily pretend to believe them if it means we can avoid a tough decision on how to stop Iran.

UPDATE: Interesting:

Iran on Friday failed to accept a U.N.-drafted plan that would ship most of the country's uranium abroad for enrichment, saying instead it would prefer to buy the nuclear fuel it needs for a reactor that makes medical isotopes.

So what's Iran's game? Avoiding agreeing too easily to make it seem like sending impure low-enriched Uranium abroad for enriching is an actual concession to us?

Or are they greedy and confident enough to believe we'll offer concessions to get them to agree to a proposal that benefits Iran?

Can We Get There From Here?

The Poles are putting on a smiley face over their new role in ballistic missile defense:

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk welcomed the U.S. proposal for a missile shield that would replace a bulkier version previously planned for Poland.

"I want to stress that Poland views ... the new configuration for the missile shield as very interesting, necessary, and we are ready at the appropriate scale to participate," Tusk said at a news conference with Biden.

But I don't get how this will work:

Under Obama's new missile defense plan, U.S. Navy ships equipped with anti-missile weapons — such as the Navy's Standard Missile-3 — would form a front line of defense in the eastern Mediterranean. Those would be combined with land-based anti-missile systems to be placed on shore in Europe.

I don't understand how that will work. The SM-3 has a radius of 500 kilometers. Putting ships with SM-3s in the eastern Mediterranean would certainly help defend Israel, but how would we protect anybody but Turkey in NATO? To hit missiles coming in to eastern Europe, we'd need ships in all the seas adjacent to Europe (and still have gaps to be filled with land-based sites).

Deploying in the eastern Med., we'd have to hit any missile launched from Iran to eastern Europe as it went up before it reached an altitude above the SM-3's maximum height of 250 kilometers.

I suppose putting ships in the eastern Mediterranean and southeastern Black Sea could provide coverage. But our ships can't linger in Black Sea for long due to treaties. Why not just put land-based SM-3 missiles in Turkey to hit Iranian missiles as they go up?

I just don't see how the SM-3-based defense of Europe is superior to the original BMD plan.

And don't forget that the original BMD plan would let us hit future Iranian ICBMs heading for the US--something the European-based SM-3 can't handle.

Look, I'm no missile expert and I'm just basing this on quick research. I look forward to seeing DOD documents that explain exactly how this plan is to work. Maybe within its assumption parameters it works just fine.

But even then, the new plan still doesn't address the defense of the continental United States from Iran.

UPDATE: This version of the story has this:

Russian retired Gen. Viktor Yesin, the former chief of staff of the Russian military's Strategic Missile Forces, said Russia's reaction to the new missile defense plan will likely be calm unless the U.S. takes what he called provocative moves.

He said Moscow would certainly be angered if the U.S. were to send navy ships with interceptor missiles to the Black Sea or put a missile defense radar in Georgia.

Perhaps I'm not the only one wondering about how ships in the Eastern Med. are sufficient to protect eastern Europe.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Don't Forget Phase Four

The Pakistanis hope to smash the Taliban in South Waziristan very quickly:

Army officers said their strategy was to use fighter jets and helicopter gunships to defeat the militants within the next two weeks.

They said they hoped to use overwhelming force to ensure the campaign did not drift into the winter or turn into a drawn-out guerrilla war.

No doubt it would be nice if the Pakistani military could inflict crippling casualties on the Taliban while they are initially willing to stand and fight. I have no doubt that Pakistani troops can rapidly reach their geographic objectives.

But I don't think the three-week offensive crushes the Taliban. Enough will survive to carry on and the Pakistanis won't be spared a winter campaign to suppress the Taliban and defeat them over time.

The Pakistanis can't replace persistence with firepower if they truly intend to exert enough control to prevent jihadis from using the area as a sanctuary to attack Pakistani cities and Afghanistan.

This might be just another traditional punitive expedition designed just to cow the unfriendly tribes for a year or two.

Sword and Shield

Vice President Biden was sent to Poland to reassure our new allies next to Russia that being in NATO protects them, even without our original missile defense systems:

Biden's two-day visit to Poland will be followed by stops in Romania and the Czech Republic. The visit is seen by the Polish public and leaders as "mainly about damage control and trying to make up for mistakes," said Bartosz Wisniewski, a foreign policy analyst with the Polish Institute of International Affairs.

Obama in September scrapped Bush's plans to put missile defense interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic, a system intended to shoot down long-range missiles from Iran. ...

Poles were also dismayed that Obama announced his plans for a reconfigured missile defense system on Sept. 17, the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland at the start of World War II — timing that signaled to them a lack of sensitivity.

Kulesa said that with Biden's visit, "The Americans are clearly trying to cover over the disastrous impression made by the manner in which the Americans presented their change to the missile defense on Sept. 17th."

I don't think that REBIDPOL (REturn of BIDen to POLand) is enough to reassure the Poles (and Czechs, and Baltic states) of our resolve. We need more, like a REFORPOL program like our old REFORGER program, that will allow NATO to put a corps into Poland faster than Russia could invade:

As I advocated over a year ago, I think NATO should pre-position brigade sets of heavy armor in southern Poland, in a manner that we did in West Germany with our REturn of FORces to GERmany (REFORGER) program. We kept the equipment for a number of brigades in Germany so all we had to do was fly in the troops of a CONUS-based (continental United States) similar unit. If we, the British, and the Germans participated, it would reassure eastern Europeans that NATO help was close enough to matter. I called it REFORPOL.

Not that I really expect Russia to take that step, by why take chances? Who knows what the Russians might decide in a crisis if we leave them the opportunity to strike? And if Belorus reunites with Russia, warning time will drop considerably.

Already, we're deploying troops to Romania and Bulgaria:

The United States is building two new bases in Eastern Europe. One, in Romania, is costing $50 million while another, costing $60 million, is in Bulgaria. The base in Romania will be home for 1,500 American troops, while the one in Bulgaria will hold 2,500. The Romanian base will open this year, the one in Bulgaria will be activated in 2-3 years.

The purpose of these bases is to function as a staging area to deploy American troops into the eastern part of the arc of crisis extending from Gibralter to Central Asia.

Strategypage doesn't address it here, but these bases will host rotating Stryker units sent in to train. Plus we'll get lots of experience moving units east.

I'll admit that deploying heavy armor to Poland would be too provocative to Russia and stoke their already raging paranoia. But light troops pose no offensive threat to Russia and would reassure Poles. And stored equipment would allow us to rapidly field a force capable of bolstering NATO defenses in the east in an emergency. We don't need a sword in Poland the way we are forging one in the southeast, but we do need a shield.

We won't get the missiles shield we need. We should at least deploy an Army shield that our allies can trust.

Appearing Far

The Taiwanese military reports the obvious:

"Despite the easing of tensions across the Strait, China has not reduced its military deployment targeting Taiwan," the defence ministry said in its annual report.

"China has continued its arms build-up to the point that it has tipped the military balance in the Taiwan Strait," the report said, referring to China's inventory of 1,500 ballistic and cruise missiles.


When near, appear far away, as Sun Tzu would put it. Far be it for me to suggest the communists in Peking are familiar with that military strategist.

A smiling man pointing a gun at you is still a man pointing a gun at you.

Displeased By the Image in the Mirror

The Europeans spent the Bush years begging for an America more like Europe. Imagine their joy when they got their wish with President Obama. Heck, they even gave him the Nobel Peace Prize for not being Bush.

Funny thing is, the Europeans don't seem to be that happy about this gelding of America when it comes to Afghanistan where our president is talking and debating, and giving every appearance of wanting to abandon efforts to win the "good war" there:

In conversations with senior European officials visiting Washington, and at a transatlantic conference sponsored by Italy's Magna Carta Foundation last weekend, I heard an earful of Euro-anxiety about the strategy review Obama is conducting. Some of the concern is simply about the spectacle of a young American president hesitating about going forward with a strategy that he committed himself to just months ago -- and what effect that wavering might have on enemies both in Afghanistan and farther afield.

But a surprising amount of the worry, considering the continental source, is about whether Obama will be strong enough -- whether he will, in the words of one ambassador, "walk away from a mission that we have all committed ourselves to."

Oh those whacky Europeans! Now they tell us they don't like an America that wavers in questions of war? And they wonder what effect this will have on enemies?

The strong horse is never gelded. Our enemies are drawing their conclusions every day.

Bad Things Happen to Stupid People

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be criminal prosecutions for the deaths in that Arizona sweat lodge. The people running that lodge may very well have done something criminal--even if the people at the sweat lodge were dumb as mossy rocks.

I'm sorry, but anything that involves a "sweat lodge ceremony" intended to induce "cleansing sweat" as part of a "spiritual warrior" program should be a blinding warning light that something isn't quite right. Just going to the place highlights that the gene pool might not miss your contributions.

This is possibly the most astounding part of the story:

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Ray held a telephone-conference call with many of the participants in the ceremony, according to people involved in the call who provided a transcript.

In the call Wednesday, Ray stressed the importance of eating healthful food, exercising, resting, meditation and surrounding themselves with "like-minded individuals."

"Remember all that we've learned and experienced and knowing by law of the universe that out of every apparent chaos comes a greater state of order, an order that never existed prior to the chaos," he said, after asking those on the call to imagine themselves standing in a prayer circle.

Ray said he used the call as a way to provide closure to those attending his retreat.

Ray's spokesman, Howard Bragman, confirmed the phone conference was held. ...

A woman identified as Barb told the callers that a "channeler" at the retreat said the deceased had an out-of-body experience and "were having so much fun that they chose not to come back."

And if, after a casualty count of three, you participated in a conference call designed to put the events in perspective, you truly can't be reached even with with a clue bat.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh Stewardess! I Speak Jive.

As a blogger, I absolutely rely on the vast news industry for information. The vast majority of the news can be relied on for knowing that something happened somewhere. And some is quite good reporting or analysis.

But the news industry is almost hopelessly left-wing. In any subject that the media feels is important to them, the bias will shine through, with rare exceptions of real reporting rather than opinion pieces emerging from the cloud.

Adding to my mistrust is the failure of the media as a whole--after eight years of war--to learn anything about military history or the military itself. How is that possible for a "profession" that wouldn't cover an Oscars night without understanding Hollywood, fashion, and film?

Two stories fairly recently highlighted the bias of our media. Surely you remember the "jobless recovery" under President George W. Bush and the horror stories of coatless waifs in two Americas? No piece of economic news could be reported without stressing the bad parts or wondering how long the good news could last if the news couldn't be spun bad.

That was then.

Now, losing your job can be "funemployment:"

Yes, millions of Americans are distressed about being unemployed, but a few of the jobless are embracing their layoffs and buyouts as a time to enjoy life for a while before rejoining the cubicle life.

Kept afloat by savings, spouses, severance, unemployment checks and sometimes their parents, these mostly 20- and 30-somethings are traveling, volunteering, going back to school, doing home repairs and generally just chilling.

The world may call them unemployed. They prefer to see themselves as "funemployed."

It's an opportunity for some, you see!

But don't think the benefits of joblessness are confined to a lucky few! Oh no! You see, life expectency increases during economic downturns and this one should be no exception!

These same factors likely hold true during the current recession, though there are significant economic and societal differences between now and the 1930s, Tapia Granados told LiveScience.

He did note, though, that while overall population health and life expectancy may improve during down times, that might not be the case for any particular individual, especially someone who is unemployed or serious worried about getting laid off and suffering attendant stress.

The overall rise still happens, despite potential health declines in those who have lost their jobs, because the majority of the work force is still employed (or retired and receiving benefits), he explained.

Sure, these are extreme examples. But it is hard not to notice the focus on hope in today's economic news rather than looking for the bad kernels even in any good news.

The difference is in the attitudes of the reporters, who expect their man in the White House to improve the economy. They knew the last occupant was wrong on everything. So the story lines just about write themselves.

Which is why I've mistrusted the media on any subject of war over my adult lifetime. I always assume I need to interpret what the news tells me based on my own knowledge of history and the military. Which is strange for an attitude about a "profession," isn't it? I know I don't approach advice from my doctor, electrician, or plumber with the same degree of skepticism.

UPDATE: Here's a more subtle example:

Even with an economic revival, many U.S. jobs lost during the recession may be gone forever and a weak employment market could linger for years.

That could add up to a "new normal" of higher joblessness and lower standards of living for many Americans, some economists are suggesting.

See? If unemployment doesn't drop, it's nobody's fault! (Certainly not the president's fault--this time.) It's just the new normal. Who could do better?