Thursday, December 31, 2009

Soon To Be Last Year's News

The end-of-the-year deadline to capitulate was supposed to for Iran regarding their nuclear programs.

As it turns out, we did the capitulating:

Today, New Year's Eve, while everyone's attention is understandably on family and friends, we learn (thanks to the ever alert Bill Roggio, reporting on the Standard's blog) that the administration has now released Qais Qazali, Laith's brother, who is the head of the Iran-backed terror network, in addition to a hundred other terrorists. In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).

Great. More terrorists on the loose.

I dream of an administration that spends as much time on the substance of a decision as the timing to minimize outrage.

Happy new year.

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

It's been quite a year of repudiating the Bush foreign policy:

No despot fears Mr. Obama, and no blogger in Cairo or Damascus or Tehran, no demonstrator in those cruel Iranian streets, expects Mr. Obama to ride to the rescue. To be sure, it was in the past understood that we can't bear all burdens abroad, or come to the defense of everyone braving tyranny. But there was always that American assertion that when things are in the balance we would always be on freedom's side.

We shall see how our enemies exploit our new foreign policy "realism" in the new year.

And we shall see the fate of those abroad who once thought sharing our ideals of liberty and democracy counted for something in Washington, DC.

Surviving on Stupidity and Hatred

It's interseting to see how al Qaeda in Iraq has evolved. They've come full circle in their relationship to the Baathists.

The Baathists and al Qaeda in Iraq fought separate fights against us and the new Iraqi government until early 2004 when the Baathists threw in their lot with the jihadis to try and leverage their savagery into control of Iraq. The jihadis got money and planning in return. At the time, I knew that this would be the Baathists' fatal error which would alienate the Iraqi people and drive them to our side. I was thinking mostly of the Shias who were grateful for our removal of Saddam but still suspicous based on our standing aside in 1991 while Saddam slaughtered them, but it surely cemented the already friendly Kurds. What I didn't expect is that eventually that shift in opinion would extend to the Sunni Arabs, too.

In time, by the last half of 2006, al Qaeda in Iraq took the lead over the Baathists in fighting us. Indeed, many local Islamists switched to fighting for al Qaeda in Iraq. This led to an organization of foreign leaders and mostly local fighters bolstered by foreign suicide bombers. Anti-war types used this dominance of locals to deny that al Qaeda in Iraq was really al Qaeda. That was ridiculous to assert this given that al Qaeda is a transnational movement. What exactly is its home territory? Why wouldn't they recruit locally?

But as the surge defeated al Qaeda and the Awakening deprived al Qaeda in Iraq of much of their local support by the end of 2007, the al Qaeda leadership retreated from Iraq to focus on other fronts (Afghanistan/Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen). But local jihadis remained. I thought the local jihadis reduced to third stringer leadership would have been ground down more than they have by now. Oh, they're pretty much defeated but they do retain the ability to stage some high profile and high casualty bombings.

One reason for their stubborn continuation is that the Baathists have turned the tables on the jihadis and provided the leadership for the al Qaeda remnants:

One of the unfortunate aspects of al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq is that the Iraqi branch of the terrorist organization is now run by the people (Baath Party members and Saddam supporters) that al Qaeda was founded to destroy. Five years ago, when Baath undertook their terrorism campaign to regain power, they agreed to coordinate their efforts with al Qaeda, which sought to establish a religious dictatorship in Iraq. Baath and al Qaeda agreed, in effect, to put aside their differences (they hated each other) until the foreign troops were driven out, then they could go after each other to decide who would control Iraq. Five years later, the Americans are still there, and the Islamic terrorist organizations are a shadow of their former selves. The Iraqi government estimates that active Islamic terrorists have shrunk from 10,000, to under 2,000, over the past few years. And Baath members now run the local al Qaeda branch.

Unfortunately, even though the Sunni Arabs of Iraq essentially surrendered in the Awakening, they still mistrust the Shia-dominated government. So the Sunni Arabs dabble in providing just enough backing (even if most is just looking the other way) for this Baathist-led al Qaeda in Iraq to retain armed leverage over the government.

Which is interesting, since the jihadis in Iraq were initially just a creature of the Baathist regime.

Unfortunately (again), this just feeds the Shia (and Kurd) mistrust of the Sunni Arabs that they are just killers waiting to regain power through force and resume their policy of endlessly stomping on the faces of Shias and Kurds:

[Most] Iraqis (the 85 percent who are Kurdish or Shia) would like to see all Sunni Arabs gone from the country. Having discriminated against non-Sunnis for centuries, the Sunnis do not like being on the receiving end. But they must be careful, as too much terrorist violence, that can be traced back to Sunni groups, and the Kurds and Shia might be motivated to ignore world opinion, and attack the remaining Sunni Arabs, killing them and chasing them out of the country.

So, unless the Iraqi government can defeat the Baathist-led al Qaeds in Iraq to make Sunni Arab mistrust a moot point or the Sunni Arabs end their folly of pretending they can still beat the Iraqi government with force rather than working within rule of law to bargain for their well being, the government may ultimately expel the Sunni Arabs remaining in Iraq, creating the new Palestinians and possibly cemented their title of stupidest people on the face of the Earth despite their apparent bout of sanity by joining the Awakening during the surge.

Because the Border is Still Important

When I heard last night that a forward operating base in Afghanistan's Khost province was hit by a suicide bomber, but that the outpost was associated with the State Department, I thought, "Huh, a CIA base."

Today we find out that it was a CIA outpost with local Afghans and that the bomber was invited in:

The Associated Press has learned that the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a remote outpost in southeastern Afghanistan had been invited onto the base and was not searched.

Now McChrystal's decision to pull our troops back from border positions to focus on population protection may make a little more sense. Interdicting the border to keep bad guys out and to keep them from freely moving across the border to rest and re-equip always seemed important to me.

It may be that instead of US troops on the border, we're counting on the CIA (and perhaps special forces) to organize locals to provide manpower and--more importantly--information on Taliban movements to these para-military outfits so they can call in the smart bombs on the bad guys.

Blu Rage

So I bought a blu ray player for myself while I was Christmas shopping. It goes with the HD television I finally bought a year and a half ago.

So I look through the instructions today when I finally got around to hooking it up. The instructions said I needed a component cable instead of the standard cables they give you for a standard TV hook up.

That's nice. So I head out to Staples and buy the cable for about $14.00. I come home, call up all my old Army knowledge of signal flow, and hook up the cables.

It didn't work. Nothing. So I kept reconfiguring the cables on component 1 and component 2, rechecking the connections, and turning the various devices on and off in various orders.

It didn't work.

So I resort to my television manual. I actually have the CD for that and load it up. Huh, the manual only shows how to hook up a blu ray player using HDMI cables. I chose component cable because I don't have a good enough TV to make the HDMI cable worth it. Could it be that I simply can't use the component cable?

So I'm off to Staples. The young man thinks it is quite possible that I can't use component cables since the TV is older than the blu ray player. So they exchange my cable for the twice as expensive HDMI cable.

So I go home, hopeful.

I hook up the HDMI cable and ... voila! The player works. I popped in a DVD (No blu ray disks yet) and it works just fine.

It took me 2-1/2 hours to do something that should have taken ten minutes if the blu ray player had come with the HDMI cable. It would have taken me but a half hour to set up if the instructions had only warned me that component cables might not work on all TVs--and maybe had a list of the TVs that could use component cables or needed HDMI cables.

But at least it is done. Well, now I need to hook up the old DVD/VCR to my standard TV upstairs.

Wave the Flag

I added a lot of update to my complaint that our president (and his administration) doesn't seem to really believe we are at war, based on complaints by defenders of the president that the pro-war side should not attack President Obama on a national security issue and put our country first.

That's a fine sentiment. I agree. We'll set aside the question of how well the loyal opposition did that during the Bush administration. But we should rally around the flag.

Let me sum up my total arguments since I went on a bit:

If you want conservative Americans to rally around the president's flag in times of national crisis, he actually has to raise the American flag to lead us into battle. Otherwise, it might seem like we are being asked to rally around the white flag of surrender.

It Takes a Village

Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child to be a terrorist.

You know, if you really want to understand "why they hate us," instead of just blaming America or the West for their murderous impulses.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Perfect(ly Normal) Storm

Global warming theories can already be junked in regard to their predictions of more and harsher hurricanes as the result of global warming.

Our Finest Hour

This has been a rough decade, no doubt. But I don't buy the idea that it was the decade from Hell (and you all know who's fault it is!).

We've also done a lot to begin beating back the forces of evil that have made this decade such a challenge:

There’s probably no dissuading those wedded to the easy, pat summary — “the decade was misery, and it’s all Bush’s fault” — but for those willing to look a little deeper, the past ten years were not a period of unremitting gloom. The decade began, in earnest, with an unimaginably evil act of mass murder, and followed with a sometimes messy but much-needed pushback from the forces of civilization and justice.

We tried to take a holiday from history when we won the Cold War. And we did. And the world mostly let us take that holiday. Until September 11, 2001.

We remembered that history doesn't end. And challenges always arise that we must face to build our future. And in this decade, despite the handicaps of trying to fight with one hand tied behind our back, we've risen to the challenge of Islamo-fascism. A generation that many thought was too soft to fight a war, has shown that it can teach the Greatest Generation a thing or two about steadfastness and courage in the face of evil.

We may one day look back at this decade and conclude that it was our finest hour.

UPDATE: Why wouldn't the media hate this decade? They are almost all uniformly liberal and their industry is imploding. Perhaps if they'd done more "reporting" and less "analysis" during the decade about events, the latter problem might not be as acute.

Oh, and yes the decade does end tonight. I don't care that our first decade A.D. started with the year "1" rather than "0." Are we to perpetuate that mistake for two thousand years rather than just say the first "decade" lasted nine years and correct the calendar with the perfectly logical notion that the calendar rolls over when the last digit goes from nine to zero? Come on! Tell me you don't say your odometer rolled over when you hit 100,000 rather than waiting until 100,001.

UPDATE: Well, I may not agree with all the things they think of as positive things, but at least the Christian Scienc Monitor isn't wallowing in giddy declinism.

Death Match 2010

The Iranian authorities believe that they've shown leniency with their somewhat limited protester body count.

It seems like the gloves are coming off:

Police chief Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam made a harsh threat to protesters to stay off the streets.

"In dealing with previous protests, police showed leniency. But given that these opponents are seeking to topple (the ruling system), there will be no mercy," Moghaddam said, according to IRNA. "We will take severe action. The era of tolerance is over. Anyone attending such rallies will be crushed."

When the era of mullah tolerance is over, God help the people of Iran. The protesters had best learn fast that they are in a fight to the death with the regime. One or the other will survive this.

Does the regime really unleash violence to crush the protest movement? Or do they just kill enough to anger the opposition into taking their own gloves off?

We. Are. At. War

I know some in the media are getting their panties all in a twist bemoaning the partisan nature of complaints about the the loyal opposition's anger over the president's (and his team's) response to the Christmas Day bomber. Horrors! Hallowed national security issues are being sullied with partisanship!

One, do you even remember the Bush years and our loyal opposition's treatment of him and his policies?

Two, and more important, while the complaints of our sober class suggest the loyal opposition is exploiting a national security issue for political gain, let me suggest that this is not the issue at all. After all, you have the sight of conservatives supporting the president's Afghan surge and supporting his continued progress in Iraq. Where's the politics there? Is it really so easy to assume that people willing to support the president in one area of national security are really eager to hammer the president for a mistake in another?

I have tried very hard to judge what the president has done and said, and I don't believe I can be accused of incubating Obama Derangement Sydrome on this site. I've complained and commended the president, depending on the issue--or put off judgment from insufficient information or time. And mistakes happen in war. I don't blame the president for errors in waging war. Stuff happens. You correct the mistake. You drive on. And you win.

My immediate reaction to the attack was to be angry at the attackers--not angry at Obama. We are at war and I expect to be attacked despite our best efforts to stop our enemies.

But what set me off about this latest incident is the display of a complete lack of apparent appreciation by the administration that the Christmas Day bombing attempt was in fact a national security issue. Napolitano's bizarre reaction that the system worked (if you squinted and tilted your head just so) was just the first straw. Instead of appearing to view this as an act of war, the administration has hiked our security level to Code Pink.

And since the president and his purported national security team have belittled the very idea that we are at war with Islamist terrorists, it was no great leap in logic to conclude from their actions and language that this team just doesn't feel at war. Not in their bones.

I understand errors, mistakes, blunders, and simple bad luck in war. If I think our president is fighting, I'll cut him slack for mistakes. What I don't understand is failing to know we are at war. And there are people out there waging war against us!

A man tried to board a commercial airliner in Mogadishu last month carrying powdered chemicals, liquid and a syringe that could have caused an explosion in a case bearing chilling similarities to the terrorist plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

I won't speak for others, but this is what has prompted my astounded anger at the adminsitration in the face of an enemy attack on us. I am mad that they just don't seem to get that we are at war.

UPDATE: Robinson is outraged over Cheney's comments that he doubts the president really thinks we're at war. Robinson quotes the president on a number of occasions to defend the president and damn Cheney for that "flat-out lie" and for failing to "put country first."

Nice try, Mr. Robinson. Once again, do people forget how the Left and even liberals treated President Bush's war policies? Where was the "country-first" attitude among our loyal opposition?

Look, I didn't reflexively condemn President Obama over the Christmas Day attack. Read my posts from Christmas day to the present on the attack. You won't find any eagerness to blame the president for the attack or score political points. I was mad at our jihadi enemies.And I still am.

But what finally roused my anger against the administration was their apparent failure to see the attack as an act of war--which fits in with their actions this year despite escalation in Afghanistan and the words that Robinson cites. And the very anger of the Left over the president's war policies in Afghanistan that Robinson uses to defend the president's sincerity in fighting highlights why war supporters have cause to want more than words from the president--the Left was the president's most fanatical base of support during the campaign despite Obama's declaration that he'd devote more resources to fight the good war in Afghanistan and even go into Pakistan if necessary.

Got that? The Left heard those campaign words vowing to fight in Afghanistan yet assumed that candidate Obama was not telling the truth--just saying what the rubes wanted to hear in order to get elected. So that's why the Left is angry with President Obama over the escalation in Afghanistan--they never believed the president was telling the truth about fighting the "good" war. So war supporters are supposed to take his words at face value?

As for the words about the attack that the president first said, I wasn't upset about the three-day delay. That wasn't even on my radar screen. What upset me about the president was that his first statement did not seem to reflect any basic feeling that we are at war. And yes, during the Bush presidency I periodically hammered the president and his top people for not speaking out constantly on the need to wage war in Iraq to bolster public support for victory. It was a constant frustration of mine. But at least I knew that the president knew deep down that we were at war and I trusted he wanted to win.

And if you want me to believe that the past words of the administration are enough to show where his heart is, explain why the White House responded so much faster to Cheney's remarks than to the attack. I guess it depends on who you hate more and who you think the real threat to America is. And face it, the threat they fear more doesn't hide out in Pakistan, and the people they really hate show up at tea party protests.

I'll continue to support the president's policies when he wages war, because I do put country first. As I stated after Obama won the election, I sincerely hoped that our country would be so well off and secure that the people would happily reelect him. I still feel that way (although that hope rests on him not governing as I always suspected he would). Just because our anti-war side was willing to lose a war to win the White House doesn't mean I can justify the same outlook in myself or others who support victory.

And I believe I do try to honestly evaluate what the president does without letting my bias warp my processing of information. But I'll always have cause to worry about whether the president's words and actions really reflect any conviction that we are at war with jihadis and their ideology, and that he believes it is his job to lead us to victory over that enemy.

UPDATE: Oh, and I forgot to address Robinson's excuse in defense of President Obama that some of the apparent plotters were released from Guantanamo Bay by President Bush. Yes, they were released by Bush. And plenty of people--including me--favor keeping those unlawful combatants imprisoned for the duration of the war. I was not happy that we released prisoners from Gitmo. Is Eugene Robinson joining the "hold them for the duration" crowd? I doubt that.

If you want to examine the history of Guantanamo Bay jihadi releases, let's look at the reason Bush let any go at all--the relentless and dishonest criticism of the global Left over the supposed inhumanity of the prison and the supposed injustice of holding that scum. Under that kind of pressure, I'm relieved we didn't release more under pressure from the ACLU and the so-called human rights industry.

But I welcome Robinson's new determination to hold the murdering thugs until they die of old age.

The Tyranny of Proximity

In America, we speak of the tyranny of distance which limits our power projection capabilities. We may whine that it is difficult to project our power globally, but it is our blessing of geography that we are free to project power rather than needing to husband it close to home to protect ourselves.

China's rise in power is surely real, but I don't worry that China will supplant us as a global superpower. That's because China faces the tyranny of proximity.

That is, China faces powerful potential and actual opponents right on their doorstep, which will be powerful blocks to China replacing us as the top power. In addition to questions of whether China can remain united under their communist party, their relative power may not be as significant as their actual increase in power given the power of their neighbors:

As a result of such geopolitical counter-balancing, China will be unable to become a hegemon in Asia--a power with complete dominance over its regional rivals. By definition, a country cannot become a global superpower unless it is also a regional hegemon, such as the United States. As a great power hemmed in by powerful and vigilant neighbours, China must constantly watch its back while trying to project power and influence on the global stage.

Such a status--a globally influential great power, but not a dominant superpower--is something nobody should dismiss lightly. Pax Americana is an accident of history that cannot be copied by another country. For the world, it should not be obsessed by the fear that China will become another superpower. Instead, it should learn to live with China as a great power.

I looked at the issue of relative power comparisons between America and China here.

And worse for China, the general increase in power in Asia--which means that Asian powers can now use their military power to significantly harm other nations in the region--also means that our uncommitted power is even more important in swinging the balance of power:

As long as Asian powers were basically large masses of territory and people difficult to conquer from sheer size, but lacking offensive power, Asian powers didn't need to fear each other nearly as much.

But with Asian powers gaining the offensive conventional military power to threaten each other, they may need the help of another power. And as I noted in the post linked above, we retain the greatest amount of uncommitted and deployable military power on the planet.

Look, I don't deny we could lose our global dominance. Nothing is permanent. But I don't see China taking the title from us. Unless we wreck our position ourselves, of course. I don't rule that out.

UPDATE: I'm pretty sure I've linked or commented on this Stratfor report before, but it bears repeating in its analysis of America, Russia, China, and Europe in regard to geography and economic potential. The tyranny of geography, I suppose. Don't write us off.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The New Old Irritant

Wow! The Russians are paranoid suspicious about our new and improved--but less threatening--missile defense plans in Europe:

Obama removed a major irritant in relations earlier this year by scrapping the previous administration's plans to place interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic — deployments Russia treated as a threat.

The Kremlin has praised Obama for the decision, but Russian officials have also said they want to know more about the sea- and land-based systems the U.S. plans to put in place instead.

Putin said that Russia has no intention to build a missile shield of its own, but will have to develop new offensive weapons to offset a future U.S. missile defense.

"In order to preserve a balance while we aren't planning to build a missile defense of our own, as it's very expensive and its efficiency is not quite clear yet, we have to develop offensive strike systems," he said.

Putin added that the U.S. must share information about their missile defense plans if they want Russia to provide data on its new weapons.

Who'd have thought that halting our Bush-era "bad" missile defense system in eastern Europe to appease the Russians would just lead them to complain about our new and improved, nuanced "Obama" missile defense plan for eastern Europe?

If I didn't know better (because the Left says this so often), I'd say our problems with Russia actually aren't our fault at all, but stem from their own insecurities and lingering mental health issues.

Face it, the Russians are really just uneasy having anything but compliant satellite states on their borders. That's the real threat they see.

As for the new arms control agreement the Russians are holding up over this issue, tell Putin to take a hike. His nuke count will go down whether there's an agreement or not.

Shoot Them, Tag Them, and Bag Them

Until the sainted international community has the guts to shoot to kill when its naval forces in the Somalia region see pirates at sea--and are willing to define anyone carrying automatic rifles in a small boat far out to sea as pirates--we'll keep seeing this:

Somali pirates seized a ship carrying fertilizer from the U.S. in the Indian Ocean and a British-flagged chemical tanker in the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden — the first merchant vessel to be hijacked in the gulf in nearly six months, officials said Tuesday.

It's clear the world won't go ashore to shoot up the land bases. The next best thing is to raise the cost of business by shooting every pirate we see. No trials. No catch and release. Nothing so dramatic as hanging them from the highest yardarm.

I know that people are afraid that killing pirates will just lead to pirates killing some of the hostages they arleady have. So perhaps we can phase this in with only nations without hostages being held get the ball rolling with shoot-to-kill rules of engagement, plus any volunteer nations with some cojones.

Just shoot and kill pirates when spotted. No prisoners. Then, pirates will learn that the price of doing business is too high. Otherwise, we just have an international armada that cost lots of money to maintain the illusion that we're doing something effective to halt piracy.

Will They Even Strike the King?

Has the protest movement in Iran expanded beyond the well-off elites to reach a tipping point to smash the mullah regime?

Maybe. But the efforts at some point have to pass beyond resisting government oppression and terror and move into attacking the regime itself to bring it down. It is folly to believe that Twittering the revolution is enough:

For Twitter enthusiasts, this has been a bumper year. With a new online tool at their chubby fingertips, they've helped to change the world. Or at least, that's what they think: the so-called Iranian Twitter Revolution recently won a Webby award for being "one of the top 10 internet moments of the decade".

Let me tell you why I find that deeply troubling. There has been no revolution in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has held on to power after a rigged election. Meanwhile, protests continue to be violently suppressed by government forces and unregulated militias, with human rights groups saying that at least 400 demonstrators have been killed since June. Dozens of those arrested remain unaccounted for, and many of those set free tell of rape and vicious beatings in Iran's most notorious prisons.

If the protesters don't win, the regime can eventually take the time to find these online resisters and round them up. It won't be as fast as rounding up those found on the streets, but the online dissidents will be found.

As I wrote a while back, if you Twitter a king, kill him. Your Webby won't count for jack, otherwise, in this fight to the death.

The Taint of Nothing

The Iranian government is edging up the open violence against the recent surge of protests:

Iranian security forces intensified their crackdown on anti-government supporters Tuesday, arresting relatives of the country's Nobel laureate and the main opposition leader, and limiting the movement of another top opposition leader.

As it has been for the last six months, the administration's response is muted in the hope that we can yet negotiate a grand bargain with the mullahs over their nuclear programs. Many defenders of our policy deny we are throwing the protesters under the bus, but that we are being nuanced by avoiding "tainting" the protesters by associating our government with the protest movement. Which is funny, in a way, since apparently President Obama taints American help for the oppressed as much as President Bush did. Who knew?

But I digress.

Despite our refusal to seriously condemn the Iranian regime or support the protests with any visible sign from the White House, the Iranian regime manages to throw the "taint" right on the protesters:

Iran also accused the U.S. and Britain of fomenting the recent violence, threatening to "slap" Britain in the face as it summoned the British ambassador to an urgent meeting. Clashes on Sunday left at least eight people dead in a confrontation that has become an increasingly bitter and violent.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shrugged off Sunday's protests as "a play ordered by Zionists and Americans" and criticized Barack Obama and Britain for allegedly supporting the protesters.

Huh. Who knew the president was linked to the Zionists? The NeoCons are everywhere, apparently.

On the bright side, after our president extended his open hand in friendship to the mullahs, the Iranians have finally unclenched that fist!

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki threatened unspecified retaliation against Britain.

"If this country does not stop its prattling, it will receive a slap in its face," he said during a news conference with his Somali counterpart. The quote was posted on the Web site of state TV.

A slap to the face! That requires an open hand, no? It was for the British, but still, I'm sure our State Department will call this a success!

The Five-year Plan Failed?

Ukraine's own proto-communist, pro-Russian stooges are complaining that Ukraine's democracy does not work:

The pro-Russian frontrunner in Ukraine's presidential elections says the rise of democracy since the 2004 Orange Revolution has not been worth it.

We shall see if the anti-democracy forces are allowed to vote democracy itself out. It is not a surprise that the people bred to like 5-year plans would claim democracy has failed. But it is up to Ukraine's people to decide if they value democracy and rule of law before they've really given it a chance to succeed.

I've thought that Belarus is the likely first target of a Russian anschluss. But perhaps Ukraine will be the first ex-Soviet republic fully reabsorbed.

Ukrainians? What's your call? Are you really pining to be ruled by Moscow?


The Left side of the aisle is early for April Fools' Day. Get this jape:

Republicans have wasted no time in attacking Democrats on intelligence and screening failures leading up to the failed Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253 — a significant departure from the calibrated, less partisan responses that have followed other recent terrorist activity.

The strategy — coming as the Republican leadership seeks to exploit Democratic weaknesses heading into the 2010 midterms — is in many ways a natural for a party that views protecting the U.S. homeland as its ideological raison d’etre and electoral franchise.

Even if the proliferation of threats reaching our shores (that "other recent terrorist activity") is not a reason to question the administration even if there was no cause earlier, the very idea that it is wrong to criticize the administration for its response to terrorism is really funny!

Does nobody remember the "My Pet Goat" critique of President George W. Bush on 9/11? Or does anybody not remember the entire history of the political opposition to George W. Bush during his entire presidency (excepting that brief time we were all Americans, now, from September 11, 2001 to about a month later when we went on offense in Afghanistan)?

I mean, good gracious, it's almost like you're trying to tell me that dissent isn't the highest form of patriotism!

Next you'll try to tell me that Thomas Jefferson never even said that!

You kidders, you!

UPDATE: This, at least, has the advantage of being intentionally funny.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Business Before Pleasure

Sure, the jihadi hot shots like the Christmas Day bomber get all the headlines and glory (and virgins in the afterlife) for killing infidel Westerners.

But every day, your less camera-eager jihadis who never aspire to rock star treatment go about the ordinary work of enforcing jihadi theology against the most vile enemies of the caliphate they are building--little girls who dare to read:

The Taliban blew up a girls' school on Monday in northwest Pakistan, where troops are battling the militants, police said.

Islamist insurgents opposed to co-education have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in the northwest of the country in recent years as they wage a fierce insurgency to enforce sharia law.

These are the true heroes of the jihad, eh? They who toil without the 24/7 news coverage granted to those who go for the big score in a Western plane. These brave Soldiers of Allah tally up their body count in obscurity, and only get the occasional print story that mentions their "hundreds" of operations.

Cause and Effect

Our jihadi enemies are really good at exploiting Leftist guilt about the West's advanced position in the world. The jihadis explain their nutball rage in terms any community organizer could understand--it's all about the grievances stemming from what we do.

So this is no shock:

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack on a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.

Yeah, we did strike them in Yemen the day before the terrorist attack on our plane:

Yemeni forces, helped by U.S. intelligence, carried out two airstrikes against al-Qaida operatives in the country this month. The second one was a day before Abdulmutallab attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight as it prepared to land in Detroit.

That other attack? That was on the 17th:

[We and the Yemenis] coordinated raids against Al-Qaeda on December 17, including an air strike against a suspected training camp in Abyan, in which the government said 34 Al-Qaeda suspects were killed.

Sure, I know what you're thinking, how could al Qaeda organize an attack in only about a week?

Well, they didn't. Al Qaeda just lied. The first article has this information:

Harold Demuren, the head of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, said Abdulmutallab paid cash on Dec. 16 for the $2,831 round-trip ticket from Lagos, Nigeria, to Detroit via Amsterdam. He said Abdulmutallab's ticket came from a KLM office in Accra, Ghana.

Get that? The attack was put into motion a day before our first strike in Yemen.

There was no retaliation. This was just about religious fanatics focused on killing us. So let's stop this rot of trying to understand these poor souls. Let's stop working to connect the dots after our jihadi enemies attack us.

Let's just kill the effing dots.

Still Not Clear on the Concept

The New York Times, writing of the Yemen government's battle, with our help, against jihadis, writes of the campaign:

In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.

We opened the front? Huh. I thought the jihadis opened that front. We're just joining the fight. If we hadn't joined the fight, would Yemen not count as a front if it just sent terrorists to our shores on our planes?

What does our enemy have to do in order to convince some of our people that we are at war with relentless killers who we need to kill wherever we find them? How on Earth can you think we are responsible for this--or any--front?

We just want to be left alone. We fight because our enemies won't do that.

Perhaps Not Their Finest Hour

The Chinese are trying to make it seem as if they freed their hostages held by Somalian pirates:

A hijacked Chinese cargo ship and 25 sailors were rescued Monday, two months after they were seized by pirates off the lawless Somali coast, Chinese state media said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the ship and crew were now under the protection of a Chinese naval fleet after an early morning rescue but didn't say if the ship was retaken by force or if a ransom was paid.

"Rescued" implies a rather active Chinese role.

But no, the Chinese do not have their own "to the shores of Somalia" moment. Strategypage writes that the Chinese paid:

What was not mentioned was the payment of a $3.5 million ransom, and the pirates then leaving the ship. The seizure of the ship, two months ago, despite the presence of Chinese warships and commandos in the area, was embarrassing for the Chinese government.

I suppose it should be comforting that the Chinese can be just as wimpy as the West.

Let the "Why Do They Mistrust Us?" Laments Begin

The Nigerian Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, spoke about the Christmas Day attack by one of Nigeria's citizens:

"The vice president lamented the incident where a Nigerian is alleged to have attempted to bomb an American aircraft, describing it as another challenge to the Nigerian government and people," said a statement from his office released late on Sunday.

"This will bring unnecessary harassments and scrutiny to other Nigerians who want to travel outside the country," he said.

Far be it for me to suggest this is less about their convenience than our safety.
I guess this reminds me to be grateful that Vice President Biden hasn't commented on the attack.

Let Her Be Clear

DHS Secretary Napolitano has backed off her claims that the system worked in how it handled the Christmas Day bomber, it is reported today:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano conceded Monday that the aviation security system failed when a young man on a watchlist with a U.S. visa in his pocket and a powerful explosive hidden on his body was allowed to board a fight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
You can see her initial point, however. It's not like the terrorist was a veteran returning from overseas, or some such flashing warning sign about his murderous tendencies.

Sadly, I've faced more scrutiny entering America than the Christmas Day bomber did.

Never Mind

I wondered if Prime Minister Netanyahu's offer to the opposition to form a national unity government was aimed at presenting a united front in preparation for military action against Iran.

Apparently not. Kadima rejected the offer:

Many analysts say Netanyahu's real goal is to split Kadima and reinforce his own party with defectors from the opposition party.
So I just had interesting speculation completely reliant on nothing of substance. But I am a blogger so I plead that defense.

My Putt Goat

Speaking for the first time since the Christmas Day attack, President Obama broke from his Hawaiian golf vacation to read a statement that could have been crafted by a junior assistant to the deputy undersecretary of boilerplate a couple hours after the attack.

Yeah, he has a talent for speaking--about what he cares about, I guess.

UPDATE: This pretty much sums it up:

It was three days late and Obama mailed it in.

Yeah. That's about it. No emotion at all. Like it didn't even affect him.

I know that our president understands there is evil in the world. He said so in Oslo.

But for God's sake, can't he recognize it when it slaps us in the face?

Santa Should Not Have Fine Print to Read

Let's see how Littlest Pet Shop handles my Christmas dilemma.

My daughter, Lamb, loves Littlest Pet Shop. In one of her presents from Santa, she found a little diary with a page to put proof of purchase stickers. Fill it up and send it in, and you get a little special figure. She was so excited about that and very happy that she got enough stickers this Christmas to fill it up. I didn't even need to go online and print one out, which is allowed. What luck, I thought!

Until I filled out the form and noticed the offer expired in May 2009. What luck. I just bought that present from Santa two months ago! How can this be? I mentioned to Lamb that I didn't know what would happen since the offer expired.

"But how could Santa put an expired coupon in his present?" She asked, truly puzzled.

How, indeed. I mailed the coupon today. Santa wouldn't toy with a child that way. No way.

We shall see if LPS makes good on this offer, still reaching little girls through major toy stores, even if the exact special edition figure is long gone. I guess I'll know in 10 to 12 weeks.

One way or the other, Lamb will get a little figure in the mail. I'll make good on Santa's coupon even if Littlest Pet Shop won't.

Santa will not break a little girl's heart and faith in Santa.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Plot Thickens

A passenger on the Christmas Day bombing attempt saw the terrorist assisted in attempting to board the plane without a passport by a well-dressed man in Amsterdam:

While Mutallab was poorly dressed, his friend was dressed in an expensive suit, Haskell said. He says the suited man asked ticket agents whether Mutallab could board without a passport. “The guy said, 'He's from Sudan and we do this all the time.'

Whether this was an attempt that failed to avoid using a passport Mutallab had or represents a successful avoidance of using a passport to board is uncertain from this observation.

But Mutallab obviously did board the plane to Detroit. And he had help in Amsterdam to board. And it appears he may have had help from Yemen in getting the bomb.

But obviously, according to our security people, Mutallab was a lone wolf.

UPDATE: So did Abdulmutallab (I guess his name is evolving) have a video crew with him? I guess that would be another dot to connect. We've had them before.

Dress Rehearsal

Taiwan should jump on this offer:

The United States has asked Taiwan to provide non-military aid to US troops in Afghanistan, a newspaper said on Sunday. The China Times daily quoted an unnamed military source as saying that the US had - through unofficial channels - asked Taipei to give non-military assistance to US troops in Afghanistan.

Washington wants Taiwan to provide medical or engineering assistance to US forces - which are to be increased - in Afghanistan, the source said.
Not only does this get Taiwan some good will in US circles for helping us in Afghanistan, but it gives Taiwanese logistics people practice working with US forces.
The latter might come in handy should the US rush forces to Taiwan in case China's smiling mask finally slips as they realize they can't charm Taiwan into surrendering.

The System Worked?!

Is our DHS secretary stoned? What narrow bureaucratic frame of reference do you have to possess to believe this?

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says investigators did not have enough information to keep a terror suspect from boarding a flight bound for Detroit and that the system worked as it should have.

The terrorist got on board one of our planes--despite a warning from the man's father!--with a bomb, and only the failure of the bomb maker to make a working bomb or the failure of the terrorist to understand how to detonate it prevented a disaster over the skies of Michigan!

In what way was this a success? Does our "system" count on either a defective bomb or inept terrorist to work?

Heck of a job, Nappie.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one unimpressed. A better analysis. As I said initially, we got lucky that either the bomb didn't work or the terrorist screwed up detonating it. We were lucky our failure didn't result in dead people in a plane blowing up in our sky, but it was failure.

So Far Just a Trickle

Lately, with the persistence of the Iranian protesters and their escalating objectives (from recount and reform to regime change), I've expected the Iranian regime to resort to large scale violence to finally break the protest movement. But they'll have to be careful not to spill too much blood so as not to provoke some elements of the security forces to side with the people to protect them.

There have been reports of some shootings in Iran. The government denies it.

The important part is that there seems to be some level of acceptance in the protest movement that blood will be spilled, and a recognition that unlimited violence by the regime could backfire:

The security forces clearly have to tread a fine line between not appearing weak but also not provoking opposition protesters, says Siavash Ardalan of BBC Persian TV.

Police helicopters were seen flying over central Tehran as clouds of black smoke billowed into the sky, reports said.

On the ground, the security forces clashed with protesters trying to reach central Enghelab Square, witnesses said.

Protesters were chanting, "This is the month of blood", and calling for the downfall of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to opposition websites.

At the same time, crowds of pro-government demonstrators marched on Enghelab Street to voice support for Ayatollah Khamenei, witnesses said.

So what's next?

So, How Lucky is President Obama?

Yes, it will be a crisis and will soak up lots of money that isn't really available what with the global financial crisis and economic downturn, but knocking North Korea out of the Axis of Evil while they lack nuclear weapons would be a good thing.

While I stopped long ago trying to predict when North Korea will fall, the repeated signs that crop up may not be predictors of imminent collapse. but they sure seem to be signs leading to that collapse at some point.

The signs sure do keep coming. And the collapse chatter seems to be picking up:

South Koreans are expressing their concern over the deteriorating conditions up north, by spending more time discussing how South Korea will handle absorbing North Korea. It's become accepted that the north will eventually collapse in chaos, and South Korea will be largely responsible for taking care of the mess. This is not expected to turn out well.

The Northerners, who are lining up behind different sons of Kim Jong Il, who appears to be dying, may be more ready for flight than fight, however:

There are indications of that from Chinese reporting North Korean officials increasingly arranging to establish second homes in China, and sending children, and even wives, there. Defectors report that there is an escape tunnel, from the capital, to the port of Nampo, which would enable officials, in an emergency, to secretly flee to China by sea.
Obama would need to be lucky to have North Korea collapse. He'll need to be very lucky to have even a Romania level of collapse involving only internal violence and not any violence directed abroad. With North Korea's chemical and (I assume) biological weapons arsenal, you can't rule out that the North Korean true believers will order a strike on South Korea in order to provoke a crisis that they hope will rally the population. South Koreans are closer, but if the Northerners retain any sense of reality, they'll know South Korea is the only one of South Korea, America, or Japan that can invade and occupy them (and I assume Seoul has an arrangement with Peking to divide the peninsula in case of a regime or national collapse. Or could there be a broader agreement?). America, of course, is too far away for now, and in any case would quite possibly respond with a nuke or two if Pyongyang uses chemical weapons on US forces or people.

That might leave Japan as the logical target for a chemical weapons strike with missiles. Close enough to hate but far enough away and weak enough not to be able to really knock down North Korea. I think we, at least, would join the Japanese in smashing up the Pyongyang regime, but the Northerners might not think we'd do that.

Still, given the destabilizing role North Korea plays in Northeast Asia and their role in nuclear proliferation, any type of regime or national collapse has to be considered getting lucky.

So how lucky is our president?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Dot That Dare Not Be Named

Oh please:

An official briefed on the attack on a Detroit airliner said Saturday the U.S. has known for at least two years that the suspect in the attack could have terrorist ties.

The official told The Associated Press that the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, has been on a list that includes people with known or suspected contact or ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Don't even try to tell me that this should have tipped us off to the man. Good grief, some people still speak of how Major Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter) had every right to contact that jihadi imam, Anwar al-Aulaqi.
Can you imagine the CAIR response if the bomber had been detained and questioned in the days before he boarded the flight? I'm sure that too many would have then claimed we "caused" him to become a terrorist because he was "profiled" and harassed.
Look, I'm not saying we profile based on religion or name. Profiling on behavior is more effective. But as long as any attention paid to a Moslem passenger--however much it is based on behavior--is portrayed by CAIR and their ilk as "anti-Islamic" (and as long as our elites are too quick to agree with that portrayal), attackers will penetrate our defenses.
If you ask me, it is "anti-Islamic" to make it easier for jihadis to attack our people.The Middle America "backlash" against Moslems may be a myth, but non-Moslem people will grow more suspsicious of Moslems in general every time somebody claims to kill in the name of Allah.
Who's more anti-Islamic? The people trying to make it easier for jihadis to kill in the name of Islam? Or the people trying to stop the jihadis from killing us in the name of Islam?

UPDATE: One of the people trying to stop the jihadis was the terrorist's father:

U.S. government officials tell The Associated Press that the Nigerian man charged with trying to destroy a jetliner came to the attention of U.S. intelligence in November when his father went to the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, to express his concerns about his son.

If you believe Moslems--rather than the jihadis and their cheerleaders--are our enemy, contemplate the courage and heartbreak that a Moslem father would have in order to warn us that his own son is dangerous.

You'll Put Your Eye Out, Kid

Colombia and America have no desire to invade Venezuela.

But if Venezuela continues to assist drug gangs and Leftist rebels who fight the Colombians, Venezuela might actually create the reason for Colombia to strike into Venezuela:

The Phony War between Colombia and Venezuela continues. It's all pretty absurd. All the accusations (of imminent invasion by Colombian and U.S. troops), and initiatives (sending more troops to the border, shutting down border crossings, buying billions of dollars in weapons from Russia), have come from Venezuela. Over there, it's become a major activity, keeping the media full of alarming stories about the threat from Colombia, and what Venezuela is going to do about it. Venezuela might be justifiably fearful of a Colombian raid on one of the many FARC bases now operating in Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez really is just a buffoon. A buffoon with lots of oil money and unsavory friends in Iran and Cuba, to be sure, but a buffoon.

Right now it's all fun and games for Hugo, casting about for foreign devils to resist. But he's asking for trouble. I suspect he'll get it.

NATO Isn't Enough?

While I was rather upset that we pulled the rug out from underneath the Poles (especially) by cancelling the Bush-era plans for missile defense in Eastern Europe, I thought the Obama administration had at least since then made efforts to make up for that sense of abandonment with new commitments and new plans.

Apparently, the Poles aren't fully confident that NATO membership will protect them from a potentially aggressive Russia (from my Jane's email updates):

Poland and China have signed an inaugural military agreement in a bid to improve bilateral relations in the defence sphere. The accord was signed on 16 December between Poland's Minister of National Defence, Bogdan Klich, and his counterpart Liang Guanglie during Klich's visit to China, according to a statement released by the Polish Ministry of National Defence. Among the areas for future co-operation are implementing international treaties in the fields of defence, security and arms control; military education and training military personnel; military medicine; and science and military research ...

This is a worrying sign about the credibility of NATO as a security organization. If Poland--or Georgia or Ukraine--seek to join the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organisation instead of staking their future on NATO--you'll know the alliance is just the most massive collection of military muscle that won't ever be used to defend anyone ever to exist.


If you feel tempted to feel sorry for the status of Moslems in the Western world, and want to feel guilty over our alleged "Islamophobia," consider how Islam treats Christians where Islam runs the show:

The Vatican's top cleric in the heart of Muslim Arabia tends to a flock of 2 million Christians spread around six desert nations. But he has to do it quietly: Most of them must still pray in secret and are forbidden to display crosses and other symbols of their faith.

From his base in the emirate of Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf, Archbishop Paul Hinder travels the Arabian Peninsula, even slipping in and out of Saudi Arabia — the birthplace of Islam, where restrictions on Christians are the toughest.

"We are tolerated, but not popular here," Hinder said in an interview in the archbishop's living quarters inside a Christian compound in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

If we treated Moslems this way, the charge of Islamophobia and intolerance would be justified. The fact is, Islam has a long way to go to even reach the level of what we are accused of being, let alone what we really are.

A New World of Engagement Beckons!

Well, I guess we can't expect Susan Rice, our ambassador to the United Nations, to admit that the administration has accomplished squat with its nuanced outreach to the global community. But this boasting of success is a joke:

"The change in the nature and tone of our relationships ... is yielding concrete and tangible benefits here at the United Nations — benefits that advance U.S. interests," Rice said.

So let's have some examples of the vaunted international community marching side by side with our new, caring president:

She pointed to the Security Council's approval in June of tough new sanctions against North Korea following its second nuclear test. Veto-wielding council members Russia and China, and sanctions-wary Libya joined in the unanimous vote for the sanctions.

Huh. Sanctions. Or more of what Bush got. And let's not mention that the only reason Libya is voting with us is that Bush flipped them from fear that they'd get hammered by us. Next!

Rice also singled out Obama chairing the Security Council in September — a first for a U.S. president at a summit of the U.N.'s most powerful body — when it unanimously adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution aimed at halting the spread of nuclear weapons and ultimately eliminating them.

The international community agreed to say they like the global equivalent of apple pie and motherhood? Bravo, Ambassador Rice. Was that before or after the "puppies are adorable" resolution?

Seriously, this is a joke. Truth be told, it would be great if there were no nuclear weapons. Our conventional superiority is such that we'd face no real checks on our conventional military power if there were no nukes. However, Russia can't defend themselves without nukes given their huge territory and nearly broken army. China would have no real hope of deterring us from intervening over Taiwan without nukes. And as apologists for Iran and North Korea have argued again and again, who can blame them for wanting nukes to keep us from invading them as we did Iraq? The resolution was meaningless. Nations that need nukes will keep nukes. Shame on Dr. Rice for pretending that this is significant. Or God help us if she believes it is significant.

Surely there's more to justify her boast, right? Let's see:

Rice cited two other U.S. accomplishments this year — a resolution condemning sexual violence in war zones and strengthening the legal foundation to protect women and girls from attacks, and a resolution adopted last week revamping al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions to ensure that sanctions only target those individuals, companies and organizations linked to the terror groups.

So. We've gotten countries to affirm that a crime universally recognized as a crime in virtually any jursidiction is to be condemned for happening so often in war zones (and let's not mention how often it is from UN troops). Well, that settles that. Next insoluble problem for this adminstration to gaze at and fix.

And of course, we've focused existing sanctions to avoid harming those not directly linked to terrorists. Yeah, who'd have agreed to something like that if Bush had proposed it?

This is weak. This is no record of amazing diplomacy repairing the alleged damage done by Bush.

But Rice did it with a straight face. Now, I understand that diplomats are honorable people sent to lie for their country, as the saying goes. But in this case, our diplomat lied to our country.

UPDATE: After Bush wrecked our foreign relations, as the Obama fans put it, it should have been easy for President Obama to gather in the sainted international community's help. But, alas:

So the stage was set for Obama to make his pitch and win over allies and foes. But as everybody knows by now, things didn't work out that way. World leaders accustomed to saying no monitored the new administration for a while and then resumed their old habits.

Not that President Obama hasn't had some successes, as even the initial post notes with the North Korea issue. But the problem with Rice's boasting is that the successes aren't anything new from the Bush years. Obama got the Europeans to commit 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan. That's good. But Bush got the first 40,000 in.
We had far more success than failure with the international community under Bush than his critics are willing to admit now. Perhaps as our new president fails to charm the help out of these same countries, those critics will come around to the view that Bush didn't cause our problems. He was just the convenient excuse that our Left was all too eager to validate.
So when do the "why do they still hate us?" laments begin?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Infidels

Al Qaeda attempted to blow up an airliner over Detroit Metropolitan Airport early this afternoon:

A Northwest Airlines passenger from Nigeria, who said he was acting on al-Qaida's instructions, set off an explosive device Friday in a failed terrorist attack on the plane as it was landing in Detroit, federal officials said.

Flight 253 with 278 passengers aboard was 20 minutes from the airport when it sounded like a firecracker had exploded, witnesses said. One passenger jumped over others and tried to subdue the man. Shortly afterward, the suspect was taken to a front row seat with his pants cut off and his legs burned.

It sounds like there was a partial detonation and then a passenger initiated action to subdue the terrorist.

One passenger is apparently here in Ann Arbor receiving medical attention.

We are lucky that plane and 278 passengers didn't all die. The only thing that saved them was the failure of the explosives to work properly or the failure of the terrorist to set off the explosives.

The passengers were certainly brave to counter-attack, but there would have been no counter-attack but for the failure of the bomb to go off.

UPDATE: It appears that the passenger being treated here is the terrorist.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Time to Rest and Let Santa Arrive

I had a lot to do today, including a nice time at my ex in-laws with a Christmas Eve dinner and present-fest for the children. I passed off presents to the kids to put under their mom's tree from them to mom; and gave my Ex the Santa gift tags and note from Santa thanking the children for the snack.

Back home, I finished wrapping presents, making sure to use only new wrapping paper for Santa's gifts and bows not of the type I use. I filled the stockings hanging from the fire place. I put out the festive table cloth. And I put away Lamb's note to Santa to save for when she's older, left cookie crumbs and milk residue in the plate and cup, and dropped carrot bits on the floor by the fire place (reindeer are messy eaters, of course--no thumbs at all). God help me, I do chew them to get the effect. Kind of weird, but back in the day Mister fell for it and Lamb is still inspired to a smile that fills her face when she talks about the messy reindeer.

Christmas is truly my favorite holiday. Tomorrow I'll pick the kids up and head to my family for Christmas dinner and more presents.

One thing cracked me up when Lamb finished her note and gave it to me. It was quite involved, and Santa will love it of course:

What cracked me up was the "Happy holidays, Santa" bit. What are they taught in public schools?

I almost told Lamb that really, it's ok to wish Santa, of all people, a Merry Christmas. But why inflict my pet peeves on my little girl? I'm sure she isn't aware that some take offense at being wished a Merry Christmas on Christmas. (Funny enough, at the mall today on the way out, I saw two little Moslem boys, entering with their mom, wishing the Salvation Army Santa a "Merry Christmas.")

Anyway, I hope everyone out there has a Happy Holiday, whatever you celebrate. I'll be having a Merry Christmas.

Cutting the Gordian Knot in the New Year?

The options of striking Iran's nuclear facilities, giving Israel the green light to do so, signing an agreement to halt Iran's nuclear work--which Iran will never honor, or learning to live with Iran's nukes are all horrible in one way or another.

The only way out of our dilemma seems to be regime change:

What should now be clear, even to the letter-writers of the Obama administration, is that the only way to solve the problem is to change the regime. Obama missed a unique opportunity to undermine the regime after the elections this summer, when it was as fragile as it has been since the 1979 revolution. It may well be too late, but there are still things the leader of the free world should do.

I don't think it is too late to help the protesters. I'll even entertain the possibility that we did the right thing since the protests--contrary to what I expected (although the Iranians haven't used an iron fist as I'd thought)--seem to have expanded beyond the Twittering class in Iran. But this positive assessment of our "do nothing and say nothing" policy relies on the eventual good outcome in Iran with the protesters destroying the regime.

Do not forget, destroying the Iranian mullah regime opens up new opportunities on a host of problems that Iran has an active hand in making worse.

UPDATE: Let me clarify my potential defense of the Obama administration. I may not see what the administration is doing. We may be doing a lot quietly to help the protesters. I'm not suggesting we should be virulently attacking the regime day after day. In a perfect world as far as I'm concerned, we'd make frequent high-level statements in support of the protesters' right to protest and raise questions about the validity of the election count that provoked the protests. This would let the protesters know they are not forgotten and hopefully get us good will from them if they win. Quietly, we'd be warning the Iranian regime to limit their response to prevent violence on a large scale. And we'd support civil institutions within Iran, through neutral bodies, that would support the protesters and make them more effective.  I've long since abandoned the hope that our CIA might be able to engineer a revolt. We might still come out with a win by doing nothing at all, but that's just counting on hope for change. I think a little bit of active (dare I say "smart") diplomacy would improve our odds.

Merry Christmas to Those Guarding the Walls

I never forget that the men and women who stand guard and fight the barbarians who dream of killing us are the reason I can celebrate Christmas at home.

Merry Christmas (or insert the appropriate holiday greetings for their faith) to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines (and their families) out there protecting us. I never forget what they are doing.

With a Friend Like That ...

I have never understood how some people could say that overthrowing Saddam was a favor to Iran, arguing that our invasion simply turned over Iraq to the natural allies of Iran.

First of all, it's fairly damning of the morality of those making that claim since they apparently felt fine with a genocidal dictator as long as Saddam resisted Iran.

Second, are those people making that argument admitting that Iran under the mullahs needs to be opposed? Huh. Fancy that. But I digress.

Most importantly, the argument we turned Iraq into an Iranian puppet is hogwash. If Iraq is now run by people naturally friendly to Iran, why would Iran expend so much effort killing Iraqis by supporting both Sadrist death squads and backing Sunni jihadis both directly and indirectly by supporting Syria who sent in suicide bombers to plague Iraq?

And why, if Iraq is such a pliant Iranian ally, would Iran bother to rattle their sabre against Iraq over a disputed oil field? Strategypage writes of that incident:

The Iraqi government is still trying to figure out what Iran was trying to accomplish by recently moving a few troops into a tiny piece of Iraqi territory in the south. Iran believes the current border should be farther west, and Iraq was told that there were no Iranian troops in Iraq. The Iraqi government eventually sent the army and police to ask the Iranian troops to withdraw. Meanwhile, the incident they caused widespread anti-Iranian demonstrations in Iraq. [emphasis added]

Working up some good anger against the Persians isn't that tough for Iraqis of all backgrounds. Don't forget that Iraq's Shias willingly fought and died in large numbers to resist "fellow" Shias in Iran during the 1980s First Gulf War (Iran-Iraq War).

Iraq is an increasingly powerful American ally and not a puppet of Iran. I dare say that Iraq will not have stronger relations with some of our enemies than a lot of our NATO allies have.

Blood Will Be Spilled

Iran's protests are spreading beyond the base of college students and the more well off. And the Iranians are banning memorials for Montazeri, which many people who otherwise don't back the protests will see as rather anti-Islamic, I imagine, because they are turning into anti-government protests.

At some point, if the protests continue to grow rather than dissipate, the Iranian regime will unleash it's loyal security forces with orders to shoot to kill. We shall see if enough security forces obey those orders and whether other security forces decide to stand up for unarmed civilians being slaughtered by their own government.

AP reports on the memorial ban:

Iran banned memorials for the country's most senior dissident cleric and reiterated a stern warning to the opposition Thursday, after days of services in honor of the spiritual leader turned into street protests against the government.

A commemoration had been planned for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in the town of Kashan, 135 miles south of Tehran, according to reformist Web sites.

But a large banner was put up in the town proclaiming that the Supreme National Security Council has banned any memorials for Montazeri except in the holy city of Qom and the cleric's hometown of Najafabad. The Web site Parlemannews carried a photo of the banner in Kashan.

The regime is worried about the spread of the protests:

Large-scale protests spread in central Iranian cities Wednesday, offering the starkest evidence yet that the opposition movement that emerged from the disputed June presidential election has expanded beyond its base of mostly young, educated Tehran residents to at least some segments of the country's pious heartland.

Demonstrations took place in Esfahan, a provincial capital and Iran's cultural center, and nearby Najafabad, the birthplace and hometown of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, whose death Saturday triggered the latest round of confrontations between the opposition movement and the government.

The central region is considered by some as the conservative power base of the hard-liners in power.

Iranian authorities are clearly alarmed by the spread of the protests. Mojtaba Zolnour, a mid-ranking cleric serving as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the elite and powerful Revolutionary Guard, acknowledged widespread unrest around the country.

Strategypage addresses the situation, as well:

After three decades, the revolution is returning. Back the government of the Shah was corrupt and unpopular, and the small businessmen and clerics supported widespread discontent, which evolved into massive demonstrations that the security forces were not willing to put down with force. It's different this time, in that hundreds of thousands of hard core government supporters are in the Revolutionary Guard. Unlike the shah's forces, the Revolutionary Guard contains a lot of Islamic true believers, who will shoot to kill. They have already done this. Will they do it on a large enough scale to intimidate most Iranians? The government, a religious dictatorship, is betting on that.

I've read in the past that the Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) aren't as loyal as the regime would like. And the regular armed forces aren't trusted to shoot at the people. And civilian police might not, either. The regime can count on its secret police and Basij thugs and hopes enough Pasdaran will kill civilians, too.

It seems like a race against time to see if a revolution will overthrow the mullahs, Iran under the mullahs gets nuclear weapons, or Israel strikes Iran. Or the regime could kill enough to suppress the protesters without provoking a civil war within Iran's security apparatus.

I don't even think we're in this equation. We'll only strike in response to a crisis breaking out and Iran lashing out with whatever weapons they have against whatever targets they can reach

National Suicide Progressing Nicely

Wow, Chavez really is just an effing idiot:

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has told car companies they must share their technology with local businesses or leave the country.

Mr Chavez gave the ultimatum to Toyota, Ford, General Motors and Fiat during a public address.

If the demand isn't met, he said: "I invite you to pack up your belongings and leave. I'll bring in the Russians, the Belorusians, the Chinese."

Yeah, nationalizing more of the economy will work out swell.

So does the economy self-destruct and lead to the ouster of Chavez or does Chavez provoke a fight with Colombia or the Netherlands to distract Venezuelans for his stunning stupidity?

And given how Chavez has screwed his own military as royally as he's mucking up the economy, will that fight preserve his rule or accelerate his ouster?

National Unity for the New Year

All this year, as the Obama administration has futiley (it seems) attempted to reach out to Iran's regime to cut a deal over ending Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, we've been told that Israel won't strike Iran this year to give us the chance to show we can talk Iran out of nukes.

And in our effort to talk to the mullahs, we have failed to support Iran's protesters in their long conflict with the regime. But that's another story.

So here we are on Christmas Eve and the year is nearing an end. The Iranians have ignored our latest deadline to respond to our outreach. Hope and change, it is clear, does not translate well into Farsi.

Israel's Netanyahu wants the opposition party in a unity government:

Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked centrist opposition leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday to join his government, his office said.

"The prime minister asked Mrs Livni to join a national unity government ... in the face of the national and international challenges facing Israel today," a statement said.

The focus of the article is on the Palestinian issue, but the statement says Israel faces international challenges, as well.

The biggest international challenge continues to be Iran's progress toward getting the capability to do something about Israel's status as a "one-nuke state"--that is, a single atomic strike could cripple geographically compact Israel.

Israel can't do the job as well as we can. But Israel has far more incentive to not risk counting on deterrence to hold off an Iranian atomic strike. I still think Israel has the assets to give it a shot.

Is a national unity government setting the stage for an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure next year?

The Coalition of the Willing (Yemen Front)

Islamo-fascists are often more willing to target local Arab governments. While they aren't America or Israel, such governments have the major advantage of being conveniently nearby.

Iranian-backed Shias have been causing trouble for Yemen. And al Qaeda has sought refuge in Yemen.

So an alliance of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and America has formed to fight these forces. Saudi Arabia and Yemen are focused on the Iranian-backed threat while we and the Yemenis are hitting the al Qaeda targets:

Backed by U.S. intelligence, Yemeni forces struck a series of suspected al-Qaida hideouts Thursday, including a meeting of senior leaders, killing at least 30 militants in the country's stepped-up campaign against the terror network, the government said.

The airstrikes were Yemen's second such major assault on al-Qaida in a week, at a time when the United States has dramatically hiked its aid to the government to eliminate the expanding presence of the terror group. Washington fears that al-Qaida could turn fragmented, unstable Yemen into a new Afghanistan-like safe haven in a highly strategic location on the border with oil-rich U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon recently confirmed it is has poured nearly $70 million in military aid to Yemen this year — compared to none in 2008. The U.S. military has boosted its counterterrorism training for Yemeni forces, and is providing more intelligence, which probably includes surveillance by unmanned drones, according to U.S. officials and analysts.

I know people keep saying that our war on Islamist terrrorism is alienating the Arab and Moslem world, but we do manage to gain support from Arab governments and their people to fight the fanatics when they muck around in their part of the world.

Not that we don't have a long way to go in persuading Moslems that the jihadis are evil whether they target them or us. That's the only way we can finally win the war, as opposed to winning battles like those taking place in Yemen.

Defending Taiwan

The Taiwanese are going to upgrade their Patriot anti-aircraft missiles. China is upset:

US defense firm Raytheon said Wednesday it was awarded a contract worth 1.1 billion dollars (S$1.6 billion) to upgrade Taiwan's defensive Patriot missile systems, a deal that has drawn fierce protests from China.

The contract had been in the works since 2007 when the Pentagon notified Congress it intended to allow Taiwan to upgrade the interceptor missile systems despite objections from China, which said it sends a 'wrong signal' to Taiwan.

I keep reading that Chinese-Taiwanes relations are "warming" and that the chance of war is going down (notwithstanding the continued Chinese build up of capabilities to invade Taiwan).

If cross-strait relations are improving so much, why would China object to a purely defensive measure that can only be used if Chinese aircraft or missiles head for Taiwan targets?

Don't become confused. China wants Taiwan and they'll use force to take the island if the Taiwanese won't come along quietly. That's why China is upset when Taiwan beefs up their military.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tipping Point?

I don't know if we are near a tipping point in Iran and don't know what would signal a tipping point coming, but this seems significant:

Security forces clashed with opposition protesters gathered Wednesday for a memorial for Iran's most senior dissident cleric, beating men and women and firing tear gas, reformist Web sites reported.

The gathering at the main mosque in the central city of Isfahan, 200 miles (325 kilometers) southeast of Tehran, was meant to honor Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the spiritual leader of the Iranian reformist movement who died Sunday.

The biggest question is which way will the situation tip if it reaches a tipping point? Will the regime resort to just enough violence to enrage the people into rising up? Will the regime use so much that elements of the regular armed forces and even Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) decide to stand with the protesters agaisnt the Basij and secret police?

Or will the regime calibrate their force enough to crush the protest movement yet not cross any lines that trigger other security forces to defend the people from the regime?

We sure could use a little luck to have some good cards dealt to us. It increasingly seems like we are talking ourselves into living with a nuclear-armed Iran under the mullahs. If the Israelis really can't knock down Iran's nuclear program (without using their own nukes in a preemptive strike), our only hope of avoiding a very bad decade is for the Iranian people to overthrow the mullah regime.

Stop in the Name of Whose Law?

I don't know enough about the subject to know if this is a real worry or not (Tip to Instapundit):

Last Thursday, December 17, 2009, The White House released an Executive Order "Amending Executive Order 12425." It grants INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) a new level of full diplomatic immunity afforded to foreign embassies and select other "International Organizations" as set forth in the United States International Organizations Immunities Act of 1945.

By removing language from President Reagan's 1983 Executive Order 12425, this international law enforcement body now operates - now operates - on American soil beyond the reach of our own top law enforcement arm, the FBI, and is immune from Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Is this a step on the way to putting our troops under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court? A body the previous administration explicitly worked to protect our troops from? Or is this nothing to worry about at all. I just don't have the knowledge to judge, so I'll wait further reports to provide information.

But I do know that I worry about our troops being tried and convicted for fighting, simply because what was once hidden is now recorded:

When we have a battlefield where we see all of our troops and record all that they do, how will we treat our soldiers? Even in "good" wars that are universally agreed to be justified, such as World War II, we had our share of criminal actions and mistakes that cost lives. Civilians were killed or abused. Prisoners were shot or robbed or abused. Americans died from incompetent commanders or shoddy equipment or just bad luck.

Our military fights very clean based on any combat standards you want to apply--from a historical basis to a contemporary comparison. But war will never be completely clean. Even police commit crimes and abuse prisoners or detainees. Combat is far more stressful and so our troops will commit crimes or simply make lethal mistakes on occasion. How will we react to this? How will we make sure our troops fight even cleaner and how will we protect out troops from unfair prosecution?

If foreigners have access to this type of data and access to our country to nab veterans of our fights (or their civilian leaders), it would not take any stretch of the imagination to predict that the ICC will try Americans for what will be alleged are war crimes simply because those doing the prosecuting disagree with our war.

I don't think the American people would much like transporting our troops beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences. We haven't liked it before.

UPDATE: McCarthy isn't happy about this:

Why would we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies? Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files which, therefore, will be beyond the ability of Congress, American law-enforcement, the media, and the American people to scrutinize?

Why? I guess if you want to sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance,  or perhaps subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation, it would be pretty handy.

And with Interpol's officers, offices, and records safe from our courts, this little bit of extra-territoriality granted to progressive foreign law enforcment will be immune to our constitution's checks and protections.

I don't like this. I can be persuaded that I'm worried for nothing. But right now, I'm worried.