Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Saddam Hearts Jihadis

I've written about Saddam's long history with jihadis despite the boneheadedly wrong conventional wisdom that a secular guy like Saddam could never cooperate with jihadis, and vice versa.

Here's another reminder that Saddam really, really did work with al Qaeda before we took him down.

Yeah, I know, hard to believe, huh?

(And no, this doesn't mean that I think Saddam ordered the 9/11 attack.)

Frankly, Idiotic

Was I an optimist in ignoring the Barney Frank report on cutting defense spending? Was I wrong to think this couldn't be Obama administration thinking but merely a big-ego loon's notions of defense that just didn't matter?

I hope this is plain wrong:

The Obama administration intends to slash the defense budget in order to pay for its riotous spending on bailouts, “stimulus bills,” their signature healthcare program, and massive pork bribes for votes from congressmen who hopefully will not survive this November’s balloting. To continue the spending spree, the White House plans to eliminate over a trillion defense dollars in the next ten years. Details of those proposed cuts were laid out by Rep. Barney Frank’s (D-MA) Sustainable Defense Task Force in a 56 page report titled: Debt, Deficits, & Defense – A Way Forward. None of the service arms are spared.

I thought I was being a pessimist when I outlined our apparent new medium term rule where we assume no threats on the horizon and let our military coast without pushing for new weapons and risking reduced readiness:

We've just instituted the Medium Term Rule on our defense spending. The problems that will flow from this plan won't show themselves in the near term. We can coast on our past progress in building the best military in the world. But have no doubt that our military strength will erode, and this means we are accepting risks in case we have to fight a conventional war in the medium term despite our assumption that we can still win such a war.

Good grief. Gradual erosion of our military capabilities is a best case scenario, if that Frank plan to gut our defenses is what the Obama administration wants.

My Prayer

May we always be wealthy enough and secure enough to afford hippies:

So, the other day a bunch of hippies went to the beach, via various oil-powered conveyances.

Once they got there, they all walked out on the sand and stood in a big line, joined hands and thought happy thoughts.

They didn't actually do anything except apologize to Mother Gaia, perhaps in faux dolphin-speak.
Do click through to read the quote and the conclusion.

The Plan Unfolds

So Belgium may split up?

This is of no geopolitical importance by itself, of course. Nobody is worried it will be a launching pad for an invasion of Britain from the continent.

But this assessment of the irony is plain wrong:

Then there is the grim irony of Belgium this week assuming the presidency of the troubled European Union for the next six months. The E.U. is committed to the idea of an "ever closer union" among the peoples of Europe, but its main institutions are based in Brussels, the capital of a country whose Dutch and French speakers are perpetually squabbling.

Why would the EU care if Belgium is a part of their empire or whether it is under the rule of the EU as two separate entities?

Indeed, I think such fragmentation is completely in the EU's interest:

Why should the Brussels bureaucrats care if they ignore Belgians or Flemish and Walloons? Hell, the more the merrier. If larger states have difficulty moving the central proto-state, how will little specks on the map have any impact at all? Only the nation-states smart enough not to subdivide will retain any influence at all. But they will likely be swamped by population numbers. And who will be smart enough to resist the lure of their own flag!

There could be a Flemish Oblast and a Walloon Oblast to join with scores of other administrative entities.

This is classic divide and conquer.

Consider this incentive to divide a feature of the European Union rather than a bug. The Brussels transnational elites will laugh all the way to their new undemocratic empire while the silly people atomize their once-influential nation-states into little ethnic theme parks.

Let the people have their postage stamps and flags, the EU overlords likely think! The power will lie in Brussels, and who will be large enough to stop them?

Heck, the only problem from the EU's point of view is that Germany isn't the country threatening to break up into little principalities.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It Takes a Summer Camp to Train a Child to Raze a Village

Hamas is going old school on the UN to convince Gaza parents to send their children to Hamas summer camps:

Masked men trashed a U.N. summer camp Monday, tying up guards and slashing tents and an inflatable pool in the second such attack blamed on suspected extremists in just over a month — a sign of how, in Gaza, youth camp is not just about crafts and volleyball.

Rival day camps by the United Nations and Gaza's Islamic militant Hamas rulers compete for the hearts of the next generation, the roughly 700,000 children under 15 who make up nearly half of the Gaza Strip's population.

Hamas camps teach an anti-Israeli doctrine and military-style marching, along with horseback riding, swimming and Islam. U.N. camps try to instill hope in a better future, a message wrapped in fun and games.

This is hardly child's play, but important stuff, since both Hamas and the UN recognize that it takes a child to raze a village. Although to be fair to Hamas, they do try to wrap their Jew-killing training in fun and games, too.

Wonderful folks, those Hamas types are, eh?

That's One Deadline Down, Two to Go

The United States just signaled North Korea that we aren't abandoning South Korea by extending the 2012 deadline to turn over command of South Korean forces to South Korea:

In its strongest move since the sinking of a South Korean warship, the Obama administration said Saturday that the United States would retain control of all military forces in the South during any conflict with North Korea, which has been widely blamed for the attack on the ship in March that killed 46 sailors.

The announcement was an apparent attempt to signal to the North, which has long wanted American forces off the peninsula, that the United States would remain firmly in control of military operations if war were to break out.

The decision is somewhat symbolic; the United States was not slated to give up wartime control of South Korean troops until 2012, and the new agreement extends the deadline to 2015.

The extension is purely symbolic since South Korea is certainly capable of taking command. But the president wanted to send a message of our level of commitment.

Very good. This applies to Afghanistan, too. And Iraq after 2012, for that matter.

Remember, it doesn't matter how big and powerful we are if our enemies and friends think we are running away. That's why weak states like Iran continue to chase the West, notwithstanding their poverty of means, and get away with it.

Enforcing the Space Policy

The United States has a space policy, including:

The United States remains committed to the use of space systems in support of its national and homeland security. The United States will invest in space situational awareness capabilities and launch vehicle technologies; develop the means to assure mission essential functions enabled by space; enhance our ability to identify and characterize threats; and deter, defend, and if necessary, defeat efforts to interfere with or attack U.S. or allied space systems.

So who carries out this aspect? NASA? Please. Evem with high tech planes joining the Air Force, the Air Force is losing force structure as technology hits the Air Force's traditional missions by allowing the Army to carry out tradionally aircraft missions and reducing the need for numbers in the Air Force to carry out the missions that remain. Our space posture review should be a push for the Air force to seek new missions in space.

As I've long argued, the Air Force should aim high.

Back in the USSR

We broke up a Russian spy ring. I'm hardly shocked. Reset or not, the Russians will spy on us (as we will spy on them).

But the Russian reaction is funny:

Russia angrily denounced the arrests as an unjustified throwback to the Cold War, and senior lawmakers said some in the U.S. government may be trying to undercut President Barack Obama's warming relations with Moscow.

"These actions are unfounded and pursue unseemly goals," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "We don't understand the reasons which prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to make a public statement in the spirit of Cold War-era spy stories."

Indeed, the Russians are eager to maintain the "reset" that has benefited Russia so greatly:

The Russians are delighted with the relationship. It's all take, no give. And Obama thinks this is a great advance for the United States. . . .

The Russians should stop complaining about little things like spying arrests. Although perhaps they suspect a grand trap that needs to be uncovered, since who would be so foolish as to give away the store as we are under the concept of a "reset?"

But really, Russians, that's all that is happening. No deep plan to sucker you. No nuanced goal you are too dull to see. It is what it appears to be.

You don't know how lucky you are, boys. Back in the former USSR.

Political Power of the People's Republic of China 2010?

So where is the Pentagon's annual report on Chinese military power?

Last year, the report came out in March. We've been doing this for a decade now. Don't try to tell me this is simply taking longer than expected to roll out.

Monday, June 28, 2010

He's Ba-aack

Iran's tame little cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, is stirring again:

Mohammad and his gang are back. There may not be a Glock semiautomatic strapped to his waist anymore, but the terrifying mystique of the Mahdi Army still shrouds the Shiite Muslim militiaman like the menacing black uniform he once wore.

We fought and beat him twice, in spring 2004 and in August 2004. The Iraqis fought and beat his forces in spring 2008. But the SOB survived those losses and retreated to Iran to bolster his clerical credentials with study.
He wants another round, it seems, based on intimidation on the streets and a bloc of members of parliament.
As I have been convinced since that breathing piece of garbage first strutted on the Iraqi scene, Sadr needs to die to get him out of our hair and deny him the ability to carry out mayhem in pursuit of power and Iran's interests. I'd prefer an execution following a trial. But I'll accept whatever accident that can be arranged, given his ability to escape justice for past murder and insurrection.
If he can't be arrested after all he's done, the Iraqis just aren't trying hard enough.


Lamb really wants me to get a cat. I do plan to do that eventually. I worry about getting a cat before I retire, but I don't want to wait until the kids are in college to get one. Mister remembers my cat, Koshka, who died in 2003 at the ripe old age of 19. He'd like a new cat, too.

Lamb wants me to get a kitten. And I would like to raise a cat from a pup, too. But a friend who is too kind hearted about accepting cats told me kittens are easy to place but adult cats really need homes.

I recently told Lamb that when I get a cat, maybe we should get a grown up cat because they need homes too, and most people don't like to get grown up cats. Lamb wasn't eager for that, saying she wanted to make sure the cat grew up to know her and like her. She was worried that our cat would be like my parents' cat who avoids us when we visit.

I explained that our cat would like her because Lamb would see our cat a lot. It is all about the cat being used to Lamb.

She thought about it and asked, "So the big cats need homes, too, right?" Yes, they do.

"Well," she said after a moment, "then just get whatever there is more of."

That's my sweet little girl. Her level of empathy is heart warming. She wants a kitten. But she recognizes that older cats need homes, too, and might have a harder time of it.

I'm still not sure whether I'll get a kitten or an older cat. But I do know that Lamb will love whatever I get.

The Fleet Will Evolve

The Congressional Budget Office doesn't think the Navy can reach the numbers it says it wants with the plan it sets forth because there is no way the price of the ships will not exceed Navy estimates.

Given that I think that big aircraft carriers are just too expensive and will soon be too vulnerable to wage war against any but the most enfeebled enemy, why not transition to more survivable networked missile-armed ships. Use smaller carriers for fleet aviation needs--and Lord knows if I'm not being too conventional by thinking even these will be useful against a networked enemy.

But at least the morale hit of losing a small carrier won't match the shock of losing a big super carrier, which are such symbols of our power that they've become objectives (for us to protect at all costs and for enemies to sink) and no longer just means to achieve objectives at sea.

We need to pick a number for the amount of hulls we need to meet deployment needs, surge needs at war, and war replacements until shipbuilding can start replacing losses. If that number--considering appropriations to build the ships--means we start easing our big carriers out of their central role in our naval strategy, so be it.

Heck, I think we should do that if we had all the money in the world for our fleet. And if we don't lower the number of carriers we have, saving them for niche uses like supporting wars against small countries without the means to attack them, we'll lose those carriers at war against an opponent with the means to hit our carriers.

One way or the other, the fleet will evolve to come to terms with reality. Will it be on our terms or in combat?

CC Joe Biden, Please

I do hope that President Obama copies in his vice president about this bit of strategery:

"I think that right now the debate surrounding Afghanistan is presented as either we get up and leave immediately because there's no chance at a positive outcome, or we stay basically indefinitely and do quote unquote whatever it takes for as long as it takes."

Obama's policy falls somewhere in the middle, thereby pleasing few. He reiterated that a July 2011 date to begin withdrawing troops does not mean the U.S. will "suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us." Under Obama's policy, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will first climb to 98,000.

Obama offered a rationale for the nation's very presence in Afghanistan.

"You'll often hear, why are we in Afghanistan when the terrorists are in Pakistan?" Obama said.

He contended America would be less secure if al-Qaida still could be housed in Afghanistan, and contended there remains "a vital national interest that Afghanistan not be used as a base to launch terrorist attacks."

The president said his focus is on making sure that the mission in Afghanistan is successful. Why he can't say "victory" is beyond me. But I digress.

The president is at least getting closer to accurately portraying our July 2011 deadline as what it is--the start for hopefully turning over the fight to Afghan forces that eventually will let us scale back our direct role in the fight over time.

But his base doesn't want to hear that. Hopefully, the president says this loud enough to make the Left squeal. That sound should reverberate all the way to Afghanistan so that the people who need to hear this message--both enemies, friends, and neutrals--have no doubt that we are in for the win.

UPDATE: Via Real Clear Politics, send a copy to the Speaker, too, who unsurprisingly already has her running shoes on:

In some of the strongest terms she has used to date, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared last Friday that the United States will see "a serious drawdown" of forces in Afghanistan by July 2011 and that the House may use the power of the purse to ensure the drawdown takes place.

You didn't really think she believed Afghanistan is the "good war," did you?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thank You, Sir, May I Have Another?

I am pleased that President Obama is standing with our South Korean allies over the sinking of the South Korean corvette:

President Barack Obama said Saturday that North Korea must be "held to account" for its alleged sinking of a South Korean warship, a tough statement of support for an ally, made at its leader's side.

After talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak on the sidelines of global summits here, the U.S. president used some of his strongest language yet about the March sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan.

As a bonus, Obama will attempt to get Congress to ratify the Bush-era free trade agreement negotiated with South Korea.
More of this, please.

Unilateralism and Ignoring Allies

Well I'll be, it really was a man-caused disaster.

Thanks, anyway, to the Dutch. I'm sorry our government was too bone-headed to accept your generous help in the Gulf.



You know, the older I get, the more I learn to appreciate just how normal my parents are.

When I was growing up, I always felt loved, safe at home, and taken care of. My parents sent me to good private schools rather than Detroit public schools.

They didn't abuse me or push me into programs to nourish my development. I was just able to be a kid and do kid things.

When I see kids and adults today who are in therapy or will need therapy because they are fundamentally screwed up due to parental foul ups, I thank God I had it so good.

Of course, that means I have no excuses for failure and can't blame my parents for my shortcomings.

Come to think of it, thanks a freaking lot for that, mom and dad! Who am I supposed to blame now for mistakes? Me??!!

Eager to Lose the Good War

President Obama wants to win in Afghanistan, given his decisions to escalate. Bob Herbert wants to get out and lose. I assume nobody will attribute Herbert's opposition to Obama policy to treason or--God forbid--racism.

More to the point, Herbert is a perfect example of a leftist who once supported the war but now opposes it. His transition is laughable. He actually once argued that he sure wished he could support victory, but it was too late to win--so run away now.

The transition was, of course, made possible by the victory in Iraq that has made a visible show of support for Afghanistan victory obsolete since it was always about losing Iraq than focusing on Afghanistan.

I worry that the idiots will come out in force, using their vast stores of history and military knowledge retreat instincts to urge us to run from the only war we have. Keep in mind that Herbert actually wrote, in the January 2009 article linked to in the post cited above, that we were having trouble getting out of the "disaster" of Iraq. At that late date, Herbert could still think we weren't victorious! And now, Biden says that Iraq may be the administration's greatest foreign policy success!

Mr. Herbert, in his latest op-driv (like an "op-ed" except the editorializing part is just drivel), does not disappoint. His first paragraph is a gem of ignorance:

President Obama can be applauded for his decisiveness in dispatching the chronically insubordinate Stanley McChrystal, but we are still left with a disaster of a war in Afghanistan that cannot be won and that the country as a whole will not support.

One, how is McChrystal "chronically insubordinate?" McChrystal loyally carried out the president's war policy. And so-called insubordination--really, some mocking--was directed at administration officials other than President Obama who were undermining the president's chosen objective.

Two, a disaster we can't win? The enemy isn't about to drive on Kabul and take over. We are the ones pushing against the enemy strongholds, and our problem is only that we are taking longer than we hoped to fight the battles in the enemy lairs.

And three, the country won't support the "good" "war of necessity (as opposed to the "war of choice" in Iraq )" that is the "real war" against those who struck us on 9/11? Hmm, didn't we win in Iraq even when the American public wasn't showing overwhelming support to win the war? The president supposedly has great oratorical abilities. Let him deploy them to persuade the likes of Herbert that we must win. Let Obama lead us and we will win.

One sentence. At least three pieces of drivel.

The rest is an embarrassment of ignorance, with Herbert notably unable to distinguish between conventional high intensity warfare and counter-insurgency. Like the rest of his journalistic colleagues, after nearly 9 years of war, Herbert has failed to learn even the basics of the issues he comments on from his privileged position on the New York Times opinion page.

In an amazing justification for his advocacy of retreat, the man has actually embraces the "kill them all, let God sort them out" school of massive firepower use as an excuse for urging us to run!

Those who are so fascinated with counterinsurgency, from its chief advocate, Gen. David Petraeus, all the way down to the cocktail-hour kibitzers inside the Beltway, seem to have lost sight of a fundamental aspect of warfare: You don’t go to war half-stepping. You go to war to crush the enemy. You do this ferociously and as quickly as possible. If you don’t want to do it, if you have qualms about it, or don’t know how to do it, don’t go to war.

The men who stormed the beaches at Normandy weren’t trying to win the hearts and minds of anyone. ...

What is true is that we aren’t even fighting as hard as we can right now. The counterinsurgency crowd doesn’t want to whack the enemy too hard because of an understandable fear that too many civilian casualties will undermine the “hearts and minds” and nation-building components of the strategy. Among the downsides of this battlefield caution is a disturbing unwillingness to give our own combat troops the supportive airstrikes and artillery cover that they feel is needed.

It's almost like "protecting the troops" is the last refuge of a scoundrel, eh?

What an idiot. He's entitled to whatever opinion he wants to hold, of course. But let's not pretend that his opinion is formed by vast stores of history and military knowledge. It is simply a knee jerk reaction to America at war--the conviction that we are in the wrong and don't deserve to win. It is just the retreat instinct that motivates too many people in this country.

If Herbert can't string together words that even pretend to understand the difference between fighting insurgents and conventional formed combat units, what business does he have trying to shape opinion?

Let me quote myself from that January 2009 post:

Ah, President Obama is just going to love his Leftist supporters in the next four years as they seethe in anger over "Barack Obama's war." Doesn't he know that supporting the "good war" in Afghanistan was never more than political cover for liberals to oppose the "bad war" in Iraq?

Well, if he didn't know that, he'll become painfully aware of that fact fairly soon. I'm sure the anti-war types are working on something childish to rhyme with BHO the same way they rhymed with LBJ back in the 1960s, that cradle of hope and change now viewed as a Golden Age by our Left.
Strap yourself in, this is going to get rough. Oh, and this time that advice is directed at President Obama.

Money is a Weapon, Too

I swear, sometimes opponents of the Afghan war are just determined to complain:

American taxpayers have inadvertently created a network of warlords across Afghanistan who are making millions of dollars escorting NATO convoys and operating outside the control of either the Afghan government or the American and NATO militaries, according to the results of a Congressional investigation released Monday.

Would it be better to fight through every ambush, suffering casualties? This is hardly ideal, but paying off guys just in it for the money so we can get supplies to our troops to kill actual enemies seems like a good idea. I'm worried enough about having so many troops in Afghanistan at the end of long and tenuous supply lines without shutting off a method that is working to keep the supplies moving.

Eventually, if we can secure supply lines with other means, we can cut off the warlords and be none the worse for wear. But why complain about this if we don't have a good alternative?

Money is a weapon--use it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Just Fuck Off

These people make me sick:

Are the toys in your child's Happy Meal making him fat?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says they are. The Washington-based consumer advocacy group threatened to file a lawsuit against McDonald's Tuesday, charging that the fast food chain "unfairly and deceptively" markets the toys to children.

"McDonald's marketing has the effect of conscripting America's children into an unpaid drone army of word-of-mouth marketers, causing them to nag their parents to bring them to McDonald's," CSPI's Stephen Gardner wrote to the heads of the chain in a letter announcing the lawsuit.

Some people won't rest until they erase every last bit of joy and merriment from the world.

Sometimes Soldiers Just Die

You'll recall the Wanat ambush from July 2008. A platoon-sized element of Army paratroopers with a small Afghan army contingent attached was hit by a 200-strong Taliban force intent on overrunning the unit. We held off despite the odds and defeated the enemy.

After some initial indications that some would be punished for the battle, a new review by General Campbell has argued something novel in this day and age when anything abnormal that happens has to have a cause and a punishment--there was a battle, the enemy killed a number of our troops, but we held off the mass assault and killed a lot more of the enemy (Oh, and thank you so much, Army, for disabling the copy function in the document):

Battle is the supreme test of any unit. The U.S. officers, NCO's, Soldiers, and Marines at Wanat on 13 July 2008 met this test and passed it with flying colors. By their valor and their skill, they successfully defended their positions and defeated a determined, skillful, and adaptable enemy who masses and attacks at times, ways, and places of his own choosing. That U.S. casualties occurred at Wanat is true. However, they did not occur as a result of deficient decision, planning, and actions of the chain of command -- running from [REDACTED] to MG Schloesser. The U.S. casualties occurred because the enemy decided to attack the COP at Wanat and battle resulted. It is critical that we not mechanically equate U.S. casualties with professional error or misconduct. In war, battle is the mechanism by which we defeat the enemy. In battle, casualties are inevitable. Regrettably, they are often the price of victory. When U.S. casualties occur, as at Wanat, we must examine the facts and circumstances to determine whether our Officers, NCO's, and Soldiers have performed properly. When, as at Wanat, they have done so, we should learn any lessons that the battle teaches and more forward. This judicious, reasoned review process, without anger or partiality, is the true meaning of accountability. This is what I have endeavored to accomplish in fulfillment of your tasker.

My initial worries that we'd screwed up were quickly replaced with confidence that our troops performed well in a difficult and even desperate situation. Our troops won that battle against a numerically superior enemy, but suffered losses to achieve the victory. This review confirms my impression.

Sometimes it just isn't a crime when good soldiers die.

For the Win

Just because the Taliban have slowed down our offensives into their stronghold does not mean they've beaten us--it just means they've slowed us down:

Coalition and Afghan forces are now turning their attention to Kandahar, which was the Taliban's spiritual homeland.

Gates said the military needed more time to improve political conditions there before starting the offensive.

"I do not believe we are bogged down," Gates said. "I believe we are making some progress. It is slower and harder than we anticipated."

I mentioned why it is important to improve political conditions--to shape the battle space before we wage the main battle.

Although this article about some changes we should consider makes a lot of good points--many of which I've made:

1. Change Coalition Forces rules of engagement. I've mentioned that while I am comfortable with the big picture reason for restraint, I'm concerned they might hinder killing the enemy where necessary.

2. Have Special Forces infiltrate and cement themselves in “known Taliban” controlled villages during Winter. I thought we were carrying out winter offensives already. Perhaps this is a more ambitious approach than what we are already doing. It makes sense.

3. Assemble special operation development units. Sadly, we can't count on the civilian agencies of our government to carry out these duties as they are supposed to. The Army and Marines have to do it themselves.

4. New York Style Zero tolerance areas. Yes, sift areas to scrape away the Taliban from people we need to protect.

5. Replicate the local militia Community Guard Program across Afghanistan. Absolutely. I don't know why local defense forces isn't obviously a good idea.

Finally, I would stress the need to change one of the overriding factors that permeates throughout the military and aid organisations; that is an obsession with imposing Western values on development. I do believe I've mentioned that we must pull Afghanistan forward into the 19th century. This was my point--don't try to build Vermont as a metric of victory.

We need to win this war. And we can win this war. More to the point, we are winning this war even if it is taking more time than some would like.

I just get the impression that too many people in America are looking for excuses to abandon the war and lose.

UPDATE: The Kagans weigh in:

Success in Afghanistan is possible. The policy that President Obama announced in December and firmly reiterated last week is sound. So is the strategy that General Stanley McChrystal devised last summer and has been implementing this year. There have been setbacks and disappointments during this campaign, and adjustments will likely be necessary. These are inescapable in war. Success is not by any means inevitable. Enemies adapt and spoilers spoil. But both panic and despair are premature. The coalition has made significant military progress against the Taliban, and will make more progress as the last surge forces arrive in August. Although military progress is insufficient by itself to resolve the conflict, it is a vital precondition. As the New York Times editors recently noted, “Until the insurgents are genuinely bloodied, they will keep insisting on a full restoration of their repressive power.” General David Petraeus knows how to bloody insurgents—and he also knows how to support and encourage political development and conflict resolution. He takes over the mission with the renewed support of the White House.

Support from the top is not enough, of course. Only the president can lead our nation to victory. Will he? Over the objections of his anti-war base who always assumed that candidate Obama's vocal support for winning the Afghan war was just a lie designed to lull rube Americans into voting for him?

Interesting enough, the authors argue we are doing more killing of the Taliban than the portrayal of the rules of engagement debate implies. If so, that nicely bridges my support for the ROE concept as is (with adjustments and efforts to make sure leaders down the chain of command know what they can do within the ROE) with my worry that we aren't doing enough killing of the enemy.

Dwell Time

The Army hopes to decrease tours of duty and extend time at home station, where the troops can train, reset, and recover for future duty:

The U.S. Army is going to reduce its combat tours from 12 months to nine. This will not be fully implemented for another two years. After that, the army will try to increase dwell time (how long troops are at their home base, between combat tours) to three years. While all this is great for morale, it has also been found to reduce PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or combat fatigue) losses. ...

The math works like this. The army, marines and reserves can muster about sixty combat brigades. During 2004-7, there were 19 brigades deployed to combat zones (15 in Iraq, three in Afghanistan and one in South Korea.) That's when the army began working to get active duty troops two years dwell time for every year in a combat zone. For reserves, the goal was home for four years, overseas for one. It was believed that, with a little help from the marines, the army can just about make that. The increase in troops sent to Afghanistan will delay this dwell time plan for a few years.

This requires some clarification.

We have 45 active Army brigades and 8 active Marine regimental combat teams (or perhaps 9 now, after the Marines got an increase in end strength along with the Army), making for 53 active brigades or brigade equivalents. Add in 3 Marine reserve regiments. Now we are at 56. So the Army National Guard can add 4 more brigades to reach the 60 Strategypage notes?

Not exactly. The Guard has 28 brigade combat teams, total. The plan for the Guard combat brigades is to plan for 4 to 5 brigades available to be mobilized in any given year. That is what gets us to 60.

It would be better to think of the Guard providing 4-5 brigades per year, the Marine reserves providing 1 regiment, the active Marines providing 2-3 regiments per year, and the Army providing 13 per year--or 10 if we get dwell time up to 3 years instead of 2 between deployments. So we could deploy on a sustainable basis when dwell time is at maximum, of 17 to 19 brigades per year.

This is a bit complicated by the fact that Marine tours are 6 or 7 months. In the past they were 7 but the Strategypage post says 6. And the Army and Guard are aiming at 9 month tours. So hack off a couple brigades from the total to account for shorter terms and more rotations during a given year.

So we could deploy 15 to 17 brigades in the field continuously. If we are talking about waging war in Afghanistan, stabilizing Iraq, and standing in South Korea on guard, this should be fine.

Of course, it all goes out the window if we have to fight another war. One can only plan so much. The enemy ultimately gets a say in what we need to do, too.

If that happened, the Army would respond by hiking tours up to a year, or more, as was done during the surge when Army tours went up to 15 months. At some level of deployments, it gets too tough to rotate troops too often, given limited transportation assets and the capabilities of ports and airfields.

Still, it is good that the stress on the Army is going to go down in the near term. Take what we can get when we can get it.

It's Like Web Candy!

I think very little of Fareed Zakaria's foreign policy analysis, as a recent column of his prompted me to write.

So it was with some enjoyment that I read this column slamming The Giant Brain for the same piece:

In a false and heartless June 21 op-ed column, "The fantasy of an Iranian revolution," Fareed Zakaria demonstrated -- again -- that he is the consummate spokesman for the shibboleths of the White House and for the smooth new worldliness, the at-the-highest-levels impatience with democracy and human rights as central objectives of our foreign policy, that now characterize advanced liberal thinking about America's role in the world.

That was just the first paragraph. Do read the rest.

God help us all, but some people think Zakaria is insightful. But as I've written before, Zakaria couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS signal.

Keep the Statue!

I know this is just a variation of an old Polish joke at the expense of the Russians, but why are the Georgians doing this?

Authorities in Georgia have taken down a statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that stood in the central square of Gori, his hometown.

The six metre (20ft) bronze statue was removed unannounced from its plinth in the middle of the night.

The statue will be moved to a museum in Gori dedicated to Stalin, said the head of the city council, Zviad Khmaladze.

It will be replaced by a monument for the victims of Georgia's 2008 war with Russia.

Sure, fans of Stalin and pro-Russian elements in Georgia would like the statute to remain. He's still their hero, after all.
But can't those who rightly view Russia as an enemy (did the August 2008 war not confirm that?) also defend the statue of Stalin?
After all, even the most anti-Russian Georgian can't hope to kill as many Russians as Stalin did during his reign of terror.


Our longest war, that continues to get longer every day despite the ceasefire, began 60 years ago when the North Koreans invaded our South Korean ally.

It was a difficult war that ended up in military stalemate despite Chinese intervention against us. It seemed like our first failure to win.

But despite the inconclusive ending and the long non-peace that followed, South Korea developed into a modern, Westernized society and American ally, under our protection and influence. North Korea has emerged as a starved, literally stunted, impoverished example of how not to create a country under Stalinist communism.

Despite the costs of three years of war and 57 years of ceasefire, what would the world look like if all of Korea was under the control of Pyongyang?

Given our staying power in South Korea (and Japan, and Western Europe), why anyone thinks that June 2011 means we start the big skedaddle out of Afghanistan is beyond me. If that is what the Taliban are hoping for--and even counting on--the hit on their morale when American troops continue to hunt them down and kill them throughout the latter half of 2011 and into 2012 will be significant.

Focus on the win. And this means, you, Vice President Biden and the State Department. You guys are on the job and McChrystal is out only because he failed to master the bureaucratic warfare weapons of memos, unauthorized policy-making in speeches, and leaks to the media that you guys used to attack him and his war effort.

In fifty years, if we play our cards right, we could find that our influence and example can do wonders for the Iraqis and Afghans.

UPDATE: I should add that President Obama surely knows that we won't just abandon Afghanistan starting in a year. So why remain ambiguous about it? Just say we'd love to leave as soon as we can, but that the soonest we can is when we defeat the Taliban. Sure, his base won't like it. What are they going to do? Vote for Hillary? Nader? Palin??

Contrast the current situation where our enemies and allies and Afghans apparently think we're getting ready to run when the gun goes off in a year with the determination of Bush to win in Iraq despite the obvious deadline of our surge that had to start ending once the surge brigades completed their 15 month tours since we had little ability--aside from general mobilization of reserves--to sustain that level of deployment. We were definitely going to lose at least 6 brigades yet the enemy in Iraq didn't believe we were getting ready to run because President Bush was viewed as stubbornly determined to win.

Telegraphing Our Punch

We've spent so much time talking about how we could hurt Iran by blocking their gasoline imports that nobody should be shocked that Iran took advantage of the warning we gave them:

As Congress prepares to target Iran's vital fuel imports as part of its most far-reaching sanctions package yet, observers say the Tehran government has already done much to deflect the impact of the new U.S. measures.

That's the problem with giving an enemy time--they use it.

Back When Dissent Was Patriotic

Gosh, it seems almost like yesterday when a president dismissed a senior officer for actual insubordination and the left side of the aisle was outraged that dissent was being suppressed.

President Obama had every right to fire McChrystal for any reason at all, although I fail to see how the cause was insubordination given that McChrystal was attempting to carry out Obama's policies despite interference from others in the administration.

Fallon, by contrast, was clearly attempting to block presidential decisions--and was proud of his history of that thinking--yet there was no cry about the absolute need to maintain civilian control over the military.

Really, I'm not revisitng the McChrystal issue. What's done is done. Obama had reasons, and it was a decision that could have gone either way, as far as I'm concerned.

But I am fascinated by the standards with which the two incidents are judged.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How About Another Victory Column Speech or Two?

Now comes the hard part of actually winning the war in Afghanistan. Replacing a commander was easy. That was the job of an afternoon. The long hard slog of fighting and winning lies ahead of us.

We've suffered 183 casualties so far in Afghanistan this year. Based on the same monthly intensity as last year, we're on our way to suffering 675 casualties for the entire year. This is ahead of even my estimate of 573 for all of 2010 based on 2009 casualty rates.

This doesn't mean we are losing, of course. It means, in part, that there is more combat with more troops involved. Winning or losing while we endure those casualties is another matter altogether. I don't think we are even close to losing this war, but casualties will be used by those poised to retreat to argue that we are losing.

This is no longer the "good war" for many Americans who previously shielded themselves from accusations of being defeatists for their advocacy of retreat from Iraq by claiming to support the "real war" in Afghanistan. Apparently, Afghanistan is also becoming the "war of choice."

The president really needs to deploy his purported oratorical abilities to bolster support for the Afghanistan campaign. One of my constant complaints about Bush was his failure to consistently speak to the American people about why we needed to support the war until victory. We managed--barely--to keep public support long enough to win the war in Iraq without such an effort, but that doesn't mean we can count on that luck again in Afghanistan.

I sometimes worry that the war is merely a distraction for our president who hopes to transform our country into a social democracy along the lines of France. I hope that isn't the case. War is serious and we all lose if President Obama loses the war.

Not to mention the troops who will die for nothing if we withdraw from a winnable war before we achieve victory. And not to mention the people who will die here if our jihadi enemies then use a sanctuary in Afghanistan or Pakistan (you don't think Pakistan will continue their war on their jihadis if we bug out of Afghansitan, do you?) to plan, organize, and execute an attack on our country.

Lead us to victory, Mr. President.

Business Before Pleasure

Sure, it is more fun to slaughter Infidels and Moslems not worthy of the name, but a good jihadi's got to eat, no?

STRATFOR is currently putting the finishing touches on a detailed assessment of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the al Qaeda-inspired jihadist franchise in that country. As we got deeper into that project, one of the things we noticed was the group’s increasing reliance on criminal activity to fund its operations. In recent months, in addition to kidnappings for ransom and extortion of businessmen — which have been endemic in Iraq for many years — the ISI appears to have become increasingly involved in armed robbery directed against banks, currency exchanges, gold markets and jewelry shops.

This increase in criminal activity highlights how the ISI has fallen on hard times since its heyday in 2006-2007, when it was flush with cash from overseas donors and when its wealth led the apex leadership of al Qaeda in Pakistan to ask its Iraqi franchise for financial assistance.

I thought I'd noticed reports of crimes that seemed to look an awful lot like fund-raising because of the high body counts involved. Why would simple criminals want to bring down a heavy response by doing that? No, it sounded like terrorists looking for cash and having a little fun as a happy side effect.

Evolving into a mere criminal gang from terrorist origins is hardly new in the world of terrorism. Which means that al Qaeda really will become mostly a police problem in time.

Knowing Who to Protect

Living with the population requires the protectors to know who is living with them--friend or foe?

As I advocated during the Iraq campaign, in Afghanistan we need to be able to sift the population to remove the enemy from the friendlies and neutrals. I'm shocked that this apparently isn't being done (tip to Instapundit):

The problem set on the ground is that a certain subset of people in Afghanistan want to run the country again--the Taliban. There aren't that many true Taliban, but they pay well and the work is appealing to unemployed young men.

The solution is get rid of the Taliban and their hired help or dissuade the hired help. Simple. But the US Military/ISAF/NATO do know who we need to get rid of. ...

The Talibs and their day-laborers can hide in plain sight because US and ISAF forces do not know who everyone is. (This concept shocks some Afghans who think the American surely have some gizmo that tell them who everyone is in a town.) The local Afghans know who everyone is and use that as leverage on the Americans. Relying on local intel is necessary, but you should not rely on the locals to be your phone book. ...

Soldiers and Marines need hit the streets constantly knocking on every door getting the names of everyone who lives in a house. The GPS grid of the house is noted and used as a street address. A picture of the house is taken with a digital camera. Pictures of the adult males are taken with a digital camera. The file number of the picture is tagged along with the names of the residents and the GPS grid. All of this is added into an Access database. The pictures are on corresponding power-point slides.

Bingo. You now have a clue as to who is supposed to live at that house. When you go on patrol again, you can check and see who is supposed to be in the house and confirm the data. It will take an entire deployment to get a significant database, but once a unit gets enough names, the enemy will have a hard time hiding and move on.

If we can't pluck the enemy from amidst the people we've technically liberated by marching into town, our efforts to protect them will go nowhere.

As long as I'm at it, protecting the population centers still has to include going out of the population centers and looking for the enemy to kill them. This doesn't mean we declare free fire zones and abandon careful rules of engagement. That is still important to avoid driving more people than we kill to the enemy's side.

Protecting the people doesn't mean just patroling population centers and sleeping in a building next to them. You can't commute to this type of war, it is true. But it is still war, which means enemies must die.

But it helps to know who the enemy is so the right people die. Count the people.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Breathe, People. Breathe.

I don't understand the recent tizzy over whether we can win in Afghanistan. Noticing that the central government isn't capable of governing Afghanistan is nothing new. That factor existed even back in the days when Afghanistan was the "good war" and the "real war on terrorism." We can win under those circumstances.

Complaining about not "resourcing" the fight and that we are doomed because we don't have enough troops is also bunk. We have enough troops--or can get them if we count everyone we can get. I thought so before the latest surge, too.

Just as in the Iraq War where many experts with calculators said we had too few troops to win almost until the day we won, you can't restrict yourself to just counting American troops, or even just Western troops. Every Afghan, be he a special forces type or a lowly local defense force militia type, counts in adding up the numbers. They aren't interchangeable with one another, mind you, but if given appropriate tasks they all contribute toward beating the jihadis.

With Pakistan making a proper effort on their side of the border, we can probably get by with 360,000 troops. With 150,000 foreign troops (by the end of the year--2/3 US), about 200,000 Afghan armed forces and national police, and 70,000 contract security forces (I'm going on memory, here), we're already well above what is needed by my rudimentary calculations made in the above linked posts. This doesn't count local warlords who are bought, local anti-Taliban militias, and local defense forces that we help set up and work with directly. We should have enough to win even if the Pakistanis falter in their efforts on their side of the border.

Nothing is certain in war, but I don't believe lack of resources is one of our challenges.

Playing Hard to Get

It is amusing in a sort of depressing way that the Chinese repeatedly cancel military-to-military exchanges with our military and we beg the Chinese to restart them?

Why amusing and depressing? Because the Chinese gain knowledge to defeat us in war (tip to The View from Taiwan via Mad Minerva). Yet we think China does us a great favor by agreeing to them:

The events of the last several weeks are the latest installment in a long-running effort by the Pentagon to mollify the Communist Party-ruled military through a series of exchanges, meetings and ship visits involving senior and mid level military officers.

The problem, according to officials close to the program, is that the United States sees the exchanges as a way to develop friendly relations, while China's military has used the exchanges for intelligence-gathering and technology identification for its major military buildup.

"The Pentagon is totally naive about this relationship," said a defense official involved in the program.

An annual Pentagon report to Congress on military exchanges with China's People's Liberation Army reveals that the Chinese military has been granted access to U.S. military expertise despite a legal prohibition on exchanges that could bolster Beijing's power projection capabilities.

The exchanges also provided Chinese military visitors with a look at key strategic communications, logistics and supply capabilities, management methods and tactical combat operations, as well as nuclear policy and strategy, according to a review of the programs.

Here's one lovely tidbit from an American officer too eager to please from a past visit that led to theoretical limits to what the Chinese can visit:

Support for the legislation in Congress was bolstered by a damaging incident in the late 1990s. At that time, a visiting Chinese military officer asked a Navy officer to identify the most vulnerable point on an aircraft carrier. The officer told the Chinese visitor that carriers were most vulnerable underneath their hulls, close to ammunition storage areas.

Would it have really been that hard for the officer to have pointed to an area of the hull where the dining facility is located?

As I've long argued, I'm most happy when these little visits are on hold. We hope to teach the Chinese that we're too powerful to fight. They learn how to defeat us despite our strength.

Or if they don't learn how to do that, they think they learn how to do that.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's All So Confusing!

What's this? A foreign country trying to affect the internal policies of another country?

The government of Mexico today formally joined a lawsuit in federal court challenging Arizona's new immigration law, saying that the highest levels of the Mexican government have grave concerns about it.

Aren't the Mexicans worried about "tainting" the pro-immigration side in America? Doesn't the Mexican government realize that this will only lead the pro-immigration Americans to rally around Arizona to defend the new law? Won't the pro-immigration people just be viewed as tools of Mexican power?

I mean, that's basically what the administration's supporters say about potential American support of Iranian dissidents. We'll taint them, right? They'll just be seen as tools of America and inspire other Iranians to reject the dissidents and rally to the mullah government, right?

Yes, I know. I lack the nuance gene.

Apologize, Keep Quiet, and Soldier On

It is unbelievable that General McChrystal gave an interview to Rolling Stone. What was he thinking?

The article in this week's Rolling Stone depicts McChrystal as a lone wolf on the outs with many important figures in the Obama administration and unable to persuade even some of his own soldiers that his strategy can win the war.

Now, McChrystal is on his way to DC to explain himself.

It is unacceptable for a senior general to whine about his superiors in the White House. That thinking should be restricted to private moments with trusted staff. Anything else on policy should be privately given to the White House. Otherwise, soldier on. Or resign if he can't do that so someone else can do their job.

I also can't believe that the general whined about his troops. He needs to spend more time explaining the reasons rather than complaining about their views of rules of engagement.

His troops would charge machine gun nests for him (well, for their comrades in their unit, as a practical matter, but you get my point). It is more difficult to grasp the chain of cause and effect that firepower restraint will provide in the war than it is to grasp the value of silencing a machine gun at the cost of losing your own troops. But the effort must be made. That would be more valuable than wasting time with unfriendly media types.

Look, it may be that the rules of engagement need to be refined. We have to learn and refine them. Over time, we may need to do more than refine them as circumstances change. And even absolutely correct rules of engagement can be applied incorrectly. There are lots of ways to die in a war, and troops will die with no mistakes and perfect ROE.

But the big picture is correct. We need to have restrictive rules of engagement to avoid alienating the people. You think counter-insurgency is tough now when we have friends to protect? Try it with a largely hostile population. That will be tough. Is this situation unfair? Sure. Get over it.

Strategypage writes about the ROE situation and notes:

Many Afghans are not happy with this policy, with foreign troops increasingly encountering angry Afghan civilians, who demand that NATO act more decisively in pursuing and killing Taliban gunman. Even if it puts Afghan civilians at risk. This is an unexpected side effect to the change in NATO rules of engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan. The ROE change was partly in response to popular (or at least media) anger at civilians killed by American smart bombs. As a result of the new ROE, it became much more difficult to get permission drop a smart bomb when there might be civilians nearby. Now American commanders have to decide who they shall respond too; Afghan civilians asking for relief from Taliban oppression, or Taliban influenced media condemning the U.S. for any Afghan civilians killed, or thought to be killed, by American firepower. What to do? So far, the decision often favors the survival of the Taliban.

Taliban propaganda, and the enthusiasm of the media for jumping on real, or imagined, civilian deaths caused by foreign troops, made people forget that far more civilians (about four times as many) had been killed by the Taliban. But because Afghans have been conditioned to expect more civilized behavior from the foreign troops, much less media attention is paid to the civilians killed by the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Of course, Afghan civilians are aware of who is killing most of the civilians, and that's why the Taliban and al Qaeda are moving down in the opinion polls. But for the media, hammering foreign troops get every time they kill a civilian, or are simply (often falsely) accused of doing so, led to the ROE becoming far more strict than it ever was in Iraq.

Significantly, Afghan opinion of the Taliban continues to drop. That is a metric of winning, people, and it is partly a result of our firepower restraint.
And Afghans are learning about the curse of getting what you wish for. Faced with the reality of getting NATO firepower restraint, Afghans may clamor to unleash the hounds on the enemy that torments them.
We need to tweak our ROE to compensate for Taliban adaptation. We may be able to contemplate major revisions if Afghan popular opinion swings enough.
Through it all, McChrystal needs to explain the reasons his troops need to show restraint. He needs to adjust the rules of engagement to keep up with the enemy's tactics. He needs to prepare the Afghans for easing the rules to better kill Taliban if the Afghans will accept the price of more accidental innocent dead at the hands of our troops for the benefit of many more lives saved by stopping the Taliban who kill Afghans deliberately.
And McChrystal needs to set an example to his troops by soldiering on rather than publicly griping about his boss.

President Obama would be within his rights to fire McChrystal. I hope the president doesn't do that, to avoid disrupting the war effort.

And I hope that McChrystal learns a lesson to suck it up and soldier on, keeping his opinions to himself in order to stay on the job and win the war--and save more of his troops in the long run by winning sooner rather than later.
Win the war. Bitch later. That applies to POTUS, O-10s, and E-5s.

UPDATE: Gates issued a statement:

"I read with concern the profile piece on Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the upcoming edition of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine. I believe that Gen. McChrystal made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment in this case. We are fighting a war against al Qaeda and its extremist allies, who directly threaten the United States, Afghanistan, and our friends and allies around the world. Going forward, we must pursue this mission with a unity of purpose. Our troops and coalition partners are making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our security, and our singular focus must be on supporting them and succeeding in Afghanistan without such distractions. Gen. McChrystal has apologized to me and is similarly reaching out to others named in this article to apologize to them as well. I have recalled Gen. McChrystal to Washington to discuss this in person."

Yes, go forward. And learn, please. We're at war, remember?

UPDATE: Read the actual article. One, some embarrassing things were said--mostly by staff--but nothing sounds insubordinate to me. Two, McChrystal is trying to get the troops to understand the concept of restrictive ROE to win the war. Three, one really bad example of patrolling was clearly not how the ROE and COIN are intended to be carried out. Four, the article is clearly anti-Afghan war. Be careful who you grant that much access to.

Bottom line: McChrystal should not be fired. But he should be worried he'll be fired for as long as possible. Some of Obama's people as well as Obama himself should be embarrassed by how they look--but they probably deserve it. They should support the general as he tries to win the war.

But the cumulative effect of this and other statements means McChrystal is up to the line of keeping his job. If the general can't learn from this and focus on the war after this crisis of confidence, then he should go.

UPDATE: If there was momentum building toward the firing of McChrystal, I think it peaked. The general is getting words of support from a lot of people involved in the war.

If President Obama fires McChrystal, I won't complain. It is his right. But it won't be the best decision the president could make, under the circumstances.

UPDATE: McChrystal is out. Petraeus will take charge of the war directly.

I'm sorry McChrystal is out, I'll not mention the issue again as it is the president's right to fire a general, and we should all now soldier on to win the war. That's been my advice from the beginning of this issue, after all.

Monday, June 21, 2010

In Cyber-space, Nobody Can Hear You Scream

I've long wondered why the discussions of fighting nations using cyber-war are so focused on cyber counter-attacks and strangely silent on actually killing the hackers.

Strategypage writes that actual killing is contemplated against virtual attackers:

Crime, and warfare, over the Internet is getting more dangerous for the attackers. Internet security experts are now doing to hackers what hackers have been doing for years; finding flaws in their software and exploiting it. This makes it possible to counterattack and, more importantly, identify, locate and arrest criminal hackers. For military ones, you could obtain GPS coordinates, enabling you to send a "cease and desist" message in the form of smart bombs.

Blowing them to bits may not be as elegant as cyber warfare aimed back at them, but it is very binary, no? They're either alive or dead, and the dead don't hack.

Horton Hears a Who

Taiwan faces some severe problems in defending their island democracy from absorption by China.

One, China's tremendous economic growth is providing China with the means to create a real invasion threat.

Two, China's size means that Taiwan will, in the long run, probably find that they cannot maintain defense spending high enough to support a military capable of holding off China either on their own or to buy time for allies to help.

Three, China's economic growth has given it clout to erode Taiwan's ability to purchase modern arms that could allow Taiwan to defend itself. Europe has largely checked out of the Taiwan market under pressure from China. Even American support is affected enough to result in narrowing arms choices and delays in sales.

Four, China's military build up threatens, in time, to delay effective American intervention long enough to allow China to conquer Taiwan.

So what is Taiwan to do, given that they cannot, in the long run measured in decades, build and support a military large enough to hold off a Chinese assault determined to win?

It means that Taiwan has to think outside of the conventional thinking of maintaining a military balance. Talk of Taiwan building a "hedgehog" defense that exacts a price on China for taking Taiwan is just a staging area to admitting they can't defend their island. It gives up naval and air power and surrenders passage of the Taiwan strait to China and surrenders their own air space in favor of fighting house-to-house in a Stalingrad scenario. But going this route merely succumbs to the military reality without looking for a real alternative to the military route to maintaining Taiwan's independence.

One alternative, in an approach the closest to the standard defense outlook, would be for Taiwan to build a nuclear deterrent and hope that China believes Taiwan would really nuke China rather than lose a conventional war.

Thinking further outside the conventional outlook would be to recognize that the best way to halt being absorbed into China is to convince China that they don't want to own Taiwan. How could the Taiwanese do that?

One measure would be to seek regime change in China. If China was no longer a unitary communist police state that uses nationalism over Taiwan to maintain public support, would China still want to attack Taiwan and take it? Could Taiwan actually engineer an information campaign that stokes anger at the Peking rulers to such an extent that China breaks up into multiple states that lack the means or will to take Taiwan?

Or could a campaign result in a revolution that brings real democracy to a Peking-run united China? At worse, being taken over by a democracy is certainly less disastrous for Taiwan than being absorbed by China as it is now.

Perhaps a more promising measure to ensure survival is to leverage China's tourist invasion of Taiwan in a form of foreign policy judo. Could Taiwan engineer an advertising campaign on Taiwan aimed at Chinese tourists able to see Taiwan first hand for the first time and able to hear what Taiwanese really feel? Could that campaign emphasize that the Taiwanese actually like being independent?

I've read that Chinese propaganda emphasizes the "fact" that the Taiwanese really are eager to rejoin the mainland but for those darned rulers. In effect, the Chinese people on the mainland can't hear what the Taiwanese are saying on that tiny speck of dust off their coast. What if Taiwan could spread the word through these personal visits by Chinese that the Taiwanese like being friends with China, but do not want to lose their independence?

Could such a campaign, supplemented by advertising this reality on the mainland as much as Chinese censorship allows, slowly lead the Chinese people to hear the truth and so fail to respond to a nationalistic appeal to rally around the autocrats to "recover" the island? Might the Chinese people begin to see Taiwan as a friendly trading partner and potential ally rather than one more small province added to China?

The appeal should be friendly and cheery, with no threats at all directed at China, aimed at emphasizing the Taiwanese will to be free, their pride in their democracy, and their determination to defend it.

Keeping the military balance from sliding too fast toward China would be important to buy as much time as possible to allow the non-military information offensive to have an effect on Chinese thinking about Taiwan.

The Taiwanese must argue that a country's a country, no matter how small.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva and The View from Taiwan for links.

Well, He Does Know Fantasy ...

Fareed Zakaria never fails to astound me. He lives on a fantasy world and calls it "realism."

In regard to Iran, Zakaria argues that the idea of a revolution against the mullahs in Iran is a fantasy:

Ironically, those hoping to liberate Iranians are the same people urging punitive sanctions and even military force against Iran. Do they think that when the bombs hit, those who wear green will be spared?

He doesn't think much of sanctions or military force, either, I guess. I'm puzzled why it should be odd for those who support a revolution against the mullahs to also support sanctions or war. The objective is to keep the mullahs from getting nukes, right? Doing nothing fails to achieve that objective. War, sanctions, or revolt could achieve the objective. Why is it odd to think that way? After all, Secretary Gates clearly believes that the alternative to any of those measures is unacceptable:

"I don't think we're prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran. I think... our view still is we do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons," he said in an interview with Fox News Sunday.

"And our policies and our efforts are all aimed at preventing that from happening," he said.

Asked whether a military strike against Iran was preferable to it acquiring nuclear weapons, Gates said all options remained on the table but added: "I think we have some time to continue working this problem."

To turn around Zakaria's objection that bombs or sanctions could hurt those Iranians who oppose the mullahs, I'd ask whether Zakaria would really find it a comfort that those wearing green in Iran might be really, really sad that their mullah rulers nuked Charleston.

As a bonus, does Zakaria really believe that the mullahs would be troubled that a nuclear attack on an American city would not spare "realists" like Zakaria who think Iran can be deterred--or even those who support Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions?

But if you doubt that Zakaria lives in a fantasy world, let me close with a quote from near the beginning of his opinion piece:

In a June 10 speech, later published as a cover essay in the New Republic, McCain urged that we "unleash America's full moral power" to topple the Tehran regime. The speech highlights one of the crucial failings of McCain's worldview, one in which rhetoric replaces analysis and fantasy substitutes for foreign policy. [emphasis added]

Zakaria is a fan of Obama's foreign policy, so I suppose it doesn't occur to Zakaria that his slam on McCain is actually a pretty good description of the Obama foreign policy.

Clearly, Zakaria has learned to stop worrying and love the Iranian bomb. The possibility of overthrowing the mullahs is fantasy, to him. Deterring Iran with nukes, however, is not a fantasy.

How is this man considered an insightful analyst of world affairs? He couldn't find his own buttocks with both hands and a GPS device.

What's the Question, Again?

Census workers are experiencing some hostility from the American public:

So far, the Census Bureau has tallied 379 incidents involving assaults or threats on the nation's 635,000 census workers, more than double the 181 recorded during the 2000 census. Weapons were used or threatened in a third of the cases.

Now, with just three weeks to go in the door-knocking phase of the count, the number of census takers has dwindled, and the remaining households are the toughest.

While most homeowners have received census takers graciously, some say they have been surprised at the degree of anger exhibited by Americans who consider them the embodiment of intrusive government.

"I came across loads of hostility," said Douglas McDonald, who summoned police in Deltona, Fla., after a tug-of-war with an irate homeowner over a census form. The homeowner threw his ripped half in the toilet.

One, violence against census workers is wrong. And there is no reason to take out anger at the federal government on census workers who are carrying out a basic function needed to aportion House seats in Congress among the states.
Two, is a rate of 379 incidents among 635,000 census workers really that high? Send any group of a half million knocking on doors and I have to believe a good amount will face some hostility that rises to the level of an "incident."
Still, what fascinates me is the focus on what the attackers have done--or those just angry. When jihadis slammed planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and as a consolation prize the ground in Pennsylvania, the cry from the Left was "why do they hate us?"

Wouldn't it be an appropriate question to ask why so many people--whether it is particularly high right now or not--hate the federal government? Could it be that the federal government has expanded into too many areas where the states should have primacy?

Does anybody remember the time when being accused of "making a federal case" out of some issue meant that it was a really big deal?

There is no excuse for violence against census workers. But I would appreciate a list of violent actions that do or don't justify the question why do the attackers hate the victims?

The Common Thread of Attacks

So, bee colony collapse in the United States might be the fault of the Australians:

Disease-carrying honeybees imported from Australia may be responsible for a mysterious disorder that's decimated bee hives around the country, and federal regulators say they'd consider import restrictions if necessary.

By some estimates, beekeepers in the past several years have lost from a third to half their hives to what's called colony collapse disorder. Each hive, or colony, can contain as many as 100,000 bees. The bees are disappearing from the hives never to be seen again.

Add this to the "British Petroleum" oil assault on our Gulf coast.
Don't forget the South African vuvuzela assault on our central nervous system at the World Cup.
Do I have to even remind you of the Canadian victory over our team in men's ice hockey at the Olympics?
Wake up, people! It's a full Commonwealth assault on America!
Keep an eye on the New Zealanders. They're small--but scrappy.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Metrics of Meekness

I know that a lot of people are getting their panties in a twist over Afghanistan, but their barely controlled panic is ridiculous.

This information will surely lead many to raise the pitch of their voice and insist that we think about heading for the exits:

A U.N. report released Saturday painted a grim picture of the security situation in Afghanistan, saying roadside bombings and assassinations have soared the first four months of the year amid ramped up military operations in the Taliban-dominated south.

The United Nations' findings appeared at odds with Pentagon assertions this week claiming slow-but-steady progress in Afghanistan — an assessment challenged by U.S. lawmakers during hearings on Capitol Hill.

This is akin to noting you've gained 5 pounds and concluding that you are taller.

You need to use the right measurement, and the level of violence is not a measure of whether we are winning a war. Consider the level of violence in France on June 5, 1944 and on June 6, 1944. Would you really insist that the dramatic spike in violence in France starting on June 6, 1944 meant that we were losing the war against the Nazis? Of course not, it would be stupid.
Likewise, the issue of winning and losing is separate from both the questions of what the level of violence is and whether the Taliban is stronger ("resurgent") or weaker over time.

The ultimate objective is to win and winning will dramatically lower the level of violence, of course. But that metric is a result of victory and not a metric of determining whether we are on the way to victory, or not.

Too many people here, like they were in regard to the Iraq War, are so eager to run away that they will seize on numbers they don't truly understand to justify retreat from Afghanistan.

Gosh, remember the days when Afghanistan was the "good war" we had to win?

Hope Without Change? Get Real.

President Obama has downgraded the post-9/11 Bush idea of a freedom agenda in the Moslem world in the hopes that reaching out to despots can result in deals made at the top while the little people under those despots just accept their lot in life.

Funny enough, dark-skinned Moslems who have to live with that policy don't seem to terribly thrilled at that idea despite the novelty of a dark-skinned American president telling them that Moslems should accept that role in our foreign policy.

Now, I count myself as a realist rather than an idealist, despite the simplistic notion the anti-war side tosses about that if you support the Iraq War you must be a "neo-con." Nothing "neo" about me, folks. I had no problem during the Cold War of supporting autocrats who would help us fight our primary enemy, the Soviet Union. I wasn't happy about that tradeoff, but there'd be precious little freedom anywhere had we lost that struggle with communism.

But after we won the Cold War, my reason for accepting the logic of supporting autocrats for a higher goal disappeared. And after 9/11, it became clear to me that the realistic course of action to defeat Islamo-fascism was not to continue supporting autocrats in the Moslem world--the strategy that bred the resentment and desperaton that allowed Islamo-fascism to thrive--but to promote democracy and rule of law in the Moslem world.

Obviously, this doesn't mean that we push allies in the same manner as enemies. Get real, people. We can forcefully or aggressively promote democracy in countries led by enemies. And we can gently prod allied rulers into increasing democracy and rule of law. The tactics may not be consistent--and I don't care. The strategic goal is still the same--freedom and rule of law. Do that and the reason for the pool of support for terrorists declines.

I know that a lot of people expected the mere existence of President Obama with his middle name familiar to the Moslem world would transform our relations (along with some speeches, of course), but that was never realistic. Moslems are not happy to be told by Barack Hussein Obama that they should be happy to live under autocrats who have signed a lovely grand bargain with America, complete with bright red ribbons affixed with fancy wax seals, signed on a live television broadcast, and toasted by the Zakarias and Friedmans of our media-think tank complex.

Freedom still matters to people without it. I guess we've had it so long that we've forgotten its importance.

UPDATE: It is unlikely that President Obama, having thrown the Moslem street under the bus, so to speak, can make those leader-to-despotic leader grand bargains above them that the Left has grown so fond of during the Bush years. Why? Because we are short a leader. The title of the article is pretty damning: "Mort Zuckerman: World Sees Obama as Incompetent and Amateur".

While it is easy to point to specific policies of the Obama administration that are good--and I believe I haven't been shy about pointing them out--the totality of the record has led to the above-quoted assessment. Do read, the entire piece, by all means. And keep it in mind when you read pieces that insist all is well with the Obama foreign policy record. Foreign Policy recently had a piece that I was tempted to comment on, but why bother? Even a dying forest has some living trees, and for the president's most devoted fan, it's all trees and no forest.

Certainly, I'll freely admit that under President Obama we haven't screwed up everything. We're even going to make some progress in some areas. And in cases where we screw up, our power is great enought to make the consequences to us less than fatal and something we can recover from. Take heart that even President Jimmy Carter was capable of learning from experience in his term of office. (Since then, not so much, of course. But he can do far less harm no matter how annoying he has become.)

But until President Obama has his own Carter moment, you can almost hear the president exclaiming, in a visit to one of the hard men of Russia, China, Iran, or Syria, "My! What an interesting window treatment!"

But have no doubt, the overall record of this administration and the thinking that forms their view of the world, less than two years into the age of hope and change, is not promising. And the world is starting to catch on, as Zuckerman writes:

America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, "We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends."

"Smart" diplomacy? I think not.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Afghan Pieces

Strategypage writes about the reorganization of provinces and the deployment of our military forces in Afghanistan:

In Afghanistan, there are three key provinces (from west to east; Nimroz, Helmand, Kandahar) where the Taliban have to maintain control, or lose their base of support and key recruiting area.

Regional Command South has been narrowed to just Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, and Daykundi. We've also added a new Regionial Command Southwest.

Coalition troop strength in those regions is as follows:
There are now six NATO commands; Regional Command Capital (Kabul, with 8,000 troops), Regional Command North (9,000), Regional Command West (7,000), Regional Command South (30,000), Regional Command East (33,000) and the new Regional Command Southwest (27,000).

The total troop strength will be 150,000 foreign troops (over 100,000 Americans) and over 150,000 Afghan police and army. Add in a good number of contract security, too, I've read.

Add in the tribal areas of Pakistan as another region of the war, but one where our presence is just special forces, CIA, and armed drones to bolster what the Pakistanis are doing.

It will be this organization and troops that we will win or lose the war.

With Congressional support likely to get as shaky as it was in Iraq during 2007, we need to start showing progress so obvious that not even our media can mistake it for a Taliban resurgence.

Of Course You Realize, This Means War

Here in America, some people worry that Happy Meals will encourage children to eat too much and get fat.

In the world of Hamas children's programming, the goals are far more ambitious than just getting the kids to pack on the pounds:

Last year the show’s Islamist producers in Gaza killed him off on the set as the victim of an Israeli bombing …

Stories like this – with their messages of martyrdom and death – are commonplace on Al-Aqsa Television, which is owned by Hamas.

They are made attractive to children with the use of characters like Assoud or Farfour, a Mickey Mouse lookalike, who also died when Israeli soldiers apparently beat him to death.

In another show last year, several children watch a video re-enactment of the real life death of their mother in a suicide bombing.

You'll recall Farfour, of course.

Hamas understands that it takes a child to raze a village. Our village, in particular.

When you wonder why we will be waging war against Islamo-fascism for many years or decades to come, think about how the next generation of suicide bombers is being indoctrinated right now.

Lenin's Revenge

Russia sold China the rope that China could use to hang Russia:

Throughout the 1990s, the Russian armed forces could not afford to buy much new stuff. China came to the rescue in the 1990s, and over the next decade, bought nearly $20 billion in Russian arms. But China also began to blatantly copy lots of the Russian tech, and build their own. Thus, not surprisingly, for the last five years, Chinese orders have shrunk, while production of copies of Russian tech have increased. In some cases, Russia has simply refused to sell China high tech stuff, to avoid having it copied.

Russia stopped selling China rope since the Russians finally realized that China could use that rope against Russia. And now the Russians are feeling a bit nervous about that Chinese rope dangling near their Far East:

More money was put into the nuclear weapons forces, with the realization that this was the only way to keep the Chinese, or any other potential invader, out. But now the generals and admirals are insisting that the conventional forces are rapidly crumbling, and without replacement weapons and equipment, there will be no Russian military capability available except nukes, or small commando units. The government now promises to halt the rot, via new purchases, within five years. The military leadership believes the nation faces some very real military threats. The generals are particularly worried about widespread Islamic radical unrest in the east, as well as possible Chinese attempts to regain territory lost, over a century ago, in the far east. In both these cases, nukes alone would not solve the problem. To emphasize the point, the major military training exercises this Summer have been held in the east, to work out the technical problems of dealing with a military crises there.

It is interesting that the exercises will be openly directed at the China threat, at least in part.

I suspected that the last couple rounds were really directed at China despite the claimed anti-NATO focus.

If we're ever to really reset relations with Russia, the Russians have to stop seeing the West as an enemy and join the West. Could Moscow's nervous gaze east end their dangerous fixation of war with American and NATO? A war nobody in America or NATO wants, anyway, despite Russian paranoia?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

War is Variable Hell

The chattering classes led by the reports of a journalistic class that still has no clue about warfare are getting jumpy about Afghanistan. They are infecting Congress, too:

Downbeat news reports and second-guessing in Congress about the course of the war in Afghanistan have touched a nerve in the Pentagon, where some worry the negativity is undercutting public sentiment before President Barack Obama's strategy even has a chance to work.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is among those to privately voice concerns about a wave of pessimism that they believe stems partly from embedding journalists solely with military units in Afghanistan's south, where fighting is fiercest. Some officials talk of changes to make embeds go elsewhere too.

They predicted how inevitable our defeat in Iraq was, yet their credibility has not been dented by our victory in Iraq. Go figure. And it happens time and again. I just wish we'd remember one basic thing about our media's coverage of warfare when they move beyond basics of "who, what, when, and where," and try to analyze it for their readers:

When it comes to war and the military, our press couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel. Keep that in mind the next time they collectively leap on the chair and yell "EEEK!!"

Unfortunately, we need patience to win the war in Afghanistan. The patience needs to be built up here at home, on the Washington clock, so that the Afghanistan clock doesn't go faster. Battalion commanders on the ground can't buy patience to win the war. They should be the consumers of that patience as they win the war.

As was the case in the Iraq War, our reporters will see and discuss every real and perceived problem our military has in the field. They don't appreciate that this isn't the way to judge progress in the war.

Not that the glare of the press can't provide useful incentives for us to fight better rather than hiding real military problems, there is also a real handicap to having a press corps that doesn't know what war is and what militaries do.

And there is a real problem in that while our press corps may actually see real problems, our press rarely gives insights into the problems of the enemy. This leaves the impression that only we have problems. That is never true in war, and the Afghan War is no exception:

The increased intelligence effort in Afghanistan, largely the result of transferring equipment and experienced personnel from Iraq, has led to a big increase in information about what's going on in Afghanistan. Of most immediate interest is the low morale among captured Taliban. A lot of the cash that used to go to Afghan Taliban (for payroll, weapons and equipment like radios and transport) is now going to the beleaguered Taliban big shots in Pakistan. Some captured Taliban complain of their own leaders keeping cash for themselves, or paying a kinsman way too much for supplies, equipment or services. In other words, the Taliban also have a corruption problem.

If the "resurgent" Taliban are winning, why are they down?

The anti-war side failed in their effort to lose the war in Iraq. They thought Afghanistan was the "good war" only in order to retreat from Iraq.

Now, with Iraq won and our troops there on the way out, the anti-war side is looking for an excuse to run and lose in Afghanistan. It is, after all, the only war they have to protest.

The enemy has more problems than we do. We just don't see their problems as routinely as we see ours.

We can win this war if we have the patience not to over-react with gloom over every enemy success or perceived success when they cause a large boom that they can see and record on film.