Wednesday, June 30, 2004

June 2004 Posts Recovered from The Internet Archives

These are my June 2004 posts from the dead Yahoo!Geocities site taken from The Internet Archive.

“If We Had the Balls…” (Posted June 30, 2004)
Saddam is now under the jurisdiction of the Iraqis and will appear in court to have formal charges presented. We are still responsible for his physical security.
I was worried that Saddam’s buddies might try to spring him and thought that we should make sure that should a jail break be attempted that Saddam definitely dies trying to escape.
But then I thought, if we had the balls—I mean seriously hefty cojones—we’d have implanted a homing device inside Saddam and let him get sprung. Then we’d see where he fled and our special operations boys would swoop in and nail whoever had the organization to rescue Saddam.
That would sure be a risky move politically for the President. But if it worked, it would be quite demoralizing to the remaining Baathists. I don’t expect this Hollywood-type plan, but I think the President would risk a move like this even though every political aide would argue against it.
Honestly, I don’t think I’d have the guts to try something like this.
"We Did Not Conquer Iraq With Three Divisions" (Posted June 29, 2004)
As the discussion turns to what to do about Iran, the possibility of invasion is raised. Although generally dismissed, the starting point is often the mistaken “fact” that we conquered Iraq with only three divisions. To me, it looked like the 60 US and 10 British battalions that identified in the theater prior to the Iraq War executed a new type of fighting where we had the front line battalions for 7 division-equivalents without the massive corps- and army-level support we used in the Persian Gulf War. Instead, we relied on air power to replace artillery and went in without the massive iron mountains of supplies that we sent to the Gulf for 1991. Our reorganized divisions that will operate without corps headquarters and their support units is one result of this war. This is my take on the issue of our ground strength in the Iraq War back in April 2003.
Not that I think we could invade, conquer, and pacify Iran if the people resist us. But we should at least start at the right assumptions of what our ground forces can do.
And if we’re talking about intervening in a revolt by the Iranian military and people, that’s another question altogether.
"We Are Going In" (Posted June 29, 2004)
All the signs are pointing to a Western intervention in Sudan to stop the Darfur genocide.
The administration is in favor of stopping the genocide:
The United States is moving "with a maximum sense of urgency to try to save lives," said [State Department official] Ranneberger, who accompanied Natsios. "We don't have time to sit around also and decide, is this ethnic cleansing or is this genocide, or what is it."
Kofi Annan wants the West to intervene. And of course, genocide automatically makes this a UN issue. Secretary Powell is threatening Sudan with a UN resolution if the government does not stop the atrocities, which could lead to intervention.
There is interest in the Senate to intervene and guilt that we “let” Rwanda happen.
And Human Rights Watch won't be sniping about a military intervention, either (via Instapundit).
So what could we do? Assuming Libyan support and cooperation from Chad, a couple air strips in the northeastern part of Chad could receive NATO and US fighter squadrons. Send in a squadron of US F-15s, recon planes, aerial tankers and AWACS, a battalion of the 173rd AB Brigade based in Italy for base security and limited missions into Darfur, search and rescue assets, helicopters, and assorted logistics units into one air strip. Another strip could be used by elements of the NATO Response Force.
The NATO Response Force could be available for a Darfur mission, since the French won’t agree to sending it to Afghanistan. As for Iraq, NATO will only train Iraqis. So this new unit in need of a mission is free. The force itself?
A cutting-edge multinational force with warships, fighter planes and eventually over 20,000 troops, it will be lethal, agile and ready to be deployed to hotspots within five days.
As was noted in a NATO summit background briefing:
But we believe, one of the positions we’re starting to think about is where we can actually use the NRF. That's important. It has to be a force that's used if it's going to be a force that's transformational. Countries won't want to dedicate forces to a force that basically avoids missions. If it's actually used we'll shake it out, we'll learn from it, we can actually undertake something that's useful and helpful to our security interests, and we can also make it a force that through its experience really starts to reverberate in transformational messages, lessons, lessons learned throughout all the allied force structures.
So there is some pressure to actually use this unit in a real world mission.
Could we be re-establishing diplomatic relations with Libya to clear the path to deploy European and US forces through Libyan air space to eastern Chad? After all, note this:
[State Department employee] Burns said the U.S. delegation expressed appreciation for Libya's humanitarian assistance to civil war victims in Darfur, Sudan.
Really, a supply route through Libya set up for supplies for humanitarian purposes could also be used to supply an intervention force:
"We're working with others, with the Libyans, to try to get a third route for supplies to get in to Darfur. And we've been putting a lot of pressure on the Sudanese government to stop the Janjaweed militia from doing the horrible things that they're doing in that region," [Condoleeza Rice] told "Fox News Sunday."
A no-fly zone over Darfur could be established. Relief workers could go back in and US and NATO ground patrols could hop into various locations in Darfur to provide some reassurance to the refugees by providing a ground presence even if it is intermittent and largely symbolic.
An actual mission that isn’t a tough one like Iraq or Afghanistan, is relatively close by, is blessed by the UN, and has “feel good humanitarian mission” written all over it.
And maybe this will aid us in the war on terror directly. Sudan was certainly bin Laden’s playground at one time and Africa is still a rear area for al Qaeda and funneling jihadis through the Red Sea is still a problem (via Smash). This could be a nice punishing grip on Sudan.
I always thought we intervened in Somalia in 1992 to prove we’d intervene to help Moslems even when they don’t have oil. Today, the US needs a feel-good mission under UN blessing to undercut the silly unilateral charge against us and Europe needs an easy mission that will put their soldiers out of area in cooperation with US forces.
I know I’m connecting a lot of dots here, but the players are aligning should Khartoum refuse to take real action in Darfur.
I think we are going in. With the Europeans.
"Siberian Oil" (Posted June 28, 2004)
This article is most interesting and the results will affect us for decades to come. The broader issue is the struggle for oil resources. The particular one I saw is the Chinese-Japanese duel over Russia. The basics:
For months China and Japan have been locked in a diplomatic battle over access to the big oil fields in Siberia. Japan, which depends entirely on imported oil, is desperately lobbying Moscow for a 2,300-mile pipeline from Siberia to coastal Japan. But fast-growing China, now the world's second-largest oil user, after the United States, sees Russian oil as vital for its own "energy security" and is pushing for a 1,400-mile pipeline south to Daqing.
Russia is already appeasing the Hell out of the Chinese by selling the Chinese whatever advanced Russian weapons the Chinese want. Never mind that Russia's hold on its Far Eastern provinces is being undermined by enterprising Chinese civilians and that a stronger Chinese military will eat the Russians for lunch should a war occur at the end of the Trans-Siberian railroad link to European Russia where the troops and supplies must come from. The border dispute in this area has been around for quite some time. Those "unequal" treaties the Chinese used to complain about that stripped China of some of Russia's Far East might be questioned by Peking in a crisis and provide the justification for invading and liberating the sparsely populated region.
So will Russia cave in to Chinese pressure and build the pipeline south? The Russians can delude themselves into thinking that caving in by building the pipeline to China is actually shrewd realpolitik since Moscow could shut off the pipeline in a crisis to pressure the Chinese. The truth is that if Russia ever cut off a vitally important resource to the Chinese, the Chinese could just invade Siberia. Oh, not tomorrow. But in time the Chinese military will be able to out-muscle the Russians there unless the Russians want to trade nukes over the Far East.
No, Russia would be better off befriending a powerful Japan what would gain reasons to help defend Russia. More importantly, the Russians might indirectly gain an ally in the US since the US-Japanese alliance might be able to drag in America. At the least, the chance complicates China's planning. Sure, thumping a weakened Russia might seem like a good idea but with a powerful Japan (yes, their navy and air force are quite good. The army is small and I'm not sure what it can do) and America as potential enemies, too. That ratchets up the risk assessment for Peking considerably. Getting the Chinese to look elsewhere for oil would also prevent China from looking at Russia as a resource. Better the Chinese consider other areas as vital to their economic well being.
For the Chinese, the advantage of having a more secure land supply route from an inferior Russia, while Japan has to ship tankers right past China where China's still limited navy and air power can try to interdict the flow, is obvious.
Conversely, we and the Japanese would clearly like Japan to have a shorter line of supply more easily secured while China must rely on oil tankers sailing to and from more volatile areas of the world beyond Chinese power projection capabilities.
I know what America should prefer. I hope we're helping the Russians see that their long term interests lie in aligning with Japan and America rather than China. We'd get a Japan with more secure oil supplies, a Russia more closely tied to a major US ally, and a China dependent on sea lines of supply for oil imports vulnerable to the globe-straddling US Navy.
UPDATE: A short article that highlights the Japanese military (I mean, Self Defense Forces. No military here, no sirree).
“Mistakes” (Posted June 26, 2004)
Reverend Sensing comments on my post “Center of Gravity” and addresses the larger question of how wars are won. As he notes, “In wartime, not screwing up is often just as important as doing things right.”
The ability of so many here to oppose the war or to abandon support for the war because errors have been made is ridiculous. Yes, in war those errors lead to deaths but once you embark on war you have to be able to accept that the goals are worth even mistakes that kill innocents. If you can’t do that, don’t fight. Don’t pretend that we can send V Corps out with plastic handcuffs and bring in the perps with no loss of life. Lord knows how many innocents died from errors in World War II or the Civil War. Yet those wars were worth winning. Would anyone say that we should have left the enemy alone out of fear of any innocents dying?
One comparison I like to make (and I’ve had this in my mind for so long that I can honestly no longer remember how much is original) is the difficulty of setting up a family reunion in another city. You have to arrange flights and figure out highway routes or train stations. You need to have hotels close together with enough rooms. You need a banquet facility and catering. Perhaps you get entertainment. All that and maybe you’ve never even been to that city before. You have to trust people you’ve never met to get all this together at your direction and then trust all your family members to execute this plan and make it to the reunion at the same time.
Then consider what you’d do if there were no scheduled airlines and you had to charter planes. And the trains don’t work. So you charter a bus or two from various parts of the country. Oh, and there are no hotels. Hire somebody to set up tents in a large field and don’t forget latrines and a caterer who can come way out there.
Oh, and one last thing. The family across the street hates you and will be shooting at you and your family members at every step on the way.
How easy is this to do? Without any errors? Without any casualties? Are you having fun yet?
Sensing also notes a factor that encourages the uniformed military to be generally averse to fighting a war:
I concluded that the reason NATO and the Soviets each took no action to start war was that the generals on both sides were fearful that the other side could not possibly be as screwed up as their own side.
Both sides will make mistakes in war. One way to make sure your mistakes are not exploited by the enemy while their mistakes lead to our victories is to maintain the initiative. Stay on the offensive in this war. Keep our enemies looking over their shoulders for US troops and GPS-guided bombs.
Just win.
“Danger Zone” (Posted June 26, 2004)
As we continue to hand off security duties to Iraqis, we are preparing for the day when we will pull our forces into the background so that they will only be a reserve force for Iraqi security forces if they get into something they can’t handle. One general noted that he wanted American forces to maintain an offensive mindset even as they pull back.
This is key.
It will be tempting to pull into fortified compounds and think we will reduce our casualties this way. While we want to pull back we can’t let a vacuum develop that will be filled by the enemy. For while casualties will indeed drop for a while, in time the bases will be targets. This story highlights the dilemma as it discusses how to avoid roadside bombs:
U.S. forces find and safely detonate most of the bombs, but several still hit their targets each day. The U.S. Army has put up posters around bases to help soldiers learn how to spot the bombs, but the most effective prevention is to cut the number of U.S. patrols on the streets.

The insurgents, though, then take advantage of the absence to fire mortars at U.S. bases. Sheik Wadah Maliek el-Sayed described one attack at the U.S. base at Baghdad's main airport.

"Three cars came into the market, masked gunmen cleared out the area and then the mortarmen got out and fired four rounds." he said. "They got back into their cars and drove away. It's over in a few minutes."

Such attacks occur several times a week, usually with 60 mm or 82 mm mortars, but rarely hit anything significant. Several soldiers have been wounded in the last few months, but none was killed, soldiers said.
What I fear is that we’ll pull back prematurely in an effort to reduce American casualties. One Fallujah is bad enough without allowing more to become breeding grounds for attackers. Once casualty avoidance becomes paramount rather than victory, we are doomed. And our soldiers and Marines will feel the effects. Not just in the casualties that will come from ceding the land to the enemy but in morale. When victory isn’t pursued, nobody wants to be the last casualty in an Army going home regardless of the end state.
"We can pull back," [LTC Tim] Ryan said. "But then they come with the mortars. It's usually one or the other."
In the long run, casualties will be lower if we keep the enemy on the defensive and avoid the false security of hunkering down in bases. In the long run, casualties will be lower if we win.
This applies at the strategic level, too. We can pull back to America. But then they come with the hijacked planes, or the dirty bombs, or the Sarin, or the car bomb, or the nuke. It’s usually one or the other.
"Strike Fallujah" (Posted June 25, 2004)
We're on our third air strike against Islamist imported thugs in Fallujah in the last week. Fallujah has turned into a localized example of what Iraq could have looked like absent the purported mistake of disbanding the Iraqi army. Even aside from the silliness of arguing that an army that disintegrated could have been retained absent our formal disbanding of the army after Baghdad fell, the evidence of what former Baathists will do for us when given authority should tell us that not having Saddam's former army is not the problem.
Fallujah is a threat. Bomb makers use it as a haven and now on the eve of the formal handover of sovereignty, we set up roadblocks to keep terrorists from interfering with the handover.
This is not enough. This is too defensive oriented. But with everyone thinking we are bracing for their offensive, I think we need to seize the initiative and the element of surprise by going on the offensive against Fallujah. Right now. Or tomorrow. If we've gotten some of the leaders in the last three strikes, so much the better. But even if we haven't, we should attack them ruthlessly where they concentrate so they will worry more about what we are doing to them than about what they can do to us. And more importantly, so we can kill them.
We should have destroyed the resistance back in April. Finish the job. Once more into the breach, dear Marines.
“Let the Panic Begin!” (Posted June 24, 2004)
The North Koreans want to go back to step 2 in the gravy train process. They want massive aid in exchange for a freeze in their nuclear progress. And they threaten to test a nuclear weapon if we don’t go along.
Let’s just set aside the whole 1994 freeze concept that they apparently didn’t quite get.
After we made our offer, they bluster and threaten and demand more.
My only question is how quickly some over here will panic and argue we must immediately increase our offer of aid and decrease our demands in response.
"Center of Gravity" (Posted June 24, 2004)
The attacks on Iraqi Shias have been a major error on the part of our enemies in Iraq. The Baathists and Sadr's fools targeted our forces in their resistance this last year. Sadr was ineffective in his spring revolt while the Baathists continue to attack our troops, although they rarely try to attack directly at close range to avoid losing heavily in firefights with our more skilled troops. During the Fallujah uprising in April when the Baathists took on our Marines, our casualties mounted even as we killed the enemy in large numbers. Support in the US for the war went down. With our casualties declining again, public support for the Iraq campaign is going up. The Baathists have the right idea focusing on our troops but luckily we are too good to target at the April rate for long—somebody in the enemy ranks has to survive for the next attack, after all. In this force-on-force struggle, we are winning despite the correct enemy focus.
I think the main reason for our success is that the Islamists with their foreign jihadis have screwed things up for the Baathists. That is, if the insurgents (or regime remnants or whatever you want to call them) had been able to target Americans and our allies without other complications, the vast majority of Iraqis might have decided to sit out the war as neutrals and just watch passively to see who will win. Absent a really ruthless American campaign, we would never win if we fought enemies in a sea of apathy that slowly turned against us as the violence continued.
The Islamists screwed up this possible path to Baathist victory. The Zarqawi memo highlighted the idea that the Islamists wanted to target the Shias in order to force the Sunnis to rise up out of fear. Then there would be a nice civil war and the Islamists would have their happy hunting ground of chaos in which to kill Americans. With high enough casualties and really bad press coverage, we might then have pulled out in defeat. Defeating us somewhere—anywhere—is the Islamist goal—not Islamizing Iraq in particular. Remember the reports that al Qaeda was turning their focus on Iraq at the expense of Afghanistan? The fight is the focus. Note, too, that the memo says that the Islamists would have to find another battleground if they cannot win in Iraq. The Islamists may not have had a choice since they don’t number very many. How could they take on the Army and Marines directly? Attacking civilians is a heck of a lot easier.
So by targeting the Shias with increasingly gruesome bombings (and a lot of Sunnis in the latest series of attacks), the Islamists have made the Shias realize they have to fight the insurgents to protect themselves. As the interim Iraqi prime minister stated:
"We are going to defeat them. We are going to crush them," he said at a ceremony marking the transfer of the final 11 government ministries to Iraqi control. "We expect more escalation in the days ahead."
With the Iraqis determined to fight the terrorists, we have but to provide the means and back them up with our troops in a reserve capacity. The will to fight is the most important element and the Zarqawi strategy has given us Iraqi allies with that determination.
This civil war strategy of the Islamists was always going to be a loser for the Baathists. A Sunni-Shia war might have been fine when the Sunnis controlled all the instruments of state power, but in a fight in which the Shias have the numbers and the state, this cannot work. At best, this path could inflame the oil-free Sunni heartland in revolt but this would not gain the entire country back for the Baathists. The Baathists could only win it all back if the Shias joined them against America as a common enemy, as some thought was happening in April at the start of the twin Fallujah and Sadr revolts.
For all the mistakes we have made, our enemy may have made the most critical of them all.
"Use Our Troops—Don't Count Them" (Posted June 24, 2004)
V. D. Hanson goes over the points I've made in past posts about our troop strength in Iraq.
The key is not adding ever more troops that sit around as targets but to use what we've got aggressively and effectively:
Our problem, in short, is not that Donald Rumsfeld is fighting wars with too few troops and then being too stingy in allotting occupation forces. Rather, our concern with restraining the use of the vast power of those already in the field has put us at risk of creating self-fulfilling prophecies. We have seen a Gulf War I and now a Gulf War II. Gulf War III is surely on the horizon if, failing to learn the lessons of the last two victories, we once more remove the stakes from the hearts of seemingly defeated and moribund killers.

Our goal in Iraq should be to restore overall security as soon as possible—and to do so as much as we can with a veneer of Iraqi help. If we use the present 130,000 American troops decisively, leave our record of victories as a legacy to the new government, and offer a stand-by constabulary reserve force of 30,000-40,000 troops backed by airpower unafraid to target bases and depots even beyond the Iraqi border, there is a good chance that the aggregate number of U.S. soldiers in the region need be no more than what it was before the first Gulf war and the rise of Saddam Hussein as a threat to regional peace and stability.

This is not a parlor calculation. The fate of hundreds of American soldiers in the next few months hinges not on how many we send, but on how they are used. There is a logic with clear historical precedents to whichever alternative we choose, and the choice is ours alone to make.
Hearts and minds are fine for our friends and for neutrals. But for enemies, they must fear us. This doesn't mean we level the country. Where violence is low, keep a low profile and attempt to police the situation. But when the enemy rears its head, kill them. And quietly go after the thugs to kill them when they are hiding and preparing.
We crushed the Mahdi Army but let Sadr walk. We had the Fallujah insurgents by the throat and let them go. With sovereignty near, I don't know what the rules of the game will be after June 30. I hope we did not let the last opportunity to throttle the insurgents and terrorists pass.
And by all means, get the Iraqis on the front to shoulder the burden as soon as we can. It is their fight and trying to do it for them is a recipe for disaster—and unnecessary American casualties. Even failing to be ruthless enough (in a focused manner, not blind smashing about) this past year will not deprive us of victory if we can stand up a decent Iraqi security force backed by US forces in a reserve capacity.
Stop debating whether 20,000 or 50,000, or 200,000 more troops are necessary. If we don't use what we have there correctly, we will always be debating how much more to send.
“Standards of Proof” (Posted June 23, 2004)
One memo was deemed proof of complicity up to the top that we authorized torture while a data dump of hundreds is portrayed as a “selective” release that does not prove that we did not authorize torture.
Caerdroia had it right from day one, it seems.
“Opening Move” (Posted June 23, 2004)
The United States has made its offer to the North Koreans.
The North Koreans really want to maintain the negotiating sequence of:
  1. North Korea secretly pursues nuclear weapons;
  2. The US catches the North Koreans and bribes them to freeze their progress;
  3. The North Koreans return to step 1.
The endless loop worked pretty well for the North Koreans.
Now we insist on rapid de-nuclearization instead of a freeze that never lasts for long. We insist on proof of abandoning nuclear programs and weapons. And we demand intrusive verification that it stays that way.
In return we would provide aid and promise not to attack North Korea.
First of all, it will be interesting to see if the North Koreans are truly waiting for November to give them a better negotiating partner. Part of this answer depends on whether Pyongyang thinks there is any difference between the parties in our country. When some in this country’s fringe deny there is any difference between the Rs and Ds, will this isolated regime see nuance? I wonder if we are misreading the situation despite my worry that there are people here waiting in the wings eager to preemptively surrender to the North Koreans. Part of the answer may depend on how bad a condition North Korea is in—can they risk waiting until January 2005 to seriously talk?
Let me say right off that while I prefer a firm line with North Korea on this issue, I think the resolve must relate to getting North Korea out of the nuclear game completely. I can accept some aid as the price as long as it is just enough to get the North Koreans to agree but not enough to rescue them from eventual collapse. We aided the far stronger Soviet Union with different deals yet still drove them under. We can calibrate this with North Korea, too, I should think. The key is engineering a slow decline that deprives Pyongyang of any clear point where they think that they must attack south in a gamble to survive or starve and collapse. Another advantage of offering even a little aid is that it may derail any North Korean attempt to engineer a phony crisis in October to help the election along here. If an offer of aid is on the table, could North Korea afford to just say no? Will they instead think that they can pry more out once the initial offer has been made?
I also don’t worry about offering guarantees to North Korea that we won’t attack. Since we can’t invade without the South Koreans and they are unlikely to agree as long as Seoul is subject to massive attack, big deal. Since this promise would be conditional on Pyongyang disarming, we could cancel that promise with cause. And this essentially calls North Korea’s bluff on this security guarantee that they demand. I don’t believe that they trust us. I think they believe we’d promise anything and do what we want anyway. Why are they asking for this guarantee that they surely would not believe? I have no idea. But like I said, what’s the harm if our promise is conditional?
We also must consider the morality of leaving such a beastly regime in power.
We have two objectives here: get North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons and destroy the regime while keeping the implosion from harming Japan or South Korea.
This opening move could work for both objectives. Of course, we’ll have to resist the efforts of those who see talking as the end rather than as a means to our objectives. Failure to make rapid progress will see the panicky types calling for a major retreat from our opening position in short order.
We’ll see.
“He Was Doomed” (Posted June 22, 2004)
Kim Sun-il was beheaded.
There was no question that South Korea would refuse to give in to the terrorist demands that they halt their new troop deployment or else.
Kim was doomed not because the terrorists are brutal thugs.
He wasn’t doomed because South Korea is under duress by America to deploy, or else.
Kim was doomed because the South Korean government had to consider how North Korea would view a South Korean retreat in the face of terror intimidation. The North has waged terrorism against the South and the forward-deployed North Korean military is a giant exercise in intimidation and a constant threat to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.”
Kim Sun-il was doomed from the start.
“Who They Hate” (Posted June 22, 2004)
I received my first hate mail this weekend.
I think it was prompted by a link from Instapundit. "Kill the Dots" was the post. What struck me is that the hate mail reflects comments by Lileks that the loyal opposition would rather defeat Bush than be happy about achieving something that would help win the war—since that would tend to help Bush.
This is mind boggling. I wanted Clinton to win in Kosovo and Haiti despite my misgivings about the enterprises. Yet part of the two emails I received (the second, longer, and more hostile one followed my largely polite reply (just some flippancy to leaven the "thank you for reading"-type stuff) highlighted Lileks’ point and then some:
Those who think as you do are every bit as dangerous to this country as the terrorists who occupy the Middle East countries. Actually, you're more dangerous, as you are "here" and "they" are not.
Me: middle-aged dad who served in the Guard for a term, writing a small-readership blog (only occasionally spiked by links from the big boys) on the war that does not use name-calling as a form of logic or question patriotism.
Them: People who already killed over 3,000 of us over the last two decades and who would kill us in the millions if they could, eager to multiply 9-11 a thousand-fold if they are blessed by their vision of a god.
Yet I am more dangerous in the writer's view.
That is one odd way of looking at the world, to say the least. Far from being pacifists and idealists, “anti-war” folks like the writer show they can hate with the best. Moral high ground, indeed. A lot of days, I ask why they hate us, too. I just ask about a different “they.”
I sometimes despair of debate in this climate. I'll settle for winning the war against our enemies and only then settling the debate over this war. In time, much like the Cold War is thought of now (or the German occupation for our French friends is remembered), we'll all have been for victory over today’s enemy.
UPDATE: Upon reflection, it is not accurate to say I am always perfectly polite. I do rant on occasion. Sometimes from outrage that subsides. Sometimes because they deserve it. And sometimes it is really out of bounds. But for the most part, I think I do try to stay in bounds. So, if you were thinking of emailing me to question that statement above, consider it already written and addressed. This was 'pre-emptive.'
“Troop Strength: Part N” (Posted June 21, 2004)
I like to highlight arguments that we do not have too few troops to win in Iraq:
Many critics of the Iraq operations, including many inside the army, insist that larger forces should have been sent in. Others call that old-fashioned thinking. The all-volunteer army relies on quality, not quantity. The British demonstrated this in their earlier (1920s and 1940s) operations in Iraq. Using about the same size forces as the 2003 coalition, the British conquered and pacified the country each time. The debate over whether more American troops would have made any difference in 2003 will probably never be settled, although the historical record favors the smaller force.
We have enough troops to win. Sometimes I get lonely out here on this point.
“The New China” (Posted June 21, 2004)
We have been reminded about the growing Chinese military power with the latest installment of the DoD annual report on Chinese military power (see earlier post). We still don’t know whether China is developing into a strategic rival or friend. It could go either way. Much is up to them.
But as we consider the potential of a China as an enemy, it would be helpful to remember that China has not grown in power without a price. At one time, China was just a giant lump of proletarian fury. If we killed 100 million Chinese in a nuclear strike, they professed not to care since they’d have hundreds of millions left. If Russians invaded, the Chinese would fade into the countryside to wage guerrilla war and absorb the blow until Russia got tired. Tens of millions might die but the Chinese leaders said they would not be the ones to tire first. Chinas was self-reliant, if poor, and filled with ideological fury that motivated them to endure.
China is different now. By 2007, China will import half of its oil. One fifth of all the world’s bulk freighters haul raw materials to China. Wal-Mart keeps us aware of China’s exports. Truly, China needs trade and has critical imports that cannot be interrupted if China is to keep moving forward and maintain social and political stability.
China’s growing power leads some to worry that China will use that power to guarantee access to vital raw materials and oil coming from overseas. This is certainly likely.
But let’s not forget the vulnerabilities that China has developed. Even if China develops oil in the contested Spratley Island region, this would still be vulnerable to hostile naval and air action. And if the Chinese have to get the oil from the Middle East, well that’s quite a gauntlet through the Indian Ocean, Indonesian waters, and the South China Sea in order to reach China. Indian and American forces aided by nations not too friendly to China all along that route could wreak havoc. Of course, pipelines through Central Asia might help but then American forces are there too after 9-11 and the Russians are coming back a bit. Russia won’t appease China forever and in time the Russians will be more forceful with Peking. China would need quite the navy to protect a sea route and with Russia recovering, China will have land powers in Vietnam, India, South Korea, and Russia to worry about even as they try to build a blue water navy to protect their imports.
America and Britain could become global naval powers because we never had to simultaneously build large armies to protect our homelands. The Kaiser’s Germany and the Soviet Union could build up a navy to rival the best, but the demands of land defense crushed their attempts in time. China, too, will find itself caught between being a dominant land power and a dominant sea power. They will fail at one or both aims.
And with the one-child policy, how eager will Chinese parents be to send their only children to war?
Plus, the very progress that makes China more dangerous makes China more vulnerable. Precision weapons make this vulnerability of factories, ports, and infrastructure more acute. For a Chinese leadership used to thinking of themselves as just a devoted mass of people virtually invulnerable to even nuclear attack, this new vulnerability may not even be fully appreciated as they revel in their new emerging power to project military forces away from the mainland. Although America’s economy is far more advanced and complicated, and hence vulnerable, we defend far away from our homeland. Any attacks on our homeland from the Chinese will be difficult to engineer and sporadic. Unless China conquers Russia’s Far Eastern provinces, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, and India, China will face the prospect of defending its homeland from direct land and air attack from day one of a war.
I would not want to trade strategic positions with China no matter how much talk there is of a rising China.
And we haven’t even discussed whether the Chinese can hold the lid on a population that might want political freedoms along with its economic freedoms. Political freedom might be nice to protect their only children, too.
Or maybe China will evolve into a friendly democracy. Stranger things have happened.
“Why Iran is Next and What To Do” (Posted June 20, 2004)
The Iranians are mad that the IAEA slapped their wrist over their non-cooperation over verifying that they remain a non-nuclear state. Since the mullahs are trying to become a nuclear state there is a certain inconsistency with the rival goals.
In light of the high degree of faith that so many legal fetishists display, the Iranian response is enlightening (or should be):
Iran will resume some nuclear activities it suspended under world pressure and is considering restarting the uranium enrichment, its top nuclear official said Saturday, defying a resolution from the U.N. nuclear watchdog that rebuked Iran for past cover-ups in its nuclear program.
In time, we will have to deal with them. Caerdroia explores some options. An invasion, straight up conquest, would clearly require a large-scale mobilization of the National Guard’s combat division and lengthy training time to get them up to active component levels. As is correctly noted, this would telegraph our intentions to a degree that would cripple our attack. Plus there’s the problem of getting another Congressional declaration of war and public support. So a straight up conquest is probably right out. Other options?
If invasion of Iran is not possible before their program is complete, what other options are there? There are four that I see: bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, allow the Israelis to take care of the problem, bomb Iran generally, or incite revolution. (The North Korean option – bribe them outrageously in exchange for promises that they will, at some point, decide not to assemble nuclear weapons – has been exposed as the fraud that it has always been and I therefore do not consider it a reasonable attempt at actually solving the problem. Playing “kick the can” with nuclear weapons kept Clinton from having to make hard decisions, but it’s playing havoc with our foreign policy in SouthEast Asia now.)
The Israelis, it is noted, would not have the ability to launch a sustained campaign as we would. If Israel strikes, they might use nukes to do it right. We don’t want that, yet anything less than destruction of Iran would just mean Israel would face a nuclear strike eventually as an angered Moslem world seeks revenge. Israel is tiny so this option seems a no-go.
A Kosovo-style campaign doesn’t seem right either. As far as I’m concerned we were lucky as Hell that Milosevic blinked when he did. The mullahs are made of sterner (and nutballier) stuff. They’ll try to ride it out.
I’d hope bribery is out but Governor Richardson’s spouting off does not comfort me that we’ve actually learned this lesson—at least some of us anyway. Still, under the current administration, I trust this is ruled out.
We could bomb Iran’s known nuclear facilities and we’d have the horses to pull off a thorough campaign. But do we know where everything is? The Iranians have surely learned and dispersed and buried their facilities—some in civilian areas if they are smart. How do we know we got them all? Sadly, we won’t and the Iranians sure won’t tell us. This just delays the problem. Mind you, this may be the only option we have to prevent Iran from going nuclear in the next year or two. If our option is a nuclear Iran in two years or in 5-10 years, I choose the latter. Buying time may be all we can do.
But ruling out sparking a revolution seems too pessimistic about its chances. I’m convinced that regime change is the only way to prevent a regime determined to get nukes from getting nukes. We’ve seen from Iraq, North Korea, and Iran just how far these nutball states are willing to go and what they’ll force their people to endure in order to advance nuclear programs.
Aiding our chances of success are that Iran’s military has residual pro-American sympathies, the Iranian public is generally pro-American, and the mullahs rely on imported Moslems to whip their public into line. If we’ve been spending the last couple years cultivating support in the Iranian regular military and propping up civilian opposition, we might be able to pull an Afghanistan-style intervention using airpower wielded by special forces aiding local allies in Iran. We can bomb and assault nuclear sites with Rangers and A-Teams as the coup is on. And if we time this with part of our Iraq troop rotation, we could have a division or two of regular Army troops available to bolster the rebels and our special forces, and they’d be there in a manner that would not give the game away. If this fails and the regime holds on, well, as long as we have Iranians and Moslems pissed off anyway, we can bomb away as we would have without the coup try. But if successful, we at least have a friendlier regime that can be convinced to end its nuclear ambitions.
Caerdroia gives compelling reasons why an air campaign is preferred while the theoretical coup support is an ideal but flawed solution.
I think it is the reverse. I wish we could cleanly (for us) use an air campaign. But I fear it would a failure. And since we won’t be on the ground to verify the results of our strikes, we won’t even know if we got all the Iranian facilities. We’d be on edge for a nuclear retaliation from that day on as long as the hostile Tehran regime endured.
For all its uncertainties, regime change is the only measure that promises to do more than delay our problem with the mullah nutballs.
Admittedly, I’m assuming we’ve been busy with the CIA working the many people unhappy with the Iranian mullahs to get them in a proper frame of mind to support our endeavors and to take back their country. If not, air strikes really might be the only option we have that doesn’t include letting Iran get nukes in the next year or two.
I did mention that this decade sucks, didn’t I?
The Iranians are clearly next up. I think there is only one real option: Regime change in 2005.
“Axis of El Vil Packs the Courts” (Posted June 20, 2004)
The referendum on Chavez of Venezuela will take place days before the deadline that means the difference between fresh elections and Chavez pulling his VP’s strings for the rest of the presidential term. A little violence from pro-Chavez thugs could delay the count past that day and then what happens? Anti-Chavez people say the day of the vote matters—not the day of the announcement of the results. But what if Chavez gets a loyal court to say the day of announcement—regrettably delayed due to unforeseen violence—is key?
Human Rights Watch urged Venezuela to repeal a new law that allows President Hugo Chavez's government to pack the nation's highest court with judges allied to his party.

Unless the law is rescinded, the Organization of American States should intervene to address the threat to the independence of Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal, the New York-based group said in a report Thursday.

Critics fear pro-Chavez deputies who dominate Congress will use the law to seize control of the tribunal, which would decide any dispute arising from a presidential recall vote Aug. 15.
Call me a pessimist, but I don’t think we will be lucky enough to get a happy regime changing ending to this crisis.
“What To Do?” (Posted June 20, 2004)
About North Korea. They want to wait until after the election to see if they can get a better deal with a new administration. Why would they think that? Oh, maybe they listen to someone who might be in such a new administration:
Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has had frequent communications with the North Koreans and warned that without a change in the status quo, North Korea could emerge as an outlaw state armed with as many as 10 nuclear weapons. In an interview on Wednesday, Richardson said that he had been in touch with North Korean officials in Pyongyang via telephone as recently as two weeks ago.
Ah yes, we had an agreement with them to provide aid in exchange for remaining non-nuclear and today we face the possibility that North Korea could emerge as an outlaw state. I guess I’ve been confused about what they are right now. And the North Koreans have magically come to be in the position to have ten nukes. Wow, that past agreement sure was good. Truly, the hot New Mexico sun is baking what may have once been a fine mind:
Richardson called for a compromise, outlining a plan similar to one being floated by South Korea, for a verifiable suspension of North Korea's nuclear programs as a first step toward achieving disarmament. In exchange, he said, the United States should offer joint security assurances to the North along with the other participants at the talks -- China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. In addition, he said, the United States should endorse a South Korean plan to ship oil to North Korea to ease its energy shortage while a broader agreement is negotiated. As part of an interim step -- which China and Russia also appear to support -- North Korea should be pressed to allow weapons inspectors back into the country and to rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The North Korean government withdrew from the treaty last year.
Ever hopeful, maybe this will finally be the agreement that Pyongyang abides by. And even if we are successful, just who would we be accommodating? Vaclev Havel reminds us:
The northern part of the Korean Peninsula is governed by the world's worst totalitarian dictator, a man responsible for the loss of millions of lives. Kim Jong Il inherited the Communist regime following the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, and has continued to strengthen the cult of personality. He sustains one of the largest armies in the world and is producing weapons of mass destruction even as the centrally planned economy and the state ideology -- known as juche, a blend of nationalism and self-reliance -- have led the country into famine. The victims of the North Korean regime number in the millions
I know, I know, that whole Axis of Evil thing offends your sense of nuance. Yet there it is. Evil. And we’re supposed to understand it and get along with it. That offends my sense of decency. And it offends my memory of past efforts to bribe the Pillsbury Nuke Boy to act nice. Havel reminds us of something that we should not need to be reminded about:
Now is the time for the democratic countries of the world -- the European Union, the United States, Japan, South Korea -- to take a common position. They must make it clear that they will not offer concessions to a totalitarian dictator. They must state that respect for basic human rights is an integral part of any future discussions with Pyongyang. Decisiveness, perseverance and negotiations from a position of strength are the only things that Kim Jong Il and those like him understand.
Make a stand. Contain them and don’t give them more than token help to string them along. Stand ready at the DMZ. Build our missile defenses in Alaska and at sea with our new ABM-capable cruisers. Put the newest Patriots in place in South Korea.
And then squeeze that psycho regime. Make sure they know that lashing out to kill means the end of their regime at the hands of our military power because once the military option is chosen, we and our allies will see it through to their end.
When nutball regimes play with nukes, we can’t afford to play risky schemes that rely on the good will of nutballs to protect our cities. Regime change is the only answer in our brave new world.
This decade sucks. But if we don’t try to pretend that we can wish our way to security, maybe the next one will be OK.
“Kill the Dots” (Posted June 19, 2004)
I am torn between being disgusted by the 9-11 panel’s report on the al Qaeda-Saddam connection and outraged by the mainstream press’s reporting of it.
The panel’s attention to this was wholly inadequate and dismissive. It drew conclusions where evidence was inconclusive. While they may have lawyered up the language to technically cover their butts, they made it easy to mischaracterize. Truly, for a group so eager to connect dots, they have taken an eraser to a whole lot of dots there to be connected.
Which of course leads us to our press. Their collective ability to portray this report as providing no evidence of a connection and then to parade this as a contradiction of what the administration has said is outrageous. It was of course left to Fox News and the blogs to point out the obvious. Saddam had links to terrorism generally and al Qaeda in particular long before 9-11. That said, nobody in the administration ever argued that Saddam had a hand in the actual 9-11 attacks, notwithstanding Saddam being the only actor other than the Palestinians who cheered the attacks. The press and their anti-war compatriots have gotten into another plastic turkey argument with itself, proudly taking apart an argument that the pro-Iraq War side never made. I sometimes despair that the opposing sides can even agree on the basic question over which we can argue.
Let me repeat, Saddam had longstanding ties to terrorists including al Qaeda, sponsored terrorism, carried out terrorism, and cheered on terrorism. The press likes to pretend that this is a new argument invented by the Bush administration to trump up reasons for war, forgetting their own reports in the 90s about such connections and the Clinton administration’s claims of such connections.
After 9-11, when terrorists were dramatically shown to be able and willing to kill us in the thousands, it became imperative to destroy any regimes that show hostility toward us and which might harbor terrorists or provide these terrorists with weapons of mass destruction to kill even more. Evidence of links made the possibility of such a WMD transfer too frightening to ignore. That Saddam was willing to attack us should not be in question. The plot to kill Bush 41, the constant attacks on no-fly zone patrols, and now the report that Putin warned us that Saddam was planning attacks on us after 9-11. (As an aside, this amused me: “Putin said opponents who criticize Bush on Iraq ‘don't have any kind of moral right. ... They conducted exactly the same kind of policy in Yugoslavia.’”)
Preventing these rogue states, including Iraq, from acquiring nuclear weapons also became clearly necessary. Not only to prevent them from using them against us or our allies, but to prevent them from using nuclear weapons as a shield to carry out terrorism and conventional military aggression against our friends or interests.
But back to the connection. The mainstream press and those opposed to the war seem to be demanding a signed alliance document embossed with Saddam’s personal seal and containing actual DNA evidence that bin Laden licked his personal stamp before placing it on the paper. We would have been fools to insist on some nebulous command and control connection where terrorists salute and carry out the bidding of Baathist overlords like some Bond plot to justify taking action. Given the bias of the press, their insistence on “significant” links is a standard that they will always move forward to conform to their bias that any level of linkage was insufficient to act. Let’s review the connections. I won’t try to summarize them.
And there is more to learn about the dots and connections here. As the article notes:
Yet nearly all of the media coverage has focused on what the 9/11 panel claims it didn't find--namely, smoking-gun proof that al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were working together. The country has traveled a long way psychologically from the trauma of September 11 if we are now focusing on the threats that allegedly don't exist instead of those that certainly do.
And I would be remiss not to note the 1998 indictment by the Clinton administration that highlighted the connection:
According to the indictment, bin Laden and al Qaeda forged alliances with the National Islamic Front in Sudan and with representatives of the Government of Iran and its associated terrorist group Hezballah with the goal of working together against their common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.

"In addition, al Qaeda reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq," the indictment said.
This isn’t enough cooperation? My God, I’d be ecstatic if our so-called formal allies such as France and Belgium agreed to not work against us!
And please note the Iran and Hizballah connection. This may become important to remember in the next year.
And one last bit of information for those who insist on blaming the Bush administration for not connecting dots before 9-11; and for those who like to pretend that the unilateral Bush administration caused the 9-11 attack: the planning may have begun in mid-1996. (The panel report discusses this, too.) I’d love to hear administration critics discuss the state of the dots in the last half of the 1990s.
We indeed have traveled a long way since 9-11. Too many people are back to 9-10. They hate us, people. All of us. Not just the current administration. Not just the Red State citizens. Owning a bongo and tie-dyed shirts won’t save you. Nor will spouting sympathy for their cause. We’re all targets and they’ll dance over our graves if we let them.
Stop debating to the point of paralysis over what dots should have been connected and what dots existed. The dots keep killing us in the most gruesome manner they can come up with. Just kill the freaking dots! We are at war and we must win.
"Kiss Off Europe?" (Posted June 18, 2004)
V. D. Hanson is pretty pessimistic about Europe. He thinks we must walk away from a continent that no longer wishes to fight at our side. Hanson rightly notes that while Europe as an entity refuses to help us in what they think is an illegitimate war in Iraq, their help for what they judge a legitimate war in Afghanistan is not much more than nothing. He thinks we should hope that our alliance can survive but should basically just hope we remain friends—or they remain neutral. He even thinks that walking away might make them wake up and defend themselves after resentfully relying on us for so long.
Yet he fears the worst:
I fear that we should expect over the next 50 years some pretty scary things coming out of Europe as its impossible postmodern utopian dreams turn undemocratic and then ugly — once its statism and entitlement economy falter; Jews leave as Arabs stream in; its shaky German-French axis unravels; its next vision of an EU mare nostrum encompassing North Africa and Turkey begins to terrify Old Europe; and its pacifism brings it real humiliation from the likes of an Iran or China. Indeed, despite Europe's noble efforts to incorporate the former Warsaw Pact, we are already seeing such tensions in the most recent EU elections.
I've written the same things myself in more pessimistic moments in the last two years. I fear that the EU could evolve into a bureaucratic dictatorship hostile to America.
And before we write off the ability of the Euros to fight, recall that they too are the custodians of the Western way of war. Should they be roused, they are capable of terrible and effective violence. Despite the annoyance, we must remain engaged in Europe, fighting to bolster our friends. Europe must not be allowed to be run by a hostile power. Europe's economic strength and military abilities must never be allowed to be arrayed against us. As I noted as one reason to keep a corps-sized force in Europe:
A U.S. commitment to Europe in corps strength is still necessary despite the reduced threat level in Europe. The option to withdraw U.S. troops should simply not be part of the debate. A free, friendly, prosperous Europe is vitally important to America. The contrasting lessons of abandoning Europe after World War I and defending it after World War II argue for continued engagement. That a second world war occurred after the U.S. withdrew from Europe early in the last century speaks volumes.

A robust USAREUR prevents a security vacuum. The European Union could modify or alter trans-Atlantic relations in ways that are not clear today. If the Army withdraws the corps, the Army is unlikely to send the corps back, and even if a clear threat arises, many in America and in Europe would argue that such a move would be “provocative.” That USAREUR must remain in Germany is not written in stone, although this might be difficult to grasp after a half century of defending NATO’s front line at the Fulda Gap.

Newer NATO states might be eager to host the XVIII Airborne Corps. Given growing German restlessness, moving the bulk of U.S. ground forces out of Germany is not out of the question. The U.S. was concerned enough about German anti-American rhetoric during the September 2002 German elections to move command and control functions and bombers out of Germany to minimize the chance that the U.S. might be hamstrung in a crisis if the German government carried out a “political stunt.”14 Germany’s desire to repair relations after the election shows that the U.S. can strengthen trans- Atlantic relations.15 Removing an irritant to the Germans without removing U.S. troops from Europe is a possible solution.
A corps in Europe can be used for power projection into the arc of crisis from West Africa to Central Asia. We can never let it be held hostage in Europe or unusable because of hostile sentiment, but Europe is more than just Germany. We can deploy elsewhere in Europe. And Europe is a prize worth holding. I was too much of a wuss to say this explicitly, but when I wrote The European Union could modify or alter trans-Atlantic relations in ways that are not clear today, what I was hinting at was that the EU could become our enemy if we just let it drift away. They have too much latent power not to resist this trend with all our power. Better that power should be ineffective on our side than put into the enemy column.
So while I share Hanson's fear for the worst, I want to remain engaged in Europe to prevent a hostile Europe from evolving. If left to their own devices I am not so confident that they will wake up and defend themselves in a responsible manner. Has a century of fighting Kaisers, Fuehrers, and Commissars over the fate of Europe taught us nothing? And who knows, if we stay and fight for their soul, they might become our allies again.
"Numbers Game" (Posted June 18, 2004)
We keep being told by the anti-war side (and some supporters, too) that we have too few troops in Iraq to win.
I think that's bunk. At first I went by the old 10:1 rule and based on estimates of insurgents of all varieties, we had enough. Further reading led me to believe this is an obsolete measurement and that troops and security personnel as a percentage of the population is the key measure. Here, we'd need a minimum of 2% and possibly up to twice that level to win depending on the opposition. We'd be talking 500,000 to a million troops in Iraq. That seemed excessive for the resistance we face so I broke down the Iraqi population (I know it doesn't neatly conform to geographic divisions but we're talking quick and dirty here) into its Kurdish (5 million), Shia (15 million), and Sunni (5 million) elements and assign ratios from 0.2% (US police ratio, I read, at least at one point in the late twentieth century) to 2% (the minimum ratio that successful counter-insurgencies have had), we get the needed numbers.
Assuming 0.5% for the Kurdish areas we need 50,000 security personnel; for the Shias, at 1% we need 150,000; and for the Sunni areas we need at least 2% so that requires at least 100,000. With 135,000 US troops in Iraq (and another 40,000 in Kuwait that add to our strength effectively by providing support while not needing the same protection as in-theater troops), 20,000 private security, 22,000 allies, and 208,000 Iraqis, we have 385,000 troops not even attempting to figure out how our Kuwait-based troops should count. And this doesn't count the private Iraqi militias. Assuming the Kurds field 70,000 and effectively police their own, we could apply all 385,000 plus 15,000 Shia militia (not counting Sadr's idiots), we have 400,000 to police 20 million Iraqis. This even gives us the 2% figure for the entire non-Kurdish population. Focusing most on the Sunni areas gives us even higher ratios in the critical areas. So whatever measure we use, we have enough troops. I think we probably panicked a little by extending 20,000 troops in Iraq. They helped, but we could have won without them.
And when you look at Afghanistan, where the government is extending control and the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies are off balance and kept at bay, we don't have anywhere near the percentages one would expect are required to control 25 million people. We have 20,000 Americans, 7,000 NATO troops, and 10,000 Afghan Army. If we assume a 0.2% police ratio, we can add 50,000 police. That's 87,000 troops when the rule says 500,000 are necessary. I guess the Taliban haven't read the rules. More is at work than either formula. Or maybe the 10:1 rule isn't as obsolete as it is argued.
So we have the troop strength to win as long as we use it wisely.
Of course, the question of the overall size of the Army is another question altogether. I'd want to add 40,000 more troops in the new brigades or separate battalions.
“Mistakes” (Posted June 17, 2004)
We made mistakes in the Iraq War. News Flash: this happens in every war. But whatever mistakes we made we still won decisively. Get over it. Reviewing mistakes is for the purpose of learning for the next time not for convicting people and sending them to jail.
One mistake that is clear is that we failed to secure the massive arms depots and caches throughout Iraq. They fueled the insurgency we still fight:
… Iraqis have so many weapons that they are suspected of exporting them over the Syrian border. And for this bounty, they can thank the Pentagon. Of all the blunders American military leaders have made in Iraq, one of the least talked about is how they succeeded in arming the insurgents.

By the time of the coalition invasion, Iraq had one of the largest conventional arms stockpiles in the world. According to one American military estimate, this included three million tons of bombs and bullets; millions of AK-47's and other rifles, rocket launchers and mortar tubes; and thousands of more sophisticated arms like ground-to-air missiles. Much of the arsenal was stored in vast warehouse complexes, some of which occupied several square miles. As war approached, Iraqi commanders ordered these mountains of munitions to be dispersed across the country in thousands of small caches.
So how did this problem come about according to the author? Well:
But under orders to reach Baghdad as quickly as possible, the marines rarely had a chance to remove, destroy or even mark the stockpiles. In one village, combat engineers (led by local children whom they had bribed with bags of Skittles candies) discovered an underground bunker crammed with dozens of sophisticated air-to-ground missiles. Yet higher-ups in the division insisted that there was no time to destroy them. The marines moved on, leaving the missiles unguarded.
I see. So it was a mistake to leave the arms depots and the mistake that led to this mistake was the decision to advance as rapidly as possible to reach Baghdad.
Sadly in war, trying to correct one mistake could very well lead to another, greater, mistake. This is one of those solutions.
Is the author seriously arguing that a slow pace of advance, stopping to secure and destroy all arms captured or overrun before pushing further north would have been a better course of action? Would slowing down ourselves when our enemy could not slow us down have made the war less costly or more costly?
Speed saved lives and ended the war in three weeks. We dislocated the enemy and threw them off balance so badly that they never recovered. The slow advance would have left our enemies ready to fight with morale more intact. Who knows, Saddam’s plan to have his Russian and French lawyers get them off had the war dragged on might have worked.
Was letting the arms slosh around Iraq a mistake? Yes.
Could we have done much about it during the major combat phase of the war? Not a chance.
“Reasons for Sunnis to Worry” (Posted June 17, 2004)
I thought more Sunnis would have concluded by now that it would be wise to get on board with a new Iraq while America is in charge.
The Sunnis have not turned on their Baathist co-religionists and their fanatical Wahhabi buddies.
Instead of building up confidence in the majority population that the Sunnis want to get beyond Saddam, the Sunnis have aided attacks on the majority. The Shias and Kurds have lots of reasons to want revenge.
And turnover to sovereignty is less than two weeks away.
I think Fallujans are going to be in a world of hurt before too long.
“An Issue of Sovereignty” (Posted June 16, 2004)
One of the hammers that the opponents of the Iraq War like to use is that Iraq won’t really be sovereign after June 30. They like to ask what would we do if the Iraqis ask/tell us to leave Iraq? Would we go?
I have a better question for these people to answer.
What if the Iraqis want to level Fallujah to end this affront to common sense and human decency? Our Marines are saying this Fallujah Brigade ploy has not worked after all (I was deeply doubtful it would):
Fallujah is seen as the center of power for those who want to bring back a Sunni Arab dictatorship and Shia are now demanding that this center of terror be destroyed.
I mean, the Shias and Kurds don’t exactly have a warm spot in their hearts for their Sunni brothers blowing up Shias and Kurds and all they are trying to build.
So the question remains, what if the new sovereign Iraqi government wants to deal harshly with Fallujah? Will the high-minded advocates of “full” Iraqi sovereignty back this option if the Iraqis themselves press for it?
I bet not.
“As Long As I’m Feeding My Paranoia” (Posted June 16, 2004)
Let’s see. I worry that the North Koreans might think it is to strike us after fifty years of preparing.
Iran is probably next up on the target list and we are in a race against time before they get nukes. We may be dragging reluctant allies to the conclusion that Iran must be dealt with.
Iran and North Korea have nuclear links. Iran cannot know whether we will convince our allies to deal with Iran before Iran gets its nukes.
Iran is interfering in Iraq to keep us busy.
So how much of a stretch would it be for Iran to convince North Korea to invade South Korea to keep us busy for just a little bit longer so Iran can get its nukes before we topple their regime?
And of course, the Iranians promise to keep us busy in Iraq by escalating their terror support.
Like I said, I hate to sound paranoid, but there is no rule that says our enemies must patiently wait their turn to be destroyed. They just might try to upset our plans—or what they think are our plans. They just might try to win.
Like I said, I’m probably just being paranoid. Right?
"Attack Preparations?" (Posted June 16, 2004)
An agreement to halt blaring propaganda at the Korean DMZ was hailed as a victory for cooperation:
[North and South Korea] also agreed to end propaganda along their land border. Loudspeaker broadcasts will be stopped, and signboards will be dismantled, starting this week.

"Tension has been greatly eased between the two Koreas," Kim Dae-jung, whose single, five-year term ended early last year, said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Seoul on Monday.
But is it?
Why stop the propaganda? Is it because the Pillsbury Nuke Boy is suddenly reasonable? Or, does Pyongyang believe that the long-range utility of the shrill propaganda is nill? If so, is it because they think it doesn't work or is it because they no longer think in long-range terms? Are they only thinking short term?
Then today I read this bit about the last blast from the North Koreans:
"We, from one blood and using one language, can no longer live separated and we must put the earliest possible end to the tragedy of national division," the broadcast said. It was reported by Yonhap, South Korea's national news agency.

"The imperialist United States is the root cause of suffering and misfortune that our people are experiencing," it said. "We should take a firm attitude to oppose the pro-U.S. traitorous forces and move forward in the direction of national cooperation."

The broadcast ended with an emotional appeal: "Let's embrace each other, laughing and crying out of joy and emotion, on the day of national unification."
So the reason clearly isn't that the North has become suddenly reasonable. No, the US is the problem and the solution is unity. Yet the value of the propaganda campaign has been downgraded to nothing. They've ended it.
I don't want to sound paranoid, but have the North Koreans just decided to attack south in the near term? Do the North Koreans see our plan to draw down 12,000 troops from South Korea as a gap in our capabilities that they think they can exploit? Do they think the embrace of the day of national unification is about to arrive?
We'd better be prepared to mobilize 4 of our National Guard divisions in fairly short order.
And that carrier surge idea better be working.
“We are Worthy of Victory” (Posted June 14, 2004)
Victor Davis Hanson has words about our war:
Nearly three years after 9/11 we are in the strangest of all paradoxes: a war against fascists that we can easily win but are clearly not ready to fully wage. We have the best 500,000 soldiers in the history of civilization, a resolute president, and an informed citizenry that has already received a terrible preemptive blow that killed thousands.
Yet so many here and in Europe think we are at fault for the fighting and for the deaths that have resulted, as if we would have fought without threats to our lives. They think we are losing, ignorant of what war is. They think we deserve to lose because we dare to fight back and because our society is unworthy of victory.
Is bin Laden and his ilk nuts to think they can win against all our power? I wish Hanson was more comforting:
No, bin Laden is quite sane — but lately I have grown more worried that we are not.
I guess I’m too unsophisticated to believe that America is unworthy of victory over our backwards and barbaric enemies. I’m clearly ignorant of nuance to think our society is better. Not just a little. We’re obviously far better in every way from science to government to society. We deserve to win this struggle.
We must have the confidence that we are worthy of defending. All else will follow.
“The Sovereignty Issue” (Posted June 14, 2004)
Just a question here, really. The issue is how sovereign will Iraq really be. Let’s gloss over how sovereign the Federal Republic of Germany was during the Cold War with NATO forces crawling over their country. What I’d really like to see is some type of comparison between those who complain that Iraq won’t really be sovereign after June 30 and those who want the US to be constrained by our allies, by the UN, and by strange interpretations of international agreements to which we are bound. To put it another way, those who complain that America acts as a sovereign state.
I’m willing to guess that there would be an awful lot of overlap.
“Converging Opinions?” (Posted June 14, 2004)
The US has long held that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons for its missiles.
The Iranians insist we accept that they are a nuclear power.
And now the UN is coming to see that Iran is hell bent on getting nukes:
Mohamed ElBaradei said Iran's cooperation has been "less than satisfactory" and warned that the process of clarifying unresolved issues -- particularly over Iran's uranium enrichment activities -- could not be allowed to drag on for ever.

"It is essential for the integrity and credibility of the inspection process that we are able to bring these issues to a close within the next few months, and provide the international community with the assurances it urgently seeks regarding Iran's nuclear activities," he told the IAEA's board of governors.
This may not sound like much but as an observer noted:
A diplomat from one of the 35 nations on the IAEA Board of Governors said he was surprised by the force of the IAEA chief's words: "The speech by (ElBaradei) was severe. It was serious."
When the UN is serious and the US is pushing for more serious, and the Iranians are flaunting the UN in a most serious manner, I’m willing to bet that the international community will get serious by the end of the year. I’ve argued this route would not harm us since we would not be ready until early 2005 to do something about Iran; and since we could use the time to undermine the international community’s faith in process to solve the problem.
I think we are on track to nailing the next Axis of Evil threat to our safety and security.
“Fighting Insurgents” (Posted June 14, 2004)
The Strategic Studies Institute has a good short piece on fighting insurgents.
In large part, it addresses the idea of torture to win insurgencies quickly and argues that such tactics will not work. I agree totally. The article also puts this debate into terms that are useful to remember—insurgencies are not subject to rapid, decisive victory as we expect our military to provide in major combat operations. It is not a surprise that a military able to take down the Baathist regime in three weeks at unbelievably low casualties is still fighting insurgents.
Although the failure of the Baathists to mount any type of last stand lulled me into thinking we could wrap up the post-conflict stability mission in months, the fact that the insurgents have been able to sustain a low level insurgency for this long has not discouraged me as it has so many pro-war people. And it isn’t because I’m ignoring what is going on or just looking for happy news or otherwise just being stubborn. My steadfastness is based in large measure by my acceptance that once we are in an insurgency we must be patient. Hence my urging of patience. Hence my refusal to panic and call for more US troops when we must take the time to get Iraqis into the fight in large numbers. This view was so basic that I barely noticed it in my comments over the last year. This article reminded me of that truth and that there is no shortcut to victory. The heart of the article in regard to this point:
A contrasting approach to counterinsurgency is offered by Frank Kitson, a British officer who served in World War II, and had experience in conducting counterinsurgency operations in Malaya, Africa and Cyprus.  In his book Low Intensity Operations (1971), Kitson described the approach to counterinsurgency developed by the British Army.  First, Kitson did not believe that insurgencies could be defeated though rapid, decisive operations.  Defeating insurgents required a long-term commitment and a methodical approach to clear insurgents district by district, to build up the institutions of civil government, and to systematically isolate insurgents from the general population. 

As with Trinquier, Kitson believed that good intelligence was the key to winning the battle.  Unlike Trinquier, Kitson did not advocate torturing or abusing prisoners.  Indeed, Kitson argued strongly that counterinsurgency operations had to be conducted within the rule of law.  This, of course, did not mean that strong coercive methods could not be applied in an area of high terrorist activity.  Kitson thought it appropriate to detain and interrogate suspected terrorist supporters regularly, partly to send a message that the government forces were keeping a close eye. The information objective of detaining and interrogating was also to build up a district intelligence profile of relationships and rivalries—information that the district intelligence officer could exploit. 

International law and the traditional rules of war allow for some very firm tactics employed to coerce and control populations.  For example, to cut off support for rebels in pro-insurgent districts, Kitson advocated that government forces commandeer and carefully control all food stocks.  Food was rationed by the police and army only to registered village residents and whole villages would be cordoned off to prevent extra food from being brought in.  If the villagers wanted to give food to the rebels, they could do so only if they starved themselves.  The British also figured that if the insurgents came in the night and took the peoples’ carefully rationed food, people would eventually inform on the insurgents rather than face hunger.  Such tactics were not only effective, but also legal.

The good thing about Kitson’s approach to waging a counterinsurgency campaign strictly within the rule of law is that it generally works.  The downside is that such an approach to counterinsurgency and intelligence takes a long time and success is measured not in any dramatic terms but in small, local and incremental victories.  It should be no surprise that some of our intelligence personnel and leaders might instinctively opt for the Trinquier approach with its promise of quick and decisive results, when our military doctrine is filled with adjectives such as “rapid” and “decisive” to describe the American mode of warfare.  Yet the traditionally successful counterinsurgency doctrines are peppered with adjectives such as “methodical,” “systematic,” and “long-term.”
It seems to me that we are basically fighting a patient strategy in line with this approach. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But we are not blasting the countryside and we are not Americanizing this fight. We are building up friendly Iraqi military, security, and governmental entities. We are trying to isolate Iraqi insurgents from outside support. We are trying to strip away support for the Baathists from the Sunnis and for Sadr from the poor Shias. I remain uncomfortable with the Fallujah solution but our military seems happy with it. We are building the physical infrastructure.
And we are winning. That is so clear to me that I am shocked at the view that Iraq is a mess and the sight of supporters drifting into opposition in belief that Iraq is a mess. It is sad that we are in a race against time with domestic defeatists who neither support nor understand warfare in defense of our security and interests.
“The Army-Nation Bond” (Posted June 14, 2004)
The thrust of this article is just wrong:
"It was more or less a weekend job, once a month," said Daniel Carvill. "Then he ended up in Iraq. I don't think they expected what they ended up facing."

In the first week of June, nine of the 13 announced U.S. troop deaths in Iraq were National Guard or Reserve soldiers, an extraordinarily high toll on part-time troops.

Shaken by his brother's death, Daniel Carvill wondered aloud at the policy of putting National Guard units into combat.

"You have part-timers up against people who've been exposed to a lot of wars," Carvill said. "These are the people you're up against, but you realize this is the chance you take. God help them."

The toll among National Guard and Reserve soldiers has been climbing in recent months, and the pace of casualties so far this month has been the highest of the war. May had the largest number of Guard and Reserve deaths in Iraq, 22 of the month's 80 total U.S. troop deaths.
I think some people don’t understand the concept of “reservist.” Yes, reservists train one weekend per month and two weeks per summer. But that is not the extent of their service. This limited training is to prepare them in case they are needed full time as soldiers. I mean, what purpose is there for training soldiers part time if they can never be employed for longer than one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer? Think, people! Use your brains. The idea that it is somehow unfair to expect reservists to be called up is—and I can’t put this more delicately—stupid.
Our reservists who are called up perform a task far greater than the military jobs they do. It isn’t enough to say that our military can’t even fight a major war without calling up the reserves. Our reservists provide a bridge between our active military and our nation. Would we be better off sending our military off to fight like we sent off the military in Vietnam? Young draftees whose death has little impact on the rest of us? By calling up older reservists whose departure affects companies, police forces, fire departments, families, and civic institutions, we make sure that the government uses our troops wisely and for a good purpose. This is because our people will notice the deaths of these people far more than they will young soldiers just out of high school and volunteer career soldiers. This is a deliberate policy, remember, to preserve the military against the Vietnam option that ultimately wrecked our military until it was renewed and rebuilt. And it has worked. We must call up reserves to fight and they are high quality reserves unlike those of most other nations.
The idea that our reservists are hopelessly outclassed by our enemies is silly and not based on real knowledge. Our reserves are damned good. I’d put one of our National Guard divisions up against an active duty division of any one of our enemies and expect it to win in a straight up head-to-head shoot out. It might suffer heavy casualties depending on who it is we fight, but it would win. Our reserves are really that good. Our reserves only suffer by being compared to the active US Army.
One woman who lost her husband, said through her grief:
"It's not for us to question what the commander in chief does, especially if we chose to join," said Timoteo, a military sergeant like her husband. "We fully support our country and our commander in chief. Unfortunately, sometimes bad things happen to good people."
I was once a reservist. I came close to going to the first round against Saddam. I wasn’t happy about the idea but I accepted that I would go. I expected to go. And I didn’t seek refuge in any ridiculous ideas that I was just a part-time soldier who shouldn’t be expected to be sent to war. Even as a married, employed, part-time signalman, I knew I had signed on the dotted line and taken the king’s coin so that I would be available to go to war. That is what my job required me to do. So too are our reservists today responding according to their duty. That they must do this should not hide the fact that in many cases it is a far harder duty to fulfill as a reservist than as an active soldier who is every day reminded that they are a soldier who can be sent off at any time.
Timoteo has my respect and gratitude. She suffered far more than I ever have and she did not forget her duty and engage in the luxury of wallowing in her pain publicly, lashing out at the wrong people for her husband’s death. We can never forget the sacrifice of our soldiers—active and reserve—and we must not make their sacrifice be in vain by refusing to stick this out to win.
As an aside, this article repeats what is by now a common dig at the President:
In all, 827 American troops have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. Of the total, 687 have died since President Bush declared major combat over on May 1, 2003.
Once again, I must note that the President announced the end of major combat operations. I think I proclaimed this in mid-April. All this means is that the phase of the war given to large organized units fighting enemy large organized units was over. No more large unit symbols on the maps with arrows showing lines of advance and organized defenses. No more showing land gained as a measure of success. It means we won and the enemy army was defeated. It doesn’t mean that all fighting is over. Unfortunately, fighting has gone on. But the press has had more than a year to understand this simple concept and they still hammer away with no excuse for their partisan use of that statement of fact. When we are winning by any rational measure, this is especially galling.
“Now We’re Singing From the Same Page” (Posted June 12, 2004)
In the maneuvering over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and getting our allies to admit Iran has nuclear ambitions, the Iranians finally get with the US on the subject:
"Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club," [Foreign Minister Kamal] Kharrazi said. "This is an irreversible path.
Yes. An irreversible path. Iran’s mullah nutballs are committed to going nuclear and will not veer from that path (and those long range missiles they are building have nothing to do with nukes, right?). All these negotiations are a farce. Now if we can get our European friends to get with the program too, we can move on to the logical next step of changing the rulers who are walking the path so that they will voluntarily veer from the path.
Once again, remember that these guys are on the Axis of Evil for a reason. We must not let them go nuclear. And some who opposed the Iraq War said Iran should have been the first target since the mullahs are worse than Saddam. I wonder what those people say now? Or is pointing to someone worse in their eyes than the primary focus of our efforts merely an excuse to deflect any action against any enemy?
Early 2005. If we aren’t laying the groundwork for a military revolt and uprising against the mullahs and their imported Islamist bully boys then, I’ll be shocked. And disappointed. Any president can do nothing about grave and gathering threats to our security.
“Running Out the Clock” (Posted June 11, 2004)
A week ago, Venezuelans unhappy to live under the rule of Axis of El Vil thug Chavez celebrated a ruling that their petitions demanding a recall will be sufficient:
Waving flags and chanting "Referendum Now!" demonstrators danced to anti-Chavez jingles booming from loudspeakers mounted on trucks. Others blew whistles and set off powerful fireworks. One man carried a banner reading "Chavez, Your Time Is Nearly Up!"
But is his time really nearly up?
As this article notes, the referendum date is key.
If Chavez loses a recall before Aug. 19 — the completion of the fourth year of his six-year term — presidential elections would be held within a month, according to the constitution.

But after Aug. 19, Chavez's vice president, Jose Vicente Rangel, would serve out the president's term, which runs to 2007. Opponents fear Chavez would simply rule behind the scenes.
And one way to delay the count a week or so?
President Hugo Chavez announced his government would establish "people's militias" to counter what he called foreign interference after an alleged coup plot by Colombian paramilitaries Caracas claims was financed by Washington.
Armed Chavez supporters can then raise a stink either just before the election so Chavez will need to delay the vote for “safety” reasons or perhaps delay the count by disrupting the polling stations on or just after the day of the election.
The date of the count is irrelevant in theory (from the referendum date story):
Ezequiel Zamora, the elections council vice president, said the results, whenever they are released, would be considered as taking effect before Aug. 19.
Still, what if Chavez and his armed goons say that the day of release of the results is the key date? And there are other possibilities:
Opposition leaders claim Chavez, a deft former army colonel, will try to hang on to power even if he is recalled.

They argue that Chavez would be banned from running in a snap election after a recall. But Venezuela's ruling party counters there is nothing stopping Chavez from doing so.

Some analysts said that if Chavez loses the recall, his government could seek a transitional administration instead of calling fresh elections, especially if recall results come after Aug. 19.

"It seems very likely that the government could challenge the decision in constitutional court, and win," wrote Jose Cerritelli, an analyst at Bear Stearns, in a Wednesday report.

"The scenario where Chavez loses the August 15 recall referendum, and negotiates a partial exit forming a transitional government that is acceptable to the opposition, is increasingly likely," added Cerritelli.
But we shouldn’t worry too much. Former President Jimmy Carter assures us:
Chavez "is completely willing, eager to go to the referendum," Carter said after Sunday's meeting at the Miraflores Presidential Palace
Luckily for Venezuelans, an omen from God may be the only thing that can save them from the assurances of one of our best and brightest.
Will he be ousted? I’m betting that we won’t get any easy win with this crisis. I’m betting Chavez hangs on to power. I bet he’ll be a member of the Axis of El Vil for quite some time now.
"ELF Qaeda" (Posted June 11, 2004)
The Earth Liberation Front is one of the most dangerous domestic terrorist movements in America. They are upset that one of their own is in jail:
"Supporters of anarchist and convicted arsonist Jeff Luers have designated Saturday, June 12, 2004 an 'International Day of Action and Solidarity with Jeff 'Free' Luers,' alternatively entitled 'J12,'" the FBI said in the bulletin.
These people are not to be dismissed as pro-fuzzy animal harmless eccentrics. They fundamentally disagree with our society and are willing to attack it violently because they truly believe the fate of the Earth is at stake and mere people are not to stand in their way. At their most extreme, they think mankind is a plague upon their animal Eden and would just as soon see mankind eradicated.
If they have not yet, they are fully capable of linking up with Islamic radicals who would be more than happy to plant bombs for or feed ELF types with bombs in order to attack American society. This would not be the first alliance of convenience that al Qaeda has accepted with those who on the surface are their enemies.
Catch them before they try to join the major leagues. They will kill mere humans in large numbers to save their idyllic Earth fantasy.
“Reagan’s Military” (Posted June 10, 2004)
The ceremony of bringing President Reagan’s body to the Capitol Building was a moving and majestic sight. It was a fitting tribute to the man. The Battle Hymn of the Republic in the slow beat was perfect. The military personnel at attention honoring him was impressive. The 21-gun salute by Army cannons was precise in its honoring of the former commander-in-chief. What most surprised me was that I began to cry when the Air Force extended its respect with a 21-plane flyover in missing man formation. The sleek power and speed exemplifies our military prowess and our strength and technology.
The plane flying straight up was touching.
It is little wonder that the military looks up to President Reagan still and that the full honors of a state funeral are so suited to this man:
[Image of Reagan funeral that I could not copy here. See Internet Archive version.]
I know, the military build-up began in the Carter years; but the respect accorded our warriors was restored in the Reagan years.
This military built up from the wreckage of the 1970s has ripped out the hearts of our enemies and brought us victory, after the dark years of Vietnam withdrawal and a military distrusted and unsure of itself. Starting in Grenada with the first baby step of rolling back communism, to smaller conflicts and clashes where we professionally executed missions, to Panama, and Kosovo, and Kuwait, and Afghanistan, and now Iraq, our military has served us well.
Not just the victor of the Cold War, President Reagan left us with a superb military instrument whose personnel are confident and proud of their service in defense of a nation once again grateful for their service and sacrifice.
“No. No. No. No!” (Posted June 8, 2004)
We don’t torture. I don’t care about the theoretical “if the terrorist planted a nuke and it will go off in an hour” scenario.
We are never going to be in that situation. This memo is just stupid.
In the situation we find ourselves now, torture is absolutely wrong. And just as bad, it isn’t even effective.
Why would anybody advocate a policy that taints us and leads to more dead Americans?
“Sheer Rock Pounding Stupidity” (Posted June 8, 2004)
Communism is on the ash heap of history.
But academia strives mightily to breathe life into this hideous ideology by ignoring the crimes of communism and the activities of communists and their fellow travelers. Via Caerdroia, this piece is a gem.
I highlight this lengthy portion as particularly fun to recall as so many claim that we were all against the Soviet Union and communism and we all knew they were doomed:
Sometimes the refusal to confront errors is simple hubris. But often it masks a queasy reluctance to start down a path of self-examination, for fear of where it will lead. During the final days of the 1990 election in Nicaragua, ABC News released the results of a poll showing the ruling Sandinista Party ahead by 16 percentage points. "For the Bush Administration and the Reagan Administration before it, the poll hints at a simple truth: After years of trying to get rid of the Sandinistas, there is not much to show for their efforts," Peter Jennings gravely informed his viewers. But a few days later, the Sandinistas lost -- by 14 percentage points. The "simple truth" was really that the poll, like so much of what ABC and other American news media outlets had been reporting from Nicaragua for the previous decade, was utterly, dumbfoundingly, whoppingly wrong. But if you think that triggered a frenzy of soul searching at ABC -- about how the poll could have been so mistaken, about how none of the network’s reporters sensed anything askew -- then guess again. Instead, Jennings dismissed the subject the next day with a single smirking reference to the inscrutability of Nicaraguans.

What went unreported was a research project conducted during the election by the University of Michigan, which by deploying various groups of student pollsters discovered that Nicaraguans mistrusted foreigners, presumed them active allies of the Sandinistas, and persistently lied to them. That fact had calamitous implications not only for what reporters had been writing about Nicaragua in the previous decade but for the reporters themselves. What had they done to make Nicaraguans view them as a foreign auxiliary of the Sandinista Party? Could it be that journalists covering Nicaragua had a (gasp!) ideological bias in favor of the Sandinistas? And could it be a coincidence that you’re probably reading about this study for the first time?

The end of the Cold War has produced many such numbing silences. The speed with which the Soviet empire imploded and the economic ruin and popular revulsion that were revealed have made it clear that baby boomer intellectuals and journalists, viewing the world through the distorted lens of Vietnam, overwhelmingly got it wrong. Peasants ate less and were slaughtered more on the other side of the Iron Curtain; the jails were fuller; the KGB’s list was a lot longer and a lot deadlier than Joe McCarthy’s. A team of French historians calculated the worldwide death toll of communism during the 20th century at more than 93 million. When Hoover Institution historian Robert Conquest used newly available data from the Soviet Union to update The Great Terror, his account of Stalin’s murderous purges of the 1930s, his publishers asked for a new title. "How about I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?" Conquest suggested.

The Conquest anecdote comes from In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage, an improbably riveting dispatch from the battlefields of historiography by scholars John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr.

Chilling and often perversely funny, it details the intellectual sleight of hand to which many American historians of communism and the Soviet Union have resorted as newly revealed archives in Moscow and Washington suggest they were, well, fucking fools.

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

Bold words, especially in academia, where suggesting somebody has communist sympathies -- even if he’s carrying a bloody hammer and sickle in one hand and Trotsky’s severed head in the other -- instantly draws gleeful cries of "McCarthyism!" I say, if this be blacklisting, make the most of it:
I was alive back then, dudes. I remember the shameful sucking up by the sophisticates to the murdering bastards in Moscow that was the default nuance position in those days. Moral equivalence. Ah yes, I remember it well.
“Ah, The Value of Old Allies” (Posted June 8, 2004)
We got our UN Security Council resolution endorsing our continued presence in Iraq. It doesn’t seem like we gave up anything important.
Most important, for the proponents of nuanced, big-brained multilateralism we also find:
But his administration lowered expectations of gaining other countries' military support — one of the original hopes behind the resolution. Four members of the Group of Eight summit — France, Germany, Russia and Canada — have said they won't send troops to take the burden off the 138,000 American soldiers and the 24,000 troops from coalition partners.
I’m not real clear on what tangible benefit this gets us since the Iraqis don’t respect the UN which aided Saddam and the UN won’t send any troops to Iraq except maybe to guard UN compounds.
Still, all those nuanced guys and gals basically opposed to the war will be popping the corks tonight. They have another resolution!! And it was a unanimous resolution! Whoopie!!!
“Sign of Intelligence” (Posted June 8, 2004)
Good news for the captives:
U.S. special forces freed four hostages in a raid Tuesday after staking out their captors' hideout for a day — the first military rescue of foreigners caught up in Iraq (news - web sites)'s wave of kidnappings.
And good news for the war effort. Something like this requires good intelligence. People are talking to us and they knew what they were talking about.
And we captured some of the captors.
We will need this intelligence because more are held captive including an American soldier.
“The Power of Words” (Posted June 7, 2004)
We should not be afraid to believe in ourselves. To believe in our government of laws and our freedom. We should believe in our liberties enough to proudly offer our friendship and support to those who struggle for liberty.
Yet some in our country believe that our words of hope to those who dream of freedom while they live in tyranny will only strengthen the hand of tyranny. Don’t “contaminate” foreign democrats with association with us! Say kind words to the tyrants and they will see reason and commit political suicide and resign, leading peacefully to democracy. The President’s democracy initiative for the Moslem world is counter-productive, they say. It will “taint” those who want democracy. The rulers themselves, of course, don’t care for the initiative. But the rulers aren’t who we need to give hope to. The rulers are the ones we need to frighten.
Those who love freedom need to know they are not alone. To bravely defy the threats of job loss, prison, torture, and even death, they must believe that forces stronger than their tormenters exist and want them to win.
The Cold War provides a lesson of the power of our words. And of the ability of those who are not proud of our freedom to believe our words are the kiss of death. As Natan Sharansky wrote:
In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.
Goddammit, provoke our enemies. Speak to their people of freedom, the truth of the tyranny they live under, and why they deserve democracy. And why we will help them!
We are better than our enemies! Is that so hard to accept? Our enemies are evil men. How can people fail to see that?
“Nine Out of Ten is Good When No. Ten is Dead” (Posted June 7, 2004)
The new Iraqi government has come to agreements with 9 militias to disband, join security forces, or retire. The tenth, Sadr’s remnants, are not included and are now outlaws. Good. Sadr will not be rewarded for taking up arms. This is a needed message.
Plus, I didn’t know that the militias were this large. I’d kind of assumed that the figure of 200,000 Iraqi security personnel included such militias. The fact that 75,000 of the 100,000 militia are Kurdish puts my counter-insurgency numbers a little better. (I’d figured 25,000 to secure the Kurdish areas; 150,000 to secure the Shia areas; and a minimum of 100,000 to secure the Sunni areas) The other 25,000 are presumably in the Shia areas so add a bit more there. The Kurds have been perfectly able to police their own area so 25,000 of assumed security personnel in Kurdish areas are really in the more needed areas south.
“President Reagan’s Legacy” (Posted June 6, 2004)
The television is non-stop coverage of President Reagan’s life and now death. I hope that the last goal he achieves is to rally conservatives and moderates to toughing it out for winning in Iraq and the war on terror generally.
When President Reagan was so steadfast with such a tougher opponent—the Soviet Union—I’d hope that his fans in this time of testing would remember what real adversity is and show resolve today that would be worthy of President Reagan.
Can’t we act like people worthy of freedom? Are we unable to defend it? Are we unable even to recognize victory when we are achieving it? As Hanson noted:
These depressing times really are much like the late 1960s, when only a few dared to plead that Hue and Tet were not abject defeats, but rare examples of American courage and skill. But now as then, the louder voice of defeatism smothers all reason, all perspective, all sense of balance — and so the war is not assessed in terms of five years but rather by the last five hours of ignorant punditry. Shame on us all.

Historic forces of the ages are in play. If we can just keep our sanity a while longer, accept our undeniable mistakes, learn from them, and press on, Iraq really will emerge as the constitutional antithesis of Saddam Hussein, and that will be a good and noble thing — impossible without America and its most amazing military.
One more job, Mr. President, even after you’ve done so much. Please.
“Iranian Showdown Coming” (Posted June 6, 2004)
The Europeans are preparing a resolution that could pave the way for a confrontation with Iran over its clear lying over its nuclear programs:
France, Britain and Germany are drafting a U.N. nuclear resolution on Iran that could set them on course for a confrontation with Tehran at an International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting next week, diplomats said.
The US wants a hard line, but will wait until after the elections here before pressing too hard:
The United States, which said the latest IAEA report contained further evidence that Iran is trying to cover up a nuclear weapons program, will push the Europeans to include sharp language that describes the difficulties the agency had getting access to military sites in the Islamic republic.

Diplomats said Washington would likely delay until after the November presidential election any attempt to push the IAEA to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions because of Tehran's two-decade cover-up of a uranium enrichment program capable of making material for weapons.
Since I figure we don’t want to confront Iran until spring 2005 and since we do need to rest our military and space out confrontations a bit, this is consistent with my sheer speculation.
With any luck, we’re preparing Iran’s military to support or stage a coup against the mullahs in the spring. With a little more luck, air power and special forces will suffice to bolster the Iranian military that certainly seems to be tired of oppressing the people for the mullahs.
Iran is getting close to getting nukes by some estimates and we could have the Europeans on board to take out the Iranian regime with this route.
I hope so. Being on the Axis of Evil is not from some technical parole violation. These nutballs want nukes. Get them.
“Contingency Plan: Shia Arabia” (Posted June 5, 2004)
Saudi Arabia is a source of money and ideology for the Islamists who wish to kill us (and pretty much anybody else for that matter).
The Saudis are also the major source of oil in the world. In addition, part of the Saudi government is trying to fight the Islamists that other parts of the Saudi government have created. It is a low level civil war that could break out into the open and shut off the flow of oil.
Many are upset that a state (or elements in the state) that still supports Islamist ideology should have such control over our economy and policy by virtue of its oil production.
Some argue that Saudi Arabia is the Gordian Knot that needs to be cut to end the age of terror and that it should be lead state on the Axis of Evil. Others argue that Saudi Arabia should be subject to military invasion to end the threat.
I have argued that while many of these points are valid, taking on Saudi Arabia now directly is too difficult and would hinder too many other fronts. I’ve argued that we’ll get more bang for the buck by pushing the Saudis to fight the Islamists as much as they can.
But we do need a contingency plan for securing the Saudi oil fields should a civil war break out or should a coup bring the pro-Islamist side to power. We may say we believe the Saudis can protect their oil fields but this is too critical to leave it up to a divided state to defend.
But simply taking over Saudi Arabia will not work. Occupying the Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina won’t cut it with the Sunni world. If some think we are Crusaders now…
But I think we can take advantage of what could be a Shia realignment to our side. See this piece for US Shias siding with America over Iraq. Based on freeing the Shias of Iraq and Iran (in 2005), with Shia-majority Bahrain on our side and the sizable Shia population in a friendly UAE, we could see Shias looking to us as friends. This friendliness could be the pressure point that helps us secure the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia where Shias and foreigners dominate; while the Sunni Wahhabis can enjoy their holy sites in the west uncontaminated by a Western presence. Heck, maybe we can toss some border areas of Saudi Arabia to the Jordanians, Iraqis, Yemenis, and Oman. Why should we be too upset if a family enterprise masquerading as a country is broken up? Saudi affluence and gaudy consumption may well keep the broader and far pooerer Sunni world from getting upset too deeply—especially if the holy sites stay beyond our power.
Saudi Arabia:
[Map of Saudi regions that I could not copy here. See Internet Archive version.] 

Summary of Eastern Province:
HASA (EASTERN REGION): Fertile lowland coastal plains inhabited by the kingdom’s Shia minority, who have traditionally lived by fishing, diving for pearls, raising date palms and trading abroad and with the interior. All of Saudi Arabia’s vast stocks of oil lie under Hasa or beneath the Gulf, and the locals are now outnumbered by foreign oil-workers from all over the world.
So taking the Eastern Province (the huge region stretching from Kuwait to the south) and setting up the Shias as the rulers could be our ticket to some stability there that would choke off funding for the Islamists. The foreigners who run the fields might be happy to have the harsh Saudi regime pushed west into the desert.
The arguments for invading Saudi Arabia are sometimes compelling. Except that it really would pose too great a risk that we would just blow up our source of oil and quite possibly plunge us into depression along with the world.
Yet just because we can’t undo decades of Islamist promotion with one quick invasion is not a reason to do nothing. A civil war is being waged in Saudi Arabia right now and the problems with letting things limp along as they have for decades argue for pushing (and helping) the Saudis who are friendly toward us to fight harder against the Saudis who support Islamist terror. We need to take a risk that such pressure to make Saudi Arabia better could break Saudi Arabia as a state.
So in the meantime, build up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Stockpile the oil field parts that take a year or two to build just in case. And study what we would need to do to drop on the oil fields and seize them. Then we can give the Shias of Saudi Arabia their own state—with our protection.
This is all just a contingency mind you, to prevent a bad development from being disastrous should Islamists take over Saudi Arabia. It should not be our first choice in the absence of a coup attempt or open civil war, since invasion will create a bad situation in the short run even if all goes well militarily. But by knowing we have a Plan B that can minimize our losses, we may encourage our friends in Saudi Arabia to work hard enough to make this contingency plan just one of many that never gets pulled out of its file cabinet.
Shia Arabia. Might have a nice ring to it.
“Last Salute” (Posted June 5, 2004)
Former President Ronald Reagan has passed away.
He buried the Soviet Union and paved the way for our current global dominance. Democracy advanced throughout Latin America and was strengthened in Asia.
His detractors say all this would have happened anyway.
His detractors are wrong. Indeed, he was right about the biggest question of the day—whether we would win or Soviet communism would win. He knew that we could win contrary to the many who felt that at best we could only avoid losing, and might very well converge toward their system or at least to socialism. I, too, failed to see a future where we would win.
Without Reagan’s determination to drive the USSR under, Moscow might well have limped through its period of danger with the West’s help and emerged stronger.
Nothing is inevitable. We are lucky to have had a president determined to win at such a crucial period.
I salute President Reagan one last time and pray he rests well. I shall always be proud that I enlisted in time to have President Reagan as my commander in chief for a year and a half of my short military stint.
Somalia Front” (Posted June 5, 2004)
I keep looking for indications we will strike overtly in the Horn of Africa region—from Sudan down to Kenya—before summer. I picked this date so that it would be safely before the political season starts. Nobody ever successfully complained about a June surprise as far as I can recall.
It isn’t happening. Oh, I’ve seen pieces indicating continued activity and indications that we have quietly sent in special forces on some missions to take out terrorists, but I’d be lying if I tried to inflate this activity into a proof that I was right on the money in my prediction.
No, I expected a visible, if small scale, operation in the area. A battalion of Rangers, a MEU with an expeditionary strike group, a carrier, and the Djibouti garrison forces of course. I expected such an operation not only for the value of going after al Qaeda trying to set up bases there and plot against our facilities (remember the embassy bombings) and allies in the area, but to bolster public support. After all, the quiet activities take care of the purely military and political aspects.
No, I expected (and there is still a little time for this to become true) that we would launch a small-scale visible series of attacks in the Horn region for much the same reason we invaded North Africa in 1942—we need to remind the public we are at war and taking the fight to the enemy. Not ready to strike where we’d like, we struck where we could so that the public wouldn’t get restless and to maintain public support for the war with a success.
As important as Afghanistan and Iraq are, they are defensive efforts right now that are cementing our offensive gains. Winning in those regions only leaves the impression we aren’t losing. They don’t give us the feel of forward movement. Yet we don’t want to stress the efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. So a small offensive somewhere that will achieve something positive and not be just a public relations move—but which will provide a PR boost—seems in order. Some air strikes. Special forces hitting targets in cities. Rangers dropping in one or two bigger raids into desolate areas to smash up a training camp. Marines landing to bolster embassies or to work with local friendly forces to give a broader impression of activity. Marines to help sift port areas for terrorists. It would last a short time—some weeks—and then pull back to the normal level of activity.
We’ll see. I suppose I could still be right. I’d think the hammering that public support for the war effort has been under lately would justify this approach.
“Troop Strength” (Posted June 5, 2004)
On the surface, this looks ominous:
With nearly every other major combat unit either committed to or just returned from Iraq or Afghanistan, the Army is planning to call on two battalions and one engineer company — about 2,500 soldiers — from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which serves as a professional enemy force at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. The regiment last saw combat in the Vietnam War.

The Army boasts of the "tough and uncompromising standards" of the 11th Armored Cavalry, which it says makes it the premier maneuver unit in the Army and "the yardstick against which the rest of the Army measures itself."

Similarly, the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry, which acts as the Opfor, or opposition force, for light infantry and special operations training at Fort Polk, La., is being called to Iraq, according to two Army officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

The 509th Infantry has not seen combat since World War II, although five members of the unit served as "pathfinders," or advance scouts, during the 1991 Gulf War; two were killed and one was taken prisoner.

Both the National Training Center and Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center will remain open, the officials said, with National Guard soldiers expected to fill in for the units going to Iraq.
When I first read it, I couldn’t believe it. The Army knows how important training is to our success. I’d rather have well trained troops with second tier weaponry than the latest weaponry in the hands of troops who do not train hard.
On Strategypage (sorry, forgot to retain the link), I read that these units are going to Iraq in order to get real life experience first hand in order to be able to better train the troops that go through our two training centers. One battalion from each regiment will still remain in place at each site. They will be bolstered by reservists.
Yet every other story tells us that we are stretched thin and desperate for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is the Army playing games to get more troops?
Hard to say. I think the Army does need more troops to provide a better rotation base. Given the need, I don’t blame the Army if they want this impression left with the public. I’d like to see 40,000 more troops added to the active component. Organized into the new brigade format, this could be 8-10 brigades (the “units of action”). Even this might not be enough but we can’t expand the Army very rapidly without destroying quality.
But they aren’t being sent because the pantry is bare. We do have lots of reserve combat brigades in the National Guard. We could have called up two battalions no problem. No, the Strategypage explanation makes far more sense than the common view.
One thing this does highlight is that the combat in Iraq really is fairly low level (though, as I’ll repeat, at a higher level one year on than I expected). The Army would not send these valuable training units to a place where they would get decimated.
So, bottom line. We need a bigger Army. We don’t need more troops in Iraq. We don’t need to send valuable opfor units to Iraq because our Army is too small or because we are desperate for troops in Iraq.
"Policy of Dominance" (Posted June 3, 2004)
Former VP Gore spoke to the repugnant hate group I wish to address but one of the VP's points. Gore's complaint that we are seeking dominance over the world. He said:
An American policy of dominance is as repugnant to the rest of the world as the ugly dominance of the helpless, naked Iraqi prisoners has been to the American people. Dominance is as dominance does.

Dominance is not really a strategic policy or political philosophy at all. It is a seductive illusion that tempts the powerful to satiate their hunger for more power still by striking a Faustian bargain. And as always happens -- sooner or later -- to those who shake hands with the devil, they find out too late that what they have given up in the bargain is their soul.
First of all, if we did dominate the world as Gore and his listeners fear, the world could do a heck of a lot worse. His shameful churning of the abuse of prisoners in Iraq (which is being addressed and punished) to bolster his false point should be beyond consideration by one who wished (still wishes?) to be President and who stood a heartbeat from the presidency for eight years.
But we don't seek dominance as Gore asserts. This is what The National Security Strategy of the United States says about dominance:
We know from history that deterrence can fail; and we know from experience that some enemies cannot be deterred. The United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any attempt by an enemy—whether a state or non-state actor—to impose its will on the United States, our allies, or our friends. We will maintain the forces sufficient to support our obligations, and to defend freedom. Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.
Is this clear? We wish to maintain military capability so far advanced that no nation will try to match us and put us in the position we found ourselves in during the Cold War—blocked around the globe and doomed to an expensive arms race with an enemy that could destroy us and thus locked us into a nuclear-tinged stalemate for decades.
And the purpose of this goal of dominance is not to control the world. France—God help us all—will be free to be France. Alec Baldwin and those owning summer homes there can rest easy. We just want our skyscrapers to stand unattacked. We don't want any more of our people to have to make the choice of burning or falling to their deaths. We want our subways free of chemical killing agents. We want our cities free from the threat of a mushroom cloud. We wish simply to be left alone. That's all. Just left alone.
What is so God-awful wrong with wanting America to be militarily dominant so we will be left alone? Why is it best if America is hamstrung and blocked and forced to compromise on every endeavor? Why are we better off if enemies are capable of attacking and harming us mortally because they have parity or superiority in power?
Why? Because the audience that cheered Gore's screeching and fevered speech views America as uniquely evil in the world. They believe we deserve to be constrained. They want other countries to impose their will on us. Shoot, they believe not too far below the surface that we deserve to be attacked and beaten—even destroyed—in order to save America. In their anger and hatred, they are the ones who have made the Faustian bargain—defeat the man they hate and stop the country they loathe, and the Devil with how it is done or who must die or suffer to achieve their goals. A million Mogadishus would not be too high a price for our justified humbling by wiser foreigners.
I vote for American military dominance. Proudly. And I won't need to put my soul in a lock box while I wish for our dominance.
"Stopping Losses" (Posted June 3, 2004)
There have been a lot of complaints about the unfairness of the Army's stop-loss order that will keep soldiers in service past their enlistment if their unit is scheduled to deploy overseas soon:
Thousands of soldiers who had expected to retire or otherwise leave the military will be required to stay if their units are ordered to Iraq or Afghanistan.
One formerly serving officer wrote recently:
These soldiers are falling victim to the military's "stop-loss" policy — and as a former officer who led some of them in battle, I find their treatment shameful.
I'm sorry, but those are the breaks with military service—even volunteer service. This isn't a job that you can just quit. And while I do think the Army should be larger, this decision isn't about an Army stretched, this is about combat effectiveness and unit cohesion. If our Army was three times as large, I'd hope the Army would have the wisdom to send units that have trained together overseas. Recall the opening of the movie We Were Soldiers Once, when Mel Gibson's (Colonel Moore) had a good chunk of his newly trained battalion stripped out and replaced with newbies on the eve of deploying to Vietnam in 1965.
This order is also, as Strategypage notes, about saving lives:
These more experienced soldiers are disproportionately critical to the success of the unit in combat. Studies of casualties during World War II, Korea and Vietnam showed that it was the loss of the older and most experienced troops in a unit that caused combat casualties to go up. So a Stop Loss is, literally, a matter of life and death.
I'm sorry that some soldiers will have their plans disrupted. They will forever have my deepest respect and thanks for what they have done and what they continue to do. But their job is to protect America. And in the long run, because of this order, more soldiers will have post-enlistment plans.
Honor our soldiers. But remember that they are soldiers. Mission first. No false compassion, please. I find that shameful.
"Reversal?" (Posted June 2, 2004)
I'm not sure what Zakaria is talking about. He says we should consider the magnitude of recent Bush administration policy reversals that give him hope that we will succeed in Iraq.
The administration had stubbornly insisted that no more troops were needed in Iraq. But today, there are 20,000 additional soldiers in the country.
No, there are not 20,000 additional American soldiers in Iraq. We cancelled our planned reduction of 20,000 and are holding steady for the near future. And for many reasons, I do not think we are short of troops in Iraq. I won't go into that yet again. In any case, it is hardly a reversal as Zakaria claims.
From the start it refused to give the United Nations any political role in Iraq. Now the United Nations is a partner, both in the June 30 transition and in preparing for elections. U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was the "quarterback," Bush said yesterday.
I think the US has tried to get the UN involved in Iraq. The key has been not letting the UN dictate our objectives. Besides, the UN ran away early on. The UN is helping with the political transition, but the UN has covered our position that immediate elections aren't possible. I can't honestly say whether the UN is quarterback or team statistician at this point. It is not clear how this is a reversal.
Radical "de-Baathification," the pet project of the Pentagon and Ahmed Chalabi, has been overturned. The army that was disbanded is being slowly recreated.
Since Zakaria mentions de-Baathification in the context of the army issue and not as a separate issue, I'll stick to the army side (but note that de-Baathification is as necessary as de-Nazification was). First of all this is a silly claim for the reversal angle. You can't reverse a decision to eliminate something by deciding to rebuild it.  Besides, when was it our policy to have no Iraqi security forces in a new Iraq? We are building a more reliable military and security force. Would we have been better off during the Sadr and Fallujah uprisings if the Iraqi military still existed at some minor level of de-Baathification? I'd have worried every day that such unreliable formations would join their fellow Baathists in revolt. Finally, for the umpteenth time, we did not disband the Iraqi army. It self-disbanded in the war and our proclamation was a simple recognition of reality that people still have a hard time grasping. I wish people would get over this.
Finally, Zakaria notes:
Heavy-handed military tactics have given way to a more careful political-military strategy in Fallujah, Karbala and Najaf that emphasizes a role for local leaders.
First, how is this complaint of heavy-handed military tactics even consistent with his claim we had too few troops? Second, heavy-handed military tactics result in a leveled Grozny—not what we did in Fallujah. We were exceedingly careful and Zakaria's charge is ridiculous. And if even the hard-fighting in Fallujah cannot be classified as heavy handed, how much more silly is this characterization of our fighting in the Shia areas as we decimated the Mahdi army within rifle range of Shia shrines? This whole episode is mischaracterized by Zakaria. We went from a military solution to a political solution to address Sadr and Fallujah and although I remain skeptical that the final results don't represent pulling back on the verge of victory, they were clearly made possible by our military tactics in the first place. The careful political-military strategy he lauds would not have been possible without what he terms heavy-handed military tactics.
Not that we aren't changing how we do things. But Zakaria's pounce on purported admissions of error is the reason the administration doesn't like to admit error. Opposition will pounce on error and elevate it to crime or incompetence when it is simply human nature to make mistakes in endeavors small and large or simple and complex. We are adapting against an enemy that also adapts.
I honestly don't know what Zakaria is trying to do here. He lauds what he says is a sign that grownups are now in charge. Yet these are hardly grownup criticisms that Zakaria makes. He seems to simply join the parade of people panicking over the war. Keegan does not panic in his good piece today.
"We Have the Wonder Tank Already" (Posted June 2, 2004)
Strategypage notes:
The U.S. Army, while eager to design and build it’s new, twenty ton, FCS (Future Combat System) tank, was reminded in Iraq that the current 65 ton M-1 tank still rules the battlefield. As a result, the current plan is to keep the M-1 in service at least until 2030. This means that there will be more upgrades for the M-1, including anti-missile systems (using electronic signals, lasers, smoke and whatever works). The FSC is seen as too ambitious, depending on too many technologies that are still in the lab, and may never make it to the battlefield, or at least not in the next decade or so.
I am pleased. In "Equipping the Objective Force" in 2002, I noted that our plans for a Future Combat System (FCS) were too ambitious and that the Abrams tank is too valuable not to be replaced (or continued) based on what it can do and what we can build. I concluded:
Building the FCS, however, is a high-risk venture. The Army should not spend whatever it takes attempting to meld multiple revolutionary technologies into one vehicle for all missions. The FCS should be different from the Abrams and Bradley but must be designed with near-term technology that incorporates modular improvements if the Army is to turn "gee whiz" ideas into actual hardware. Separated missiles and a sensor grid; active defenses; EGTs; and exotic engines, fuels, and weapons can be retrofitted to defeat more capable enemies. Barring successfully fielding exotic technologies to make the FCS work, the Army must consider how it will defeat future heavy systems if fighting actual enemies and not merely suppressing disorder becomes its mission once again. The tentative assumptions of 2001 will change by 2025. When they do, the Army will rue its failure today to accept that the wonder tank will not be built.
I think the military has come to accept that the wonder tank will at least take a little while longer to build.
"Invasion of Taiwan" (Posted June 2, 2004)
If I recall, past US assessments of the ability of China to invade Taiwan discounted the very idea and focused on blockade or missile barrages.
This Chinese military power report doesn't claim it can't be done. While the report still says that it could not succeed if there was "third-party intervention" (that's us, by the way), it at least admits that the campaign could succeed if Peking is willing to accept the political, economic, diplomatic, and military costs that an invasion would produce.
The Chinese never tire of telling us that nothing is as important to them as controlling Taiwan. The Chinese are certainly willing to accept the costs, in my opinion.
I really must get to my part three of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
"What Kind of Kumbaya Rot Are We Basing Our Policies On?" (Posted June 1, 2004)
Ok, we may yet get good results of our deal in Fallujah. And the Sadr deal may yet turn out fine despite the failures of his people to honor the ceasefire. I'm suspicious that the Mahdi goons will succeed in killing more of us and lose less of them by hitting us during a "ceasefire" when we should be waxing them in offensive ops.
But our military seems happy with the deals and I am far from all knowing and all wise. I'm skeptical, but we'll see.
Yet my skepticism receives an infusion of horror when I read stuff like this:
For Americans, the tentative deal in Najaf — as it was in Fallouja — is designed in part to reduce casualties, a senior Pentagon official said.

"The way you avoid casualties is by not fighting," the official said. "And that's effectively what's going on down there." That approach has American commanders negotiating with unsavory, "Mafia-like" characters, the official said.
The way you avoid casualties is by not fighting?
Words worthy of some "peace" protester in some ANSWER-sponsored rally. Or an earnest college student flush with confidence and ignorance in equal measure. Or, apparently, a Pentagon official.
Please remember, unless we kick the snot out of our enemies and win decisively, we are not the only side that gets to decide whether there is fighting or not. If we choose not to fight, and our enemy chooses to fight, fighting will take place.
God help us if we are engaged in casualty avoidance at the expense of the mission. As I noted in The First Gulf War and the Army's Future (Land Warfare Paper No. 27, October 1997):
Undue concern [about friendly casualties], however, is false compassion and, as was the case for Iraq in 1980, could result in even greater casualties in a prolonged war should we refuse—because of the prospect of battle deaths—to seize an opportunity for early victory.
Are we making deals that will increase our casualties in the long run but stretch them out in more manageable amounts on a daily basis? If so, this is truly terrible.
As I've noted before, it is certainly no error to get enemies to defect to your side. We do not need to kill every enemy in order to win. Just get rid of them. Indeed, in such a counter-insurgency, it truly is best not to use massive firepower to swat flies. We need to make this a law enforcement problem. But for this to work the guys we bring over have to actually come over to our side. I don't see what good this does if the enemy simply gets a reprieve in a little sanctuary so they can prepare to come at us again as a military force when they are ready. Police work cannot take place if the enemy is still armed and organized like a military force.
I just don't know what we've done yet.