Tuesday, November 30, 2004

National Security Affairs Page is Moving

Beginning December 1, 2004, The Dignified Rant will be partially moving to a new home at blogspot. I'm starting to run out of space at The Dignified Rant on Yahoo! Geocities and I have a lot of things I want to do there. Home Front, Landfill, and List of Annoying Things will remain at the Y!G site, along with archives of national security posts from July 2002 until November 2004. I will keep a National Security Affairs section there for special projects that aren't really blogging. This re-oriented site will be known as "The Dignified Rant: Home Edition." I still have a third of my storage space left and I plan to use it.

For those of you who read the national security posts, I've been dual posting on the new and existing sites since November 26th as a transition aid. Starting December 1st I will blog on national security affairs at the new The Dignified Rant site exclusively. I hope you'll visit both sites in the future.

And please have patience as I fix links on the old site and text to reflect the new mission of The Dignified Rant: Home Edition.

Who Are They Deterring?

I've read some articles that assume Iran will get nuclear weapons and figure that we'll have to live with it. These authors note that Iranian desire for nuclear weapons pre-dates the Islamic Republic and that Iran has reason to want nukes to deter foreign aggression.

Setting aside the easy assumption by these authors that Iran is lying when officials deny they want nukes and that their nuclear programs are for energy and economic reasons only, I want to know just who they are deterring?

America, the so-called Great Satan? Since Iranian nuclear desires go back to the Shah's day, this can't be the nationalistic reason for wanting nuclear weapons. We were friends back then and focused on the Soviet Union. Indeed, our Rapid Deployment Force was conceived of as a means of deterring and defeating if necessary a Soviet invasion of Iran. More on the US later.

Well what about the Soviet Union? True, back in the day they were a threat. But that little implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 sent that threat to the dustbin of history. The Russian army is a shadow of its former Soviet glories and Russia is rather a distance from Iran now, their border having receded a good distance.

Their hereditary and recent enemy Iraq? Well, we seem to have taken care of that nuclear or chemical threat. And given Iran's much larger size and historical strength, Iran would be far better off rejoining the international community so they can buy better conventional arms. And since Iraq will not be a conventional threat to Iran for a good decade or more (assuming we don't discourage Iraq from fighting Iran), Iran's nuclear path to security from Iraq makes no sense at all.

What about Turkey? No Turkish nukes and their common border is not an invasion route.

Pakistan? Don't they have an "Islamic" bomb? Why would they be a threat?

Afghanistan? Get real. Even with Americans there, this is no threat.

The former Soviet republics to the north? Hahahahaha. Not a threat.

Well what about Israel? Iran and Israel used to be friendly before the Islamic revolution. And Israel isn't in any position to invade Iran nor has Israel used its nuclear advantage to nuke Iran while Iran is helpless. And there is the inconvenient fact that some Iranians spout off about nuking Israel and taking a counter-strike for the Islamic team. That surely isn't a motivation based on deterrence.

I suppose there is Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf States. Please. They are pygmies militarily. Maybe if Riyadh went nuclear one could argue that Shia Iran fears Sunni Saudi Arabia but we aren't there (thank goodness).

So back to America. If we were not a threat to Iran when we were allies and Iran was pursuing nukes and if we never invaded or nuked Iran in the period of mullah hostility while we've maintained a nuclear arsenal sufficient to level Iran without really straining ourselves, why would Iran think we are about to invade and need to be deterred? Could it be that Iranian behavior has changed for the worst and that their crazy rhetoric and support for the vilest of terrorists is prodding us to take action?

So, if Iran was not a threat to us, we would not be hostile to Iran, and Iran could go back to the time when they did not need to deter a friendly America. With this causal relationship established between Iranian hostility to America and support for terrorism, and America's declaration of Iran as a member of the Axis of Evil, what makes more sense, figuring out how we can alter our behavior or how to alter their behavior? Since we certainly have tried to reach agreement with the mullahs ever since President Carter, how likely is it that we can change sufficiently to make Iran think they don't need nukes?

If we can help along a regime change based on real opposition to the mullahs, a new Iran will not see a threat from America and they may well be convinced that they do not need a costly nuclear weapons or energy program. And even if a democratic rational Iran wants nuclear programs, without the hostility of the mullahs to propel them it won't be a terrifying development.

Regime change in Tehran: 2005.

Great Moments in the Blindingly Obvious (Pt. 7)

The headline says it all:
"Iran Says Nuclear Freeze Won't Last Long"

When the Iranians proclaim the obvious why do we believe them at all? When the mullahs quibble over details indicating what they really want, why aren't their intentions to go nuclear clear to even the most senior State Department careerists? Why do some pin such great hopes on negotiating with these people?

The Iranians are simply buying time in order to get nukes and the Europeans are selling—nay, giving—the Iranians the time they need. The question is, will we go along with this program? Is our goal really just to shield ourselves from the blindingly obvious until our satellites detect a flash in the deserts of Iran indicating the Iranians just went nuclear and we can no longer live the life of the blissfully ignorant?

The mullahs want nuclear weapons and we won't like it if they get them.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Europe Wants to be Fooled

Euro-Disney has a long way to go before it rivals the fantasy world the Europeans have constructed to explain away Iran's nuclear behavior. Europe plays pretend games while Iran moves forward with deadly seriousness.

The Europeans continue to pretend to negotiate with the Iranians over Iran's nuclear ambitions and the Iranians don't even have the politeness to go along for more than a few days as Tehran publicly quibbles over the precise terms of the meaningless agreements the Europeans claim Iran has signed.

I've read some who say that all Iranians want nukes so we can't possibly stop them from going nuclear. Since I've argued for regime change to prevent Iran from being a nuclear threat does this mean regime change is pointless? Hardly:

Even if you believe that a nuclear Iran is inevitable, is it not infinitely better to have those atomic bombs in the hands of pro-Western Iranians, chosen by their own people, than in the grip of fanatical theocratic tyrants dedicated to the destruction of the Western satans?

And maybe it isn't inevitable. Faster, please.

You know, I don't worry about France with nuclear weapons. So while I'd prefer it if Iran did not have them, I'd sleep a lot better knowing that reasonable people in Tehran have them. And as Ledeen says, perhaps a nuclear-armed Iran isn't inevitable.

Regime change really is our only way out. Europe's detour into the world of process and pretend solutions does not change that. My only hope is that this Bizarro World dance runs parallel to our own preparations to really deal with the problem and that the pretend negotiations have not sidetracked us from our own action.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Elections and Security

The Iraqi interim government will proceed with elections on schedule:
"The Iraqi government is determined, as I told you before, to hold elections on time," said Allawi's spokesman, Thair al-Naqeeb. "The Iraqi government led by the prime minister is calling for all spectra of the Iraqi people to participate in the elections and to contribute in the elections to build a strong democratic country."

Good. The idea that the Sunnis will somehow get mad if the elections go forward is absurd! The Sunni clerics are actually calling for a voting boycott to protest the capture of Fallujah! Are they more upset about the loss of the bomb factories or the slaughterhouses? Good grief, what are they going to do if the election goes forward? Start killing their enemies in Iraq? Good God, people, the Sunni Baathists are already mad enough to car bomb and murder and enlist the help of beheading Islamist whackjobs! Just what else would the Sunnis do if they “get mad?”

Hopefully, Prime Minister Allawi can convince the leaders of opposition groups to sell out the fighters and come inside the new Iraq. I don’t mind amnesties for the bulk of the Baathists as long as the worst offenders are exiled, executed, or imprisoned. And no, I don’t know what would constitute “worst” and what would constitute “acceptable:”

Iraq's national security adviser Qassem Daoud stressed on Thursday that there were different levels of Baathists -- a movement that predates the deposed dictator's rule -- and hardline pro-Saddam Iraqis.

Don’t get confused that pacification means killing all our enemies who killed Americans and Iraqis in the past. Pacification means ending the fighting by defeating the enemy. If that means amnesty for some—so be it. They must be roped into the new Iraq securely with penalties for conspiring against the government, but we cannot make them keep fighting by refusing all alternative options. Remember the objective.

The Iraqi government also is right on the money when it says security will only come with Iraqi security units doing the fighting. Iraqi deputy prime minister Barham Salih said:

"British and American troops, whom we admire and respect for their courage and sacrifice, without them we could not have overcome Saddam's regime, at the end of the day cannot establish security fully unless we have indigenous Iraqi forces."

"The Americans and the British cannot build a new Iraq" in the wake of the downfall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorial regime, he said. "You can only support us."

Heck, even the enemy knows that Iraqi security forces are key.
Those here who insist we must pour American troops into Iraq in order to put Americans on every corner to protect the Iraqis will prompt a disastrous result: Iraqis will let Americans fight and die for them. Since most of those calling for more troops are precisely the people who would cry for a withdrawal when the going gets rougher, I find this astounding advice. We blanketed South Vietnam with American troops and killed Viet Cong and North Vietnamese in large numbers. But the South Vietnamese were never allowed to step forward. The US-dominated ground forces in Vietnam smashed the communist Tet Offensive but we saw defeat here at home. Even the successful Vietnamisation program was too late. Even though the South Vietnamese forces did succeed in pacifying the country, US morale at home was too weak to help South Vietnam when North Vietnamese conventional forces conquered South Vietnam.

We are far better off pushing the Iraqis to fight for themselves (including former foes enlisted in the new Iraq—properly de-Baathified, of course) even if they are not as effective in a narrow military sense of kill ratios. It is their country and they must fight. They are fighting now, and we must give them the capacity to do so. I am pleased the Iraqis want to fight and the government sees its duty as such. In the end, we can only support the Iraqis in building a new Iraq.

And speaking of security threats, why is Sadr still walking free?

[Ali Smeisim, al-Sadr's top political adviser,] said the government promised in the August agreement not to pursue members of al-Sadr's movement and to release most of them from detention.

"The government, however started pursuing them and their numbers in prisons have doubled," Smeisim said. "Iraqi police arrested 160 al-Sadr loyalists in Najaf four days ago."

He also accused the government of conspiring with two major Shiite parties, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to marginalize al-Sadr's movement and prevent its clerics from speaking in mosques.

"No gathering by the al-Sadr trend is allowed to take place at particular mosques," Smeisim said. "They want to drag the movement into a third battle. I call on the movement to show restraint and patience" to avoid "a Shiite-Shiite war."

They of murdering opponents and two uprisings are upset that the government is arresting them rather than thanking them for their civic involvement!

On the other hand, I am glad to read the government is cracking down on these two-time thugs. Don’t let them get strong enough to try a third uprising.

Elections and security seem to be moving forward satisfactorily.


So when do we go after Iran?

The latest EU-brokered “let’s pretend the Iranians don’t want nukes” deal is supposed to have a three-month period of testing before we look at their compliance. Already the Iranians are haggling over the meaning of the word “is” and related nuclear matters.

I wondered if a Kerry victory in November would prompt us to accelerate an operation to support Iranian rebels in Iran. No need now, so do we go in the spring of 2005? As I noted, our Strategic Petroleum Reserve is supposed to be filled in the spring (April 1st, I think). Assuming our European friends nail down an agreement in the next couple weeks, a three-month probation period puts us to mid-March where we would have the opportunity to declare Iran in violation of their agreements and put plans in motion.

Of course, this assumes the Europeans are at least somewhat on board. It assumes we are preparing to support Iranian rebels with air special forces support and perhaps some conventional units for stiffening. It certainly assumes that there are Iranians ready to put their hostility toward the mullahs into concrete action—particularly Iranian military forces.

I’m assuming a lot here, but an invasion can’t work with what we’ve got available. Air strikes are a last resort since we don’t know for sure what they have now; and after the strikes, they’ll dig deeper to prevent the next strike from working. Deterrence may not work if they think it is their Islamic duty to take one for the team by killing as many of us as they can. And coping with defense by deploying missile defenses around Iran depends on maintaining host country cooperation, deploying enough anti-missiles, and counts on the Iranians not using an old freighter to deliver a nuke to a port or some other way of bypassing the missile route. I think the Europeans are showing that diplomacy will not work.

But I’m also assuming that Iran is on the Axis of Evil for a reason and that we will not close our eyes to the threat just because the task ahead is hard.

I assume we have something in the works to deal with Iran. Since diplomacy, air strikes, invasion, deterrence, and defense won’t work; we must be planning regime change. And since regime change cannot simply impose a new regime, we must be supporting internal forces who will overthrow the unpopular mullahs.

A lot of assumptions on my part, true; but the alternative is to believe that we really are counting on the Europeans to talk their way to our safety.

I'm In Awe or Mad ...

The French are getting away with what we could never do without the Berkeley Women’s Studies Department knitting something in protest … or something equally annoying. The Diplomad (via Instapundit) has the scoop:
With genuine admiration we must say that there is no other country on earth that pursues its core national interests in as determined and ruthless a manner as France. Unlike the USA which has three thousand interests all competing for number one, France has pared down its interests essentially to [promote and pursue French economic and commercial interests above all else and to prevent American hegemony.]

Truly, I am in awe of the focus of France. They blow up a Greenpeace ship and their people shrug. We blow up a murderous dictator’s regime and a quarter of our people are outraged? The Diplomad adds:

Some might say, this is not too dissimilar from traditional US policy in parts of Latin America. Perhaps. But where our admiration for the French really comes in is that they get away with it with nary a whisper of international criticism! In fact, the French loudly condemned our interventions in Grenada and Panama, joining in the anti-US UN debate on those actions, but yet do the same thing themselves (with admittedly less military skill) in Ivory Coast and elsewhere in Africa.

This of course is the part that makes me mad. When the vaunted values of the international community are only focused on us, it is hypocrisy and not idealism.

We need to seriously remold the international community—the UN—to keep from getting the dirty end of the stick every time in international debate.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Ignore Them--Press on

A number of Iraqi political parties are calling for a six-month delay in voting, now scheduled for January 30, 2005.

Ignore them and hold the elections. People can decide to vote—or not—but hold the elections.

The Sunnis are suspect anyway because they hope for American withdrawal and chaos in which they can emerge victorious in a vicious war with the majority, counting on their experience in terror to put them on top once again.

But the Kurds? Aren’t they our friends? Certainly, but remember that for many Kurds a free Iraqi in which they are a minority is considered better than subjugation by a Sunni dictatorship, but not as good as independence. Why take chances of a Shia dictatorship, they may think. So the Kurds voicing this opinion have ulterior motives not in line with our policies, too. They don’t want to alienate America by unilaterally pulling out of elections, but they wouldn’t mind if the blame was spread around and they could say they tried, it failed, and darn it all but we need an independent state.

The article repeats what seems to be the conventional wisdom as divined by the press:

A widespread boycott by the Sunni community could deny the elected parliament and government the legitimacy that U.S. and Iraqi authorities believe is necessary to help bring stability to Iraq and curb the insurgency.

Why would this deny the new government legitimacy? Why would voting by 75% of the population lack legitimacy (let’s assume half the Kurds and Sunnis vote and a small number of Shias boycott)? Why should the desires of a violent minority dictate when or whether Iraq should hold an election? This is preposterous! Why tell the violent thugs that continued violence will cancel the elections? Isn’t this what they want? Don’t the Sunni Baathists fear a democratic Iraq?

I fear that failure to hold elections when the clear majority wants elections will erode legitimacy. Do not let a violent minority and an ambivalent minority put off the elections. For their own reasons, each would like a delay to mean a cancellation—and then they can move on to their real objectives.

Hold the elections. On time. And if some don’t take part? Oh well. This is not one man, one vote, one time. There will be another one and after a few years of contemplating their error, they’ll take part in the second free presidential election in free Iraq.

The Things You Find When You Crush a Sanctuary!

I didn’t have the time to go through the slide show about finds in Fallujah that Winds of Change noted. Luckily, Caerdroia did:

This slide in particular interested me. In one of the IED factories, we found a GPS unit that had clearly been used to guide enemy fighters from Western Syria (a whole other topic in and of itself!) through Iraq to Falluja. The GPS had not had its waypoints cleared (which is how we know where they went). How much do you want to bet that those waypoints are mostly safe houses?

Well, they’re burned now, and that route is under surveillance. Best part is, since there are likely multiple routes, and the enemy doesn’t know which route we’ve burned, they’ll likely keep using them. If not, they have to get a whole new set of safe houses – not trivial in the first place, and particularly not now, with the Iraqi and US troops on the offensive throughout the Sunni Triangle. So we can surveil this route (and others we’ve uncovered) and begin to take apart the networks using it in ways that don’t give away what routes we might have discovered.

I always figured there was a rat line to Syria. When our Marine who tried to defect/was kidnapped (I do tend toward the latter explanation though his Moslem faith may have been used to lure him out by making him think he was going out to help his Moslem brethren in some fashion). I assumed that he might provide some help although if he was blindfolded and sent along a trail in reverse his impressions would be of little tactical help. Still, he might have been able to report how many days the trip took and how many places they stopped, for example.

The GPS unit was a great find. I wonder how far into Syria the waypoints went?

Europe's Pearl Harbor?

Although I’ve been annoyed at European refusal to help us more in Iraq, I’ve noted their help in Afghanistan, some in Iraq, and generally in the law enforcement side of fighting terrorism. I try not to get too upset when even something like a Spanish withdrawal happens because this will be a long war and we need voluntary cooperation. If a nation drops out of one part of the coalition, another may join, and dropouts may rejoin as others tire and scale back. Only we are crucial to the coalition. We cannot fail. Since we are the prime target I don’t think we could scale back much or for very long before being reminded of our critical role.

Besides, in two world wars, we were nearly 3 years tardy in World War I (though as a European struggle it is excusable) and two years tardy in World War II when our excuses for standing aside were less justifiable (although we were militarily weak). We helped where we could and in the end were decisive additions to the Allies in both wars. So we should cut the Europeans a little slack as long as they are net additions to our war effort. At some point, more states may help us more enthusiastically in more areas.

So one has to ask, is the brutal murder of van Gogh Europe’s Pearl Harbor?
This Christmastime could be the moment when Western Europe finally joins our war on terrorism. Anti-Islamist fear and anger from the mouths of the European volk is breaking through the surface calm perpetuated by the elite European appeasers. The assassination and mutilation of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic fanatic — and the retaliatory firebombings of mosques by ethnic Dutchmen — have forced high European leaders and news outlets to begin to publicly face up to the implications of September 11, 2001 and the migration of Muslims in large and hostile numbers into the heart of Europe.

Europe has great power still and I’ve written that I believe that when the Europeans sense the threat they will respond with ruthlessness that is part of their historical character but which has seemed to be bred out of them in the last 30 years of EUtopian dreams. As the article concludes:

Yes, through the blinding smoke of Iraq and through the endless fuming of M. Chirac, the common people — the timeless volk — of Europe are beginning to see their true enemy — radical Islam. The will to survive and prevail is not yet spent in the hearts of our European cousins. They are late to the battle that is now raging. But they are not too late. The second great anti-fascist Euro-American alliance is now beginning to form on the foundation of our two common democratic peoples. Their spineless governments will follow, and will soon be run by fighting leaders uplifted from the ranks.

We shall see if a slumbering giant has been awakened to the threat it faces.

China Stumbling?

I’ve written before that while China could become a peer rival to us in future decades, either regionally or even globally, this future is not assured. I think Chinese geography with numerous enemies surrounding them would hamper their efforts to become more than a regional power. In addition, I do not think that China must become more powerful. A future of civil war and secession is also possible.

This is what my Jane’s email reports:

IN RECENT months, Foreign Report has issued warnings about the state of the Chinese economy. By all accounts it is enjoying a boom. But there are clear signs that the economy is running into trouble. Protests and disorders are spreading in urban factories and through the rural community.

I’ve been skeptical of China’s economic gains. Not because they are not happening, since I imagine Chinese statistics are better than old Soviet numbers, but because of how those numbers are being racked up. Like the old Soviet Union, China’s economic growth is coming from moving peasants to city factories. And even the most productive peasant turned into the most inefficient factory worker will produce more GDP and bump up national statistics. This is not sustainable. Eventually, established workers must become more efficient for an economy to really take off.

While Chinese collapse is surely preferable to a growing, xenophobic, hostile nuclear-armed China, collapse won’t be a nice trip for anybody. Truly, our foreign policy toward China must be quite the balancing act. Throw in the goal of prodding a prosperous but peaceful and friendly China and you have a China problem that defies easy solutions.

Monday, November 01, 2004

November 2004 Posts

One day I hope to finish moving posts from my original site here. But I stalled out after copying and pasting 7 months of posts in February 2003, after a dozen posts that month. So as a stopgap, let me post to the undead archives of the gap months.

Here are the November 2004 posts.