Friday, February 29, 2008

Settling for Crap

I wondered why India was working so hard for the floating tenament known as Gorshkov.

Then the rumor of the transfer of our retired (or soon to be retired) Kitty Hawk seemed to be a win-win proposal for India and America. With a bonus slap at Russia.

Secretary Gates says he hasn't heard of such a proposal:

Q India has been in negotiations, in fact having trouble in negotiations, with Russia on an aircraft carrier. There has been a lot of speculation and conflict in reports emerging from the United States that there would be an offer -- (inaudible) --

Off mike commentary.)

SEC. GATES: This was the story, that I was going to bring the Kitty Hawk with me or something? (Laughter.)

Q (Inaudible) -- if that has ever crossed your radar.

SEC. GATES: It has not, not until I heard about it in the Indian press.

Q (Inaudible) -- most of the report.

SEC. GATES: I know there was an article in the U.S. press on this, but that was news to me.

I'd be willing to say that perhaps it is just that it hasn't yet reached Gates' desk, but the Indian effort to get Gorshkov seems to indicate there is no such proposal on the board:

India has agreed to pay an additional billion dollars to complete the refurbishment of the Russian aircraft carrier Gorshkov. In addition, India will send 500 shipyard workers, technicians and managers to Russia, to take direct charge of the work.

I checked Frontier India, but they don't mention it at all. (As an aside, their logo is much improved for Western eyes. I like to think I did my part to build our budding alliance when I emailed them to let them know that as traditional a Hindu symbol as the swastika is, they might want to reconsider it if they want Western traffic.)

I suppose the two deals don't have to be mutually exclusive, but the great idea I thought we'd had may not exist. India really is settling for crap.

UPDATE: Frontier India's publisher, P. Chacko Joseph, was kind enough to fill in several details for me. One, their navy still has a trust issue with our Navy. I'd guess that the appearance of Enterprise in the Bay of Bengal in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War (when India stripped East Pakistan away to become Bengladesh) must still sting.

Second, Kitty Hawk is considered too old to be useful. The ship would represent such an impressive hull that I assumed efforts to compensate for age would be worth it. But I know the Indian Navy got a good luck at Kitty Hawk in recent Malobar excercise, so they may have concluded differently.

Finally, and possibly most important as far as I can tell, India doesn't have a port with a berth large enough to hold Kitty Hawk. That would make any other consideration moot, I assume. It would cost a lot of money for that "free" ship.

So not as brilliant an idea as it first struck me. But the point remains, if India had gotten Kitty Hawk, elderly lady though she may be, India would have had the second-best carrier fleet in the world. They will anyway, in my opinion, but it will take decades.

Oh, and finally, he said they never got my email suggesting they change their logo. But it may be because they were looking for my at-umich-dot-edu address, which is just an alumni association benefit for incoming email that forwards mail to a conventional address. My outgoing address is a at-writemail-dot-com address.

The History of Jihadis in Iraq

It is common for opponents of the Iraq War to charge that Saddam did not allow al Qaeda into Iraq, and if we are fighting them in Iraq (many on the anti-war side bizarrely deny that al Qaeda is even fighting us in Iraq) it is our own fault. Saying that al Qaeda's presence in Iraq is our fault would certainly carry weight if the post-Saddam elected Iraqi government was hosting al Qaeda, but that is not the case at all.

Our liberation of Iraq did not cause the jihadi problem in Iraq. Al Qaeda invaded Iraq after we destroyed Saddam's regime. Arguing that we caused the jihadis in Iraq is like arguing that our invasion of Italy in 1943 caused the Nazis to occupy Italy.

Further, before April 2003, the jihadis had an ally in Baghdad because America was their common enemy. Why would al Qaeda have invaded an ally? And before 2001, why would al Qaeda leave their Afghanistan sanctuary? And remember that Saddam Hussein hosted his own jihadi corps. Jihadis have thrived in Iraq since the mid-1990s. The nature of the jihadis has changed over time, but their presence is nothing new.

In the mid-1990s, Saddam Hussein reacted to his loss in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the Shia uprising that followed by importing thousands of jihadis to form a Moslem Foreign Legion called Saddam's Fedayeen. Saddam intended to use them as stay-behind forces along with Baath Party militias and secret police to control the southern region and prevent another Shia uprising should America drive his armed forces from southern Iraq a second time.

More importantly, this decision established the pipeline to Syria and out to the radical mosques in the Moslem world that would continue to funnel jihadis to Iraq long after Saddam was overthrown, tried, and executed.

But the Fedayeen were not the only jihadis in Iraq. Saddam hosted many terrorists and the jihadis were no exception. The main outside group was Ansar al-Islam, the al Qaeda force we hammered with cruise missiles and a joint Kurdish-American special forces ground force during the invasion in 2003. This group existed in Iraq prior to our invasion, having formed in Iraq ten days before the September 11, 2001 attacks on our soil from other groups already in Iraq.

Yes, they existed at the edge of the Kurdish region and not under directly ruled Iraqi territory, but this meant they remained safely away from the main Kurdish forces and close to the Iranian border where they could run in case of trouble. And this allowed Saddam some ability to deny knowledge of them. But they supplied themselves with trips to Baghdad. So don't try to pretend that they had nothing to do with Saddam because their main camp was in the Kurdish region and not in Baghdad.

Once we initiated Operation Iraqi Freedom, we killed huge numbers of the Fedayeen when these fanatics threw themselves at our advancing units in human wave attacks. Even as Saddam's regime fell, they continued to flow into Iraq.

The jihadi presence in Iraq was also increased by the decision of al Qaeda after the fall of their Taliban hosts in 2001 and our invasion of Iraq in 2003 to focus on Iraq as their main front against America. In effect, al Qaeda invaded Iraq. Which distracted bin Laden from Afghanistan, funny enough.

In the late summer of 2003, jihadis were again flocking into Iraq, pushed there by al Qaeda and helped along by the old Saddam jihadi pipeline through Damascus. By spring 2004 they would be strong enough to join the Baathists and Sadrists for an uprising they hoped would drive us from Iraq. This offensive was certainly scary, but in the end just drove the Shias to side with us more vigorously, with the Fallujah sanctuary providing ample evidence of the sick nature of the jihadis. Eventually, we destroyed that sanctuary and scattered the jihadis.

As we also defeated the Baathists and held back the Sadrists through 2005, Syria and Iran got involved even more. In an effort to start a civil war between Shias and Sunni Arabs, al Qaeda blew up the Samarra Golden Mosque dome in February 2006. Iran and Syria funneled jihadis and arms to al Qaeda and Sadr's goons who went on a killing spree against each other's supporters. The imported Sunni jihadis tended to be either leadership or suicide bombers. Al Qaeda in Iraq, until then only a few percent of the actual numbers making up the "insurgency," actually grew at the expense of the nationalist and Baathist groups who lost their more jihadi-prone gunmen to al Qaeda. Al Qaeda thus grew even as their allied Sunni Arab groups declined in numbers. The Baathists had thought they could control the rube jihadis as a tool, but in the end al Qaeda eclipsed the Baathists as the primary Sunni enemy.

Our decision at the beginning of 2007 to surge troops and change strategy in the face of the new situation after Samarra led al Qaeda to their own surge ahead of our troops surge. Suicide bombings by the jihadis and civilian deaths skyrocketed in the early part of 2007. But our offensive broke the back of the al Qaeda terrorist organization and sent them fleeing from Anbar and Baghdad.

We are now trying to help our Iraqi allies handle the situation in Mosul as we continue to go after the Sunni jihadis north of Baghdad and the Shia jihadis in Baghdad.

These Iranian-backed Shia jihadis are the other part of the jihadi presence in Iraq. These groups were growing in strength since we let them up off the mat in August 2004, and by the end of 2006 I worried more about them than the Sunni groups, including al Qaeda. But fear of our surge led Sadr to declare a ceasefire (extended this month for another 6 months) before we began operations.

This ceasefire did not stop us from operating against the Sadrist groups to decimate their leadership and attack the Iranian network that supplied the Sadrist death squads. We essentially broke apart these groups by focusing on the death squads and working with the majority who were really just in Sadr's organization to protect their neighborhoods from al Qaeda bombers. Today, Sadr is much weakened and spends his time in Iran. The Iranian-backed jihadis continue to attack our forces, but at lower levels. Southern Iraq is being left to the Iraqis to police.

It is very twisted thinking to say we "caused" al Qaeda's presence in Iraq by our invasion. Unless you also want to argue that our destruction of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 just led al Qaeda to focus on Iraq.

Saddam had no reason to host al Qaeda in large numbers. Saddam had his own tame jihadis and hardly wanted a free agent with objectives of their own too near him. Saddam banished the al Qaeda types to the fringes of Iraq where they could do him little harm. And al Qaeda had little reason to target Saddam's friendly regime who could be counted on to treat America as an enemy.

I know it is inconvenient for the anti-Iraq War people who insist they really want to focus on al Qaeda, but al Qaeda chose to fight us in Iraq. And with increasingly powerful allied Iraqi forces, we have nearly beaten them in Iraq, wrecked al Qaeda's reputation in the wider Arab world by inflicting losses on them and exposing their eagerness to kill Moslems, and discredited terrorism in pursuit of Islamic goals.

That, my friends, is the history of jihadis in Iraq. Forget your fantasy world where it is George W. Bush's fault.

Round Two?

In summer 2006 the First Gaza War prompted by the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas was rapidly overtaken by the Hizbollah War between Israel and Hizbollah over Hizbollah's kidnapping of a couple Israeli soldiers

The Israelis are signaling that they are ready to hammer Hamas in Gaza:

Israel does not intend to launch a major ground offensive in the next week or two, partly because the military prefers to wait for better weather, defense officials said. But the army has now completed its preparations and informed the government it's ready to move immediately when the order is given, the officials said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

After Thursday's rocket attacks on Ashkelon, Israel activated its "Code Red" rocket warning system there. The system picks up incoming rockets and sounds an alarm in the target area, giving residents time — a few dozen seconds, in Ashkelon's case — to scramble for cover.

And our Navy is sending a signal off of Lebanon:

The U.S. military said Thursday the Navy was sending at least three ships, including an amphibious assault ship, to the eastern Mediterranean Sea in a show of strength during a period of tensions with Syria and political uncertainty in Lebanon.

"We are facing an American threat against Lebanon," Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah said. "It is clear this threat and intimidation will not affect us," he said on local television.

Our presence would tend to deter the Syrians from getting involved if the Israelis fight round two against Hizbollah after learning their lessons from the failures of the first round.

And if Hizbollah doesn't want a round two without the backing of their ally Syria, they may be less willing to support Hamas if the Israelis hammer Hamas in Gaza.

Gaza must be feeling pretty alone. Good.

The World Did Not End

After all the nervous talk of Turkey undermining Iraqi stability by striking the PKK, the Turks have pulled their attacking forces back from Iraq:

Turkey's military said Friday it has ended a ground offensive against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, but said that foreign influence did not play a role in its decision.

And the world did not end. Iraq still stands.

Interesting enough, we got credit from the Iraqis for getting the Turks to get out after only about a week of very focused operations.

And we got credit from the Turks for providing them with intelligence (which helped keep the operation brief and focused).

To add to the bonus points we racked up, we also show that we are not hypocritical in wanting Pakistan to let us operate against al Qaeda and Taliban forces hiding in Pakistan that strike into Afghanistan.

We have conflicting goals involved in this region. But we successfully navigated the issue another year and bought valuable time to reduce the conflicting goals we have and address issues that threaten those goals.

Not bad for cowboy foreign policy, eh?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Dog That Did Not Bark

The war in Iraq is not over, but the enemy is clearly losing.

Al Qaeda is trying to regroup in the north with their much reduced strength.

The Baathists and nationalist Sunni Arab resistance groups have lost much of their strength to defections to the government.

Sadr's thugs are splintered and weakened, pretending their extension of their ceasefire is a favor rather than an admission of their weakness.

And even the Kurds seem to accept that they are better off within Iraq than trying to go it alone (and landlocked, which should have been the first clue that independence could not work).

Crime and corruption as well as hostile neighbors are problems that we must help the Iraqis overcome over the next decade even as we help nail down the fading threats with increasingly numerous and capable Iraqi security forces. This should mean that our casualties will remain low and at some point will drop off to peacetime levels.

I won't say we have won and haven't despite the great progress evident since fall 2007 that tempted me to do so. But have no doubt, this is a winning trend even though our press is silent for the most part regarding this story. The press has moved on to faux sex scandals and other vital issues of the day. Which should tell you more about the reality on the ground in Iraq than anything else.

One day, it will be embarassing to remember that so many people insisted our enemies were destined to win the war. And then it would be fun to ask them why those doing this insisting who were also members of Congress in 2002 voted to go to war anyway.

No Sage Man

David Ignatious describes a book by a guy named Sageman, a former CIA analyst, that misses the point of our wars in Iraq and against jihadis completely:

The heart of Sageman's message is that we have been scaring ourselves into exaggerating the terrorism threat -- and then by our unwise actions in Iraq making the problem worse. He attacks head-on the central thesis of the Bush administration, echoed increasingly by Republican presidential candidate John McCain, that, as McCain's Web site puts it, the United States is facing "a dangerous, relentless enemy in the War against Islamic Extremists" spawned by al-Qaeda.

The numbers say otherwise, Sageman insists. The first wave of al-Qaeda leaders, who joined Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, is down to a few dozen people on the run in the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan. The second wave of terrorists, who trained in al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan during the 1990s, has also been devastated, with about 100 hiding out on the Pakistani frontier. These people are genuinely dangerous, says Sageman, and they must be captured or killed. But they do not pose an existential threat to America, much less a "clash of civilizations."

It's the third wave of terrorism that is growing, but what is it? By Sageman's account, it's a leaderless hodgepodge of thousands of what he calls "terrorist wannabes." Unlike the first two waves, whose members were well educated and intensely religious, the new jihadists are a weird species of the Internet culture. Outraged by video images of Americans killing Muslims in Iraq, they gather in password-protected chat rooms and dare each other to take action. Like young people across time and religious boundaries, they are bored and looking for thrills.

This is unreal. First of all, arguing that we aren't in a clash of civilizations is ridiculous. He is refuting a claim that seems mostly made by anti-war types as an excuse to oppose the war. That the president continuously goes out of his way to argue that Islam is a "religion of peace" and the inconvenient fact that we only seem to be waging war on jihadi Moslems or states only incidentally Moslem (Iraq) would seem to indicate that knocking down this straw man is pointless.

The fundamental clash of civilizations is taking place within Islam between the extremists and the majority of Moslems who aren't gearing up for jihad. September 11 gave us an interest in intervening in that war since the jihadis seemed to like to inspire the great mass of Moslems with attacks on us. With nukes, chemicals, and bugs potential future weapons instead of boxcutters and plane tickets, we couldn't stand aside as we had for decades while the intra-Islamic civil war played out.

And as polling has shown, since we have fought the war in Iraq, it is the sight of Moslem jihadis killing other Moslems that has outraged the Moslem world. Moslems have rejected both bin Laden and terrorism by significant majorities, when prior to the war they supported both.

Did Moslems flock to Iraq to fight? Yes they did. They flocked to Afghanistan in the 1990s in at least those numbers and even travelled to Iraq in the years prior to the war at the invitation of Saddam to become his so-called Fedayeen. And if we hadn't invaded Iraq, rest assured that al Qaeda would have sent their jihadis somewhere else. After all, they still hold a grudge over their Afghanistan pasting and don't share our Left's argument that only Afghanistan is the good war. And we would have had to help whoever was attacked and then jihadi-friendly types would have been outraged over that fight. Plus we would have had Saddam still in power.

And remember in regard to Iraq following our liberation, that if not for the help of Syria and the prodding of Arab states who liked the idea of their jihadis being killed in Iraq by American forces rather than posing a threat at home, the anger at the overthrow of Saddam would have been irrelevant to our poisition in Iraq after we liberated Iraq.

In many ways, this flow of recruits to Iraq is normal for any war. As any war goes on for years, both sides mobilize their resources to wage war on a grander scale and more intensely. In our war against al Qaeda, the same trend has occurred. They invade Iraq. Then we fight them and train Iraqis. Then the jihadis ally with the Baathists and Sadrists. Then we go on offense with existing troop levels. Then the jihadis attempt to spark a civil war by escalating suicide bombings. We add more expensive weapons and equipment. Then we surge our forces and also build up the Iraqi security forces even more. We even expand our ground forces in general to help cope with increased demand for troops.

But eventually, as we've both added resources, our victories in Iraq have discouraged Moslems from jihad and the vicious nature of the jihadi attacks on innocent Moslem civilians reminded the non-jihadis of the price of that jihad.

If we hadn't compelled the Moslem world to see what the jihadis were capable of doing to other Moslems by fighting the jihadis in Iraq after liberating Iraq, those al Qaeda terrorists could have rebuilt their network from inside Pakistan where we have not dared to tread too obviously. The sympathetic Moslem world would have regenerated these guys who are now considered dangerous but devastated.

Besides, we had many reasons to destroy Saddam's regime even separate from the war on jihadi terrorists. He was a threat to the stability of the region and was our declared enemy. Regime change in Iraq was our official policy, enacted by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. Only because al Qaeda invaded Iraq has it been possible to forget that before Iraq became al Qaeda's central front, secular Iraq was our enemy. And a brutal dictator to top off the reasons to destroy his Baathist regime.

Further, Sageman neglect the reason why the first and second generations of al Qaeda leaders are decimated. We killed them by waging war against them. And because they are dead or on the run, they aren't as much of a threat. And that amorphous third generation will just be griping losers venting on the Internet as long as supporting states like Iraq are gone from the scene. Without state support, these guys are law enforcement and intelligence agency problems. And burdens on a welfare system, of course.

Ultimately, minimizing the threat these jihadis pose to us seems to imply that we should just act like sophisticated Europeans and accept a certain amount of deaths each year from jihadi terrorism without responding actively. We should just let the fury burn its way out and make sad faces at every subway bombing or kidnapping and beheading. And hope that the wave of jihad burns out before some terrorist group gets a nuke or dirty bomb.

Of course, even if we did that successfully, avoiding a WMD attack in the process, without addressing the clash of civilization within Islam we'd guarantee another wave of jihadis some time in the future and there would be Moslem states willing to point them at the West to save themselves from jihadi fury. And after another few decades of scientific progress, what nasty devices would these new jihadis have access to?

A threat doesn't have to be existential to be bloody and demoralizing. What kind of restrictions on our civil liberties would we have to accept to passively resist jihadi terrorism? Remember that keeping the jihadis from being an existential threat assumes we are resolute in resisting that threat. Let me know in a decade how Europe is doing with that, will you?

I get depressed every time a former CIA analyst writes a book. They are truly clueless. I hope they aren't representative of all our intelligence agents. I sure hope that Sageman isn't.

Proving Loyalty

Prime Minister Maliki appealed to Iraqis to join together as Iraqis:

"National reconciliation efforts have succeeded in Iraq and the Iraqis have once again become loving brothers," he said in a speech broadcast live on television. "We have ended the security instability and we have to chase al-Qaida elements in other places such as Mosul, Diyala and Kirkuk in order to finish the battle for good so that we can concentrate on the reconstruction phase."

Al-Maliki, addressing the crowds below from a raised podium in the holy city of Karbala, said it would be "the year of construction and services" and he called on all Iraqis to work to bring the country closer together.

"I affirm the necessity of pushing the political process, boosting security and the economy and combating corruption. ... We should be united and keep away from personal interests in order to face the greater challenges and achieve final victory," al-Maliki said.

It is interesting that he highlighted the fight against the jihadis. This was also an appeal to Sunni Arabs to resist any urge to restart their war against the government. He is reminding them that by uniting to drive out the al Qaeda invaders, Sunni Arabs can ratify their status as loyal Iraqis despite their long history of backing Saddam's oppression and even longer history of ruling over the Shias.

Given the history of Iraq, reconciliation isn't going to be easy. Progress will take place with starts and stops. That it is going forward at all is remarkable. And any Americans still going on about Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004 should look in the mirror before they complain too bitterly about the uneven progress Iraq is making.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Buying Time for Victory

We are supposed to take a strategic pause after reducing our forces in Iraq below 15 brigades once the surge brigades are sent home. We will evaluate how the war is going and whether we can afford to draw down more this year.

The calculations have to be complicated by the commitment of our Left to make sure the next president pulls out of Iraq regardless of conditions:

Obama, Feingold, and Reid, who believe “we need to safely [i.e., immediately] redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq.” Whatever misgivings these senators may have felt about the invasion of Iraq in the first place, today we are there. And so is al-Qaeda. Any “strategy to combat and defeat al Qaeda globally” must begin there.

The second bill entails an immediate timeline for troop withdrawal, regardless of conditions on the ground. The supporting evidence for this approach is thin — “the key to ending [the violence] is political reconciliation, not a huge U.S. troop presence.” When Senate Democrats refuse to recognize the gains we’ve already made, it’s impossible for them to understand the way counterinsurgency warfare develops.

So, given this objective of our Left and the success we are having in Iraq, is a strategic pause more about delaying reductions in US forces this year just in case the new president in January 2009 wants to pull out as fast as he or she can? That is, if a new president will withdraw troops quickly no matter what the situation on the ground is, if the military thinks it needs 10 brigades through 2009, wouldn't it be better to have 15 on the ground in January 2009 so that a new president has to ask the Pentagon for plans to withdraw?

Then the military could draw up plans to withdraw a brigade or so per month, present it sometime in June or July, and then hopefully have Congress review it in September after summer recess.

On the other hand, should a candidate win in November who is determined to fight, the reduction in force to eliminate excess forces could begin that month with the confidence that the new president will maintain the numbers needed to win.

A strategic pause to evaluate troop levels needed to win makes sense in strictly military terms.

But in political terms, this is more like strategic insurance. We are in a race between winning and retreating. If some of us are determined to run, I say make them run farther to get to the same place. We might win with the extra distance to go and time purchased.

The Dear Explosion

Strategypage writes this interesting tidbit:

The North Korean government has again allowed legal cell phone service in the capital. Cell phone systems were first introduced in 2002, but that was halted in 2004, after a train explosion, believed triggered by cell phone, and directed at North Korea dictator Kim Jong Il.

I remember the news of that. I had no idea what to make of it and the news was not helpful. I listed off a number of speculative reasons but an attempt on Kim's life was not one of them.

The idea that we can squeeze North Korea to get rid of Kim's sick regime certainly doesn't seem so fantastic. There were other incidents, too, remember.

What is Surprising About an Enemy That Fights?

This Washington Post article tries to excuse our NATO allies for their unwillingness to fight in Afghanistan at our side:

The Taliban's growing strength, which surprised Dutch forces here, helps explain why NATO members are reluctant to send more troops to an increasingly dangerous battlefield and have instead adopted a strategy based less on military force.

Growing strength? Well, the enemy is using more car bombs and such, but that just kills civilians which alienates Afghang. And enemy casualties are an order of magnitude higher than ours. Their "offensives" are really just spasms of activity that give us more targets to shoot at and kill. Major General David Rodriguez explains the annual enemy spasms:

There's always an increase in activity, but again, I would not characterize that as an offensive. And we're expecting the same type of things that they did this year. They will try to attack the Afghan security forces and the Afghan government leadership, by both IEDs and suicide -- vehicle-borne IEDs as well as suicide bombers.

And we think they're going to continue to do that.

And again in most of the places that they have occurred in Regional Command East, the people have stood up to them. And it is not a popular tactic at all. It actually increases the people's support to their government, and the lack of support to the enemy.

Get a grip, people. Talk of us losing in Afghanistan has been going on since about Tora Bora in 2001. We aren't being beaten by those jihadi thugs. Just because our enemies work themselves up into suicidal frenzies, we shouldn't panic. Calmly aim and kill them.

What is suprising is that members of a military alliance are reluctant to fight in Afghanistan. Some of them send their troops to Afghanistan with great gnashing of teeth and we are supposed to be grateful for these war tourists who only eat up supplies at the end of a long logistical line?

I certainly don't mean to slam the Dutch by quoting their experience. The Dutch actually fight with us. But the point remains. Enemies fight back. That's why it is a "war." Why should those facts be surprising?

UPDATE: Strategypage describes the failed strategy that the enemy is adopting in Afghanistan that some here interpret as signifying a "resurgent" Taliban.

The Ohio Blackout

The Navy is noisily displaying our newest seagoing machine:

The Ohio is the first of a new class of submarine created in a conversion of 1970s vessels by trading nuclear-tipped ICBMs for conventional cruise missiles and a contingent of commandos ready to be launched onto virtually any shore through rejiggered missile tubes — against conventional forces or terrorists.

The sub's cruise across the Pacific comes as China builds its submarine fleet into the region's largest as part of the bulking up of its military.

The 154 cruise missiles that each of these submarines carry could probably cripple China's rickity electrical grid and really hamper the Chinese efforts to wage war on us.

So if the Chinese think of taking out our major strategic asset that supports our forces in war--our satellites--we could threaten to take out their major strategic asset--the civilian electrical grid that supplies their military with power.

Alienating More of the World?

Critics of President Bush keep saying he's alienated the world, but I never see any real evidence of this Bush-caused alienation.

South Korea is likely to cooperate more with us in countering nuclear proliferation:

"It is appropriate to examine whether there is a way to more actively participate" in the Proliferation Security Initiative, Foreign Minister-designate Yu Myung-hwan said during a one-day parliamentary hearing on his appointment.

The PSI was launched in 2003 primarily to deter trade in missile and nuclear technology by states such as North Korea and Iran.

Participating countries hold maritime drills to stop and search ships suspected of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, materials to make them or missiles to deliver them.

South Korea has only been an observer to the PSI program and has previously balked at U.S. requests to become a full member so as not to provoke North Korea.

Our ability to strengthen existing alliances and build new ones appears quite strong, if you ask me.

The NeoCons are Everywhere!

The NeoKangaroos and NeoKiwis are making their case crystal clear:

Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday said they would unite to push for more democracy in the troubled South Pacific as they condemned a crackdown on critics by Fiji's military-installed government.

Hmm. Now that I think about it, "Australia" is rather Jewish sounding, isn't it?

(And yes, that's sarcasm, since most of the Left that drones on about NeoCons know nothing of the term and only seem to mean pro-Iraq War people with Jewish-sounding names.)

Making Sausage

Regional elections in Iraq will possibly be delayed as the Iraqi election law is sent back for revisions:

Iraq's presidential council rejected a measure Wednesday setting up provincial elections, sending it back to parliament in the latest setback to U.S.-backed national reconciliation efforts.

The three-member panel, however, approved the 2008 budget and another law that provides limited amnesty to detainees in Iraqi custody. Those laws will take effect once they are published in the Justice Ministry gazette.

The three laws were approved as a package by the Iraqi parliament on Feb. 13. The step drew praise from the Bush administration, which had sought passage of a provincial powers law as one of 18 benchmarks to promote reconciliation among Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Arab communities and the large Kurdish minority.

"No agreement has been reached in the Presidency Council to approve the provincial elections draft law and it has been sent back to the parliament to reconsider the rejected articles," the council said in a statement.

The bias of the article is astounding. With some laws passing at the national level and other issues being dealt with as if the legislation had already passed, progress is being made despite this delay. And the local reconciliation is going quite well so far.

As for the provincial elections law, it isn't dead. It has been sent back to parliament to address objections by the council. This is their system. How many of our bills go clean from one house as introduced to the president's desk? Why don't we wait and see what the objections are before declaring defeat--again.

I know, I know, a dictator could just decree the law at a whim with a pliant rubber stamp parliament falling all over themselves to oblige. But while democracy may be messy and sometimes slow, it has the advantage of being democratic.

Let the Iraqis enact their laws as their system requires. That's no "setback" as far as I'm concerned.

UPDATE: This sums it up nicely:

While Iraq’s political progress is criticized by many Western political observers in relation to official benchmarks outlined by the Bush Administration and Congress, legislation has begun moving forward, though it often deals with complexities antithetical to quick resolution. In addition, Iraqi lawmakers tend to shun Western-imposed timetables for a variety of reasons, including a sometimes prideful sense of self-determination, the unpredictable process of ethno-sectarian and political compromise, and the practical belief that complex negotiations on long-term solutions should not be rushed to provide short-term political benefit for the US and others. While these attitudes frustrate some Western advisers, others accept and even encourage independence while facilitating progress, and stress the importance of Iraqi solutions to Iraqi problems.

Not enough at the national level has been done yet. But by letting the Iraqis to get there as they see fit (with our gentle prodding, no doubt) we will witness a more durable end point.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


One thing I neglected to consider when I figured we could get down to one year tours for Army forces with one year at home this year is that some Army brigades still need to transition to the new organization. This keeps them out of the rotation pool while they reorganize. Lieutenant General Carter Ham explains:

If it were that simple, if it were directly tied only to the number of brigade combat teams, then we'd be able to answer pretty definitively at this level deployment length would be x. But there are so many other factors to include, other global demands that are existent that we have -- that we have for our forces; the need for reset, reconstitution; some of the units will still have to be -- are still undergoing transformation. So there's -- and, of course, the Army and the Marine Corps are both growing. So all of those factors make it too uncertain to be able to pin a precise number to say if we get to X number of brigades, then we'll be able to go to this length of deployment.

Back in 2005, when the Army was reorganizing ("undergoing transformation") the first group of brigades, the National Guard picked up the slack. I'd guess the Guard could do the same again if needed, but that call is beyond the Army to assume.

A Burden of Love

Over a year ago, I noted the pleas of some to help Syria care for the one million Sunni Arab Iraqis who have fled to Syria. I wasn't too sympathetic to Damascus since the Syrians helped cause the refugee flow by sending terrorists into Iraq to murder. Those refugees represent a base of support for Baathist insurgents in Iraq and a source of money for the imported jihadis. To me, it was good to see Damascus paying a price for their war against Iraq and our forces, and I was not willing to essentially subsidize their war against us by providing aid to the refugees.

Strategypage describes the situation well:

The UN is having a hard time raising money to support the two million Sunni Arabs who have fled Iraq. It's no secret that many of these fled because they had blood on their hands, or feared getting killed along with those that did. Saddams key aides took billions of dollars with them, and spent more of it on terrorism back in Iraq, then to aid their fellow Sunni Arabs in exile. Potential donors to UN relief efforts see the risk of the news media taking a close look at the Iraqi exile community, and they back off. At the same time, the media does not like to dwell on exactly who the Iraqi refugees are, and exactly why they fled. War does strange things to people.

These aren't poor babies--they are enablers of murder both past and present and should not receive one dime from the West. Let them cut a deal with the Iraqi government and take their chances. The Syrians need to pressure their guests to cut a deal and get out.

Or Syria can keep paying for them and watch their guests' anger slowly turn on Damascus. Those refugees will be a source of unrest that Damascus will have to fight if those Iraqi Sunnis remain in Syria too long.


The Pakistanis have chased the forces of Mullah Fazlullah back into the mountains of Swat after reacting to his offensive against the government several months ago:

In November, the army launched one of its biggest operations since Pakistan threw its support behind the U.S.-led war against terrorism six years ago. On Monday, the military ferried journalists by helicopter to three mountaintop positions to show the territory its more than 10,000-strong force has retaken.

"About 90 percent of the area has been cleared of the (militants), and only about 10 percent, pockets of resistance, are remaining," said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. "They have taken to the heights. Hopefully those areas will be taken back soon."

The police clearly needed army help and the tribal thugs retreated in the face of superior power. I don't know whether hiding up in the mountains is a long-term option for the tribal jihadis or whether the army will need to pursue them. Clearly the jihadis were not crushed by the operation.

Still, having the army based in the settled lowlands will reduce the impact on civilians of having the thugs running around and will enable the police to do their work.

With conflicting signals coming out of Pakistan over whether the Pakistanis truly want to fight and defeat the jihadis, this decision to remain in the Swat Valley seems like a good sign.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Cold Enough for Ya?

Could the global warming hype have jumped the shark this last year? In the face of the media's almost universal acceptance of human-caused global warming and the dire consequences that will follow this warming unless we do as exactly as the socialist global warmers insist (which is what they wanted even before global warming, funny enough), have seven years of flat global temperatures punctuated by one of the coldest winters in recent history demonstrated the high tide of global warmongering?

OK, so one winter does not a climate make. It would be premature to claim an Ice Age is looming just because we have had one of our most brutal winters in decades.

But if environmentalists and environment reporters can run around shrieking about the manmade destruction of the natural order every time a robin shows up on Georgian Bay two weeks early, then it is at least fair game to use this winter's weather stories to wonder whether the alarmist are being a tad premature.

If our climate pans out this way over the next decade, I'm going to have a lot of gloating to do over the near-religious belief and refusal to consider alternatives either in science or policy that the global warmers have demonstrated.

Remember, the climate change people don't actually understand our climate. They simply take what they think they know and create models that "prove" their theory right! Doesn't that seem a little too convenient?

Anyway, watch that big hot thing up in the sky. It shouldn't be a shock that it might actually have something to do with how hot our planet is:

The last time the sun was this inactive, Earth suffered the Little Ice Age that lasted about five centuries and ended in 1850. Crops failed through killer frosts and drought. Famine, plague and war were widespread. Harbours froze, so did rivers, and trade ceased.

It's way too early to claim the same is about to happen again, but then it's way too early for the hysteria of the global warmers, too.

If recent reductions in solar activity continue, the talk of global warming will die out as all fads do. And a lot of people will be embarrassed at their current fervor for crippling our economy over what may or may not be a problem and which we may or may not be causing.

Support Europe

The Russians and Serbs are edging closer to cooperation on the Kosovo declaration of independence. The next Russian president and front man for Putin's continued rule, Dmitry Medvedev, backs Serbia:

We noticed that the independence declaration by Kosovo truly complicated the situation in the region, in southeastern Europe, and impacts on all other regions and countries" with territorial problems, Medvedev said.

"We have made a deal to coordinate together our efforts in order to get out of this complicated situation," he added after talks with nationalist Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica and pro-Western President Boris Tadic.

Kosovo's Albanian-majority parliament unilaterally declared independence from Serbia on February 17.

I still don't know whether this will blow over after a period of bluster or whether the Russians really want to inject themselves into the region to confront the West over Kosovo.

Logic would hold that Russia's bluster against the West is all show to justify repression at home. NATO is no threat to Russia and the Russian leaders know it.

On the other hand, they may be starting to believe their own rhetoric and may be pushed along by popular opinion that might insist their leaders back up their words of support.

If the Russians really do send in a regiment of infantry to really back the Serbs, I think we should stay in the background. The Europeans don't want to help much in Iraq or Afghanistan so we would be justified in telling them to take the lead in Kosovo.

The Europeans can cobble together a force to face down Russia in the Balkans. The Europeans even have enough nukes to deter the Russians from rattling nuclear sabres too much. I personally think we should have insisted the Europeans take care of their own region when they begged us to take care of the Kosovo problem back in 1999.

And on the other hand, will Russia feel the heady glory of confronting Europe without our forces standing in the front row? And losing to such an opponent might be too humiliating for Russia to risk. Confronting America (when we have no intention of restarting the Cold War) and even having to back down in the face of our power isn't the same sort of humiliation, eh? Heck, put a Belgian general in charge of the frontline NATO forces in Kosovo.

Of course, the difference from the European notion of supporting us is that we will not snipe at the Europeans. We will provide logistics and air support, too, as needed. Still, the Europeans should take the lead in contributing ground forces should it become necessary to deter the Serbs and their Russian patrons from pushing this crisis into bad territory with a move to reclaim Serb-inhabited areas of Kosovo to unite with Serbia.

We are allies. But fair is fair. Let the Europeans pick up the pieces here. We've already done a lot in the areas because the Europeans are too weak. Time for the Europeans to act like grown up nations when the bad guys with guns show up.

Music to My Ears

I know a lot of conservatives think that President Bush is out to sign any agreement with North Korea that let's him pretend to have solved the issue before he leaves office. I have not worried about that and figure as long as we talk, we reduce the ability of North Korea to do anything but talk because North Korea weakens every day that we talk and don't agree to a final document.

And now, with a South Korean president who won't undermine a policy of holding firm, we will have Japan and South Korea willing to squeeze North Korea to get what they want--denuclearization of North Korea and an accounting of Japanese citizens kidnapped by Pyongyang during the Cold War. And Secretary Rice is with the program:

Rice last week said she was pleased the Philharmonic would be playing a work by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak in Pyongyang, but dismissed the concert, saying: "I don't think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea."

In Seoul, Rice also noted the United States and South Korea share deep "strategic interests" and "common values" like democracy and praised Lee's inaugural address in which he promised to "strengthen our strategic alliance with the United States" and demanded openness from the North.

In his speech, Lee told South Koreans, and by extension Koreans in the North, that only "once North Korea abandons its nuclear program and chooses the path to openness" can people expect to see "a new horizon in inter-Korean cooperation."

Some money will flow to the North if the North learns to behave. I know North Korea assumes that they can get the cash by only pretending to behave, as they did in 1994, but times are changing. Even an administration in 2009 committed to a 1994 faux agreement will find our allies not as naive as it is about North Korea's atomic promises.

We need to contain and squeeze North Korea by offering only minimal economic aid until the Pillsbury Nuke Boy's sick regime collapses. And always keep talking to give the North Koreans hope that talking might lead to an opening of the spigot.

Meanwhile the North grows ever more feeble. I think we're down to 1-1/2 charter members of the Axis of Evil for all practical purposes.

UPDATE: A former aide to former President Clinton doesn't think waiting for the next president (assuming for the sake of argument that this would be a Democrat) is a good idea:

Wendy Sherman, who was former president Bill Clinton's North Korea policy coordinator, said Kim Jong-Il -- whom she called a "smart man" -- should take advantage of US President George W. Bush's shift to a more conciliatory policy.

"It (the situation) might get worse, not better," she told Yonhap news agency in an interview.

"If you (North Koreans) take too long to make the decision, even a Democratic president will have a hard time making rapid progress because there will be even less trust if you don't take action."

And if the North Koreans gamble and get a President McCain, they can look forward to another four years of hunger and and increased feebleness.

Our New Polite Canadian Overlords

You've always known that Canadians are suspiciously forward deployed along our northern border, with fully 90% of Canadians living within a hundred miles of America's border.

Now the ugly truth is all in the open:

In a ceremony that received virtually no attention in the American media, the United States and Canada signed a military agreement Feb. 14 allowing the armed forces from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a domestic civil emergency, even one that does not involve a cross-border crisis.

The military Civil Assistance Plan can be seen as a further incremental step being taken toward creating a North American armed forces available to be deployed in domestic North American emergency situations.

As the headline states, a new North American Army has been created, right?

Get a grip. This is a mutual assistance pact that clears the legal path to help each other in an emergency. Are you going to argue that if an earthquake struck in Canada, 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum couldn't be sent to help if Canada asks for assistance?

We're neighbors. And having the legal basis for operating in each other's territory settled before an emergency will save lives. It's called planning.

Sometimes things don't get attention in the media because they are not newsworthy. Go look for conspiracies elsewhere. Canadian troops won't be rounding up Americans for the gulag under some secret plan.

But if they are, I'd like to say welcome to our new Canadian overlords. Can't be too careful, right?

Show and Tell

The Turkish foray into northern Iraq is quite limited:

The Turkish military said there were clashes with rebels in four parts of northern Iraq, but did not specify the locations. It said troops were destroying rebel shelters, logistic centers and ammunition. Retreating rebels were setting booby traps under the corpses of dead comrades or planting mines on escape routes, the military said.

The sound of artillery fire could be heard in the border town of Cukurca. Several military bases that support Turkey's ground incursion into northern Iraq are on its outskirts, and artillery units have been positioned on hilltops overlooking Iraq.

Note that some of the troops involved aren't even crossing the border into Iraq. The Turks are tearing up the logistics capabilities of the PKK in this operation.

But there is more to it than this:

The PKK has built a dozen or so camps and headquarters operations along the Turkish and Iranian border. From these bases, the PKK recruits and trains fighters, and plans terror attacks into Turkey and Iran. The loss of these bases will slow down PKK violence. The use of commandos is apparently an effort to capture documents and PKK members, or at least identify bodies. The Turks say about 150 have died in four days of operations, 90 percent of them PKK. The Turks want documents, and other evidence, showing the extent of PKK criminal activities in Europe. Turkey has been trying to get European nations to stop allowing the PKK to use Europe as a base for exiled PKK leaders, and to halt PKK fund raising among Kurdish migrants, and the locals. If the Turks can prove lots of PKK criminal activity, the PKK will lose some of its European sanctuaries.

Turkish special forces want documentation that won't be carted off or destroyed by PKK personnel too concerned with escaping.

Also, the talk of 3,000 troops may mean troops on the Turkish side of the border, too, with maybe only a third of that number actually crossing into Iraq. So when I wrote that 3,000 might mean a handful of battalions with their parent headquarters remaining in Iraq I was assuming the number meant units crossing the border. If the total refers to everything, it could mean just a regiment mostly remaining inside Turkey with some infantry and special forces crossing into Iraq.

This shouldn't last too long. And it isn't going to destabilize Iraq. If only people got as worked up over Iranian and Syrian operatons that have destabilized Iraq for years.

UPDATE: The Iraqis are close to having enough of this:

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the first confirmed Turkish military ground operation in Iraq in about a decade was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

"The Iraqi Cabinet has denounced the Turkish army's incursion," al-Dabbagh said after the government met to discuss the issue. "The Cabinet calls on Turkey to withdraw its troops immediately and stop the military intervention."

And American Lieutenant General Carter Ham confirms we are providing intelligence and confirm our expectations that this Turkish operation will not last long:

We continue to provide intelligence and appropriate information to the Turkish government as directed, and as part of that agreement, the Turkish military forces informed us and have now undertaken a limited ground operation against the KGK terrorist elements in northern Iraq. Central Command, European Command and Multinational Force-Iraq are clearly monitoring these operations very carefully.

This will help the Turks to wrap this up fast. Still, Strategypage says the operation will last a few weeks. We shall see. Perhaps the Iraqi statement was just a reminder to move it along and not an indication that Iraq will feel compelled to react to the incursion in the next several days or so.

UPDATE: Secretary Gates wants this finished:

"It's very important that the Turks make this operation as short as possible and then leave, and to be mindful of Iraqi sovereignty," Gates told reporters in New Delhi before leaving for a previously scheduled trip to Ankara.

"I measure quick in terms of days, a week or two, something like that. Not months."

The Turks say they won't go until their mission is finished:

"Our objective is clear, our mission is clear and there is no timetable until ... those terrorist bases are eliminated," Turkish envoy Ahmet Davutoglu told a news conference after talks in Baghdad with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari.

There isn't necessarily a divide here. It may be that the Turks will decide their mission is done within the timeframe Gates is suggesting of between one and two weeks. One week is already used up, it should be noted.

The Long, Slow Slog to Secure Mosul

Mosul is al Qaeda in Iraq's last major stand. Unfortunately, we have to use different tactics to secure the place since the Sunni Arabs there were not exposed to the jihadi tender mercies enough to sour them on association with the thugs.

So it will not be dramatic like either the Second Battle of Fallujah or the Battle for Baghdad in 2007:

With just 2,000 American soldiers to patrol a city of 1.8 million people -- the Iraqi Sunni insurgency's most formidable urban stronghold -- the U.S. military strategy in Mosul relies to an unprecedented degree on the Iraqi security forces. U.S. military officials here say there will be nothing like the "surge" of thousands of American troops that helped ease the fighting in Baghdad and no major effort to search for insurgents block by block. Instead, they are betting that 18,200 Iraqi soldiers and police can shoulder the load against the kaleidoscope of insurgent groups fighting in the city.

"We see the Iraqi security forces, more and more, take the lead and take the fight to the enemy," said Maj. Adam Boyd, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's intelligence officer. "You do see a capability that we have not seen before."

In recent months, three Iraqi army battalions have returned to Mosul from deployments in Baghdad. The Interior Ministry has approved 2,000 additional police recruits for the city, and a new Iraqi operations command is coordinating the efforts of the Iraqi security forces.

But some Iraqi soldiers say they have neither the manpower nor the equipment to defeat the insurgency in Mosul, where violence has increased over the past six months. As of mid-February, there were 80 attacks a week, a quarter of which killed or wounded people.

Mosul's ethnic composition poses unique challenges for the Iraqi security forces. Sunni Arabs constitute four-fifths of the population, and there is little of the sectarian violence that has caused so much bloodshed elsewhere in the country. But many residents are openly hostile to the Iraqi army forces, whose leadership in Mosul is predominantly Kurdish, viewing them as a force for Kurdish encroachment. The insurgent violence here is focused almost entirely on Iraqi and U.S. security forces. Since the new American regiment arrived in Mosul in November, its troops have encountered hundreds of roadside bombs, according to U.S. military officials.

This will be slow and steady and in many ways the Battle for Mosul will represent a final exam for the Iraqi security forces to take the lead in destroying the enemy with our forces in support.

I imagine that decisions about our pause in force reductions following the surge will depend a lot on how the Iraqi security forces handle Mosul over the next 6 months.

Running from Paradise?

Last week I was revolted by the large number of responses to NPR's surprisingly critical story about Cuba under Castro following his official resignation. Apparently, if the letters read on the air were representative, NPR's listeners were outraged that anybody would see Cuba as anything but a socialist paradise filled with happy workers unfairly held back by an American embargo that was the cause of any minor difficulties. The bitter attacks on the Cuban exiles who were quoted were disgusting.

So this is a great line:

Cuba features a universal health care system, a minuscule 1.9 percent unemployment rate, near-total literacy, complete political "unity" — and hundreds of thousands of people ready to risk their lives to get the hell out.

How could that be?

How could this be, indeed. You might almost believe that it is because Cuba is yet another socialist totalitarian basket case. You might if you weren't a loyal NPR listener, brought up to believe in paradise on Earth just off our Florida coast.

Why does our Left adore communist thug dictators so much?

How's That Confidence Level Holding?

So you believe Iran is years or decades away from nukes even if you accept our claims they want atomic weapons? Well Iran's technological capabilities are a good deal higher than they were recently, and the Iranians confirm their new centrifuges:

"We are (now) running a new generation of centrifuges," the official IRNA news agency quoted Javad Vaidi, deputy of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, as saying. No futher details were provided.

They have only ten now, they say. Even if this is true, more will be built. And Iran will get their atomic weapons.

And amazingly enough, they won't generate any electricity at all. Go figure.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Speed is Life

The key to the Turkish operation against the PKK in northern Iraq is speed. The Turks say that 4,000 terrorists are waiting out the winter in Iraq and the Turks want to hit them while they rest and staty warm over the winter:

The Turkish army said its warplanes bombed dozens of rebel hideouts and ammunition depots Sunday, destroying facilities that form the PKK's "terrorist infrastructure."

Whatever the Turks can achieve in hitting the PKK camps and supplies which will disrupt them when spring comes must be done fast.

The Iraqis will have to react if it goes on too long:

"The government of Iraq calls on Turkey to respect its sovereignty and unity and considers that the unilateral operation across the border is a threat to the region," the statement said.

Previously, Baghdad had appeared to accept Turkey's assertions that the offensive posed no threat to its territorial integrity.

And even we are urging the Turks to wrap it up:

Earlier Sunday, the United States had also called on Ankara to wrap up its incursion as swiftly as possible.

"The shorter the better," US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in Canberra.

We are allies of both the Turks and Iraqis and consider the PKK to be terrorists, so we are working to help the Turks do their damage so they can get out fast:

The United States is providing its NATO ally with real-time intelligence on PKK movements.

We need the Turks to get on with this and end our dilemma. Kill PKK, don't undermine Iraq, and have the Turks remain happy with American support.

Never say our foreign policy is easy.


Faced with an accumulating victory in Iraq on the battlefield, in local reconciliation, and even in national legislative achievements in Baghdad, our anti-war Left continues their drive to surrender:

Despite all the progress, military and political, the Democrats remain unwavering in their commitment to withdrawal on an artificial timetable that inherently jeopardizes our "very real chance that Iraq will emerge as a secure and stable state."

Why? Imagine the transformative effects in the region, and indeed in the entire Muslim world, of achieving a secure and stable Iraq, friendly to the United States and victorious over al-Qaeda. Are the Democrats so intent on denying George Bush retroactive vindication for a war they insist is his that they would deny their own country a now-achievable victory?

I'd amend the article to specify the leadership of the Democrats whose bloodline is of the Left. Plenty of ordinary Democratic voters would be as happy as anyone else to win the war. But the point remains sound. Surrounded and cut off from reality, our Left refuses to admit that they may not achieve their cherished goal of losing a war in order to pin it on George W. Bush. When confronted with real evidence of sustained progress over the last half year and more, they'd rather work harder to achieve the defeat they've predicted. Iraq can burn before they'd let Bush get any credit for winning this war. How could any self-resepecting Iraqi want to win and fight for democracy when Bush might get the credit, they seem to think. Keep in mind that this isn't so much predicting victory for the enemy as working to achieve victory for the enemy.

But hey, sometimes you have to destroy a country in order to save it, right?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Shelf Life of a NIE

Those Neo-Cons at Der Spiegel don't seem to have the confidence of our intelligence services that Iran is far from being able to build nuclear weapons:

Could Iran be building an atomic bomb? When the US released a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) late last year, it seemed as though the danger of a mullah-bomb had passed. The report claimed to have information indicating that Tehran mothballed its nuclear weapons program as early as autumn 2003. The paper also said that it was "very unlikely" that Iran would have enough highly
enriched uranium -- the primary ingredient in atomic bombs -- by 2009 to produce such a weapon. Rather, the NIE indicated "Iran probably would be technically capable of producing enough (highly enriched uranium) for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 timeframe."

It didn't take long for experts to question the report's conclusion that Tehran was no longer interested in building the bomb. And now, a new computer simulation undertaken by European Union experts indicates that the NIE's time estimates might be dangerously inaccurate as well -- and that Iran might have enough fuel for a bomb much earlier than was previously thought.

To be fair, the NIE didn't actually say that Iran couldn't build a nuclear bomb soon. It was only spun that way by leaking intelligence employees talking to sympathetic reporters and read by a political class already afraid we might have to do something about Iran.

We certainly need a debate about what to do in regard to Iran. The answer to that debate might or might not be an aerial campaign to destroy those assets. But surely, a debate must start with an accurate assessment of what the problem is. We are slowly getting back to that accuracy.

But we may have far less time than our experts have led us to believe we have. Please, go read the NIE summary. It isn't too late to actually read the words and stop relying on what the press told us the summary said.

Already, the confidence levels of the NIE report are expiring.

Have a nice day.

Thank Goodness for My Rove Emails

Well I'll be darned:

According to numerous sources inside India, when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits New Delhi late in February (provided his Tuesday Potomac Primary Day broken shoulder does not alter his itinerary) he will be carrying a signed letter from U.S. President George W. Bush offering a better deal for India than the one they have been struggling to get out of Moscow for four years now. The Indian Navy will reportedly be offered the soon-to-be decommissioned USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) aircraft carrier for free--provided the Indian Navy will agree to purchase 65 of the newest model Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to be operated off of it.

Whoever thought of this had a moment of brilliance. This would be quite the sign of alliance. We've never given any of our super carriers to anyone else. And this news comes right after I ridiculed the idea that India should be trying so hard to get that old Soviet hybrid floating tenament Gorshkov:

India's ongoing problems with Russia over the refurbishing of their future aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (ex-Gorshkov) go far beyond the timeline and cost. Just who thought it would be a good idea to buy this old Soviet mutant ship? ...

India would do better to just copy an American 1944-era Essex class carrier than rely on Russian "expertise" in carrier design. I suppose the good news for India is that China has looked to the Russians, too. And isn't anywhere near to being a naval threat in the Indian Ocean.

India has a chance at something much better than an Essex! India would be foolish to turn down our offer. India will have the navy with the second-best aircraft carrier in the world.

I wonder if we have other old conventional carriers in our reserve fleet? We used to have a lot of Forrestals and there's the old JFK.

Winter Offensive

The Turks have sent several thousand troops into Iraq to pursue PKK gunmen hunkered down for the winter:

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a U.S. spokesman in Iraq, said the military had received assurances from its NATO ally Turkey that it would do everything possible to avoid "collateral damage" to innocent civilians or infrastructure.

"Multi-National Forces-Iraq is aware Turkish ground forces have entered into northern Iraq, for what we understand is an operation of limited duration to specifically target PKK terrorists in that region," Smith said in a statement.

"The United States continues to support Turkey's right to defend itself from the terrorist activities of the PKK and has encouraged Turkey to use all available means, to include diplomacy and close coordination with the Government of Iraq to ultimately resolve this issue," he added.

Matthew Bryza, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for southeastern Europe, cited the importance of a Nov. 5 meeting in which President Bush promised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Washington would share intelligence on the PKK.

Turkey keeps a decent sized force inside Iraqi territory at all time. This looks like a shallow penetration using special forces and perhaps a half dozen infantry battalions at most, with parent brigade headquarters remaining in Turkey, that will hammer PKK camps while movement for the terrorists is limited. The weather will hamper Turkish vehicle movement, too, so I don't imagine this will be large-scale or long-lasting.

Besides, the Iraqi government and Kurds can ignore the incursion for only so long. I bet we've helped with intelligence so that the Turks can inflict significant damage quickly and then get out before Iraqis have to officially take notice. This would help the Turks remain within parameters I imagine we've negotiated with them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dropping the Grid

Taiwan's new cruise missiles will be useful for attacking Chinese staging areas if it comes to war.

The Taiwanese, according to Strategypage, have a far more lucrative target set as it turns out:

Meanwhile, back in China, the booming economy has revealed a serious military weakness; the electricity supply. China has not been able to build power plants quickly enough to keep up with an economy that has been growing ten percent a year for several decades. The power production and distribution systems are ramshackle, prone to breakdowns and vulnerable to wartime attack. Knocking out a few plants and distribution facilities could cause widespread power outages and severe shortages. Since the Chinese military is very dependent on civilian infrastructure in wartime, these power disruptions would impair any military activities.

That would bring home to the Chinese people the cost of going to war with Taiwan very fast. And it would help our aircraft to penetrate Chinese air space and operate at will over China.

Like I've written in the past, China used to be a backward lump of proletarian fury that could absorb massive blows and still survive with little of their power lost. Now their power is built on economic assets that can be destroyed. And their assets are not robust enough to endure much damage.


We successfully engaged the broken satellite with a missile shot from Lake Erie:

At approximately 10:26 p.m. EST today, a U.S. Navy AEGIS warship, the USS Lake Erie (CG-70), fired a single modified tactical Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) hitting the satellite approximately 247 kilometers (133 nautical miles) over the Pacific Ocean as it traveled in space at more than 17,000 mph. USS Decatur (DDG-73) and USS Russell (DDG-59) were also part of the task force.

According to this article, the satellite bits should safely reenter the atmosphere without harming anyone or leaving valuable pieces intact:

Cartwright said experts were still watching the debris fields and he could not yet rule out that hazardous material would fall to Earth. But he said that as of Thursday morning, debris had only been seen in the atmosphere — and none had been detected surviving re-entry. He indicated that debris appeared unlikely to pose a problem.

"Thus far we've seen nothing larger than a football," he said, referring to debris in the atmosphere spotted by radars and other sensors.

The military concluded that the missile had successfully shattered the satellite because trackers detected a fireball. Cartwright said it was unlikely that the fireball could have been caused by anything other than the hydrazine in the tank.

Good job, Navy.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Prepare for the Next Last War

The Weekly Standard blog runs a piece slamming the Army for preparing for a conventional enemy:

In fact, it is not unreasonable to speak of there being two armies today: the "small army" that is focused on counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency, stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) and the myriad species of low intensity combat (LIC); and the "Big Army" that is constantly preparing to fight the Big War of tanks, infantry combat vehicles, and artillery that is very much the exception rather than the rule. The small army is dominated by combat-tested junior officers who have learned first hand on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan the demands of 21st century ground combat; the Big Army is dominated by generals and colonels who came up in the Cold War, who have made their careers managing big-ticket weapon systems and commanding large formations intended to stop the Soviet Army in the Fulda Gap. There is a chasm between the two that is difficult to bridge.

In fact, it is not too much to say that there is a fight going on for the soul of the Army today, between the old guard of the Big Army, fighting budget battles to preserve expensive and only marginally useful programs such as the Future Combat System, who see the future of the Army revolving around major conventional wars; and the small army of bright young company, battalion and even some brigade commanders, who understand that most of our future wars will look a lot more like Iraq, and who are developing the skills, tactics and equipment to fight them. Evidence of this ongoing fight can be seen in the decision to bring General Petraeus back to the United States to sit on the recent promotion board for brigadier generals. This was apparently done at the behest of Defense Secretary Gates, who was anxious to break the mold of previous promotion boards and institutionalize the changes made by the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan by advancing officers who embodied those changes. Whether, in the long term, this will lead to systemic change is an important question.

So when was Iraq (the post-major combat phase) deemed the most likely type of war we will fight in the future? It seems that it was once a condemnation of the military that they always prepared to fight the last war. And now it is the height of sophisticated analysis to disregard conventional warfare because the Army should assume it will only need to fight more wars like the current one in Iraq?

It was a conventional assault that took down Saddam's army--twice. It was a conventional assault that overthrew Noriega's regime. It was a conventional air assault that compelled Milosevich to capitulate. And a conventional army prepared to invade Serbia marched into Kosovo after that. A conventional force took down the Marxist regime in Grenada. And it was a conventional Army that held the Soviets at bay and kept the North Koreans quiet throughout the Cold War.

Remember that the conventional Army adapted to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq in a COIN campaign. We actually did have the time to adapt our well-trained troops from conventional war to COIN. And the new Army operations manual will hopefully keep the institutional knowledge alive if needed. But if an Army unable to fight conventionally must fight a conventional war, we will not get the time to adapt--our Army will be destroyed on the battlefield the way Saddam's was in 2003.

Those junior officers of ours fighting in Iraq are indeed gaining valuable combat experience. So I'm glad they will be fast-tracked for promotion. This wartime experience will make them better officers across the conflict spectrum even though their combat experience is in COIN. But these officers must be retrained in conventional combat and all those soldiers who are training as infantry instead of as engineers or gunners or air defense troops must go back to their primary jobs once Iraq is won. This is the "rebalancing" you may have heard about. This is not the same as stress from deployment. This just means all our efforts are--rightly--focused on winning in Iraq and so training for the war takes priority. But this focus unbalances our military.

In time, we must rebalance the force to fight enemy brigades and divisions. We obviously need to be able to fight COIN. But I guarantee that the Big Army will save our collective butts one day--if we don't cripple it ourselves by believing we know how all our enemies will fight us.


The Army expects to drop tours in Iraq to 12 months:

Soldiers heading to war this summer are likely to see their tours shortened from 15 months to 12 months, even if troop cuts in Iraq are suspended in July as expected, the Army's top general said Tuesday.

Gen. George Casey said that while his forces are strained by nearly seven years at war, the Army can maintain 15 combat brigades in battle for at least a couple of months after July while military commanders assess the situation in Iraq.

"Fifteen deployed brigades, for us, is sustainable for a bit longer, certainly enough to cover what I would think the length of this pause might be," said Casey, the Army's chief of staff.

My amateur number crunching bears this out. To keep a brigade in the field for one year takes a little more than one brigade to account for overlap (1.15, I think). So count each brigade as 0.87 brigade equivalents for this purpose.

With 42 actual Army brigades (building to 48 in the next three years), we have 36.5 brigade equivalents on an annual basis. With one year on and one year off, that means we can support a little more than 18 brigades in the field. This matches our Iraq and Afghanistan deployments after the surge fades. You could also add about 3 National Guard brigade equivalents per year (4-5 brigades per year each serving 9 months in the field). Also remember our 9 Marine regimental combat teams that could add at least a couple regiments to the rotation in addition to afloat MEUs.

Get us down to 12 Army brigades in the field and we can get to the goal of one year deployed and two years home. Actually, the Army hopes for 9-month tours and 18 months at home (which is still 2:1):

Casey also said for the first time publicly that his goal is to eventually shorten war deployments to nine months, with soldiers getting 18 months at home between tours. One of several key factors that would enable him to do that, he said, would be to have just 10 Army brigades deployed to war -- nine fewer than there are in battle right now in Iraq.

With 48 actual brigades, we could support nearly 14 in the field at one time at a 2:1 home-to-deployed ratio. I'm assuming that the 10-brigade reference must include keeping a strategic reserve permanently constituted and out of the rotation mix and leaving out the Korea-based brigade as well.

The stress on the Army is finally waning. Add the satisfaction of victory and we will emerge from the Iraq War with a battle-tested Army and not a broken Army.

Poised for ... What?

Sadr theatens to end his ceasefire:

Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, said that if the cleric failed to issue a statement by Saturday saying that the cease-fire was extended, "then that means the freeze is over." Al-Sadr's followers would be free to resume attacks.

On an Internet site representing al-Sadr, al-Obeidi said that al-Sadr "either will announce the extension or will stay silent and not announce anything. If stays silent, that means that the freeze is over."

Al-Obeidi said that message "has been conveyed to all Mahdi Army members nationwide."

I'd guess we'll hear something by Saturday. I just don't think that Sadr can make good on his boasts. He is weaker with his militia splintered and tainted by Iranian ties. We've been arresting and killing his militias leaders. The Iraqi government is stronger now. Sadr is far from completing his Iranian studies to elevate his authority to bolster a confrontation with the government (if Iraqis buy the Persian sheepskin, of course). And the Sunni Arab enemies are declining rapidly, meaning Iraqi and US forces would be able to focus on Sadr's thugs if Sadr decides to fight. Killing Sunni Arab civilians was within the Mahdi Army's abilities, but two 2004 insurrections showed that US forces have his number.

I think Sadr looks more powerful with threats alone and that actual confrontation will expose his weakness. Of course, Sadr might not see things this way. If he revolts again, he must die.

UPDATE: Sadr will make his views known on Friday:

Sheik Salah al-Obeidi, a spokesman for al-Sadr in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, said Wednesday that if the cleric failed to issue a statement by Saturday saying the cease-fire was extended, "then that means the freeze is over."

The Shiite lawmaker said the statement being released Friday does address the cease-fire, but he couldn't say whether it extended or ended it.

Increasing the drama, I'd guess, to make his generous extension of the ceasefire seem like a gift rather than a reality of his weakness relative to American and Iraqi government forces.

UPDATE: Sadr extends the ceasefire another six months. Don't be confused. He did this from weakness and not strength. I know it is fashonable to speak of his militia fighting us to a standstill in 2004 but in reality we decimated his militia and Sadr survived only because of his family reputation and the intervention of the Iraqi government which didn't want to take on that name.

Trickle Down

Terrorists in Iraq are short of money:

Meanwhile, the terrorists are suffering a severe cash flow problem. The al Qaeda contributions are gone, and most of the money coming from foreigners has dried up. The Iraqi "resistance" is seen as broken, and no one wants to support a lost cause. Being on the run has made it difficult to organize the roadside bomb teams. ...

The corruption that is so characteristic of Iraq, works against the terrorists as well. Iraqi media is full of stories of former terrorists complaining of betrayal and cheating by their fellow killers. It's always been about money, and the police and army have been able to disrupt a lot of the criminal activity (theft, extortion, kidnapping) that the terror groups used to fund the terrorism. It was often difficult to determine if some guys were gangsters moonlighting as Islamic terrorists, or the other way around. The reputation for being an Islamic terrorist was useful, as it tagged you as a real badass. But in the last year, it too often tagged you as one of the usual suspects for the increasingly efficient police and army commands. Most holy warriors have decided that terrorism is too dangerous. Those that could, just became full time crooks, other went straight, and some joined over a million other Sunni Arabs and fled the country.

I'd mentioned that the corruption that our press seems to think is limited to the Iraqi government is a societal thing that would affect our enemies inside Iraq, too. As the enemy loses, the temptation to the money men to keep a bigger cut will grow, accelerating the enemy defeat as resources reaching the line terrorists declines even more rapidly than the resources reaching the money men above the bombers and gunmen.

Back to the Drawing Board

China came close to nullifying those conventional force comparisons that seem to many observers to indicate that Taiwan can hold off China should China attack Taiwan:

Taiwan averted a military catastrophe recently when it discovered that a new military communications system had been compromised by a Chinese spy, who had bought secret codes from an employee of the American supplier. Now the codes could be changed, but if the Chinese theft had not been discovered, China could have disrupted Taiwanese air-defense communications during an attack.

Or hold off China long enough for us to help, anyway.

At a stroke, China could have negated the need to take out Taiwan's air defenses with conventional attacks on radars, missile sites, and command and control.

The effort also indicates to me that the Chinese plan to hit Taiwan hard and fast. A simple one-dimensional missile barrage strategy or blockade strategy would not benefit from such an air defense take down. Taiwan would then have time to correct the problem once discovered.

No, when you want to take down an enemy's air defenses it is because you want to get your aircraft close enough to drop bombs and missiles or land troops without being shot down. Chinese aircraft able to fly at will could take out Taiwanese defenses and knock out aircraft on the ground and missile batteries that could threaten ships approaching Taiwan.

The Chinese keep looking for novel ways to short-circuit the usual measures of military power. This one failed. What else are they doing that we don't know about?

Diluting Their Efforts

As al Qaeda is defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan, we've seen local branches of the jihad adopt the al Qaeda brand and we've seen the jihadis attempt to open fronts in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Somalia, Pakistan, and Gaza.

These new fronts are doing our job for us in that they are creating allies of ours. As long as the enemy focused on Iraq, much of the world was content to look on and simply blame us for the problem of jihadis. We gathered as many allies as we could, but most countries opted out and almost all declined to fight in Iraq.

But defeat in Iraq is sending jihadis elsewhere in greater numbers where the local security forces must become our allies out of self-interest. Though such a government and people may think our liberation of Iraq and defense of a democratically elected government there is wrong, they will defend themselves against the same enemies who attack them at home rather than kill in Iraq.

Consider that Saudi Arabia and Lebanon smashed up jihadi efforts. Ethiopia smashed up the Somalia effort. Pakistanis seem to be uniting in their hatred of the jihadis who kill Pakistanis.

And the biggest mistake that al Qaeda is making is going after Israel:

"Hamas has turned the Gaza Strip into an international center for global jihad," said one Palestinian Authority official to the Jerusalem Post. This official claimed that, "Most of the men who entered the Gaza Strip through the breached border are now being trained in Hamas's camps and schools." Another PA security official told the Jerusalem Post that, according to his information, dozens of al Qaeda operatives have managed to enter the Gaza Strip in the past two weeks. He said some of them had already been recruited to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. "They brought with them tons of explosives and various types of weapons, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles," he told the paper, and added that a number of Iranian security experts had also entered the Gaza Strip to help train members of Hamas and other armed groups.

I've asked it before, but in what world does it make sense to target the Israelis? The Israelis will kill plenty of these jihadis, some of whom may believe they've left Iraq to face an easier target.

In conventional warfare terms, you'd have to say that the jihadis are making a broad frontal assault on their enemies rather than trying to focus on one portion of the line. All the jihadis are doing is creating more enemies. Which is kind of funny, given the Left's claims about our war on jihadis doing just that.

It seems like our enemies are cooperating with us rather nicely. Let's kill them while we can.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I'm Fine With Stuck

The North Koreans clearly think they can survive another year until the Bush administration ends:

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill arrived at the vast walled compound in Beijing's diplomatic district shortly before noon (11 p.m EST) to meet Kim Kye Gwan, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

No details of the talks were known. Hill said on his arrival in Beijing on Monday — a day before Kim arrived — that he had told the North Koreans he was available for a meeting but did not know if there would be one.

Hill said that North Korea needs to make a proper declaration of its nuclear programs, facilities and fissile materials to revive the process under which it will receive diplomatic support and energy assistance in return for abandoning its drive to produce atomic energy, and, Washington claims, nuclear weapons.

North Korea was supposed to declare its nuclear programs by the end of 2007 to the five other countries involved in the talks. Pyongyang said it produced a list in November, but Washington has maintained that the information was inadequate.

"We're a little stuck on the need for a complete and correct declaration," Hill told reporters.

We're a little stuck. So we keep on talking? Suits me just fine. I wasn't worried we'd surrendered with our agreement a year ago to agree. If we can stretch this out, North Korea gets weaker every day and less able to use force as an alternative to extorting money from us.

And not even a Kucinich aministration could surrender fast enough to make this a one-year gamble for Pyongyang. A new administration will take time to get their positions in order and more time to send Albright back to Pyongyang for a proper dance. And who knows, given the results of the 1994, maybe even Albright wouldn't be dense enough to make the same kind of agreement one more time.

Talk, talk. Die, die.