Saturday, October 30, 2010

No Weak Spot Today

The Taliban would dearly love to overrun one of our outposts and kill every last defender. It would be a tremendous propaganda victory that they hope would break our morale. The enemy failed big time in this effort:

U.S. troops killed as many as 30 insurgents after calling in air strikes to repel a Taliban attack on their outpost in southeast Afghanistan on Saturday, the NATO-led coalition said.

Five U.S. troops were wounded in the attack when the base in Paktika province came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades, gunfire and mortars, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and a regional army spokesman said.

Being defeated didn't interrupt the enemy press release:

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Islamist group had attacked the base, claiming that six police outposts had been overrun in the assault.

Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, Mujahid said Taliban fighters had inflicted "high casualties" on ISAF and Afghan forces but gave no further details. He said eight Taliban fighters had been killed.

But even Reuters wasn't fooled:

The Taliban often make exaggerated or unconfirmed claims about such attacks.

I hope our home morale is strong enough to endure making a mistake and having the enemy overrun an outpost. Militarily, it wouldn't have much of an effect on an entire war effort.

But at home, if anti-war types who have already chosen to lose the war latch on to such a defeat as an excuse, it could be decisive. Our enemies know our weak point, of course, and hope that is exactly what they can achieve, no matter how many fighters they lose in failed attempts to overrun our well-defended outposts.

Choose to win and nothing the enemy does will stop us.

UPDATE: Strategypage writes of the battle:

In a classic example of what the Taliban are increasingly running into, a Taliban attack on an American outpost in the southeast was driven off. At least eighty of the several hundred attackers were killed, and many more wounded. It's unusual to leave that many dead bodies behind, indicating that a large portion of the force was killed or wounded, and unable to retrieve their dead. Moreover, many of the dead had been blown to pieces by smart bombs. The Taliban force had crossed from the nearby Pakistani border and quickly moved to attack the small outpost at night. But the U.S. and Afghan troops know this tactic and have been equipped and trained to cope. Only five of the defender were wounded and the base perimeter was not breached.

That kind of damage will hurt in the morning, let me tell you.

Of course, as long as the Taliban have a sanctuary in Pakistan where they can mass and then sally forth against a nearby American outpost, one day they'll breach that perimeter and do some real damage. We're good. But we're not perfect. On the bright side, even if the enemy gets that victory, to really exploit it they'll need Americans willing to trumpet it as a reason we are doomed and must retreat. That couldn't happen, right?

Necessary Wars

This story about how Afghanistan is now a "distraction" from fighting terrorism (well, at some level, anyway) is a hoot. Predictable--but a hoot. My how the "good war" has fallen for your basic Leftist position that Iraq (even as al Qaeda made Iraq their main effort) distracted us from the "good" and "necessary" war in Afghanistan.

But what really cracks me up is this bit:

There are very few true wars of necessity. The Civil War was one; World War II was another. When Mullah Omar refused to give up Osama bin Laden, a war in Afghanistan became necessary. But then the war changed character, and the nature of the adversary changed as well. A war against Islamic terrorism, in some form, remains necessary. But the war in Afghanistan does not.

Really? Why was the Civil War a war of necessity? The North could have let the South go. Lots of regions secede from the dominant part of a country. Why couldn't it have been peaceful with the two new countries friends or allies? Does slavery make it seem necessary? So, was the Union supposed to wage war on Brazil, too? Why just free the slaves in the South? And what of de facto slavery in other parts of the world? Eventually, slavery would have ended in the South. Hundreds of thousands of dead was realy necessary to end slavery sooner rather than later without bloodshed?

And World War II was necessary? Why? We were to send American boys to a continent with a history of bloody violence and constant warfare just because one more European wanted to conquer Europe? Stalin was just as bad as Hitler, after all. Why strengthen one thug to defeat another thug? And what about that War to End All Wars thing? Didn't that show the futility of intervening in European affairs? Why not let the Europeans sort it out themselves?

And was Italy really a threat to America? Come on!

Sure, you can say that at the very least Japan deserved our wrath, given Pearl Harbor. But wouldn't it have been better to leave Asia for the Asians? Didn't we "provoke" the attack by our embargo of oil and steel? Who were we--imperialists in the Philippines--to judge Japan. Heck, wasn't part of their conquest just taking France's colonies?

And despite Pearl Harbor and the loss of the Philippines and Guam and Wake, shouldn't we have focused on a "proportional" response? Did we really need to wipe out the Japanese military, strangle their economy with submarine warfare, and bomb two of their cities with atomic weapons? All that was "necessary?" Shouldn't we have fixated more on understanding why they hated us?

But Afghanistan is not necessary, according to that author. No worries about freeing Afghans from Taliban oppression nearly as bad as slavery. No worries about the Taliban--who hosted al Qaeda--regaining power. No worries about al Qaeda reestablishing a sanctuary. No worries about Afghanistan becoming a rear area for Taliban to undermine Pakistan's government and possibly leading to a nuclear war with India. And no worry about Pakistan's government supporting the Taliban, and starting the whole jihadi problem again, putting our homeland at risk needlessly?

An unnecessary analyst is what he is. We never run short of people who rationalize retreating from our enemies and hoping for the best.

Mailing It In

An arrest was made in the recent bomb plot:

Yemeni forces on Saturday arrested a woman believed to be involved in sending explosive packages bound for the United States which triggered a global security alert, a Yemeni security official said.

The arrest was the first in the case, in which two air freight packages containing bombs -- both sent from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago -- were intercepted in Britain and Dubai.

I've read reports that worry about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as a force to be reckoned with. Certainly, the Panty Bomber case and this case show that they hate us enough to try to kill us.

But allow me to differ a bit by noting that isn't it a little weak to be mailing the bombs in? What happened to getting terrorists into the US to plot and carry out an attack? What happened to sending a suicide bomber on our flights to try and kill us?

Instead of that, they tried to mail bomb us from Yemen. Kind of pathetic isn't it, for people that dream of a global caliphate that they run?

By all means, hunt them down and kill them all. But while the enemy continues to hate us despite our president's outreach to the Moslem world, (And why shouldn't that fail? Remember, we are at war with jihadis and not the Moslem world.) they haven't become super villains. They're mailing it in at this point.

UPDATE: The bombs themselves were pretty poor quality:

Does Al Qaeda in Yemen lack ability to attack West?If the plot was claimed by Al Qaeda's franchise in Yemen, a group inspired by but largely separate from Osama bin Laden's central organization, it would underscore the group's determination to strike in the US. But the fact that none of the devices exploded or otherwise caused harm may signal that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninusla (AQAP), as the group is known, has so far failed to develop the expertise necessary to carry out attacks abroad. ...

“The problem, though, is that the appearance and set-up of the bombs look amateurish, which could indicate that Samir Khan, who created Inspire Magazine, and his band of inexperienced AQAP members were behind the attacks since Khan has no military, bomb training, or field experience,” says Aaron Zelin, an Al Qaeda researcher at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't take them seriously--if they keep trying to kill us, they'll either get better or just lucky.

So take advantage of whatever weaknesses they have to kill them more effectively before they learn or catch a break.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

It is pretty amusing that while China is considered a patient, long term-thinking power as opposed to Western short-term thinkers, addled elites such as Thomas Friedman dream of "being China for a day" as a short-term solution to solving our environmental problems (conveniently ignoring the actual record of China on the environment). What is especially funny is that being a Western democracy for decades is actually much better for you:

[According] a new study by my colleagues at the Legatum Institute, when it comes to delivering the best economic environment for people and families various forms of liberal capitalism still perform best.

The Legatum Prosperity Index found that all the more prosperous places – not only by income, but by quality of life, environment, education and health care – almost exclusively are democratic states. “Prosperity,” the report concludes, “is found in entrepreneurial democracies that have strong social fabrics.”

And for rulers supposedly bred to think long term (which I think is bunk), is the one-child policy working out for China?

So far, the challenge posed by aging has been relatively mild, although in Shanghai it is already sufficiently strong to have caused the municipal authorities to relax urban family planning rules and to encourage families to have a second child. In terms of the social and economic challenges it faces as a result of an aging population, Shanghai is a microcosm of many other large Chinese cities, where its solution to the problem will likely be copied in the coming years.

More generally, the accelerating aging of China’s population will dominate demographics throughout urban and rural China in the next two or three decades. As this process makes itself felt, the burden of maintaining GDP growth and providing for the economic and social needs of increasing numbers of elderly, will grow more onerous. This burden will be all the greater, given that the workforce itself will be contracting, average per capita GDP will remain quite low and the elderly will live longer. ...

[Authoritative] projections indicate that by as early as 2016 China’s working-age population will peak and thereafter experience sustained contraction. As this happens, the average age of members of the labor force will rise, generating a potentially serious tension between the reality of having to rely on an older (and less well-educated) work force and the aspiration of creating a better-educated (and younger) workforce to help fulfil China’s goal of moving up the value-added ladder and becoming a high-tech economy.

Come on you purported deep thinkers with autocrat crushes, think long term--go free market democracy.

Drawing to an Inside Straight

You'll recall the jihadi attack on Mumbai two years ago. I thought it had a real 1914 feel to it.

Strategypage notes just what the jihadis who committed mass murder that day wanted. Say what you will about them, but they don't lack for ambition:

The captured terrorist eventually spoke freely, about who organized the attack and what it's objective was (to trigger a war between India and Pakistan, which would enable Islamic radicals to take over Pakistan and form a religious dictatorship.) Ultimately, LET wants to destroy Hinduism, something Moslems have been trying to do for over a thousand years.

The Pakistanis are being mind numbingly stupid to think they can just be sort of pregnant by picking and choosing which jihadis to support based on their threat to Pakistan. They are all a threat to Pakistan. Those so-called "good" jihadis who wanted to target India were more than happy to sacrifice Pakistan's rulers in order to gain a tool to destroy India--a tool with nuclear weapons. Contemplate the jihadis' next step, if you will, should they seize control of Pakistan and even some of their atomic weapons.

The Pakistanis are just maddening. I want America to be their friend. I really do. But when are the Pakistanis going to realize that they just can't make a deal with the Devil?

The Lead Shield Project

China already has extensive efforts to censor information their citizens can read. The Golden Shield Project(a.k.a. The Great Firewall of China) is their cyber-arena effort. But more direct methods are still used, it seems:

Shots have been fired at the office of a Chinese-language newspaper in northern Australia, the publication said, in an incident it says is linked to its critical coverage of China.

Assailants reported to be of Chinese origin opened fire on the Epoch Times' Brisbane offices late Thursday, shattering a front window in a drive-by attack, said newspaper spokeswoman Margaret Ramsay.

"It was big enough to make a hole in the window but because the glass was tinted, the window was shattered but did not crumble," Ramsay said in a statement.

The Great Fire at Walls by China?

Being China for a day really isn't as great as some of our elites would have you believe, eh?

The Wall Between Brain and Reality

It really does annoy me that the idea that the Constitution provides for the separation of church and state is assumed by those on the left side of the aisle. Failing to agree in this fallacy is a sign of idiocy:

Politics is not the only place where some pretty brassy statements have been made and repeated so often that some people have accepted these brassy statements as being as good as gold.

One of the brassiest of the brass oldies is the notion that the Constitution creates a “wall of separation” between church and state. This false notion has been so widely accepted that people who tell the truth get laughed at and mocked.

A recent New York Times piece said that it was “a flub of the first order” when Christine O’Donnell, Republican candidate for senator in Delaware, asked a law school audience, “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” According to the New York Times, “The question draw gasps and laughter” from this audience of professors and law students who are elites-in-waiting.

Well, nice try. I won't pretend to know of the case law addressing the establishment clause, but what the Constitution actually provides is that Congress shall not establish a state religion:

The New York Times writer joined in the mocking response to Ms. O’Donnell’s question, though admitting in passing that “in the strictest sense” the “actual words ‘separation of church and state’ do not appear in the text of the Constitution.” Either the separation of church and state is there or it is not there. It is not a question of some “strictest” technicality.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” There is absolutely nothing in the Constitution about a “wall of separation” between church and state, either directly or indirectly.

It must be so nice to belong to an elite group that doesn't even need to be correct to mock their idiot opponents for having the audacity to accept something the elites don't know. Do read the rest.

And I'll add to that. The First Amendment's provision on not establishing a religion technically applies to the federal government (Congress shall not ...) and not to the states. Many of the early colonies had official state religions established by the state governments, and remnants of this lingered on for quite a bit in, some cases.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Same as the Old Boss

In our new, glorious, Green future of electric cars, we will no longer have to be subject to the blackmail of evil oil producing states (depending on the critic, that can be Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Canada).

Instead, we'll have only one nation to cower before--China:

FOR MANY Americans the phrase "rare earth" calls to mind nothing more consequential than the 1970s band responsible for such hits as "Get Ready" and "I Just Want to Celebrate." But lately China has been teaching the United States, and the world, a new definition. Rare-earth metals are 17 elements vital to high-tech products ranging from the Toyota Prius to the cellphone to the American military's precision-guided munitions. The People's Republic controls 97 percent of the world's supply. And Beijing suddenly has slashed exports, causing near-panic in Japanese industry and exposing the United States' own vulnerability.

Yep, as I already reported, new green cars will allow us to swap our dependence on oil for dependence on rare earths.

We might escape this new dependence, as the Post article describes, but I wouldn't count on it since the usual environmental suspects will probably find a way to screw that up.

UPDATE: At least this shouldn't be a national security problem since we'll have enough for weapons until new non-Chinese sources come online.


By 2017, our special forces will be twice as large as they were before 9/11:

USASOC is adding a battalion to each of its five active-duty Special Forces groups, along with its two in the National Guard. The Ranger Regiment stood up a Special Troops Battalion a couple of years ago and additional companies are being planned for each of the Ranger battalions.

What was only a single active-duty civil affairs battalion a few years ago has grown to four battalions, now comprising a full brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C. And the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade plans to add a fifth battalion next year. In addition, plans call for adding a second active-duty CA brigade in the future.

Psychological operations underwent a change this month from PSYOPS to military information support operations, or MISO. The 4th PSYOPS Group became the 4th MISG and the 9th PSYOPS Battalion became the 9th MISB. In addition, the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review calls for more PSYOPS companies, but a USASOC spokesman said that growth depends on future funding.

It is taking a long time because too rapid expansion would dilute the quality of the force, which is the characteristic that makes them so valuable in the Long War. May the military and their civilian bosses never forget that special forces aren't just soldiers with special forces patches on their uniforms.

Wishful Thinking

The Georgians are annoying us and poking at Russia. Do the Georgians really believe this is a wise policy?

The hard and even brutal lesson that Georgia needs to learn is this: NATO’s European members will not accept a rash and headstrong Georgia into the alliance. Ever.

Georgia’s worst enemy could scarcely have harmed the country more.
Seriously. Georgia won't get into NATO as long as they dream of reclaiming the land they lost in August 2008. Georgia's best hope is to arm up to resist the Russians, abandon hopes of reconquering Abkhazia and South Ossetia (while never giving up legal claim), and develop their own economy and society so that the people in their lost provinces live to regret wanting salvation by the Russians.

We won't go to war over Abhkazia and South Ossetia. NATO certainly won't. Georgia needs to accept this reality, or Russia will take the opportunity to take Tbilisi.

UPDATE: I generally don't have much use for the Center for American Progress. But while I am generally supportive of selling to Georgia anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and other weapons more suited to defense (radars, engineering equipment, mines, etc.), I do worry that the Georgians are too eager to reclaim their lost provinces by force. And Russia almost took the opportunity to take Georgia a year ago, according to the article:

The combination of discontent and instability could well spark a second conflict. Indeed, we came very close to just that in the run-up to the first anniversary of the war in August 2009. Details are sketchy, but U.S. officials describe what happened as a near miss that was only prevented by Washington intervening with Moscow at the highest levels of the government.

Kudos to the Obama administration for stopping a war. Note that I support the general idea of getting Georgia to give up practical efforts to reclaim their territory and focus on their own prosperity (advice I also urge the Palestinians to adopt, for that matter), I don't think it will lead to regaining Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I suspect that if Georgia successfully develops, and their lost provinces wallow in the stink of Russian colonial control, nobody in Georgia will want those provinces back.

Homeland Defense at Work

In a time of war, when a sniper is on the loose in Washington, D.C., the government's suspicions immediately fall on a former Marine:

"We'd like to know what this grievance is and what we can do to try to help solve it," Perren said.

He said the suspect may be dealing with a traumatic event such as loss of a job, financial problems or divorce.

Perren said officials are working under the assumption that the individual was part of the Marine Corps.
That's quite the assumption. Another bitter clinger, apparently. I assume former Marines are also under suspicion for the air freight bomb scare today:

Authorities on three continents were investigating whether suspicious packages shipped from Yemen to Chicago religious sites were part of a terrorist plot.

No explosives have been found so far. Officials on Friday were probing whether the packages were sent as part of a dry run for an attack. Yemen is home to the al-Qaida branch that tried to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas.

Who knows? Maybe the speculation is even true. That would be a first, but who knows?

UPDATE: Before 3:00 pm, news that two US F-15 fighters escorting a passenger jet into JFK Airport.

The Age of Reason

I am always amused by the calls to restore civility to our political debates. Do these people really want to go back to those days?

Yeah, if only we could go back to that Golden Era of Civility and Rational Debate.

Look, people disagree on how our government should be run. That's why we have elections. I'm grateful we settle these disputes with ballots and not bombs, and don't expect too much more than that.

Call me when a US Senator is beaten with a cane by another member on the floor.

The Lies That Will Not Die?

What is it with some people who continue to insist that we were lied to by the government over the Iraq War?

The latest, based on the latest WikiLeaks, is that our government lied about sectarian violence in 2006:

In early March 2006, Donald Rumsfeld called a Pentagon news conference to declare Iraq peaceful -- and to say that U.S. reporters in Baghdad were liars for reporting otherwise.

Contrary to the jumble of "exaggerated" reporting from Baghdad, the then-secretary of defense said at the Washington press briefing, Iraq was experiencing no such thing as the explosion of sectarian violence that myself and many of my fellow journalists in Baghdad were covering in the aftermath of a fateful February 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

Certainly, some Iraqis were trying to incite civil war, Rumsfeld acknowledged. But Iraq's own security forces had "taken the lead in controlling the situation," he insisted, and quick action by the Shiite-led government had "a calming effect."

Rumsfeld also made clear at the time that U.S. officials were fighting another kind of war over Iraq -- the battle for U.S. opinion. The "misreporting" on the death toll was driving down U.S. support for the war, the defense secretary complained.

Four years on, however, WikiLeaks' release of contemporary troop logs raises serious questions about who, exactly, was doing the lying.

One of the few absolute revelations from the Wikileaks documents is the extent to which Rumsfeld, then-U.S. commander Gen. George Casey, and others had access to ample information from unimpeachable sources -- their own troops on the ground in Iraq -- regarding how badly events had turned in Iraq by 2006, but nonetheless denied a surge in killing to reporters and the U.S. public.

This is absolute drivel. I looked for the transcript on the DOD site, but it is no longer there. I did find a Washington Post article on the press conference, and I'd think that it would have mentioned the Secretary of Defense calling reporters "liars." Nor does it quote Rumsfeld as calling Iraq "peaceful"--which I seriously doubt he did given that he was discussing the level of violence in Iraq after the bombing. And really, who can now deny that the press generally exaggerated civilian casualties in Iraq during the war?

But did the bombing at the end of February unleash a civil war? While the recent article says there may have been 2,500 casualties in February 2006, Icasualties paints a different picture, where the first number is Iraqi security forces casualties and the second civilian casualties:

Dec-06: 123; 1629
Nov-06: 123; 1741
Oct-06: 224; 1315
Sep-06: 150; 3389
Aug-06: 233; 2733
Jul-06: 217; 1063
Jun-06: 132; 738
May-06: 150; 969
Apr-06: 201; 808
Mar-06: 191; 901
Feb-06: 158; 688
Jan-06: 189; 590

Remember, speaking of the surge of violence in 2006 neglects that 2006 was twelve months long. The violence in the fall that shaped our elections that November were not the same as the first half of the year, despite the February Golden Mosque bombing. Even if casualties were underreported in Iraq (and even WikiLeaks doesn't show that), the trend is clear.

In the aftermath of the Samarra bombing, I braced myself for the Shias to finally start retaliating against the Sunnis after years of relative restraint in the face of horrendous crimes by the Baathists and their al Qaeda allies directed at Shias. The press certainly said it was happening. But the numbers said otherwise initially, even if journalists reported every death through the lens of "civil war" that they put on.

The civilian casualties simply weren't that different from January to June, averaging 782 per month in that period, despite the February start of the supposed civil war. Only in July did the numbers of dead break three digits, and it is really the period from August to December, with 1,978 civilian casualties per month, that shapes our popular view of the entire year. And that neglects to consider that much of the violence was a result of the efforts of outsiders (al Qaeda and radical Sunni backers abroad on one side and Iran on the other) to ramp up the violence inside Iraq. Indeed, our enemies continued to try to spark a civil war even as our surge kicked into high gear in summer 2007.

This latest WikiLeaks dump is not proof of the Bush administration or our military lying. I won't go so far as to say it reflects lying by the anti-war journalists who continue to call administration statements from March 2006 "lies." It is worse, it reflects that the reporters still don't really understand war, the fog of war, or that splendid "context" that they insist their journalism degrees allow them to provide to the unwashed masses who read their reports.

Actually, what is really amazing is the determination of war opponents to continue the debate that will not end of whether we should overthrow the Saddam regime. This article isn't about enlightening us or learning, it is about continuing the war debate--even after we've won the war--that the war was a mistake. That's the obvious conclusion, anyway.

UPDATE: This post is long enough, but it is a good place to mention that every once in a while you read something that tries to paint George W. Bush as determined to lie us into war with Iraq by pointing out that he looked at options to destroy or overthrow Saddam's regime even before 9/11. Given that we were in weekly conflict with Iraq enforcing no-fly zones and that it was our official policy to change the regime in Iraq, based on legislation signed by President Clinton, this sort of conspiracy thinking just annoys me to no end.

What About the Cubicles?

Winston Churchill famously promised to fight the Nazi invaders on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields, in the streets, and in the hills.

He forgot about in the quiet offices of a distant Brussels bureaucracy:

Mats Persson, director of the think-tank Open Europe, said: “This study reveals that putting a number on the percentage of UK laws coming from the EU is almost impossible. But, in any case, it is far more important to measure the actual impact that EU laws have on the economy and individuals on a day-to-day basis.

“Our research, based on the Government’s own figures, shows that in 2009, 59 percent of the regulatory costs facing individuals, businesses and the public sector in the UK stemmed from EU legislation. This is a far more useful measure than merely counting individual laws without any sense of their relative importance – and it shows that the EU now has a massive impact on the UK.”

Never in the course of human governance was so much owed by so many to so few.

This is not their finest hour.

Slow Thinking

So the students are eating truth to power?

At midday on Oct. 23, some 300 young people sat down to eat in a shopping mall in Turin, Italy. But instead of the usual food-court fare of burgers and Cinnabons, lunch for these mostly 20-somethings consisted of rice-and-broccoli salad, stewed sweet potatoes and hand-chopped beef tartare - all of it served on recyclable paper plates draped with raw kale leaves. If that seems a surprisingly wholesome meal for the setting, that's kind of the point: the "eat-in," organized by the Youth Food Movement - an arm of the Slow Food organization - was devised in part as a protest against fast food. "By doing this and by making Slow Food work, we're saying no to the industrial food that most people are forced to eat," says Gabriel Vidolin, a 21-year-old Brazilian chef who helped prepare the meal.
Ronald McDonald, the Colonel, and a little Chihuahua have "forced" the youth to eat fast food? Really?

Riiight. Well, have fun storming the White Castle, kids.

Your YFM saving the planet, one self-indulgent fallacy at a time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


The Russians want to entrench the concept of a two-tier NATO alliance by setting limits on how much military force can be deployed in the newest post-Cold War NATO members:

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov handed a draft agreement to NATO demanding a ban on "significant military forces" in states that joined since the Soviet breakup in 1991, according to a report in Kommsersant. That happened in December last year, the paper said. It cited an unidentified NATO official as saying the language could be too vague.

Are the Russians serious? Fortunately, nobody seems foolish enough to go along with this idea:

Any move to limit troops in countries that originally joined NATO to throw off Moscow's domination, including the Czech Republic and Poland, looks likely to be met with resistance.

You have to love the Russian logic: NATO is too much of a threat to Russia to let NATO deploy to eastern NATO countries; but Russia is too little of a threat to NATO to justify deploying NATO forces to new NATO members worried about Russia's desire to restore the old Soviet empire.

They are a persistent bunch in Moscow. We can't allow the idea that some NATO members are less deserving of collective defense than others. I'd like to see us store equipment sets for heavy armor in Poland.

Tell Moscow to take a hike and maybe worry a little bit about China. Good luck seeing if China will agree to limit PLA deployments to Manchuria.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let's Make a Deal!

We in the West spend too much time wringing our hands about what we did to provoke jihadi anger at us. If only we could answer the question "why do they hate us?" with the appropriate guilty response that requires us to do something--or stop doing something--they would stop attempting to kill us. The Iraq War was often given as Exhibit A in this line of reasoning, despite the inconvenient truth that jihadi anger was in full force long before Iraq--or even before 9/11.

France, which would not aid us in Iraq, should have been a prime candidate for immunity; with the lesson of stark contrast of what happened to Spain (the Madrid bombing of March 11, 2004) for sending troops to quiet areas in Iraq reinforcing that thinking. As if simply being a nation that used to be under Islamic control isn't more than enough for Spain to be a target.

But France restricted their contributions to the "good war" (as America's anti-war side used to claim), so they should be immune from jihadi anger, right?

Well, no:

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden threatens in a new audio tape to kill French citizens to avenge their country's support for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and a new law that will ban face-covering Muslim veils.

See? He's mad about Afghanistan. Understandably, the Emir of the Nutballs doesn't agree with that whole "good war/bad war" thinking. It's all bad for him.

So would France "earn" immunity by getting out of Afghanistan? Well, again--no.

Note that the Bearded Dork says they are justified in killing and kidnapping French people because of two great reasons that explain why they hate France. One, the whole war in Afghanistan thing. And two, legislating against face-covering Muslim veils for women.

Really. The face-covering ban justifies murder and mayhem. That's a rational response, right? I mean, you'd support the death penalty for jaywalking, right?

France, Spain, America, and all the West has a choice to make. We can change our ways and actions and words and even beliefs on the big things that offend the jihadis in the vain hope that they will stop killing us, only to discover that the little things get us marked for death, too.

Or we can hold the line and tell the jihadis and those who mildly sympathize with them that we expect them to respect our traditions--especially when they live among us--and if they try to impose their views on us, we'll resist with traditions, laws, or well-trained soldiers backed by all our technology to slap them down.

Do you really think we can make a deal with these nutjobs? I'll ask again, what doesn't set them off?

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I think we are winning in Afghanistan, although I continue to think that the existence of Pakistan's sanctuaries for the Taliban and al Qaeda limits how far we can go in achieving victory. And I worry about our supply lines to such a large force in landlocked Afghanistan. Talk of us not making progress after 9 years of war misses the point that it was only after 2006 and 2007 that the fight in Afghanistan really kicked in to higher gear.

And that escalation has nothing to do with being "distracted" by Iraq. Remember that in 2006, Pakistan opened up their territory to the Taliban for a sanctuary (and already, al Qaeda could hide in relative safety in Pakistan). And in 2007, al Qaeda in Iraq was finally beaten on the battlefield (where they had decided to make their main effort), leading them to return their focus to Afghanistan. You could fairly say that we lacked some assets in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009 because we retained them in Iraq, but after many years of warfare, that shortage of needed units has far more to do with decisions made in Washington not to expand our forces in those areas.

Regardless, our enemies ramped up their efforts in Afghanistan by 2008 and we responded in 2009 and 2010 with new infusions of troops. We are only into the third year of the expanded war and only 1 or 2 years into our effort to defeat the enemy, depending on where you want to draw the line.

Since counter-insurgency takes time, stories like this are true but misleading. The theme?

An intense military campaign aimed at crippling the Taliban has so far failed to inflict more than fleeting setbacks on the insurgency or put meaningful pressure on its leaders to seek peace, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials citing the latest assessments of the war in Afghanistan.

So the lead paragraph implies that our counter-insurgency is failing. But read on:

Escalated airstrikes and special operations raids have disrupted Taliban movements and damaged local cells. But officials said that insurgents have been adept at absorbing the blows and that they appear confident that they can outlast an American troop buildup set to subside beginning next July.

This is really a sign that the alternate strategy of "counter-terrorism"--air strikes and special forces raids on terrorists--is not a long term strategy. And our current kinetic actions take place in an environment where the counter-insurgency strategy provides bases and intelligence with troops and friends on the ground feeding information to us to make those strikes. Alone, our counter-terrorist strikes would be meaningless and counter-productive as fake atrocities are constructed or real ones engineered by tricking us into bombarding a kitten and puppy sanctuary or baby milk factory (with English signs on the wreckage, of course).
And there is this:

"The insurgency seems to be maintaining its resilience," said a senior Defense Department official involved in assessments of the war. Taliban elements have consistently shown an ability to "reestablish and rejuvenate," often within days of routed by U.S. forces, the official said, adding that if there is a sign that momentum has shifted, "I don't see it."

Why yes, leaders step in. Just as we do when a platoon or company leader is a casualty or a senior sergeant is killed or wounded. That's what military forces, whether conventional or insurgent, are built to do--be resilient. Casualties are a fact of life in combat so obviously a military force can absorb casualties better than a newspaper office and continue functioning at high levels. But the quality of their leaders will suffer more than ours will because we suffer far fewer losses and have a deep bench of trained people to replace losses. And our enemies have to replace leaders far more often than we do.

One of the reasons the enemy is being resilient in the face of our far greater effort that is clearly hammering them is that they believe they only have to hang on another year:

U.S. officials said Taliban operatives have adopted a refrain that reflects their focus on President Obama's intent to start withdrawing troops in the middle of next year. Attributing the words to Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, officials said, operatives tell one another, "The end is near."

The fact is, the enemy will have to hang on for far longer than a year. We aren't leaving in July 2011 and the enemy is failing to understand the nuance of that "deadline." Yes, it was probably a mistake to announce that non-deadline deadline, but there may be a silver lining as long as domestic forces committed to retreating can be contained. We can exploit this enemy perception of our pending departure even if that perception makes it more difficult for our forces over the next year. If the enemy feels that they will get relief next summer, and if instead we intensify our efforts next summer and fall, the reality that the enemy doesn't really know how long they have to endure our pressure will likely batter the morale of all but the most committed jihadi. And even the committed jihadis will suffer doubt and fear under those circumstances.

The article also highlights the fact that while we can make more progress by focusing our military efforts inside Afghanistan, there are limits to how much progress we can make without addressing Pakistan:

A crackdown by Pakistan's military on those sanctuaries probably would have a greater impact on the war than any option available to Petraeus, officials said. But given the Pakistani government's long-standing connections to the Haqqani network and the Taliban, a move by Islamabad against those groups is considered unlikely, at least by the administration's timetable.

The United States has sought to compensate by ramping up Forces raids and military air patrols on the Afghan side of the border, and by sharply increasing the number of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

At some point, as we make progress in Afghanistan, the existence of the Pakistan sanctuary will provide a floor to how low Taliban strength can fall. They will be able to rest and train and return to Afghanistan to keep the violence bubbling along and making sure our forces can't fall below a certain level, just in case.

This complaint that we aren't obviously winning fails to appreciate the time it takes to win an insurgency. Remember, while military force used to kill the enemy is absolutely critical to winning a counter-insurgency, it is not the main effort of counter-insurgency. We have to convince the population to support our side and reject the enemy.

I've written before that focusing on the population is one that focuses on a continuum of views in the target population:

As I noted as the Iraq insurgencies and terror campaigns raged against our forces and the Iraqi government's forces, the object of the campaign is not to kill all the enemy.

You want to keep friends loyal (by rewarding and protecting them--from the enemy or your own firepower), push neutrals into friendly status with carrots and sticks, and move enemies into neutral status with bribes and threats of inevitable death as you pursue them and kill them. If you can push someone from enemy to friendly in one flip, so much the better. But the point is that there is a continuum of local attitudes that you have to work on and push in your favor. Keep doing this, and eventually you run out of enemies--you win the war. Then you have to win the peace, of course, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Marine Brigadier General Joseph Osterman addresses this issue:

Big-T Taliban are your ideologically driven folks, many of them from out of the area, who literally are the leadership and the financiers and all those folks involved in the insurgency.

And then you have the small-T taliban, which is essentially your local Taliban, who basically, for whatever reason, whether it be monetarily or for just vendettas or whatever it might be, decide to join the insurgency. Some of these, particularly like in Marja, are left over from previous days.

And what we're seeing is that, in fact, from a reintegration perspective, for the little-T taliban, which is mostly what we deal with, you're really not going to know whether or not they reintegrated or not, because they just decide not to fight. You know, they're the next-door neighbor; they're the guy that lives over in the next block, as in the case of the way that Marja's organized. So in that regard, we are getting indications that there are more the small-T taliban just being absorbed back into the communities, nothing that they do through a formal reintegration process.

However, the -- Governor Mangal and the provincial government is standing up the formal processes to allow for the big-T Taliban, if you will, to conduct formal reintegration and come in. He's conducted shuras with the local population to let them know that that is a national process that has been instituted by President Karzai, and that it is available to them in order to reintegrate back into society, you know, with, you know, various incentives, such as obviously many of them are concerned about their families and things like that, if, in fact, they decide to reintegrate. So accommodating those kinds of needs.

Here he is talking about moving enemies to "neutral" status (they simply stopped fighting rather than formally surrendering) and efforts to get more committed enemies to simply flip directly from "enemy" status to "friendly" status with negotiations, and give all of them reasons not to revert to enemy status.

There will be some who will not quit, and they must be killed. But ideally they are a minority and the combination of military efforts to kill them, security efforts to protect people from the enemy, and non-military efforts to provide an incentive to refuse to side with the enemy or actively assist in defeating the enemy, will mean that most enemy combatants will cease fighting without needing to be killed.

All this takes time. One thing that does shock me after 9 years at war is that our press corps still doesn't understand war or military history. They think they provide the masses with context, but they really don't--collectively, that is, with some individual exceptions--understand the context themselves.

UPDATE: Still, despite the need for patience, past efforts have created conditions where progress could be fast and obvious, although possibly localized:

The growing enthusiasm for "peace talks with the Taliban" is based on the fact that the Taliban (a diverse group with no real overall leader) have lost. Their attempt to recover from losing control of southern Afghanistan in late 2001 (they never controlled the entire nation) has led to one failure after another, and the tribes that supported the Taliban are tired of it. These tribes have been at war since the late 1970s, and have nothing to show for it. The growth of the drug business (opium/heroin) under the Taliban has made matters worse. While some warlords and Taliban leaders have gotten rich from the drug trade, millions more have suffered, mainly by becoming addicts. But the problem with negotiating with "the Taliban" is that there is no one Taliban leader you can make a deal with. There are dozens of clans and tribes that are "pro-Taliban," and these are the ones being talked to. That is nothing new either. Pro-Taliban groups have been making peace with the government for years. The one difference this time around is that some core Taliban tribes are ready to give it up.

Victory in Afghanistan certainly won't be perfect. But it will be victory. After all, victory in World War II led straight into the Cold War. We still call World War II a victory, right?

All Respect to the Imperialists

It is fashionable to blame 19th century European imperialists for creating the conditions for warfare, chaos, and poverty by drawing African borders without taking into consideration ethnic, tribal, and religious boundaries. One, Europe did nothing that they didn't do in Asia, South America, and in Europe itself. History can be overcome rather than being a convenient excuse to fail to pursue progress. After all, for those "artificial" borders (aren't most of them fairly artificial?) to cause strife, someone has to decide to fight over them rather than move on.

Two, and more to the point, the complaint ignores the fact that after 50 years or so of freedom from colonial powers, African nations defend those borders:

Several African states are worried that the imminent independence of South Sudan will lead to a radical redrawing of African borders. Libya has stated it openly, but everyone knows the fear is shared by many African governments. Colonial powers drew most of the borders in the 19th and 20th centuries. The borders-drawn-in-parlors often divided tribes and sometimes made very little on-the-ground geographic sense. If South Sudan votes for independence (secession the northerners call it) the thinking goes that this will cause a chain reaction, first in the Grand Sahel (Darfur being another possibility) then throughout the rest of the continent.
So they hate the imperialists for drawing the borders, blame the borders for their ills--but don't want to risk opening them up for discussion.

Practically speaking, I'm sure few people in Africa would mind it if their oppressed brethren on "the wrong side" of an artificial border were brought into the loving and respectful protection of their own country. But how many countries would accept the loss of territory to let their people go?

African nations either need to work on ways to adjust those "bad" borders if they are really that imprtant to making progress, or stop complaining about them and formally accept them--and then do their best to prosper within their existing borders.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The One to Untie the Knot Would Become the King of Asia?

Will President Obama seek to recover from recent setbacks in popularity by pushing for a foreign policy victory in Iran (from Stratfor)?

Iran is the one issue on which the president could galvanize public opinion. The Republicans have portrayed Obama as weak on combating militant Islamism. Many of the Democrats see Iran as a repressive violator of human rights, particularly after the crackdown on the Green Movement. The Arabian Peninsula, particularly Saudi Arabia, is afraid of Iran and wants the United States to do something more than provide $60 billion-worth of weapons over the next 10 years. The Israelis, obviously, are hostile. The Europeans are hostile to Iran but want to avoid escalation, unless it ends quickly and successfully and without a disruption of oil supplies. The Russians like the Iranians are a thorn in the American side, as are the Chinese, but neither would have much choice should the United States deal with Iran quickly and effectively. Moreover, the situation in Iraq would improve if Iran were to be neutralized, and the psychology in Afghanistan could also shift.

Indeed, early on I saw Iran as a potential solution to our Afghanistan (and Pakistan) problem:

Open up a supply route through Iran to Afghanistan and suddenly we don't need to be quite so reliant on our Central Asian bases or so careful with a Pakistan that will not crack down on the Taliban who hide and organize inside Pakistan. We won't have to be so shy when it comes to hunting bin Laden there, either.

Later, I speculated on other advantages:

And as I've noted, getting rid of the mullah regime in Iran really could cut the Gordian Knot and improve a lot of our problems related to Afghanistan. Add in problems like Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf, and latin America--not to mention the nuclear issue--that would see improvement if the mullahs go. It starts to get confusing why getting rid of the mullahs rather than reaching out to them isn't our official policy.

Indeed, this isn't the first time Stratfor has speculated about Obama taking action, with their analysis applying the Gordian Knot analogy, too.

We shall see. The problem is there. And growing:

Iran began loading fuel into the core of its first atomic power plant on Tuesday, moving closer to the start up of a facility that leaders have touted as defying of international efforts to curtail the country's nuclear ambitions.

Even if this plant has nothing to do directly with a nuclear weapons program, it improves their understanding of the process to speed their weapons programs. And it could be diverted to military use, with the simple decision to hinder or expel foreign monitors.

The solution could be messy and highly dangerous. But it also raises hope of putting lasting change in place. Of course, we'd need to have the guts to see such a risky policy through to the end despite the difficulties and setbacks that such a policy entails.

When you strike a king, kill him, as the saying goes. Once started down this path, no half measures will work. It only truly ends when the mullah regime is destroyed or overthrown.

Who knows? I thought President Bush wouldn't leave the problem to his successor. Perhaps President Obama really will be the one.

UPDATE: We'd have more leverage to deal with Karzai, too, if we destroyed Iran's mullah regime. Of course, I also think we should push services and money down to the most local level we can in Afghanistan--whether provicincial, city, village, or tribe--to bypass the speed bump to victory that the central government (Karzai is a symptom so don't go thinking that a quick coup would solve our problems) represents.

Smite Our Enemies!

The President finally recognizes that we should support our friends and punish our enemies! I'm very heartened by this stunning grasp of the bleeding obvious. Let's get the quote, shall we?

And if Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, we're gonna punish our enemies and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us, if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it's gonna be harder — and that's why I think it's so important that people focus on voting on November 2.
Oh. That's not quite what I hoped for. The journey from community organizer to commander in chief is taking longer to complete than I hoped.

I was hoping, for example, that things like extending an open hand to Syria's thug ruler would end, in recognition that Boy Assad is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ahmadinejad and who seems quite immune to the soothing balms of hope, change, and Cairo speech flattery:

Bashar Assad told Al-Hayat newspaper in an interview published Tuesday that the U.S. "created chaos in every place it entered."

"Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?" Assad asked, referring to U.S. intervention in Lebanon's 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made repeated overtures to Damascus this year, nominating the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005 and sending top diplomats to meet with Assad. Obama is trying to lure Damascus away from its alliance with Iran and militant groups such as Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas.

But Syria has continued to strengthen ties with outspoken critics of Washington, such as Iran and Venezuela.

Reward friends. Punish enemies. When the president is right, he's right.

Now all he needs to do is get a clue about who our enemies are and who our friends are.

UPDATE: Thanks to The Unreligious Right for the link.

To be fair to the President, let me just say that his upcoming trip to India is a good jaunt forward on that journey to being the commander in chief in practice as well as on paper.

UPDATE: Ask and ye shall receive, I guess, given our State Department's response to Assad's verbal attack:

Rather than downplay these provocative remarks, State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley replied in kind, pointing out that “Recent Syrian behavior and rhetoric has had a destabilizing effect on Lebanon and the region, has contributed to recent tensions.”

It is good for the administration to realize that we have enemies. From Speaker Pelosi's pilgrimage to Damascus in 2007 to the current administration's energetic outreach, nothing has shaken Iran's dominance of Syria's foreign policy.

Now about that punishing enemies and rewarding friends advice. I'm not saying we couldn't "flip" Damascus. Assad will go whichever way he thinks enhances his survival. He is no jihadi. But we can't induce a flip with carrots. No, only learning to fear us more can get Syria to flip; and any rewards we might direct to Syria must only come after Syria actually flips and turns over their intelligence files on Iran, stops support for terrorism, and gets out of Lebanon for good.

Doggone It, People Like Us!

Senator Franken hosts a morale-building pep rally for the Senate progressive caucus:

Positive action is what it is all about.

My IFF Is Silent

This editorial calls for war against WikiLeaks:

The Wikileaks organization has morphed from a relatively harmless aid to government whistleblowers into a threat to U.S. national security. It should be treated accordingly. ...

The fact that anyone in the world can view Pentagon classified documents at will sends a signal of American impotence and inspires future cyberfoes. If Wikileaks wants to play this game, the very least our government can do is suit up and get out on the field.

I'm certainly sympathetic to the idea that we should wage war (perhaps through lawfare, information warfare, and cyber-war, rather than with "kinetic" means) against Assange and his group.

But given the nature of the leaks, I'm seriously wondering whether, in practice and regardless of his motives, he actually is on "the other side."

What's his game? And what's ours, for that matter.

UPDATE: Heck, even Iran is annoyed:

Iran on Tuesday rejected as "suspicious" and "diabolical" disclosures by WikiLeaks on its role in neighboring Iraq. ...

[the foreign minister] said Iran would confront these "immoralities" but did not say what measures Tehran intends to take.
Overall, I'd say Assange has more to worry about if Iran decides they are at war with WikiLeaks than if America does.

I simply have no way to judge what is going on, here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bring On the Humiliation

From dead celebrity news files:

Michael Jackson's sudden death sparked an outpouring of grief around the world, but fans also opened their wallets to make him this year's top-earning dead celebrity with $275 million, Forbes said on Monday.

The Gloved Weirdo made more in one year while dead--by a couple orders of magnitude--than I will in my entire life. If I live a long time.

Is it wrong to feel slightly inadequate under those circumstances?

The War Was Hell

WikiLeaks shows that Iraqi government forces were fairly brutal to their prisoners during the war. Critics are leaping on this to condemn America:

Human rights groups also called for a probe, with New York-based Human Rights Watch saying that the United States may have broken international law if it knowingly transferred prisoners to potential places of abuse.

China leaped on the chance to condemn us:

"The magnitude of the crimes should make every righteous person angry. It again puts a big question mark against the US self-proclaimed image as the world human rights champion," the China Daily said in a commentary.

China can go pound sand, given their record of breaking tens of millions of eggs to make a deadly omelet.

But back to the accusations.

One, I'm disappointed that we couldn't do more to control Iraqi forces and prevent abuses.

Two, either the abuse wasn't so bad in context or my assumption that too much abuse (short of carrying out a campaign of extermination) undermines a counter-insurgency is wrong.

Three, our enemies behaved far worse during the war. Our enemies will never earn the level of outrage that we or the Iraqi government will receive from this leak.

Four, despite claims that we were guilty of torture, the documents show that is far from the truth. The fact that the frat house humiliation at Abu Ghraib is still raised as an issue of "torture" shows how hollow that charge was and remains, even after the data dump.

And five, coming back full circle, I'm sure we actually did restrain the Iraqis a great deal. Our presence kept the Iraqis from descending to the enemy's level as a matter of routine practice.

Data dumps require context. Up close, any war looks like Hell. Only context explains and justifies them.

Including that the context of the Iraq War was that the imperfect Iraqi government faced losing to people far more brutal than the Iraqi government forces and not to the League of Women Voters.

Oh, and the idea that a dispute over casualty numbers in the range of 10-15 percent is thought of as a scandal is beyond parody. Why shouldn't those groups that peddled numbers of over 600,000 or up to a million civilian deaths--from massive American air strikes, no less--get the "scandal" treatment?

If the lies of anti-war groups (or those just on the other side) that claimed massive war crimes failed to lose the war, why should snapshots showing far lower casualties and nothing that we did terribly wrong have any effect?

In the end, this is just Atrocity Porn for our professional Left to pleasure themselves with for a little while.

UPDATE: Victor Hanson has similar thoughts (but without the porn reference, of course). The most compelling part?

Had the public known in real time from periodic media leaks about operational disasters surrounding the planning for the D-Day landings, intelligence failures at the Bulge or Okinawa, or G.I. treatment of some German and Japanese prisoners, the story of World War II might have been somewhat different. But then, in those paleolithic days FDR and Winston Churchill did not have to be flawless to be perceived as being far better than Adolf Hitler.

War really is Hell. It is no mere cliche.

Don't let the pursuit of perfect hinder achievement of good--and the defeat of evil is surely a good. This doesn't excuse evil done in the name of good, as an "ends justify the means" argument. But it isn't like the Iraqi government was abusing Buddhist monks out of the blue--they were in a fight for their lives--literally--against monsters who gleefully committed atrocities and mass murder to win. It's all about the context.

When Good Goes Bad

Australia's left, much as our own Left is starting to argue, rejects the idea that Afghanistan is the "good war". But Australians were never burdened with needing to defend the Afghanistan War in order to condemn Iraq as the "bad war." With Iraq won (on the battlefield--we still have much to do), our Left is catching up with Australia's anti-war left (and the rest of the Western left, too, for that matter) in opposing the Afghanistan campaign.

So it should be instructive to watch Australia's debate over their commitment to fighting in Afghanistan as a leading indicator of how our Left will fully turn on this war and attmept to lose it.

The really fun part is noting that it is rather funny for the global Left to oppose a war they claim is all the things that go into a "good" war--international support (a high percentage of forces non-US), the blessings of both NATO and the United Nations, and an enemy with a cartoon-level of easily recognized evil:

Afghanistan was launched for reasons most progressive could and did support. It is the antithesis of the Iraq war, the war progressives love to hate. Afghanistan is a war of self-defence, launched after Al Qaeda’s attacks of 9/11, rather than a war fought to prevent a possible future attack. It was initiated pursuant to international law. It was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council, the piece of international machinery that progressives hold to be so important. It has been blessed by countless statements of supports from leaders of the international community.

Yet still, the Left opposes the war in Afghanistan. Is there any war the global Left supports? I mean, any war waged by a Western nation, of course.

People Power

Time and again, I've written that it is a mistake to write America off as we contemplate China's recent rise and judge whether (or even when) China passes us by as the dominant power. We retain basic advantages that should cushion our relative decline, our geography makes us the key balancer even if we sink to second place, and China could falter--or even splinter.

This summary of a chapter that looks at the demographics of the big Pacific players (Russia, China, India, Japan, and America) and concludes that Russia faces huge problems, China and Japan face problems (slower growth or decline, respectively), India should be better off on balance, and America--wait for it--should gain. The time frame for the comparison is 2040.

I have my own projections--purely a WAG--here, if you are interested.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Starve the Beast

Have patience over the course of fighting in Afghanistan. I've worried that we haven't devoted the resources to interdicting supplies coming in from Pakistan and Iran, but our efforts are having an effect on the enemy:

But the big targets are the financial and smuggling networks buy weapons and explosives and get it into the country. These are being found out and attacked. As a result, the Taliban have shortages of cash and supplies. This has forced the Taliban to act more like gangsters and steal or extort money and goods from local Afghans. This makes the Taliban more unpopular, and is a key reason for the growing number of Afghan tribes and villages that are willing to take help from NATO and the government to defend themselves. Once you let it be known that you will resist the Taliban with force, you are at war with the Taliban. But NATO can supply information about the local Taliban, and, via radios or cell phone numbers, access to reinforcements, or air strikes, for defended villages.
Yes, some of the enemy are so committed that they will fight without being paid much, but many more will go home if there is no pay. And even for those who fight, they are more likely to die since their resources are lower.

We are winning this war. Period. Foes of the war are now giving it the Iraq treatment--claiming we are doomed and so their calls to retreat are really saving us from more losses before we finally admit we are beaten rather than being defeatism.

The anti-war side is beaten--they always are. But our troops and our allies are making progress. The anti-war side failed to lose Iraq for us despite their efforts. Don't let them succeed now over the Afghanistan campaign.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Information Warfare

Although the WikiLeaks data dump of Iraq War files has already been mistakenly alleged to prove many more Iraqi casualties than the US or Iraq has claimed, even if the WikiLeaks numbers are accurate, it isn't a big increase.

The funny thing is, we only look bad if you put all the responsibility for how Iraqi government personnel acted on our shoulders, and it makes the Iranians look worse for their actions to stoke violence--allegations during the Bush administration weren't just a NeoCon plot to anger Americans at Iran. Yes, Iran is at war with America in Iraq.

And it certainly indicates that the really high estimates of Iraqi deaths alleged during the war are now completely unbelievable. They were pure propaganda designed to defeat us, and nothing else.

Strategypage has a far more useful analysis of Iraq casualties showing few Iraqis died from bombs (we weren't just air raiding villages in virtual free-fire zones in Iraq); that the vast majority of dead were military-age men (showing the lie of nearly every report during the fighting that routinely reported many dead women and children as if we had women-and-children-seeking warheads); that Iran-supported militias murdered lots of people (it wasn't just ethnic and religious differences causing the sectarian violence); and that most women and children actually died in suicide bombings or roadside bombings carried out by the enemy (in practice, the enemy had the women-and children-seeking warheads).

Perhaps the most relevant information from WikiLeaks is that the Iraqi government still needs us:

The enormous cache of secret war logs disclosed by the WikiLeaks website paints a picture of an Iraq burdened by persistent sectarian tension and meddling neighbors, suggesting that the country could drift into chaos once U.S. forces leave.
Plagued by divisions being exploited by foreigners, Iraq needs us for decades to come. We must stay to make sure the now much lower casualty rates don't skyrocket again and help until the Iraqis can resist the internal splits and the external actors tearing away at those weak points trying to ignite massive casualties and chaos again.

So, our casualty numbers are basically correct; our sins have been minor; Iran is responsible for many deaths; and Iraq needs us. Hmm. I might have to reconsider Assange. Is he actually working for us? How else do you explain the heavy expectations of damning information being leaked with the reality of what is in the data, which shows us in a pretty darn good light?

UPDATE: Instapundit ponders the motives, too. He links to an article that notes that the leaked files show that we were collecting WMD in Iraq during the war. This is not news, however, if you paid attention. The leaked documents don't show that Saddam had an active program, of course. But it does show that it was possible for WMD to be hidden for years. Who knows what else is out there?

Personally, I'm waiting for a revision to the conventional wisdom on WMD in Iraq that now holds there were none and no threat at all.

Hush, Hush. Voices Carry

In the dark, they like to read Juan's mind.

But NPR is frightened of the things they might find.

He said, shut up! He said, shut up! Oh God, can't you keep it down?

Hush, hush. Keep it down, now. Voices carry.


I remain uncomfortable with the new START treaty, notwithstanding the enthusiasm of Chuck Hagel and Madeleine Albright for the treaty. And any group defending the treaty (the authors of the article linked below write for the group)  that boasts Lawrence freaking Korb as a member is automatically ruled out as a proponent of maintaining a strong defense.

This article by authors from haughtily named Consensus for American Security claims the US military is enthusiastic about the treaty and rebuts complaints about the provisions:

The treaty compromises missile defense, critics claim. Not so, according to Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly, director of the Missile Defense Agency, who, along with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, has repeatedly made clear that the new treaty has no implications for our missile-defense plans. On the contrary, Gen. O'Reilly told senators, the treaty "actually reduces constraints on the development of the missile defense program."

Russia can't be trusted to comply with the terms of the treaty, critics say. This claim turns President Reagan's admonishment that we should "trust, but verify" on its head. By opposing the treaty, critics are arguing in favor of eliminating on-site surveillance and inspections of the Russian nuclear arsenal that are the only checks we have against Russian untrustworthiness.

Here's what the current commander of STRATCOM, Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the danger involved in rejecting the treaty:

"If we don't get the treaty, [the Russians] are not constrained in their development-of-force structure and ... we have no insight into what they're doing, so it's the worst of both possible worlds."

It's worth stepping back for a moment to ask the question why, if any of the things critics claim were remotely true, the treaty would have such overwhelming support among the military?

I don't buy this consensus claim one bit. One, claiming overwhelming military support exceeds any evidence presented. Two, even if certain higher ranking serving officers have come out in favor, don't forget that they must obey their civilian leaders. Salute and obey, remember.

On the particulars, I am not convinced when defenders of the treaty claim that the treaty doesn't hinder our "development" of missile defenses. Sure, Russia apparently has no problem with research. But "deployment" is another thing altogether, and is an issue that treaty proponents glide by without addressing. If  "development" is equivalent to "deployment" why are the Russians still raising a stink about plans to break ground on building such a defense in Europe?

Russia will only agree to work with NATO on building a ballistic-missile defence in Europe if it receives guarantees that the system cannot be used to bring down its own nuclear arsenal, the country's deputy foreign minister said Friday.

If this is what we think of as reducing constraints, I don't want to know what hindering us would look like. The Russians have not green-lighted building missile defenses capable of protecting America, and claims that START clears the path are outrageous.

As for verification, it is all well and good that we would have people on the ground, but my understanding is that the Russians won't send missile test telemetry in the clear as we've used in the past to read their data and determine if the Russians are developing banned technologies. Address this please instead of waxing on about the wonders of on-the-ground inspectors. We had that in Iraq for many years before 2003 and we know how well that worked in the face of a government that wants to obstruct what our people see.

As for Russia not being constrained without the treaty? Poppycock. Russia can't afford what they have now and they will reduce their nuclear forces from cost alone in the years ahead. The START treaty gives Russia the security of knowing we will reduce our forces, too.

Unmentioned are the theater nuclear missiles that Russia can keep in large numbers outside the treaty. Being simpler and cheaper, they'll remain a cornerstone of Russia's arsenal since so many targets are close by and since Russia relies on nukes to defend their long borders.

There is absolutely no hurry to concluding a treaty with Russia. Time is on our side. Let's do this right. Reject the proposed START treaty. Start over.

Leaner. Meaner?

So is Britain's decision to cut their defense budget and military's size mean that Britain is leaner and meaner--and still a globally relevant power?

Sheinwald certainly thinks so:

Britain is not getting out of the global game. Prime Minister David Cameron has talked about Britain's ambition to continue to project power and influence in a rapidly changing world. The NSS, published on Monday, sets out our vision for Britain as an "open, outward-facing nation," with a determination to remain actively engaged across the world, promoting our security, our prosperity, and our values. This isn't a time, British ministers have said, for strategic shrinkage.
So the intent to remain globally engaged is the same as having the means to remain globally engaged? And at a level that won't cause potential enemies to remark that they'd call the constables if the British military was reported near their shores? The author is not worried:

I am confident that the United States has not only understood the scale of the budgetary challenges Britain is facing, but is comfortable with where this review has come out. As Secretary Hillary Clinton herself said, the result of the SDSR is "a U.K. military capable of meeting its NATO commitments and of remaining the most capable partner for our forces as we seek to mitigate the shared threats of the 21st century."

So public statements surely intended not to offend our most effective ally in the field in Afghanistan are supposed to reflect the true feelings of our military establishment? Please. The statement "defending" the British cuts damns them with faint praise, indeed. NATO commitments are low because NATO nations won't make them--so meeting regrettably low commitments is hardly praiseworthy.

And noting that Britain remains the most capable partner says more about the shamefully low capabilities of countries other than Britain rather than being a mark of pride for London. Congratulations, Britain, you are more capable than Belgium, France, or Bulgaria. Stand with pride, Britannia. Boasting that Britain will remain more capable than any other non-US NATO ally is a pretty hollow claim.

Certainly, Britain has financial difficulties that must be faced with budget cuts. And at least the cuts announced aren't as bad as first floated (though I assume the whole purpose of floating larger cuts was to make it seem like the actual planned cuts aren't as bad). But remember, these new reductions come on top of decades of reductions that have already shrunk the British military. Consider the cuts the author notes:

Of course, the SDSR has had to identify cuts and savings, particularly where the military rationale has become less strong or the capability duplicates that of another ally such as the United States. We will be cutting down on our older, heavier equipment: we'll have 40 percent fewer tanks and 35 percent less heavy artillery. We will decommission the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and drop four destroyers and frigates from current forces; we will reduce the number of fighter jet types we maintain; and we will plan to withdraw our forces from Germany by 2020. And it is true that there will be a temporary gap in our capability to operate aircraft from the sea before the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters come online. ...

In practical terms, one could say that Britain's military may even be stronger: The government has reaffirmed the commitment to build two new aircraft carriers; the future fighter jet fleet will have more capable planes; and we will develop multi-role brigades to be able to conduct the full range of tasks that our ground forces currently do. Our new planning assumptions see us capable of deploying a modernized all-arms force into the field up to 30,000 strong for a single major operation. And we will retain an ability to sustain in long-term stabilization operations a brigade-sized force in theater at levels not too far below those currently deployed in southern Afghanistan.

So let's look at the bang Britain will get for the pound.

First, let's start with what is not a big problem, practically speaking. The reductions in heavy armor and heavy artillery are probably fine. The Red Army is not likely to roll west, meaning less armor is needed; and precision weapons means we need less artillery to provide better fire support. America has made similar reductions. But the easy cuts end there.

For American readers, some of the claims may seem not so bad, perhaps because we think in much larger numbers. So Britain will reduce their fleet by one carrier? So what? But this isn't starting from our two dozen carriers (fleet and amphibious--which are carriers as big as most other countries' fleet carriers). This starts with 3 carriers--with one out of service. So half of Britain's carrier fleet will be gone.

And this happy assessment neglects that the two new carriers to replace the three smaller carriers will never see service. Britain has committed to building them. And even if Britain builds them, they already plan to immediately put one in inactive reserve! Bottom line: Britain has one carrier for the near future. But it gets worse.

Britain is retiring the elderly Harrier jets that equip their navy--and the replacement F-35 won't be ready for a while and not scheduled to join the fleet for another decade. So their single carrier will be an amphibious warfare ship for quite some time.

And what about the surface fleet? Reducing the fleet by four frigates and destroyers seems marginal until you realize that the surface combatants of this type drop from 23 to 19. A couple years ago, they had 26.

Unmentioned is the fate of Britain's ballistic missile submarine fleet. They need replacement and unless you assume no further cuts in Britain's defense budget, will Britain have to decide whether they can afford a nuclear deterrent? Already, replacement is delayed. I've read that options include having so few subs that their deterrent will periodically consist of a sub sitting in port ready to launch rather than patrolling unseen at sea.

The ground forces are just sad. Planning for a force of 30,000 for a short-term campaign is a reduction of a third from the forces committed in 1991 and 2003, when the British basically sent a division to join our forces. And for long term operations, Britain can support a single brigade in the field--less than their current commitment to Afghanistan.

Britain still has tradition and skill in their corner. But let's not fool ourselves that they are meaner after getting leaner. Britain may still think globally, but the size of the force that can deploy globally is close to being irrelevant as anything more than a very minor contribution to an American war effort.

Further, assuming that the cuts have ended is shortsighted, in my opinion. More cuts will come. After all, the author of this piece is already comforting himself by noting that the British are only cutting capabilities that duplicate what we do. If that is the standard, where is the floor? Really, what can't Britain cut if that is the standard? Field tea service?

The British may still think globally, but they are increasingly capable of acting only locally.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Feng Must Not Shui

James Lileks, peace be upon him and all that, speaks heresy as far as I'm concerned:

Me, I’d like to get rid of every single book I have, except for twenty or so. I would like them all scanned and digitized and accessible via iPad, thank you. Yes, yes, the argument about the love of books; I love them too. The love of being surrounded by your library? Yes yes. But. I would be more likely to dip into something if it was incorporeal. On the shelf, they all seem to reproach me: you don’t remember me, do you? All that time we spent together. But I remember the good times; isn’t that enough? Really: if I could, I’d reduce everything to a big desk in a white room with a shelf holding just a few books. The obligations of possessions, the accretion of things: it’s enough to make a Buddhist of me.
Good grief. Let's not even step into the debate about how books without physical form are just "information," as far as I'm concerned--not "books."

No, my concern is home decor.

If all my books and whatnot were just digital, what would I do with the eighteen nineteen (I forgot the printer stand that has two shelves of stuff under it) stand-alone shelves in my home? Sure, some have toys or board games or video discs (and yes, CDs and even tapes--but my old vinyl albums are relegated to a place on the floor, having long ago lost their shelfworthy status), but most have books on them. What would I do without bookshelves? My God, people, I don't even begin to know what I'd do with a credenza!

I already fear the day when televisions and stereos are a single quarter inch-thick panel that goes on the wall--leaving me to toss the furniture that holds those items into the trash.

What's next? No end tables to hold lamps because we get our lighting from a luminous cloud that hovers near the ceiling and follows us around, clumping near us and intensifying to make sure we can see everything wherever we go?

Start on this path and inevitabley we get to retractable furniture that disappears into the walls and floors. And we are officially living in space colony simulators. Live like that and 69 days trapped underground is a vacation, and a trip to Mars will only be mildly annoying near the end.

So I say no to abandoning physical books. It isn't just that I have, as near as I can recall, about 70 books to read (and one more arrived today ...), making it pure madness for me to even think of getting an e-reader for digital books that I don't have.

No, it's a matter of making sure I have understandable furniture in my home. Good grief people, what is a curio! Does anybody without a butler need one? What side does a sideboard go on? Any why does it go anywhere?

Shelves I understand. Don't take away the stuff I put on them. I'm but a heterosexual male. Have pity.