Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Cost of Liberation

Libya's new owners put the cost of the civil war pretty high:

"About 50,000 people were killed since the start of the uprising," Colonel Hisham Buhagiar, commander of the anti-Gaddafi troops who advanced out of the Western Mountains and took Tripoli a week ago, told Reuters.

He assumes all missing are dead. I'm skeptical that this is accurate. Fifty thousand seems rather high for the small numbers of fighters involved and the careful nature of NATO bombing.

Whatever it is, we can compare it to Iraq where perhaps 127,000 died (from all violent causes) during 8-1/2 years of war in a country with about 4 times the population of Libya.

So about 15,000 per year in Iraq (still counting) versus 100,000 per year in Libya (statistically, of course, since the fighting has so far gone on for just 6 months--and the actual toll will go up).

That's a rate about 6.7* times higher in Libya than in Iraq with the rebel numbers.

As a burden, since Libya's population is a quarter of Iraq's, we can say that the intensity of killing is 26.7* times higher in Libya than in Iraq.

Thank goodness we have a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president and not a cowboy warmonger in the Oval Office. Otherwise, pacifists might have a reason to complain about the body count. As I understand the concept, the excuse that he was just following orders leading from behind is no defense to their wrath.

I'm happy we won, mind you. And we did win (what we do as follow-up is a separate question). My commentary is directed at the President's starry eyed supporters and not him.

NOTE: *I corrected the math since I failed to correct the multiples from the raw numbers to full-year rates the first time.

Late to the Party

Oh, so now France likes NATO.

It would have been nice to have them on board during the 1970s when NATO was at its nadir.

But since I still think NATO is useful, I think I'll end this post without more comment than saying welcome to the club.

Teach Them to Elect Good Men

So when did "progressives" decide that Arabs are unable to appreciate or handle freedom and democracy? They're seriously one step away from calling them "wogs" and putting on a pith helmet.

Iraq and the Arab Spring have shown us that Arabs do indeed want freedom and democracy. Syrians are only the latest example of people willing to fight and die for it.

Western critics of democracy in Arab countries confuse the clear aspiration for freedom that Arabs show with the long process of achieving democracy with all it assumes (rule of law in all its aspects). Are we to condemn Arabs to despotism because they have no direct experience with democracy and liberty and have few clues how to really achieve them when they get the chance?

That's where we come in. Arabs want something better than autocracy and poverty. They know there are better ways to achieve it. They have lived in autocracy and they have seen the bankruptcy of Islamism. They have seen Iraqis fight through the worst that autocracies and jihadis could throw at them and start to build something better. We in the West who live in real democracy must help them build real democracy. That means more than elections that validate a dictatorship or simply change the cast of looters through legal methods. They need rule of law.

But perhaps the explanation for the progressives' lack of respect for the aspirations of the Arab Spring is that they have proven they have real gaps in their knowledge of rule of law and democracy. This year in Wisconsin where the Left launched a full-scale assault on rule of law was not the proudest moment in American democracy.

Maybe in time, Iraqis, Tunisian, Egyptians, Libyans, and Syrians will show us how it is done.

Or maybe they'll fail, in whole or in part. It is up to them. But they clearly want more than what they have and what too many in the West think they deserve. Denying them that recognition denies them their humanity.

Now It is Formal

I assumed that the deadline for welcome defection of Khaddafi loyalists ended when loyalist forces collapsed at Tripoli and alliance forces took control of the capital.

Now even the option of surrender for loyalists still resisting has a deadline:

The leader of Libya’s rebel National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil delivered the ultimatum on August 30 in a sign of the rebels’ increasing confidence as they solidified their hold on the capital, Tripoli.

"This window of opportunity closes with the end of the official holiday of Eid al-Fitr," he said.

"Beginning this Saturday [September 3], if there are no clear peaceful indications of implementing this [surrender by Qaddafi loyalists], we will act decisively to end this situation militarily. We do not wish to do it, but we cannot wait any longer."

I don't know who the loyalists think will ride to their rescue at this point. Is there a hope that Khaddafi can rally forces in the southwest and counter-attack north? I'm sure Russia and China are busy cutting deals with the new bosses and won't waste their time trying to save the old ones. Business is business. It helped Khaddafi back in the day but now it dooms them to defeat.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oh Give Me a Break

This article purports to reveal our "secret" war effort in Libya. I looked forward to seeing just what we did. Imagine my disappointment.

Good grief, if you didn't know we did every one of the things the author "reveals" you just weren't paying attention. (OK, I grant I didn't know one of our destroyers shot down loyalist Scud missiles--that's pretty cool.)

And of course, this is being spun to justify crippling cuts to our defense budget to solve our budget deficit. It's transparent, to be sure, but I won't say it won't work.

Oh, and if it was "secret," how many of the president's still-swooning supporters will liken this to Nixon's secret war in Cambodia and condemn him for it rather than praise him for his initiative?

An Evolving Capability

It wasn't long ago that people were saying that Israel could not attack Iran to hit their nuclear infrastructure. I disagreed. Israel can't do as thorough a job as we could, but if the choice is Iran going nuclear or buying time to delay their nuclear debut, Israel can indeed strike Iran.

Now the Israelis military seems to have revised the objections to be more in line with my thinking. Said a "senior Israeli defense official":

"We're not talking about Iraq or Syria where one strike would derail a program," the official said, referring to Israel's 1981 air strike that destroyed Iraq's atomic reactor and the bombing in 2007 of a Syrian site which the U.N. atomic agency said was very likely a nuclear reactor.

"With Iran it's a different project. There is no one silver bullet you can hit and that's over," the official said.

No. No silver bullet. Indeed, it is possible that even we can't really be sure we've stopped Iran with a really thorough strike campaign that lasts weeks. Iran likely has back up sites abroad that don't need to be deep underground to avoid our bunker buster capabilities.

Acceptable Collateral Damage

A common reason for not forcefully confronting the Somali pirates by using the traditional method of hitting them ashore and wiping out their bases and killing as many pirates as we can aim at while ashore is that the pirates will end their restraint and kill their hostage crews.

Strategypage explains that the pirates already kill and harm their hostage crews. Call it 70 dead and 350 sometimes severely injured from various causes, including torture, over the last four years.

But we prefer the collateral damage of inaction. That's acceptable.

UPDATE: Putting security teams on ships could become ineffective in the face of new pirate tactics of swarming target ships:

Meanwhile, the pirates have improved their tactics on the high seas. Instead of single mother ships sneaking up on a large ship at night, and sending one or two speed boats after it, several mother ships are coordinating their movements so that a half dozen or more speed boats, each with four or more pirates aboard, can quickly surround the ship. Even if one or more of the speed boats are spotted, with so many closing in, and boarding at once, the pirates now have a chance of overwhelming any defense the ship has (including the increasingly popular armed security detachment of about four former soldiers or marines).

We're increasing the level of difficulty for the piracy, but as long as young armed men think that they can earn big money with high seas theft and live to spend it, they'll keep coming.

Until India leads a force ashore (because any European or American effort would be portrayed as imperialist, colonialist, and any other bad "ist" that can be conjured up) and razes every port used by pirates, ship security will need to be ramped up to include 20mm auto cannons or better with night vision sights to actually battle the pirates rather than just try to foil their boarding efforts. We'll be in East India Company territory then.

Thanks China!

"A Chinese state-owned firm in Hong Kong has been helping Iranian ships get around U.S. sanctions."

Of course they are.

So is this the "strategic partnership" facet of our relationship with China or the "strategic competition" part?

And even if we are unsure of what is more important, what if China has already decided?

Well, She Still Has a Great Pair of Fins

Not the smartest fish in the school.

Of course she is against importing Canadian oil.

Note to you kids out there, title and first sentence Splash! references.

It's a Fair Cop

Mark Steyn notes that one sign of our federal government's bloat is that s simple raid on a piano importer (if one can assume the raid was justified) was carried out by two dozen agents:

Two dozen federal agents? To raid a piano importer? Does the piano industry have a particular reputation for violent armed resistance? Or is it that the most footling bureaucrat now feels he has no credibility unless he’s got his own elite commando team?

Obviously, 24 was the proper number. There are ways to tell if piano importers are dangerous.

Piano importers know violin importers. Violin importers also import violin cases. Violin cases were once used by Mafia hitmen to carry their Tommy guns to the site of the hit. Therefore, logically, she's a witch! the federal government needs to go in with a small platoon of agents to smother any potential armed piano resistance. Burn 'em!

Or perhaps the government built a bridge out of them. They are wise in the ways of science, after all.

Our federal government is just too damn big.


Wow. Israel really did win this round with Hamas. A sign is that I never even noticed it (well, I didn't realize how it was happening, anyway):

Hoping to avoid a repeat performance by suicidal activists, the Israelis used lawsuits to halt this year’s blockade runners. A group of Israeli activist lawyers worked with the Israeli government to keep the blockade runners tied up with red tape. ... Nine of the ten blockade runner boats eventually gave up, and the operation as officially a failure. This proved that lawfare works both ways.

After Hamas got a propaganda victory last year (aided by pro-Hamas media that could spin a violent Hamas ambush into an Israeli attack).

Kudos to the Israelis for finding an effective way to win within the rigged rules they find themselves playing under.

They Remain at War With Us

The Left (mostly the Left, but let's not forget that pitiful excuse of a Congresscritter Ron Paul in this category of idiots) used to say that 9/11 was directed at us because of what we did abroad (all that "why do they hate us?" blathering was about figuring out what we did to provoke the attack). They used to say we were falling for al Qaeda's clever plot to get us to over-react by fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. How kicking their asses was falling for their clever ploy is still beyond my nuance capabilities. But I digress.

Now, with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaching, I'm starting to hear a growing theme of the Left wanting us to move on. Why? Because the attack wasn't really directed at us and instead reflected an attack against the entire world as indicated by the many nationalities who died in the World Trade Center that morning.

So when did the September 11, 2001 attacks change from being an understandable response against America that doesn't justify our armed response to an attack against the entire world that doesn't justify our armed response?

But I call this progress even if it is merely a painfully obvious exercise in killing the last remnants of what was once the "good war" against al Qaeda. At least this line of retreat effectively admits that we didn't "cause" the attacks. How could we be responsible if 9/11 was an attack against the entire world?

Unfortunately, the excuse that we shouldn't take the attacks personally because the jihadis hate the entire world misses a couple crucial points.

One, just because the jihadis hate the entire world doesn't mean that it is irrelevant that they also hate us. Focusing on the World Trade Center for this thinking ignores that the World Trade Center was here and not somewhere else. And it ignores the inconvenient fact that no amount of mental gymnastics can disguise the truth that the Pentagon was struck (let's hear them describe that as a multinational target!) and that Flight 93 was intended for the White House or Congress.

And two, whether or not we'd like to move on after a decade of fighting jihadi terrorism and take down all those ugly concrete barriers (and more importantly, spend that security money on domestic programs with no guilt that we are lowering our defenses), as long as our jihadi enemies keep trying to kill us, we have no choice but to fight. We don't get to deem the war won and just walk away. After a decade of us killing jihadis, they'd be happy to have free runs at killing our people (again).

And since we have to fight, it should be on offense so we don't lose more than we gain. After ten years of fighting, perhaps we should examine how to better defeat our enemies rather than coming up with new excuses to retreat from the fight.

When you consider that we can spend decades "defending our currency", why is protecting ourselves such a time-limited endeavor?

As China Cheers Us On

Not all nuanced, smart diplomacy is the fault of our State Department (and I'm not just talking about competition from the Department of Defense).

Sometimes Congress manages to tie our shoe laces together and trip us up:

Complaints from the Congo are growing about the U.S. legislation intended to stop illegal mineral sales. The Dodd-Frank bill (also called the Obama Law) has a clause that prohibits the sale of so-called conflict minerals may have been well-intentioned but it was not well-thought out. Rather than run the risk of buying any minerals that might have been smuggled from the Congo, many major mining companies are simply refusing to buy minerals from central Africa. The result is a de facto embargo. There are few buyers for Congo’s valuable minerals, especially tantalum and tungsten which have many hi-tech uses. This has damaged the Congo’s economy, because the nation relies on mineral exports. According to some sources, China, which does not have to meet Dodd-Frank standards, is snapping up many minerals at very cheap prices.

No matter. We can feel good about our moral superiority. That's more important than an actual effective foreign policy, right?

Foreign policy "realists," indeed.

Taking the Safety Off?

Turkey's president is fed up with Assad:

Turkey's Anatolia news agency cites President Abdullah Gul as saying the situation in Syria has "reached a level that everything is too little, too late. We lost our confidence."

Gul said "incidents are said to be 'finished' and then another 17 are dead." Gul asked "how many will it be today?"

Of course, I'm a bit confused. Didn't the Turks give Assad an ultimatum two weeks ago? Once you do that, just implying he has to go isn't going to get him to move.

But perhaps it is a signal to the Arab League and the Russians who are both sending envoys to Damascus that no so-called reforms that might be announced after either visit will be enough if they keeps Assad in power.

I guess we'll know when the envoys leave Syrian air space on the way home.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Rituals Must Be Completed

These people are nuts.

Now go and emit no more.

Airpower Hope Springs Eternal

Sigh. I worried that the lesson of the Libya War would be that ground forces aren't needed. Just some nimble special forces to call in air power. Here we go.

The author cites Libya and Afghanistan as proof of his concepts and says Iraq would have worked fine without our conventional troops had we used the Afghan template to attack Saddam's military.

That the Taliban and Khaddafi were feeble enemies with sizable internal foes that we could aid matters not.

If the author can guarantee that we will only face feeble enemies unable to deploy significant ground forces backed by significant air assets plus we will have indigenous ground forces to exploit our air power, I'll go along with his idea. We truly live in a unique age if--for the first time in recorded history--armies are not required to conquer and hold ground.

The author says his ideas are controversial. But only in light of history. For today, he'll be hailed as a visionary who only coincidentally happens to provide a guilt-free way to slash defense spending out of the hide of the Army that has bled through a decade of war since 9/11 and crushed whatever enemy it faced.

This has happened before. Air power purists keep insisting air power can do it all. The Balkans in the 1990s saw efforts to resurrect the concept.

I picked the wrong week to give up sniffing glue.

Say What??!!

I owe the State Department an apology. I rather assumed that the problems in deciding to sell F-16 fighter planes to Taiwan surely rested with a nuanced diplomatic effort to appease China.

I was wrong. Our Department of Defense is the guilty party:

The Defense Department recently confirmed that it’s blocking the sale of 66 F-16 C/D fighters that Taiwan had wanted to buy to update its air force.

The author goes on to discuss problems that will flow from lack of future updates to a plane we still use and loss of jobs. His point that Taiwan will just buy planes from someone else misses the point that nobody else is willing to sell Taiwan planes.

But the biggest point is that the Defense Department is blocking the sale. Why?! This is insane. Why on God's Earth would our Defense Department block a sale that helps hold the line for us in the western Pacific? Without Taiwan bottling up the Chinese fleet, the Chinese will be free to move out to sea with less worry about their survival just leaving port.

The days are gone when the Department of Defense can look down on the pansies at State.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mad Minerva for the link. Sorry I was the one to break the news ...

The Cheese Remains the Same

So America's military has new respect for the French military?

Eight years ago the French were called the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” who opposed the Iraq war. ...

But something has happened on the bombing runs over Libya. France played a major role in this war, winning grudging respect from a Pentagon that has long looked down on many European militaries. Although Americans led the way in knocking out Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s air defenses with volley after volley of Tomahawk missiles, French warplanes flew the first raid into Libya and, along with the British, have flown the bulk of the airstrike missions.

Let's not get carried away here. A little nuance is in order, no?

Look, I do respect the French military. They are a full spectrum force--although with some funding problems that create serious gaps in capabilities and limit how much force they can deploy along that spectrum.

But since World War II French civilian leadership has spent more time trying to stick it to us than in being our ally. The snooty civilian leaders are the ones who have earned the title "cheese-eating surrender monkeys."

Should the Libya War earn France some credit? Yes, I credit their new leadership for taking the lead, working with others, and remaining engaged until victory (as much as I doubted they could outlast Khaddafi). Let's see how long this crowd remains in power.

But on the military side the picture is mixed. The French navy and air force committed only a narrow slice of their assets--which did a good job. But it was a medium role in a small war. Lord knows how much they had to strip from their non-deployed forces to keep their small force in battle these last five months. And America still had to fill capability and logistics gaps. Heck, the war in many ways was a 5-month live-fire exercise with Libya as the bombing range--we didn't even consider it a "war-war" since the loyalists basically didn't shoot back! Seriously, that's what the administration argued.

So give the French military some credit for fighting and defeating a small opponent as part of an alliance effort. They have some good people and some good equipment. But let's not get carried away.

Oh, and I never heard the joke about the French army knife (answer: it has 49 corkscrews and a white flag). Heh. Good one. Unfair. But still funny. Sorry guys, Paris has tainted your reputation and you've got a long way to go in the popular image of your profession.

UPDATE: Thanks to Legal Insurrection for the honor of blog post of the day (for August 30th). Even in a post mostly defending the honor of the French military, the jokes about the French military always draw attention. Like I said, you guys in the French military have a long way to go.

Total Force

This is interesting:

The Department of Defense announced today the appointment of four dual-status commanders in support of relief efforts for Hurricane Irene, marking the first time the dual commander concept has been implemented in support of a natural disaster.

So what are dual-status commanders?

When agreed upon by the Secretary of Defense and the governor of an affected state, dual-status commanders can direct both federal active-duty forces and state National Guard forces in response to domestic incidents. The concept is intended to foster greater cooperation among federal and state assets during a disaster.

Apparently, this is something new (since 2009). Nice idea to have unity of command. The confidence that the active component has gained in the reserve components during a decade of war shows. Once, reserves were all about supporting--in a subordinate role with lower status and compensation like temps--the active forces, and the active forces were skeptical about how good the reserves were.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Aim Low

I've never had high hopes for the form of our victory in Afghanistan:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

Good thing my hopes aren't high. The place is a mess and we can only do so much to help Afghans.

Keeping them from hurting us is my bottom line. Killing Osama bin Laden was nice but does not have any effect on judging whether my minimal objectives are achieved.

Nervous in the Service

In Damascus itself, where you'd think Assad would commit only the most loyal troops, some troops none too keen on shooting protesters are fighting back:

In Damascus, dozens of soldiers defected and fled into al-Ghouta, an area of farmland, after pro-Assad forces fired at a large crowd of demonstrators near the suburb of Harasta to prevent them from marching on the center, residents said.

"The army has been firing heavy machineguns throughout the night at al-Ghouta and they were being met with response from smaller rifles," a resident of Harasta told Reuters by phone.

A statement published on the Internet by the Free Officers, a group that says it represents defectors, said "large defections" occurred in Harasta and security forces and shabbiha loyal to Assad were chasing the defectors.

It was the first reported defection around the capital, where Assad's core forces are based.

I don't know if it is a "large" defection, but it is visible. How many of "Assad's" troops are looking for an opportunity to defect?

Tidying Up

Libyan alliance forces (the former rebels) are advancing on the Sirte regions from west and east.

The eastern rebels have advanced as far as Bin Jawwad on the coastal road west of Brega (Burayqah).

And they aren't in a mood to treat loyalists as welcome defectors. Now they are criminals who must surrender and face punishment:

The rebels dismissed Gadhafi's proposal, relayed by Ibrahim by phone, to have his son al-Saadi lead talks on a transitional government as delusional.

"I would like to state very clearly, we don't recognize them. We are looking at them as criminals. We are going to arrest them very soon," Mahmoud Shammam, the information minister in the rebels' transitional government, told a news conference. "Talking about negotiations is a daydream for what remains of the dictatorship."

Khaddafi should have cut a deal much earlier.

What Part of "Guarded Continuously" is Unclear?


We've placed our trust in good people. Sleep well tonight because of them.


Pakistan has been demoted:

Since the founding of modern India in 1947, the Indian Navy has placed most of its forces on the west coast, to deal with the threat from Pakistan. The east coast fleet was much smaller, and a much less desirable assignment for ambitious naval officers. That has changed. Now, China is the official “major threat” and Pakistan is rapidly declining as a challenge to Indian naval superiority off its west coast. This shift can be seen in the construction of new naval bases on the east coast.

At some point, Pakistan's people will start to realize that India really doesn't want to invade and conquer their country (I mean, really, Pakistanis can barely govern Pakistan. Why would India want to try?). If this understanding sinks in, the privileged position of Pakistan's military in staking out large amounts of the budget and even controlling a large part of the civilian economy--all justified on the threat of Indian invasion--will be in jeopardy.

This will be the biggest threat to Pakistan's military.

UPDATE: Welcome Bharat Rakshak readers. You aren't the only ones shifting forces in response to China.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I'm Not Dead Yet

But she did fool everyone for 25 years (tip to National Review Online):

The adopted daughter of Muammar Gadafy, whom he claimed died as an infant in the 1986 US bombing of his Tripoli compound, appears to be alive and worked as a doctor in the Libyan capital, documents discovered by The Irish Times indicate.

A room belonging to Hana Muammar Gadafy in the section of the Bab al-Azizia compound where the Gadafy family lived contained several documents that appear to indicate she grew up to study medicine in Tripoli and took English classes at the British Council in the Libyan capital.

Many Libyans have long doubted the story of Hana’s death, which Gadafy used to bolster the notion that he was a victim of western military aggression.

Fancy that. Makes you wonder how Khaddafi couldn't work up any decent propaganda over 5 months of NATO bombing when he got so much mileage out of one raid.

Not Yet the Main Effort

Our Regional Command East has been in a shaping operation as our main effort focused on the Taliban south (primarily Kandahar and Helmand provinces). RCE commander Major General Allyn describes the mission right now:

Our main effort is to partner with and develop the Afghan security forces to achieve security primacy and to set the conditions for security, governance and economic development for the benefit of approximately 7 1/2 million Afghans in the 14 provinces and 160 districts that comprise Regional Command East. We have built upon the successes of Combined Joint Task Force 101 and sustained the momentum and continuity of this campaign.

Our current focus, shoulder to shoulder with our Afghan security force partners, is to expand the Kabul security zone and interdict insurgent infiltration along the 450-kilometer Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

That still sounds like shaping to me. We're not trying to pacify, but are working on securing Kabul and interdicting the border influx from Pakistan. And we're building up the Afghan forces in preparation for the area becoming the main effort.

And since it isn't the main effort and our efforts in the border areas are stopping infiltration rather than control, stuff like this happens:

Hundreds of militants from Afghanistan launched a pre-dawn cross-border raid on Pakistani paramilitary posts on Saturday, killing up to 36 people, government and security officials said.

Becoming the main effort requires Kandahar and Helmand to be more secure to allow us to draw down US and other Coalition forces in those provinces to shift them to the east. I wonder when the shift in mission takes place?

Of course, with our surge component coming out faster than I'd like (and some allied contingents heading out, too), how will we shift forces from the south to the east without too much risk of losing ground in the south again? And can we get enough force in the east?

And it would help if Pakistan does a better job on their side of the border.

I think we can win. But then, I thought we could prevail without the last surge component. But a rapid draw down sure does make the job of moving the pieces on the board more difficult.

He Says It Like It's a Bad Thing

Iran's foreign minister is worried about the effects of the fall of the Assad regime:

"If a vacuum is created in the Syrian ruling system, it will have unprecedented repercussions," he said, adding that Syria has "sensitive neighbors" and that change in the country could lead to regional crisis.

If Iran is worried, that's all right by me.

There's an App for That

China can take down the video of a cyber-warfare program, but we all know they are busy on the web (tip to Instapundit).

But they don't care. We've known about their efforts for years and they didn't care then. That won't change.

One hopes that our Pentagon is making them pay--or soon will.

UPDATE: Strategypage has more. What China is doing is technically an act of war, they say. What the consequences of that will be I do not know. But China's full-court press on this front if forcing the West to take notice to stop them.

Getting What You Pay For

That's right. As an independent blogger, I follow no higher editorial guidance (not even spell check)!

Although if The Man wants to cough up a 6-digit salary to rein me in, my email is on the left.

Blow Back

The drug war rages on in Mexico. While the Mexican government does appear to be making progress, it is ugly. I have some sympathy for the Mexican president:

President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning on Friday and demanded a crackdown on drugs in the United States after armed men torched a casino in northern Mexico, killing at least 52 people.

Under intense pressure as violence soars, Calderon said he would send more federal security forces to the city of Monterrey, where gunmen set fire to an upmarket casino on Thursday in one of the worst attacks of Mexico's drugs war.

Lashing out at corrupt officials in Mexico and "insatiable" U.S. demand for drugs for fomenting the violence, Calderon urged Congress to stamp out drug consumption and stop illegal trafficking of weapons across the border into Mexico.

"We're neighbors, we're allies, we're friends, but you are also responsible," a somber and angry Calderon said to the United States in a speech after meeting his security advisers.

Like I said, I have some sympathy. But he should get off his high horse (so to speak). I vividly recall that years ago before the violence in Mexico escalated to insurgency levels that the Mexican government was uninterested in participating in our war on drugs.

Back then, Mexicans smugly said it was our problem. Back then, money flowed from American drug users into the Mexican economy and fighting drug smuggling to America didn't seem like a big deal to the Mexican government. Americans used the drugs. Mexicans received the money. Not their problem.

But like any deal with the Devil, the Mexicans didn't look at the fine print. Now Mexico is faced with the fine print--powerful and armed drug cartels with Iraq-style graphics in their own backyard.

And we'll help Mexico. We are allies and friends. And we have an interest in putting down the cartels. Perhaps we won't even rub their noses in their past unconcern. Although selling arms to the Mexican drug cartel through the efforts of our own government agents might seem a little hard hearted. On the bright side, in theory it should be easier to cut off arms going to the drug dealers from America since our government was the one doing the dealing.

But Mexico should be careful about fingering those responsible for their drug cartel problems.

The Dictator Union

Even the Arab League had the decency to turn on Khaddafi despite their membership roster of autocracties and monarchies. Even when Khaddafi is defeated and on the run, the African Union can't bring themselves to turn against Khaddafi:

The African Union [AU] has rejected calls for recognition of Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council. The decision highlights Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s lingering influence at the continental organization he headed as recently as two years ago.

We may not know who the rebels will turn out to be. But we do know who Khaddafi is, and what he did during his four decades of rule.

This decision is shameful. Or do they think it is a point of honor to remain bought after taking Khaddafi's cash?

Civility Patrol

So we're supposed to worry about civility in political discourse?

Of course, unless someone can be described as a Tea Party activist (no matter how tenuous the link), the uncivil don't get much attention from our press corps. Tip to Instapundit.

It's always "for the children" except when they are just collateral damage.

The Mouse That Roared

I recall seeing a western rebel in uniform in one news report and wondered where he got that. From Qatar, apparently, along with much more (tip to Defense Industry Daily):

“The principle source of support for the rebels came from ‘Q-SOC,’” the Qatari special forces, says this source, who would only be identified as a former U.S. intelligence contractor with direct knowledge of operations in Libya. With the advance on Tripoli impending, the “Q-SOC” teams went to work getting rebels ready to finish the war, teaching them how to use the shoulder-fired missiles they looted from Gadhafi’s weapons stocks and even the basics of shooting straight.

“They went west into the Nafusa mountains and provided minimal basic shooting and tactics training to individual rebel brigades. That’s why those rebels are generally in three-color desert uniforms,” the source tells Danger Room. The Los Angeles Times described those Nafusa-based rebels as “gritty, and gave them a large share of credit for turning the tide of the war. “They also selected 100-plus western-region Libyans for small-unit leadership training, and flew them to Qatar and then back to Nafusa for the big push.”

I wasn't impressed by Qatar's decision to send 6 planes to enforce the no-fly zone since that was a minor mission and one where lots of countries were willing to do (flying around knowing with 99.9% certainty that no Libyan jets would challenge them). Nice work if you can get it, eh?

But turning the western rebels into an actual army of sorts (but Khaddafi's forces were only relatively better trained and organized and very small) is another thing altogether. Qatar may only have 12 Mirage fighters to send, but they also only have a company of special forces. That's usually a force of one hundred or so. They did a lot with a small force. And pulling off a quick leadership training course back home was pretty good.

Of course, I expect that they worked closely with France. Qatar's arsenal is French-built. And recall France dropped arms to the western rebels at the end of June. Now we know that wasn't an isolated operation. Sending arms that Qatari special forces could train the western rebels to use would work best. So I doubt it was just training rebels to use captured weapons.

So congratulations to Qatar ft creating the army NATO needed to beat Khaddafi.

Poised to Respond

Our military is poised to sweep in behind Hurricane Irene for rescue and relief operations:

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta directed U.S. Northern Command to provide support as identified by FEMA in light of the projected path of the storm. Fort Bragg, N.C.; Joint Base McGuire - Dix - Lakehurst, N.J.; and Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass., have all been designated as FEMA Incident Support Bases (ISB). As such, we have already prepositioned 225 non-DoD trucks loaded with equipment, food, water, and generators at Bragg. Supplies and equipment are in the process of being moved to the other ISBs now.

Additionally, 18 DoD helicopters are deploying to the Northeastern United States to be ready to provide critical life saving and life sustaining support should it be needed. These aircraft are being pre-positioned close enough to render swift assistance, but out of the way of the Irene’s path. Eight helicopters are deploying from Fort Stewart, Ga., to Fort Drum, N.Y. An additional ten helicopters are afloat on the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship out of Norfolk, Va. As with many ships in the path of the storm, the USS Wasp has moved out to sea and out of Irene’s way. It will follow in behind the storm and be ready to render assistance as required.

At this time, approximately 101,000 National Guard members are available to the governors of the East Coast states, territories and the District of Columbia if needed.

This isn't why we have an awesome military. But it is a side benefit. We can respond quickly around the globe (Japan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Haiti, or wherever) and in our own backyard (including Hurricane Katrina, if you'll recall). Gouge our military too much in our budget debates and we will lose some of this ability in addition to the direct impact on our ability to deter and fight wars.

People Power

I noted that if I was Khaddafi I'd try to break Italian will to wage the war by trying to force a refugee crisis. That was Khaddafi's plan:

Italy has proof that Muammar Gaddafi planned to turn its tiny island of Lampedusa into an "inferno" by sending thousands of desperate African migrants there by boat, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said. ...

A deal between Gaddafi and Italy to send migrants back before they entered Italian waters curbed the flow of migrants -- until the Libyan uprising earlier this year brought down strict border controls and drew a fresh wave of migrants.

Italy, once Gaddafi's biggest ally in Europe, turned into a target of his rage after the former colonial power endorsed the Libyan rebel movement and joined a NATO campaign to oust the veteran leader, Frattini said.

Fifty thousand reached Italian shores this year. Hundreds died at sea. But the plan didn't work. Italy was reluctant and often appeared shaky, but Italy held long enough for Khaddafi to break first.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Greener Than Thou

In a world with greater demand for oil than supply, Canada will sell their tar sands oil to someone.

Our choice is whether we are the ones to import it or whether it gets shipped in a different pipeline and then across the sea to China while we ship our imports from across the sea where it was pumped in some heck hole of a Third World producer.

Guess what Greens want?

Build the stupid pipeline and reap the jobs and advantage of buying "polite" oil and not "blood" oil produced abroad with no regard for the environment.

Really, wouldn't Greens prefer our money go to funding Canada's government-run health system than to tyrants' luxuries, bully boys, and weapons?

This is all about the Greens feeling better about themselves and accomplishing zilch for their stated motives. Or they just want to kill our economy and make us live simpler (and poorer) lives. Either reason for their opposition to the pipeline from Canada would explain their position.

UPDATE: Yes, we'd be crazy not to approve the pipeline. Who wouldn't want more secure source of oil for us and closer U.S.-Canadian ties? Well, environmentalists don't. Which is bizarre since even on their own terms the oil will flow. If it doesn't flow south to America it will flow west to China. If it goes that way, it will take more energy to move the oil farther. That's bad, isn't it?

The environmentalists are living in a fantasy world where their "caring" counts for more than reality. Why their mental health issues should impact the rest of us is beyond me.

UPDATE: Troglopundit emailed that these loons are claiming that global warming will cause increases in mental illness. Lawsuits to follow, he says!

I think the ship has sailed on that mental illness stuff. Long before the oceans rise and the land bursts into flame.

If I pound my head into a wall hard enough, will the pain of reading about these loons go away?

To Which Victors Go the Spoils?

I wondered if the Tripoli offensive had any eastern rebel component. Those rebels remained stuck in the "waist" of Libya while the western rebels captured Tripoli. Would the western rebels take kindly to the eastern rebels waltzing in to Tripoli to claim a share of power? Stratfor discusses life after Khaddafi and raises this point:

Anti-Gadhafi rebels in Misurata waged a long and bloody fight against government forces to gain control of the city, and while the Cyrenaican rebels were bogged down in the Ajdabiya/Marsa el Brega area, Berber guerrillas based in the Nafusa Mountains applied steady pressure to the Libyan forces in the west and eventually marched on Tripoli with Arab rebels from coastal towns such as Zawiya, where earlier uprisings in February were brutally defeated by the regime prior to the NATO intervention.

These groups of armed rebels have fought independently on different fronts during the civil war and have had varying degrees of success. The different roles these groups have played and, more important, their perceptions of those roles will likely create friction when it comes time to allocate the spoils of the Libyan war and delineate the power structure that will control Libya going forward.

Just getting rid of Khaddafi is a victory. Getting more could be a problem.

The Air Campaign Over Sirte

Fighting is still going on in Tripoli and the Sirte region is getting more attention:

NATO says the alliance launched airstrikes Friday on embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte, as rebel forces gather there for a showdown with pro-Gadhafi fighters.

This is why I think Sirte is a bad choice for Khaddafi to seek refuge in. Sabha in the south away from NATO air power, closer to supply routes and more mercenaries (assuming Khaddafi has cash), and a retreat route to friendlier territory is much better.

Of course, encouraging loyalist supporters to retreat to Sirte could cover a Khaddafi run to the southern border.

The Biggest Domino Yet

With three tyrants down in Tunisia, Egypt, and now in Libya, Syria's protesters have taken heart from Khaddafi's downfall that their sacrifices could yet yield victory:

Are the countries embroiled in the Arab Spring learning from one another? Or more to the point, has the sudden turn of events in Libya offered clues to Syria’s revolutionaries on how to finally prevail after months of seemingly fruitless and unquestionably bloody protests? Syrian activists say that the dramatic changes this week in Tripoli have given Syrians new hope that the Arab Spring endures and victory may be at hand.

The euphoria of Libyan revolutionaries who overtook Gadhafi’s stronghold of Bab Al-Aziziya, is beginning to have a galvanizing effect on Syrian activists.

That was one reason I wanted victory in Libya once we were at war even though I didn't think we needed to take part in the operation (and given that I believed this should have been a European job, I couldn't bring myself to complain about our supporting role behind the rest of NATO). Not that this is a domino theory going on. But success increases chances for success. And conversely, a stand by Khaddafi could have stopped the trend with a Libyan fire break.

It's better to have protesters in the streets of Syria rather than Assad comforted by Libya.


My view of Iran's nuclear strategy has been that with so much scrutiny directed at Iran, the best way to protect against discovery or bombing isn't to dig deep (although that is useful) but to send components abroad. North Korea, Syria, and possibly Venezuela make sense for Iran. Syria  is the case in point given the nuclear facility Israel bombed four years ago, even though we officially think Iran is years from a nuclear capability via the plutonium route:

With such a lengthy timetable, IAEA inspectors roaming Iran, and American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Tehran may have chosen to outsource plutonium production to Syria - a safer option, because al-Kibar was still undetected, and a faster one, because by then North Korea was technologically ahead of the game.    

That's the biggest problem with treating the symptoms (nuclear advancement) rather than the disease (the regime itself). I don't worry about France with nuclear weapons. I worry about Iran under the mullahs without nuclear weapons.

If Iran's people go out on the streets again to protest their regime, I hope we don't give them the back of our outstretched hand (again).

The Road from Afghanistan to the Arctic Circle

Canada's small military is again pretty good (from my Jane's email updates):

Canada's missions in Afghanistan ushered in an era of rapid change for the Canadian Forces (CF) and have transformed the country's small military into an effective fighting force capable of global deployment. The question now is: will the government sustain that capability or let it lapse? Prior to 2001, the CF had endured a "decade of darkness", as described by former Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) General Rick Hillier[.]

Funny enough, that power will likely be directed to their far north. And they'll have old names for their Northern Empire:

On August 16th, the Canadian government reversed a 43 year old decision and restored the “Royal” prefix for the air force and navy. Actually, the decision eliminated the old names (“land forces command”, “air command” and “maritime command”) and brought back the more traditional Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy. The army does not get a “royal” prefix because while the air force and navy are historically answerable to the crown, the army answers to parliament.

It seems fitting.

This Will Be an Interesting Story

So who secured Khaddafi's chemical weapons and Uranium stocks?

The U.S. State Department said Thursday it believes that Libyan stockpiles of mustard agent and uranium are secure, despite continuing turmoil there. U.S. officials are less sure about the status of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons that were in Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's military arsenal.

They say that they know this by "national technical means," which usually means satellites. But I wouldn't call anything secure unless there are friendly boots on the ground. Do we just not want to call attention to that?

Bet That Isn't In the Model

Too often, climate change activists assume that the output of computer models is actual data about the climate. But they don't know nearly as much as they think they do. The data reconstruction of the past is ripe for error given the sometimes narrow basis of extrapolation. And the model itself has to fit in all the data accurately--if they have all the inputs down solid. Which they don't have.

Here's one more thing to plug into the model:

The first results from the lab’s CLOUD (“Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets”) experiment published in Nature today confirm that cosmic rays spur the formation of clouds through ion-induced nucleation. ...

“[I]t is clear that the treatment of aerosol formation in climate models will need to be substantially revised, since all models assume that nucleation is caused by these vapours [sulphuric acid and ammonia] and water alone.

Wait. What?

Unsurprisingly, it’s a politically sensitive topic, as it provides support for a “heliocentric” rather than “anthropogenic” approach to climate change: the sun plays a large role in modulating the quantity of cosmic rays reaching the upper atmosphere of the Earth.

Fancy that. Perhaps we can put a hold on those trials for global warming "deniers" that some activists think is a good idea.

Oh, here's a new label. I discovered that too much of my "Landfill" category was global warming related.

UPDATE: The global warming mafia can deem the science settled all they want. But the truth is out there. Literally. If not the whole truth, then surely a large part of it.

Who could have imagined that the big hot thing up in the sky (and its more distant brothers) affected our climate?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Counting Coup

Any discussion of the effectiveness of the NATO air campaign should just ignore the simplistic count of enemy equipment destroyed from the air:

So in five months of air strikes we destroyed 555 tanks and armored vehicles? We got 610 other military vehicles and 285 artillery pieces (including rocket launchers)? So 111 tanks, 122 other vehicles, and 57 artillery per month? Or fewer than ten total per day?

And given that stopping Khaddafi's air force from killing civilians was the justification for intervention, isn't it notable that we destroyed only 10 warplanes?

War is not so quantifiable and tallying up our coups against the loyalists may make our air force people content but misses the point of how you win wars. Libya had plenty of weapons and just destroying them at this rate would have taken years to disarm Khaddafi.

Let's work a little harder on the lessons of the war, shall we? In the end, we did way more than what we planned to do in order to achieve victory. Let's not think that the original notions of an air-power campaign led to victory.

A Thorn By Any Other Name

Given the president's poll numbers and questions of his handling of the job even among supporters, you can call the storm approaching the east coast Hurricane Irene, if you like, but it is Katrina.

The government had best be moving military, rescue, and recovery assets in place, because if this storm hits anywhere near the epicenter of America's network news organizations, the coverage will not be pretty for the administration. And it could cement the growing image of being over their heads.

Although if the response is less than perfect, perhaps there will be a reconsideration of just how badly the Bush administration performed during the actual Katrina.

An Old Strategy

So what part of Taiwan's freedom and liberty does President Ma think he can feed Peking first? Said the president to one of our admirals (according to WikiLeaks):

PLA activities in recent months demonstrated that Taiwan may need to move beyond economic discussions into political discussions with the mainland.

You know, at some point we have to worry that we might sell Taiwan some military technology that will get passed along to China if Taiwan just surrenders (in whole or in part). It may seem obvious (to conservative critics of President Obama) that President Obama's fear of China is what is stalling the F-16 sale, but maybe it is fear of Taiwan. We screwed up by selling the Shah of Iran the F-14 back in the day, if you'll recall.

One might be excused if one thinks this is one of China's aims with their cross-strait charm offensive. They do want Taiwan over all else, it seems:

As China continues rapidly modernizing its military, the country’s leaders are still largely focusing their efforts on Taiwan, according to a Pentagon report released on Wednesday.

The military balance can be shifted by reducing the other guy, too, right?

At This Point, It Isn't Even About Taiwan

If we buckle under to Chinese threats and refuse to sell Taiwan "new" F-16s (which are three-decade-old planes, actually, if you'll recall. They're good, but they aren't F-22s or F-35s), the question is about our reliability as an ally willing to help you in the face of Chinese power rather than whether Taiwan can defend itself against China:

Buoyed by growing economic and military strength, China is drawing more lines in the sand in the vast, but disputed, offshore zones in Asia over which it claims sovereignty or jurisdiction. These "red lines," which China warns should not be crossed, affect the vital interests of Taiwan, Southeast Asia and Japan.

They also test the resolve of the United States to continue to support a treaty and partnership system with its allies and friends that has been a foundation for stability and growth in East Asia since the end of World War II.

If those Falcons are the canary in the coal mine, our entire position in the western Pacific could collapse. It relies on confidence that we will counter Chinese power. Even now, Vietnam--which lacks 100 miles of water between themselves and China--is willing to buy our arms to resist Chinese coercion:

The U.S. Defense Department is examining whether the country will lift restrictions on the sale of military technology to Vietnam, Senator Jim Webb said at a press conference in Hanoi today.

The department and Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense have had “careful but positive” discussions on the issue, he said. The U.S. currently bans the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam under an arms embargo in place since 1984.

From our point of view, selling Taiwan arms even if Taiwan ultimately loses a war with China is far better than just letting Taiwan fall without a fight because nobody believes we will stand up to China. Allies and potential allies don't need to believe we can win every fight with China. But they do have to believe we will fight at their side--or just sell them what they need to fight--if they are in the sights of Peking.

Mopping Up

Fighting continues in Libya, but nothing looks to be anything like a loyalist counter-attack. The "rebels" (we need a new name for them) are addressing pockets of resistance:

Rebel forces began to purge Tripoli's streets of diehard gunmen still loyal to fugitive Muammar Gaddafi Thursday in the final phase of the battle for the Libyan capital. ...

Gaddafi's home town of Sirte, on the coast between Tripoli and Benghazi, was still not in the hands of the new leadership who have dispatched forces there.

"Talks have been ongoing for two days now between NTC and tribal leaders from Sirte to liberate the city and ensure its inhabitants lay down arms and allow access to administrative buildings," Echtiwi said.

Rebels also reported fighting in the southern city of Sabha.

And rebels alliance (let me try that term for a while) forces are on the trail of Khaddafi.

Khaddafi's embassies abroad will not be bastions of regime loyalty (take note, Dear Leader):

Libyan diplomats and students smashed portraits of Moammar Gadhafi, shouted "Game over!" and raised the rebel flag at their Manila embassy Wednesday as part of defections at missions worldwide underscoring the leader's rapid fall.

Yes, the game is over. Although picking up the pieces to put them away in the box could lead to some ugly casualties before it is done.

You Put Me in Such an Awful Spin

Apparently, "we" aren't the change we've been waiting for (tip to Instapundit):

Obama Fever No Longer Raging on Martha's Vineyard: 'I Just Have to Say I Feel Really Uncomfortable, Because I Love Loving Him'

That speaks volumes. Supporting President Obama is as much about how it makes the supporter feel than the policies of the president. For the supporter, he's thinking of the president that there's no place I'd rather you be than with me here. I love to love you, baby.

But when the change doesn't match the hope, we have major dissonance taking place. And as always, I do cherish the lamentations part over all else.

I don't blame President Obama for his good luck in having so many supporters who treated him like a blank slate to write all their hopes and dreams on. to his credit, he even mentioned that during the campaign. It was an amazing stroke of luck that got him to the White House. But those supporters, seeing themselves in their candidate, obviously feel jilted when the tangible results don't match their expectations.

Is it too early to get the ball rolling on this outreach to soon-to-be former supporters? Or will these supporters with an idealized image of their man, like mistreated lovers everywhere, convince themselves that deep down he's good and if they try hard enough they can change him into the president they've always believed he can be?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

About Those Civil Liberties

With the help of our CIA, the New York Police Department has become a potent counter-terrorist force:

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD has become one of the country's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying.

Well, yeah. New York City has a big target on it. I even recall stories from years ago that discussed how the NYPD kept people overseas to detect plots against New York targets early. The AP story mentions that and more. It is interesting.

And on the civil liberties point, this is why I've gone on over the years about making sure we go on offense to defeat the terrorists and their enablers rather than just taking a European, nuanced view of "acceptable" civilian casualties by staying on defense and getting on with our lives (as long as we aren't in the blast radius). As long as the war goes on, terrorists will penetrate our defenses and lead to ratcheting up of passive security measures that infringe on our civil liberties. If you are truly concerned about civil liberties (as we all should be), you should be screaming for victory rather than screaming about our tactics.

We can have temporary setbacks to civil liberties in the name of security until we win or we can have long term erosion of civil liberties in a struggle we tire of fighting but which our enemies do not tire of waging.

The Price of Admiralty

The Royal Navy may have life yet:

The government is looking at the possibility of reversing plans to mothball one Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier, and could keep both of the new ships for the Royal Navy, it has been reported.

Good news for the West. Is this a side benefit of the Libya War? Relying on land air bases against a coastal enemy could not have sat well with the British defense establishment and government.

After Khaddafi

The Libyan rebels are still chasing Khaddafi:

A beleaguered Muammar Gaddafi vowed on Wednesday to fight on to death or victory after jubilant rebels forced him to abandon his Tripoli stronghold in an apparently decisive blow against the Libyan leader's 42-year rule.

Rebels ransacked Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya bastion, seizing arms and smashing symbols of a ruler whose fall will transform Libya and rattle other Arab autocrats facing popular uprisings.

It would have been nice to surround and capture him, but putting him on the move will make it more likely that the NATO aerial armada will drop a smart bomb on him. That would be far more convenient that arguments over who tries him and how he is punished.

Khaddafi could try to hide in the shrinking real estate in Tripoli where his supporters live. But that's a dead end. That's victory or death terrain. He lives only by winning. I don't think he can recover. But does he believe that?

Going to Sirte seems like an option, but that goes into the teeth of NATO's aerial surveillance and strike net. That's a bad place to be.

Going south to Sabha where his loyalists still stand seems the best option to survive. Maybe he can rally forces and hire mercenaries from Africa to counter-attack. And his supporters might go along since they might be able to escape to Algeria or Chad from there. Plus it is at the outer edge of NATO aerial capabilities, meaning it will be a ground game for the most part. Can the rebels mount a serious offensive that far south?

I think Khaddafi is finished. He won't drive back into Tripoli to waving supporters. But the form of his defeat is still in doubt. Could he hang on in the south where it really won't matter? Will he flee to a sympathetic African state? Will he go out in a blaze of gunfire against rebel troops? Or will a NATO smart bomb take him out and leave the question of his fate to forensic examination of DNA?

The real question is what does NATO do. Max Hastings is clear that he does not want NATO to send troops. Max Boot is clear that NATO should send in troops. I respect both. But while I think the overthrow of Khaddafi was an American interest (both to prevent him from being a firewall in the Arab Spring and because President Obama put our prestige on the line by saying Khaddafi had to go), the fate of Libya is a European and Arab issue.

Hastings doesn't want British troops sent. Fair enough. British troops are scarce and we need them in Afghanistan. I don't want American troops there for peacekeeping or stabilization (although I assume our post-war plan is simply awesome). But Boot is right that security forces are needed and the rebels can't provide them yet. Spain, France, Italy, and Greece have an interest in keeping Libyan refugees from fleeing north. Tunisia and Egypt have an interest in a stable Libya. The Arab League itself turned on Khaddafi to provide the justification for intervention. But will they have the guts to stay the course when the going gets tough? Cheers from the liberated could not suppress for long resentment and resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq--and let's not forget Somalia where a mission of mercy for the starving turned to Blackhawk Down.

As an aside, I'd like to quibble with Boot:

Some may argue that an international stabilization force — which means sending foreign troops into Libya — risks replaying the key mistake of the Iraq war. But that depends on what you think the mistake was. Was it the very presence of U.S. troops that sparked that insurgency? There probably would have been Sunni Muslim resistance to a Shiite-dominated regime in any case. What allowed the situation to spin out of control was that the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi security forces and did not send enough of its own troops to fill the vacuum.

Yes, let's analyze Libya without the baggage of Iraq misguiding us. And yes, I agree that resistance was not caused by our troop presence. But I absolutely reject the idea that "disbanding" the Iraqi military had a role in stoking the revolt. One, it self-disbanded and our order to disband it only formalized fact. Second, how could we gain the confidence of Iraqi Shias and Kurds if we kept Saddam's army intact? If Saddam's army had been sitting quietly in its barracks, we should have disbanded it rather than use it.

And while initially there probably were too few total troops, I think the major mistake was how they were used and not how many there were. In time we had enough troops and used them well.

Anyway, the question right now is Libya. I say let the Europeans, Middle East, and African countries handle what comes after Khaddafi. We're busy elsewhere. We should certainly have special forces, spooks, and private contractors scouring Libya to scoop up WMD and government records and intelligence people to exploit (before the Russians do the same to cover their tracks), but other than that, we should stay out.

Credit or Blame?

So the issue is whether President Obama will get credit for foreign policy successes?

The White House isn’t counting on a bounce upward in new polls following this week’s events in Libya, and certainly not a six-point bounce like the one the president enjoyed in May after U.S. Special Forces and the CIA located and killed bin Laden. But the president’s political advisers suggest Obama can still get some reputational credit from voters for the exits of bin Laden and Gaddafi -- by becoming The Closer.

“It helps lock in and solidify the idea that he’s the guy who keeps us safe,” an unnamed senior administration official told The New York Times on Monday. “Reagan targeted Gaddafi; George W. Bush targeted bin Laden; Obama has done both.”

The closer? That could be a tough angle. If President Obama lays claim to solving foreign policy problems left to him by prior presidents, it will be difficult to avoid responsibility for failing to solve economic problems left to him by prior president(s), no? Won't people wonder why the president can get Khaddafi and bin Laden but they can't get a job?

On Libya, I did give the president credit for sticking with the intervention after the initial assumptions failed. It helped that we faced an incredibly weak regime with few assets. But we won. Should the president get election credit then, in 2012?

Well, when one leads from behind, it is very difficult to jump to the head of the parade to claim credit. Yes, our role was key in keeping the British- and French-led intervention on track. But we did not lead. How can the president claim more than a modest amount of credit for the overthrow of Khaddafi? He can get his name on the team trophy, but there will be no Most Valuable Player award.

Then there is the problem of timing for even clear success. In the summer of 2003, leading Democrats complained that the Iraq victory was well timed as a "mission accomplished" for President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. And shall we bring up Desert Storm and President H. W. Bush's 1992 reelecton?

For Libya, there is just enough time for things to get ugly (before they can get better) when Americans vote. The President should be careful about getting the credit he seems to want so desperately right now.

The success of nailing bin Laden was a genuine success that the president can claim credit for. It was risky. President Obama took the gamble. It worked. President Obama gets credit. As he should. But the "I killed bin Laden" bounce lasted only a couple months. Bin Laden was killed in May 2011. The election is November 2012. I know I promised there would be no math here, but that is way too long of a time gap for credit to matter much if other problems dominate the lives of voters.

Hence the persistent idea in American politics that a candidate for president will befit from or engineer an "October surprise" that will provide the tail wind to sail across the electoral college threshold in November. Needless to say, other than Iraq which Vice President Biden said could be President Obama's biggest success, the timing of the overthrow of Khaddafi and the killing of bin Laden is inconvenient.

Of course, the timing thing can be finessed. The president's Hollywood allies will release a timely reminder in fall 2012 of the killing of Osama bin Laden with appropriate credit displayed of the president's gutsy call. Unless I totally misread the leanings of Hollywood, that will be the script.

We shall see if the political side of this can be spun as much as the president will need. Hollywood tried to target Bush before 2004 and the movies were so heavy-handed in propaganda that only the true believers suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome loved the movies. They weren't voting for Bush anyway, so the movies were big fails.

Can Hollywood learn a lesson from their failure and turn out an October surprise movie that actually works? Can the president get credit from behind Hollywood's effort to put him in the lead?

UPDATE: Oh, I should add another advantage to the president on this question. There will be no Lancet or Ivy League studies purporting to show the massive body count of our intervention. Yes, our tepid aerial intervention killed few Libyans from the air (and no American or NATO personnel losses at all--which is great, I might add), but when fighting drags on because we didn't go for the kill, casualties naturally go up. Estimates from April count 10,000 to 30,000 Libyans dead for just a few months of civil war and intervention. As I pointed out early on, if your sole concern is loss of life, staying out of the fight and letting Khaddafi quickly put down the revolt would have been the best course.

For a small country even 10,000 over a few months is a lot. What the toll will be when this is all over is anybody's guess, but the relative toll will be pretty harsh compared to the fewer than 100,000 who died in Iraq in 6 years of heavy fighting in a much larger population. But the anti-war left won't condemn President Obama for the toll. Being the anti-Bush has advantages with that crowd.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The anti-store comes to Denver, and a customer recounts his horrible experience. (Tip to Instapundit)

Which is as good an opportunity as any to restore an old Geocities post on my learning experience from IKEA when it came to southeast Michigan. All it took was the catalog in the mail to warn me off. So I've got that going for me.

Picking Up the Pieces

Fighting is still taking place in Tripoli:

Fresh fighting erupted in Tripoli on Tuesday hours after Moammar Gadhafi's son turned up free to thwart Libyan rebel claims he had been captured, a move that seems to have energized forces still loyal to the embattled regime.

Rebels and pro-regime troops fought fierce street battles in several parts of the city, a day after opposition fighters swept into the capital with relative ease, claiming to have most of it under their control.

The situation is too far gone for the loyalists to manage a counter-attack to retake the city. But they can raise the price for a rebel victory.

Strategypage and Stratfor answer some of my questions about the Libya situation. When I wrote that it was "game over" I meant for the regime. They lost. Fighting isn't over. Some of my questions could point to how much fighting will go on.

First, the mercenaries jumped ship less than a week ago (Strategypage reported this on the 18th).

Second, there are hundreds of foreign advisers in Libya helping the rebels.

Third, loyalists are still holding in the Sirte region (central coastal area) and Sabha region (in the south closer to Chad than to Tripoli), plus maybe 10% of Tripoli itself and some other scattered spots.

There are limits to what the regime supporters can do since they don't have outside support the way that terrorists and insurgents had in Iraq.

Stratfor also writes that the rebels won't face the problem caused by the presence of foreign troops to sustain resistance. This contrast to Iraq ignores that the old regime in Iraq couldn't have been deposed without foreign troops, so keep that in mind.

And let's see if a UN-authorized foreign force is sent in to help the rebels restore order. The rebels claim 4,000 of their troops entered Tripoli. Is that an exaggeration? I assume there are hundreds of armed pro-rebel civilians, too. But the size of this force that penetrated Tripoli indicates just how few troops have been involved in this civil war.

I still have questions. Where are the eastern rebels? Why haven't they moved out from Brega (Burayqah) to advance on Sirte? Who will handle Sabha? Rebel statements that they expect internal uprisings to handle those areas aren't convincing. Nice work if you can get it, of course. But the collapse of Tripoli hasn't spread to these areas. Now, once rebel forces advance on them they may collapse. Remember that after the fall of Baghdad, we sent Marines up to Tikrit to see if Saddam would resist from there (heck, we worried Nazis would make a last stand in Bavarian mountain redoubts in 1945, which didn't happen). The Baathists did not try to stop us. But it took our troops going there to make sure. And if we hadn't done that quickly, some might have rallied there for a last stand. Hard to say, of course, but we might see that in Libya even if the loyalists can't reverse their battlefield losses.

And I still don't know what kind of a presence the eastern rebels had in the Tripoli assault. If this was a pure western rebel operation, the seeds of an east-west split even without Khaddafi could be there.

Sending Khaddafi off into the wilderness on the run was a win for us. Libya could get better--or worse--depending on what happens next (including what we do) but don't mistake the fall of Khaddafi for anything but a victory. Give credit to President Obama for sticking with it when the initial assumptions failed.

Not that we can't play the "what if Bush had done it" game to point out that President Obama didn't have anyone on the streets in an anti-war movement complaining about blood for oil and shredding the constitution and exceeding what the UN authorized. But that's hardly the president's fault and is more of a commentary on his supporters.

Containing a War

One of the problems with a war between China and America over Taiwan is that the war could quickly escalate to strikes against each other's homeland. Already, Chinese ballistic missiles targeted at our carriers risk inviting our attacks on the Chinese mainland to hit those missiles before they are fired.

China also will be tempted to hit the American territory of Guam where we are building up a base as we find Okinawa is too close to Chinese military assets.

If America and China go to war over Taiwan, I'd rather it be an air-sea engagement limited to the region of Taiwan and not one that extends to our national territories, which runs the risk of pushing the conflict to all-out conventional war and maybe even nuclear weapons.

Yet a Chinese invasion attempt or even a serious air and sea campaign against Taiwan will use Chinese national territory as an operational launching pad for those military assets. Those targets would need to be hit. And if America does it, China gets a free pass to hit our national territory (and perhaps Japan's territory, too).

But if we fight China in the seas around Taiwan and over Taiwanese air space while Taiwan itself strikes Chinese mainland targets, escalation risks are reduced and maybe a war between America and China can be limited. So this is good news:

Taiwan plans to develop a long-distance precision-guided missile which would be able to strike military bases along China’s southeastern coastline in the event of war, a legislator said Monday....

Lin [NOTE: the legislator] said the missile, along with several other home-made weapons systems such as the Hsiungfeng (Brave Wind) 2E cruise missile, would be used as an effective deterrent should China launch military action against the island.

“In case of war, Taiwan would be able to use the weapon to strike the air-defence and ballistic missile bases deployed along China’s southeastern coastline,” he said.

Well, as a point of order, once shooting starts it is pointless to talk about "deterrent" value. But if Taiwan can carry out the vital tasks of hitting Chinese targets on the mainland (air and missile bases, ports, command and control facilities, transportation choke points, supply depots, etc.) it reduces pressure on America to hit those targets and means that the war is more likely to be one fought over Taiwan alone.

With both America and China having nuclear weapons, that is no small thing.

UPDATE: Mark doesn't think we'll defend Taiwan anyway, so my point is moot. Thanks for the link. But maybe we can keep that view quiet for a couple more years. If the Chinese are unsure of what we'll do, our president doesn't need to be resolute on the issue, right?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cursing the Darkness

Al Gore recently melted down in frustration as he preached to the choir on global warming. Dude's gonna blow a gasket if he doesn't chill.

I meant to mention it at the time but forgot. Anyway, whatever the state of global warming "science," the bullshit is clearly settled.

Really, this is just an opportunity to link to my Prattle Hymn of the Republic ode to Al Gore. I've always rather liked it.

An Inconvenient Victory

As Assad's regime teeters on the edge in a war of attrition between his regime's ability to keep their security forces killing civilians and civilian willingness to endure the killings, Syria's civilians have gained a dose of confidence that they will win the struggle:

In the flash point central city of Homs, a hotbed of dissent against the regime, protesters shouted that Assad will follow Gadhafi, whose whereabouts was unknown as rebels claimed to be in control of Libya's capital.

"Gadhafi is gone, now it's your turn Bashar!" they shouted, witnesses said.

With Turkey making noises about intervening militarily, the fall of Khaddafi couldn't have come at a worse time for Assad.

Day 2 of the Khaddafi Entry

Still no word on where Khaddafi is as his regime collapsed around him.

Let's see how long Khaddafi makes it in his world hide and go seek championship challenge.

I Win!

I'm late to the party on this. But in response to this tongue-in-cheek post about PETA, a Meatophobic "holistic health counselor" (Finally! A college degree a mere history major like myself can look down on!) declared that my post was all about "hate."


I banged my chest, she says. Figuratively, of course. Literally would hurt too much.

I won't jump into the argument about whether she is right about the effects of a non-meat diet on sexual appetite. But it does apparently kill off your sense of humor.

Meat lovers win!

I love the InterTubes.

UPDATE: It strikes me that I'm being cruel to the young lass. She comes to my site, reads my post, and concludes that the only way my love life could be anything but stellar is my meat consumption.

The poor dear has a crush on me. Obviously, who can blame her? Rugged good looks. Sensitive to a fault. Brilliant. Thoughtful (as this update of concern proves). A sense of humor that makes Janeane Garofalo look like a humorless wretch. And, before you write in--yes, a certain undefinable cut of my jib that makes young women in their twenties want me with a passion that scares them.

Hey, I know these women are out there. I've seen the movies where the young woman falls for the middle aged guy head over heels. Lots of them. I've really come to appreciate that genre over the last decade.

But alas, it would not work. I can handle not eating meat. But not even fish? Or poultry? She's a vegan? Really?

All I can think of on that subject is The Simpsons episode where Lisa gets a crush on a man who is a level 5 vegan who doesn't eat anything that casts a shadow!

I guess meat wins again ...

An Evil Troll

I can hardly top "Miserable Vomitous Mass" as a description of the vile, Communist-loving historian Eric Hobsbawm.

So I won't try.

Very nicely played, Ms. Minerva.

Phase IV

Libyan rebels are still mopping up resistance in Tripoli. There are surely pockets of loyalists in the south and in the Sirte region. Will they resist? No news on those areas. NATO isn't quite calling it mission accomplished as far as strike missions go.

But the loyalist regime is broken and now the question is what happens. Will NATO nations contribute troops to stabilize Libya?

At least Libya shouldn't become another Iraq. For one reason, al Qaeda is unlikely to appear in force because we broke them in Iraq when they invaded Iraq and made it their primary battlefield.

Second, with rebel-friendly governments in both Tunisia and Egypt, Libya won't face the prospect of foreign supported insurgencies as Iraq endured when Syria and Iran tried to foment a civil war between Shias and Sunnis.

And third, and perhaps most important, Libya's new government won't have to deal with America's anti-war left and media constantly sniping at the new government and trying to undermine the new government and end our support for the new government. That will be big. Only a few gadflies will complain that Libyans haven't really been liberated from a horrible dictator.

And seriously, it will help that Libya is relatively small in population with the capacity to ramp up oil exports faster than what existed in Iraq which had to accomplish that task in the face of bombing attacks that forced 4 steps back for every 5 taken forward.

Libya may never become a democracy. But they have a shot at it. And as far as I'm concerned, it isn't bad to dump a dictator and prevent him from dying peacefully in his sleep. It is especially good since President Obama committed our prestige to the demand that Khaddafi had to go.

I'll be very interested to hear the story about how the western rebels were organized and supplied to the point where they led the advance that finally broke the backs of the loyalists. Qatar and the UAE reportedly were big in equipping them. France was seen air dropping a small amount of arms. What else did they do? What went through Tunisia to arm them? This will be seen as the key to the rebel victory, I think.

We shall see. But this is a victory for the West and for the Arab people. What other oppressed people will take heart from this success?

UPDATE: Oh, and in addition to the formation of a rebel army good enough to take advantage of NATO air power was the transformation of the NATO campaign from a parallel air campaign separated from what the rebels were doing to more traditional air support as rebels and Western special forces directed air power more to support the rebels on the battlefield:

The officials also said that coordination between NATO and the rebels, and among the loosely organized rebel groups themselves, had become more sophisticated and lethal in recent weeks, even though NATO’s mandate has been merely to protect civilians, not to take sides in the conflict.

Thus one of my major complaints about the NATO air-only offensive gradually became obsolete

UPDATE: One author who wants to avoid the mistakes of Iraq in Libya gets Iraq totally wrong:

We have legitimate interests in seeing a stable Libya and North Africa, but first and foremost we must discipline ourselves to remember that the establishment of that better future is a matter for the Libyans themselves. We can support and encourage but we should not go where we are not invited – surely our memories of Iraq are not that short?

Apparently, his memory of Iraq is that short. The problem wasn't that we didn't leave the matter of a better future to Iraqis, but that foreigners (al Qaeda, Syria, Iran, and the wider Sunni world that didn't like a Shia-majority government in Iraq) decided that Iraqis shouldn't have that opportunity to forge their own future. Only our willingness to fight and die with Iraqis at our side (and an able assist from the British for a while as well as other allies who sacrificed in appreciated but much smaller amounts) allowed Iraqis to do just that. Leaving it to the Iraqis alone would have been sending a sheep to the slaughter as the wolves circled the crippled, post-Saddam Iraq.

UPDATE: Oh, and after 5 months of intervention, I assume our post-war plan is simply awesome.