January 29, 2007
Yes. Yes, it Was
There are some things so stupid that only an academic could believe them. One would think that being an expert on French history would have taught him the dangers of appeasement. If he has deeper reading in European history that led up to France, he should understand the long-term danger posed by radical Muslims. Moreover, he very quickly gives away his fundamental misunderstanding of the threat and the "overreaction" he derides:
Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies' objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
Well, the enemy (at least he calls them that!) demonstrated the ability to kill our civilians in large numbers, and their willingness to do so is not disputed even by Professor Bell. Is the Professor then suggesting that we wait until they have the ability to kill us in total before ending the threat is something other than "overreaction"? Is the Professor suggesting that waiting until the only possible way to end the threat is genocide is somehow measured and well-considered reaction?
Finally, and above all, this is exactly the reason we are fighting a slow war: to prevent the kind of genocide that would be necessary if we failed to act until the enemy has the capacity to annihilate us.
January 7, 2007
Unsurprising to Me
Wizbang notes that the Sunday Times is reporting Israeli plans for a nuclear strike on Iran to cripple the Iranian nuclear program. While this report may or may not be true, it's certain that the possibility is unsurprising to me, since I have been writing about it off and on for at least two years. But it's likely that the Sunday Times report is not any advanced warning of imminent attack; more likely it's a strategic leak designed to make Iran think seriously about the possible consequences of its intransigence.
December 19, 2006
Among the Reasons I am Unsuited for Diplomacy
Were I the US lead negotiator at a conference such as this, where the North Koreans basically demanded that we recognize N. Korea as our equal in standing, give them all kinds of money and goodies (including a nuclear reactor and energy help in the meantime), back off our strangling of their counterfeiting (of US money) operations, and accept N. Korean nuclear weapons before they would even agree to talk to us, I'd toss their lead negotiator a Sacagawea dollar, advise he use it to get a sandwich because he's looking a little thin, and walk out. But that's just me.
November 20, 2006
There's a Word for This
And that word is "insurrection," and it is cause enough for the Mexican military to go in and arrest every person involved in this phony government. Of course, given the situations in Oaxaca (about which see Mark in Mexico) and Chiapas and along the US border, it's doubtful the government will take the action necessary to prevent Mexico from sliding into a more serious revolution; the federales are slowly losing control of the country, bit by bit.
October 20, 2006
Fran Porretto has an interesting post on the decreasing supply of people supporting our war effort as a good policy. There is a question the war skeptics, and moreso the outright anti-war or (more usual) anti-Republican-as-President-and-whatever-he-might-do, have failed to answer: if we fail in Iraq, whether outright or by declaring victory and leaving the job unfinished, then what?
We cannot reasonably hope for the enemy to go (or stay) home; were that true, the 9/11 raids would not have happened. Nor can we sustain a policy of occupying the oil fields for the benefit of Western nations and fighting off all comers, because we are morally opposed to robbery in that sense (odd, given the income tax, but there it is). Nor can we sustain a policy of simply bombing to destruction any nation that sufficiently antagonizes us, as witness the situation in N. Korea in 1994 and in Iran today. Nor could we sustain a policy of sequestration, as Fran has advocated for in the past. Nor could we depend on others, either moderate Muslims or other first-world allies, to go into the Middle East and fight the jihadis on any terms.
Even ignoring the cascading failures that would inevitably follow in Afghanistan, Pakistan and around Israel; even ignoring the damage to our reputation which confirming the Vietnam precedent would do, after decades of trying to salvage our reputation, and the further threats, provocations and attacks that would invite; even ignoring how our military's morale would collapse — even ignoring all of this, what could we do to defend ourselves?
If we fail in Iraq with our current policies, which is certainly possible, and we can not change the situation by occupying the oil fields, or by killing the enemy and a lot of civilians from afar, then what? We could certainly surrender, which is exactly what we would we be doing if we cocoon ourselves and depend on defense. But the most likely course is that we will withdraw into a cocoon, periodically striking out ineffectually, as we tear ourselves apart internally for a while.
Meanwhile, the next real crisis will come not with a falling tower, but with fallout; not with war, but with genocide. I have yet to hear anyone who suggests leaving Iraq to its fate come up with any strategy to prevent this.
October 9, 2006
Crossing the Rubicon
In detonating a nuclear weapon in an underground test, North Korea has provided a clarifying event. While there seems to be a lot of discussion about who is to blame (focusing on Clinton v Bush or N. Korea v China v S. Korea v Japan), the reality is that it does not matter, in strategic terms, how North Korea came to this point, only that it has. While there is still some small room for denial (sure, they have nuclear weapons, but can they deliver them?), the nations of northeastern Asia must now add the certainty of North Korean nuclear weapons to their strategic calculations.
While this situation is useful for China if everything rolls their way, Japan and South Korea in particular (and to a lesser extent Taiwan and Russia) have to reconsider their interests rather dramatically. The North Korean regime bases its legitimacy on a religious worship of military force. (In a very real way for the North Korean leadership, this test is an act of worship, the programs developed only through starving the people are an act of sacrifice to their demonic and insane gods.) But the North Korean state is teetering on the brink of collapse, brought about largely by the famines induced by the leadership's constant brinksmanship and failure to allow any but the most pure Communist theory into such practical areas as agriculture and transportation.
Would the North Koreans, in the act of their eventual collapse strike out at South Korea and Japan, even at China? Does massive food aid, per South Korea and Japan for the last decade, stave off the crisis or merely prolong it? Does giving food aid make the North Korean military more capable, or make the population less likely to revolt in desperation, or both, or neither? What does North Korea plan on doing? What would they do if their plans were frustrated? And in all cases, the neighboring countries must be asking themselves two questions: how does this affect me, and what can I do to make the situation fall more in my favor.
My guess is that the "sunshine policy" is now dead letter; neither Japan nor South Korea can afford to give aid to North Korea hoping either to buy favor or to buy time: the favor is clearly not forthcoming and the time has clearly passed. China will likely not halt food and fuel shipments to North Korea, even though that is the one move that anyone other than the North Koreans could take that would be most likely to bring about an end to the North Korean nuclear and missile programs.
I would also assume that Japan will re-militarize. At least to the extent of building up their military, and particularly their air force and anti-missile systems (which they are developing in cooperation with the US). Japan might very well develop nuclear weapons themselves, or purchase them from the US or France (we'd probably not sell, but the French probably would). If Japan were to go down this route, they could have sophisticated and deliverable nuclear weapons within a very short time. They have the technical expertise, the sources of fuel and the industrial base necessary. I suppose we'll know in two years or less.
South Korea, in a similar position to Japan but complicated by land borders, might well be too paralyzed by fear of North Korean collapse to do anything at all productive. They would likely cut off aid to the North (see above), but would be far less likely to develop nuclear weapons. However, if China were to provide North Korea with sufficient political cover, and especially if the US were to withdraw from the Korean peninsula, South Korea might feel the need for nuclear weapons of its own. In that event, North Korea is much like Japan: it would have working, deliverable nuclear weapons within two to three years.
Taiwan is not directly threatened by North Korea's move. However, if China succeeds in brandishing North Korea as a deniable threat to keep others from interfering in the region, Taiwan could see this as prelude to a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Whether Taiwan's internal resistance (provided by the former mainland Chinese who fled to Taiwan in 1948) to military procurement and self-defense would weaken is an open question. Whether Taiwan would acquire nuclear weapons is even more doubtful. It is likely that Taiwan's policies would not change over this, unless China becomes a much more looming threat than they are today.
For the US, the worst thing we could do would be to withdraw our troops from South Korea. While I generally favor doing so (the South Koreans can defend themselves), such a move at this point would encourage those seeking nuclear weapons (particularly Iran) as well as the North Koreans themselves, to think that the US will backdown from even a miniscule nuclear threat. That would result in much worse consequences down the line, because any minor crisis between the US and a nuclear or nuclear-seeking state would immediately be escalated into a serious risk of nuclear war. Just because it's the worst thing we could do does not mean that we won't do it. Sometimes we are that dumb.
The second worst thing that we could do would be to do more than make pro forma diplomatic noise. We don't want to hand North Korea a propaganda victory, and Dave's advice (linked above) to not panic is good advice. We should continue the policy of politically minimizing North Korea, making sure that no one is unaware of North Korea's fundamentally-evil regime, but not giving North Korea the legitimacy it seeks. In other words, we would be making a mistake if we change anything about our negotiations policy based on this; that would be escalating North Korea's position and stature, which largely derives from how much they get other nations to bend to their will. And even if their will is simply to get us talking again so that they can walk out on us again, we buy their regime life simply by taking them too seriously in the international arena.
I do think that we should pressure China to crack down on North Korea, and that we should (as part of that and independent of that) encourage Japan at least to obtain a nuclear counterweight to North Korea and China. It also seems to me to be a good idea to issue a declaration that any nuclear or radiological explosion in the United States, Europe, Japan, or the territory of any other US ally would be met with an immediate and overwhelming nuclear attack on North Korea, on the assumption that North Korea either undertook the attack or supplied the weapons, and that this policy will be extended to any other nations (such as Iran) that develop nuclear weapons and support terrorism. Pakistan can be left out of that list, or added in, as circumstances require it. (We'd be wiser to leave Pakistan off the list, I think, at least while Musharraf is in power.) The idea there is to replace NPT's failed attempt with a more brutal (but more likely workable) form of pressure.
Speaking of which, the NPT is dead and we should stop pretending it is alive. We should announce that given the obvious failure of the NPT, we will not rely on its mechanisms alone or even primarily to ensure that states like Iran remain non-nuclear. Rather, we will use all of the instruments of our power to that end, and will ignore the NPT mechanisms where they are not producing concrete results in meaningful time. Yes, this means that we should explicitly make clear that we would use force if necessary, without regards to the UN's positions or anyone's negotiations, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.Posted by jeff at 10:00 AM | TrackBack
September 29, 2006
Target! Tank: 8600 meters. Sabot.
There are five basic classifications of weapons: melee weapons, missile weapons, mines, chemical weapons and nuclear weapons. A melee weapon is a sword, knife, club or similar instrument that does its damage by being bashed against the enemy, pushed into him, or some similar manner of employment. Missile weapons are weapons that throw some object away from the launcher, and do their damage when (if) that object hits its target. For the purposes of what I want to talk about the rest of the types are academic.
Missile weapons themselves can be operated in two distinct modes: direct fire and indirect fire. Direct fire means that you see your target, adjust for distance (a projectile falls due to gravity as it travels from its launcher) and other factors (some modern systems adjust for humidity and reported cross-winds half-way to the target!), and fire a projectile at that target. The principle is the same for bow and arrow, rifle and bullet, or cannon and shell. Today, of course, computers do much of the work for tank guns and artillery, such that a modern American tank can reliably hit targets with one shot at 4000 meters. (Which is why our invasions of Iraq and Kuwait were so seemingly easy: the enemy was destroyed before he could come within his own 2000 or so meter effective range.)
Indirect fire, on the other hand, is a mathematical game. Rather than taking an enemy and putting your gunsight on him, you determine where the enemy is in relation to you, do some math, and fire a shell along a parabolic arc which (hopefully) intersects that point. For that reason, you can shoot at targets 20-50 miles away with artillery (and anywhere in the world with large missiles) with a pretty good chance of hitting the enemy. Modern guided (usually GPS or laser) artillery shells have an excellent chance of hitting the target with one or two shots at 30 or more miles, if there is a person near enough to observe the target.
The primary difference between direct and indirect fire is simply that of seeing the enemy. Because a tanker or infantryman sees the enemy, he can choose his own targets. Because artillerymen cannot see the enemy, their fires have to be directed by observers who can see the target. But the US has just changed the equation in a fundamental way: the US has introduced a tank shell that has scored a kill at 8600 meters!
In other words, US tanks equipped with the MRM can now offer direct fire on targets that it cannot observe directly, giving the benefits of direct fire (pick an enemy and kill him without outside assistance) and indirect fire (range and difficulty, to the enemy, of returning fire or defending themselves) in one platform.
This is as much of an advance over WWII as WWII was over the US Civil War. In other words, once this is in full-scale use, there is not a conventional army in the world, regardless of size that can expect to win against the US Army. Which means we had better get very, very good at counter-guerilla work, because we're going to be seeing a lot more of it in the future, at least until we have an adversary rich enough and sophisticated enough to keep up, should that ever again happen.
September 20, 2006
Here's the thing about rants like Chavez' UN spew: it's just the squeaking of the impotent, inconsequential and unimportant looking for a little attention. He wants to feel big. It's kind of like my four year old when he's really tired and wants to get his way: he cannot get it by persuasion or moral force, so he lies on the floor kicking and screaming. But of course, Chavez is all grown up, on the outside. Which just takes us back to impotent, inconsequential and unimportant.
UPDATE: And I gotta love the idea of Noam Chomsky "loving" America like an abusive husband "loves" his wife. He had to beat her up: it's for her own good.
September 19, 2006
Full of Crap
Hossain Derakshan opines
that Iran should develop nuclear weapons:
[E]ven if Iran becomes the most peaceful, secular and progressive, yet still independent state on the planet, the U.S. would be unable to tolerate it. The U.S. would seek new excuses to topple Iran's government and install their favorite instead.
Quick: name the last secular democracy that the US invaded.
For this reason, I believe Iran needs to produce nuclear weapons as a defensive mechanism, to deter the U.S. today and the ever-expanding and equally energy-hungry China tomorrow.
Here's the thing: if Iran were a secular and progressive country, I would have no objection to them developing nuclear weapons. I don't mind Israel, India or (formerly) South Africa having nuclear weapons. I wouldn't mind Taiwan or Japan or South Korea or Australia or Brazil having nuclear weapons. I only mind Pakistan having nuclear weapons because they are so politically unstable, and I only mind China having nuclear weapons because I am unsure of their insularity. As long as China doesn't attack its neighbors, I have little problem with China having nuclear weapons at all. I only have problems with Russia having nuclear weapons because they don't have a very good nuclear safety record, and I worry that they will lose a few to terrorists who are more concerned with getting the weapons than the Russians are with keeping them from being taken.
I worry about North Korea having nuclear weapons, and would worry more if I were more confident that the North Korean weapons work, or if I didn't feel that we could engineer North Korea's fall (and are trying to) via financial and political pressure. I worry enough about that that I would be willing to declare an embargo against anything coming out of North Korea by land, sea, or air and would be willing to go to war to enforce it, because North Korea is not beyond selling a nuclear weapon to terrorists in the way that Kos is not beyond attacking President Bush for any failing, real or imagined.
But Iran is an expansionist theocracy which has been attacking the US, overtly and covertly, for 27 years, and which is fighting an undeclared low-level war against the US in Iraq as we speak, and which recently fought (undeclared) against Israel alongside Hizb'allah, and which is otherwise acting inimically to US interests immediately, and to my personal interests (to the extent they diverge from US interests) over the long term. So I don't just worry about Iran having nuclear weapons: I find the prospect unacceptable.
(hat tip: Glenn Reynolds)
September 13, 2006
In an offhand comment, in seventeen words, Wretchard managed to say what I've spend perhaps a few thouseand words in a dozen posts, as recently as yesterday, trying to say: "[T]he prospect of asymmetric warfare becoming symmetric that is the principal danger in the war on terror." At the point where we see Westerners adopting the enemy's organization, we will know our governments have failed to protect us. At the point where we see Westerners adopting the enemy's organization, we will know our civilization has failed to balance survival and liberalism.
September 12, 2006
Armies of Davids
If the Army of Davids thesis is true, and I believe it is, there are some things we should be seeing happen as a natural consequence. In particular, there are two types of NGOs we should be seeing form. The first type is organizations formed around the idea of nourishing Westernization and modernization in the Arab world, and the second type amounts to vigilante groups (operating internally in the West) and private armies (operating externally to the West).
Organizations intending to nourish Westernization and modernization in the Arab world (and probably in Africa and possibly elsewhere) would essentially be a private effort to "shrink the Gap." Such organizations would probably initially consist of providing security for Western firms or local people trying to do things like building a modern economy (banks, factories, and so on) or culture (schools, churches, and so on). They would almost certainly evolve into bringing in additional investments and programs. This would actually cause a huge amount of disruption, because it would bring massive cultural change to areas not noted for their tolerance to cultural change. On the other hand, governments like those of Iran, Iraq, and possibly Jordan would welcome the idea of having stronger economies, and would likely be at least somewhat willing to take the short-term rise in violence for the long-term rise in economic activity.
Organizations built around a more aggressive model of confronting Islam would likely take two forms, and might take a third. One form would essentially be vigilantes, working domestically to uncover jihadis and Islamists, with the intent being anything from pressuring authorities to arrest and charge such people, to trying to drive them out. This type of group would form if people felt endangered by the Muslims in their community, and didn't feel that the police could or would protect them. Something like this,
but with a different objective.
The second type would be private armies, operating abroad to kill or capture enemies where the government could not or would not. This could be something like the Abraham Lincoln Brigade of the Spanish Civil War, with people volunteering in nations at risk, or it could be something more like WWII's USFIP. Such an organization might adopt the structural organization of guerilla (and terrorist) groups: small cells operating independently. It might instead operate more like a brigade, operating as a large unit with detachable parts. Much about its structure would depend on whether it were operating under legal sanction (such as by obtaining a letter of reprisal) or were extra-legal.
The really scary form, that hopefully will not come about, is the organization that adopts the terrorists structure and methods to "terrorize the terrorists". There is some evidence that such a group might be forming in Britain.
I think that seeing organizations like the hospitallers, but non-religious, is a good thing, as it would lead in the long term to a more tolerant society, as well as making business and social changes safer in the interim (though likely with a lot of fighting, but now on both sides instead of only the enemies' side). If vigilante organizations form, it will be because of a lack of confidence in the government's ability or willingness to enforce the law, which would be a bad thing (though the groups themselves would not necessarily be a bad thing). If private armies form to operate in areas where the government can't or won't go, that would be a good thing, as long as they didn't turn into terrorists themselves, in that it would remove sanctuaries the enemy currently enjoys.
The question I have is, which of these groups are already forming, somewhere out of sight?
How do you Achieve Something?
When I read posts like this (also found here, with more intelligent comments), I wonder how people who could write such a thing ever achieve any goal they set. In my world, you set a goal, along with a cost you are willing to pay to attain that goal; formulate a strategy to attain the goal, complete with some set of observable metrics that tell you whether you are progressing towards attaining the goal; design a plan to implement the strategy, complete with alternatives and options that would be invoked based on the situation as it changes; and set about performing the tasks called for by the plan. Mike Reynolds' ('sideways') world does not appear to work that way, and some of the comments on the Donklephant post indicate that there are some whose worlds are even more divergent from mine.
Let's take the specific incident that Reynolds writes about: Pakistan's recent agreement to withdraw from tribal areas. Reynolds, like Roggio (the link in the last sentence), has a very pessimistic take on this, most prominently indicated by his title: "Did We Just Lose?" (I am cautiously hopeful.) Another indicator of deep pessimism is this:
Our goal was to deny Al Qaeda a safe haven in the near east. If this deal is what it looks like, we appear to have failed.
If this deal is what it looks like, we aren’t even back at square one: we’re wishing we could get back to square one.
In fact, if this deal is what it looks like, we just lost a war.
Um, OK, let's take it from the top. The President set the national goal for the war on September 20, 2001:
Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. ... [T]he only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows.
In the same speech, the President began to lay out the strategy he would follow:
We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.
We will come together to improve air safety, to dramatically expand the number of air marshals on domestic flights, and take new measures to prevent hijacking. We will come together to promote stability and keep our airlines flying, with direct assistance during this emergency.
We will come together to give law enforcement the additional tools it needs to track down terror here at home. We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to know the plans of terrorists before they act, and find them before they strike.
We will come together to take active steps that strengthen America's economy, and put our people back to work.
The strategy was made very explicit in 2002. Obviously, two parts of the plan were to eliminate the enemy's safe haven in Afghanistan, and to eliminate a major sponsor of terrorism in Iraq. Both of these have been done.
So if Reynolds' and Roggio's most profound fears are true, and the enemy acquires a new sanctuary, a more difficult sanctuary for us to attack than was Afghanistan (and now would be the time to remind everyone that most people who knew anything about Afghanistan thought that the enemy's Afghan sanctuary was more or less immune to serious attack), does this mean that we have lost the war, that our goals are unattainable? Hardly. Indeed, such an outcome, while a setback, would not even mean that our strategy was obviously wrong. It might merely indicate that Michael Ledeen's constant refrain, "faster please," should get more attention than it has heretofore. It might indicate that our strategy needs to be compressed in time, or that we need to modify or even completely rethink our strategy. It does not mean that we have lost.
But there is another side to this as well. What if this development opens the way for US troops to go into Waziristan and fight the enemy directly, with the enemy having no border as easy to hide behind as they do between Afghanistan and Pakistan? What if this development means that the tribal leaders are going to stop their cross-border raids and kick out the terrorists? What if this development is a way for Musharraf, knowing the agreement will be violated, to develop a domestic political consensus to commit real force to the area for the first time? Would this then even be a setback, in retrospect?
Unfortunately, we have developed a serious analysis problem. Our communications are so fast that we get almost instant news of what happens in even the remotest corners of the globe. But we only get that news, generally, if it is in the interest of mainstream journalists to provide it, and when they do, they often get the whole point so completely wrong that the information that is communicated is more false than true. This leads to bad, but rapid, analysis; to incorrect, but rapid, responses. We need to learn to sit back and let events unfold without feeling we have to respond immediately to each and every one. And we need to think through all the possible consequences, not just the most facile rationales or the most immediately horrifying or gratifying possibilities. First reports from the field, goes the military dictum, are generally wrong. We need to remember that.
But more importantly even than that, we need to remember that some goals are important to achieve. We need to remember that goals often have costs that need to be paid, and in this case, while the ashes were still settling over Manhattan, we put a very high price indeed on this particular goal. The world situation has not so changed as to make the goal unreasonable, or unnecessary to achieve. So we must attain our goal.
And we must remember that strategies sometimes are not quite right, but that it is better to do something that makes incremental gains than to do nothing, or worse still to pretend to be doing something while really just hoping the problem goes away. Worst of all is to pretend to be doing something useful while actually doing something guaranteed to make it harder, even impossible, to obtain our goals. If our strategies aren't quite right, we need to adjust them. We do not need to scrap them. If going to the store to get something turns out to be a bad idea, because that store doesn't carry that particular item, it doesn't mean you go to the park instead; it means you find the store that has the item you need.
Further we must remember that any plan we make will be flawed, and even if nearly perfect, will require many changes of direction as contingencies change the situation we are responding to. Worse, we could have to rethink the plan if it is not working. You don't throw up your hands if the store is sold out of the item you want; you get an alternate brand, or you go elsewhere, or you wait for the store to restock. Finally, the enemy gets a say in the situation, too. Imagine trying to get milk from the store while being shot at, and you are closer to the problem the military has.
It's possible, of course, to just throw up your hands at the slightest impediment and throw a screaming fit. Most two year olds do it. I've know forty year olds to do it. But those are people who don't get what they want, and who alienate everyone around them along the way. This war is important; this goal must be achieved, if we are to have a hope of leaving a peaceful, free, and prosperous life. And for that reason, we must not throw up our hands at every setback, must not throw a fit when things are imperfect (I'm picturing Andrew Sullivan right now). Instead, we must get the job done, and where we are making mistakes, we must fix them.
Reynolds' approach, though, to declare defeat when something happens that might be bad, or might not, is hardly a way to set about that process. At least, not if we care to win.
September 11, 2006
I has been five years since the 9/11 raid changed the world. Five years since 2996 Americans and foreign guests were murdered in the most spectacular attack on America since 1941. Five years since the idea of the end of history died in all but the most deluded minds. Rather than talk about the day, adding meaningless chatter to meaningless chatter, I would simply like to remember the dead, in two ways. First, in the extended section of this post, is a list of the victims. Second, throughout the day, the events as they happened, taken from the 9/11 Timeline, will be posted at the corresponding times.12:01 AM | TrackBack
September 6, 2006
Establishing Ground Rules
Brian Dunn is worried, as am I and as are many who want the experiment in Iraq to work, that the US will cut and run, as soon as the Democrats gain any measure of power. While this might or might not be good for Democrats' electoral prospects (depending on what follows after and how it's spun), it would be disastrous for our ability to fight against terrorism. Not fighting now, after such a commitment of national effort, would be tantamount to utter surrender, and both our friends and our enemies would know it. This is true even if you call it "redeployment" instead of "retreat", and it's as true of Afghanistan as of Iraq.
We would be abandoned by Muslim allies in droves, because they would make accurate judgments about their life and death chances with or without us. No Europeans would come forward to aid us any more, because they would make accurate cost/benefit choices, too. Iran would become massively emboldened, as would Syria. Iraq would devolve into a bloodbath, and probably suffer invasions from Iran and Syria and possibly even Turkey.
The problem is that President Bush can only control events, to the extent even he can control events, until the end of his term. After that, it's up in the air. But there is a way to powerfully influence events now and in the future, that is so easy of a call that I cannot believe we haven't done it. Why haven't we established 50 year leases on a couple of bases in Iraq, with the intention of basing an Army division and an Air Force squadron or two there more or less permanently? It would certainly make our intentions clear, and would make it much harder for future administrations to undo our commitment to changing the Middle East.
The jihadi dreams of al-Qaeda's safe havens in western Pakistan have become a reality. And the gains made by the Coalition in Afghanistan have now officially been wiped away with the peace agreement in the newly established Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.
He might be right, but there is at least one circumstance under which Roggio may be dead wrong. If the government of Pakistan is washing its hands of Waziristan, and saying that it doesn't care what happens there — in effect, if the government of Pakistan is withdrawing its sovereignty from Waziristan — then the US has an opportunity to crush this troubling haven for jihadis, including apparently bin Laden and Zawahiri. Because you see, there is an open declaration of war against those responsible for 9/11, and these guys qualify.
The whole reason that we haven't taken out these sanctuaries before now, is that Pakistan has wanted to deal with the problem themselves, which would have the nice side benefit of keeping Pakistanis from rising up out of fury at an American invasion. But if this agreement opens the door for us, I say we grab the opportunity. It could be a chance we've never had before, and won't easily get again.
September 4, 2006
It Was Only a Matter of Time
It has come to this in Britain. The only surprise to me is that it took so long, and that it was in Britain rather than France or the Netherlands. Why are they adopting the tactics of the terrorists? Because they work.
The next step will be when they begin to carry out their threats. The authorities will crack down much harder on non-Muslim Britons attacking Muslims than they have on the Muslims for their attacks and incitement; such is the nature of the "white guilt" cult. But these crackdowns will lead to increased, not decreased, attacks on Muslims as more people become convinced that the government will not protect them against a thuggish Muslim subculture. Unfortunately, the non-thuggish Muslims will also be attacked. They will radicalize, in self defense. And this will drive the cycle downwards.
I have long maintained three things: 1) people will fight the war against the jihadis if their governments don't; 2) Europe will have a civil war (Muslims v everyone else) in our lifetime; 3) Europe's politics, at the next tipping point, will go radically right wing to the same degree that they have been radically left wing since before WWII. I believe that this is evidence that the first point is starting to come about, and that it will lead to the second.
September 3, 2006
It's Worse than That, It's Physics, Jim
So, why would Iran be pursuing nuclear fuel enrichment and a long-term reactor plan when the don't have the uranium domestically available to sustain it, but do have the oil and natural gas energy to sustain their energy usage far longer and at a lower price? I mean, if Iran's motivation were to break the dependence on imports of refined petroleum (they mostly just produce the raw materials), they could build refineries, yes? And if their concern were with maximizing revenue through oil sales abroad, they would still want to minimize costs to generate those revenues, because what they would really need to maximize is profit, yes? So if there's not a rational case to be made for Iran's nuclear program, then what could they possibly be using it for?
I mean, they've threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", and that was at the follow-on conference to the one where they were talking about how to have a "world without the Great Satan". They've blocked the IAEA from inspecting sites that Iran would have a perfect right, under the NPT, to operate, were they only for a peaceful nuclear program. They've stalled negotiations repeatedly, and rejected incentives that directly address the goals stated by their negotiators (such as having a domestic energy infrastructure not subject to foreign disruption) while bringing up terms and conditions unrelated to a peaceful energy program.
What could they possibly have in mind? And why does this remind me of something in recent history? Could it be that Iran, like North Korea, is seeking nuclear weapons? Could it be that since Iran is pursuing the same tactics as North Korea, in a similar strategic environment and with similar sources of expertise and materiel, that Iran is pursuing the same goal that North Korea was: a nuclear arsenal?
My guess is that, yes, Iran is doing exactly that. In fact, I think that the evidence is as strong or stronger than it was against Saddam. (And before you object that Saddam did not have an active nuclear program, I would ask you to go back to the time prior to the invasion and find people who consistently thought that. In the post-9/11 world, if you behave like a megalomaniac desperate to acquire nuclear weapons to use against America, we're likely to believe you. So why should we take the Iranians at their word, when if we are wrong, the inevitable outcome is nuclear genocide?) And the real question is, what do we do about it? There is a small window, maybe 2 years, maybe 5, maybe less than 1, in which we can definitely prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons and prevent a nuclear war. There is another window, perhaps 5 years, maybe even less, from when the first window closes, during which we can end the Iranian threat without the destruction of Israel or a US or European city, but this would likely entail a nuclear war. (For example, if Iran has a few nuclear weapons and threatens Israel, almost a certainty, would Israel hesitate before obliterating any chance of that arsenal being used? When the alternative is the utter destruction of Israel? How sure are you?)
After that ten years, I think that the odds rise steadily to a near certainty that Iran would, directly or through proxies, attempt to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons, possibly first decapitating US political leadership in order to disorganize and delay any American response, while pleading with the world to "prevent an unnecessary nuclear catastrophe" caused by US "aggression".
In other words, I think we are looking at several curves of probability: that Iran possesses nuclear weapons (near zero now, rising to near certainty within ten years, and likely much less), that America and/or Israel believe that Iran has nuclear weapons (probably trending slightly ahead of the Iranian possession curve), that Israel or the US would pre-empt the Iranian weapons program they believe to exist (well below the belief curve, but rising sharply as certainty rises, eventually surpassing the belief curve), and the probable casualties curve (the multiple of the US/Israel belief curve with the US/Israel action curve). The point of maximum danger is when the probability of Iran's possession of a nuclear weapon becomes high enough that the US/Israel belief curve equals or exceeds the probability of Iran having nuclear weapons and the probability of action curve equals or exceeds the belief curve. At that point, it is a certainty that the US or (more likely) Israel would act to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and given that the belief would be (at that point) that Iran does have nuclear weapons, the odds of a nuclear first strike on Iran would be staggeringly high. Ironically, the odds go up if the media succeeds in significantly delaying action against Iran, because that means that the probability of action curve would be sloping more steeply at the end, which would indicate that the attacker (Israel or the US) would feel in far more imminent danger than they would had there been a steady escalation towards a pre-emptive attack.
In other words, I believe that if we do not act to destroy the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon well before that possibility can be actualized, then we drive the probability of nuclear warfare up dramatically. I am of the opinion that we would be better off to minimize the curve that indicates probability of a nuclear attack than to minimize the probability of the curve that indicates a war. The maximum likely casualties would be lower that way.
September 1, 2006
Anything at All
Today is the second anniversary of Beslan, which was the event that took me from "we must defeat terrorists" to "we must destroy the jihadis and probably the Islamists utterly". And Gerard's pieta, which I linked, is probably the saddest thing I have ever read. I have four sons, and yes, I would do anything, anything at all, to keep them out of that picture.
Is There a Better Way?
Dave at The Glittering Eye commented (in a post containing much more) that he would rather consolidate our intelligence functions back into the military. (Dave also makes a mistake: the military and State Department both had intelligence offices before the CIA was formed, though the military's OSS was used as the basis of the CIA.) Mark at ZenPundit defended civilian intelligence agencies.
What I really have a problem with, and what the 9/11 Commission recommendations that created the DNI did not solve, was that there is no separation between gathering and evaluating intelligence. Let me start over, because this is something that's been bothering me for a long time.
At its root, we say "intelligence" to mean a process with many distinct parts: gathering raw data of many kinds from many sources (open source like magazines, electronic signal interception, overhead imaging, human spying, documents captured in military raids and so on); deciding what data to gather; evaluating the value of sources and methods; aggregating raw data into summary chunks; analyzing those summaries to identify useful information; and using that information to derive conclusions about the state of the world, and in particular, our enemies. Moreover, we seldom distinguish between the reliability of intelligence on capability (usually high) and intent (usually very, very low).
I divide these functions up into a few small categories: gathering data, evaluating the dependability of the data, using the data to create information, and using the information to make decisions. The last category is necessarily distributed throughout the government by its very nature: we have different people making decisions on different things. Right now, every other category is largely under the control of the DNI, and largely (with the exception of much of the data gathering) in the CIA. I would organize the intelligence community somewhat differently, but first, we need to understand why our intelligence agencies are structured as they are: Pearl Harbor.
The entire structure of our intelligence agencies — military and civilian, agency- (CIA, FBI) or department- (State, Defense) based — is structured to prevent an enemy from acquiring the capability, and acting on the intent, of using their military to attack an unprepared United States. At that function, our intelligence agencies are supremely good, probably unmatched except by the British and possibly the Israelis.
But our intelligence agencies are unable, due to the very structure that makes them good at preventing a Pearl Harbor repeat (think 9/11 with bombers instead of terrorists), from institutionally understanding non-state actors the way they can understand states. And since that is structural, nothing short of structural reform will fix it: Dave is absolutely correct there. But I do agree with Mark, also: we don't want this to be a purely military function.
What I would suggest as an organizational model is a broadly-distributed network with minimal bottlenecks and control nodes. There should be small agencies geared to particular methods of intelligence gathering (electronic intercept, covert spying, reading the newspapers of the world, etc) or particular types of information (military construction, equipment design, agricultural output, talking points in negotiations, etc). These agencies should feed the information and the source of the information into a single agency whose job it is to evaluate the intelligence's credibility based on past experience with that source or method rather than on how "believable" the intelligence is, and to sanitize the information to include the evaluation of reliability, but remove any information that would identify the source or method used. This evaluated information could then be used by analysis cells attached to every policy decision maker, as well as feeding into certain field operations (most notably, the military). Organizations with particular needs (battlefield and theater intelligence for the military, political intelligence for an embassy) would retain the ability to gather intelligence themselves, and use it directly, while also feeding it into the evaluation agency for the rest of the government to use.
Covert warfare should either be a military mission, be directed by the Congress through letters of marque and reprisal, or abandoned.
This structure would have several benefits: it would be more adaptive and quicker to respond to critical information; it would be less politicized, because policy makers couldn't bury intelligence that didn't fit their world view; since each agency would be small, they would be able to individually take larger risks in gathering information or making a call on what intelligence means, because they bureaucratically have much less to lose; it would be harder for the enemy to track what we are doing; it would be easier for us to track what the enemy is doing, even a non-state enemy (perhaps especially a non-state enemy); we would be less likely, due to redundancy, to miss critical information. There would be downsides, too, particularly competition between agencies if more than one has access to the same kind of intelligence gathering abilities (like more than one human spying agency, or more than one agency operating satellites), so care would have to be taken in that regard.
But overall, I think we would be far better served by such a set of organizations than by the set we have now.
August 31, 2006
More Trouble with Maps
During the Iraq invasion, I posted The Trouble with Maps, which pointed out that if you looked at a map and listened to the Iraqi spokemen's explanations of what was going on, you noticed that the Iraqis appeared to be defeating Americans at locations invariably closer to the capitol than the previous day's "defeat". Now Lorie Byrd graphically illustrates the progress in having the Iraqi army take control of Iraq. It is the kind of demonstration that just blows the media narrative into its component lies. Which is why you won't see these maps on news programs.
August 18, 2006
I realize that it is fashionable among many to believe that all the problems in the world are the fault of the Bush administration, or the Republicans, or the Americans, depending upon where those people come from and what their political leanings are. But you know, the evidence continues to mount that the Islamists really mean what they say, and that they really are at war against not Bush, or the Republicans, or even just the Americans (and Israelis), but against the entire non-Muslim world. Of course, if one can dismiss all the evidence of Islam's bloody borders and the large numbers and often massive scale of successful terrorist attacks carried out by Muslim jihadis, dismissing a failed bomb plot in Germany — failed because of incompetence, not police or military effort — should be child's play. And since the terrorists were not caught, they can learn from their experiences, and try again, giving the doubters yet another reason to say that there is not a war between the jihadis and the West. Well, unless they are on the wrong train...
August 17, 2006
What Works is Replicated
The obvious result of rewarding methods of terrorism is that you get more of them. The real question is, will it be Hizb'ullah or the new group that is fighting for the Sheba'a Farms area? (hat tip: Pajamas Media)Posted by jeff at 8:26 PM | TrackBack
August 16, 2006
Standards of Victory
Watching the political fallout of the war in Lebanon has been somewhat amusing. In particular, I note that the West and the Arabs have different standards for what constitutes a victory.
All enemy fighters are out of the field. A certain percentage, perhaps 5% may be killed or wounded. The others must be convinced to lay down their arms peacefully and go home.
No enemy civilians killed or wounded; no enemy infrastructure destroyed unless it is on a clearly marked military base; no civilian services in the enemy country interrupted.
The enemy's population comes to love us unreservedly, admits that we were fully justified, and joins future "peace" movements.
We're not all dead.
August 15, 2006
What is the logic that will emerge from this war? If Israel can exist only by destroying the neighborhood, then it's time to declare it a failed state. The Zionist dream has turned into a nightmare and is not viable. If the future holds more of the same, then the time has come to reconsider the whole project. Every state has a duty to defend its citizens, but also it has a duty to provide them with security and the two are different. The prospects are for more destruction, fanaticism, violence and hatred. No unilateral separation can isolate Israel from this, nor can the region or the world live with the consequences. This seems to be the only choice, and Israel must do itself and others a favor and go away.
This is yet another example of twisting terms out of all meaning for political ends. The term "failed state" specifically is used to refer to a state (that is, the government of a country) which is unable to govern its nation (that is, the people and territory). This is clearly not the case with Israel. Indeed, if this were the standard to be applied, that conflict with neighbors invalidates a state, then almost every state must have been a failed state for most of its existence. That clearly makes no sense.
No, it is the rest of the paragraph that sets out Shehadi's true political agenda: Israel's only legitimate option, per Shehadi, is to cease to exist. Again, he turns language on its head: "Every state has a duty to defend its citizens, but also it has a duty to provide them with security and the two are different." And so, of course, per Shehadi, any state that has enemies determined to kill it has already failed — indeed cannot but fail, as any conflict invalidates the state. Having enemies is in and of itself, Shehadi implies, sufficient to make a state "failed", unless that state can unilaterally solve the problem of its enemies (without, apparently, fighting them, as that would clearly involve "more destruction, fanaticism, violence and hatred"). Of course, Shehadi only applies this standard to Israel, and ignores the obviously failed state (in real terms) of Lebanon, the pseudo-states of Hizb'allah and Palestine which have also obviously failed, and much of Africa and southern Asia. Indeed, Shehadi describes Lebanon as "resiliant". No, it is only Israel who must disband because of her enemies. Asking the Jews to politely lay down their arms and accept slaughter, slavery or another millennia of stateless wandering strikes me as somewhat unrealistic, as well as morally abominable.
How this is "do[ing] itself ... a favor" is unclear to me, and I suspect to most Israelis. The editorial continues to go downhill from there, such as by admitting that there was deliberate targeting of civilians, but that it was by Israel. On the matter of Hizb'allah, Hamas and so on targeting civilians deliberately, and on their hiding among civilians in order to ensure civilian casualties should Israel respond to the terrorists' increasingly violent attacks, Shehadi is silent. Near the end, Shehadi delivers his verdict: "If the fundamental moral logic is flawed, then it is time to give up, pack up and go."
He's right, of course, about the consequences of flawed moral logic. He's just utterly, irredeemably wrong about morality and logic. It is not Israel, but Israel's enemies, that should knock it off. And that includes, apparently, Shehadi.
August 12, 2006
No Such Luck
Tigerhawk asks what it would take to militarize the West. No such luck, I think, and here is why:
There are only three conceivable military acts the jihadis and their supporters could take that would spark war beyond where we are now: invasion of another country, another attack on the scale of 9/11 or greater, or a nuclear/biological/chemical attack on a Western city. Anything short of these would not be considered sufficient to react to other than as we are now, or as a police matter, in the Western public opinion.
Now, invasion of another country wouldn't be seen as a reason to militarize. Israel and India and Turkey, the pro-Western countries actually threatened by Iran or Syria or Pakistan, are all capable of defending themselves. Wars in Russia — how would they differ from Chechnya? Wars in Lebanon or other Arab countries — how would they differ from the war ending now in Lebanon? Invasion or Iraq or Afghanistan would get our ire up, but let's face it, there are no conceivable conventional military scenarios in either country that couldn't be handled by our military as it now is.
An attack on the scale of 9/11 or greater might provide further impetus to the West to fight as it has been; or it might induce the will to surrender amongst a large percentage of the Western public. Unless it was obvious that the only way to root out such an attack were to heavily militarize and attack multiple Arab/Muslim countries simultaneously (that is, unless there were a large number of these attacks in very close proximity in time), I don't see how that changes the current assumptions. If anything, it should just harden current positions.
A WMD attack on a Western city would also not lead to militarization; it would lead to genocide. Having not taken the war seriously in its breadth (including the multiple lines of domestic political attack against operations in Iraq), we would have no other options than to use nuclear weapons against our attacker, if we could figure out whom our attacker was. If we could not, would we hesitate to respond at all, or would we use nuclear weapons against the various terror-supporting states in a spasm of fear and hate? I suspect the latter.
Frankly, absent a large series of large terror attacks, or a dynamic leader on the lines of Reagan or Thatcher, I simply do see militarization as a likely route in the West. I think, instead, we will muddle along until genocide (ours or theirs) is unavoidable.
August 11, 2006
Soon after 9/11, I came to the conclusion that there were three simultaneous conflicts driving world events. The obvious conflict is between the jihadis and the West. Less obvious was the conflict for control of the West, being argued mostly peacefully (since the end of the Soviet Union and their sponsorship of Leftist terrorist groups) between the statists and the individualists. Even less obvious to Western eyes was the Muslim civil war, which at the time looked to be between jihadis and Pan-Arab nationalists.
Well, the Muslim conflict has decisively altered: the Pan-Arab nationalists have lost. The Palestinians have gone over to Islamism; the Syrians have become little more than Iranian sock-puppets; the Egyptians and Libyans have abandoned Pan-Arabism for simple dictatorship; and the Jordanians seem to be Westernizing as an eventual constitutional monarchy. The battle within Muslim countries now seems to be whether fundamental Sunni jihadis like al Qaeda or fundamental Shi'a jihadis like Hizb'allah will lead the Muslim world. However, the outcome is still the same: each group is fighting against the West to score points with uncommitted Muslims, because Muslims killing Muslims is not seen as a good thing by uncommitted Muslims.
McQ and QandO makes the point that Hizb'allah has gained the upper hand in this struggle, and I think McQ is correct. Hizb'allah is after all killing Jews, and al Qaeda is largely hiding in caves, dying in Iraq, or being penetrated and taken apart in Britain and Europe generally. This gives Hizb'allah major mojo among Islamists, because to them it looks like Hizb'allah is making progress. The strong horse, as it were.
But this has another implication as well. If al Qaeda's role was diminished by a combination of removing their unfettered sanctuary in Afghanistan (despite the failure to subdue Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal areas) combined with al Qaeda's mistakes in Iraq (fighting against the US military directly, combined with killing a lot of uninvolved Muslim civilians), this means that we are winning against the Sunni brand of jihad. It also suggests a path to winning against the Shi'a brand of jihad: first, remove any sanctuaries; second, provide a battlefield where the enemy must fight and cannot win.
So here's my take: to defeat the Shi'a jihadis, we will likely have to take down Iranian and Syrian governments, and one of those two countries (my guess would be Syria) will have to be done in such a way as to ensure that the Shi'a see it as fight here or die.
Now for the bad news: we simply do not have the forces to do this without a massive mobilization of the National Guard and Reserves, or a sustained build-up of forces to the level we had at the end of the Cold War, and we don't have the public will to do either right now. Almost worse, the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq that have been so successful in marginalizing al Qaeda are constantly propagandized by the Left as failures, to the point that most Americans and Europeans seem to take that view as a given (see the note about the struggle between statists and individualists for control of the West). This makes it unlikely that, absent another massive terror attack on the US, we will recover our public will any time soon, and that should we do so, we will have learned the lessons of what can and should be done. I think that is much of what is behind Bill Quick's rant (hat tip: Instapundit) in which he says, among other things:
The first administration of the first century of the American Third Millennium will, in my estimation, be remembered as one of the biggest failures of that century. Bush's great failure was, not invading Iraq, but not weathering the adversity that followed through acts of real leadership, and then pressing on with the necessary military destruction of the other regimes he, himself, named as most dangerous five years ago.
I've been feeling pretty depressed about our mid-term prospects lately. While Bill Quick's hope of a "fast war" would have been possible after 9/11, even as late as early 2003, I don't believe that it is possible now, without greater changes than a single election can bring. We're winning now tactically, and I believe we'll win in the end strategically, but I think we are going to have to go through some very painful episodes before we actually begin as a nation to focus on "victory" instead of "peace" as the marker for when the war is over.
Posted by jeff at 6:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
August 9, 2006
Israel's Grand-Strategic Dilemma
Israel has been put into a quandary of vast proportions, and most of its ways out have been foreclosed. When your strategic goal is to live in peace, as I believe is Israel's goal, and your enemies' strategic goal is for you to die, your options are to convince your enemy to abandon their goal, to make it impossible for your enemy to carry out their goal, to destroy the enemy, or to abandon your own goal.
Israel's initial strategy was to prevent Israel's enemy from following through on their goal of the destruction of Israel, by handing the enemy several military defeats of stunning magnitude. In 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, Israel showed that Arab armies would not conquer Israel under any combination of circumstances. This finally led to Israel convincing both Egypt and Jordan to abandon their goal of destroying Israel. Israel discovered that, perhaps, under some circumstances, they could induce their enemies to abandon their goals.
Israel's earlier victories had two unfortunate outcomes for the long term: Israel had adopted a land-for-peace strategy after 1979, and Israel had taken charge of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, and the populations thereof. The first convinced the less sane of Israel's Arab enemies that they could get concessions from Israel until Israel succumbed, and the second convinced the Israelis that defense could be more trouble than it was worth. While laudable, land-for-peace failed. And the tar baby of the occupation reduced Israel's options dramatically, especially after Israel made a pair of strategic blunders.
In an attempt to pacify and abandon the occupied territories, Israel invited Arafat to take over territories under Israeli occupation. During the floundering peace process that followed this move, Israel abandoned their buffer zone in Lebanon. Those two blunders, which were really just attempts to get the Palestinians and Hizb'allah to abandon their goals, failed utterly, and came to their logical culmination when first the Palestinians, then the Hizb'allah, crossed into Israel from territory previously under Israeli control, but abandoned in the hope of peace, to kidnap and kill Israeli soldiers.
So Israel's options now are very, very limited: they cannot logically seek peace with the Palestinians and Hizb'allah; both have sworn to destroy Israel or die in the attempt, and have done everything in their power to follow through. Nor can Israel simply try to ignore the Palestinians and Hizb'allah: the kidnappings and rockets make that quite clear. So what can Israel do?
As I see it, Israel only has three options: ethnic cleansing, genocide, or a vastly risky war against Iran and Syria. Israel will morally (and correctly) shy away from genocide; the Israelis are not monsters, and know the meaning of genocide more than most. Israel could try ethnic cleansing, evicting the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and taking southern Lebanon and evicting everyone from there. But even were Israelis not to settle those areas, modern rockets have sufficient range that such a strategy is impractical: Israel would have to continually expand their buffer zone, and Israel cannot reasonably defend such a large area as would be needed to guarantee their safety. This only leaves, in practical terms, a very risky option: war against Iran and Syria.
In real terms, Iran and Syria are the only true enemies that still have power to hurt Israel. By working through proxies (the Palestinians and Hizb'allah), these two countries are pursuing a strategy of bleeding Israel, while simultaneously demonizing Israel for daring to respond, which inevitably (and by the design of the terror groups) results in some civilian casualties. For Syria and Iran, this is a low-risk strategy. Basically, Syria and Iran are banking on Israel's, and the West's, moral sense to keep Israel from defeating them. They may have overplayed their hand, though.
If Israel were to strike Syria, Syria would be defeated in short order. This would make it very difficult for Hizb'allah and the Palestinians to continue to operate, and Iran's logistics would become much more difficult. But Iran would still be able to get supplies through, and if Syria were allowed to recover, it too would eventually be able to resume proxy operations against Israel. While Israel could keep Syria down by force, it cannot do so to Iran, because Iran is too far away for sustained Israeli force projection.
And this leads to Israel's only option against Iran: nuclear genocide.
For Israelis, there is no strategic solution that is a permanent win, except to abandon morality for survival. Absent an American take-down of the Iranian regime, Israelis are in for years more war, and many more threats to their existence, no matter what they do in the short term.
August 8, 2006
There has been a great deal of both smoke and fire lately about Reuters' use (and subsequent laudable retraction) of doctored photographs of fighting in Lebanon taken by Adnan Hajj, and of the possibility of much of the Qana photography (including photographs by Hajj) as probably being staged. I haven't really written about this much, other than to comment on others' blogs, but such lapses are of critical importance. The public's judgement is informed only to the extent that personal experience of the world or the testimony of others informs it. Since our personal ability to be wherever news is breaking is quite limited, and our capacity to directly connect to those who might be where news is breaking is also quite limited, the majority of the information we get about the world comes from the news media, either by watching/reading the news, or by talking to people who have. Indeed, in many cases, the news media barely reports the factual basis of the news at all these days, instead simply having on pundits who analyze the facts, complete with judging which facts are important and to what degree, for us and present us their digested and (theoretically) considered view of what those facts mean.
This is a dangerous situation for a free people, because we often think that we are being informed when we are actually being manipulated. Consider the infamous case of NBC's faked reporting on the "danger" of pickup trucks with side-mounted fuel tanks. This could easily have led to government-mandated safety standards which could have increased costs and decreased safety, because judgements would have been skewed by bad information. But this is only an example of news media being caught faking the news: how many times have they not been caught on issues where public policy was at stake? Or consider "Rathergate"; in an earlier age, without the blogs' fact-checking of the media, this kind of faked news could have changed the results of a presidential election, which no one can reasonably dismiss as small stakes. With that dynamic in mind, it is clear that faked news about the war in Lebanon could easily lead the public, because of its bad information, to pressure the government to make bad decisions about foreign policy. That is, in fact, almost certainly the goal of Hizb'allah.
After all, it's not as if Islamist groups have not been staging news for years. Staging news to create wrong impressions is the very basis of effective Islamist terrorism: create an outrage, manipulate public opinion, force the enemy (us) to retreat or withdraw from shame or fear, repeat. The goal is, eventually, to so weaken the West and Israel that we stop resisting the Islamists, at which point they can take over and establish the Caliphate (Muslim theocracy) and subject infidels (that's us again) to conversion, slavery or death. If this seems extreme, it is. But it's not me being extreme; it is the Islamists. Don't take my word for it: read their thoughts on the topic. (Hat tip and analysis: FrontPage Mag)
So Shane Richmond can make of The Telegraph insinuations or outright allegations of blogs succumbing to conspiracy theories akin to "the moon landing was fake" and "Bill Clinton was profiting from drug running, and had someone killed at the Mena airport to cover it up" or "the US government destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11" (and sometimes, it does look that way), but that is missing the point. The whole basis of ridicule of such outlandish conspiracy theories is that they are so ludicrous: they rely on a massive cover-up by thousands of people, sometimes over decades, which only the intrepid conspiracy theorist has been able to unravel, due to the slight difference in shading in the bottom left corner of frame 184 of this film. No, really! Look closely! But conspiracy theories are not equally subject to ridicule when there really is a long-running, well-documented conspiracy afoot. And in this case, there is.
I do not believe the media is intentionally co-operating with terrorists. Amend that, I do not believe that most of the media is intentionally co-operating with terrorists. But I do believe that the terrorists have crafted a public relations campaign aimed at defanging Western resistance to the Islamist project to reestablish the Caliphate around the world; that that campaign is aimed at the needs, preferences and biases of Western media; and that Western media has, by and large, been unable or unwilling to see that they are being manipulated.
August 6, 2006
A Few Moral Questions
Let's say that a young person, Smith, were to get involved in gangs, and were to convince nine friends and acquaintances to agree to a scheme to defraud insurance companies. Let's say, further, that a tenth person didn't actually decide to go along, but was a room mate of one of the ten who did, and got caught up semi-unknowingly in the fraudulent scheme (that is, he knew that his room mate was a gang banger, and was involved in a insurance fraud, but did not do anything to stop it; however, he was not part of the origin of the scheme, nor did he benefit from it). Since this person is important to the questions, let's call him Jones. Let's further stipulate that Jones did not get involved to stop the scheme because he really needed a place to stay, and had no other options, and his room mate would have killed Jones if Jones had made any effective protest of the room mate's actions.
For one minor, fun addition, let us also suppose that Smith hates Jones' neighbor across the hall with all of his being, in part for thwarting some of Smith's previous schemes, and in part because the neighbor across the hall, Davis, is black, and Smith is a white supremacist who openly hates black people even when they weren't involved in thwarting his insurance scams. In fact, if Smith weren't a minor, he certainly would have done hard jail time. Worse still, though, there were some property disputes in the past between Smith and Davis, which resulted in fist fights and lawsuits, and while Davis eventually ceded the property to Smith, Davis was angry enough over the dispute that he (Davis) spent a great deal of time trying to figure out Smith's schemes and thwart them.
Now let's say that, after several different frauds, in which Smith profited handsomely, and Smith's nine acquaintances made tangible gains, that Smith, unbeknownst to his acquaintances, bought life insurance on them. Then let's say that Smith got all of the acquaintances together at Jones' apartment, and started throwing Molotov cocktails (incendiary devices) into the open door of the apartment across the hall (which Smith smashed down on the way in), in order to kill Davis. Now this is win-win for Smith, because he might kill Davis, and if he burns down the building and kills his (Smith's) acquaintances, he gets their insurance money as well. In fact, even if Davis escapes, Smith would still get the life insurance payoff on any of his acquaintances who were killed.
Now, as this is happening, let's say that Davis, instead of just trying to put out the fire in his apartment, first steps across the hall and shoots at Smith with a handgun he keeps. Now for the moral questions:
1. Has Smith done anything wrong? Have the acquaintances done anything wrong? Has Davis done anything wrong? Has Jones done anything wrong?
2. If Davis manages to kill Smith, without hurting anyone else, has Davis done wrong?
3. If Davis kills one of Smith's acquaintances, but misses Smith, has Davis done wrong?
4. If Davis kills one or more of Smith's acquaintances, wounds several others, but misses Smith, has Davis done wrong?
5. If Davis kills or wounds one or more of Smith's acquaintances, and wounds Smith, has Davis done wrong?
6. If Davis kills or wounds one or more of Smith's acquaintances, and kills Smith, has Davis done wrong?
7. Do the answers to any of these questions change is Jones, the semi-innocent room mate, is killed or injured?
8. Does the answer to any of the above questions change if Smith does not succeed in hurting any of Davis' family prior to Davis starting shooting?
Now, there is a ninth question, but it's important to write down the answers to the first eight before you answer the last question, so do that now.
Now, go back through the above questions and make these substitutions:
For Smith, substitute Hizb'allah.
For the acquaintances, substitute the Lebanese who support Hizb'allah.
For Jones, substitute the Lebanese who do not support Hizb'allah.
For Davis, substitute Israel.
9. If you answer the questions now, with the above substitutions, do your answers change? If so, why?
August 3, 2006
The Possibility of Peace; The Possibility of Unending War
The Middle East is convulsing, with pressure applied by the US and coalition on the one hand, democratizing (though not liberalizing, which is likely a mistake) Afghanistan and particularly Iraq, and Iran on the other hand, both stirring the pot in Iraq and using its Hizb'allah proxy to attack Israel. These convulsions are large enough that the Middle East will not return to its former shape afterwards. The question remains open, whether the region will change to a more or less peaceful area, in the mold of, say, South America, or instead will change into a region dominated by Iran, exporting jihadis throughout the world from a restored Caliphate.
For a long time, the idea of Middle East peace was tied to Israel, and resolving its problems with its neighbors. And for a long time, no one had a reasonable plan for peace, because Israel's minimum condition is unthreatened existence and its enemies' minimum condition was Israel's elimination as a state, and the slaughter of the Israeli people. But the land-for-peace formula emerged, under which the Israelis would trade captured territory in exchange for peaceful relations, and the US would foster such agreements with bales of cash. This was first tried out in 1979, with the treaty between Egypt and Israel, under which Israel gave back the Sinai (not the Gaza strip, though: Egypt wouldn't take it) in exchange for Egypt not deploying its army into the Sinai. To help this out, the US gave bundles of cash to Israel and Egypt, and stationed troops along the border, inside the Sinai, to keep the armies apart. The stunning thing is that this actually worked, and Israel and Egypt have not fought directly, by proxy, or even by exchanging artillery fire since the agreement. This may have been the one and only true foreign policy success of the Carter administration.
And suddenly, when land-for-peace worked, it became the accepted formula for peace, except perhaps in Israel, where it was only tentatively accepted. But then something happened: Israel's occupation of Lebanon, and Hizb'allah's long war against Israel, was resulting in a constant trickle of Israeli soldiers dying. This was coincident with a maturing Israeli society, which had seen no realistic threats from its main enemies for more than a decade, and had no threat on the horizon, either. Left-wing Israeli peace groups like the "Four Mothers" and Peace Now actually succeeded in convincing Israelis that the occupation of Lebanon was morally wrong, and that land-for-peace would work for Israel. Israel pulled out of Lebanon, and for six or seven years, had relative quiet on the northern border.
While no agreement could be reached with Syria, it looked for some time like a solution could be found for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Until Arafat renounced not only Israel's best possible offer — essentially everything Arafat wanted except the "right of return" — but in the process started a terrorist campaign against Israel from within the occupied territories. That was, really, such a heavy blow to the idea of negotiating land-for-peace that the land-for-peace formula seemed unlikely to recover. But Ariel Sharon, a hardheaded warrior and Israeli hero, came up with a new idea: if Israel could not negotiate land-for-peace, and could not bring itself to slaughter the Palestinians, perhaps it would work if Israel simply disengaged. That is, Sharon built walls and fences along the border with the Gaza strip, and began doing the same with the West Bank. Israel dismantled the Israeli settlements in Gaza, and withdrew from the area, leaving it entirely in Palestinian hands.
And then came the second body blow to land-for-peace: the Palestinians converted Gaza into a full-scale base for terror and rocket attacks against Israel, utterly rejecting any efforts to improve their economic or political situation and essentially declaring that to the extent Gaza was a Palestinian nation, it was a nation at perpetual war with Israel.
But it was the one-two punch of first Hamas, then Hizb'allah, crossing the border into Israel and killing/capturing Israeli soldiers that has destroyed the land-for-peace formula, probably forever. It is absolutely clear that the Palestinians and Hizb'allah will not rest until they or Israel are destroyed utterly. It is likely that Syria will continue to foment action by Hamas and Hizb'allah until they are held accountable, likely by the destruction of their military (again) and their economy (again) by an outside attack. While Israel may have a cold peace with Egypt and Jordan, and might be able to get the same with Lebanon if Hizb'allah is destroyed, there is simply no point in giving up land, particularly strategic land like the Shebaa farms (a part of the Golan Heights) in exchange for empty promises and agreements that will never be implemented on the Arab side.
How far gone is the idea? Far enough that members of the Four Mothers agree it doesn't work. (Hat tip: Wretchard) Far enough that the defense minister prosecuting the war against Hizb'allah and Hamas, a former leader of Peace Now, is finally turning up the level of violence and realizing that this is an existential struggle for Israel. Far enough that Ehud Olmert is backing off, at least for now and under strong public pressure, on unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank.
So now what are the possibilities of obtaining peace in the Middle East? The only alternatives to obtain peace are the destruction of Israel, or the destruction of the Islamists. The main obstacle in the way of destroying Israel is that Israel is powerful enough that it cannot be destroyed by its enemies, absent their acquisition of nuclear weapons or Israel's acceptance of a Muslim majority with full citizenship. Israel would use its own nuclear weapons to prevent their enemies from obtaining nuclear weapons. Israel will never grant the "right of return" and attendant demograhic suicide. So the obvious logical conclusion is that Israel is not going to be destroyed.
But how to destroy the jihadis? The first thing that must be recognized is that the jihadis are really just one manifestation of a broader ideology: Islamism. Essentially, Islamism is the ideology of restoration of the Caliphate (Muslim equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire) by creating a single Muslim empire, and then the expansion of that empire to cover the whole world, with the emphasis on killing or converting non-Muslims, and imposing Sharia law universally. The jihadis are the "fast war" expression of Islamism: essentially this is a continuation of the violent conquest techniques pioneered by Mohammed, and long neglected by Muslims, who after being thrown back in Europe, and stopped Asia and Africa, resorted to petty barbarism, piracy and the like instead. The jihadis are out to conquer their enemies (moderate or somewhat-secular Muslims, Jews, atheists, Christians, Pagans, and, well, everyone but the Islamists really) by force of arms. The "slow war" version consists of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and a lot of the European and American groups (like CAIR, for example, or the Muslim Association of Britain). These groups have decided that creating a unified mindset among Muslims (by intimidation and terrorism, generally), and taking control of new areas by immigration and constant demands for more and more rights for themselves, and more and more restrictions for others, would be a more sure and less resisted route to establishing global Islamic hegemony. The Islamists have the same goals as the jihadis and no objection to the jihadis' methods; they simply believe there is a less risky way to obtain those goals. This is critical because the threat will not be ended until the Islamist ideology is ended; simply killing the terrorists is insufficient, because the Islamist groups will create new jihadis wherever and whenever they are useful.
The key to the jihadi groups is that they cannot be successful without the sponsorship of states. Afghanistan and Iraq were both sponsors of jihadis, and we have removed those countries' sponsorship of the jihadis. But they were not the only sponsors of jihadis; there are three others. Iran is probably the biggest sponsor of jihadi groups, giving training, equipment, money, cover and sanctuary to many jihadi groups. The combination of Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and its support of the jihadis is the largest obstacle to peace at present, and the largest threat to the other nations of the world (including the Russians, who for some reason won't stop arming people who are sworn to destroy them).
Syria and Pakistan are both sponsors of jihadi groups as well, but in a more specialized way than Iran. Syria sponsors Hamas and Hizb'allah, among others, who are specifically dedicated (for now) to attacking Israel. Pakistan, similarly, sponsors groups largely dedicated (for now) to attacking India. In addition, Pakistan gives sanctuary to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and parts of the Pakistani government almost certainly directly aid those groups.
In the short term, ending the jihadi threat will require destroying the government of Iran and preventing another Islamist government from taking their place. If this can be done prior to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, simply bringing down the government and making a peace with conditions about the type of government that Iran can have should be sufficient. "Simply" sounds like the wrong word until you consider what happens if we wait for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. In that case, either the US will have to invade and occupy Iran, which is a very much tougher problem than Iraq, or the US or Israel will have to destroy Iran. Israel would have to use nuclear weapons to do this. The US might have to do so, although the US has the option to use conventional bombing and limited invasions (of Khuzistan and the area around the Straits of Hormuz) as long as Iran doesn't have any nuclear weapons actually in its posession. (Once Iran obtains nuclear weapons, they would use them to defend against any US attack, and that would lead to an overwhelming nuclear response by the US.)
It might be necessary, in order to end the immediate threat, to destroy the government of Syria, and to pressure Pakistan into allowing the US to operate with impunity in the provinces bordering Afghanistan, or to actually take on and defeat the jihadis inside of Pakistan. If Iran were taken out, it is possible that the Syrians would seek a Libyan solution: surrender in exchange for integration and aid. Similarly, absent Iran, Pakistan might be more inclined to take on their internal jihadis, whose resources would be much diminished by the overthrow of the Ayatollahs.
Over the long term, the problem is largely Saudi funding of Islamist groups, mosques and madrassas outside of Saudi Arabia. To end this longer-term threat, though, there are three methods that can be applied short of war, and because of this I frankly do not think that we will need to use military means to resolve the longer term problem. The first alternative is pressuring Saudi Arabia to end its support and founding of Islamist groups; this will probably not work, because the world needs Saudi oil, and that gives them a vast ability to resist such pressure, and the Sauds know that doing this will mean their overthrow (many of the Saudi people are very, very fundamentalist). The second method would be to develop either alternate energy sources to oil for most purposes (nuclear is the big option here, and of course would be bitterly resisted, ironically, by Western environmentalists), or cheaper methods of extracting oil from oil sands and oil shales. Either of those would essentially bankrupt the Sauds in short order. Finally, we can develop antibodies within the liberal democratic societies. For example, the Islamists would find little ground in the US and Europe if we were to deport Islamists who were not citizens, not allow further Muslim immigration, and in general make it socially taboo to be an Islamist. This is actually fairly unlikely, absent another attack or five on the scale of 9/11, because tolerance of others' beliefs (even of violent beliefs, as long as the violence is never carried out) is a major keystone of liberal democratic societies. In any case, some combination of these three methods in some degree should be sufficient to end, mitigate or at least contain the long-term Islamist threat, so long as they do not revert to force.
It is also possible, although I now think it unlikely, that George Bush's gamble of bringing democracy to Iraq as a seed for democratizing the Middle East will actually work, and these cultures over time could learn to compromise and live with others peacefully. I think that, had we set about liberalizing Iraq and Afghanistan, instead of democratizing them, we would have had better long-term chances for peaceful change. On the other hand, this would likely be regarded by most Muslims (even moderate Muslims) as intolerable: it would require changing long-standing cultural practices and, more importantly, reinterpreting key parts of the Koran. Maybe after democratization we can try for liberalization, but I think it far more likely that the nascent democracies will return to strong-man rule fairly soon for cultural and religious reasons.
So there it is. In a nutshell, the price of peace in the Middle East is the destruction of Iran's government by force of arms, and possibly the destruction of Syria's government by force of arms, combined with the destruction of the (by then weakened) jihadi groups, and any new state sponsors who might be feeling lucky. The price of long-term peace is ending or containing Islamism. And the consequence of not doing this will be wars for decades, perhaps centuries, to come.
It is going to be a very violent, bloody and unpleasant couple of decades.
July 28, 2006
A Matter of Time?
A few years ago, a Muslim man shot up an El Al (Israeli airline) counter at LAX. Authorities said it wasn't terrorism.
A few years ago, two Muslim men went on a sniping spree in the Washington, DC area, killing several. Authorities said it wasn't terrorism.
Now a Muslim man has shot several Jewish women in Seattle, killing at least one. Undoubtedly, authorities will say it wasn't terrorism. (They have already said that there is no indication the shooter was linked to a terrorist organization. Their powers of investigation must be superhuman.)
The problem with these kinds of denials by the authorities is that people have a sense of self-preservation, and they're not idiots. Why is that a problem? What is the smallest group that we can act against and still be safe from this kind of attack? The authorities seem to be letting it narrow down to "Muslim men", because they are not facing up to the reality of what kind of people are committing these attacks.
My bet: we'll soon learn that the shooter in Seattle was from a middle-class to wealthy family, and was entirely secular, but started attending a Saudi-funded mosque and became very religious and pious, and also quite judgmental. That has, after all, been pretty much the pattern of this kind of attack in the US and Europe to date.
But the thing is, these attacks will almost certainly continue, and intensify. And then when we decide to take preventive measures, because it's becoming crystal clear that the government doesn't have the stomach for it, against whom will we turn? Not against just the actual terrorists, because we don't have any information on who they are. Instead, we will turn against Muslims in general, because we can't get much closer than that, and the authorities won't get that close.
I hope I am wrong, but I fear that it is just a matter of time until there start to be actual attacks on Muslims in the US, rather than just in CAIR's fever dreams.
UPDATE: What I fear right now is this: "But this guy does belong to a "larger organization", the largest terror organization in the world called ISLAM."
And this: "If anyone practices Islam they are a terrorist, again pure and simple. Time to get all of them out of the country, voluntary or by force, including deadly force. This shows you can't trust any of the slime balls."
If these comments become widespread belief, there will be much more blood shed than is necessary. We have to take our PC blinkers off — that is to say, the government has to do so — and solve the problem of figuring out which are the dangerous fanatics in our midst. Otherwise, eventually, people will take matters into their own hands. And in the end, vigilantism is both effective at solving the original problems, and dangerous for any innocents in the wrong place, or wrong skin, at the wrong time. I'd rather avoid that, thanks.
July 27, 2006
Ambulances or Troop Carriers?
Here is footage of fighting in the Gaza strip. It's a little unclear to me exactly what is going on; it looks almost like the Red Crescent ambulance is being ambushed. Regardless, as the firing breaks out, a UN ambulance comes up, and the fighters climb in and are driven away.
Now there is more than one explanation possible here. Yes, the UN could be actively assisting the fighters. Or the ambulance could have been stolen, or the driver could have been forced by a gunman inside the vehicle to pick the fighters up. But here's the thing: Israel has to know that fighters are using ambulances to get around, in order to not be targeted by the Israelis. It doesn't really matter how the ambulance came to be in enemy hands; it is enough that the enemy uses ambulances as troop transports. Because Israel will target ambulances in the middle of a fight, and in fact there have been several news stories over the years where Israelis have fired on ambulances, and these are always presented to show the Isrealis as barbaric for firing on ambulances.
But who is the barbarian, really?
July 26, 2006
Israel Might Just be Serious About Destroying Hizb'allah
Transit Umbra posts an interesting take on where Israel's invasion of Lebanon is going.
I actually have been coming around to thinking that Israel intends to utterly smash Hizb'allah. It would be relatively simple for Isreal to race along the roads and take the whole South, but in doing so they would be operating with an enemy in their rear, because large number of Hizb'allah fighters and their weapons and ammunition would be bypassed in bunkers behind the advance.
Hizb'allah seems to have been counting on Israel fighting the same war as they did in 1982, and Hizb'allah was prepared for that. (Some commenters seem to be operating under the same assumption.) In fact, I would say that, had Israel fought this way, we would already be seeing signs of major disaster, as Israeli forces would be being cut off and defeated in detail by the "left behinds". For those who have been paying attention, this seems to have been part of Saddam's strategy as well, with the Saddam Fedayeen coming out to fight the supply units after the combat units passed by. It might have worked in Iraq had we not had a lot of flat terrain in which to maneuver, as well as unexpectedly-tough logistics units. (Despite the tragic wrong turn that led to the killing and capture of supply soldiers, most well-known being Jessica Lynch, there was also the battle at "Moe", "Larry" and "Curly", where supply troops fought hard to enable the breakthrough into Baghdad that collapsed the Saddam regime.)
The way to avoid this is to destroy the enemy stronghold by stronghold, tunnel by tunnel. It's not a style of war Israelis or Americans are used to seeing any more, but it is very, very effective. There is simply no way that Hizb'allah can fight from the areas that Israel has already captured. As a result, Israel has captured less territory, but has destroyed the enemy's capability entirely in the area it has captured. (The exception being where Israel has raided out from its salient and then withdrawn; those areas have gone right back to Hizb'allah control.)
The wild card is how long Israel is prepared to fight. Most people seem to be making the assumption either that Israel's will to fight will crumble over enemy civilians being killed, or that the US will force Israel into a cease fire. In either case, the assumption is that Israel has a week to finish this. That of course, has been the assumption for the last two weeks, and there is no evidence of either weakness in Israel's will or in the US's support for Israel's actions. Nor is there much evidence that Israel would succumb to US pressure in any case; Israel regards this conflict as existential for them, and I tend to think that they are right: if they fail, Hizb'allah becomes the government of Lebanon and Israel can expect more, and more brutal, attacks than heretorfore.
But Israel can destroy, not just degrade, Hizb'allah, critics' cries to the contrary notwithstanding. The reason for this is that Hizb'allah depends on public perception even more than Israel does. If Hizb'allah's opponents within Lebanon see Hizb'allah as defeated, they will fight Hizb'allah's attempts to gain hegemony over Lebanon. If Hizb'allah's supporters see Hizb'allah as weak, they'll look for stronger groups to defend them. If Iran and Syria see Hizb'allah as ineffective, they will withdraw support for Hizb'allah and put it to other uses. Israel can bring all of this about, but it will be costly and difficult.
To destroy Hizb'allah, Israel must occupy southern Lebanon, destroying all Hizb'allah infrastructure there. Israel must so weaken Hizb'allah elsewhere that Hizb'allah cannot rationally be seen as having beaten the Israelis. It will help if Hizb'allah's top leaders, particularly Nasrallah, are killed, and an "accidental" bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut — strike that, a fully public (but not pre-declared) bombing of the Iranian embassy in Beirut — could bring that about. Let Iran openly declare war, or back down and be seen as cowards. Either way is more advantageous to Israel than giving Hizb'allah an invulnerable base in Iran. Israel must only leave Lebanon when non-Hizb'allah troops capable of and willing to fight Hizb'allah's attempts to regain control, should that be necessary, are in place; Israel cannot allow Hizb'allah to declare victory as they did when Israel last pulled out of Lebanon.
If Israel does these things, Hizb'allah will be seen, in Osama bin Laden's memorable phrase, as a weak horse, and will lose its public support. That loss of support will destroy Hizb'allah much more completely than merely killing Hizb'allah's trained soldiers can do.
Regardless, I wish Israel well. They have been too battered for too long and for too little reason.
July 25, 2006
Three Horns of a Trilemma
The dilemma of a free people in wartime is generally shown as a continuum between Security and Liberty. To gain more Security, you have to sacrifice more Liberty, and any gain in Liberty likewise constitutes a loss of Security; at least, that is the general claim, and I'm willing to take it at face value for present purposes, even though it leaves out the messy reality of inefficient, ineffective, or incompetent governments. But that view is quite obsolete, now, for Western nations; there is another element of sacrifice that must be put into the pot: Humanitarianism.
To be quite blunt about it, there is no fundamental threat to the security of the United States that is not immediately solvable. Don't believe me? What's your example? Let's take the hard and intractable problem of terrorists who hide amongst civilians. There are a number of scenarios here, and none of them fundamentally threaten the United States, or pretty much any Western nation.
In Lebanon, Hizb'allah has so deeply embedded itself in the civilian infrastructure that troops (I'm being more generous to Hizb'allah's terrorists than is really merited) are barracked in civilian houses; armories are in civilian houses; observation posts are co-located with UN observation posts to make it difficult for Israel to strike without hitting the UN post; spokesmen and decision-makers are housed in the largest city in Lebanon, often amongst either civilians or government officials; many of Hizb'allah's capabilities are "owned" by the Lebanese army, rather than by Hizb'allah itself. How can the problem of Hizb'allah terrorism be solved? Surely, Israel cannot destroy Hizb'allah, because doing so would mean thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of dead Lebanese civilians.
Here is how Israel can solve the problem: it can kill, easily, thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of Lebanese civilians, if it must do so to solve the problem. If Hizb'allah retreats to Syria, Israel can do the same to Syria, if necessary, and so on. The only thing that stops Israel from doing this is its Humanitarian nature.
Like most Westerners, Israelis cannot imagine a condition where they would be willing to slaughter innocents, presumed innocents, possible innocents, even outright enemies in such numbers. This is a good thing, most assuredly, because if it were not so, those people would certainly have been slaughtered in every Arab country surrounding Israel, and in the occupied territories as well: no nation on Earth has resisted the number, severity and consistency of attacks on its civilians as has Israel. All to be called "evil" and worse, by people who would be far more barbaric in the same circumstances.
Similarly, with Iran's support of terrorists and pursuit of nuclear weaponry, the US could end the problem in about half an hour and with zero US casualties. It would take a bit longer if we wanted to avoid using nuclear weapons, and we would take a few casualties, but the result would be much the same. How much of an insurrection would have followed Saddam Hussein's fall had we simply leveled every city and killed everyone other than coalition troops? We could have done so; it is within our capacity.
Fortunately for the world, and for our conception of self, we have not had to resort to that level of barbarity. Anyone who thinks that we are not capable of it, though, should first read up on Dresden and the Pacific campaign in WWII, the last time we were called upon to exercise our barbarianism. I assure you, we were nearly as peaceful in 1938 as we are today, yet seven years later we leveled entire cities with our only second thought being whether we could get enough bombers and incendiary bombs in place to be thorough about it. Afterwards, we slept the sleep of the Just. We can do so again, and will do so if pushed to it.
If you think that maybe some Western nations, perhaps the sainted France, are actually beyond this, it only indicates that you haven't been reading about France's actions in the Ivory Coast over the last few years. As to Germany, no comment should be needed. Other Western nations are similar, though for many their tests have been so far back in time, or they have been so overmatched, that it's not readily apparent. The West is civilized not because we are above bloodshed, but because we have collectively crammed our arms in blood up to the shoulders for hundreds of years. The survivors have learned, mostly, how to live with each other.
For the Arab world, the ability to slaughter wholesale, as opposed to personal service, is a very recent development. That ability was developed in the West, as war after war drove our astoundingly creative and inventive forebears to develop astoundingly creative and inventive new ways to protect themselves from the old ways of being killed, followed by developing astoundingly creative and inventive new ways to kill each other. The Arabs simply bought the old leftovers the West no longer needed, as have the Africans. Suddenly, between the end of WWII and the middle of the 1960s, the Arabs went from resourceless barbarians in the trackless desert, killing each other with knives and small arms, to barbarians in a trackless desert over a sea of oil, killing each other with tanks and aircraft and chemical weapons.
But they were stopped cold by Israel, which had partaken of Westernism in fact, rather than by distant observation. In war after war, even when taken in the utterly worst possible military posture (1973), the Israelis mopped the floor with Arab nations outnumbering it something like 50 to 1 or more. Unlike the Arabs, Israel could build the weapons it used: Israel had the understanding of the Western way of war; the Arabs had only the tools. That is still true. But the Arabs have in consequence fallen back on their barbarian natures, updated with suicide bombs and rockets fired from the roofs of hospitals. They have not absorbed the Western way of war, so they have not absorbed the necessity of living without killing each other wholesale. They only have the tools of wholesale slaughter, not the morality to prevent themselves from engaging in it.
So the question John Podhoretz asks is, will we be capable of giving up, at least for a while, some of our Humanitarianism, to preserve our Security and our Liberty? My question is slightly different, because I assume that we can give up our Humanitarianism and still sleep the sleep of the Just; we've done it before. My question is, will we give up our Humanitarianism a little bit early, or altogether after the balance between Liberty and Security becomes moot, because we have neither?
July 23, 2006
If I Were in Israel's Place
I would wait until Nasrallah (leader of Hizb'allah) has a press conference — even if this is after the end of the current fighting — and then bomb it. These are, after all, announced in advance, and the criticism Israel would get for brutality (and even more, from the press, for killing reporters) would do less damage than leaving Nasrallah living, while at the same time making foreign enemies think twice about fighting Israel. As a further plus, any enemy of Israel would then have to carefully reconsider his press manipulation strategy.
Why Aren't we Going After Insert Enemy Here?
QandO has a post that notes: "Interestingly, one of the recent arguments from the left, as some of our liberal commenters here have echoed, is that we should've gone after Iran. they are the real bad guys, and all we're doing in Iraq is simply making the Iranians stronger."
I heard this meme tried out on (Fox, I think; I was listening on the radio, and it could have been one of several channels) today, with regards to Hizb'allah: of course we should have gone after Hizb'allah, because they are the real enemy. Going after Iraq just makes terrorists stronger&tm;.
I don't buy it. The reality is, we cannot go after every enemy, much less every unstable or failed regime, at once. I truly believe that we are at the beginning of a shakeup in international affairs unseen in its scope since the Treaty of Westphalia, and seldom ever seen in history. The whole World of Order Friedman was talking about (hat tip: QandO again) is nothing more than the Westphalian order: states have borders and sovereigns, and cannot be legitimately interfered with within the borders of their territory. The Westphalian order is collapsing. Pretending that borders are always meaningful because some set of people have agreed to them, that we know what a civilian and a combatant are (and that they are necessarily distinct), or that any given issue will have a point of consensus where everyone agrees what should be done and are willing to do it — these were the long-standing games of international order, but they cannot be meaningful any more. The terrorists and their supporters have so blurred the lines that the Westphalian order is fast falling into ruin.
What this means in practical terms is that there are going to be wars and battles and other forms of conflict for the next fifty or even hundred or more years, if we are fortunate enough not to first see a genocide along the way, to determine whether Islam really will be the world's single religion, and after that (and assuming the jihadis do not win), to determine how power can be legitimately exercised short of war, and what the valid reasons are for going to war. We will not likely see the end of this, and our children might not, either.
So to pretend that we have the unlimited resources to attack every enemy and solve every challenge immediately is simply fantasy. Well, more precisely, it is simply a rhetorical gimmick useful for beating on one's political opponents. It does nothing to help us get to a new world order (there is a phrase which the elder President Bush probably regrets, both for its prescience and for its difference from what he thought we were moving to). In fact, if anything, it makes it harder to solve these wicked problems.
This will get worse, far worse, before it gets better.
July 22, 2006
Detailed Map of Lebanon
Anyone interested in following the news and actually locating points in Lebanon may find this detailed map of Lebanon useful.Posted by jeff at 8:36 PM | TrackBack
Examining Israel's Gound Campaign
There has been a lot of punditry and analysis about the Israeli campaign in Lebanon, and with the likely imminent start of a major ground campaign, I was looking for an analysis of what form the attack might take. Finding none, I've decided to do it myself. The military uses an analysis framework known as METT-T: Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time. The analysis is from Israel's point of view, since Israel will have the initiative.
Israel has several major and minor goals. How they prioritize them is unclear, but the goals themselves are pretty obvious. These include: stopping the shelling of Israeli cities for the long term; removing Hizb'allah from the border and from rocket range of Israel; degrading or destroying Hizb'allah's fighters and leadership, as well as their arsenal; cutting off or weakening Iran's and especially Syria's influence in Lebanon; recapturing the two soldiers whose capture started the current conflict (more a morale and propaganda goal than a military goal); preventing the widening of the war to Syria and/or Iran. Some of these goals can simply not be obtained without troops on the ground for an extended period. For example, Hizb'allah has hidden significant weaponry in tunnels that are not visible except close up — you cannot find them from the air. Without destroying those tunnels, Israel will be back in the same position they are now within just a few months.
There are two immediate enemies or potential enemies in Lebanon: Hizb'allah and the Lebanese army. In addition, Israel must be immediately concerned with how Hamas and the Syrian military. In an extreme case, Israel has to be concerned with what Iran might do.
Hizb'allah is the major enemy, of course, and it should not be underestimated. Hizb'allah has about 6000 full-time fighters, who are probably among the best Arab light forces in the world. A few days ago, they forced the Golani Brigade — well, a portion of it, actually — to withdraw under fire. That is no small feat, even if the Israeli intention at that time was reconnaissance, as it likely was. (On a reconnaissance mission, you don't want to engage decisively, because you want information, not a kinetic fight.) These are most likely concentrated on the Israeli border to engage the Israeli ground troops as they come across, then stage a fighting withdrawal.
In addition to this, Hizb'allah can probably call on up to 30000 additional fighters, of varying levels of training and with varying equipment. Hizb'allah's greatest weaknesses are lack of mobility and lack of air assets.
In addition to the rockets, anti-ship missiles and small arms that have been in evidence, Hizb'allah has mortars, artillery, RPGs and heavy anti-tank missiles. They are a formidable force.
The Lebanese army is basically a non-factor in operational terms. There are about 40000 troops, but they are lightly armed and badly trained. (This is also one reason why they have not taken on Hizb'allah for control of the South.) They have said that they would fight alongside Hizb'allah if the Israelis invade, but they would be quickly crushed if they did so.
A more pressing problem for Israel is that the Palestinians could cause trouble. In Gaza, that's not a problem, because the Israelis are already fighting there (though that fighting does tie down Israeli troops). In the West Bank, however, any fighting would mean more Israeli troops would be diverted and unavailable for the northern front. This would not be a serious threat to the Israeli plans, but it could be significant if the Syrians intervene.
The Syrians probably wouldn't intervene. While Syria has a large military, it is not terribly well-equipped and it has a long history of utter disaster when facing Israeli forces. Syria likely wants this to remain a proxy war. If Syria does get involved, it is a huge problem for Israel, because there is both the need to defend Golan, and the need to prevent Israeli troops in Lebanon from being flanked. But the biggest threat would be from Syrian chemical weapons, which could devastate Israel's civilian population. Of course, that would lead to an Israeli nuclear devastation of Syria, so hopefully Syria's leaders are sane enough not to go that far in aiding their Hizb'allah proxies.
The Iranians, other than the couple of hundred Pasdaran who are working with Hizb'allah in Lebanon, is too far away to intervene directly. (I count the Pasdaran as essentially Hizb'allah — or Hizb'allah as essentially Pasdaran, I suppose — and so include them above as integral to Hizb'allah's well-trained troops.) The one way the Iranians could become involved is by long-range missile strikes. Since this would, again, lead to an Israeli nuclear response, I don't think Iran is insane enough for that. They're happy to let Hizb'allah and Syria take the blows while Iran keeps working to get their nuclear program completed. Then, all bets are off, but that's not (hopefully) yet.
Weather is not an issue this time of year.
The terrain is very favorable to the defender. The area north from the Israel-Lebanon border is extraordinarily hilly, rising to the Lebanon Mountains towards the Mediterranean coast, and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains on the border with Syria. Between these is the Beka'a Valley, the enemy's rear area in Lebanon (the enemy's strategic rear is in Syria).
The Litani River runs through the Beka'a, then turns West for the sea some 40km North of the Israel-Lebanon border. A number of smaller, generally seasonal rivers run East-West from the Lebanon Mountains down towards the Mediterranean.
The road net is somewhat underdeveloped except along the coast.
The Israeli military is large, with over 100,000 ground forces alone, plus perhaps half a million reserves. Israel began mobilizing its reserves several days ago, and recently called up significantly more (Fox said 5000 or more) troops. Israel cannot call up reserves for any length of time without hurting their economy, so they only do it in very limited conditions, when war is impending and will be big. The number of callups is still relatively small; my expectation is that they will grow as Israel commits to action, because Israel can operate for sufficient time on its regular forces to get the reserves into action.
Israel's troops are among the best trained and most competent in the world. They have never lost a war, and even when they lose battles, it is at high cost to their enemies. The Israeli army is stupendously well equipped, with natively built assault rifles and tanks, and significant imported arms of all kinds (mostly from the US).
Israel has probably the second-best air force in the world, trailing only the United States. Their equipment is numerous, capable and well-maintained. Their pilots are well trained and very, very good. (The last Israeli war saw an exchange rate of 80 enemy aircraft destroyed in the air for one Israeli aircraft, and that one was destroyed by ground fire.)
The Israeli navy is small, with 3 submarines, 3 corvettes, a dozen or so small missile boats, and a number of patrol craft. It is sufficient to blockade Lebanon and insert commandos, but insufficient for large-scale operations of any kind.
The callup of reserves limits Israel's time horizon, and the more troops called up, the more this is true. Israeli reserves are otherwise known as civilians, and Israel only has about 5 million total civilians, including children and the elderly. Imagine the US economy if 30 million citizens were put under arms!
The second internal limit on Israel's time is munitions stockpiles. Israel has a limited number of smart bombs, for instance, and has to keep some in reserve should Syria get restless on being left out of the fight. This limits the way the Israeli's fight in a way that the US does not face, and means that Israel cannot trade bombs for their soldiers' lives as easily as we can. Israel will have to keep major combat operations within a span of perhaps 2 months to avoid running down their stockpiles, unless the US is flying in resupply (which we may well be doing). UPDATE: we are.)
The third internal limit on Israel's time is their public's aversion to even enemy civilian casualties. While the public is firmly behind the military actions for now, this won't last for more than a few months before the pictures of enemy dead begin to weigh on Israeli consciences.
The final limit on Israeli staying time is support from the US. As long as we support Israel, they can continue to operate in the face of everyone else's condemnation (they are used to it), but Israel depends on US support for a great deal, and will not jeopardize that. Right now, that limit looks to be in the far future, as President Bush appears glad that it's not us having to fight this fight.
So What Will Israel Do?
But if I were in charge, I would put six brigades (armor heavy) in the Bekaa, three on either side of the Litani, and drive North to cut off any possible Syrian assistance. Meanwhile, I would use another six or so brigades to take Lebanon up to the Litani in the West. I don't think Israel has the structure to cut off Hizb'allah's retreat, so they would instead be pushed towards Beirut (as the PLO was during the 1982 war), likely bringing down the Lebanese government, which Israel would not want. To prevent this, I would strongly consider landing troops south of Beirut by sea, in order to cut coastal movement and force Hizb'allah to stand and fight, at least in the West.
The idea would be to destroy Hizb'allah's military capability by killing their best fighters (who would likely stand and fight in the South), destroying their long-range rockets and missiles, and uncovering and destroying their bunkers. Then pull out: Israel is not ready for a long occupation.
Best case for this would be a 10 day operation. More likely would be a couple of weeks. Worst case (assuming no Syrian intervention, and Hizb'allah breaks within the first week) would be 3 months.
In my judgement, such as it is, Israel could sustain such a campaign with sufficient reserves to counter any other country (or the Palestinians) getting involved.
The key in the long term, though, is not military but political: someone has to control southern Lebanon to keep Hizb'allah out. While Israel could create a DMZ by fire, I don't think they want to have that on their shoulders. More likely would be a deal with Lebanon to come in and take over, backed by a threat to repeat if they let Hizb'allah infiltrate.
Will it work? No clue, but everything else short of annihilation or bringing in the US military has been tried.
July 21, 2006
The Edmonton Journal is pissed off at Canadians evacuated, whining, from Lebanon, calling them "swearing, muttering ingrates". Ouch.
(Via Pajamas Media, one of the best sites for information on the crisis.
The Limits of Intelligence
Throughout history, armies have been continually dismayed by how much of what they think they know is simply utterly wrong. Just in recent times, consider our intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs and force deployments, twice, North Korea's nuclear programs, and now, how well-armed and well dug-in Hizb'allah is. And yet, somehow, our policy makers and journalists keep acting as if we have (or anyone has) perfect, infallible intelligence. Now, keeping that in mind, how far is Iran really from developing nuclear weapons? The intelligence agencies all seem to agree, from politicians' statements and news reports based on leaked information, that the timeline is two years or more. Most lefty blogs that I've seen talk about it assume ten years or more. But what do we really know?
The answer could be critical when Israel goes into Lebanon.
July 20, 2006
Spot the Civilians
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the number of civilians killed in Lebanon by Israeli attacks. But what is interesting is the absolute clarity: X number of civilians killed. Many would call the death of even one civilian in a war, no matter how unintentional their death is, a crime committed by the party that fired on that civilian. While the demand for absolute perfection in targeting is clearly unrealistic, what is more baffling to me is the apparent expectation of perfect knowledge, as if the Israelis (or the US military in other circumstances) are omniscient gods.
How do we know, after all, how many civilians were killed in Lebanon? First of all, we have to accept the word of Hizb'allah, a group not noted for its truthfulness, as to who was killed and how many and under what circumstances. Is Israel responsible for civilians killed by Hizb'allah troops to prevent those civilians from fleeing the target areas? Were 8 children really killed, or just the two that Hizb'allah photographed? Second, and to me somewhat more insidious, Lebanon has the same issue that the Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq and Afghanistan have: how do you tell who the civilians are? Let's play a game I'll call "Spot the Civilians."
Is this person a civilian?
She is not wearing a uniform, after all. Or is she: does the headband count as a "fixed sign visible at a distance"? If she's not a civilian, does she become a civilian by putting down the anti-tank rocket? By taking off the headband? Does she become a soldier again by picking the weapon back up? If she's a civilian, how does one differentiate between her and this guy:
OK, he's wearing a pretty definite uniform, so maybe we can say that he is a soldier, but the lady above is not, because she's not wearing a uniform. Then how about this guy?
Not only is he not wearing a uniform, he's firing from the middle of a group of kids! How would we tell him apart from the woman at the top of this post? And if Israeli soldiers were to fire at this guy in self-defense, would he or they be responsible for the kids who got killed? But at least we can all agree that kids are not threats, right? I mean, all those photos of dead toddlers from bombed buildings in Lebanon (whether or not they are the children of Hizb'allah fighters, and whether or not Hizb'allah had stored weapons in the child's home) are truly heartbreaking. So surely we can agree, children are innocents in all of this. Right?
I don't know about anyone else, but I take the numbers of civilians reported killed with a huge block of salt. The truth is, we don't really know how many civilians have been killed, and how many have not.
And even more importantly, we have to realize that the civilized veneer stretched across war for the last couple of hundred years has been torn off, and we are back in a far more primitive world, where the moral issues are far less clear. When the enemy hides among non-combatants, fires from their midst, and forces them to stay in combat zones, it is inevitable that more non-combatants will be killed. I think that the only real way to approach this is to blame the barbarians who hide among civilians, or blur the line between combatants and civilians; and meanwhile harden our hearts against more pictures of dead children, placed for propaganda purposes by a barbaric enemy. The only other alternative is surrender, because if we hold fire for fear of killing civilians, that just gives the barbarians ready-made hostages and increases the death toll all around.
UPDATE: I don't know that I've agreed much with Alan Dershowitz before, but I do on this. Kevin Drum's dismissive tone notwithstanding, there really does need to be some redefinition of "civilians", because the all-purpose word doesn't capture the reality.
UPDATE: I am very interested in discussing how liberal democratic societies can fight terrorists who hide among civilians. I am very interested in discussing what is just and unjust in war. I am not the least bit interested in giving space to people whose main aim is to vent their frustrations, or just to call names. Nor am I at all interested in rehashing the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, or getting bogged down in discussions of various technical points which "prove" the perfidy of Israel, or the US, or Christians or whomever. Fair warning: if you want to discuss serious issues, seriously, you are welcome; if you want to call names and hurl rhetorical bombs, go elsewhere: your comments are not going to get published here.
July 19, 2006
Santayana was a Bastard, but Right
Now, as then, we will moan that "if only we had known".
Now, as then, we know, deep down, we know.
Now, as then, we are too afraid of the practical consequences of inaction, and too ready to rationalize away our moral natures.
Soon, as then, will we say "never again"?
Soon, as now, will we decide that "never again" is too hard-line to be practical?
The Chicago Way
There's been a lot of noise lately about "proportional response" in Israel's counterattack against Hizb'allah, after Hizb'allah raided into Israel and captured two Israeli soldiers, then begin firing rockets at Israeli towns. I don't get the idea; I really don't. I suppose I just don't understand what a "proportional response" is? Let's explore.
A "proportional response" could mean "doing just what your enemy did". But if Israel were to go into Lebanon and capture enemy fighters, and then start bombing enemy civilians (even hospitals and mosques), they would be excoriated as being monsters and war criminals. Indeed, they are being charged exactly thus for the incidental damage from fighting Hizb'allah in response to such actions. (Example: Hizb'allah moves its rockets in trucks that Israel is bombing; to protect the rockets, Hizb'allah mixes those trucks in with convoys of civilian cars and buses; Israel attacks the trucks anyway, and the media reports this as Israel bombing a civilian convoy and everyone starts demanding Israel cease attacking civilians.)
A "proportional response" could mean "doing just what is needed to stop the enemy from doing what he was doing and no more". That has two big problems. The first is that this would likely imply a heavier assault than Israel is currently engaged in, and so is likely not what the worriers mean. The second is that such a formulation leads only to more casualties down the line. In fact, this has been the pattern in Israeli/Arab relations since Oslo: the Arabs attack Israeli civilians mercilessly; the Israelis respond by counter-battery fire against Arab rocket-launchers or artillery, or killing Arab leaders, or capturing Arab fighters, or some similar means; the Arabs scream "war crime" and beg the international community to force a cease-fire; the cease-fire comes; Arabs, having taken a drubbing, re-arm and recruit and train new fighters; go back to step one. In other words, the problem is never actually solved, only kicked down the road to come back again in a few weeks, months or (in rare cases) years. Is it really the moral position to insist that problems that lead to fighting never get solved? I cannot see how.
A "proportional response" could mean "just sitting there and taking it", because being more powerful than your enemy ipso facto removes any legitimacy you have to defend yourself. I suspect that this is what most Europeans, at least, mean by "proportional response." That is so against human nature as to beggar belief, but then Europe has spent a long time (as has the the US, really) in virtually complete peace and security, and maybe a lot of people have just forgotten what it means to be at the mercy of an implacable enemy.
A "proportional response" could mean "doing what other countries would do in a similar situation", but I suspect it doesn't. After all, look at what France did in the Ivory Coast (a few French "peace keepers" were killed, so France destroyed the government's air force and imposed de facto French control over the entire population and economy) or what Spain would do if the Basques were to start firing long-range rockets from France into Spain. (Yes, I know there are mountains in the way. It's a thought experiment.) If Israel's response were along those lines, it would really look more like the Chicago way, which is really the only way to settle a problem where one side's minimum condition is the extermination of the other:
You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.
Posted by jeff at 5:58 PM | TrackBack
July 18, 2006
A New Sovereignty and Lebanon
Last August I wrote about how the old understanding of sovereignty is no longer useful. In brief, my point is that we should move from the current de jure definition of sovereignty to a de facto definition of sovereignty, and that within areas where no state is de facto sovereign (regardless of de jure sovereignty), any state should be able to act with impunity. This would certainly apply to southern Lebanon, where de jure sovereignty belongs to Lebanon, but where Lebanon's army cannot go without being fought (and likely defeated) by Hizb'allah, which holds de facto sovereignty over the area.
Under the old understanding of sovereignty, it is ambiguous whether any entity committed an act of war by attacking into Israel and capturing Israeli soldiers. While Hizb'allah holds seats in the Lebanese parliament and portfolios in the Lebanese executive, neither Lebanon's executive nor their parliament authorized any strike on Israel. Yet while Hizb'allah has no de jure sovereignty (and thus no ability to commit acts of war in the Westphalian understanding), treating Hizb'allah's act as a crime is clearly not the correct framework: for one thing, Lebanon cannot enforce any decree against Hizb'allah, and for another, this was an attack across an international border by an armed force. It is this ambiguity on which Hizb'allah, Hamas, Iran acting in Iraq and many other terrorist organizations and states rely for their protection. After all, if Hamas attacks Israel, what right does Israel have to attack a (presumedly-) sovereign Palestine that did not attack Israel?
Under a de facto understanding of sovereignty, the ambiguity is eliminated, and both sides' rights and responsibilties are clearly defined. Hizb'allah, as de facto sovereign of southern Lebanon, committed an act of war. Lebanon as a whole, to the extent it harbors Hizb'allah installations and forces, is a legitimate enemy of Israel (though Israel would be wise not to treat it as such, even rhetorically) because they are not acting as a neutral, but as a co-belligerent of Hizb'allah. Thus Israel has the right to fight in areas controlled by Hizb'allah, and Hizb'allah has the responsibility for negotiating and enforcing any agreements with Israel to stop the fighting.
Similarly in Gaza, Hamas is de facto sovereign (and arguably de jure sovereign). As such, the attack into Israel in which Gilad Shalit was captured was a clear act of war, because Hamas could have prevented, or should have been able to prevent, the attack, but did not. The position in Gaza is analagous to the position in Lebanon, except for the absence of any widely-accepted de jure sovereignty over Gaza.
Note that this understanding of sovereignty would also clarify the situations in Afghanistan/northwest Pakistan, Iran and Syria in respect to supporting transnational terrorists, and northern Mexico in respect to drug smugglers.
In general, clarity is good, and ambiguity is bad, in international affairs. Giving transnational groups the ability to act criminally or even to fight wars, while preventing sovereign states from engaging those groups because under international law the groups don't quite exist, simply leads to more wars and cross-border criminal acts. I can't think of anyone who would argue that that outcome is a good one.
June 29, 2006
Wait a Minute...
So let me get this straight: if an activity occurs entirely in one State, it is an "interstate" act, and if it occurs spanning multiple nations it is "not of an international character"? I think that the Supreme Court justices need to go back and study Latin long enough to determine the meaning of the prefix "inter-"; they seem to have reversed the meaning somewhat.
June 23, 2006
I was going to write at some length about the latest attack by the New York Times on the American war effort, and thus on the people of the United States1, by disclosing yet another method the government uses to find terrorists. Fortunately, most of that ground was covered by Fran Porretto, so you can see much of the rest of what I would have written there.
But there is one thing that Fran didn't cover and that I would like to discuss: obligations. A member of a community — up to and including a citizen of a country — has obligations to that community. One of those obligations is to obey the constitutionally-valid laws duly passed to govern that community, and another is to not deliberately attack that community directly or by aiding those who attack the community. To do otherwise is to yourself be an enemy of that community. (If someone would like to propose a definition of "enemy" that doesn't include deliberate attempts to destroy or weaken an entity, I'd love to hear it.) For institutions that are part of a community, there is a double obligation: the obligation of the institution to support the system that governs and protects them, and the obligation of each and every member of that institution to do likewise. As such, the Times has multiple obligations to the US that should prevent the Times from deliberately attempting to weaken the US. "Serving the public interest" is not only the Times' duty, but that of every US citizen or institution — and most particularly of the government. The government has an absolute duty to protect the US from attack, and the Times' weakening of that ability is a moral and cultural failure.
The Times, though, has some other peculiar views about obligations that it seems to share with many other MSM outlets. For example, the Times seems to think that the government has an obligation to the Times (and other self-designated journalists with the proper accreditations, memberships and viewpoints) to grant access, disclose information and otherwise to assist the Times in its organizational (corporate, in this case) endeavors. The government has no such obligation. This lack of obligation on the government's part opens a road to dealing with the Times and its like-minded compatriots: banishment.
The President should immediately announce that the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have, through their disclosure of this and other critically sensitive government programs, policies and procedures in the War passed beyond the point where they can be reasonably believed to be acting as responsible American journalists, particularly in refusing to withhold publication of sensitive information about vital government war measures. That, as a result, it is the policy of the government for one year from this date to hold those named institutions and their employees to be persona non grata in their role as journalists, with the following consequences: neither those organizations, nor any employee or associate of those organizations, nor any person whose material is published by those organizations during the year, will be granted press credentials at any government news conference or other event, including travel on Presidential and other government trips abroad; nor will any executive officer or employee grant interviews or otherwise disclose any information of any kind in their official capacity to those organizations or their employees, on pain of termination. The organizations' behavior over the sanction period would determine if the sanctions would continue in place past that year.
The MSM have for too long trampled over the people's true interests, and the people's representatives, in the MSM's own self-interest (while piously insisting they are merely our representatives, as if they were an elected, rather than self-appointed, agent of the public!). It is time for the government to reassert its own obligations to the citizens, by failing to cooperate with those who would harm our war efforts. True, there would be a firestorm over this. But then, what can the Times say that would be worse than what they've already said? What can they do that would be worse than what they've already done? It's time — it's past time — to reclaim government's role as our watchdog.
Certainly, there needs to be a free press covering the government, but there also need to be limits to how far that press goes. Exposing true malfeasance by government (yes, Abu Ghraib counts, though the coverage was one-sided and excessive) is one thing. A sustained attack on the country's ability to defend itself is quite another. And while censorship is not the answer, neither is ignoring the rot within.
Posted by jeff at 6:44 PM
| Comments (3)
1Yes, I realize that the Times would claim that they are "serving the public interest", or, in private, perhaps that they are attacking the Bush administration, but when you deliberately weaken a country's war effort, it is the people of that country who are put at risk. Do I question their patriotism? Unhesitatingly.
Smells Like ... Victory
It looks like we may be on the verge of a fairly complete victory in Iraq. The Iraqi government seems to be prepared to offer amnesty to insurgents in Iraq. Since November of 2004, and the river war that followed it, broke the back of the insurgency (organized operations by the enemy above the squad level have since been essentially non-existent), it has been clear that the insurgents could not drive out the US or Iraqi government militarily. The elections that have followed have shown that the insurgents cannot defeat the Iraqi government politically. The failure of terrorism to spark civil war, and the increasingly-evident revenge attacks by Sunni and Kurd groups embedded in Iraq's Interior Ministry, have made abundantly clear lately that the Sunni insurgents (2 or 3 distinct types, actually, including criminals, ex-Ba'athists and so on) have to settle, leave or die. And now we are in the end game: wars end either in the annihilation of the enemy, or their surrender on terms. This amnesty, however spun, amounts to nothing more than a surrender of the major Sunni groups on terms.
Certainly, there are some tenets of the proposal, assuming the media reports to be correct, that are questionable as stated, and I hope our government officials are on top of these. For example, including a halting of coalition anti-terror raids in insurgent strongholds only makes sense if we can resume those raids if there is any terrorist or insurgent activity in those strongholds, and if the Iraqi military and police are able to take control of those areas as a condition of stopping coalition operations. I'm content to give the administration the benefit of the doubt on this, given how well they've done in handling the war to date both militarily and politically.
June 21, 2006
The Danger of Letting Your Fangs Grow too Long...
is that someone will come along and cut them off. The rabidly anti-war "Bush lied" types let their fangs grow too long, and a couple of Congressmen appear to have pulled out the fang clippers.
I know that the first thing out of the antis' mouths will be to question the timing, and the second will be to question the administrations motives. But frankly, I'm glad that the administration has not been releasing this kind of information (or focusing, for example, on the captured documents being translated and what they show), because I really want them worrying about today and tomorrow and next year, not three years ago. Frankly, the President can't be re-elected, so let other people fight these battles and let the administration do the work of keeping us safe from all threats, foreign and domestic.
June 8, 2006
Celebrating a Death
It's not often that I celebrate a death, but Abu Musa'ab al-Zarqawi needed killin'. And apparently finally got it. With the cascade of top Zarqawi aides and regional leaders being killed, I figured it was only a matter of time until we got him, so long as he was in-country. Seems he was.
Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead!
ABC, Fox, and CNN are all reporting the death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. In fact, as I type, Fox News is reporting that the announcement is now official. Zarqawi apparently was killed in a US airstrike.
May he roast in hell with 72 pigs.Posted by Brian at 2:42 AM | TrackBack
May 23, 2006
Dave Schuler had an interesting post on Iran, in which he argues that our options are to get Russia and China on board with sanctions, or we have no options. I do not concur.
Well, let me be more clear. I concur that our best option is to get China and Russia on board (for real) with sanctions, and I hope that the government is focusing its will and bending its enormous resources to that task. My failure to concur arises from one likelihood and one fact: the likelihood is that Russia and China will not come on board with tough sanctions, and the fact is that we do have options past that point.
In my opinion, the US goals, in order, must be to (1) prevent genocide, (2) keep the oil flowing, (3) minimize attacks on the US and allied interests.
If Iran appears to be close to getting nuclear weapons, or if it is found to have done so, Israel will use its nuclear arsenal to destroy Iran utterly. Failure to do so implies that Israel will itself be destroyed, because 9/11 showed us pretty clearly to take our enemies at their words when they say they want to kill us. And the Iranians have been very clear about their goal to test their nuclear weapons in Tel Aviv and Haifa. So to accomplish goal #1, the US must prevent Iran from even getting close to a nuclear weapons capability.
Sanctions as a tool to accomplish that violate goal #2, but are more politically palatable than an outright attack on Iran. Assuming that diplomacy has failed to convince the Iranians to abandon seeking nuclear weapons (and I think that is nearly a given at this point, and will be assured when Iran rejects the latest EU proposal that would give Iran guaranteed access to commercial-grade nuclear fuel), sanctions will be our next attempt; indeed, we are already moving down that road.
But in order for sanctions to work, as you note, Russia and China must be on board. The history of N. Korea, and of the Oil For Food program, indicate that a tight sanctions regime is unworkable. I think we have to try, but I also think that we are unlikely to get what we want, and must keep in mind the timeline to achieve goal #1 is shrinking rapidly - particularly since it now appears that the Iranians (quelle surprise) have a parallel, secret military nuclear program in place.
So let's say that we can't get a tight sanctions regime. Do we go for a leaky sanctions regime? This is where, I believe, your "Without that we’ve got nothing" comment comes into play. No, we cannot accept a leaky sanctions regime that makes us the bad guy while letting Iran continue to develop their nuclear program essentially unhindered, in practical terms. Remember all the stories of starving Iraqi children? Think those won't come back in Iranian clothes? If so, think again.
So if leaky sanctions are not going to help us achieve goal #1, and would in the meantime lessen the oil flow (goal #2 violated) while giving excuses to the Iranians to attack us (goal #3 violated), we cannot do leaky sanctions.
What's next? Embargo. We could shut off Iran's access to the sea, and (if we were willing to attack oil pipelines and road nets, particularly in the North) could shut off any significant Iranian imports or exports. But that is an act of war: we have gone from "we all agree not to trade with you" to "we will compel everyone by force of arms not to trade with you." At that point, we have lost goal #2 and goal #3, and goal #1 is still very questionable because we will not be able to guarantee a stoppage of the Iranian nuclear program short of their utter surrender, more complete even than that of Serbia. Now, it's possible that Iran will surrender, and we'll be able to go in and eliminate their nuclear programs to a degree we (and the Israelis) consider sufficient, get the oil flowing again, and not take massive attacks in the process (surrender may just mean entrapment, in an age and land of terrorism). Possible, but then it's possible that the Cubs will win the Series. Possible, but unlikely.
So we are past sanctions as an option at this point in the logic, and Iran continues onwards. We've looked at the possibility of an embargo, and it's just not an attractive option for obtaining our goals. At this point, we've exhausted all possibilities of obtaining goal #1 short of war, and the question is what kind of war it will be. As I noted in my response to Dave's post, we've got the resources to do considerably more than a limited embargo, and in the process to acheive all three goals.
To do this, we must actively destroy Iran's civilian and military infrastructure and occupy the oil fields and the territory around the Straits of Hormuz. This would take considerably fewer ground troops than occupying all of Iran (which we do not have the strength to do, frankly, and might not have even were we not also engaged in Iraq). We would achieve goal #1 by simply making it impossible for Iran to function in any way until they surrender utterly, thus making it impossible (by tautology) for Iran to continue nuclear development. We would certainly take terror attacks for this, as would our allies, and some of them would be big.
On the other hand, of course, which is better: taking those terror attacks, or waiting until either Iran or Israel attacks the other with nuclear weapons? Politically, I suppose we could just let Israel go for it, and denounce them afterwards. Morally? Well, that's another story.
April 18, 2006
While I think the six retired generals who came out publicly calling for SecDef Rumsfeld to retire were wrong on many counts, it is still good to keep in mind that these men have decades each of military experience, and not all of them are Title X guys (that is, political generals); these guys deserve to be listened to before being simply dismissed, and we all know the news tends to miss most of the important parts of any story in their quest for the right soundbite. So I have a few questions for them, and if there's any way I can get time to do this, I'll try to track down contact information for the generals and get answers to these particular questions:
1. One common criticism of SecDef Rumsfeld has been that he committed insufficient troops to the Iraq campaign. How many troops would you have suggested were required for this campaign? For how long would they be required and when would they be phased in and out? What missions would extra troops have been tasked with, and where deployed? How would these additional troops have been supplied, given the lack of both Turkey and Saudi Arabia as supply routes/sources and the political impossibility of using a route through Israel/Jordan? How would the additional supplies and supply routes have been protected both during the invasion and during the occupation?
2. Let us say that your advice from the first question had been taken, and the campaign had been fought with these forces, logistics plans and so forth. What additional risks would have been introduced, and what risks mitigated, by campaigning in this manner vice the manner in which the campaign was actually conducted?
3. Would the use of a larger footprint lessened the duration or severity of the terrorism, or given the terrorists more targets, or some mix of the two? Would the Sunni insurrection have been larger, smaller or the same? Would the Shi'a and/or Kurds have joined the insurrection? Would it have been possible, with this larger footprint, to build up Iraqi security forces who would have a will and interest in securing their country? How much time would this have taken in contrast to the way that it has turned out in reality? Was removing Saddam Hussein from power sufficient to end the war, or were other goals required to be achieved before the situation in Iraq could be declared
4. How does this plan align with the political goals outlined by the President? Would it have been possible to have stood up an Iraqi government in sovereign control of the country? How much time would that have taken, and how much buy-in from Iraqis - particularly Sunni Iraqis - would be expected? Would any such government, wholly owing its existence and form and security to American forces, ever be seen as anything other than a puppet government? Would it ever be anything other than a puppet government?
5. If you believe that engaging in the Iraq campaign was a mistake in the first place, and that the President's goals were not sufficient, were too audacious, or were simply not worth the cost to achieve, what goals do you believe would have been correct to pursue? Is it the place of the military or the civilian leadership to determine the goals to be pursued in undertaking a war? If it is the place of the civilian leadership to determine goals, and the military does not support those goals, should it be the military or the civilian leadership whose decision is final?
6. Should the Secretary of Defense be held accountable for the errors of his superiors? That is, should the Secretary of Defense be responsible for, say, the disastrous CPA results, even though those were largely at the hands of the State Department after the President's decision to implement the CPA in this manner? If the President should bear the blame for that, rather than the Secretary of Defense, then in what way did the Secretary of Defense mismanage the occupation (another common complaint)? What could have been done differently, knowing what we knew at the time and without benefit of hindsight? Where and how had such measures been tried in the past, and with what results?
7. Assuming that the larger levels of force had been used, a fairly large callup of the reserves and National Guard - much larger than was actually done - would have been needed. This would have been politically difficult, which is part of the Secretary of Defense's job to defend. What arguments could have been made to make such a large callup politically palatable?
8. Given such a large callup, national reserves would have been next to non-existent. If another crisis had come to a head in, say, mid-2004, with the vast bulk of the American military committed in Iraq, with what forces could we have influenced the crisis? Would any inability to influence the crisis, let alone meaningfully intervene, be politically defensible? Would it be morally defensible?
9. You spoke out after your normal retirement, rather than resigning during the run-up to the war, or in its immediate aftermath. While it would be extraordinary for a serving officer to speak publicly against the civilian leadership, did you consider any other measures while on active duty, such as resigning your commission or taking early retirement? In what other ways did you attempt to influence the Secretary of Defense and the CINCCENT to do things your way? Is there anything that, in hindsight, you wish you had done to bring attention to these deficiencies at an earlier time?
10. To what degree have you considered that you might be wrong?
As I said, these men deserve to be listened to. They might, after all, be right. But how can we know until they've been asked, and answered, tough questions? So far, all we've heard is unbecoming carping. I for one would like to know more.
April 15, 2006
Force Field Developed
Some stories just seem so amazing you can't help but wonder if they are just belated April Fool's jokes or propaganda.
Israel and the US have apparently developed an anti-RPG system called Trophy. I'm guessing it's a ECM system of some kind, based on this video.
If true, the best word to sum it up would be "Cool!'
(Jeff, I'd really love to know how Connor reacts)
April 14, 2006
Several retired American generals have recently criticized SecDef Rumsfeld's conduct in office, and called for his resignation. (Best takes here and here.) The generals are, for the most part, wrong; and because of the way in which they are wrong, they'll never see that they are.
But first to backtrack. One of my largest disagreements ever with my father — one that actually led to both of us raising our voice with some heat — was over an event that happened close to two decades before I was born: Truman's sacking of MacArthur. My father argues that MacArthur was correct in his determination that the war could only be won by advancing all the way to the border with China, and if necessary into China itself. While I agree, with an important caveat, that is only part of the story. MacArthur was correct that the war could only be won militarily as he suggested, but Truman was correct about two somewhat more important matters: first, that the point of the war for the US was not to utterly destroy the enemy, but to preserve South Korean freedom; and second, and most importantly, that the control of military policy is not in the hands of the generals, but the civilian leadership of the nation.
Both issues are coming into play today, too. The generals who are making these criticisms of Rumsfeld (really, of Bush, if you note what they are most often criticizing) have failed to note that the military issues are not the only ones on the table, and the civilians have picked a different grand strategy than the generals assume is operating. As a result, our actions (and force levels, and choices of enemy and target) are different than the generals believe would be best. This does not make the generals correct even though they may be right in a narrow military sense: they have simply failed to consider the broader context of the American use of force and other elements of national power in the long war.
We could easily break countries and leave them to rot, and that is precisely what those who argue for 4 times the troop levels we actually used in Iraq are actually arguing for. It would be possible to level cities, devastate populations and economies and infrastructures, and kill the enemy en masse with few casualties of our own. We could use overwhelming military might to force the enemy's head into the sand so hard he'd never pull it up again. But that would hardly contribute to democratizing the Middle East, which is the grand strategy that our leaders elected for that purpose have chosen, and in fact would be detrimental to that strategy. Further, such criticisms reflect a very isolated thought process: what force then would be available should, say, North Korea come south?
We have undoubtedly traded away margins of victory (the Shahikot Valley and Tora Bora both come to mind, as does the early occupation of Anbar Province in Iraq) in the short term in order to gain a strategic advantage in the long term. It's a type of sacrifice war gamers are very familiar with, and one would expect those whose entire career is tied up in war gaming and war fighting would recognize that. But these generals, for whatever reason, have failed to notice that policy is not their bag, and their opinion of what that policy should be (which is the root of their disagreements on such points as force levels and choices of pace and target and enemy) is no more relevant than mine: their job is to carry out orders, not make policy.
Even within the context of the President's mandate to control national strategy, it is obvious that the President, the SecDef, and the military have all made mistakes. What is remarkable, looking at events through a historical lens, is how few mistakes they have made, how minor they have been, and how easily they have been adapted to. Indeed, the only mistake that I cannot understand, the largest mistake and yet the easiest to avoid, has been the administration's mismanagement of public opinion. While the administration says that they realize they are fighting an ideological struggle, they apparently don't realize that this is a struggle not merely with the enemy, but also with elements within our own society, who would gladly see Americans die in large numbers (and our allies die in massive, massive numbers) if it would give Republicans a black eye. This oversight threatens to end the President's strategy with the President's second term, and that makes it a core error that the President and his administration must fix, or risk utter long-term failure (though it would not happen on their watch).
And by the way, those Bush critics who otherwise wouldn't give a general officer the time of day, but are now jumping to crow out the generals' statements for their (the critics') own political gain, aren't fooling anyone. It is transparently obvious that the generals will be discarded by the critics as soon as they are no longer politically useful.
March 30, 2006
I've been so busy and distracted that I forgot to make a major point the other day with my post on how our assumptions underlie our foreign policy. Listening to Thomas Friedman on NPR this morning reminded me about it.
The two assumptions governing our policy in Iraq and the larger Middle East are that a certain class Muslims are dangerous and that Muslims can be democratized and reformed. The first assumption can, despite the efforts of the President and many on the Left, only really be changed for the better by Muslims themselves, and recent events are instead tending to solidify and expand the assumption, towards the assumption that all Muslims are warlike and dangerous and that they will give no quarter.
The second assumption, though, is under serious threat by the people increasingly calling for us to pull out of Iraq. But since they aren't thinking through the implications of their proposed policies, they've missed a big factor: if we decide that Iraq is a lost cause, it means that we've decided that democratization and thus presumably pacification of Muslim countries is a waste of time. And that means that when we go to war against Iran and other Muslim countries, which we will continue to do so long as we perceive them as threatening, it will not be to build their nations up but to destroy their nations and kill their people. Not the governments, but the people.
And I really don't think we want to go there.
March 29, 2006
Assumptions and Actions
We all tend to think about foreign policy in terms of immediate events. We look at a threat from Iran, or a report about North Korea, or a statement from France or Britain, or an election in Belarus, and we ponder what that event means. The problem is that the events are almost meaningless in and of themselves, and so we are often deeply misled about our own and others' foreign policies. Events themselves only have two possible effects, over the long term, on changing policy: either they change our assumptions, or they spark action. Most events, though — the vast majority, in fact — have neither of those effects: they are simply historical footnotes, confirming our assumptions or leading to no firm decisions. The events that are not footnotes are called inflection points or turning points, depending on how severe is the change they create.
Those particular events that spark action — the Pearl Harbor attack, the 9/11 raids, the attack on Fort Sumter — do so because they crystallize a change in assumptions and make clear that our former ways of acting are no longer appropriate. The Japanese would not be deterred from conquest by economic sanctions and slowly increasing pressure; the jihadis would continue to attack the US in ever more outrageous ways; the South would not peacefully remain in the Union. In each case, the crystallizing event served to validate assumptions that had been undergoing change for some time, or to show the necessity for reexamining flawed assumptions. And of course there are positive changes as well, such as the fall of the Berlin wall, that change our assumptions as well.
Still, what is seldom remarked upon, except perhaps by historians seeking explanations when all the principals are long dead, is the framework within which we make foreign policy decisions. Even the spark events are less meaningful in the long-term than the underlying assumptions that frame our foreign policy. The 9/11 raids sparked a war, and arguably two wars. The increasing assumption that we cannot deal peacefully with Muslim countries and possibly not with Muslims at all may lead to a dozen or more wars; and in retrospect the 9/11 raids would simply be seen as a crystallization of the increasing feeling that the Muslim world was broken that started with the first Intifadeh and grew with various terror attacks during the 1990s. And I'm not sure that that characterization is entirely wrong, either: certainly, those who were paying attention were disconcerted by the terrorism increasingly directed at the US, and with increasingly vast effect; our assumptions were changing, but had not yet reached a tipping point.
Spark events determine when we act, but our assumptions determine how we act. And our assumptions have been undergoing radical changes since the end of the Cold War, and need to be reexamined in depth. In particular, there are a few assumptions that have changed, and a few that may soon change, that will determine much about the world in the next decades.
One little-examined change in assumptions actually began under President Clinton. The US has always reserved the right to act preemptively to secure our defense. But during the 1990s, President Clinton first enunciated a doctrine of preemption against situations that we were unhappy about morally, but which did not impact our security needs. The interventions in the Balkans and Haiti were of this type. President Bush's policy of preemptive war is actually more limited than President Clinton's, in that President Bush is signalling that the US will act against a threat earlier than before, rather than that we will act against non-threats. But the underlying assumptions are that anything that happens anywhere in the world is our business, and that we must act in the early stages of a crisis to prevent a full-blown crisis, and that (in the absence of any other superpowers) only the US can act globally. Taken together, these changed assumptions virtually compel the US to intervene in the affairs of any unstable or ungoverned areas, which means that we need to staff and train appropriately for that. And to think that these assumptions will change under a Democratic administration is fantasy: the very idea of interference in such places to bring about a better situation for the people living there came from the Democrats in the first place.
Many of our changes in assumptions recently have had to do with Muslims. The first changes were from Islamic terrorism as an Israeli problem to Islamic terrorism as our problem. This began in the mid-1990s under President Clinton, but the change did not crystallize until 9/11. This change in assumptions is fairly monumental in and of itself, and undergirds the Bush Doctrine in its entirety. But this is not the largest change, nor the most likely to lead to future wars (excepting Iran, which results largely from this change). The largest changes are those that deal with the character of Muslims and of Islam itself.
Already, there is a fairly large movement in public assumptions from "Islam is a religion of peace" to "the Muslim world has bloody borders and massive internal injustices because of Islam", and from "most Muslims are moderates, even when they don't speak out" to "most Muslims either support or refuse to condemn Muslim violence, including terrorism, against non-Muslims". These alone will change the way we fight: as the wars drag on, we will become increasingly brutal as we increasingly demonize the enemy. This is not unusual; read up on the Battle of the Bulge to see some of the war crimes committed by both sides.
But I can see us going further than that. I can see assumptions on the horizon that include "Muslims are not capable of being civilized", "all Muslims are potentially terrorists", "Islam is not a religion but a totalitarian movement" and others more extreme still. The Rahman case certainly does not help the Muslims, nor do the cartoon riots, to fight against these assumptions and stereotypes. And as long as such incidents continue, the US (and indeed the West in general) will move increasingly to the view that the only solution is to wipe out Islam, or to decimate Muslims everywhere, or to subjugate the Islamic world entirely. If that happens, there will be a full-blown civilizational war on the scale of the Crusades, the Arab conquest of the Middle East, or the Second World War.
And since that is, apparently, what the jihadis want to happen, the only way that it will be prevented is for Muslims to first reform internally. And that is not very likely; external pressure is almost certainly going to be required. In the end, the most likely course of events for the next decades is an increasingly frequent and increasingly brutal series of wars between the West (the US in particular) and the Islamic world. And it will not matter whether it is Democrats or Republicans in charge, other than to change the rate of reaction, because the assumptions of Americans as a whole will drive both parties to the same ends.Posted by jeff at 12:23 PM | TrackBack
March 27, 2006
Not To Mention...
Brian Dunn argues that nuclear weapons would be a strategic negative for Iran. Perhaps, but what really interests me is this: where are the nuclear freeze protesters, and the protesters against Israeli and American nuclear weapons in general for that matter, with Iran on the brink of developing a nuclear capability? You'd think they'd be out in the streets trying to stop, or at least express displeasure at, the proliferation. Instead, they seem to be actively working to prevent the world from trying to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons into the hands of an unstable theocratic regime. What is it Glenn Reynolds says often? "They're not anti-war [or in this case, anti-nuclear]; they're just on the other side."
March 20, 2006
Warfighting and Defense Secretarying
Rusty Shackelford thinks it's time to fire Donald Rumsfeld. I think Shackelford is wrong, based primarily on not understanding the job of SecDef, as far as I can tell. It is not the job of the Secretary of Defense to fight wars, nor even to determine the strategy. It is the job of the SecDef to assist the President in setting goals and conditions (grand strategy, if you will), and to assist the warfighters in determining strategy. It is mostly, though, the SecDef's job to make sure that the warfighters have what they need to successfully prosecute wars to attain the goals set by the President. That's why he spends so much time with the Congress and the political generals.
Now it's truly the case that we've made errors in Iraq. Some are obvious now, and some are not. Many of the most controversial decisions (such as disbanding the Iraqi army we had just defeated) will not really be clear in their effect until some time has passed, and arguments can be made either that they were brilliant or terrible or somewhere in between with somewhat equal credibility. History will validate or condemn these decisions; they are too arguable to be used as justifications for immediate correctives now. But merely making errors is a bad reason to fire someone: were the errors demonstrably fatal to our cause, and are they things that few others would have done given the same information? Were they honest mistakes or incompetence? It's very difficult for us to judge from where we sit.
But the real problem is that the US does not know how to fight the wars we're in now, and will be in for the next several decades, any more than the military of 1949 knew how to fight the Cold War and the various proxy fights that would come up as ancillaries to the Cold War. Are we to modify or destroy the idea of Westphalian states, or to act as gatekeepers to which states can claim the associated rights? Are we going to use proxies to fight for us or to fight on our own or to form coalitions; to create empires as the British did (but without the colonialism) or to admit captured territories as US territories and possibly eventually as states or to destroy and withdraw; to rebuild the cultures of our defeated enemies or to only remove the leaders; to intervene wherever threatened or more broadly or more narrowly than that; to integrate war and nation-building or to unleash the full fury of our destructive power upon our enemies; to engage or to withdraw from the world, even to the point of giving up our will to project power short of direct attack against the US itself?
These are not small questions, and we don't yet have the answers. Until we do, until we have decided what we want to do to make the world more pleasant to live in from our point of view, it will be impossible to tell if Rumsfeld's approach was wrong or right. And thus it would be a mistake to fire Rumsfeld for the reasons Shackelford gives.
UPDATE: I should point out, by the way, that what these wars look like is actually what war always looked like before industrialization: little or no differentiation between combatant and non-combatant, fighting amongst the civilians being fought over, and no definable front lines/rear areas. The real question, then, is whether a modern, liberal state can fight a liberal war against a barbarian (literally) enemy: can we fight clean in this kind of war and have any expectation of victory. I think that we are learning in Iraq that we can, and that it is hard and takes a long time. It would be faster to kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out, and my fear is that if we don't maintain our patience and resolve, we'll start doing exactly that. Good for our warriors and our security; bad for our souls.
More Like Jenin
First, if this happened as reported, then the involved Marines must be prosecuted for murder and war crimes.
Second, it's unlikely that the events happened as described. Note, for example, the witnesses: the most quoted is "Khaled Ahmed Rsayef" ... "who didn't witness the events but whose 15-year-old niece says she did" (but note that she is not quoted); "Imad Jawad Hamza, who spoke with hospital officials and residents".
So we are confronted with the statements of two people, neither of whom claims to have witnessed the acts. Further, their statements are vastly at odds with observed behavior of the US military under these and worse conditions over the years, though that is hardly conclusive. Google wasn't helpful about Rsayef or Hamza. I found this on an enemy website: different both in quoted witnesses and in the details of what happened. Nothing else much of note, though since the story is new and would make the US look bad if true, there will undoubtedly be more stuff available quite quickly, most of it smarmy, screaming or stuffed with schadenfreude.
Given that the claims are extraordinarily unlikely, and the evidence quite thin, my evaluation is that this is not worth paying attention to until and unless more facts — well-sourced facts — come out. Sadly, I'm becoming quite proficient at picking apart news reports for indications of false reporting. Sad, because it is necessary to utterly distrust news sources due to their long history of outright lies, fabulous distortions and the like.
March 9, 2006
Critics and Their Foibles
When the Bush administration came into office, its policy on foreign affairs was quite Jeffersonian: we would largely withdraw from conflict areas like the Israeli/Palestinian situation and let them sort out their own affairs. Per the critics, disengagement was the wrong policy, and instead we should engage with conflicts in order to resolve them.
So when we engaged, largely alone (initially) in Afghanistan and then with Britain and others in supporting roles in Iraq, the same critics were quick to tell us that "unilateralism" was the wrong policy, and instead we should engage "multilaterally".
So when we engaged multilaterally in North Korea, the very same critics were again quick to tell us that we were being too multilateral and should be more unilaterally engaged or, better yet, should disengage completely and just leave North Korea alone.
And the latest is Iran, where we have left Iran largely alone until lately, letting the EU and Russia run with negotiations and such. And now the very same critics once again say that we are wrong to follow this policy.
The only consistency in the anti-Bush critics on foreign policy is that they are against whatever President Bush does, regardless of the outcome. I'm sure it makes the critics feel good, but all it's done for me is to convince me that the Democrats must never again, unless they reform, have control of foreign policy until the long war against the jihadis is over. When your only policy principle is "Republicans bad", you are not fit to lead the country — indeed you're not even worth listening to.
March 7, 2006
The World's Problems
The most important, and among the least understood, fact about the world today is this: there are no remaining sanctuaries for anyone.
Religious sites give no sanctuary.
Oceans give no sanctuary.
Appeasement gives no sanctuary.
Strength alone gives no sanctuary.
Weakness gives no sanctuary.
Isolation gives no sanctuary.
Local law and custom give no sanctuary.
Absence of war between nations gives no sanctuary.
There are no sanctuaries in the world today. Any place which is not democratic (in the modern Western sense), peaceful, modern and secular spills violence and death outwards and inwards. The most obvious and apparent source of this violence and death is jihadism, particularly when coupled with other forms of nihilism, but it is not the only source. A look at Zimbabwe, Venezuela or Myanmar will quickly dispel any such notion.
This raises questions whose possible answers are so frightening that many people refuse to ask them, or to countenance others asking them. Is it possible to have peace anywhere in the world, let alone everywhere, on an ongoing basis? Is it possible to have peace without genocide? Both peace and meaningful freedom? Both peace and prosperity? Is it possible for Western cultures, and Westernized cultures like Japan or Korea, to survive in the face of terrorism, nuclear proliferation, resentment both of Western success and Western attempts to spread that success? Is it possible for other cultures to survive the competition from Western cultures? The evidence is all over the place, but the overall picture is not encouraging. It is becoming apparent that Western cultures cannot tolerate disorder and violence anywhere, and that Islamist culture cannot tolerate anything but its own hegemony. It seems likely that either Western culture or Islamist culture will take over the world: each is maximal and each is proselytizing and each is convinced that it is the best way. Each also has those among its opposite who feel that their own culture is immoral, and willing to work against their own culture's ascendency.
It is very possible — perhaps even likely — that the world will soon come to a tipping point, when the liberal West collectively catches its breath and decides that this really is a culture war we are in, and we must fight tyranny or die, and our ideals with us. I believe that the jihadis, from their own statements, decided more than a decade ago that this is a culture war, and that they are doing their level best to convince other Muslims, and particularly Sunni Arabs, that this is the case, and that Muslims must fight the West or die, and their god with them. They might succeed.
I have been thinking a lot over the past few years about what happens if we pass that tipping point, and I hate all the answers I've had. But I've had a new idea recently, and idea that I don't hate and that might work, and I want to talk about that. But not just yet. I don't have a lot of time at the moment to flesh out the idea, and there is a lot of recent background reading that led me down this path. So instead of presenting my ideas at the moment, I would like to present their foundations:
The Pentagon's New Map by Thomas Barnett
From Way Up Here by Dave Schuler
Exit Zero on the Real War by Mary Madigan
The Breach by New Sysiphus
"Long War" is Breaking Down into Tedium by Mark Steyn
A Not Entirely Crazy Idea by Michael Reynolds [actually, it is a pretty crazy idea, but it did get me thinking]
Neo-Cons or Crusaders? by Callimachus
The World: Not Going Away by Michael Reynolds
February 21, 2006
Not Quite Treason, but Close
Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
Unless they committed an overt act of waging war, and the article shows no evidence that they did, and were witnessed by two people, or committed such an act and admitted to it in open court, they cannot be convicted of treason. Planning to commit treason is not itself treason. It is conspiracy to commit treason. And that, too, has appropriate consequences. Oh, and one of the defendants, being a resident and not a citizen, could easily be declared a saboteur and shot.
Posted by jeff at 7:46 PM | TrackBack
February 17, 2006
Mark Kleiman on Iran
Mark Kleiman has an excellent summation on the implications of Iran's quest for nuclear powers. (hat tip: The Glittering Eye) I agree with almost all of it, but there are a few bits, all near the end, that I want to critique. I'm only going to quote those bits, but this should not be taken as a fisking even in a partial sense: Kleiman's points are well-considered and very worthy of attention.
13. We can't attack Iran while we have 150,000 troops in Iraq as virtual hostages to a Shi'a call for jihad against the infidels. But accepting a rotten result in Iraq might be a relatively small price to pay for avoiding a nuked-up Iran. Maintaining our freedom of action in Iran is one more excellent reason not to try to create a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq.
I agree that preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons might be worth a bad, and certainly worth a less optimal, outcome in Iraq. But I don't agree with the premise, that the majority of Iraq's Shi'a support Iran because it is ruled by Shi'a. Sadr appears to be Iran's puppets, and would likely cause problems, but the real threat in Iran's response is not that, but the widespread terrorism around the world and the blocking of the straits of Hormuz combined with attacks on our allies and their oil facilities in particular using chemical weapons on intermediate ranged missiles. This would cause far more problems that finally killing off the Badr Brigades would. Particularly if Iran attacked Israel or US forces with chemical or biological agents, which could lead to nuclear escalation.
However, I don't think that Iran's possible response should stop us from acting, though it should be considered so that we can minimize it as much as possible.
None of this means that I favor military action against Iranian nuclear capacity. What it means is that military action might, in the future, become necessary to prevent Iran's transformation into a new nuclear power, and, if that were the case, I would be willing to support an attack (non-nuclear, of course) as the least bad option in a bad situation.
The real question, of course, is how to know where the dividing line is between when they just have potential capability and when they actually have nuclear weapons. The pessimist, or the cautious person, says attack early when we know they don't have weapons or the full ability to get them. The optimist, or the deluded, says don't strike until we know they do have weapons or the full ability to get them.
Footnote It goes without saying that reducing our oil imports is an even more urgent national-security issue than ever in the face of the fact that the support our imports provide for world oil prices helps enrich the Iranian regime. Anyone who says he's for national security and against an increase of at least a dollar per gallon in gasoline taxation is a bag of wind, and should be laughed at and ignored.
This I cannot agree with at all. If our goal is to deprive Iran of revenue, an embargo would be far more effective with potentially less impact on our domestic economy. Gas taxes simply do not work to reduce the revenue to an oil-producing state, because demand is relatively inelastic. To reduce the revenue by taxation, we would have to so tax gas and other oil products that other fuel sources would be more economical. That would be a crushing burden on the economy. Go ahead and laugh and ignore me if you feel so inclined.
Update Bruce Moomaw asks what we should do if a conventional attack on Iran wouldn't work and only a pre-emptive nuclear strike would do the job. My answer: drop back three yards and punt. The point is to maintain the taboo on the use of nuclear weapons. I think it's worth fighting a war to do so. But I'd rather risk losing that taboo than give it up for sure with a pre-emptive strike.
This is unlike the situation with the U.S.S.R. back when Bertrand Russell called for pre-emptive war. (Which is not to say that I think he was right even in that circumstance; I don't.) Since Iranian nuclear capacity can't possibly threaten the existence of the U.S., I can't see how we could justify pre-emption either morally or on a pure calculation of national self-interest.
Are you willing to bet New York, DC, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Miami or any other major cities on this supposition? I agree that the taboo against using nuclear weapons is important, and that we'd be better off both militarily and morally (over the short as well as the long term) with a conventional attack. But I wonder if a conventional attack, with its attendant thousands of casualties, is possible in the current political environment, or if we will be unable to act for fear of casualties, until it becomes necessary to act with nuclear weapons or allow the Israelis to do so.
Posted by jeff at 2:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
What Color is the Sky in Your World?Posted by jeff at 9:25 AM | TrackBack
February 15, 2006
Question for PNM Theorists
How does PNM handle the collapse or approaching collapse of rulesets in core nations? The flow of people from the gap to the core is inherently going to bring gap rulesets — those travel in people's heads, after all — and this is already apparent in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, the Low Countries, Denmark and Norway. I suspect we'll see the same in Germany, soon, because they have the same demography/immigrant problem as the rest of Western Europe.
Once the gap rulesets have been imported into the core, can the core rulesets remain established, or are the core rulesets inherently self-defeating? And if they are inherently self-defeating, at least when confronted with a lower-order ruleset from the gap, what changes to the core rulesets (and hopefully there are some short of mass deportation or genocide) can be made to avert the consequences of a core ruleset collapse (the main consequence being moving from the core to the gap)?
UPDATE: Mark Safranski responds.
UPDATE: Phatic Communion (what a great name!) comments. Actually, I was thinking of the intersection of the Western rulesets of "rule of law" and multiculturalism, and whether multiculturalism is compatible with rule of law. If not, if we allow those who are specially designated due to not being native to our rulesets to ignore the law, then can the rule of law stand, or would "natives" also begin to break the law, seeing that it is not enforced? And were that to happen, could the rest of our society stand with that pillar removed? It's not an idle question: in Europe it is already that case that Muslim immigrants are largely immune to the law in many places.
MSM Hypocrisy. How Unsurprising.
I have said before that the reason people get irritated at newspapers and TV news outlets not showing the Danish cartoons "to show respect for Muslims" and, more on point, "to avoid inflaming a tense situation" is that the media showed Abu Ghraib pictures wall to wall during that scandal. Well, they still are, with ABC rebroadcasting newly available photos of what happened at Abu Ghraib, despite not having shown the cartoons. So it's once again hypocrisy from the MSM. How unsurprising.
I'm sure that, when called on this, we will start hearing endlessly about the public's "right to know", while eliding the cartoons entirely.
February 11, 2006
What if the Enemy Really Is Islam?
I think that it is fair to say that, however one defines the enemy in the long war, it is not "all Muslims". Certainly, I've known many good and decent Muslims. And the cases of liberal Muslims (of which there are quite few, though they often end up leaving Islam, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali has done) certainly would tend to argue against identifying those people as enemies. For that matter, most truly moderate Muslims (including many that I've worked with or for or who have worked for me) — and by that I don't mean Islamists who haven't quite gone from incitement to violence into actual violence, or from rioting over cartoons to terrorism — can't be called enemies in any meaningful sense. Even if all Muslims were the enemy, for that matter, can anyone with any moral center advocate the necessary consequence, the killing or subjugation of 1.2 billion people?
But what if the enemy is Islam, the religion, in addition to its more deranged followers? Certainly, it is true that Islam has not produced the kind of prosperity we see in the West, and has not produced much even in the way of art (its supposed strong point) in centuries. What advances in science have come from the Arab world since the Middle Ages? What has Islam produced other than misery in the past decades? Even the oil the Arabs provide is largely from installations built, and often run, by foreigners and with foreign investment. So what if the enemy is Islam? How do you beat a religion?
(Note: I'm not really trying to discuss whether Islam is the enemy. You can take it up with Fran Porretto, who is an eloquent advocate of the point. What I am trying to discuss is what it would take to destroy Islam itself as a hostile ideology.)
There are, it turns out, examples of how to kill a religion. Ask the Pagans of pre-Christian Europe how it works. Essentially, what it takes is convincing the adherents of the religion that its doctrines are bankrupt (and possibly immoral) and that the religions promises cannot be delivered to its adherents. In the case of the pre-Christian European Pagans, their many religions basically offered protection from their enemies and prosperity. When faced with a prosperous Christianized Roman Empire, conversion was frequently both swift and relatively non-violent. But there were significant holdouts, particularly beyond the Empire's boundaries; yet they converted too. Why? Well, there is significant evidence of desecrated temples and violently killed priests to indicate that, in at least some cases, the Christians ended up proving that their religions did not offer protection. But more often than not, it seems to be the case that Christianity just offered a more compelling message to its new adherents than did their old tribal religions.
Applying something similar to Islam, it would take some or all of the following:
- A new faith could arise that promises to supersede Islam the way that Islam superseded Christianity: by offering a more compelling prophet of Abraham's god.
- UPDATE: As Dave points out in the comments, internal reinterpretation, where a new understanding of the existing texts and forms changes the religion's behavior, also works.
- Older faiths, particularly Christianity, could send forth missionaries to convert the Muslims. This would generate a large number of Christian martyrs, and in practical terms could only be done in combination with the next technique:
- proscription. Essentially, this means that we would have to compel Muslims to not practice their religion openly, the way that many Muslim nations currently punish or forbid the practice of Christianity. Or we could go all the way and simply kill Muslims who would not convert, which is a time-honored practice among Muslims, Christians and many other religions, though only in broad use now by the Muslims. Of course, this would require a conquest of the areas where the religion was proscribed, because there is no way that a Muslim nation would tolerate such activities. For areas already under non-Muslim control, such as Europe or the United States, this would be far more practical, not involving actual invasions.
- Destroying the ideological underpinnings of the religion is also an option. For example, Islam promises that any land once Muslim is always Muslim "until Judgement Day", that Muslims who believe sufficiently fervently and act in a certain way will have victory over their enemies, and that Islam will eventually conquer the world.
- While conquering Muslim nations would certainly daunt any such beliefs, there is another way that doesn't require actual conquest, though it does involve acts of war: destroy Islam's holy sites. Not just Mecca and Medina and the al Aqsa mosque, though of course those would have to be utterly levelled; but every single mosque of any branch of Islam. And while we're at it, it would probably be a good idea to kill every imam and ayatollah and mullah and any other spiritual leaders of Islam we can get to, whether that means judicial killings, or assassination, or simply dropping smart bombs on their houses. Any new places of worship, including houses where people gather, would also need to be destroyed. The idea here is to show that their god either doesn't exist or has no ability to protect them.
That's a pretty brutal list of options, and none of them are particularly appealing to me, personally. So how far would we go, as a society rather than as individuals, if Islam is truly the enemy, towards our own destruction before we undertook such measures? Would we be willing to give up free speech? That question is being tested now in Europe. What about free assembly? What about freedom of religion itself? Where is the line that says we can go no further without submission, and we are unwilling to submit? Is there such a line?
I don't know the answers to those questions, but Islamists and jihadis keep pushing at every boundary, weak point and doubt in the West, which makes me fear I might well know the answer before I die.
UPDATE: Speaking of Francis Porretto making the case of all Muslims as the enemy...
February 9, 2006
Shafting the Innocents?
I have been a strong supporter of the war. Indeed, I have given the administration every benefit of the doubt, and will likely continue to do so. I feel that we have to trust our elected leaders, and if we don't trust them, elect new ones. This seriously strains my trust. If this has indeed been the standard of evidence used at GTMO in the military tribunals for determination of status, and if no reform is forthcoming, then I would be forced to support Congressional reform attempts, even if that meant that holding real terrorists was harder, or voting out Republicans for a while. I don't have a problem with the administration doing whatever is necessary to defend the country, but laziness leading to unnecessary tyranny is not acceptable as a substitute.
February 7, 2006
How to Stop the Iranian Nuclear Program?
The second American Thinker post explains why this is a necessary act:
To think clearly about the looming crisis with Iran, close your eyes and imagine that you’re standing outside your children’s school. It’s 2:55pm, and you’re chatting amiably with other parents while waiting for the 3pm bell to ring. Suddenly you see a man running toward the school, holding a hand grenade and shouting: “I hate kids. I welcome death.”
Now, what do you propose to do?
Maybe Iran is just trying to appear strategically crazy to get what they want (a nuclear capability), but I think it's much safer to take them at appearances and think that they are actually crazy. Given that, how does one keep the Iranians from getting nuclear weapons? As the Officers' Club makes clear, a conventional Israeli raid on Iranian targets is a non-starter: the odds of success are low and the odds of losing much of the Israeli air force in the process are high. That's not going to happen. Nor can Israel field and sustain in Iran a ground force sufficient to the task.
Certainly the US could field and maintain a ground force in Iran, but a limited campaign is more likely. The first American Thinker article points to an Asia Times article postulating a similar campaign, with an Israeli conventional strike and the Iranian reaction as the precursors.
Given the impossibility of an Israeli conventional strike, the fact that no nation has ever negotiated away its most important weapons system in the face of threats it does not believe credible, and the uselessness of ignoring the problem, I see the following possible scenarios:
- The Israelis destroy the Iranian nuclear program using their nuclear arsenal. Targets would be, perhaps, the top 10 or so most critical sites, with 1-2 weapons each depending on the nature of the target. Israel has 50 or so Jericho 2 missiles capable of reaching Iranian nuclear targets.
- Israel could destroy the Iranian civilian population, rendering Iran essentially a dead nation. Again, Israel has sufficient missile capability to do this, without the requirement of using their air force, which would strain mightily at those ranges.
- Israel could use the threat of either of those options to force Iran to open up their program.
- Israel could use the threat of either of those options to force the US to act.
- The US could act for its own reasons, with or without European help.
In any case, the odds of a conventional Israeli attack or a non-military solution are slim, and getting slimmer all the time. The madman is running for the school with a grenade, but at least two of the parents have guns, and at least one is prepared to use it.
Posted by jeff at 7:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Kudos to the Philiadelphia Inquirer for running one of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons of Mohammed. In their excellent explanation of why, the editors end with this statement, which should be read to the editors of newspapers like the NY Times, as a challenge:
This is what newspapers are in the business to do. We educate people, we inform them, we spark discussion. It is not only our profession, it is our obligation.
More of this kind of attitude, and I'll have to stop criticizing the media so broadly.
(hat tip: InstaPundit)Posted by jeff at 1:26 PM | TrackBack
The NSA Kerfuffle, Declaring War, and the Limits of Constitutional Powers
This article and associated commentary on Centerfield is the best debate I've yet seen on the NSA surveillance kerfuffle. I was going to put this as a comment there, but it got too long to reasonably be considered a comment.
I'm not convinced that even if the surveillance was between two citizens of the US, both of whom were in the US, that the action would be illegal. Certainly, it would violate FISA, but it might be within the President's purview Constitutionally. Consider:
The power to act as Commander in Chief is fundamentally the power to order to military to undertake operations to take or destroy the enemy.
Operations to take or destroy the enemy necessarily involve surveilling the enemy (among other things: who would argue the President does not have the inherent authority to order the Navy to stop suspected enemy vessels at sea, or search them in a US port?), which is nothing more, really, than determining the enemy's position, capabilities and/or intentions.
Surveilling the enemy need not be by visual observation: it is also possible to determine the enemy's position, intent or capabilities by listening, electronic means, human intelligence (spying) and other means. There is no Constitutional limit to the means the President can use to surveil the enemy. There is no treaty limitation that I am aware of that would preclude the electronic gathering of intelligence.
The Constitution does not limit the President to fighting the enemy abroad, nor require a separate declaration of Congressional intent to fight the enemy in the United States. The President's power is to fight the enemy defined in the declaration of war, wherever that enemy is.
Thus the President has the power to surveil the enemy wherever that enemy is.
The question becomes, who is the enemy? That is answered by the AUMF: "those nations, organizations, or persons [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons".
The Congress explicitly gave the President to power to determine who the enemy is, within the limitation of being connected to 9/11. Since the President decided that this includes al Qaeda, any al Qaeda operative falls within the definition of the enemy even if that operative is a US citizen. The term we're searching for here is "treason", though for the life of me I cannot understand why we aren't charging people such as Padilla, Hamdi and Lindh with exactly that. Hamdi and Lindh, in particular, were captured on the battlefield and the case is a slam dunk (Padilla is a harder case, and a court is going to have to work that one out).
The only valid way to claim that the surveillance is illegal is to claim that the AUMF does not trigger the President's war powers because the AUMF is not a declaration of war. But nowhere in the Constitution is the President's power to make war divided between "real wars" and "so so wars": there is no way to grant the President the power to make war except to declare war. The Constitution does not require that such a declaration contain particular wording, such as "a state of war exists between the United States and [enemy]". So on what grounds, other than claiming that the Constitution is a "living document" and means whatever we want, can anyone claim that AUMF is not a declaration of war? If not, then what is it?
The Congress' powers are delineated in Article I, Section 8. They include:
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Clearly, the provisions for creating and maintaining the militia, army and navy do not apply to the question. AUMF does not fall under "mak[ing] Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces". (Neither does FISA, by the way, because that is done via the Uniform Code of Military Justice and FISA is not part of the UCMJ.) AUMF does not activate the militia. AUMF does not deal with "Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations" per se, and was from the wording clearly not intended to apply this specific power. AUMF is not a Letter of Marque, nor is it a rule concerning captures. The only remaining power the Congress could be operating under is the power to declare war.
Now, it would be an interesting (and I think, losing) argument that the Congress' power "To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof" allows the Congress to regulate the way in which the President can carry out his duties, and further that FISA constitutes such a regulation. I think this would fall down on whether or not the President is an Officer of the government of the United States. Since the Presidency has a Constitutional existence apart from any organization of government, and is head of state as well as head of government, I think that most people (except Whigs and congressmen of the party not occupying the White House) would agree that the President is not an officer of government as intended in this grant of authority.
It would be an interesting argument to have, though.
February 5, 2006
Angry Muslims Terrorize Those They Accuse of Caricaturing Muslims as Angry Terrorists
And this cartoon has a great take on the American media reaction.
South Korea Shills for Tyranny
Fifty years ago, my father was one of the American Marines fighting along with American soldiers and sailors and aviators to keep South Korea free, and turn it into a nation worthy of Europe. Oh, how they succeeded!
February 4, 2006
There is a certain cartoonish quality to the beginning of most of the great and terrible wars. The reason is simple, really: great and terrible wars erupt over great and terrible chasms of belief, understanding, and need, and it takes a long time for those chasms to grow; so in retrospect, the tiny incidents that are seen as the starting point of the great wars seem so trivial as to not merit mention.
World War II was an exception, because it was a calculated gamble by Hitler and another by Tojo: each believed that they could get what they wanted by war, without being meaningfully opposed. But WWI was started by the assassination of a middling royal in a nowhere place that no one had heard of or cared about. The American Civil War started because a minor and nearly forgotten garrison refused to abandon its post, as several other garrisons had already done in other places. The English Civil War started over the arrest of five members of Parliament. The Thirty Years' War started because 3 people were thrown out of a Prague window (they all survived). Some great wars start over insults, and others over misunderstandings, and still others over minor battles in out of the way places by peripheral players.
We may be at the point, now, where a great clash of civilizations begins over literal cartoons.
February 3, 2006
Not Quite So Different
Winston at The Spirit of Man, writing about Iran's secular resistance, says:
I am also hearing that the transit workers will stay home today (friday) and the families of the detained protestors will hold another demonstration in front of the Islamic revolutionary court of justice on Saturday to demand the release of their loved ones.
There is no difference between the Iranian people today and the Polish people back in the 1980s but I guess the world has changed a lot and become unwilling to help other nations in their quest for greater freedoms.
The world has not changed so much. During the 1980s, when the Poles were desperate to free themselves from the Communist yoke, there was also the "nuclear freeze" movement and other, similar Causes trying to prevent bring down the concept of free societies. In fact, the roots of the "anti-war" movement today are in the "anti-war" movement then, which would happily have kept Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe and the USSR's unwilling "republics" Communist, rather than see the West intervene in any way, even by saying something like "all men deserve to be free".
No, the world has changed very little, really.
Any how, if any one wants to pick up the support for Iranians, it is the right time to do so.
As Michael Ledeen has been saying over and over again: Faster Please!
Yes, no argument there at all.
Posted by jeff at 8:32 AM | TrackBack
January 31, 2006
Pressure on Iran
I have to admit that I'm shocked that the Administration has gotten Russia and China to agree to refer Iran to the Security Council over the Iranian nuclear weapons program, or more formally, over Iranian violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is, as Mark notes, a stunning feat of diplomacy. As Mark also notes, the odds of the President getting any credit for it are zero. In fact, that may overstate the odds, as doubtless some of the critics will bash the administration for being too multilateral (as they do about Korea). I suspect that the critics feel this balances their criticism of the administration for not being multilateral enough in other cases.
Nonetheless, it's a good step forwards towards resolving the crisis, although in the end I do not expect diplomacy to effectively end Iran's nuclear weapons program.
January 30, 2006
Brian Dunn of The Dignified Rant has doubts about our next generation carriers, an extensive redesign of the current Nimitz class called CVN-21 (Nuclear-powered Attack Carrier for the 21st century). His major concern is that, in an networked warfare environment at sea, big platforms are very vulnerable, and their loss potentially devastating.
I do not think that there will be another generation of aircraft carrier past CVN-21 that will bear any resemblance to our current concept of carriers. The reason for this is simple: UAVs combined with excellent anti-air warfare equipment and sensors on modern ships.
Why, after all, do we need aircraft in our military? The main reasons are logistics (rapid delivery of small amounts of critical material or personnel), reconnaissance, support of ground forces, preserving our ability to carry out those tasks, and preventing the enemy from carrying out those tasks. But UAVs will soon be taking over — indeed, are currently in the process of taking over — a large part of the reconnaissance and ground support tasks, and that will grow in the future. If UAVs are capable of being adapted to fighter roles (protecting our other aviation assets and eliminating enemy aircraft), the only necessarily manned aircraft will be cargo planes, and perhaps specialty sensor platforms that for some reason need an on-board crew. A small number of manned aircraft in each category (for missions unforeseen by the software developers of the UAVs) will suffice to cover gaps, while most missions are carried out by unmanned aircraft. Combined with increasingly effective air defense systems — particularly at sea — it becomes possible that carrier-based manned aviation will become unneccessary.
In that event, the follow-on carriers to CVN-21 (sometime around 30 years from now, the way ships last these days) will likely be more like cruisers in size, with the ability to carry perhaps 50 or 60 UAVs of various types (mostly sensor platforms and attack craft). These ships can be smaller because UAVs will be smaller than manned aircraft, and (because they have fewer systems) need less maintenance, and there will be no aircrews and smaller maintenance crews required. Thus more vehicles and their support staff and equipment can fit in a smaller volume, which will reduce the size of the ships that carry them. These will, in particular as a component of a networked fleet, still be very, very capable ships, likely as capable as the CVN-21s they will replace in most or all ways, despite being dramatically smaller and cheaper. In some ways, they would be much more capable. (For example, it would make sense to equip such a ship with VLS, which current carriers do not have, along the lines of how the Soviet carriers were to be armed.)
In the meantime, the larger the carrier is, the more efficient it is (thus, the more aircraft it can carry). This comes from a simple cause: increasing the size of the ship does not increase the size of the engineering spaces, crew or many other factors by a similar amount, meaning that above a certain size, virtually all size increases translate directly into increased mission equipment. In the case of carriers, that means more aircraft. And as Brian notes, doubling the number of aircraft is worth a 50% bigger and more expensive target, because it means that there is less chance that the enemy will be able to target the carrier in the first place.
January 26, 2006
What if Everything you Know is Wrong?
What if Iraq did have WMDs, and they were smuggled into Syria just before the war? If this is true, we may soon know that in fact all the intelligence agencies were right and conventional wisdom is wrong. Not to mention the utter collapse of the whole "Bush lied, people died" meme, or what is left of it.
January 24, 2006
Target Rich Environment
When I hear about large groups of people shouting "Death to America!", my first thought is, "Targets!" I mean really, how can, say, Israel even resist dropping cluster bombs on Hamas funerals, for example? Yeah, it's kind of a war crime, but there's a certain element of satisfaction in hearing people chant your death, and responding, "You first."
January 20, 2006
If Only the MSM Would Help So Much
And note to the Democrats: my mind is now made up on the library provision beyond a doubt, so flogging that issue just makes it that much less likely that you'll win my vote.
January 19, 2006
Bin Laden's "Truce"
Jawa Report has both an excellent transcript of the latest bin Laden message and some good commentary on it, in particular comparing the positions of the American Left with the statements of bin Laden, who is basically repeating many of the Left's talking points, to their discredit.
The one thing that I want to see, but haven't, is the word bin Laden used, in Arabic, that is translated as "truce". If it was hudna, as I suspect, then you should be aware that this is a common mistranslation in both Western and in terrorist apologist media. The Arabic word hudna means not a "truce" in the Western sense, but a pause in fighting while they rebuild their forces to resume the fight later. The absence of conditions to the "truce" could be because al Jazeera didn't broadcast the whole tape, or it could be because bin Laden is actually announcing hudna. However, I think it is irrelevant, because I don't believe bin Laden is in operational command of al Qaeda — at least not in Iraq — and that therefore the fighting will not ramp down regardless.
January 15, 2006
Belmont Club, The Glittering Eye and The Dignified Rant have all recent written on our options regarding Iran. As Iraq's former rulers may attest, getting a lot of Americans talking about options in how to deal with your nutball regime is not a recipe for staying in power for long. Especially when your regime is as fragile as Iran's is.
Iran has a couple of problems: it has significant domestic opposition, though it is mostly dormant at present, to the theocracy; significant foreign enemies of its own making, mostly because of long support of very violent terrorist and extremist groups; a critical economic dependence on the export of a single commodity, oil; and the next-door presence of significant forces from the most powerful military in the world, which happens to be from the country that has overthrown more tyrants than any other, perhaps than all others combined.
And for all of these reasons, Iran has decided that it is critical that they have nuclear weapons to ensure their survival. Ironically, it is their quest for nuclear weapons that will ensure their destruction. Certain fires are too hot to grasp and live.
It is certain that neither the United States nor Israel is prepared to live with a nuclear-armed Iran so long as the Ayatollahs are in charge: the danger is too great; the threat too apparent. It is possible that the US, for domestic political reasons, might fail to act against Iran in reasonable time, accidentally letting Iran develop nuclear capability as we did with N. Korea (though the situation in Iran is not being deliberately kept quiet, as was the situation in N. Korea). The Israelis will not fail to act, because the alternative would be their almost-certain destruction. Because of geography and the characteristics of the Iranian nuclear program, the Israelis could not effectively act short of a nuclear attack. And as the old saying goes, if you strike at a king, be sure to kill him.
But the US would likely preempt Israeli action, should we know it to be imminent, by striking first. The reason for this is simple: the US would have to be complicit in the Israeli action, letting Israeli bombers through (the Israeli nuclear missile force appears too small to do the job by itself), and that means that we would take the consequences anyway. A conventional attack by the US would have less blowback against the US than a nuclear attack by the Israelis, which would be opening Pandora's jars in a most definitive manner, and would almost certainly push any near-nuclear states into crash programs to arm themselves with nuclear weapons.
There are many who say that the US cannot invade Iran and win. The reasoning usually includes the following elements: Iran is much larger than Iraq, too large to be occupied; US forces are committed deeply in Iraq and cannot be used elsewhere; the din raised by the anti's (anti-war, anti-Republican, or on the other side) for the last three years makes it politically impossible, and either the US population or US political leadership would not allow action; Iran's military is more powerful than Iraq's was, and we cannot sustain the casualties; attacking Iran would result in terrorist attacks against the US and Israel. There are more arguments of course. But as Dave Schuler noted in his piece, the real answer is not one of capability but of will: of course the US could effectively attack Iran, but would our political leaders be capable of mustering the will to do so.
I think the answer might be, surprisingly, yes, at least for the next few years. President Bush has certainly shown an inclination to act in what he believes to be the nation's best interests, almost regardless of political repercussions. There are still three years left in his term, and he will not serve another because of Constitutionally-mandated term limits. This gives the President amazing freedom of action, should he decide to attack Iran: let the critics yell; it won't change anything for the President, himself, politically. So the political will arguments might not be enough to restrain the President, anyway.
But what about Congress: would they pass another declaration of war (or authorization to use military force, really, since Congress is all about ducking responsibility these days)? Probably not, but they don't have to. You see, the Congress, in the wake of 9/11, passed S.J. Res 23, which was the authorization that the President used to go to war in Afghanistan and since then to pursue terrorists worldwide. In relevant part, this very short resolution states:
[T]he President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
Now, it's been pretty widely discussed that Iran has been harboring several top al Qaeda leaders and sponsoring terrorism against the United States forces in Iraq. This alone is arguably sufficient to bring into force the President's powers under this declaration. In other words, the President could, without further recourse to Congress, attack Iran and claim sufficient justification. The Congress would not cut off funds for the warfighting effort while it was underway, at least presuming that the President notified key Congressional leaders prior to undertaking the attack. And the leaders of the opposition, loyal or otherwise, in Congress could simply claim that the President is wrong, but they can't undercut our troops by forcing a pullback via cutting off funding. Thus, the attacks on the President could continue with impunity, while the attack on Iran also could continue with impunity. And frankly, with a decent explanation to the American public of why the President feels the attack is necessary, the American public would probably countenance such an attack. The anti's are loud, but a distinct minority of the population. I don't think that there's a real political limitation against action in Iran, so long as President Bush is in office.
But what about what we can do? Can we overthrow the Iranian government as we did in Iraq? Probably not, at least, not with building up a replacement government afterwards: the force commitment would be too large to be sustainable, and we could not count on friendly nations to help us. But, who says that's what our objectives have to be? We have sufficient troops to occupy the southwestern oil fields and terminals, to ensure the oil keeps flowing, and to occupy Iranian territory at key points like the Straits of Hormuz. We have sufficient forces to strike Iranian nuclear, security, military, government, and key infrastructure sites (like power plants) effectively indefinitely, and can ruin Iran, both in their nuclear program and their military and their civilian infrastructure. If this does not bring about regime change by revolution, it at least moves the security threat several years, or more, down the road.
In other words, we can strike Iran if we have to, but it would be a very different war than we fought in Iraq. If I were Iran's leaders, I wouldn't count on bluster being enough to ensure their safety.
UPDATE: Marc Schulman of American Future has many more topical links. I'll go through them later and probably have more to say. Just from the summary, though, Duncan Black's (Eschaton) point of view once again leaves me furious. If it came to losing New York in a nuclear attack but winning the White House, or keeping New York and letting the Republicans keep the White House, I fear Black wouldn't think twice before consigning New York to the fires.
January 13, 2006
Good News, If True
I hope we got the bastard. Sadly, as Rumsfeld often says, "first reports from the field are often wrong."
Democracy, Republic, and Insurgency
Callimachus has an excellent post at Winds of Change about the difficulties democracies have in winning guerilla wars, insurgencies and against terrorist campaigns. There are four tracks that need to be explored in detail, and as I don't have the time at present, I'll sketch them out.
The first track is whether or not the historical evidence is on Callimachus' side. From what I know without looking up a lot of minor wars and conflicts, I would think it is. But there are a lot of minor wars and conflicts that might make his thesis weaker and would need to be addressed.
The second is whether it is only democracies that have this problem. In other words, would a republic have the same difficulty? The campaigns against the Indian tribes in America, when we were still constituted a republic, rather than a representative democracy, and against the Barbary Pirates indicate that there might be a difference worth looking into.
The third track that needs detailed consideration is whether the US strategy in Iraq is not, in light of Callimachus' observations, the best strategy we could have adopted. After all, the US never, apparently, intended to fight and win against the insurgency in Iraq. Once the insurgency and terrorist campaigns really got going, towards the end of 2003, the US switched from trying to stand up a conventional Iraqi army to trying to stand up Iraqi police and light infantry to fight the insurgency, while the US focused on buying the Iraqis time until they could successfully fight those battles. If that is indeed the best strategy, what are the implications for American warfighting doctrine, and for that matter for Barnett's grand strategic vision of having separate forces for conventional and insurgent wars?
The fourth track to be thought through is whether alternate governmental arrangements could overcome such a problem. For example, if we required an unambiguous declaration of war from Congress before committing troops to offensive actions overseas, and gave Congress an unambiguous power to similarly declare peace without the consent of the executive, but in exchange gave the President nearly unlimited authority to pursue war aims within the confines of geometry and time and funds set by the Congress — to the extent of abolishing Presidential elections until such time as the war was over, or the President died, resigned or was impeached for his conduct of the war — would give a democratic country (obviously, I based this on the current US model, but other models could be similarly reconstituted) the ability to win a bloody, ugly and protracted war. The other possibility here, too, is to have two separate executives, one for foreign policy and warmaking and one for domestic matters. The domestic executive would be more of a Prime Minister, answerable to Congress, while the President would be head of state rather than government, and would be far less constrained, but unable to act within the United States absent specific and limited Congressional action. Whether or not this is a good idea, and how to improve it, has to be part of that discussion.
January 4, 2006
Three Up, Three Down
This video is amazing. (hat tip: Mark in Mexico) It is night footage from an AC-130 Specter gunship in Iraq. After finding three insurgents apparently planning an attack (they took weapons out in the field, paced off distances, etc), and verifying that they were up to no good, the gunship (from about 2.5 miles away) hit and killed each person, individually, as well as their vehicles. Interestingly, the third guy probably would have lived if he hadn't crawled out from behind the truck: the engine's mass was protecting him. Of course, it's kind of hard to keep presence of mind when you are being shelled by an undetectable enemy and you've just watched your colleagues blown into tiny bits.
Why don't we broadcast stuff like this? Sure, some people would be offended, but I bet that a lot more would be cheering our guys on: these were definitely the bad guys getting waxed. And I suspect there would be a certain deterrent effect against aspiring jihadis.
As a general rule, I tend to be very much in favor of having humans do things. While it is nice that a robot can go to Mars and find out all kinds of things for us, it is indisputable that there are things it cannot do. For example, a rover won't glance at the back side of a rock, see a strange color, and go investigate it; thus a rover might not find something important that a human would find, like water ice. Similarly, it is an open question whether a UAV capable of high-G turns could outfight a human pilot; the future will tell, when we have both available and can test them against each other. But there are some things that just don't require a human, and in fact where a human is a detriment to getting the job done.
Take, for example, aerial reconnaissance. Small UAVs are providing troops on the ground with information they would not otherwise get, because it's too expensive to use a manned aircraft for such missions, and this is costing the enemy dearly while saving the lives of our forces. Larger UAVs have basically gotten to the point, now, that they can do what the U2 can do, and without risking a pilot. So it makes sense that the Air Force will be retiring the U2 shortly. Why risk a manned platform where an unmanned platform will do the job with less cost and less risk? At the altitude that U2s fly, it's not like the pilots are making decisions on where to go and what to photograph: they can't see what they're surveilling.
I suspect that there'll be griping, but I really don't see a downside here.
Where the Fascists Went
A couple of years ago, Jim Bennett wrote an excellent article about European politics, Where Have the Fascists Gone. In the article, Bennett tied the long strands of anti-Enlightenment movements that sprung up in the late 1800s together, and noted how they survive in European politics today — not just the radical neo-fascists, but the superficially liberal statist politicians running the EU and the nations of "old Europe". But there are two other places that the fascists went, where a warm reception was to be had. One of these, of course, was Egypt, where Qutb grafted fascism to Islam to create the Islamist ideology (which, by the way, is why some call the enemy Islamofascists). The other, though, is not widely talked about other than as a joke.
Fascism went to South America, as fascists (notably many NAZI leaders) fled to Brazil, Argentina and elsewhere. Conveniently, the nations of South America have long had a self-destructive tendency, that flies from the Right to the Left with equal vigor, and similar results. These nations were very welcoming to the fascists, and undoubtedly were also influenced by them, leading to the rise of several right-wing fascist governments and several left-wing fascist governments. (Fascist, in both cases, in the sense of state control of industry, the destruction of personal responsibility while nominally maintaining personal property, blatant racism and violent nationalism.)
In the 1980s, most of these fascist states fell (or in some cases, were pushed by the US), along with Communist states like Nicaragua (sadly, not Cuba), and democracy finally looked to have a chance. Lately, though, the left-wing fascists are starting to stage a comeback in South America. I'm not talking about Brazil's Lula, though he could potentially fall into that mold if things go wildly awry in South America. Rather, I'm thinking of Evo Morales and the very, very up front Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. (He should learn to mouth liberal statist platitudes if he wants to be fêted by Western liberals, rather than ranting about the Jews, which will only get him.... Actually, never mind. Forget I said that.)
Now, it's every country's right to drive itself into economic stagnation, political corruption, genocide, international conflict and even totalitarianism. If that's what they want, they need merely be willing to accept the consequences. Sadly for us, though, we are unlikely to write off and ignore those countries in South America who choose the fascist route. Instead, we are likely to find ourselves intervening, again, to fix the broken nations that will be left when Chavez' madness has run its course.
December 21, 2005
Tigerhawk has posted a tour de force analysis of what victory will look like, and how to tell in the short term if we're moving in the right direction. What is most interesting about this is that it, like Steven Den Beste's justly famous analysis of our reasons for fighting Iraq, is not unique in its content, only in its drawing together of a lot of strains of thought into a coherent and unified vision. And this coherence and unity of vision is so rare it needs to be called out when it comes. Den Beste, Wretchard, Winds of Change, and many other commenters have said much the same (I've made several of the same points, such as the need to humiliate the jihadis), but no one has brought together the individual strands into a coherent whole like Tigerhawk has done. As a result, we now have a very useful foundation document and base for thinking about the long-term strategy in the war: we have a framework for building metrics. And that is no small thing.
One interesting thought that occurs to me, too, is that the President has also made many of these same points in speeches, also without much coherence or unity of vision. Indeed, one of Tigerhawk's commenters goes so far as to say:
I couldn't agree more, but it's not just the leftists for whom the Hawk's thinking would be too much effort. Would Bush, or Cheney, or Rumsfeld take the time and make the effort to profit from the work of people like DenBeste and Tigerhawk? Fat Chance.
Yet, as I noted, the President, and the Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense, and for that matter both of President Bush's Secretaries of State, have all made these points and others. It would be a lot of work to go back through administration officials' speeches over the last four years and fit them to this framework (as well as noting divergences). I don't have the time, sadly, but I would love to see if the administration's strategic vision lines up with Tigerhawk's analysis.
Posted by jeff at 7:27 AM | TrackBack
December 15, 2005
Here's something fascinating:
For the third time in a year, the Iraqis have gone to vote in elections that were by and large peaceful, and featured a high turnout. In fact, in the current elections, the turnout was the highest yet since the Sunnis appear to have decided that their best bet for having any sort of power in Iraq is to join the democratic process (at least for now). In less than 3 years, the Iraqis have built, with our help, first an interim government, then a constitution, and now a permanent government. In the time frame that saw us still militarily governing Germany and Japan, the Iraqis have been sovereign for more than a year. Meanwhile, the Iraqis have been (again with our help) building up their security forces, to the point that those forces are now primarily responsible for security throughout Iraq, with the exception of a few areas in the West and Northwest of the country where the terrorists and few remaining Ba'athist fighters are more often fighting each other than the US.
So with this amazing story, what are the reactions of those who said that it couldn't be done? There appear to be three categories:
- It'll still go all to hell on you. Trust me on that.
- Nothing has changed and we are still in substantially the same position we were in during the first Falluja battle and the Sadr uprising.
- Story in Iraq? There's no story in Iraq.
Every time I start thinking that I am utterly cynical about human behavior, especially political behavior, I realize that I'm not nearly cynical enough.
Posted by jeff at 4:50 PM | TrackBack
December 6, 2005
The Next War
IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel's assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.
If Teheran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only "a few months" to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent.
On the other hand, he warned, any attempt to resolve the crisis by non-diplomatic means would "open a Pandora's box. There would be efforts to isolate Iran; Iran would retaliate; and at the end of the day you have to go back to the negotiating table to find the solution."
(note: the full article does not repeat the summary)
If indeed Iran is months away from a nuclear capability, the pressure on Israel to strike at Iran will be immense. It is literally a matter of short-term national survival for Israel: Iran has pledged, recently, to "wipe Israel off the map" and, a while ago, that their first nuclear test would be in Israel. Israel is tiny; unlike the US, Israel could not absorb a nuclear blow and continue to exist more or less unchanged. And this means that Israel is likely to strike first. But how? As Officers' Club notes:
Will the Israelis use nuclear weapons preemptively or will they go conventional? Will America join them? Or will the U.S. act on its own accord? How would a joint U.S.-Israeli attack on an Arab state fare in the Middle East? Would it help or hurt democratic progress in that region?
Unfortunately -due the Iranian refusal to play ball with negotiators- we may be hearing the answers to those questions more sooner than later.
It is unlikely that Israel could mount a sufficiently-destructive conventional strike on Iran's nuclear program, because of the distance from Israel and the characteristics of the critical nuclear sites (some of which are deeply buried). This means that either the US will strike with Israel or to keep Israel from striking, or the Israeli strike will be nuclear. And at that point, we will have lost the third conjecture's bet, and it's possible we'd be well down the road to losing the second.
Posted by jeff at 3:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
December 2, 2005
What is it about the Iraq war — or President Bush in general — that leads to overblown and unsupportable rhetoric? I used to have a lot of respect for Martin Van Creveld, a military historian who has written some really good analysis, but what is this? First, Van Creveld lays out a short surrender:
The number of American casualties in Iraq is now well more than 2,000, and there is no end in sight. Some two-thirds of Americans, according to the polls, believe the war to have been a mistake. And congressional elections are just around the corner.
What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon — and at what cost. In this respect, as in so many others, the obvious parallel to Iraq is Vietnam.
Confronted by a demoralized army on the battlefield and by growing opposition at home, in 1969 the Nixon administration started withdrawing most of its troops in order to facilitate what it called the "Vietnamization" of the country. The rest of America's forces were pulled out after Secretary of State Henry Kissinger negotiated a "peace settlement" with Hanoi. As the troops withdrew, they left most of their equipment to the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam — which just two years later, after the fall of Saigon, lost all of it to the communists.
Clearly this is not a pleasant model to follow, but no other alternative appears in sight.
Other than the facts that the military is not demoralized and no one is showing up at anti-war demonstrations, it's just like Viet Nam. Right, yeah, got it.
Then, having surrendered, Van Creveld notes that we cannot flee Iraq as we fled Viet Nam, leaving our equipment to the Iraqi government, because we can't afford to leave the equipment (at least the big pieces). This is followed by a huge narrative that I can only describe as a Leftist wet dream, with tales of confused routs towards Baghdad and then southwards, harried on all sides like the British fiasco in Afghanistan in 1841, taking massive casualties in their desperate flight. Behind the retreat, "Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war" and [a]ll this is inevitable!
Then, Van Creveld says that we can't abandon the region. We will need an ongoing security presence to counter the nightmare resulting from our withdrawal:
Yet a complete American withdrawal is not an option; the region, with its vast oil reserves, is simply too important for that. A continued military presence, made up of air, sea and a moderate number of ground forces, will be needed.
First and foremost, such a presence will be needed to counter Iran, which for two decades now has seen the United States as "the Great Satan." Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war — a winner that in the not too distant future is likely to add nuclear warheads to the missiles it already has. In the past, Tehran has often threatened the Gulf States. Now that Iraq is gone, it is hard to see how anybody except the United States can keep the Gulf States, and their oil, out of the mullahs' clutches.
A continued American military presence will be needed also, because a divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets' nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah's name.
No mention is made of how we might use any such stay-behind force — let alone where we would base it — given that we'd just run from Iraq, causing the problems he foresees. If we ran from Iraq because of 2000 casualties and bad public opinion, where would the will to take on a nuclear-armed Iran or armies of terrorists (who would not, after all, be attacking the US, but other Muslims) come from? Oh, except that if we leave a military presence there, the terrorists would be attacking Americans; it's just that we would have foreclosed any ability to respond to the attacks.
But the crowning achievement in foolishness is the conclusion:
For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.
Really? The most foolish war in 2014 years? Worse than Germany's attack on Russia, or Japan's attack on the US in WWII? Worse than the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or the British invasion of Afghanistan? Worse than Agincourt? More foolish than the War of Jenkins' Ear?
This is not serious military analysis: it is blind, unthinking panic.
UPDATE: Wretchard has similar thoughts on Van Creveld, while taking a broader view about the difference between words and reality.
November 30, 2005
Staged Hostage Taking?
I could be wrong, but given that the four hostages taken in Iraq were anti-American activists, it is certainly possible that the hostage taking was staged with the cooperation of the hostages, or in that event "hostages". It will be interesting to see how this plays out.Posted by jeff at 5:18 PM | TrackBack
That Looks Familiar
The White House has released a strategy document on Iraq that is well worth reading. But the most overlooked sentence is the first one:
The following document articulates the broad strategy the President set forth in 2003 and provides an update on our progress as well as the challenges remaining.
I have been saying for some time, and other bloggers (notably Steven Den Beste and Wretchard) have also noted, the strategy is apparent and has been talked about for years, but there are some things the President just can't say while there is a chance for the enemy to undermine the strategy. What is most important about this document is the fact that it has been released at all, which indicates that the administration now thinks that, without a tectonic shift in conditions, we have already passed the point where the enemy can defeat our strategy in Iraq.
InstaPundit links to some other bloggers writing on this.
UPDATE: Fixed the Belmont Club link.
November 28, 2005
Civilian Casualties in Iraq
I've long figured that Iraq Body Count, an anti-war site that chronicles civilian casualties in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was deposed, was very far off in its numbers, even though they are reasonable given the intensity of fighting and the fact that the enemy hides among civilians (and for that matter, frequently kills civilians to terrorize others). But it's interesting to see how far off they appear to be. Apparently, they count even police killed by the enemy as victims of the US occupation (and they don't distinguish between the period before handing sovereignty to the new Iraqi government and after, either.
November 26, 2005
Staying the Course, and Paying for It
I personally feel that we should stay. In part, this is because of the downsides of withdrawing. More than that, though, are the benefits of staying, most importantly that our current apparent grand strategy has a chance of working. Sadly, neither the President nor the media has done a good chance of explaining our grand strategy, so let me start with that. (Note: I could easily be wrong here; the lack of communications on our grand strategy is understandable, but makes this kind of discussion hazardous.)
When you look at the enemy, it is clear that terrorism is not what we are at war with. While terrorism is abhorrent, it is a tactic that is neither unique to our enemy nor even the most abhorrent thing about our enemy. (In my book, their inability to coexist with anything or anyone that doesn't share their ideology is the worst thing about them.) Rather, it is militant fascist theocrats with an extremist Islamic flavor — the jihadis — that we are at war with. The jihadis have expansive goals: restoring or creating theocratic control (led, of course, by them) over all of the lands that have ever been governed by Muslims, and the spreading of that theocracy to every place where Muslims live or have lived. The jihadis are willing — indeed, eager — to kill every person in their way, and every person who doesn't believe the way that they do: women who "don't know their place", homosexuals, Jews, Christians, pagans, other non-Muslims, ex-Muslims, any Muslim who is not sufficiently extremist or sufficiently ideologically pure (note that the Shi'a in Iraq are bombed more than "collaborators" or Americans or other coalition troops), intellectuals, communists, atheists, and so forth. In other words, the jihadis are an implacable enemy: we cannot surrender to them except by becoming them, and joining them. We cannot run from them or hide from them: they will come until they are dead, or we are dead. They believe that god is on their side. They are not driven by poverty.
Considering these facts, and the actions of the Bush administration in fighting the enemy, I hypothesize that our grand strategy is as follows: remove the sanctuaries of the jihadis (in order of size) to disrupt their ability to carry out large-scale plans; remove the state sponsors of jihadi terror groups (in order of risk of transfer of WMD to the jihadis) to ensure that small terror cells cannot carry out raids with consequences disproportional to the size of the cell; eliminate the terror cells person by person and by disrupting the cohesion of the network, both by direct action and by, for example, cutting funding and transport links; and undercut future recruiting efforts by creating and expanding democracy within the Muslim world.
Now, if this is indeed the grand strategy, then how does Iraq play into it? First, Iraq was a potential sanctuary for the jihadis. The combination of Salman Pak and Iraq's tendency to give refuge to terrorists is sufficient to indicate that Iraq was at least potentially a sanctuary. But the combination of these with the payments made to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, the sanctuary given to Abu Nidal and other terrorists, and various other things makes it certain that Iraq was (was) a major state sponsor of jihadi terror. Since Iraq was also believed to possess chemical and biological weapons and to be developing nuclear weapons, this made the perceived risk of WMD transfer quite large. Further, Iraq had a largely secular population, with a minimum of overt jihadis and sympathizers. All of these factors made Iraq an ideal target after Afghanistan was neutralized.
All of that is, however, fairly irrelevant to what we do now, except to the extent that we might regress — or worse — by pulling out. So let's assume that I get my way and we stay in Iraq, building democracy and killing jihadis. What then, are the costs of that course, and what must we be prepared to do? What challenges do we face?
First, we have to realize that our reserves and in particular the National Guard are near the breaking point. We have deployed so many, so often and for so long that we are nearing the statutory end of our ability to deploy the Guard as units, though some individuals will be able to be deployed for some time to come. Second, we cut the military dramatically after the end of the Cold War; in essence we cut about half of our combat forces. This means that we are able to sustain deployments much smaller than we might like: perhaps 125000 ground troops indefinitely, 300000 for up to three years (after which training and morale issues would leave us unable to fight large campaigns for as much as 5 to 7 years). Our commitments in Kosovo, Korea and other areas make this even harder than it would otherwise be. Military transformation increases the number of deployable combat units, but not sufficiently to drastically change those numbers for some time to come. Third, we are nearing the point where large fractions of our equipment are getting worn out from use. This will require a replacement cycle, with the corresponding investments. Finally, we have to realize that we are not done with the war even when the Iraq campaign ends: at the least we will almost certainly have to deal with Iran by use of force, and we may have to deal forcefully with Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well.
In order to fix these problems, and be prepared for ongoing campaigns, we need to make many changes, and they are going to cost. We have to extend transformation to include changing the role of the Guard and reserves, so that we can fight extended wars without calling up Guard and reserve units and troops on a continual basis. We must increase the size of the military, particularly the Army. The Army, in fact, needs to be expanded by at least 50% in order to undertake continuous operations and occupations and still maintain our other commitments. This should have been done soon after 9/11, and not having done so is perhaps the largest mistake the Bush administration has made in the war. We must also be prepared to replace much of our military equipment (particularly trucks and personal equipment, but also including armored vehicles). All of this is going to cost. Worse, all of this is going to take significant expenditures of political effort, and cutting of non-military programs and pork in large swathes.
Two other questions that Dave raises are metrics (how do we know when we're done?) and usable subsets (what do we get along the way, even if we fail to reach our final goal?).
As far as metrics go, that is a very difficult question. Enemy casualties is useful as a side effect (it makes the future enemies we fight less well trained, less capable), but not as a metric, because the enemy does not need large numbers of people to stay in the fight. More useful is the amount of territory under enemy control in various degrees. When we get to the point where the enemy controls no territory at all, though, the enemy might still be able to fight, because he doesn't have to control territory to carry out attacks, though controlling territory makes carrying out attacks much easier. Another useful metric is the number of Iraqi government security forces capable of carrying out operations with US logistical and heavy weapons support, and the number capable of carrying out operations without such support. But again, this is not a complete metric, because the operations have to be effective. The number of Sunnis involved in the political process is also a useful metric. But the reality is that none of us are in a position to really know what metrics are useful; for that we actually have to trust those we've elected to run wars for us.
But I believe that Dave is wrong in saying that there are no usable subsets of our actions in Iraq. In fact, we have already accomplished several of these: we have ended the torture and killings that Saddam used to maintain control are ended; Iraq is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism; Iraq definitively no longer has WMDs nor the capability to make them; the United States has gained useful bases in the heart of the Middle East. Some or all of these might be undercut if we leave too soon, while others will not. If we do stick it out, as I hope, until the Iraqis effectively control all of Iraq, we will gain other benefits besides democratization of Iraq. These include, not least, dealing a body blow to the idea that the US will just cut and run when things get tough.
Are there costs? Yes. But as Dave points out, there are costs to cutting and running, too, and in my estimation those costs are much, much higher.
November 22, 2005
Confused and Off the Deep End
Kos is both confused and deranged (I know, little change) about white phosphorus. (Thanks to Rusty Shackleford for the heads up) So I wish to set him a little straighter, at the sad expense of actually giving him a link and a small increment of publicity (that he doesn't need).
White phosphorus is a chemical, as is salt or magnesium. In the case of WP, it burns quite brightly (useful as illumination when fired into the air) and smokily (useful both as a smoke generator and to drive people out of hiding places when fired on the ground) and in its most common weaponized form burn spontaneously on contact with air. WP is used, when fired at the ground, on a point target, and as such is not remotely a "weapon of mass destruction" as those are, by definition, area weapons. There is quite a bit about chemical weapons here, and you'll note that not only is WP not listed as a chemical weapon, it also doesn't share characteristics with chemical weapons.
Perhaps Kos is thinking of phosgene? Phosgene is a chemical weapon that disperses over a wide area and kills on inhalation, by destroying the respiratory system. (It reacts with water in the respiratory tract to form strong acids. Nasty, nasty stuff.)
As far as WP goes, one might as well accuse the US of using chemical weapons on the assumption that we kept the swimming pools at captured palaces chlorinated. Chlorine gas is, after all, the first chemical weapon used in warfare (phosgene came soon after).
Why the Pentagon document used the phrase "WHITE PHOSPHOROUS (WP) CHEMICAL WEAPONS " I do not know, unless it was simply another bad attempt at propaganda. It is classed by the military as an incendiary. Perhaps they were referring to a complex chemical munition, that mixed WP and carbon tetracholoride. I seem to recall human rights groups talking about Saddam using complex chemical munitions on Halabja, including some that had a cocktail of chemical agents, to make treating the injuries much more difficult. This was, of course, when Saddam was not an enemy of the United States, and the memory hole seems to eat those kinds of statements when circumstances change.
In any case, here is the summation Kos gives:
Saddam tortured, we torture. Saddam used WP chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians, we use WP chemical weapons against insurgents and civilians.
I have always found Kos to be annoying in the past, when I've noticed him at all. Now, I'm simply ashamed to think of him as an American at all. He is certainly an immoral ass, but then, we knew that already.
Two additional observations: to Kos, if your thesis is correct and WP is a chemical weapon, is it not then true that Saddam had massive stocks of chemical weapons and that therefore President Bush did not lie (by your own standards) about the justification for war? Can't have it both ways.
To Rusty: Kos' feelings towards America do not seem to me to be like an abusive husband towards his wife. Rather, I believe Kos and his ilk truly love America: an idealized, fictional America in which there are no actual people, just automatons carrying out roles preordained by the priestly progressive elite (which is to say, Kos himself; see Michael Totten on that one), towards an end that is as impossible as it is inhuman. It seems always to be the intellectual children of Rousseau, in search of the perfect "system", that slaughter by the millions in their efforts to remake men — and nations — into the perfect image, without ever considering that the nature of a man is mutable, but the nature of mankind is not. Yes, Kos loves America, but it is an America that does not and never can exist. And all us proles that get in the way, well, we'll learn the folly of our ways come the revolution. Oh yes, we will.
November 21, 2005
Why the "Cut and Run" Proponents are Morally Bankrupt. In Pictures.
If you want to understand the moral bankruptcy of the "cut and run" faction on Iraq, consider the people they would condemn to death and slavery, without any moral qualms at all.
November 20, 2005
Too Soon to Tell
... but Abu Musab al-Zarqawi may have been killed in Mosul. If so, it's good news for us, the Iraqis and in fact anyone who is not a jihadi, so I'm hoping it's true. Sadly, I first saw the report on CNN at the gym, so I have to assume that it's false until I hear it from more reputable news agencies.
UPDATE: This makes me wonder if the tip that led to the house didn't come from Jordan. After all, it is certainly the case that the Arabs have better intelligence in other Arab countries than, say, we do.
The Military and Political Implications of Disclosing Strategy
There is a critical point that needs to be made, that the media and the administration's opponents have been glossing over, and that the administration has characteristically not been making, or has made badly. The iron law of warfighting is this: the leaders of a country at war can publicly explain neither the underlying strategy being used nor the full extent of their successes and mistakes.
To see why this is so, consider two historical examples of grand strategy, and how knowing the actual strategy could have enabled the enemy to win: the American Civil War and WWII in the Pacific.
The Union strategy in the Civil War was known as the Anaconda Plan. This plan, developed by Winfield Scott (hero of the War of 1812 and commander of the Mexican War), essentially consisted of two elements: the first was to divide and isolate the Confederates by blockading the entire Southern coast and occupying the Mississippi river valley; the second was to then sit back and wait for pro-union sympathizers to rise up and force the rebel governments out of power. President Lincoln adopted the first principle, but the second was not enough when the Union public was clamoring for aggressive action to bring the South back into the Union. Instead, the Union adopted a plan to destroy Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and take Richmond.
The Confederates could have countered the second part of the Anaconda Plan. To do so, they would have had to conserve the Confederate armies, risking them as little as possible, while cutting Union communications along the periphery. While the Confederacy could not have overcome the blockade, they could have used their advantage of interior lines to frustrate Union attacks intended to either take Richmond or destroy the Confederate armies, while simultaneously inflicting great costs on the Union just to stay in the fight: it's hard to ship goods and people thousands of miles today; it was much, much more difficult in the 1860s. Eventually, the Union would have been exhausted if they had been unable to retake the Confederate states, and it's likely that the Confederate states would have been able to gain their independence.
Instead, the Confederates — Lee, at least — appear to have thought the key to victory was to take Washington. As a result, Lee was constantly fighting, and constantly pushing into Northern territory. And it was in doing so, at a small Pennsylvania town, that Lee's army was finally defeated so badly that it could never recover. There were still two years of war to go, but the South had passed the point where it could win without a massive Union blunder or failure of will. (General Longstreet recommended that the Confederacy instead use its railroads and interior lines to relieve the siege of Vicksburg, which would in fact, if successful, have both demolished General Grant's career and likely have led to a failure of the Anaconda Plan: the Confederacy could have kept the lower part of the Mississippi open.
But since the Confederacy did not know the strategy, they made fundamental errors that cost them the war.
The second example is WWII in the Pacific. The US intended to enter the war as soon as reasonable cause could be found. President Roosevelt knew that despite the anti-war (and in some cases actively pro-fascist) sentiment in the US, it would be necessary to defeat Germany; he was looking for a pretext, and the constant submarine warfare in the Atlantic had come close to supplying him one by late 1941. Apparently, Japan was seen as a considerably more minor problem — or at least one to be solved further in the future.
But Japan didn't know that. Japan saw the cutting off of raw materials shipments from the US as a clear provocation, and decided that it needed to act in order to maintain its ability to run a modern industrial economy. This required Japan to control a large part of the Pacific and SE Asia, where significant oil, rubber, mineral and other resources were located. This would inevitably bring Japan into conflict with Australia, which was actively defending New Guinea, in particular, which was a significant problem for the Japanese. The Japanese figured that the US would come to the defense of Australia (likely, but not certain), and that would pose a problem of major proportions: the US territory of the Philippines lay across the route of Japanese expansion southwards.
Looking at it from Japan's point of view, it was necessary both to keep the US from supporting Australia, and to keep the US from blocking Japanese expansion. This meant that the Philippines had to be captured, and the US Pacific Fleet destroyed, disabled, or kept away from the theater. And that is why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Guam and other US installations in the Pacific on December 7, 1941, after which their defeat was as close to inevitable as war ever gets.
But had Japan understood that America saw Germany as the main enemy, Japan could have waited six months. By that time, the US would almost certainly have joined the war against Germany, and in the process would have transferred significant resources from the Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet. This would have given Japan the ability to advance southwards without worrying about the US. Already involved in a war taking all of its resources to fight, the US would not have been likely to intervene in Japan's expansion. By the time US attention could have been focused on Japan — probably 1944 at the earliest — Japan would have been much more powerful, perhaps too powerful for the US to see intervention as useful, absent a Japanese attack on Guam and the Philippines.
So as a practical matter, while a free society must always debate its goals in order to come to consensus (required for maintaining any policy over the long term), discussing strategy openly — at least on the part of those charged with developing or implementing it — is folly. Yet this is precisely what the opposition in the US demands. Absent this complete disclosure of the strategy well in advance, the opposition claims that there is no strategy, and that's why so much "needless" losses are happening in places that simply "have nothing to do" with the "real war". Why do they do this, knowing as they must that the administration cannot get involved in a deep discussion of strategy without possibly losing the war?
The iron law of political opposition in a representative country in wartime is this: the opposition can make use of the iron law of warfighting to undermine the government, if it is more concerned with its own power position than with the country's success or failure in the war. The way that the opposition does this is to challenge the administration to account for funds it cannot admit to spending without tipping off the enemy to our plans, to bring forth evidence of intelligence the government cannot disclose without allowing the enemy to stop that source of intelligence, to detail the strategy in ways the government cannot do without telling the enemy how to fight us more effectively, and to constantly beat the drum of incompetence and irrelevance of the leaders of the government.
If you think that the US is bad about this now, you should read up on the political infighting in England during the Napoleonic wars. The Democrats are amateurs compared to the Radicals, or even the Whigs.
It might be possible to publish milestones for our success in Iraq, at this point, since we've mostly won that fight in real terms (assuming, of course, that we don't just give up, as we did after militarily winning in Viet Nam). But it would be a grave mistake for the government to talk about the wider strategy in the war, and why Iraq is so important as a campaign in the war. Yet that is precisely what the Democrats want to debate, because they know it's a one-sided debate: the government cannot answer without giving vital information to the enemy. It's a cowardly and self-interested and treacherous. And yes, I am questioning their patriotism: patriotism consists in putting the interests of the country above your narrower self-interest, and the Democrats right now are (at least rhetorically) doing the opposite. I am glad the Republicans called them on it.
November 19, 2005
Comprehensive Foreign Policy Discussion
1. Where have you stood, and where do you now stand, in relation to the Bush Doctrine? Do you agree with the President’s diagnosis of the threat we face and his prescription for dealing with it?
2. How would you rate the progress of the Bush Doctrine so far in making the U.S. more secure and in working toward a safer world environment? What about the policy’s longer-range prospects?
3. Are there particular aspects of American policy, or of the administration’s handling or explanation of it, that you would change immediately?
4. Apart from your view of the way the Bush Doctrine has been defined or implemented, do you agree with its expansive vision of America’s world role and the moral responsibilities of American power?
It's going to take me a while to get through all of these, and I will probably comment on several of them as I go. However, I'd like to note up front that this is the kind of debate we need to be having in America.
Posted by jeff at 10:19 PM | TrackBack
Short History of a Long WarPosted by jeff at 9:59 AM | TrackBack
November 18, 2005
The change of heart today by Congessman Murtha (D-PA) on support for the war is very troubling, the more so because he did not change from supporting the war to suggesting we should eventually withdraw from Iraq: he changed from supporting the war to suggesting that we should run from with our tails between our legs, claiming victory of some sort:
The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. … We can not continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.
The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats.
I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won “militarily.” I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.
Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are united against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraqi security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, and about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis.
I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a “free” Iraq.
Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily.
While, as InstaPundit notes, and as the Congressman himself notes, the Congressman's change of heart is not new, the sentiment is certainly becoming more widespread. Ignoring for the moment that the Congressman's reasoning (that I largely did not reproduce, but encourage you to read) is largely specious (quick example: how does withdrawal improve our intelligence services?) and while his claimed facts are open to question, the call for total and immediate withdrawal is worrying, because it is part of a major offensive on the part of the Left to force the US to concede defeat, and thus needs to be addressed. I would like to address it in part, by looking at the consequences of US withdrawal.
To begin, it should be remembered that the best case and the worst case almost never happen. So it is unlikely that the terrorists would throw down their arms and stop attacking the US; our friends and allies would rally to our side with support and assistance in achieving our foreign policy aims without our using force against well-defined enemies; Iran would stop developing nuclear weapons; China would suddenly come around and see us not as a competitor but as a friend; and the world would march on in freedom and peaceful coexistence. It is equally unlikely that the terrorists would immediately take down the Iraqi government; the Israelis would use their nuclear weapons against Iran and (since they would face incredible isolation and political pressure after such an act) against nearer enemies and potential enemies as well; the US would be unable to act abroad unilaterally; Afghanistan would fall; and Musharraf would bow to the inevitable and start giving nuclear weapons to terrorists in order to avoid being assassinated. But what is likely?
First, let's look at what the Congressman apparently hopes will happen: the military will be able to fight elsewhere and sustain that fight; recruitment will increase, and the recruits will be of better quality; procurement will increase, both in replacing worn out equipment and in getting new gear; there will be less military spending, easing the deficit; fewer Americans will be killed and wounded; fewer Iraqis will be killed and wounded; the insurrection and terrorism in Iraq will stop; terrorism globally will decline; the Sunnis will join the political process. (All of these are inverse statements of what the Congressman declares to be wrong; presumably he believes that our withdrawal will put them right.)
And the Congressman has a plan:
To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq
So let's look at his plan, and his hopes, and whether his hopes are likely to be fulfilled or his plan is likely to work to fulfill those hopes. Also, let's look at the things that he didn't mention that might happen on the other side of the ledger.
In the very short term, as we were withdrawing, attacks on Americans would dramatically increase. By attacking us in this way, the enemy could plausibly claim to have driven us out by force, not because we lost our will. Given the, um, interesting ideas that are widely believed in the fantasist Arab culture already, this idea would have wide currency. And how could we refute it? By saying not that we were defeated, but are cowards? This would not only lead to the revival of the jihadi movement, which has taken some major body blows in the region because (a) they can't drive us out and (b) they are killing lots of Muslims instead of lots of Americans and Jews, it would also lead to the essential collapse of reforms towards democracy or at least political concessions on the part of the other Arab states in the region. It would also destroy any chance of a peace in Israel, because it would confirm the thesis that a Western power, including Israel, could be driven out by persistent and violent terrorism. In Iraq itself, of course, the government would face a problem with the terrorists and insurgents already operating in Iraq.
What the US military presence in Iraq provides the Iraqi government currently, besides more people and weapons to conduct operations against the enemy, are two capabilities: the ability to relatively precisely target the enemy, and defense against foreign invasion. Without the US, Iraq could probably manage sufficient logistics and support to protect its oil infrastructure, keep the Shia and Kurd areas relatively peaceful, and ensure its continuation in power absent a foreign invasion. The Iraqi government can also defeat the enemy in country, but the methods will be different. Absent US air power, electronic assets, heavy weaponry like artillery and tanks, and exquisitely-trained soldiers, the only option for the Iraqi government is slaughter. Not only would more pro-government Iraqis die in the bloodbath that would follow American withdrawal, but more civilians — by far — would be killed, particularly Sunni civilians. Given their capabilities, it's the only way the Iraqi government could stay in power. And since the Iraqi government and other "collaborators" would be killed by the Sunnis and the terrorists if they were defeated, the government has a powerful incentive to kill first and thoroughly. The idea of "diplomatically pursu[ing] security and stability in Iraq is laughable: who in Iraq would listen to us after we abandoned them?
If Syria or, much more likely, Iran were to invade Iraq, the government would almost certainly collapse. The Iraqi military and police have been being tuned for counter-insurgency, with the US providing defense against foreign invasion. The Iraqi military simply doesn't have the capability to defend the country against an invader who has tanks and artillery and even a few aircraft. The government would fall, probably within months, and likely to be replaced by a Shia theocracy satellite to Iran. This could even kick off a regional war, because the Saudis, Syrians and even Jordanians would be unwilling to let Iran have the Iraqi oil fields.
But with Iran the regional power, and the US uninvolved, it's a certainty that the US would lose pretty much all of its regional bases except perhaps in Afghanistan. The Saudis have already kicked us out. The premise is that we would withdraw from Iraqi bases. The Gulf states would kick us out, probably all of them would, because they know we wouldn't defend them, but our presence would draw terrorists and Iranian ire. The latter, in particular, would be a problem, because again Iran would be the regional power, and could get its way pretty easily.
And the idea that our "quick reaction force" (which would not be "in the region" for the reasons noted above) or our "over-the-horizon presence of Marines" would deter anyone after we ran from Iraq is ridiculous. Why would we use the military where we would undoubtedly take more casualties for less gain, after we showed in Iraq that we weren't willing to take a trickle of casualties for a huge gain? And why would we intervene to save Iraq after we had abandoned it?
Domestically, of course, the Republicans would be turned out of power in a way that would rival the post-Watergate gains made by the Democrats. The Republicans have not been socially conservative enough to excite the social conservative part of the Party, while not being fiscally conservative enough to excite the libertarian part of the Party. The only thing that's kept the Republicans in the majority domestically has been support for the war. If the war is abandoned, the Republicans will be seen as uncommitted to principles domestically or economically, as feckless and ineffective, and they will be (rightly) turned out in droves. (And make no mistake, this is the end that the Democrats most hope for and cherish; in the process, they tend to not see or to discount all of the other things that would follow our defeat in the war.)
Beyond domestic and Iraqi issues, there would be a number of secondary effects. Our ability to get our way in international fora would be even more reduced than it is now: with what would we threaten or promise? Few people fear our economic retaliation, because WTO rules make that virtually impossible, at least on a large scale. And no one would consider our military, because we would have proved that we could be beaten. Would we collapse, as the USSR did, after it was beaten? Clearly not. On the other hand, our ability to conduct diplomacy would collapse, as the USSR's did, and for the same reasons.
Iran, of course, would get its nuclear weapons eventually. The US certainly would not have the political will to act in Iran when it had lost that will in Iraq. Iran would be a tougher fight altogether, and there would be less provocation (no string of UN resolutions or of firing at US warplanes enforcing those resolutions), while attempting to use intelligence of Iran nearing nuclear capability would be laughed out of the forum of public opinion, since that was part of the justification for intervening in Iraq, and is being painted as the entire justification for intervening in Iraq. What it would do with them is anyone's guess, but a very good guess is "destroy Israel". Whether Israel would attempt to keep Iran from getting them is not clear, though I suspect that they would, knowing what the Iranians have said about losing several Muslim cities being worth destroying Israel. If Israel did attempt to stop Iran from completing nuclear weapons development, their only real option is preemptive nuclear strikes. The Israeli aircraft don't have the range, and they do not have the refueling capacity, to keep up a sustained conventional strike against the Iranians.
So now let's go back to the Congressman's hopes, and pitilessly demolish them.
Would withdrawing from Iraq increase the military's ability to fight elsewhere and sustain the fight? In purely military terms, yes. Since we would no longer be involved in one fight, those resources would be available elsewhere. Of course, politically that would be a non-starter, unless the US or, say, Western Europe were directly attacked, which means that our ability to fight elsewhere would be irrelevant. For at least a decade, the US would be unable to intervene militarily virtually anywhere in the world. And would we then get our second Reagan, or our second Carter? Would we resurge or decline? It's impossible to tell.
Would recruitment increase, and recruits be of better quality? Um, no. First, the morale of the military would be shattered. Experienced troops and officers would flee the military at their first chance to do so, and the result would be more unfilled slots. Recruiting is a kind of economy, with the demand being unfilled slots, the supply being recruits, and the cost being the quality of the recruits. With a booming economy (which, despite the MSM's continual gloom seeking, we have), shattered military morale, the inevitable budget cutting (see below for more) and so on, means that the demand would far outrun the supply. This would be made up by raising the cost, that is, by lowering the standards. We would likely end up with the kind of recruiting situation we had in the late 1970s: extraordinarily low quality coupled with constant retraining because of high turnover rates. That was horrible in the late 1970s; with today's demands from both technology and doctrine, it would be unsustainable: the Army would lose the ability to effectively conduct low-casualty wars.
Would procurement increase? Would there be less military spending, easing the deficit? Of course, these two hopes of the Congressman are pretty much mutually exclusive: you cannot cut the budget and increase procurement at the same time. During the 1990s, we were burning through Cold War surplus (our military is about half the size, in fighting units, as it was in 1991) to replace equipment. That equipment will be burned through in the next few years, and so we will face using worn out equipment or raising military spending. We cannot do both. Well, we could, if we again dramatically cut the military, probably by half again. In the process, we would get rid of a lot of capabilities, likely including sufficient amounts of our capabilities that we would be unable to mount an Iraq-sized intervention without a couple of years of rebuilding first. We would be limited to small-scale missions, because we wouldn't have the troops, equipment and logistics to support a large-scale operation. Current weapons systems are expensive, and you cannot both cut the budget and keep current, especially when you have to replace a generation of the most expensive weapons (aircraft, ships and armored vehicles) all at the same time.
Would fewer Americans be killed and wounded? In the very short term, while we are withdrawing, no. More Americans would be killed because, as noted above, the enemy would attack more in order to claim they beat us, rather than our will collapsed. In the medium term, probably, because we wouldn't be fighting in Iraq and it would take the terrorists a little time to recover. But within two years or so, our casualties would increase. First, the terrorists would be intent on driving us completely out of the region, so they would be attacking our troops in Afghanistan, as well as our embassies, American universities, and corporate and military interests throughout the region. Even if the terrorists did not resume attacks in the US on the scale of 9/11, our casualties in civilians and non-military government agents in the Muslim world would likely exceed our current military casualties.
Would fewer Iraqis be killed and wounded? Clearly not, as explained above. But who would notice, since it wasn't Americans dying? While 30000 civilians in two years seems like a lot of dead people, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Sunnis put down with civilians dying at a rate of 30000 every few months. Again, the Iraqi government's options are limited. And like the killing in Cambodia and Viet Nam, I expect that the Left would not notice; and to the extent that it did notice, it would be to blame it on the US for not protecting the enemy after we abandoned our friends.
Would the insurrection and terrorism in Iraq stop? Probably. Absent a foreign invasion, I suspect that the Iraqi government could kill terrorists, insurgents, sympathetic civilians and uninvolved civilians at a high enough rate to end the terrorism and insurgency. Assuming, of course, that the army and police don't desert en masse out of fear after we leave. If they do, then the terrorism and insurgency would likely continue until either foreign invasion intervened, or the government of Iraq collapsed.
Will terrorism decline globally? Um, not hardly. Why would a tactic that had proven successful be scaled back or abandoned? In short order, there would be a sharply increased amount of terrorism in the Muslim world. Shortly thereafter, there would be increased terrorism on the periphery of the Muslim world, Islam's bloody borders. And if the terrorists were to succeed in pulling down some governments and establishing a caliphate (a possibility the Congressman is either unaware of or simply declines to mention), there would likely be serious attacks against Western and Jewish targets generally. For that matter, it's not even necessary to establish a rump caliphate to do this: the Syrians, Iranians, Saudis and Pakistanis would probably be willing to provide sufficient support to the terrorists to ensure that they could plan, train for and carry out attacks in Europe and the US.
Would the Sunnis join the political process in Iraq? No. The Sunnis are increasingly participating because it looks like we are going to win handily. If it begins to look like we are going to lose (or if we simply announce we've lost and run away), there would be no incentive to counter the strong disincentive of being killed for "collaborating". So the Sunnis would withdraw from the political process, and turn to violence. And they would have to do it quickly, to avoid the slaughter the Shia and Kurds would try to inflict on them, both for revenge and for the practical reason of not putting themselves back in the position they were in under the Sunnis last time.
There are two other significant downsides of withdrawal not addressed by the Congressman even in the negative: international cooperation and Korea. International cooperation, both on terror and on other matters, would become a much more rare commodity. First, the US would be seen as needing the cooperation more, and so (politics also being an economy) the price would go up. In many cases, the price would be out of our reach, because better deals could be found by cooperating with our enemies than with us. Ask the French, or George Galloway, about "oil for food" deals and how much you can profit, with essentially no risk, by adhering to US enemies.
As to Korea, China has been allowing North Korea to slowly starve. This would not continue. The South would know it could not count on the US for the harder task of fighting or occupying North Korea, since we were unwilling to take on the easier task of occupying Iraq, and so the South would likely build up its military significantly. China does not want a free North Korea to encourage the Chinese people towards freedom, so they would prop up the regime. With nothing to fear from the US, the Chinese would have every incentive to do so and would see little in the way of downsides. Japan and Taiwan and South Korea, realizing they have to fend for themselves, would likely develop nuclear weapons as fast as they could. There would almost certainly be a series of wars, probably including China invading Taiwan, over territory in SE Asia.
It has always been the case that most casualties are suffered not in the battle, but in the rout afterwards. If we allow ourselves to be routed, the likely consequences are severe. We should be aware of them, and ready to face them, before we incur them.
UPDATE: Dave Schuler also has thoughts on this, and in particular on what responsibilities grown ups in a free society should have when their nation is at war.
My own preferences are that Congressional Democrats should alter their current trajectory from withdrawal to establishing a lasting peace in Iraq, the White House (and Congressional Republicans) should alter their stance from counter-confrontation to fixing whatever is wrong and speeding the pace of strengthening the Iraqi government’s position (even if doing that has political cost), and that bloggers would start confronting each others’ arguments rather than each other. Tain’t gonna happen.
Dave also points to Joe Gandelman's excellent roundup of opinion on this.
UPDATE: Kevin Aylward has also read Murtha's plan.
UPDATE: Ralph Peters has bitter words about the Democrats' electoral be-damned-to-the-consequences maneuvering.
November 16, 2005
Clinton Lied, People Died?
Let us look back to the day when President Bill Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox against Iraq's WMD capabilities, courtesy of CNN (emphasis mine):
Timing was important, said the president, because without a strong inspection system in place, Iraq could rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear programs in a matter of months, not years.
"If Saddam can cripple the weapons inspections system and get away with it, he would conclude the international community, led by the United States, has simply lost its will," said Clinton. "He would surmise that he has free rein to rebuild his arsenal of destruction."
Clinton also called Hussein a threat to his people and to the security of the world.
"The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government -- a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people," Clinton said.
Such a change in Baghdad would take time and effort, Clinton said ...
I think the first two paragraphs above are interesting. After Desert Fox, inspections ended until President Bush went to the UN and got Resolution 1441. Assuming President Clinton wasn't trying to mislead the public to justify airstrikes, it would seem logical to conclude, by Clinton's own arguments, that Iraq would have been rebuilding its WMD arsenals between 1998 and 2003.
The final two paragraphs above are interesting for their prescience. We've accomplished paragraph one; we would do well to remember paragraph two.
(hat tip: Drudge)Posted by Brian at 10:18 PM | TrackBack
November 15, 2005
Media as Weapon, not Theatre
The Officers' Club addresses the idea of the media as an instrument of war, but Brian points out in the comments something that is vitally important to understand, and often lost on bloggers: the media is not a theatre, but a weapon. (hat tip: InstaPundit) This is a fact often lost on bloggers, who tend to view the media as a thinking enemy of the US.
To an extent, that view is correct: many in the media seem to be actively working against the US war effort. But that view is not complete: the media has motives, incentives and goals beyond simple anti-Americanism or transnationalism, and the media is not a unified body, either. It is precisely these different motives, incentives and goals that jihadis exploit: frequent bombings on the road to the Baghdad airport tweak reporters' incentives to show spectaculars, while the fact that the road has been safe for many months now has not been worthy of a single report, so far as I can tell. Similarly, by attaching the victim label to themselves, the jihadis get a free pass on atrocities, while by not being the victim, the US is blamed even for the acts of the jihadis. (This happens in domestic politics as well.)
To really understand how the press can be used as a weapon of the West, though, you have to understand one key fact: the only way to defeat an enemy (in the strategic sense) is to defeat his will to fight. The only way to defeat an enemy's capacity to fight is to kill him, if necessary to the last man. In practice this pretty much never happens, because human willpower is not infinite. As the Iraq campaign shows, even an enemy incapable of resisting on conventional ground can, if he is determined enough, continue fighting long after any rational analysis tells him he can prevail. Even at the very end of WWII in Europe, with all of Germany in flames, there were millions of Germans who could have taken up arms, and the arms were available. But the Germans had lost their will to resist. Indeed, the German people and even military would probably have been willing to surrender much sooner, but one of the drawbacks of totalitarianism is the inability of the people to bend the leaders' wills.
So to make the enemy stop fighting, or never fight in the first place, requires you to defeat the enemy's will to fight. For less rational enemies, like the Nazis or the jihadis, this is a task that requires the almost complete destruction of the enemy. For more rational groups, like the US or the Germans of WWI, once you demonstrate to them that winning is not possible, there is generally a point at which a negotiated settlement is preferable to continued fighting. Note that you don't have to convince a rational actor that he will lose a fight, only that he will not win it, to eventually force him to concede the field. This is, at its heart, the way that the jihadis use the press (and the way that anti-Americans, anti-capitalists and anti-Republicans in the press itself use the press): as an attempt to defeat our will to fight. Hence the boasting price; hence the videotaped beheadings; hence the endless accusations of the evil nature of all Americans and American institutions; hence the endless comparisons to Viet Nam. All of this makes using the media as an aid to war, or even neutralizing its effect, difficult for Americans in general and almost impossible for Republicans.
But we don't have to necessarily win the same way our enemies do. All we have to do is show ourselves to be strong enough to not lose our will because of excessively negative press coverage; that is, to convince the enemy that the press is not a sufficient weapon to defeat us. We don't have to use the media ourselves as a weapon, though it would be nice if we did, since it would shorten the war. That is why the 2004 election was so important: it denied a significant hope of the enemy. And the 2006 and 2008 elections will be important for the same reason. If the enemy comes to believe that he cannot defeat our will, then his own will will be weakened. In combination with the morale losses from field attrition, and the loss of supporters as media stunts staged for the West, like the attacks in Amman, result in a loss of respect among the semi-neutral Muslims the jihadis want to recruit, the enemy will have a very difficult time maintaining his will to fight, and many of the enemy's fighters will in fact stop fighting.
In the end, there are still jihadis who will only stop fighting when they die, but I suspect that that number is not sufficient to maintain an international campaign against us, and that the jihadis' will can be beaten sufficiently to not necessitate actually hunting down and killing each of the most fanatical of the enemy. Or if we do, it will be more like the Israeli hunt for Nazis than it will be like open warfare.
Important Reading on the War
Joe Katzman compiles some of the most important speculation and analysis on the war. The three highlighted posts are particularly good reads.
November 12, 2005
I had never thought to look at the ratio of young Muslims in France to young non-Muslims in France. Mark Steyn did. (hat tip: Wretchard) The article is behind a registration wall, but you can use BugMeNot. Here is the meat:
Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting, as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now, in 2005.
So the question is: do you think M. de Villepin’s one last shot of failed French statism will do the trick?
The implications for that in terms of France's ongoing riots and the possibility of a civil war in Europe in the near term are staggering. Particularly when you consider that the Europeans don't seem to be very motivated, but the young Muslims do.
Posted by jeff at 8:19 PM | TrackBack
November 8, 2005
On the Uses of Torture
Should officers of the US government be allowed, under any circumstances, to torture people? Setting aside the definition of torture, I have to say "under some circumstances". Jon Henke disagrees on libertarian grounds, and I'd like to argue my case on libertarian grounds as well. (The comments thread at QandO is fantastic, as well.)
Should officers of the US government ever be allowed under any circumstances to torture American citizens, regardless of where and how captured? No. American citizens are covered by the 8th Amendment to the Constitution: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." In fact, they are also covered by the 5th and 6th Amendments, and we've probably already gone too far in a few cases of this sort.
Should officers of the US government ever be allowed under any circumstances to torture people of any nationality, captured in the service of a nation state with which we are at war and which is a signatory nation to the Geneva Accords? No, because our treaty obligations under the Geneva Accords prohibit that.
Should officers of the US government ever be allowed under any circumstances not covered above to torture people? Yes, in at least a couple of cases. There are two in particular, but they are special cases of a more general case. The two are non-citizen pirates and terrorists captured abroad, and the general case that covers both is unlawful combatants waging war against the United States and who themselves give no quarter. One who gives no quarter can ask no quarter. Whether or not the US should torture in such cases is a practical decision, best left to the executive, within the limits set down by the legislature. But to deny even the possibility of torture in such cases means that the enemy — in these cases one who would, as noted, give no quarter — will know in advance how far he has to resist in order to win, and that will mean that our lesser methods will be ineffective. Indeed, limitations already placed on US officers may have already made most of our lesser methods ineffective.
So there are, I think, limited cases in which torture might be justified. However, I have no problem with the legislature setting that bar lower than I would. I only ask that the executive act within the bounds set by law, and it seems that so far they have been doing so, with the caveat that the law is quite unclear on such questions in some cases.
Why do Men Join the Military
To go to war. The only people that this should surprise are those who ignore all evidence and common sense about the reality of gender roles, and how humans developed. Let's face it: men are genetically predisposed to protect and provide, and women are genetically predisposed to nurture children and provide a safe home environment. Not all the hand waving and cultural conditioning in the world will do more than make people angry and lonely when they deny their nature.
I came to this belief relatively late in my life, after I had children. Before that, I was perfectly happy with either traditional or culturally-approved gender roles (still am, really), but figured that child rearing and cultural conditioning was the chief determinant of behavior. Having had four boys, and seeing them turn a baby doll into a gun when they had never seen a gun or had a toy gun, I've been forced to change my mind on that one. Some of the effects of public schooling take a long time to be worn off by experience.
November 4, 2005
Strategypage has some excellent observations on al Qaeda's current strategic problem: they have no secure territory from which to fight, and secure territory from which to fight is a requirement of jihad. But what I thought most notable was the conclusion:
In practical terms, al Qaeda is less an organization, and more of popular madness, dedicated to terrorism and mass murder. Al Qaeda is more dependent on mass media, than anything else. Whatever it does, if the message is spun the right way, then the contributions, volunteers and atrocities will keep coming.
The thought of al Qaeda as popular madness is really interesting, and given the loose nature of the terrorists' organizations since the destruction of al Qaeda's Afghan sanctuary, explains a great deal about the increasing lack of ability to conduct mass-casualty attacks in America and Europe.
But of course, as the author notes, as long as the atrocity's can get sufficiently wide play in the media without meaningful criticism, there will not be a definitive end to this war.
October 28, 2005
Generations of Warfare
With Morenuancedthanyou's question on this post, it is clear I used jargon I should have spelled out. The question: "What exactly is 4GW?"
4GW is an abbreviation for fourth generation warfare. It is also called "asymmetrical warfare". Modern warfare began in the late 1700s, roughly between the American Revolution and the rise of Napoleon in France. The first generation was characterized by mass conscription, fighting without regard to seasons, the use of formations such as rigid drills and fighting in a line to maximize the firepower of musketry, and a distinct lack of operational maneuver except among the best commanders (Napoleon was master of the art of operational maneuver).
Second generation (modern) warfare came about with the appearance of breech-loaded rifles, which made massed formations suicidal. The US Civil War was perhaps the last 1GW war, and showed elements of what was to come: reliance on indirect fire, dispersed lines in the advance, a reluctance to give ground in the defense and the development of operational art, particularly in the German army. WWI was a perfect example of this generation of warfighting at its peak.
3GW was also developed by the Germans, who saw a need to compete with numerically superior enemies and also an opportunity in new technologies. The result was the blitzkrieg: non-linear warfare, emphasis on logistics and maneuver, targeting enemy populations as a means to reduce future enemy supplies and on fighting in time (as well as space) and combined arms (aircraft acting as scouts, infantry supporting tanks in a breakthrough, tanks supporting infantry in defense and so on). WWII was the prime example of 3GW war, and its zenith in theory was the American AirLand doctrine developed after Viet Nam.
4GW is really almost a return to pre-industrial war, for at least one side. Realizing that America brings overwhelming strength to bear, and cannot be defeated on the battlefield by virtually anyone, leads non-American forces (and non-Allies) to develop suitable tactics to counter American strength: terrorism, attacking civilian populations exclusively, media-centric war, using criminal enterprises as instruments of covert war and the like. In effect, it is cheating, by the standards of "gentlemanly warfare" that more or less prevailed between the 1600s and today, at least in the West and most industrialized countries. The Iraq insurgency/terrorist campaign, 9/11, the second intifadeh terrorism against Israel, and the drug lords' war against the Mexican government. Viet Nam was, in effect, the first 4GW war by the end, being won by the Communists in the media, by attacking our will to resist or even to allow our allies to buy weapons and ammunition, rather than on the ground, where the enemy was pretty much slaughtered until the 1975 invasion, the second conventional invasion of South Viet Nam since American withdrawal.
It has been the case that each generation of modern warfare, by targeting the weakest points of the militaries of the prior generation, has been uniformly able to overcome the prior-generation army. 2GW weaponry made massed, linear attacks suicidal (ask both sides in WWI, and the Polish and Russians in WWII) and ineffective. 3GW tactics made 2GW weaponry ineffective because it couldn't reorient to the threat, and would be cut off and destroyed in detail. 4GW basically targets the enemy's will to fight, on moral grounds rather than practical grounds. A perfect 4GW war is one where the enemy chooses not to fight in the first place.
This has not yet been proven of 4GW vs. 3GW militaries. While the Americans were beaten in Viet Nam by 4GW tactics, the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Mexicans in Mexico, and so on, the second intifadeh was crushed by Israeli application of an immortal practice: building a wall and killing the enemy's leaders. Similarly, the US campaign in Iraq will be studied by future historians, barring a tremendous reversal of fortune, as a prime example of how to militarily defeat a 4GW force that is tied to a place, and how to tie them to a place initially. It's unclear as of yet, and will be for quite some time, whether the jihadi campaign globally will be beaten by American and allied force, by the adoption of 4GW tactics by America (as was done in Afghanistan with great success), by creeping democratization and liberalization of the Muslim world, or not at all.
It's pretty clear that a 3GW military with 4GW capabilities of its own can beat a 4GW force under some circumstances, and that a 4GW force can beat a badly-trained and badly-motivated 3GW force. It's pretty clear that 4GW won't work against authoritarian and particularly totalitarian regimes, because they can be as brutal and "unfair" as the 4GW forces and to much greater effect, since they have State resources behind them. It's pretty clear that 4GW forces cannot win without the support of States, particularly in weapons, financing, training and safe havens. Much else is still unclear, and will be resolved over time.
My personal view is that 4GW forces are more or less indistinguishable from pirates: no quarter given. If all nations begin to treat 4GW forces that are not the normal forces of a State (including but not limited to terrorists) as pirates and criminals, rather than as useful tools, 4GW forces will almost immediately lose their effectiveness. If the media would refuse to act as the propaganda agents of 4GW forces, the 4GW forces would almost immediately lose their effectiveness. If America becomes brutal (which may happen if we suffer a terrorist nuclear, chemical or biological attack), or the UN ceases to protect the "democratic rights" of States that are not in fact democratic, or Western citizens stop seeing themselves as their own enemies — in any of these cases, 4GW will collapse as an effective tool.
This leads me to conclude one other thing: it may turn out in the end that 4GW is nothing more than pre-modern warfare, ancient warfare even, fought with modern warfare before the unblinking gaze of the camera. If that is the case, 4GW will be seen in historical hindsight not as a generation of modern warfare, but as an attempt to win a gunfight with a knife.
October 27, 2005
Power and Control in a 4GW World
Mark Safranski has an interesting and pessimistic look at the ability of the State to defend itself in a 4GW world. Myke Cole, whom Mark quotes, sees the dissolution of the State in the face of a threat it cannot overcome. Mark sees the possibility of death squads as a State defense. I see a more optimistic scenario.
It seems to me that there is another option as well, and that it is not necessarily a bad one.
In the US, and in some other Western States, the government is not some god-installed authority against whom there is no power and over whom there is no control. Instead, the government is the agent of the people, and exists to serve the people's will. Indeed, the institutions of government are nothing more than a delegation of agency by the people to the State to do full-time what any given person can only do part-time, and not nearly as effectively.
The military is little more than the delegation of the power of self-defense against foreign foes to the State - the militia power, if you will. The police forces are nothing more than the citizens' delegation of authority to the State to enforce the law (which all citizens are duty-bound to do). And so forth.
The practical result of this is that, at least in the US, the State can fail utterly at some task without leading to dissolution — even at the task of defense against enemies, foreign or domestic. Let us say, for example, that the police make a total mess of fighting against a domestic 4GW threat. While it's possible the government could turn to death squads, it is unlikely (again, at least in the US). What is far more likely is that the armed citizens would organize themselves into a group and go solve the problem. There is a name for this: a Committee of Vigilance. Perhaps better known as vigilantes. While not the best solution — such groups tend to get out of hand — it is certainly better than giving up to death or at least chaos.
If you think that this will not happen in today's world, you should read up on the Minutemen.
October 23, 2005
Too Good Not to Repeat
Dale Franks at QandO said something too good not to repeat. In the context of discussing the recent action by a Spanish judge of bringing arrest warrants against three US soldiers, Franks noted:
Frankly, with all due respect for the hallowed traditions of Spanish law (among which are the Inquisition, the bastinado, and the auto da fé, I decline to be lectured on justice by representatives of a country that was a fascist dictatorship until 1975, and had its last attempted military coup d'etat in 1981. I hope I may be pardoned for suggesting that such a country may not yet have enough of a history of, or experience with, impartial judicial proceedings to offer us lectures on the administration of justice.Posted by jeff at 10:32 PM | TrackBack
And that's my opinion on Spain, a country that has been part of—or, at least, an idiot stepsister to—Western Civilization for the last 700 years. If the dismissiveness of my opinion of them upsets you, then I assure you, you'd find my opinion of being dragged before a tribunal called by Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Indonesia, or Myanmar would be so harsh as to hardly be bearable.
October 18, 2005
Pattern of Operations
Bill Roggio offers another excellent flash presentation showing the pattern of allied operations in Iraq over the last year. It's a wonderful counter to the police blotter coverage that saturates the media, and shows both our plan of action and where it's likely headed.
The majority of operations in the last year have been to first disrupt enemy operations and strongholds, then to occupy those strongholds, along the major enemy logistics routes alongside the River Euphrates. There have been some operations as well along the Tigris River, and some operations to disrupt enemy communications between those rivers. These were aimed at pacifying Baghdad, a task which has actually been quite successful, reducing enemy activity there to periodic car bombings, generally against civilians.
Where, then, might we see operations in the future? With the Euphrates nearly locked down, except at its far western tip, I believe the center of gravity for American troops will shift to the Tigris logistics lines. The Iraqis will stay in force along the Euphrates, but the Americans will move to where the hardest remaining fight is, and that will be the line from Baghdad to Baqubah to Kirkuk to Mosul to the border. Once the rivers are both secured, operations will become more intense in far western Anbar province, particularly the routes from Jordan and Syria through ar Rutbah. But this latter extension, into the West, will not require a very large troop presence, and so it is possible that it will be undertaken entirely by the Iraqis, as they gain in competence and equipment.
Don't expect to watch on the news, though: the media doesn't tend to cover things that are going well, and that are not a point in time and place with an immediate emotional angle. Basically, expect the media to continue covering this war as if they had the understanding and attention spans of five year olds.
October 17, 2005
New to Me
I found a blog that I had never seen before: Sovereignty Blog. Orrin apparently has published as far back as 2000, but regularly since last August. Sovereignty blog is a wide-ranging set of quotations from other sources about topics related to sovereignty, usually followed by a Glenn Reynolds-length comment from Orrin. Worth checking out.
October 15, 2005
Assumptions, Victory in Iraq, and Strategy
The Iraqi referendum on their new Constitution has come off with high turnout. The assumption I am seeing on blogs that follow Iraq closely seems to be that this means that the referendum is going to pass. Not necessarily. The Constitution could well be voted down. But that is unimportant; there are only two important things: the election went off with such low violence — less than a typical American election in terms of number of incidents, though not their severity — and high rates of participation that it must be taken as the authentic opinion of the Iraqi people, and in failing utterly to prevent or disrupt the vote, the enemy's current strength has been revealed as lower than expected (and I expected it to be low). This indicates that the insurgency truly is over, and the terror campaign is fading faster than I had expected.
So even if the Constitution is voted down, this means that the political process will simply be re-engaged to negotiate a new attempt. And it is that political process that signifies victory for the US and for Iraq: by defeating the terrorists in Iraq, which appears to be happening more quickly than I had expected, and turning to the political process to allow free people to rule themselves as they choose, Iraq sets a magnificent example in the Arab and Muslim worlds of what Arabs can do. (It is, perhaps, too much to hope that the Western Left will take a similar example to heart.) In fact, in some ways, a defeat for the Constitution and a successful renegotiation would be an even better example, because in every other Arab state as it now stands, such a defeat would mean revolution and violence.
Given this, it is reasonable to expect the American presence to draw down within the next 18 months. Not all the way down, but down to the point that the Iraqis are basically in charge of the ground combat except in unusual circumstances, with the US providing air power, artillery, heavy weaponry, logistics and a deterrence against Iranian or Syrian invasion. Let's say 1/2 to 2/3, at a guess, of the US service members in Iraq and supporting Iraq can be retasked by the end of next year.
Now, this has some interesting implications. The US has learned much in the Iraqi fighting, and has kept those lessons because it's institutionalized the knowledge. (This is largely untrue for the enemy, who have not been able to learn as much because their people get killed too frequently, and their main source of intelligence is the media, rather than their own assets.) The Army is not, contrary to the puling of the critics, worn down, but rather has been sharpened. And that sharp point now begins to come available for follow-on operations. We can, after, say, next Spring, credibly threaten an invasion and occupation of Syria if that is necessary. As such, we can use that threat as leverage to pull down Syrian support of terrorists.
We could also credibly threaten Iran with attack and destruction (though not actually occupation). And if Iraq's oil reserves begin to come online in greater amounts, we could also credibly threaten to bankrupt Iran by cutting off their oil income. These threats can be used to hopefully get Iran to back off of their nuclear program, or to lessen their support of terrorists. If those don't happen, we can certainly attack Iran in much the same way that we attacked Serbia, using the destruction of their assets (less than total attack) to get them to back away from key policies (less than total defeat).
As a third option, we could use our available strength to undertake a lot of minor options, such as pressuring Chavez, Mugabe, the Sudan and some of the other third-rate problems around the world.
What will we do? The tea leaves don't reveal. But we will have a lot more options in six months than we now do, which will allow the US to take new steps towards advancing freedom and destroying terrorism. And that is a good thing.
UPDATE: Wretchard has similar thoughts, more eloquently put.
October 10, 2005
The Peace of the Grave
Glenn Reynolds rounds up some opinions on the so-called "peace movement". This leads to a thought I've had since the 1980's, when the "peace movement" was active in attempting to get the US to stop defending Europe and Latin America and pretty much even the US against the Soviets:
The "peace movement" always and only focuses on the actions of the US, our allies, or Israel [hereinafter "the good guys"]. They never condemn the side that opposes the good guys [hereinafter "the enemy"], even — in fact, especially — when the enemy is actually doing what the good guys are being falsely accused of1. Always and forever, the "peace movement" urges us to disarm, to back down, to forgive, to forget, to sleep, to sleeeeep....
The "peace movement" does not advocate peace: it advocates surrender. And to surrender against tyrants is to advocate the death of Liberty and its adherents — that is to say, they want us dead, or at least powerless and enslaved.
And interestingly enough, if we look at the "peace movement" from the 1960s onwards, the same people are always at its core: the hardcore Communists. Even today. Some people are simply evil right through; and let's face it, the only way to stop them is to kill them. Their minds are not changeable, and they will not give up until they win. Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be necessary, in that there aren't very many people who fall for it any more, as the picture in Glenn's post demonstrates. Perhaps time will take care of the problem for us.
1For example, war crimes in Viet Nam or torture in the current war.
October 9, 2005
The interesting thing about how we are fighting the propaganda war against the enemy and his hangers on is that we don't seem to get their worldview at all. I can kind of understand that: we at least pay lip service to being logical and reasonable1, and in the main we2 tend to actually be at least somewhat logical and reasonable. But the Arab cultures are not logical and reasonable cultures; they are superstitious, tribal, honor/shame cultures. This shouldn't be hard for us to get a grip on — our ancestors were much the same — but for some reason it is. If we want to win the propaganda war in the Arab world, we need to fight the propaganda war in the Arab world symbolically.
To get an idea of this illogic, the jihadis claim that god is on their side — sorry, for them, it's GOD is on their side — and He will smite the invaders, and cause the very rocks and trees to call out against the infidels (that's you and me), in order to bring about the global Caliphate as has been ordained. Nothing shakes that kind of faith except alternate superstitions. It's like using methodone to wean addicts from heroine. On top of that superstitious base, the Arab world is conspiracy-oriented (I think that this is the true connection between Western extremists and the jihadis), rumor based, and deeply suspicious. So to argue against this kind of thing, we have to fight on the level of rumor, conspiracy, and superstition.
It so happens that the world offered a prime example this weekend of the kind of event we should be exploiting: the Pakistan earthquake that killed, apparently, over 18000 people — Katrina math: 2000 or so. We should be playing this up as proof that god hates the jihadis, and wants the US to win in the war, and was shaking the ground beneath the feet of the heretic jihadis who have been slaughtering Muslims3, including women and children, in Iraq and, of course, Kashmir (where the earthquake hit hardest). And so on. We should also deliberately target well-known terror-supporting imams and mosques (and governments), killing the imams and desecrating the mosques.
Fighting low? You bet, but then this is for keeps, and we'd better fight to win.
1This is the reason for the intelligent design argument: the supporters know, deep down, that they cannot win an argument on the emotional or faith arguments (which are powerful in and of themselves, at least to the Abrahamic religions), because those arguments are not given credit in society. Since it is the scientific — or at least seemingly-scientific — logical and rational arguments that society tends to give credit to, the intelligent design proponents are forced to try to win the argument by the nonsensical claim that what they are doing is science. It may be true, though they would have a long way to go to convince me, but it's not science.
2Excluding the mid- to far-Left and the far-Right, anyway.
3This is apparently somewhere in the Koran, because the terror-supporting imams quote it all the damned time in their sermons.
October 7, 2005
Not Like It's a Surprise, or Anything
Iran's "peaceful" nuclear program has been put firmly into the hands of the Iranian army. Like I said in the title: big surprise. But hey, I'm sure that the Europeans will be able to negotiate Iran away from nuclear weapons; it worked with North Korea, didn't it?
President Bush gave a speech which was one of the best he's ever given. The President laid out the nature of the enemy and the elements of our strategy in the war. It's a shame that these points are not being continually made by the administration, or by the media. There's too much good stuff for excerpts to do justice, but I did want to address the strategy angle. The President noted five elements to our strategy:
- "First, we're determined to prevent the attacks of terrorist networks before they occur." The President divides this into two sub-areas: strengthening defenses here, and killing or capturing the enemy's current leadership and disrupting their organization.
- "Second, we're determined to deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes, and to their terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation."
- "Third, we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes." Here, the president puts Syria and Iran on notice by name.
- "Fourth, we're determined to deny the militants control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and a launching pad for terror."
- "The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East."
I guess the executive summary would be: defend locally, attack globally, deny unanswerable weapons to the enemy, deny sanctuary and bases of operations to the enemy, reduce the enemy's ability to replace their cadres. It's a useful strategy, because it simultaneously attacks the enemy at several pressure points: their current leadership and cadres, their capabilities, their sanctuaries and their ideology. In the long run, I suspect that the last will be the most important to ending the threat. Everything else is focused on containing the threat.
Like I said: good speech; give it more often and in prime time.
UPDATE: Juan Cole, not surprisingly, sees it differently. But calling names and shading the facts outrageously is not very convincing.
Mr. Bush, I don't recognize the world you paint. I find your speech a form of sheer propaganda, having almost no relationship to reality.
Likewise your post, Juan. But moreso, since I recognize the world the President paints, but not the one you paint. In particular, asserting that none of al Qaeda, Syria, Iran or anyone else in the region could possibly harm the US, and that it's all our fault anyway, followed by a tired repetition of Democrat talking points, just turns my stomach. Where the President offers a strategy for winning against the enemy we discovered on 9/11, Juan Cole offers nothing but handwaving and a denial that anyone except the US is the enemy. Pathetic.Posted by jeff at 7:06 AM | TrackBack
October 6, 2005
Naming Things, Logic, and Humanity
I'm a big believer in calling things by appropriate names. This is not mere sophistry: the naming of a thing tells us how to respond to that thing. To name a thing is to assign a moral role to that thing. The enemies of clear understanding, the Derridas and Chomskys and Zinns, use names to blur the moral nature of otherwise repugnant people or activities, as did Markos Zuniga when he called contractors working for the military in Iraq "mercenaries", and said "screw them" when they were killed and treated barbarously. It's why our external enemy are called "freedom fighters" by those who view us as their internal enemies: freedom fighters are morally legitimate, and thugs and terrorists are not.
Setting aside for the moment how this abuse of language leads words to become meaningless, and thus leads to the inability to clearly articulate moral choices, we come to another term that is meaningless and needs to be abandoned: "suicide bomber". A person who goes into the middle of the desert and kills himself by detonating explosives is not what we mean by "suicide bomber", even though he used a bomb to commit suicide. Similarly, a person who goes into the middle of a crowd, and sets of his bomb killing many, but who somehow survives (it has happened) is what we mean by "suicide bomber". But what to call such a person? The point of the act is not suicide, but homicide and "martyrdom" (a term that needs an essay or two to do justice to, particularly in the jihadi sense of the term) together — or frequently just homicide.
But "homicide bomber" doesn't work. Tim McVeigh, in destroying the Murrah Federal Building, certain committed homicide using a bomb, but that is not the same thing as what we mean, because McVeigh did not intend to die in the act. (This is why Fox News calling the Madrid train bombings the first homicide bombings in Western Europe was so ridiculous; clearly Fox missed the entire era of Communist terrorism in Western Europe, and for that matter the Irish bombings in England over several decades.) So what term does express the act itself: the intentional killing of others with a bomb, in order to attain a goal (terrorizing others into cultural and political surrender, these days), with the intent of killing one's self in the process? The only term I can come up with is "kamikaze". It expresses both the intended suicide and the intended homicide aspects of the act, and is morally neutral for the most part. It is understood to be a tactic, rather than a cause. And so it can be equally applied to attacks on military or government targets (morally legitimate) or attacks on civilians (morally illegitimate).
And now to some logic, and current events. Joe Hinrichs killed himself with a bomb at OU last Saturday. Was he or was he not a kamikaze? I tend to think not, for a few reasons.
- First, he doesn't fit the profile of today's kamikaze's. As Fran Porretto ably pointed out, the next one or ten or one hundred of these attacks are not going to be committed by middle class non-Muslim white guys. (Don't worry; we'll come back to this point.) As far as I can tell, Joe was a middle class non-Muslim white guy.
- There were several easy, spectacular targets nearby (including both the ongoing football game and a popular and crowded Irish pub) where, were Joe a kamikaze, he could have killed many, many people.
- In many ways most importantly to me, Joe was a member of the Oklahoma Chapter of Triangle Fraternity, an organization I am also privileged to be a member of. I know the kind of people involved in the fraternity in general, and the Oklahoma chapter in general. I know, as an initiate, the central mystery and ethics that are assumed as a part of becoming a Brother. Joe would have had to utterly renounce that creed — would have broken every part of it — to kill himself and others in this way.
Now that last point isn't logical. It is an intuitive feeling based on things that I know that are not amenable to logic. And as such, I'm perfectly ready to abandon (with accompanying grief and disappointment) that last point if it turns out that in fact Joe was intending a kamikaze attack. In fact, if it could be shown that Joe was a Muslim convert, I would have to acknowledge the likelihood that in fact this was a kamikaze attack, intended to kill numerous of my fellow citizens.
But let's pause there and look at the logic of many whose opinions I otherwise respect, who claim that Joe was a kamikaze. There are many examples, but I'm going to pick on The Jawa Report, because the format is easiest to deal with:
1) Hinrichs seems to have converted to Islam and attended a nearby Islamic center. (see map at Zombietime) However, the president of the University of Oklahoma Muslim Studeant Association denies that Hinrichs was a Muslim. Other witnesses, though, claim Hinrichs was a frequent visitor to the mosque.
2) It appears that the Islamic center is affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and which has been investigated for funding terrorism by Congress.
3) The ISNA linked mosque may have been the same one attended by Zacharias MOUSSAOUI. Much more on the Zacharias MOUSSAOUI link at Cao's blog.
4) Hinrichs' roomate, Fazal M. Cheema, was a Pakistani national and neighbors claim the apartment was a center of activity for Middle Easterners. He is described as a 'really nice guy' by his friends. Unfortunately, all terrorists are described this way by their friends. NEIN now reports that Cheema and his associates may have been on the FBI's terror watch list.
5) Hinrichs attempted to buy a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in large explosives such as the first World Trade Center bombings or the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing.
6) Hinrichs was later known to the FBI because of his attempted purchase.
7) Evidence at the scene of the bombing suggests that shrapenel was part of the bomb. This is a strong indication that Hinrichs planned to kill more than himself.
8) Witnesses now report Hinrich may have attempted to enter the OU football game, but that he fled when security attempted to check his backpack
9) Northeast Intelligence Network, who's earlier reports we had dismissed because of that website's long track record of alarmism but who are increasingly looking like they got this one right, claims a source is telling them:It appears that HINRICHS was part of a larger plan that included members of an Islamic terrorist cell based in and around the Norman and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area. As a Caucasian, it was much easier for him to obtain the materials needed to create a large bomb, act in concert with members of the local terrorist cell, and strike when relative calm was the word of the day.All of this evidence suggests that there may have been a wider plot by Islamic terrorists to use Joel Henry Hinrichs III as a suicide bomber in exactly the same way as terrorists use suicide bombers around the world: to kill civilians. Hinrichs, like so many other suicide bombers, failed in his attempt and killed only himself.
OK, so let's look at this. Point one might be convincing, if in fact it turns out that Joe was a convert to Islam. But was he? The only sources I've seen that say he was are either unreliable (I think NIN is as surprised as anyone any time they get something right; they're like the American Debka) or refer only to "anonymous sources", which I've learned not to trust. In contrast, named people will go on the record saying Joe was not a member of the mosque. Does anyone have a source that is not anonymous, and that is not NIN or WND or some equally untrustworthy site?
The most ridiculous evidence I keep seeing is the map showing the proximity of the local Islamic Center to Joe's apartment, the blast site, etc. Um, guys, the College Republicans, the office of the local Representative, and a lot of other things (including bars and bookstores) are equally close. That's not only unconvincing; it's blatantly illogical.
Points 2 and 3 are irrelevant if point 1 is unproven.
Point 4 is based on NIN "reporting", which I will not take without corroboration elsewhere (involving named sources).
Points 5 and 6 are essentially the same point (of course you're known to the FBI if you try to buy a large quantity of ammonium nitrate; they're not idiots, and learned to watch that after the OKC bombing), and certainly show that Joe might have intended to build a bomb. Of course, the fact that he killed himself with a homemade bomb showed that already, so I'm not sure how this is evidence of anything that isn't already proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Point 7 might be convincing, but there is no attribution and this is not something I've seen elsewhere. Is it from a reliable site, and a named source, or is it just rumor or third-hand reports?
Point 8 is a secondhand report, which is also known as "rumor", if you want to go back to the topic of naming things. The library security guard may be telling what he knows accurately, but given that he is telling about something he did not witness, it's not reliable testimony of what actually happened at the stadium, nor whether the student mentioned as running from the stadium guards was even male, never mind whether the student was Joe.
Point 9 is more rumors and unnamed sources from NIN.
So it comes to this: my prejudices lead me to believe that Joe was not a kamikaze, and a lot of people's prejudices lead them to conclude that he was. But the "evidence" being bandied about is not very convincing on either side, and perhaps it would be better to remember that no matter what else, Joe has a family and friends who are very badly affected by Joe's death. In the absence of good evidence, isn't it a bit better to wait to pronounce from on high, so as not to unfairly smear a possible innocent and his family? Otherwise, just how are conservatives any better morally, any less conspiracy-addled freaks, than the DU moonbats?
To Rusty's credit, he does at least have a disclaimer: "A word of caution is necessary here. It is definitely possible that Hinrichs did act alone and was just a sad nut with a death wish. Some of the facts presented above could turn out to be untrue, and even if true could be interpreted in a number of ways. We'll just have to wait and see. But, as of this writing I am inclined to believe that Hinrichs was part of a larger plot." I wish others were at least as responsible.
UPDATE: Lewy14 notes in the comments: "I recall reading something last year to the effect that _real_ kamikaze pilots (there were a few who went through the training and survived the war) were indignant at being compared to terrorist suicide bombers. Calling the latter "kamikaze" elevates them to the dignity of soldiers. It effectively claims that their civilian victims are legitimate combatants. Whatever else the Japanese kamikazes were, they were not murderers or terrorists."
I actually considered that. The problem is that our enemy doesn't think like we do, while the Japanese basically did. Our enemy does not have an idea that separates soldiers from civilians; they are tribal. But when a "suicide bomber" attacks a military or government target that we would regard as legitimate, then they are doing exactly what the kamikazes did. The only difference is that our enemy doesn't regard civilians as non-combatants.
UPDATE: Classical Values has great coverage of this story, by the way. I have gone through the last few days of posts, and it's exactly the tone I was trying to hit (except without the emotional involvement I have): skeptical of unsourced claims from any site.
UPDATE: Cathy Young has an interesting post today, 10/18, where she takes apart Michelle Malkin, Powerline, and Jawa Report for basically the same reasons I did. Here is the graf that had me saying, "yep":
Malkin, Powerline, and The Jawa Report claim that the blogs have not made any assertions, merely asked questions. First of all, that's a common, and rather poor, excuse for irresponsible speculation. If a prominent left-wing blog ran an item titled, "Did George W. Bush know in advance about the 9/11 attacks?", I doubt that Malkin & Co. would consider the question mark to be much of an attenuating circumstance.
I do have to say one thing in Powerline's favor: they didn't consistently refer to Joe as "Joel Henry Hinrichs III", as the other blogs did. That full legal name thing just screams "suspect", and I'm happy that not everyone jumped onto it.
UPDATE: Turning off comments, because I'm getting really weird ones now, that are complete junk (just a few words) rather than real comments.
October 1, 2005
Here Endeth the Lesson
Well, not quite. The end of the lesson is when it turns out that the terrorists behind the latest Bali bombings are likely the same ones behind the last Bali bombing; you know, the terrorists the Indonesians let go with a slap on the wrist.
Strategypage has an important article on winning the Terror Wars. The article points out the number of Islamist/jihadi insurgencies defeated recently, and notes that another jihadi campaign is about to join those earlier defeats:
The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken the battle to the heart of those regions that supply the leaders, and foot soldiers, for Islamic terrorism. In Iraq, this revived a civil war that had been flaring up periodically for decades. This time, the Sunni Arab minority were not able to crush the Kurds and Shia Arabs who comprise 80 percent of the population. Aided by Islamic radicals who want to establish a religious dictatorship, the Sunni Arabs have been losing rather visibly. The towns and neighborhoods where the Sunni Arabs could operate openly have been shrinking over the last year. Over the last few months, the number of terror attacks has gone down as well.
Finally, though, and most importantly, the article cuts straight to the heart of why I believe invading and democratizing Iraq was necessary, and why it may be necessary to invade any or all of Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia as well over the next decade or so:
On a wider scale, the Islamic terrorism is a response to tyranny and self-delusion in the Arab world. Islamic terrorists fight the former, and embrace the latter. But both the acceptance of tyranny, and fondness for self-delusion, are still problems in the Moslem, especially the Arab, world. Until those two self-defeating habits are overcome, unrest in the Moslem world will continue. The invasion of Iraq kick started the process, removing the local tyrant, and forcing all Iraqis to confront the delusions that have led them to defeat after defeat over the last half century. The Islamic terrorists can be beaten down in the short term. That’s been done a lot of late. But unless the bad habits are changed, the terrorists will keep coming back. [Emphasis mine - JKM]
It is this argument that the "anti-war" folks tend to avoid, and that the anti-tyranny forces need to make more often and more forcefully in public fora.
Posted by jeff at 2:20 PM | TrackBack
September 28, 2005
FCS and Elementary Logic
Well, I probably should not call it elementary logic, since our elementary schools don't teach it, but...
Defensetech has an article on how the FCS (Future Combat Systems, intended to develop a smaller, lighter, faster-deploying Army force) are getting more expensive and heavier. Lots of cynicism, little common sense. (On the other hand, the planners at the Pentagon seem to have lots of optimism, and little common sense.)
There are two ways to evolve anything, including combat systems: evolutionary and revolutionary. An evolutionary change improves what exists. A revolutionary change starts from scratch to create something new. In military generations, the M-60 was an evolution of the earlier M-48 tank design, and the M-1 was a revolutionary tank design (using a gas turbine engine, blow-out panels over the ammunition storage, layered ceramic armor, advanced fire control, a new track design and lots of other innovations).
The M-1 was part of a wave of modernization that brought a host of revolutionary changes to the Army, including its first real IFV (the Bradley) and a new light utility truck (the HMMWV, or Hummer). This was possible because, while fighting in Viet Nam, we had skipped a generation of procurement. We have not done that since the 1980's upgrade (the Reagan defense build-up) to the Army; we have been procuring steadily and improving upon existing systems. We have not let technology advance to the point that FCS made sense for most systems. The Air Force upgrades (the "smart bombs" and GPS) and the computerization of the Army combat units together constitute a pretty hefty shift in capabilities, but the underlying vehicles the Army is depending on for FCS simply aren't ready for a big jump yet.
Consider: an IFV, like the Bradley, has two key characteristics; it carries troops and it mounts weapons sufficient to give those troops firepower support against anything except a heavy armored force. This requires an IFV to have sufficient armor to stand up to enemy infantry, IFVs and mines (including the IEDs used in Iraq, and earlier Chechnya, to such great effect). It requires sufficient mobility to keep up with tanks. And it requires sufficient space to carry infantry and their supplies. The size necessary for both holding, say, six armed and armored troopers and mounting a turreted weapons system including mid-sized guns and possibly anti-tank missiles, means that only a lightly-armored system can fit into the FCS vehicle weight limit of 19 tons. Or, we can develop an entire new generation of armor that does in 19 tons what now takes 25-30 tons. Since that's not likely in the near future, we either sacrifice armor, or we create two different vehicles (a troop carrier and an assault vehicle mounting infantry support weapons) that both have to be transported to make up an efficient team. Or, final choice, we scrap the weight limit.
But having scrapped the weight limit, there are still two choices: continue to deploy the Army by sea (slow but effective) or build a large number of larger transport aircraft (fast but expensive). It appears that the Army has, pragmatically, taken the sea-deployment approach.
So it's not likely that many of the big FCS systems will see service: we really aren't ready for that kind of leap yet. But it is likely that evolutionary changes will continue, and we will eventually see a big leap that takes ideas from FCS (as M-1 took ideas from MBT-70) wedded to new technology to create a truly revolutionary system.
In the meantime, people should stop getting hysterical about theoretical costs that will never materialize, and the Army should consider buying the Navy a round of drinks and about a dozen fast transports.
September 27, 2005
Dead Men Train no Terrorists
The problem with the theory that the enemy is gaining experience in Iraq and that is why it's bad that we fight there, is that dead men take their experience with them, and lots of high-level enemy have been dying in Iraq lately. And as long as that keeps up, the net experience the enemy gains from Iraq continues to be much lower than our net experience (since our guys tend to survive their tours). Long term, that's not a way for the enemy to win. I give the enemy 12 months or less in Iraq — they appear to me to be on the verge of collapse, with the insurgency nearly non-existent and only the terrorists still fighting — and if they don't win the media war in that time, they are defeated.
September 26, 2005
The Perils of Not Reading History
Mark Safranski of ZenPundit notes a RAND analyst's testimony before Congress on Chinese asymmetrical warfare doctrine. Since I lived in Taiwan for four years, and remember it fondly, I've always taken an interest in the Chinese approach to Taiwan. (This is also an area that, it would be remiss to neglect, Brian J. Dunn covers extensively.)
China's current thinking is somewhat disturbing, in the same sense that watching an approaching trainwreck is somewhat disturbing. It's apparent that the Chinese have neglected some basic history:
If China waits for a militarily superior adversary to commence hostilities, it will be difficult for China to seize the initiative and the adversary will likely have the preponderance of forces as well. If, by contrast, China initiates a conflict before an adversary attacks, China can seize the initiative and may also enjoy an initial advantage in the local balance of forces. Finally, preemption greatly increases the chances of successfully achieving surprise. In the context of a conflict between the United States and China, the value accorded to preemption in Chinese military doctrinal writings suggests that, on the presumption that the United States will inevitability intervene in a conflict with Taiwan, China might initiate hostilities by first attacking U.S. forces in the region, even before it has attacked Taiwan.
At least some Chinese military analysts believe that the United States is sensitive to casualties and economic costs and that the sudden destruction of a significant portion of our forces would result in a severe psychological shock and a loss of will to continue the conflict. [This] suggests a belief that a preemptive surprise attack on U.S. forces in the Pacific theater could cause the United States to avoid further combat with China.
I was going to say something snarky here about remembering the past or being doomed to repeat it, but I'll let Roger Cliff (the RAND analyst) have the say on that:
It does not need to be pointed out to this panel that the last time such a strategy was attempted in the Pacific the ultimate results were not altogether favorable for the country that tried it, but the Chinese military doctrinal writings we examined in this study did not acknowledge the existence of such historical counterexamples.
But that's not the only counterexample. Consider, for example, the attack of 9/11. That attack was compared immediately to the Pearl Harbor attack, both in its destructiveness and in its effect upon the nation. Even in our current cultural daze, with the ex-hippies (and sometimes not so ex-) largely in charge of society, the 9/11 attack was enough to get the United States to overthrow not only the government most responsible for the 9/11 attack, but also another that was strategically convenient. It would be, um, unwise for the Chinese to think that a preemptive attack on the United States would be met with a collapse of American will. Indeed, I can think of nothing China could do that would more enrage the US than, say, sinking a carrier off of Japan; or destroying the airbase at Guam; or using submarines to block the entrances to Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, and the Panama Canal; or attacking those bases outright to eliminate their logistical and communications utility. China would get less reaction from the US by just attacking Taiwan directly, which is something the US will not stand for. But if China attacked Taiwan directly, we would be likely to stop with throwing back the invasion/attack and bottling up China until it stops fighting. Were China to preemptively attack the Pacific Fleet, I believe that the United States would not stop until the rightful Chinese government was restored to rule over all of its rebellious mainland provinces. Or until the Chinese mainland was a smoking heap of largely-depopulated ash, should China wish to be particularly stupid and destructive.
Yet that appears to be what China is considering:
[A RAND] analysis of Chinese military doctrinal writings identified a number of specific tactics that could affect the ability of the United States to deploy and maintain forces in the Western Pacific in the event of a conflict with China. These tactics include attacks on air bases; aircraft carriers; command, communications, information, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and facilities; and logistics, transportation, and support facilities.
I really hope that the Chinese strategists read up on the history of American reaction to surprise attacks before attempting such a strategy. China has an old and often beautiful culture, and it would be a shame to have it survive only in American Chinatowns.
Posted by jeff at 12:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
September 23, 2005
"Nuance!!! I need nuance!!!"
Brian Dunn notices a contradiction: if driving the terrorists from Afghanistan is bad because they're harder to find, then why is drawing them to Iraq where they are concentrated bad, and vice versa?
September 22, 2005
Jack Kelly at Irish Pennants thinks it's time for Rumsfeld to go:
Rummy must go chiefly because of his management style. He tends to treat subordinates -- including general officers -- as if they were small children. Some of Rumsfeld's "snowflakes" and dressings down were necessary in the beginning, to shock the military out of complacent old ways. But it is disrespectful.
Rumsfeld is smarter than almost anyone he encounters. The problem is he is too well aware of this. He is more interested in giving orders than in listening to advice. In this way he reminds me of Douglas MacArthur, a brilliant general so awed by his own brilliance he accomplished less than more modest generals Marshall and Eisenhower.
Rumsfeld shares another failing with MacArthur. MacArthur preferred a staff of sycophantish mediocrities. To the very limited extent he relies on anyone for advice, Rumsfeld relies on a coterie of intellectuals who military experience is zero, and whose management experience isn't much greater.
Rumsfeld manages from crisis to crisis. Subordinates are to drop what they're doing and respond immediately to whatever is his "snowflake" for the day. This is exhausting, bad for morale, and a poor way to develop long range plans.
Mark Safranski at ZenPundit notes something important about the senior military command structure:
Powell's generation of officers also became exceptionally risk-averse to expeditionary missions that smacked of nation-building or counterinsurgency, preferring to be prepared to fight only " Big wars" against Warsaw Pact opponents. Where the previous generation of general officers had presented a can-do face to presidential requests from JFK and LBJ, the new rising corps of generals and admirals struck the pose of Cassandra, warning of impending doom and searching to find the magic number of troops to request to kill any desire of the White House or Congress to intervene anywhere.
Beyond the brass where the critical decisions are made by men whose formative experiences on the battlefield were almost two generations earlier are the civilian appointees at the DoD, in the White House and on Congressional staffs. Quick to micromanage but loathe to accept responsibility for the actions of field commanders following instructions from Washington, civilians need to accept their role of providing leadership by making( and standing behind) the tough political decisions, setting broad strategic goals and granting sufficient discretion to carry out the policy objectives.
Finally, most of all, civilian leadership must accept the responsibility when things sometimes go wrong, as they inevitably do in battle, instead of leaving low-ranking soldiers and officers twisting in the wind. Properly directed and supported, given realistic and specific objectives, the U.S. military will move heaven and earth to accomplish their mission.
I think Mark points out why it is that Rumsfeld has been — and continues to be — so important. The generals and staff officers that Franks called, in his autobiography, "Title X Motherfuckers" are the ones who are bitterly opposed to Rumsfeld. It is they who argue and complain when changes come, and determinedly resist any attempts to take a fresh look at the system as it is working now.
And it is that part of the system that Rumsfeld most needs to break apart. It is that part of the system that is fundamentally broken. In the long term, the reorganization of the Army into Brigade Units of Action, with divisions acting like corps used to, is less important than the efforts to change the procurement process so that decisions take less than two years to reach the field. This means, actually, cutting out whole layers and columns of bureaucrats — mostly bureaucrats in uniform — and that means that a lot of long-established ways of doing things need to be swept away. That the reasons for those ways of doing things are no longer applicable is not the kind of thinking that bureaucrats are known for doing well.
So I have to disagree with Jack, and say that Rumsfeld should stay. It's precisely because he is making people uncomfortable and shaking things up that he is so necessary. Rumsfeld would not be a good SecDef in an environment where things are working well. But things are not working well in several parts of the Pentagon that do not directly deal with combat in the field, because they are still stuck in a Cold War and static slogging mentality, and Rumsfeld is doing the right things to fix that.
While Time Magazine asks if we've already lost in Iraq, Bill Roggio shows the intricate series of attacks we are mounting on the enemy in his centers of strength. Note where we are fighting now: not in the South-central part of Iraq, but deep in the terrorist and insurgent rear areas. And note the kind of fighting we are doing: no longer simple sweeps, but targeted strikes on leaders and key infrastructure, combined with clear and hold operations (that is to say, denial of territory to the enemy) in enemy strongholds.
The news coverage of Iraq frequently fails to convey the cumulative linkage of military events in that country. Operations are often reported in a disconnected fashion, as if some operations officer got up in the morning and asked 'what are we going to attack today?', and then troops rush out to do whatever just occurred to them. Worse, definite types of military operations on both sides, whether car bombing, cordon and search, precision strike, etc. are often described according to some political theme -- 'standing up for freedom', 'deepening quagmire', 'the body bags mount', 'reduced to high altitude bombing' -- and the reader gets no sense of the logic behind the events. Both the US Armed Forces and the enemy are led by experienced professionals schooled in the operational art; and if we can be sure of nothing else, we can be certain that their acts have a specific military intent which often does not correspond to the themes articulated by some talking heads. Whether one is on the Left or the Right, it should be abundantly clear that we are watching the battle for the Syrian border and for the control of the Euphrates and Tigris river lines. No matter whose side you're on, you should know what game you are in.
I don't understand, really, why it is that the MSM is not learning from its mistakes. They should have realized after Afghanistan that the narrative being conveyed (aggressive and incompetent US bogged down in hopeless mountain war against hardened native defenders) did not match the reality. Instead, they found flaws and imperfections to nitpick. They should have realized after the Iraq invasion was completed that the narrative being conveyed (aggressive and incompetent US bogged down in hopeless desert war against hardened defending troops) did not match the reality. Instead, they found flaws and imperfections to nitpick. They should have realized by now that the battle to defeat the terrorists and Ba'athist remanants in Iraq does not match the narrative (aggressive and incompetent US bogged down in hopeless desert war against hardened insurgents fighting to defend their freedom [to kill the rest of the Iraqis, but that's never stated] aided by heroic foreign fighters [terrorists who slaughter women and children in houses of worship, but that's never stated]) does not match the reality. Instead, they focus on police blotter coverage and disconnected incidents while avoiding any systematic look at the big picture.
Eventually, reality overwhelms narrative, and the media has some huge narrative failures to account for.
September 20, 2005
Why the Optimism?
Anyone believing a word of what North Korea says about anything is, as Scrappleface points out, deluded. So I cannot understand all the congratulations in conservative circles about the agreement signed by the North Koreans, which after all only promises the same things the North Koreans promised in 1994, the breaking of which promises got us into the current situation. Is it just the desire to proclaim a triumph for President Bush, at a time when his domestic political support is perceived to be weak? Bat One, writing at Pennywit, gets it exactly right.
September 13, 2005
It seems that the South Koreans are going to dramatically shrink their military, on the theory that North Korea will collapse, and in the time between now and the collapse will be unable to attack the South:
The politicians, and most of the voters, believe it is inevitable that the communist government in North Korea will eventually collapse, and no longer be a threat. The reform plan, which has been in the works for years, will take fifteen years to complete. But by 2020 the army would have six corps instead of 13, twenty divisions instead of 47 and 26 percent fewer troops (500,000 instead of 680,000). The reserves would be reduced even more, from 3 million to 1.5 million. Conscription would not be eliminated, but it would be used less. The army would provide higher pay for the Special Forces (sort of like the U.S. Rangers), to encourage volunteers. Conscripts who wanted to make the army a career, would immediately receive much higher pay once they agreed to stay in, when their conscription service was over. Ultimately, an all-volunteer forces would be preferred.
At first blush, this looks a lot like what the US did in the aftermath of the Cold War (to our later regret, as we now have far fewer troops with which to take on our enemies, leaving us able to handle only one occupation at a time). But there is a significant difference: our main enemy was gone at the end of the Cold War, and North Korea still exists. It's an interesting idea to significantly reduce your forces in the face of a determined and nuclear armed enemy, and it may work, since North Korea is undeniably teetering on the brink of collapse, and their armed forces, though large, are increasingly incapable of normal operations, and increasingly outclassed in training and equipment.
There is one very good thing about this, though: clearly, we don't need to keep our troops in Korea, if the Koreans themselves think that there are too many troops there.
September 11, 2005
Four years later, Joe Katzman provides a remembrance full of links and thoughts.
September 1, 2005
Self-Destructive Behavior From Hugo Chavez
(But what's new about that, you may well ask.)
Brian Dunn notes some provocative behavior by Venezuela's tin-pot Leftist dictator: provoking the Dutch over their Caribbean islands close to Venezuela. Perhaps Chavez thinks that the Dutch are too weak to respond if he does decide to invade, as Argentina thought (wrongly) about the British.
In actual fact, he right: the Dutch have no expeditionary capability. But they do have a different asset: the Dutch are in fact a part of NATO, and those islands are not just nominal, but actual, Dutch territory, to the extent that the Dutch citizens of islands like Aruba have full representation in the Dutch parliament. One of the interesting parts of the NATO treaty is that an attack on one NATO member is, under Article V, an attack on all NATO members. The US is also a NATO member, with significant expeditionary military capability stationed within a few days of Venezuela. The US also has some grudges of its own against Chavez, who is one of the most destabilizing and anti-democratic leaders in the world, interfering throughout Central and South America with his buddy, Fidel Castro.
If I were Chavez, I'd think very, very carefully before picking on the Dutch.
August 28, 2005
Gates of Fire
Were there any justice in the world, Michael Yon's Gates of Fire would win the Pulitzer Prize. The piece is about a recent combat action in Mosul, where the 1-24th Infantry became involved in close quarters combat. How close? At one point a SGT and a terrorist (who had been recently released from prison after having been captured months ago!) were wrestling on the ground. This is the best combat photojournalism and writing I have seen since pieces published during WWII.
If the rest of the media were reporting the war this well, I would have zero complaints about the reporting of the war. (And I suspect that public support would be much higher, since Michael Yon shows the good we do, along with the bad and the ugly that is done to us.) Sadly, this piece about a related action, or this piece about the same action are both far more representative of most mainstream war reporting, and far more likely to be recognized for journalism awards. In fact that latter piece was a report about Michael Yon's reporting, omitting basically all of the useful information, but at least linking to Yon's blog.
(LT Col Kurilla is recovering in the US.)
August 18, 2005
Spain's French GovernmentPosted by jeff at 3:31 PM | TrackBack
The de Menezes Killing and Police Responsibility
The Times of London has a timeline of events in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in late July. This was the case where the victim was being tailed by police as a terror suspect, and was reported as wearing a heavy coat (in summer), vaulting a barrier to enter the Tube station, running from pursuing police onto a train car, and then being hauled to the ground and shot in the head. At the time, I defended the police because, while the shooting was of an innocent, the police had no way of knowing that at the time, and his behavior did not appear innocent. Given the reported circumstances, the police acted correctly.
The key word is "reported". Apparently, those reports were wildly inaccurate. Mr. de Menezes apparently was wearing a light jacket, not a heavy coat. He apparently entered the Tube station normally, and walked casually towards the train. After entering the train, Mr. de Menezes apparently sat down. Police then entered the car and identified themselves, whereupon Mr. de Menezes got up and walked towards them. He was grabbed by an officer and pulled down, and was then killed.
If this sequence of events proves accurate, the event becomes much more troubling. In a case where there are clear signs of threatening intent, or of flight, the police would have been correct in their actions. Their killing of Mr. de Menezes would have been a tragic accident, but an unavoidable one if larger losses from terrorist bombings are to be prevented. But where there are no signs of flight, and the only signs of trouble are a vague match of body type and coloration plus leaving from a building under vague suspicion of housing terrorists, as seems to be the case here, it appears now that the Metropolitan Police acted irresponsibly. I don't have a problem with the shoot to kill policy, where there are strong suspicions that an attack is underway. But where the suspicions are vague and no threatening behavior is evident, the police have a positive obligation to act with caution, even if that means that their own lives are in danger.
If the police expect to be defended when they make a mistake, they need to only make such mistakes when there is clear evidence to guide them. Otherwise, public support for strong action to prevent terrorism will rapidly evaporate, and the police will have a much harder time preventing attacks in future.
As it is, it appears that the officer who shot first might well have committed murder (the officers shooting after that had reason to believe, by the mere fact that shooting was happening) that something untoward was going on that required a rapid intervention. I won't prejudge that - the investigation into the incident is not yet complete - but if that is the case, the police have acted unacceptably and should be accordingly punished. If events are other than the Times has reported them, whomever leaked the timeline has acted unacceptably and should be accordingly punished.
UPDATE: What he said.
August 17, 2005
The Problem of Iran
Wretchard has an interesting post, containing a translation of an Iranian nuclear official's take on their negotiations with the EU. Short form: it bought them time. In other words, just as the center-right has been arguing, Iran is using the negotiations to further their nuclear program, in much the same way that North Korea did. OK, fair enough, but what do we do about it? The Bush administration has utterly failed to prepare the US for a large-scale war, both domestically and (critically) militarily. We simply don't have an army large enough to occupy both Iraq and Iran without breaking the army completely within 2-3 years. And since that's not acceptable - it's not like the terrorists are going to give us a holiday - and since we are running out of time to deal with Iran before they obtain nuclear capability, we are left with quite the conundrum. Wretchard ends with this:
[V]irtually no Western politician can ever use force again to prevent a regime, even one openly dedicated to terrorism, from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The subject is verboten because the Left has declared it so.
Not so. We have repeatedly seen that the voices telling us this or that is impossible or cannot be done politically are constant, and appear around every problem. The voices whisper despair, while shouting courage; they whisper failure, while shouting progress. But their only power comes from being listened to. When a politician does not listen to the voices, and George Bush has repeatedly demonstrated his deafness to the counsels of despair and failure, he is free to take action, and is generally supported by the public.
Wretchard's commenter wildmonk said:
[A] preemptive invasion of Iran to deny it nuclear weapons is fraught with great philosophical peril. It can be justified in one and only one way: America would have to overtly arrogate unto itself the right to be the final arbiter of other nations' actions. This would represent an unprecedented seizure of the international agenda and discard any remaining pretenses that we live in the age of Liberal Internationalism. Indeed, our entire postwar order - including the moral authority of the UN - would have to be discarded.
I don't think an invasion is possible, because we would need an army the size of the one we had in 1991 to pull it off while still occupying Iraq. But that does not mean action is impossible. While regime change in Iran is an eventual requirement, it is not an immediate requirement. We could bomb the Iranian nuclear program into oblivion - or near oblivion - despite the buried facilities, and in the process destroy much of Iran's military and shared-purpose infrastructure. The Navy and Air Force could do this with some difficulty and time required - and losses almost certain.
Iran would react, most likely by attacking Arab states (particularly the Gulf states) that support the US with missile bombardment, but this reaction would be dwarfed by the American force that could be applied to Iran. On top of that, Iran is constrained from using its ground forces to attack us overtly in Iraq because that would bring a US invasion (sadly, requiring a complete mobilization of the Guard and Reserves, but we'd do it under those circumstances). So whether we would simply neuter Iran, or whether the regime's opponents would rise up in reaction to the attack and take down the Mullahs, either way we can push the problem down the road, until we have the capacity to solve it permanently.Posted by jeff at 9:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
August 16, 2005
Victory or ExitPosted by jeff at 9:05 AM | TrackBack
August 13, 2005
Governors and Immigration
OK, here's what I don't get: why are our governors such weenies? They see the problems caused by our Federal government's utter failure to fix our immigration mess, yet they do nothing. The governors are executives. They are military commanders, and have actual armed forces reporting to them, and the authority to mobilize those forces. Why are the governors waiting for Washington?
Looking at the states bordering Mexico, you see the following:
Texas: 36th Infantry Division (of which CPT4ever is a member); Texas State Guard including six brigades (all MP) and an air wing (that currently seems to be strictly ground support for the National Guard's aviation units)
New Mexico: seems to be just about nothing - an MP company and an ADA (anti-aircraft) unit
Arizona: engineering, signals and logistics units; significant air assets including an attack helicopter BN and an attack helicopter RGT; artillery
California: 40th Infantry Division (Mechanized), plus an assortment of units, including engineers, signals, intelligence, aviation and logistics units
For Texas and California, there is significant strength on the ground. In addition, each of these states' governors could organize additional militia units at will (within budget constraints, of course). So if the governors see a real problem with immigration, why are they not doing their duty to fix the problem within their areas of responsibility?
August 12, 2005
Two Thousand Tragedies
Stalin famously said that single death is a tragedy, while a million deaths is a statistic. To my mind, there is no more clear and unambiguous measure of how well we are fighting the war than that every story of every death, and every life story of that person, and even the internal family tragedies and political leanings of a few of the dead soldiers' families are known to us. Within a year after Pearl Harbor, US forces were losing so many men that discussion was only possible about statistics, unless it was your relative who died - that had been true for many years, by that point, in Europe and Asia and the western part of the Pacific Rim. We lost more men in three days on Iwo Jima than we have in the last three years fighting this war.
It's a manifestation of two factors that are different now from WWII: the first is that we are so overwhelmingly dominant against any conceivable enemy that our major limitations in combat are not enemy actions, but our own rules designed to keep enemy civilians (and sometimes even enemy soldiers) from getting killed; and the second is that we have chosen not to defeat the enemy per se, but to co-opt the enemy's society away from them. We have chosen to fight a slow war, giving time for representative governance and rule of law to develop, rather than a fast war, leaving behind us only a smoking ruin.
In a way, I'm very glad that we are still able to see our combat dead in tragic terms, rather than as part of a panorama. I'm very glad that it's still possible for Nightline to read off the names of all of the US combat dead in years of fighting in Iraq, that it's still possible to care about Cindy Sheehan's political views, and that it's still possible to know the names of every brave soldier, sailor, airman and marine we have lost. The alternative, while seemingly less painful, is not better.
A Dreadful Magic
Grim at the Fourth Rail has a very perceptive essay on beating insurgencies:
Can we defeat state sponsors of terrorism, if we cannot sustain the long-term, low-level losses of a guerrilla war? If that proves politically impossible for a democracy -- just as the Medieval state could not raise an army large or strong enough to sustain the losses needed to take a castle -- we will find that we are at last in the opposite position. Defense will again be stronger than attack. We will not dare...(That's a fragment from the middle; the whole thing needs to be read to get the full idea set.)
Why, we will not dare to be drawn into a guerrilla war. And that is what our enemies hope, and it is what many critics of America hope: that America will thereby be restrained, that American power will thereby evaporate.
Yet if it proves that technology is not up to the task, there remains strategy, and grand strategy. We are not so easily defeated. One trick will not do it. There remains, as Clausewitz warned, escalation.
If artillery will not batter down the walls of the castle, burn the countryside until the knights ride out to their doom.
We have another option of that type ourselves. It is fully developed; it has advocates in the Pentagon, particularly among the Air Force. It is called "Network Centric Warfare," and it is built to avoid the problems of Fourth Generation fighting.
It cannot escape the realities of such a war. In the Fourth Generation, lines between military and civilian are blurred even to the point of vanishing. The terrorist hides among the civilian; teh guerrilla can blend so fully that there really is no clear line at all. Consider Yon's bomber's mother, who praises her son to the skies even in the face of American fighters. The bomber is a combatant. The mother is... not? Is she?
If 4G war fails to find a way to win by transformation of such a society, we will not therefore choose to lose all future conflicts. America will not choose to simply yield on every point, to any enemy, regardless of how deadly the consequences or how vital the interest. We will choose to fight according to another strategy: we will attack the problem in another way.
Network centric war seeks to identify the webs that support a system of warfare, and collapse them. Against a traditional army, it destroys their logistics, their communications, it renders them blind and finally starving, and then their fighting capability withers like leaves in a sandstorm. It was used against a conventional military target, to great effect, during the fighting against dug-in Iraqi military units outside of urban centers. The few survivors of the Republican Guard, which suffered casualty levels approaching fifty and seventy-five percent before they even made contact with the Marines, know all too well how terrible this method of war can be.
It can be deployed against terrorists, too. It can apply to 4G conflicts as well as conventional ones.
But the network one seeks to take down, when the battlespace is an entire society, is the whole society.
Either we will raise Arab/Muslim societies into free nations, or we will raze them to the ground. A failure to defeat the terrorists by fighting gently and discriminately, as we now are, does not mean loss, it means fighting fiercely and indiscriminately. It means a return to the urban fighting of WWII: level the city, block by block, and bounce the rubble into dust. Or it means ignoring conventional fighting altogether and simply annihilating every major population center in the Arab/Muslim world. The US will not accept nuclear terrorism, and nuclear terrorism is an inevitable outcome if the terrorists and their state sponsors are not defeated, because we will not surrender to the jihadis, which is the only end they will seemingly accept.
Grim is correct: we either defeat the terrorists now, or we annihilate their entire societies later.
August 11, 2005
Nice IED. Wouldn't Want There to be an ... Accident
Wretchard writes about the IED war/counterwar in Iraq. One thing that really interested me was a new countermeasure he described:
The JIN neutralizer, now being test fielded to Iraq is an interesting application of directed energy weaponry. It works by using lasers to create a momentary pathway through which an electrical charge can travel and sending a literal bolt of lightning along the channel. A link to a Fox News video report on the manufacturer's website shows a vehicle equipped with a strange-looking rod detonating hidden charges at varying distances, some out to quite a ways.The first thing to occur to me after reading the description and watching the video is what a fine preemptive weapon this would be. At some point in the construction of a bomb, and before it is placed, it has to be hooked up to the triggering mechanism. I assume that the LIPC countermeasure wouldn't set off explosives that were not hooked up to a detonator and probably some kind of wire circuit for the triggering mechanism (that is, I assume that the device works by inducing a current in that circuit, as if the triggering mechanism had fired).
But what if we were to mount this on helicopters or surplus M113s, then drive down the street (or fly over) in insurgent-friendly areas, simply pointing it at each building in turn? I suspect that there would be a sudden large increase in "work accidents" until the enemy figured out to not wire the detonators until they were emplaced. Of course, car bombs would be utterly useless anywhere these were around, since you could just point it at each approaching vehicle and see which ones blow up. (That would reduce accidental shootings of civilians as well.) And the enemy would have to take a longer time emplacing IEDs, which increases the chances of being detected.
Sounds like a good idea to me, if it works.
August 9, 2005
Winning the Propaganda War
Rusty Shackleford has some intriguing thoughts on the propaganda war and how to win it.
I would add to his suggestions that actively enlisting Western media and entertainment figures, as we did in WWII, would be a good idea. This means two things: we would have to trust them enough to bring them into the process, so that they know they are not being lied to, and we would have to make it worth their while economically and philosophically.
August 6, 2005
The Greatest Scientific Gamble in History
Zenpundit has posted President Truman's announcement of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, along with a number of links on the 60th anniversary of the event. One of the most interesting things about the Little Boy bomb that destroyed Hiroshima is that it was never tested before it was used: it was considered so simple that testing was redundant. (The Trinity test was of Fat Man, the bomb used to destroy Nagasaki three days later.) Those three weapons, the two bombs used on Japan and the one for the Trinity test, were the entire US stockpile, and it is my understanding that it would have been six months before another weapon was ready to be used. Had Japan not surrendered, Operation Olympic - the invasion of mainland Japan - would have been necessary, and very probably more people would have died than were killed in the two atomic bombings.
August 4, 2005
The Next to Last Way to Win the War
The last, and very final, way to win the war is to simply destroy every Arab/Muslim city with a population greater than a few thousand people, then kill any remaining Arab/Muslim people who are still fighting, if any. Not the way we want to go, and not the way that we are likely to go, unless the terrorists manage to get nuclear or chemical or biological weapons and use them against a Western target.
I was thinking: what would be the next to last way to win? How could we absolutely win, without genocide. It occurs to me that the next most drastic scenario would be to take over all of the oil fields in the Arab/Muslim world, and to expel all non-citizen Muslims from the West into the remaining areas. Then seal all the borders, by land, sea and air, of where the Muslims are confined. This would condemn more than a billion people to poverty, disease and isolation from the rest of the world, but it would be better than genocide (though more time-consuming and more expensive).
But it occurred to me that we Westerners could probably countenance the quick genocide better than the long-term destruction of impoverishment. Odd, that. But true, I think: where would we get the will to sustain something far worse than the sanctions against Iraq, for a far longer time? I just don't think we could do it.
I'm not sure what's third from the worst way to win.
August 2, 2005
The Scope of Jihadi TerrorismPosted by jeff at 11:46 AM | TrackBack
August 1, 2005
Of Course You Know, This Means War
Apparently the drug cartels operating out of Mexico have turned to using Mexican deserters (trained as counter-narcotics special forces, ironically) to safeguard their wares in the US. This involves, among other things, placing high prices on the heads of US law enforcement officers, such as, say, my father in law or one of my best friends (CPT4ever is, in addition to being an officer in the National Guard, a law enforcement officer).
Let me be very clear, here: the US is not currently fighting a drug war, despite all of the rhetoric. We are in fact trying to put on the appearance to the public of fighting a drug war, but the resources we are committing to such a struggle are miniscule. Making it take me 30 minutes to buy sudafed (can be used to make meth) pisses me off, but barely impacts the meth makers at all, who can always add a couple of extra steps (like growing their own ephedra) to get around the problem, and enjoy the higher prices. If we want to fight a drug war, we have to go after it much more thoroughly than we are.
And I don't think that we should: drug criminalization is unconstitutional by any reasonable reading of the Constitution (that is to say, not using the reading that activity undertaken entirely in one state and without any value exchange constitutes interstate commerce!), is counterproductive (in that it encourages drug use by making drugs "forbidden" but easy to obtain) and is unnecessary (in the same way that prohibition of alcohol was unnecessary, and for the same reasons).
But - and this is a big but - even though I think that the "drug war" is wrong, that does not mean that I or most Americans would tolerate the drug cartels attempting to undermine our law enforcement. Mexico is essentially a failed state in the southern and northern extremities, and we will not go that way. We have gone to great lengths to help Mexico, but eventually we will help ourselves. If the Mexican government does not take over the border area effectively, it will eventually become necessary for the US to intervene militarily in the area to stop the escalating attacks on American law enforcement personnel (and inevitably, eventually civilians). This might be 5-10 years out, but it is inevitable if the violence keeps escalating and the Mexican government cannot regain control. And the anti-immigration lobby in the US would be right on board with such actions.
So it would be a really, really good idea for the Mexican government to regain sovereignty before there is a second Mexican war.
(hat tip: QandO)
UPDATE: Mark in Mexico is thinking along the same lines.
Critical Success Factors and Terrorism
Dave Schuler asks:
So here's what I propose: let's see if we can come up with the critical success factors for a terrorist attack on the United States. The level of abstraction we're seeking is something between the level that Vanderleun went after (quantities of explosives, maps of the subway, etc.) and the level that the root causes discussions have taken (poverty, human nature, the will of God). We're only looking for real critical success factors—factors that are really necessary.
Why bother? If you consider the notion of a critical success factor there are two reasons. First, in order to eliminate the threat of terrorism (or at least substantially reduce the threat), we must interfere with or intercept one or more of the critical success factors. Second, no plan that does not interfere with or intercept one or more of the critical success factors can really succeed.
The first thing that has to be said is that "attack" is a very broad term, especially in the context of 5GW warfare. Attacking a subway is much easier, for example, than flying airliners into office buildings. That said, there are commonalities between the two acts. In either case, the enemy must:
- determine to attack
- plan the attack
- carry out reconnaissance of the targets, both to aid in the planning and to check its feasibility
- train for and practice, to the extent practicable, the attacks
- obtain any necessary materials, such as explosives
- construct any needed devices
- convey themselves to the point of attack
- evade security
- carry out the attack
- have the resources (physical, human and financial) for all of the above
- friendly media exposure to achieve the intended political effect (in general, weakening our will to resist)
There are some things we can do to make this process harder, like better control of explosives or increasing point security, but in the end these are limited. (That doesn't make them not worthwhile; I just mean that there are better things we can do.) The key to disrupting attacks is to look at that next to last point: resources. What a terrorist attack requires in the way of resources is:
- money, and the associated financiers
- specialists (like bomb makers)
- willing attackers, recon and other intelligence gatherers, etc. - foot soldiers
- a safe haven
- access to matériel
Money is first because it is the biggest enabler: money allows you to get what you need and keep your people fed and housed. Money is fungible, and therefore hard to track: what goes to an Islamic charity to help Darfur can (and often does) end up instead in the hands of HAMAS or other jihadist organizations, financing terror. Indeed, many terror groups (including HAMAS) directly operate charities for this purpose. (They also do charitable work. The personal is political, indeed.)
Leadership and specialists are critical: they are the core that survives even suicide attacks, learns from them, and creates the next attack plan. As the Israelis learned, killing the terror leaders and the bomb makers dramatically reduces future terrorism, both in amount and quality. We have applied the same lessons in Iraq with much success: the vast majority of attacks on defended targets in Iraq are failures. That's why the terrorists in Iraq go after the civilians, people waiting in line to join the Iraqi military and police, and so on: it's the only place they have a good chance of success. The failures seldom get reported in the Western media, so they don't effect our will to fight; only the successes (from the terrorist point of view) generally get reported.
The foot soldiers are easy to come by - there are always people looking for work or who hate the West, America and/or Israel. The key for the enemy is to get foot soldiers willing to carry out dangerous assignments, up to and including killing themselves in the act of the attack. This requires ideology and motivation, and it is very difficult to do. But it is also very difficult to prevent, and there is a wide enough pool of would-be jihadis that some can be indoctrinated to the proper point necessary for any given attack. It should be noted that the need for people capable of penetrating security and successfully carrying out the attack generally means that you need intelligent, determined, and resourceful people. It should be noted that such traits tend to be helpful in ordinary life as well, and tend to raise one's standard of living. As a result, it's far more likely that attackers will continue to be from the middle and upper classes than from the poor and oppressed that form the vast population of most Arab countries. That also means that capable attackers, where indoctrination succeeds, are more available in the West than in Arab nations (although the indoctrination process is much harder here).
Safe havens can be anything from large training camps in failed states to an apartment in Leeds that the government doesn't know about. A place to plan, train and indoctrinate can be gained physically, through controlling areas of failed states or buying a large place in the country; morally, through psychological intimidation of the target population (us) not to look at who the attackers are or what they are doing (hence all the work of CAIR, etc); by corruption, bribing officials to look the other way (see the Beslan attack for a good example); or by deception, simply remaining invisible in the vast population of innocents that resemble the attackers. Each of these methods can and should be attacked, but it is very hard for a free country to do so, because of the moral component: we don't want to limit our own rights, nor to infringe the liberties of innocents, in order to get to the attackers. "I have rights", yelled the London bomber as he was pulled from his safe haven.
Time is an interesting resource. It, like money, can be fungible. You can spend your time doing recon, planning, constructing bombs or what have you. You could also spend it going to the movies or having a picnic by the lake. But time is fleeting for terrorists, because the longer their OODA cycle, the more likely that they will be discovered and interdicted. So it is necessary for the terrorists to act quickly, at least for what needs to be done in the target country. From the moment that the attack switches from indoctrination of the foot soldiers to active planning, the cell is in danger: in that period, if they are discovered they will not be released (while they would be if they were just out on the corner preaching hatred, for example, or just in their homes being quite, quite religious). The attacks are easier to disrupt than to carry out, because anything that raises a threat to the cell or to the possible success of the attack needs to be avoided. Simply raising the terror threat level on a target can deter the attack, if the attackers feel that this jeopardizes the operation.
Secrecy is useful to extend the time the cell has to operate, to help in obtaining safe havens in the target area, and so forth. If secrecy is breached, not only is the attack thwarted, but the entire cell is often destroyed by our security forces.
Access to matériel is obvious, but not always simple. Explosives have to be made from commonly available ingredients, or they have to be purchased. A car that cannot be tracked back to the cell is preferable, but not necessarily easy to obtain. And so on. Again, we can make this more difficult, but the reality is that all that we are doing thereby is lengthening the time that the cell is exposed for. This is generally a positive good in itself, but it's probably not possible to completely take away enemy access to what they need to carry out an attack.
It should be noted that these are all tactical considerations, really: what does it take to carry out an attack. It doesn't address the strategic issue.
UPDATE: fixed link on The Glittering Eye, as technical difficulties have intervened.Posted by jeff at 8:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
July 25, 2005
Denial - It's not Just a River in Egypt
Marc at American Future excerpts a Guardian commentary by Osama Saeed, spokesman of the Muslim Association of Britain. The core of Mr. Saeed's argument is that fighting terrorism is Britain is Tony Blair's job, not the job of the Muslim community.
The position of Muslim organisations and mosques has been consistent for years. Killing civilians is murder, and a crime in Islam. We have consistently said that Muslims must help the police to track down those responsible.
This is why I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now. It's a tacit admission of negligence that I simply do not accept. The prime minister has of course welcomed this attitude. Indeed he has led from the front, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Muslims, laying the responsibility solely on us. "In the end, this can only be taken on and defeated by the community itself," he said last week.
By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves himself of responsibility. Muslims are not in denial of our duties, but who are we meant to be combating? The security services had no idea about all that has gone on in London, so how are we as ordinary citizens to do better?
Unfortunately, a handful of individuals have eschewed this to carry out the attacks in London. You can regard these acts as part of Islam, or as an irrational reaction to injustice taking place in the world. If it's the former you have to explain why this started only 12 years ago and not 1,400. To us it is evident that it is the latter, so we're batting the ball back in your court, Mr Blair.
The commentary is full of denial, finger pointing, tu quoque and so forth. It's not so much an apologia (though there's some of that) but a complete and utter deflection of blame away from Islam and Muslims. And that's OK, in one sense: Saeed is correct that it is in part Tony Blair's job to fight terrorism in Britain. It is also every Briton's job, because every person in a society - at least a free society - has a stake in defending that society.
Now, Saeed may simply be saying that Blair's responsibility is greater, as the society's elected leader, than that of any particular subject of the Crown. That's fine. The alternative, of course, is that Saeed is saying that Muslims are not inherently British nationals, even if they've acquired the status in a legal sense, and therefore not bound to defend the society.
But Saeed should be careful what he wishes for, because there are three options open to the British government: surrender, accommodation of the terrorists, and elimination of the terrorists. But given that the jihadis' goal is elimination of the society, there is a certain point at which accommodation is simply no longer possible, and only surrender or fighting are possible. Assuming that the government does not go very far in accommodation of terrorists before fighting, a safe assumption in Blair's case, then the only two real alternatives are surrender or fighting.
Britain is not going to surrender: there'll always be an England. But how will the British government fight against terrorists hiding in Britain's Muslim community? Most likely, the British will make a determined effort to tackle the problem as criminal, by finding and arresting known jihadis and their enablers. But that will always be a reactive strategy, because it is always possible to hide some, not all, small cells, particularly if the local Muslim population is sheltering those cells. This implies that attacks will continue as long as the treatment of the attacks is as reactive law enforcement.
It's possible, of course, that the jihadis could run out of agents in Britain. But that is unlikely: Marc has an analysis of a survey of Muslims in Britain that suggests that as many as 100,000 of them at least tacitly support the attacks. If even 1% of these tacit supporters - 0.25% of Muslims in Britain - are willing to actively aid or carry out attacks, that still leaves 1000 potential terrorists. Given an average of 4 attackers and, say, 10 supporters (bomb makers, safe house operators, financiers, etc) per attack, and a death/capture rate of, say, 8 terrorists per attack, somewhere around 125 attacks could be made before the jihadis exhausted their pool, and that assumes no one coming in from outside or being recruited given the inevitably greater interference from police. At an average of 20 Britons killed per attack, that's some 2500 dead Britons over a period of a few years. And those are all pretty conservative numbers: odds are you could multiply those final numbers by a factor of 5, given the results in Iraq and Israel, and be nearer the mark.
But treating the attacks as law enforcement is not a stable state with casualty rates like that: no free government can stay in office with its subjects being regularly killed. And the pattern of jihadi activity everywhere it's taken hold is to grow for a while, making statements that are ignored; then to begin small attacks; then to escalate those attacks. At some point, British tolerance with attacks will be surpassed; then what?
Then, it becomes a military fight, and the British will go after not just those who have committed or attempted or helped commit attacks, but those who are likely to commit or attempt attacks. At that point, a very easy method to justify is deportation of the population thought to be most risky. That would be an early step: the English have a backbone of steel, and an immense national pride, and will do anything necessary to defend England, when it comes right down to it. And the community that will be affected by those actions is Mr. Saeed's community, the one he says bears no responsibility to help. (If he's lucky, it will be the British government coming after him: the Brits after all invented football hooliganism, and I would take the British young men over the Muslim community, if it came to a fight.)
Well, I suppose it's up to Britain's Muslims: responsibility now or suffering later.
One paragraph in the article deserves to be fisked point by point:
Mr Blair has attacked the idea of the caliphate - the equivalent of criticising the Pope.
You know, if people were killing innocent civilians in the name of the Pope, I'd be criticizing them pretty strongly. The caliphate is an idea, though, not a person: people are killing to bring about the caliphate. A more reasonable comparison would be terrorists trying to turn Britain into a Catholic nation. Ask the IRA how that went.
He has also remained silent in the face of a rightwing smear campaign against such eminent scholars as Sheikh al-Qaradawi - a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy.
You mean this guy? Yeah, he's a moderate all right, working to reconcile us to acceptance of unequal rights for women (including ritual female genital mutilation), the establishment of a theocracy, and the killing of homosexuals. He's against democracy, and thinks that terrorism is just fine, as long as it's against non-Islamic states. Big moderate, yeah. Now why would PM Blair defend such a person? Why would any person who loves freedom and self-determination defend such a person? Why do you, Mr. Saeed, defend him?
Such actions and omissions fuel the suspicion that we are witnessing a war on Islam itself.
No, but it's certainly the case that there's a danger of that. If, for example, organizations like the Muslim Association of Britain keep telling us to trust that Islam is a peaceful religion, so Muslims of course wouldn't attack innocent civilians, and so we should ignore the evidence of our lying eyes, there will come a point where this will become a war against Islam. And at that point, I would not give Islam a snowball's chance in Hell: have you read anything about how the West fights when it feels its survival is at stake? Or, heck, when it just thinks it would be nice to live in Oklahoma (ask the American aboriginals about that one).
If there is any thought that Muslims are fine but their religion can take a hike then Mr Blair should know that we will never be in the corner, in the spotlight, losing our religion.
If Islam does not reform, and work actively to eliminate the terrorists who kill in the name of its god, then it is only a question of time until Islam is destroyed. Your call, Mr. Saeed, no matter what you think. If you and your fellow "moderates" are unwilling to accommodate us, to worry about our street opinion, to control your worst elements, then it is a matter of time before we will do what is necessary.
I'm sure that some future Prime Minister would issue an appropriate apology.Posted by jeff at 3:13 PM | TrackBack
July 23, 2005
The Mechanics of Madness
Well, Representative Tancredo has certainly set off quite the firestorm, by suggesting that it would be a good idea to bomb Mecca and Medina in the case of a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on the US. Those commenting notably include: Rusty Shackleford, Baldilocks, Zenpundit, riting on the wall, Francis Porretto, The Glittering Eye, Donald Sensing, Hugh Hewitt, and James Lileks. Good: it's a debate we need to have now, rather than in the immediate aftermath of our response to a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on the United States.
My take on it starts with my moral center: "Do what thou wilt, an harm none." This is the Wiccan Rede, the center of Wiccan morality. Essentially, what it means is that it is your right to do what you will, so long as you, in the process, cause the least harm. (Thermodynamics makes pretty clear that entropy increases, so doing no harm is simply not possible; the idea instead is to balance and minimize the harm done.)
So from this we take away a few questions about when it is possible or even necessary to take another's life. And this requires that we put values on lives. (Note: not a value on life, because all life is most definitely not equally valuable.) It is clear that the life of an innocent outweighs the life of a murderer: the murderer is actively causing harm, and so his life has a lower value than one who is not actively causing harm. It is clear that the life of a person advancing human happiness outweighs the life of a person advancing human misery. So, say, Jerry Springer's life would be valued above that of Osama bin Laden, and below that of Hernando de Soto. But such calculations are not easily made clear when the lives being worked with number in the millions: we have to simplify.
If the United States is attacked with nuclear weapons, or to a lesser extent chemical or biological weapons, the deaths and grievous injuries will be legion. Taking revenge by obliterating Mecca and Medina, or Tehran and Damascus, or anywhere else would be morally vile: murder does not pay for murder. The question has to be on how to minimize the number of deaths and injuries, and that puts the question in a very different light, because it brings up a very serious question: are the jihadis deterrable?
If they are, then threatening to obliterate Mecca and Medina in such a case, provided we were to follow through on it, would be useful. The same goes with threatening to obliterate Tehran and Damascus. If such a threat, credibly issued, prevents a nuclear attack on the United States, it is useful. However, the problem is that once a nuclear attack is initiated on the United States, we must then follow up with the nuclear attacks we pledged as collateral, or we invite further attacks. The enemy will not back down when faced with an empty threat, only a credible threat will be meaningful.
But this assumes the enemy to be deterrable. If the jihadis cannot be deterred, then even a massive response will be meaningless in preventing future attacks (unless we happen to hit all of the enemy's supply of nuclear material). If the enemy cannot be deterred, the only way to prevent the deaths of millions (assuming the enemy gets nuclear weapons) is to kill or capture the enemy first. The problem is that this is very difficult: the enemy hides easily in the midst of non-combatant Muslims (a better formulation than "moderate" Muslims, since many of the Muslims sheltering the terrorists are anything but moderate), and separating out the immediately dangerous jihadis from the less dangerous collaborators and the not at all dangerous Muslims is terribly, terribly difficult.
Any response, any strategy, has to take into account how to minimize both the number of people the enemy kills or injures, and the number of innocents we kill or injure in attempting to prevent the enemy from acting. Multiple approaches will be needed, and multiple approaches are being taken, to prevent a nuclear attack from occurring in the first place. But what if they fail?
Well, if the American people perceive the enemy as deterrable, we will likely engage in measured escalation, isolating radical Muslims (hope to catch all the jihadis in the process), overthrowing jihadi-friendly governments (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc), ignoring the sovereignty of countries like Pakistan that are unable to deal with the jihadis in their midst, and so on. A strong President could make a case for something less than genocide, even in response to a nuclear attack on America, and make it stick.
But a weak President, or a public perception that the enemy cannot be deterred and so will strike repeatedly, means a three conjectures world, and that inevitably means genocide.
Me? I hope the enemy is deterrable, or that we are lucky enough and good enough to keep the enemy from acquiring nuclear weapons. Because if we are not, the results will be appalling.
UPDATE: Francis Porretto said it better, of course:
As your Curmudgeon has already written, the secret to deterrence is discovering what the enemy values more than the damage he plans to inflict upon you, and holding that hostage to his good behavior. It's chancy, prone to miscalculation of several sorts. More, when "the enemy" is not a decision-making monolith, there's always the possibility that your threat will deter some but not all -- and that the undeterred segment will act against you despite all your disincentives. But these observations fall far short of proof that Islamic terrorists cannot be deterred, particularly since history says the opposite.
Posted by jeff at 1:59 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack
July 18, 2005
The Enemy's Strategic Problem
The enemy has a very serious problem strategically: they attacked too late, and they picked the wrong form of attack. From the beginnings of widespread access to network television to the mid-1990s, when talk radio became powerful enough to get disputes with the mainstream media into people's heads, opinion was by and large shaped by about a dozen people at two newspapers and three television networks. It is common perception that the news networks drove (and largely still do) their coverage based on what the New York Times was covering. There was no effective alternate voice, and since these dozen or so über-editors were from similar backgrounds, there was basically one narrative in American opinion.
The talk radio shows, Fox News Channel, and later the blogs have changed that: there is once more a competing set of narratives in the US, as it was when we depended upon newspapers and magazines for our news. This onset of choice has led to, gasp, a better-informed public (scary though that can be) and a fragmentation of opinion. This has, in turn, led to a reduced ability to scare the US (and to a lesser extent, Europe) into a stampede, which in turn has made us stronger.
The reason we are stronger for this is that our military is unbeatable in any practical exercise. Even the Chinese admit they would lose a conventional war with us, which is why they recently declared their willingness to use nuclear first strikes to prevent US intervention in any Chinese attempt to take Taiwan. The only way to beat the US is for the US to give up from lack of will. And compelling the American will now requires more than stampeding the dozen or so mandarins that used to push the rest of us along. There is still an American herd, but it is increasingly smaller than the American pack.
So into this comes the enemy, attempting to shape our will. Why? Because the enemy's intermediate goal is a caliphate - a theocracy claiming authority over all Muslims - in the entire Middle East. To get that caliphate, local governments have to be overthrown or co-opted. To overthrow the local governments, the West must not have troops in the Middle East, nor the will to use force to support local governments (particularly Israel, which is not subject to the slow process of jihadi conversion, nor to being driven out, and so must be destroyed in place). And since the only forces with any decisive and intransitive power were the Soviet Union and the US, those two had to be driven out.
The Soviets broke on a combination of Afghanistan and poor leadership (Brezhnev took two years to die after he became incapable of rule, and his two successors served short and uninspired terms). The Soviet will broke, and soon thereafter the USSR literally disintegrated. It should be noted that the Soviets were unable to win militarily, but they were not beaten militarily, either: the Soviets only committed about 90-100,000 troops to Afghanistan at any one time, a small fraction of their force. (And appallingly, some 484000 of the 642000 or so Soviet troops that served in Afghanistan were casualties, mostly to diseases like typhoid and hepatitis!)
That leaves the US, which is similarly unbeatable militarily, and due to the increasing fragmentation of opinion, unlikely to be scared into submission. There were (and remain) two means of altering US will to support the regimes in the Middle East: direct attack and co-option.
The enemy could try to break our will to support the regimes - pretty much all some flavor of appalling totalitarianism - through attacking us in the Middle East and elsewhere abroad and, eventually, at home. The idea was that by terrorizing the population, we would force the government to withdraw into a shell and leave them alone. An attempt to co-opt, on the other hand, would look like South Africa or India: resistance that is, or can be portrayed as, the non-violent struggle of people for equality and decent treatment.
It's an interesting question whether a strategy of co-opting our will could have worked: as it is, a shockingly large percentage of the Western Left is ready to be co-opted even in the face of massive violence against the West and anyone in the Middle East seen as "not Muslim enough". It's telling that the Left is not scared away from arguing the jihadis' case by attacks - real, physical, brutal killings - of women and homosexuals and children, shutting down schools by bombing them, and so on, sacred objects of the Left at home. Given that, and a prominent realist strain in US policy, it's possible that a co-opting strategy could have driven the US out of the Middle East utterly. The sticking point would have been Iraq, but I can think of a few ways that could have been worked around, including by enlisting the US to help jihadis overthow Saddam Hussein, as the mujahideen overthrew the Soviets in Afghanistan.
But the enemy was impatient, or felt it had a better chance with violent attack, or maybe just didn't understand the power of ANC appeals in the West. Whatever the reason, the enemy chose violent attacks. And that presents them with a paradox: since the Western will is, by and large, stronger than it used to be (particularly in the US), attacks more often strengthen Western will than weaken it (London, 9/11, Bali, as opposed to Madrid). So to break the West's will, it is necessary to attack targets more and more sensitive or innocent. I believe that Beslan presages attacks in the West, and it would surprise me not at all to see hospitals, day care centers and so on attacked with suicide bombers. The point is, to break our will, the enemy has to get our attention. Short of nuclear or chemical weapons (and the resulting genocide of the Arabs), this means more spectacular attacks. But those attacks, as I noted, are actually driving people away from the enemy.
It's probably too late for the enemy to switch to a full-on attempt to co-opt our will: who would believe them who is not already effectively arguing for surrender? But the enemy cannot continue to attack us without eventually building our will to a point that, if the Western governments do not crack down brutally on Muslims in the West, the mobs will. That is not a best-case scenario for us, but it's pretty much a worst-case scenario for the innocent Muslims among us.
I'm sure some President would apologize for our behavior, in a couple of decades.
But the enemy cannot retreat, either, because an obvious systemic defeat (as opposed to defeats in specific campaigns, like Afghanistan or Iraq) would undermine the central tenet of the jihadis: God sent them. And if their god didn't send them, or won't help them, then who would follow them?
So the enemy has only one real option: ratchet up the violence in the West. And they have to do it before we pull the rug out from under them by co-opting to democracy or imposing democracy by force of arms. And they have to create a sufficient level of fear and panic to cause us to run, but not a sufficient level of fear and panic to cause us to rise up and destroy them in the West, along with the innocents they hide among.
Our options are not great, but I wouldn't trade strategic situations with the enemy: their options are dismal.
July 15, 2005
...and That's a Good Thing!
It's pathetic, really.
“If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” said General Zhu Chenghu.
Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China's definition of its territory included warships and aircraft.
“If the Americans are determined to interfere [then] we will be determined to respond,” said Gen Zhu, who is also a professor at China's National Defence University.
“We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”
Having lived in Taiwan for 4 years, it is a particular interest of mine. (I do not claim particular expertise, merely interest.) General Zhu's comments, clearly, are primarily a statement to the US of how seriously China takes the Taiwan issue, since China seems to perceive the US as supportive of Taiwanese independence, at least as long as President Bush is in office; and to Taiwan that China is prepared to sacrifice greatly to prevent Taiwanese independence. It is, in other words, part of China's deterrent effort to ensure that the situation remains static.
Brian Dunn is convinced that China will attack Taiwan on the eve of the 2008 Olympics, while the world is not willing to upset the Olympics over the issue. I am not. It has been the position of the American defense establishment - more particularly, the position of the title X guys - since the end of the Cold War that China was the next emerging threat. In large part, this is "fighting the last war", particularly now that the war we are in is against 4GW threats like al Qaeda.
China would put up with a lot, even economic collapse, to take Taiwan if it felt it could. And China probably could take Taiwan with its current amphibious, army and air capabilities (though at great cost). But the US could retake Taiwan - even prevent the attack from succeeding with enough forewarning.
Put simply: the US has sufficient conventional capability to beat China in China's backyard in a major war, and China knows it; hence, China has to have some way of credibly threatening the US in order to maintain the status quo, and thus this threat.
But "China" in this case is the government, not the people. China has, recently, been really opening up internal markets, and private property and private enterprise are growing rapidly in importance - it's one of the reasons China is even a contender. And the Chinese entrepreneurial classes would simply not stand for the inevitable result of war: blockade. The US would shut off all sea routes into China, and the land routes out are sufficiently poor and through sufficiently hostile territory that China's economy, which depends upon exports, would collapse in short order. The Chinese government maintains its rule by the people's belief that the government has the mandate of Heaven, and that belief would collapse with the economy.
In other words, even without a direct US counterattack to retake Taiwan, or just to punish China, our naval blockade would force the Chinese government out of power in short order, to everyone's benefit except the CCP.
I see this warning as deterrence, not a serious threat.
UPDATE: Brian Dunn weighs in.
The Shortest Path to Heaven
When you hear someone say that suicide attacks have nothing to do with religion, that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam, it would be well to remember that some who attempt suicide bombings fail and survive the attack. Here is one who was interviewed:
"How did you feel when you heard that you'd been selected for martyrdom?" I asked.
"It's as if a very high, impenetrable wall separated you from Paradise or Hell," he said. "Allah has promised one or the other to his creatures. So, by pressing the detonator, you can immediately open the door to Paradise — it is the shortest path to Heaven."
I asked S to describe his preparations for the suicide mission. "We were in a constant state of worship," he said. "We told each other that if the Israelis only knew how joyful we were they would whip us to death! Those were the happiest days of my life."
"What is the attraction of martyrdom?" I asked.
"The power of the spirit pulls us upward, while the power of material things pulls us downward," he said. "Someone bent on martyrdom becomes immune to the material pull. Our planner asked, 'What if the operation fails?' We told him, 'In any case, we get to meet the Prophet and his companions, inshallah.'
"We were floating, swimming, in the feeling that we were about to enter eternity. We had no doubts. We made an oath on the Koran, in the presence of Allah — a pledge not to waver. This jihad pledge is called bayt al-ridwan, after the garden in Paradise that is reserved for the prophets and the martyrs. I know that there are other ways to do jihad. But this one is sweet -- the sweetest. All martyrdom operations, if done for Allah's sake, hurt less than a gnat’s bite!"
None of the suicide bombers -- they ranged in age from 18 to 38 -- conformed to the typical profile of the suicidal personality. None of them was uneducated, desperately poor, simple-minded, or depressed. Many were middle-class and held paying jobs. Two were the sons of millionaires. They all seemed entirely normal members of their families. They were polite and serious, and in their communities were considered to be model youths. Most were bearded. All were deeply religious.
I was told that to be accepted for a suicide mission the volunteers had to be convinced of the religious legitimacy of the acts they were contemplating, as sanctioned by the divinely revealed religion of Islam. Many of these young men had memorised large sections of the Koran and were well versed in the finer points of Islamic law and practice. But their knowledge of Christianity was rooted in the medieval crusades, and they regarded Judaism and Zionism as synonymous.
Nope. Nothing at all to do with Islam.
Posted by jeff at 2:55 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Let's Play a Game
Democrat or French?
The insurgency cannot be overcome easily by either United States military forces or immature Iraqi security forces. Nor would the situation be eased even if, improbably, the United Nations, NATO, our European allies and Japan choose to become seriously involved.
In other words, no victory is possible over this unbeatable enemy; we must surrender. The quote is from John Deutch, Undersecretary of Defense and Directory of Central Intelligence in the Clinton administration.
I got this from Rusty Shackleford, and this gist of his post is that al Qaeda fights the way it does because it's worked for them in the past:
Terrorism, as a tactic, is chosen because terrorists believe those tactics will work.
Goal: U.S. Marines out of Beirut.
Tactic: Suicide car-bombing.
Result: U.S. Marines out of Beirut.
Lesson learned: Terrorism works.
Why would they think they can defeat us in Iraq using geurilla warfare?
Goal: Soviet military out of Afghanistan/imposition of Islamic law.
Tactic: Guerilla warfare.
Result: Soviet military out of Afghanistan/imposition of Islamic law.
Lesson learned: Geurilla warfare works against super-powers.
But Afghanistan was not the only place where this lesson was learned.
Goal: U.S. military out of Somalia.
Tactic: Guerilla warfare.
Result: U.S. military out of Somalia.
Lesson learned: Geurilla warfare works against super-powers.
So, what will happen if we pull-out of Iraq? Can our long-term national interests be met using this tactic?
Goal: U.S. military out of Iraq/imposition of Islamic law.
Tactic: Guerilla warfare.
Result: U.S. military out of Iraq/civil war possibly leading to Islamic law.
Lesson learned: Geurilla warfare works against super-powers.
If we truly wish to win the second war in Iraq, we cannot abandon her to our enemies. If we do then the lesson they will learn is that the U.S. can be beaten. And if the U.S. is beaten in Iraq, then the U.S. can be beaten elsewhere.
That is a lesson we cannot afford our enemies to learn.
Posted by jeff at 2:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack
July 14, 2005
An Insightful Point from QandO
QandO makes a fantastic comparison of London to Oklahoma City.
July 13, 2005
The Fire Brigade and the Fire
A suicide bomber today in Iraq detonated his car bomb in the midst of children who had come to talk and get candy from US soldiers. The media are shocked. Apparently, this is only because they do not want to remember that this has happened before. This is not a time for neutrality between the fire brigade and the fire; this is a time to name our enemy, to call them out for what they are. The difference in this war is that the Japanese and German soldiers were by and large innocent; it was their political leadership and a particular few soldiers that were responsible for the inhuman parts of their behavior. In contrast, our enemy today are monsters.
For a normal person not to realize that is problematic but understandable; a large number of people in the US can't even name the Vice President. But for the media to not understand this is inexcusable: it is willful blindness, or taking the side of the enemy. It cannot be claimed to be ignorance.
UPDATE: Joe Katzman is thinking along similar lines.
Ending Jihadi Terrorism
Background has begun to come out on the terrorists who committed the 7/7 London attack. Wretchard, of course, is all over it, with his usual insightful analysis. Wizbang, Danny Carlton, Captain's Quarters, and My Pet Jawa all have more. There's one aspect of this story that I haven't seen much addressed, though: the tradeoff between freedom and safety.
If you wanted maximum safety, to make sure that no suicide bombings were ever carried out by domestic terrorists, you would have to be able to do a few things: identify the terrorists before they could commit a terrorist act; ensure that you didn't miss any terrorists; take the identified "proto-terrorists" out of circulation before they committed a terrorist act; vigorously follow up any terrorist act netting anyone who was likely involved. This is a non-trivial set of tasks.
To begin, how do you identify the potential terrorists? If you look at the known information on the London terrorists, and the 9/11 terrorists, and the numerous other terrorists that have operated outside of predominantly-Muslim countries, you find that they are by and large middle-class, educated, not particularly rigidly observant, young Muslim men, entranced by the ideology of particularly rigidly observant and intolerant old Muslim men. There happen to be a large fraction of the immigrants to Western nations (particularly Europe) who are middle-class, educated, not particularly rigidly observant young Muslim men who are not entranced by the ideology of particularly rigidly observant and intolerant old Muslim men. So how do you separate out people whose only distinguishing characteristic is what they believe and whom they follow?
Cast the net too narrowly, and terrorist attacks will be carried out by native or immigrant terrorists living freely in society. Cast the net too broadly, and you sweep up a great number of innocents along with the guilty - a much greater number, in fact, than of the would-be guilty, let alone the actually guilty. But in order to distinguish the would-be terrorists, you would have to be terribly, terribly invasive of your citizens' rights: shadowing them as they attend religious events, planting agents in domestic religous places to observe the worshippers, secretly invading their homes to search for evidence while they weren't there (lest you accidentally arrest a not-guilty person). This would not be tolerated by the public at large, and for good reason. And even were it tolerated, you would still miss some.
So you have to cast the net more broadly, to avoid being overly invasive or missing potential terrorists. But this means that you will, as noted above, be netting more innocents than terrorists. After a very few incidents of this come out, casting the net broadly is right out, and for very good reasons.
But let's say that you somehow managed to figure out a way to get more or less all of the proto-terrorists without getting so many non-proto-terrorists that the backlash ended all of your efforts. How, then, do you keep these men out of circulation? You cannot charge them with crimes they have not committed, nor (particularly if they are citizens) can you hold them without charge. And if they are citizens, you cannot expel them. Would the courts revoke a person's citizenship on suspicion that they might, at some point, commit terrorist acts domestically? I certainly hope not! Because if they did, we'd already be at the point of no longer being a free society.
I suppose you could wait until you could catch the terrorists red-handed, but that runs into a problem as well: you will often be too late to catch them. Look at the furor over the ill-named PATRIOT Act, which does little to prevent terrorism, but does make it easier to investigate terror attacks and round up the cell mates who weren't killed or captured in the attack: this mild measure allowing for some domestic surveillance has raised intense (and often ill-informed) anger. W