December 16, 2004

Iraqi Judges and NATO's Near-Worthlessness

Roger Simon points to Andrew Apostolou's NRO article on why we cannot depend on the support of NATO in Iraq and elsewhere. I've been coming to the conclusion that NATO is fundamentally broken after their Cold War mission disappeared, and Andrew presents more evidence in that direction.

Meanwhile, Roger Simon also has a post on the lack of help from NGOs and European war-crimes experts in helping prepare the Iraqi judiciary. Certainly, this is an area where you would expect the NGOs and Europe's most virulent human rights supporters to come together and help: train judges to handle the trials of men who likely murdered 300000+ of their subjects? But no, apparently not. Which is further evidence towards the proposition that the NGOs and European tribunals are also fundamentally broken.

Posted by Jeff at 01:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

December 14, 2004

Michael Moore is a Piker

Moore may think he can do propaganda, but this is well-done propaganda. Stirring, martial music; an appeal to liberal values antithetical to every desire of those making the propaganda, but the mouthing of platitudes to which the Left in the West is much dedicated; ignoring defeats and setbacks of the insurgents and terrorists - actually, ignoring the fact that most of their attacks are on Iraqis - while playing up destroyed trucks as major successes: this is very, very well-done propaganda. Too bad our professional propagandists, the movie companies and authors and musicians, are generally opposed to working on behalf of the West, of America, and of realization of actual liberal values.

(hat tip: Little Green Footballs)

Posted by Jeff at 09:41 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Two Chinas - Maybe Not for Long

The odd position Taiwan finds itself in is this: a free-market capitalist society with a social-democratic representative government, Taiwan is not officially recognized by its major patron and defender, the US, and is under constant threat from the Communist mainland China, which we do recognize. China, of course, has always wanted to capture Taiwan, which they could not militarily do when they seized the rest of China shortly after WWII. It is officially the policy of both China and Taiwan that there is only one China, and that the current situation is a historical aberration which will shortly be rectified. Taiwan's idea of rectifying the situation is for China to become a social-democratic, representatively-governed free-market capitalist state, at which time reunification is simple and desirable. China's idea can be seen by this StrategyPage article which notes:

China is apparently building a large quantity of amphibious shipping. Two LSDs (Landing Ship Dock) are being built in large covered sheds. They appear to be about 25,000 tons each and carry four LCAC (high speed landing craft) and four helicopters each. China is building 4-5 LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) a year. These are 4,800 tons displacement each and can carry about 2,000 tons if they are not going to run up on a beach. The Chinese prefer to avoid that, as it eventually destroys the LST, and you can carry more load if you don't. A larger number of LSMs (smaller than LSTs, but in this case almost as large as World War II LSTs) are also under construction. China won’t say what the eventual size of this amphibious fleet will be, but Taiwan suspects enough to land two or more divisions on Taiwanese beaches. That could take another 3-4 years. It is believed that the Chinese would use a lot of civilian transport for an attack on Taiwan, meaning they could put up to nine divisions on shops. The navy's amphibious shipping would be used for the first wave, where speed is needed. But the next waves could be put ashore with civilian ferries and transports. In addition, there is an airborne division. It would be a rather ramshackle effort by American standards, but the Chinese believe it would be adequate against the Taiwanese. The key to such an invasion is keeping the U.S. Navy out of the war. 

Meanwhile, Chinese shipyards are also turning out submarines and surface warships. China will be able to make a serious move on Taiwan before 2010.


I was going to comment on this, but Brian Dunn has already done so, so you should read that for his thoughts. I would like to take another track. Before I do, full disclaimer: I lived four years in Taiwan as a child, and would be happy to see the US help the legitimate government of all of China retake its rebellious mainland provinces.

That said, a war between China and Taiwan would be devastating. The US would defend Taiwan with naval and air assets, would cut off trade with China (and might blockade China to boot) and would threaten the use of nuclear weapons to defend China. China, though, should she decide to take Taiwan, would attempt to complete the invasion quickly and overwhelmingly, before the US could effectively respond (and thus likely as a surprise, without an advanced mobilization), would attempt to sink or delay the US carriers and other naval assets seeking to intervene, and themselves threaten to cut off trade if we do intervene, and would threaten to use its own nuclear weapons should we intervene. Then it comes down to a question of who's more willing to risk nuclear destruction.

One of the key problems is perception of will. If China believes that the US will not risk its own destruction over Taiwan, which our interactions around N. Korea's nuclear weapons program certainly give them reason to think, she may decide to risk it. After all, China has a lot less to lose than the US does, and much to gain (economically and in prestige - always important to a totalitarian state) by taking Taiwan.

There is a way to upend this equation, though. In addition to opening up overt provision of the most modern and capable military systems and technologies, the US should strongly consider giving Taiwan a covert strategic deterrent. We could build, and provide to Taiwan, four attack boats (so 1-2 would always be at sea) armed with cruise missiles carrying nuclear warheads. This would mean that, should China attack Taiwan, they would face nuclear destruction from someone who had nothing left to lose. This could be done without China's prior knowledge, if Taiwan were willing. I'm not sure if this breaks NPT, but Taiwan is technically not a signatory (since it's technically not a state (at least, it's not so recognized by the UN)) and the US could simply leave the matter ambiguous - did we provide nuclear warheads or not? (The idea is to create a deterrent, for which purposes actually having nuclear warheads would be somewhat superfluous.)

At that, Israel could provide the warheads under contract, as Israel is not a signatory of NPT, either. Taiwan, for that matter, could develop its own nuclear weapons, except that they would have to do so in utter secret, because the force would have to be deployed before China knew that Taiwan was seeking a force, or China would immediately invade. Taiwan could claim, plausibly, that this force was needed because of N. Korea's nuclear program, and that puts China in a bind, since China is the only outside power that could compel N. Korea to give up its nuclear program.

The more I think about this, the more I like it. The problem, of course, is a practical political one: for some reason, many people who live in social-democratic, representatively-governed free-market capitalist states seem to believe that no one else needs or wants to do so, or should be given aid to their defense if they are under threat. As a result, it's far from clear that the Congress would go along with such a program, even though it's a fact that even minor nuclear powers have so far not been willing to go to war with each other, and absent insanity (open question in N. Korea) and death-cultism (open question in Iran and much of the rest of the Arab/Muslim world) nuclear weapons provide the best reason yet devised for countries to not go to war.

If China does invade Taiwan, though, we may look back on this time and rue not providing nuclear weapons to Taiwan.

Posted by Jeff at 03:58 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

December 09, 2004

The Army You Have

Donald Rumsfeld is taking some heat for a comment made to a soldier in theater. When asked about the lack of armor for trucks and HMMWV's, Rumsfeld replied that manufacturers were pushing as hard as they can (according to Fox News, production of armored HMMWV's has gone from 15/month to 450/month - 30 times what it was!) and that "You go to war with the Army you have." Little Green Footballs links to a couple of different sources on the event.

I have a few thoughts on this. First, SecDef Rumsfeld is absolutely right: you do go to war with what you have. We sent 10's of thousands of HMMWV's to Iraq, and we only had a few hundred armored HMMWV's in the entire military. When, some 6 months after the Ba'ath were overthrown, IEDs became a serious threat, armoring not just HMMWV's, but trucks and utility vehicles of all kinds became a priority for the first time. Now, a little more than a year after that, we are well on our way to building the Army we need to fight the war we are fighting. Not only are we up to 78% armored HMMWV's in Iraq (Fox News again), but we are also developing and deploying armored, self-sealing fuel trucks, armored ammo trucks, and various specialized vehicles for detecting and defeating IEDs (as well as tactics against VBEDs). But defense is a small part of the solution: doctrine, training and new tactics have also adapted to fight the threat. While it will never be possible to fully eliminate casualties from such attacks, we are already doing far better than the Russians in Chechnya, a decade after they got into the same situation.

Worse, really, for us is that it takes literally two years to change purchasing plans for the military. This is not a product of bureaucracy per se, but a deliberate policy of the Congress. Congress has set up the budget process for the military to make it very difficult for the military to do things without Congressional approval. This long turnaround time makes it very difficult to react to events.

But I don't want to let the administration entirely off the hook here. Yes, it is true that the transformation plans for the Army will end up putting more units of action in the field - eventually - and that it takes 3-5 years to train up new units. Yes, it is true that building a division, even around a cadre like 24th Mech (never mind having to build the headquarters and senior NCOs, too!) takes a long time. But it's also true that we have been at war for three years now, and there's little excuse for the military still being at roughly the same size as it was. I don't think we need more ships or more aircraft (though we need a core of more-modern aircraft to use in addition to our 1970's-vintage air fleet currently available), but I don't think we have enough trigger pullers. Here's why:

With our current level of troops in Iraq, the Army is essentially either there, refitting after being there, or training up to go there. This means that we do not have sufficient troops available to take on Syria - largely complicit in the Iraq war currently - or Iran - currently developing nuclear weapons as fast as they can. We can use our air and naval power on both of these enemies, but we cannot occupy them, and thus cannot truly conquer them. For that reason, both Iran and Syria are working as hard as they can to defeat us in Iraq and to develop the eventual means to deter us completely. Effectively, we are repeating one of the big mistakes of Viet Nam: we are allowing the enemy sanctuaries.

I don't know our long-term strategy. I do know that we will have to take on our enemies aggressively, or fail in this war. I am not yet ready to declare the administration wrong, but I'm more concerned than I was six months ago, because I just don't see where we're going next. If the administration begins to move openly against Syria or Iran (hopefully, Iran) shortly, I'll relax a little. But I'm getting nervous.

Back to the original point, though, I have to laugh at people who take issues with statements like "You go to war with the Army you have." I mean, have these people ever tried to do anything? It's simply the case that what looks right on paper is not what exists in the real world. There are always complications and frustrations and mistakes and problems and things that inexplicably (until well after the fact) just don't work. Even common things, like going out to buy a particular item, can fall to this. How many times have you gone to the store to find that it was out of what you wanted, only to find that the next store you go to never carried it (and who knows why you thought it did) and that when you do find it it's twice what you expected to pay? Welcome to the world.

But in the neverland of politics, such everyday complications are the cause of excoriation and bitter tears, not to mention outright condemnation and scorn. How could anyone have gotten this wrong, ask the pundits with their 20/20 hindsight and complete lack of understanding of how anything except political commentary works. Not that I'm bitter. Frankly, I think we'd be a lot better served if the professional pundits ever got their hands dirty. It'd help their judgment and understanding somewhat, I suspect.

UPDATE: Expat Yank points out something I meant to, but got too busy ranting to say: it's a good thing that our soldiers can stand up to the SecDef and criticize his performance in public. It means that, though we've had a professional, standing Army for decades, the soldiers are still Americans, and haven't become a breed apart. (The moment they show signs of it, we destroy the standing military; there's no other way. Just a Truman remove MacArthur for disobedience to civilian command, we must be vigilant to ensure that this fine military we have created remains a tool of our civil society, rather than its master.)

Posted by Jeff at 12:24 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

December 07, 2004

Intelligence Reform

It's Pearl Harbor day today. Like 9/11, Pearl Harbor showed that there were fundamental flaws in our collection and dissemination of intelligence. After Pearl Harbor, we fought the war, then decided how to prevent such an event from ever happening again. The result was essentially the intelligence structure we have today.

The structure we have today is amazingly good at two things: finding and tracking significant military assets anywhere in the world (assessing conventional military capabilities) and determining the economic state of other nations (for example, the CIA was very attentive to wheat harvests in the USSR during the Cold War). Unfortunately, as 9/11 showed, our intelligence system is not that great at discovering intentions, particularly of non-State actors like terrorists. We've also seen numerous leaks of intelligence, in some cases blowing sources and methods (famously, UBL stopped using his cell phone after we let slip we were listening in on all of his calls). Worst of all, perhaps, is the realization that we have almost no human intelligence capability - even now - in the Arab/Muslim world; we cannot penetrate enemy organizations.

I don't think that the current attempt at intelligence reform is a good one. The idea seems to me to be to do something so as to be seen as doing something, rather than a serious attempt to solve the problem of discovering intentions, or to seal the perpetual leaks, or to develop methods of infiltrating enemy organizations. In other words, it's paper shuffling and empire building, rather than any kind of meaningful solution.

What would a meaningful solution look like? It's difficult to say. From an analytical standpoint, our intelligence structure breaks down into collection of information (from human agents to satellite reconnaissance to communications monitoring to reading publicly-available information), analysis of information to create intelligence (bringing together information from different sources to answer questions or uncover unexpected events), and dissemination of information to consumers (like the State Department and the Pentagon). Also, the CIA operates a paramilitary organization that takes direct action (sabotage, assassination, fostering rebellion in enemy countries and the like - Mike Spann, a CIA agent killed in the Afghanistan invasion, was from this organization). But these functions are spread across 15 agencies, with both a lot of duplication (not necessarily bad) and a lot of competition and fragmentation (bad).

It seems to me that the organization is not that great - especially with the current bill, which would add yet another layer of bureaucracy to the mix, but I don't know enough about it to suggest a sensible alternative. More critical, though, is that nothing is being done to address risk aversion. The Congress spent a couple of decades beating up on the CIA for everything it did with human agents, in one case at least forbidding the CIA to use people suspected of undertaking criminal activity (realistically, that means that the CIA could never turn a terrorist or drug runner!). This led to a culture of risk aversion within the CIA in particular, where it was better (for one's career, not for the mission or the nation) to fail to collect intelligence than to go out and get the intelligence. The Congress also put numerous roadblocks in place to slow or prevent the spread of information within the government (such as the infamous "wall" between law enforcement and counter-terrorism, so critical to the 9/11 failure), and created incentives towards parochialism in the various intelligence agencies.

This - the Congressional interference - is the primary problem to be addressed, and also the one problem Congress seems most blind to. And until we can remove intelligence from the arena of political showboating, the problem will continue, and we will therefore continue to be less safe than we could be. Perhaps part the solution here is to make all intelligence hearings closed, so that there is no opportunity for public showboating. Whatever the solution, though, the problem most urgent to address is not within the intelligence agencies themselves, but in the Congressional oversight and lawmaking around intelligence.

Posted by Jeff at 09:07 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

December 01, 2004

The Draft

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change wants to open a discussion on the utility of a draft, inspired by two articles at Washington Monthly, Now Do You Believe We Need a Draft? and First Draft. I'll bite.

First, I'd like to express my objections to any draft of any kind, on a matter of principle. Draftees are not like slaves because they are paid, and they are not like indentured servants because they do not enter the condition voluntarily. I do not believe that a draft is compatible with a free society. If you cannot get sufficient people to defend your society against invasion, your society deserves to die. If you cannot get sufficient people to fight your campaigns overseas, it's a sign that your policy doesn't have sufficient support. Compelling people to serve against their will is not a good way to overcome a rotten society or a raft of bad policies.

I should note that I favor a larger military. In fact, I think we need to increase our units of action to the level we had at the end of the Cold War - something like 1/3 more than we have now. This would allow us to undertake a war on the same scale as Iraq, while simultaneously undertaking an occupation on the scale of Iraq. That's no small ability, considering the number of threats we face. Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia (in that order) may all have to be subdued in order to win the Terror Wars. But I don't think a draft would be a good way to do it. And since I'd probably be largely outnumbered on the philosophical point about slavery, let's look at the practical problems instead, focusing on Washington Monthly's proposal.

The core of the Washington Monthly proposal is the focus of the draftees' work, not as conventional combat, but in a defensive anti-terror role:

That terrorists might poison municipal water supplies, spray anthrax from crop dusters, or suicidally infect themselves with small pox and stroll through busy city streets, is no longer considered farfetched. That we might need to draft some of our people to counter these threats---now that's considered farfetched, to the extent that it's considered at all.

[snip]

A 21st century draft would be less focused on preparing men for conventional combat-which probably won't be that extensive in this war---than on the arguably more daunting task of guarding against and responding to terrorism at home and abroad.


I'm going to resist the temptation to fisk that bit, because it is a set-up bit rather than the core of their argument. In brief, "guarding against and responding to terrorism at home and abroad" breaks down to: short-term military police-style peacekeeping troops to free up combat units in places like Kosovo and "border guards, customs agents, anthrax inoculators, [and] disaster-relief specialists".
One can imagine a similar three-tiered system of youth service in America, with 18-month terms of duty for all citizens age 18 to 25. In this new-style draft, conscripts would have what all Americans now demand: choice. They could choose to serve in the military, in homeland security, or in a civilian national service program like AmeriCorps (there's no reason women couldn't be drafted for the latter two categories). In return, draftees would get GI-bill-style college scholarships, with higher awards for those who accept more dangerous duty.

The authors focus on basic training times, without paying any attention to leadership. It's not sufficient to train someone for four months to do military police-style duties and then turn them loose: without good and experienced leadership, Abu Ghraib would be the least of our problems. But even if we had enough leaders in such positions now, could we retain them when so many draftees - seeing such duty as less dangerous - crowd out the volunteers currently doing the grunt work, so that there is not a professional next generation of leaders?

To suggest that draftees "have a choice" is to trivialize choice: the draftees would inherently not have the choice of not serving at all. Worse, though, is that offering a choice between civilian and military service would undermine one of the authors' key arguments, that a draft without deferments would bring America together. In actuality, it is very likely that the schism in American society would intensify, with "blue state" kids choosing AmeriCorps and "red state" kids choosing the military. The mixing would be less complete than hoped for, I strongly suspect.

The authors don't address the cost of such a "GI bill" program - I suspect it would be considerably larger than the cost of raising salaries to the point that you get the number of recruits you need for any given job - the market actually works. After all, the authors are suggesting what amounts to a "no exemptions" policy:

The best way would be to require all young people to serve. One reason more young people don't serve now is the fear that while they're wearing the uniform, their peers will be out having fun and getting a leg up in their careers. If everyone were required to serve, no one would feel like a sucker.

[snip]

It's possible, however, that the country won't have the need for every eligible young person to serve. What then? One answer is a lottery with no student deferments.


How many young people are there in each age cohort, and what would it cost to pay them and to provide the college benefits afterwards? The authors don't address this. And their solution for dealing with not needing all of those people is to establish a lottery, effectively arguing opposite their argument for why there should be no exemptions in the first place. I guess their argument is that we should draft everyone eligible so no one will be behind their peers, unless we don't want to, in which case we should draft only some people (randomly, at that, rather than based on aptitude and desire) and let them "feel like [] sucker[s]". Strange argument, that.

Why not pass a law that says that no four-year college or university can accept a student unless and until that student completes a 12-month to two-year term of service? No lotteries, no deferments.
And now the authors assert a government power to abrogate freedom of association based on how compliant a person is with government wishes??? I think this is so absurd that I'm at a loss for words, and in danger of excessive use of exclamation points and capital letters.

Let me suggest an alternative that does not compel us to violate our values, and that would provide a better pool of recruits.

If we need additional people to guard institutions in the US, particularly public facilities; act as community watchmen; respond to emergencies and the like, why not hire them? And if we cannot afford to hire enough people or if their duties are less full-time jobs than part-time duties, why not reinstitute local militias? With some forethought given to training and organization, and particularly with some indoctrination introduced into the public schools (don't gasp: the schools indoctrinate kids now, just not in generally-useful points of citizenship), it would be a reasonably-simple and well-precedented way to create a first-responder and community watchman capability sufficient to any purposes I can foresee.

The Washington Monthly seems to think the idea has widespread support:

But if the chance of universal service was measured by what the American people actually think, a different picture might emerge. In late January, a Newsweek poll found that 14 percent of Americans favored and 38 percent would consider reinstating the draft; only 45 percent would refuse to consider the idea at all. As it happens, that poll did not describe the kind of draft that Rep. Rangel has proposed, one in which young people would be able to choose either military or civilian service. The only poll I know to pose that question was conducted in November 2001 by the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and found that 60 percent of Americans favored a draft that offered a choice between military or civilian service.

It's hard to know exactly what to make of these poll numbers. Among other things, they don't reveal whether those who oppose the draft are more intense in their opinions (as one might expect they would be) than those who favor it. Nevertheless, the polls do suggest that a majority of Americans are at least open to the idea of some sort of draft--more than supported the president's tax-cut-heavy economic plan in early February (46 percent), and more than supported a U.S. ground invasion "soon" (37 percent) rather than giving U.N. inspectors "more time."


One thing is certain: even if people support a draft in the abstract, politicians are wise enough to realize that they would be voted out of office rather quickly by the young draftees, who would vote in amazing numbers in their own self-interest. The whole reason for lowering the voting age to 18 in the first place was that we were drafting 18 year olds in the Viet Nam War, and they couldn't even vote on the policies that were getting them drafted. I suspect that these youngsters would be sufficiently motivated to vote against anyone seriously putting forward a draft proposal, and for that reason alone the idea is a political non-starter. So while the Washington Monthly dismisses the political implications in somewhat scathing terms, the fact remains that in practical terms, it simply will not happen.

Many young people would surely object to such a draft--if "draft" is the right word for it. But none would have cause to feel that their peers were getting an unfair head start on the career ladder, because all prospective four-year-college students would be in the same boat.
Well, if the authors don't like "draft", we could always talk about "forced service" or even "involuntary servitude". And of course, what if we don't need as many people as a no-exemptions policy would generate? Then we're back to a lottery system and their argument on this point utterly evaporates.

I do not believe a draft is useful, nor do I believe it is moral. The Washington Monthly's two pieces on this have made me more - not less - certain of that position.

Posted by Jeff at 12:46 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (7)

November 25, 2004

No One Seems to Understand Security

In this case, the security lapse is good for us, since it was on our enemy's part. Winds of Change points to a slideshow on some of the things we found in Falluja during and after the recent battle there.

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

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

This makes me very, very happy.

Posted by Jeff at 11:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

November 14, 2004

Getting There Slowly

It takes years to build Western-style military and police forces. The critical link that is missing in much of the rest of the world is senior NCOs in the military and senior detectives in the police. These take years to properly train and season these critical assets - you simply cannot shortcut experience. This is why the Iraqi military and police have been so ineffective in the last 18 months: most of Iraq's senior NCOs and senior detectives were utterly unsuitable for work in a democracy, or were disloyal to the new government, or both. (West Germany had a similar, but smaller, problem when it integrated the East German military and police after the Berlin Wall came down.)

It's good to see that Iraq is now screening military and police applicants on its own, and firing the disloyal and incompetent. Over time, this will allow Iraq to build up a professional military and police force, while also decreasing enemy effectiveness by shutting down weapons supply channels and eliminating informers. It will probably be 2-3 more years before Iraq's military and police are effective, and another 5-10 after that before they can stand on their own, but there are encouraging signs already.

Posted by Jeff at 09:38 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 11, 2004

Thanks

As of today, Memorial Day 2004, 1249 American soldiers, sailors and airmen; 141 coalition soldiers, sailors and airmen; and an unknown number of our Iraqi and Afghan allies (certainly numbering in the hundreds, and perhaps in the thousands) have been killed fighting in the anti-terror campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. The names of our dead, and for many their pictures and their stories, can be found here. I thank them and their families, and I offer their memories the promise that I will never forget their service and their sacrifice on behalf of myself, my family and our country.

UPDATE (11/12): You make one tiny mistake... Yes, I know it's Veterans' Day, I'm just (apparently) a moron.

Posted by Jeff at 03:44 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Comparisons

Wizbang does a service by comparing the behavior of our enemies behavior to the worst behavior by our troops. Like Paul, I am stunned at the lack of condemnation of our enemies for the most horrible and inhuman acts, while any imperfection on our part - even something so obtuse as not preventing civilians from being killed by the enemy when the civilians got caught in the middle of a firefight - is grounds for the harshest condemnation of America, even from some of our "friends". Well, at least I can take comfort that international opinion of the US won't stop us from doing what's right for the next four years.

Posted by Jeff at 03:31 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 04, 2004

Couldn't Happen to a Worthier "Person"

Wizbang and others are reporting that Yasser Arafat has died, or more likely, is at this point "mostly dead", with no brain activity and kept "alive" with machines. My guess is, he will remain "alive" until the Palestinians figure out what to do in his absence. Given how Arafat was as likely to kill overly-ambitious confederates as little children and athletes, it may take some time for them to figure this out.

The only shame about Arafat's death was that it was not at the hands of his victims - either the Israeli or the Palestinian ones.

UPDATE (11/10): Arafat is finally really most sincerely dead.

Posted by Jeff at 02:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

October 29, 2004

A Hopefully-Temporary Condition

Usama bin Laden appears to be more alive than I'd hoped, but about what I'd expected. Hopefully this condition will be temporary.

Interesting that he hasn't changed his appearance. This means that he is probably in what he considers a safe area, which would just about have to be Iran or his tribal area in Saudi Arabia at this point.

Posted by Jeff at 03:47 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

October 27, 2004

Iraq So Far

Wizbang provides a summary of Iraq so far, starting before the invasion and continuing until now. The summary is comprehensive and well-written, and a worthwhile big-picture antidote to the sensation-seeking coverage of most media and the frankly dishonest sloganeering of the Kerry campaign and its allies. While the piece has some flaws, such as not discussing the success of the US in hunting down former regime leaders or to discuss the problem of finding Iraq's stockpiles of weapons dispersed throughout Iraq before the war, that should not detract from the achievement. For a one-stop discussion of the case for war that Bush actually made (broader and deeper than the media and the Kerry campaign credit), the pre-war situation, the effect of Turkey's refusal to allow 4ID to attack through Turkey into northern Iraq, the looting and options available at the time to stop it, disasters predicted but avoided, the beginning of the insurgency and the efforts to combat the insurgency to date, this is the best place to go that I have yet found.

Posted by Jeff at 01:59 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

October 26, 2004

Castro's Fall

Not being a fan of the State Department for various reasons, it is rare for me to praise one of their officials. (Actually, that's backwards: if I had more occasions to praise its officials, I'd likely be more of a fan of the State Department.) Anyway, here's a praiseworthy excerpt from Richard Boucher:

QUESTION: Did you hear that Castro fell?

MR. BOUCHER: We heard that Castro fell. There are, I think, various reports that he broke a leg, an arm, a foot, and other things, and I'd guess you'd have to check with the Cubans to find out what's broken about Mr. Castro. We, obviously, have expressed our views about what's broken in Cuba.

QUESTION: Do you wish him a speedy recovery?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

QUESTION: No? Do you wish him a speedy demise?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave the man's health alone. I think our view --

QUESTION: Would you have preferred that his injuries be more life threatening? (Laughter.) People have come out, including your former boss --

MR. BOUCHER: I know.

QUESTION: -- and said things like, well, we hope the actuarial tables catch up with Mr. Castro. Are you disappointed that he wasn't more seriously wounded?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to express that kind of disappointment. I think, you know, the events speak for themselves. The situation in Cuban is of our primary concern. The situation of Mr. Castro is of little concern to us, but unfortunately of enormous importance to the people of Cuba, who have suffered very long under his rule. And we think that the kind of rule that Cuba has had should be ended.

QUESTION: Do you think if he stepped aside -- that's an "if" question, of course -- whoever succeeds him would provide any policy more to the U.S.'s liking than Castro has?

MR. BOUCHER: It would be highly speculative for me to say that at this point, except to note that we do think the people of Cuba deserve democracy. They, like everybody else in the world, deserve a chance to choose their own fate and future, and that the Secretary of State co-chaired an effort on behalf of this Administration last year to identify what we can do to hasten that day and what we can do when that day comes to support the people of Cuba, as they have found their own democracy, which is something we have strong confidence that they will someday be able to do.

Posted by Jeff at 08:32 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

Logistics

Brian James Dunn has an interesting short note on logistics issues, with a focus on the "just in time" logistics model the military is moving to. I don't have the reference to hand, so the details may be off, yet still Mr. Dunn need not worry. If I remember correctly, the standard is 3-6 weeks of supplies on hand (depending on the category) with more in the pipe, so that as the in-theater supplies are depleted, those stocks are replaced. This should ensure a steady supply to the front.

The shortage in supplies during the Iraq campaign was not actually caused by a shortage of supplies in theater. Instead, the armored advance moved so much more quickly than forecast that it was difficult with the trucks available to make enough round trips to keep everyone fully supplied all the time. That said, the incidents of low supplies were mostly limited to the shamal (remember the big red sandstorm) and immediately thereafter, and were mostly limited to non-essential supplies like food. (If you think food is essential, you're thinking too long-term; the supply disruptions as far as I can recall never lasted more than 2 days for any given unit, which gets you hungry, but not dead or incapacitated.)

I think the larger point Dunn makes is worth emphasizing: militaries must not become too efficient. Doing so means that a single-source incident can become disastrous. Consider, for example, with the current rates of small arms ammunition expenditure, how bad it would be if the only US Army small arms ammunition plant were to burn to the ground. In general, the US military can be quite lean in comparison to our enemies, but we must retain some excess capacity in order to be able to absorb losses to any part of the system and still successfully complete the mission.

Posted by Jeff at 08:49 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

October 16, 2004

Map-Reading Issues

Dave Schuler at the Glittering Eye has two posts on Barnett's Pentagon's New Map, here and here. I have, actually, similar issues with Barnett's theory. Essentially, it is a great briefing, with a core of real truth, that misses my vision of what's happening in the world by a very, very small amount. Here is the core of Dave's take on it:

The problem with this definition is that it doesn't fit at least three of the putative members of the Core: Russia, China, and India. And these three members constitute, what, half of the human race? Commenter Mark Safranski [ed note: ZenPundit] makes an interesting distinction between New Core and Core at large. In other words, new Core members that aren't yet fully integrated and Core members that are integrated. The implication of this is that Core and Gap aren't distinct categories but constitute a spectrum of connectivity with differing degrees of Core-ness and Gap-ness.

I guess I still don't find that too helpful. What I'm looking for is a decision process. I feed you a set of economic, legal, social, or whatever characteristics of an unnamed country and you tell me whether the country with those features is in the Core or the Gap. Without such a decision process all you have is a denotation of the Gap. They're a collection of countries that are in the Gap because they're in the Gap. And without such a decision process there's no real way of determining how countries now part of the Gap can be incorporated into the Core.


Barnett defines the Core countries as those that are globalised or globalising. The Gap countries are those that are disconnected and not connecting. So, Haiti and Saudi Arabia are like each other because they are not connected in any meaningful way to the rest of the world, while China and India are unlike those countries because they have extensive trade connections, population flows (mostly temporary in both cases, but some permanent migration from India and a little from China), and so forth.

Within the Core, state-on-state war has been made unthinkable. For most Core nations with causes for war with each other, there is a nuclear deterrent effect (which is why I'm glad India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, so long as Pakistan is ruled by a sane and forward-looking ruler). But for the vast majority of Core nations, there's simply no remaining basis for war. What, for example, would England and France fight about, that they couldn't get easier and cheaper by trade or negotiation, or couldn't simply live with? Thus the Core is inherently stable and free of open warfare, though certainly not of conflict. The ordering principle, then, is to bring states into the Core, to shrink the Gap.

However, these definitions of Core and Gap were actually backed into. What Barnett did was to take all of the places where the US had been involved in post-Cold War conflicts, and draw a line around them. Hmmm, he noted from similarity to earlier work on a different project, the areas inside that line are exactly the ones which are not globalising. Brilliant insight, and very useful. But since Barnett was searching for the killer one-page picture to get across a complex idea, the PNM has some oddnesses. Israel is in the Gap. North Korea is not. That's simply not a rational way to divide the world.

So there are some real strengths to PNM in predicting where conflict will likely break out, as long as some oddnesses are taken into account. But there is a deeper flaw in PNM as a theory of organizing the current conflict: it only incorporates a part of the conflict. In addition to the open and covert warfare between the Coalition and the jihadis, there is a conflict within the West, between those who seek to strengthen and defend the West, and those who wish the West to fail utterly and fall sufficiently into ruin that they would be put into power as an act of desperation.

This group does not have a formal name, unless you count perhaps "anti-globalization", which is a simplification. In fact, this group consists of a wide variety of different organizations, from anarchists to transnational progressivists to unreformed Stalinists to neo-Malthusians to neo-Luddites to anti-capitalists. In effect, it is the furthest of the extremist Left.

Now, this group, which I tend to think of as the "anti-Enlightenment Left", is not inherently dangerous. What makes them dangerous is that their arguments are generally couched in language designed to appeal to the moderate Left sympathies, and it does so successfully. Saying that you want Saddam to remain in power because the alternative is likely to be a free democracy is not a winning argument, while saying that Iraq is a sovereign country and as long as it hasn't attacked someone outside Iraq we have no cause to attack Saddam can be a winning argument; it's certainly more palatable. Because the extreme Left can use rhetoric (particularly in an age where many Leftists have been intellectually reared on Chomsky and Derrida) to push the moderate Left to support or oppose actions in ways which sound good (fairness is a common argument for example) but which actually destroy the underpinnings of the West in general, and the US in particular. In order for these groups to gain power, individualism in particular must fall, and with it must fall capitalism and the supporting doctrines (like Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness) that empower individuals.

Note the similarity to terrorism. Absent state sponsorship, terrorism is not particularly threatening, because the terrorist cells are small and incapable of the sophisticated planning and training that is necessary to carry out mass-casualty attacks. But the jihadis are able to appeal to more moderate Muslims, with arguments about Israel, memories of colonial domination, and appeals to certain aspects of Islam (such as doctrines about women and non-Muslims and their respective rights). These arguments carry enough weight that it is relatively simple for jihadis to get shelter, concealment, aid, comfort, time and space to operate, and various other benefits (including propaganda) from Muslims who themselves actually disapprove of the methods of the jihadis, but not their cause.

But Barnett's theory is a theory of states. If a state is globalising, there's no threat to drive the military's organization or use. PNM gives insufficient guidance to how to approach non-State threats, both the subversive elements of the West (the anti-Enlightenment Left) and the jihadis. And there is a commonality between them. There are reasons why Pat Buchanan (not a Leftists, but a populist neo-Malthusian nonetheless) sounds like Ralph Nader, and why both of them sound like Ayman al Zawahiri in their ideas of how the world works.

But you won't find the answer on a map.

I have been thinking a lot about this, and reading a lot (including Barnett, Tommy Franks' American Soldier, and The Lexus and the Olive Tree (an excellent look at globalization), and I have an operating theory of how the world works, and some ideas of what we need to do in response to the changed world we live in. As soon as I can convince myself that the fact that the way to deal with the world if I am right happens to correspond well to my preferences of how to deal with the world anyway, which were formed during the Cold War, does not mean that I am trying to form a theory which merely fits my preferences, I'll have a longer post on the topic.

I will leave you with this question, though: how do you convince an ideologue that he is wrong?

Posted by Jeff at 11:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (7)

October 13, 2004

Criticise This

The Stryker gets a lot of grief, due to its light armor and weaponry, its size and any number of other factors. Traditional armor guys seem to think that up-armored M113s would do a better job at the role Strykers are designed to fill. The biggest criticism, bar none, has been with the armor protection and survivability of the platform. This kind of incident should put paid to those particular criticisms. While Strykers can be destroyed, like any vehicle, they are a lot more survivable than initially believed.

It seems to me that Stryker does what it is supposed to do: offer reasonably survivable transport and fire support to light units, allowing the military to deploy more firepower faster than it could otherwise. Perhaps it could be improved, but we'd be better off looking at how it could be improved than just throwing up our hands and saying no, no, no.

UPDATE (10/14): StrategyPage has more.

Posted by Jeff at 05:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

September 27, 2004

The Limited Iraqi Insurgency

I had the feeling from my reading that the Iraqi insurgency was much more limited both geographically and in other ways than the media generally report, but I am surprised by how limited it is geographically. Basically, if you extend the analysis out to the end of the invasion, you get the axis of casualties stretching from Falluja to Baghdad to Najaf to Basra, and that's about it. With Najaf and Basra now quiet (and Basra likely to stay that way), you get Shannon Love's map at Chicagoboyz. (hat tip: Jim Miller) You'd think that at least one of the news magazines, at least, would be able to provide this kind of analysis. Apparently not.

Posted by Jeff at 02:12 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

September 24, 2004

Look at the Map, People!

You want to know why we're going to be in Iraq for decades, regardless of who wins the Presidential election? Look at a map! (It was Iraq or Egypt, and besides not being nearly as immediate of a threat, try occupying 80 million people (vice 25 million) - and trying getting international support!) Gerard Van der Leun lays it out in words in an excellent post taking a clear-eyed look at the strategic importance of our presence in Iraq.

Posted by Jeff at 07:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

September 22, 2004

President Bush's UN Speech

The headline on the Washington Post's transcript of President Bush's speech to the UN yesterday is utterly wrong: "At U.N., Bush Defends His Decision to Go to War". Um, he did that, yes. It was a pretty small and pro-forma defense, though, in a speech that is notable for much more. What President Bush has done, in essence, is to articulate a formula for a new world order, based on Thomas Barnett's PNM theory (connectivity trumps all, and we can end major wars and terrorism by developing the most disconnected countries), and an incredibly optimistic departure for someone who came into office as nearly an isolationist.

I'm not going to take apart Bush's speech in detail - no time - but I do want to note that Bush is laying out here a future for the world that is a radical departure from theories held by the US prior to 9/11, and by Europe to this day. Essentially, the President is trying to formulate a world in which the spread of democracy and economic opportunity is the duty and responsibility of the developed nations, in which health crises like AIDS and tuberculosis are treated by the developed nations in order to remove their economy-killing effects, and where the peace is largely kept by regional forces. It's a sweeping agenda, and well worth the read.

It is my hope that the President will make a series of speeches focusing on the various aspects of this agenda, and in particular that he will sell it to the other developed nations. It would be a far better approach than the Axis of Weasels' opportunism and cynicism, or China's attempts to imitate that, or Russia's increasing isolation and belligerance. For that matter, it would be a far better approach than Kerry's cut and run policy.

Posted by Jeff at 02:09 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

September 17, 2004

Afghan Army

Strategy Page has an interesting article on the Afghan Army. It doesn't discuss the use of the army, so much as the efforts to build it and how they are just now starting to pay off.

I'm mainly putting this here so Scott will see it, so I'll save commentary for later.

Posted by Jeff at 10:50 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 16, 2004

Fallujah

Every time I start thinking that the Pentagon, or the coalition leadership in Iraq, has a whole drawer of screws loose, I find out that I just hadn't thought about it the way they do, and their way makes sense. Example of the day: Fallujah.

I was completely in accord with the many commentators who called, last April, for Fallujah to be levelled if that was what it would take to kill the insurgency. I was utterly wrong, and here is why:

By allowing a few areas that were totally under the control of the enemy, and beating the enemy senseless everywhere outside those areas, the enemy was compelled to isolate himself from the general population of Iraq. It appears that in Baghdad the enemy's organization is still very loose, but in Fallujah and Ramadi the enemy is forming into not only a static defense, but a hierarchically-organized structure. In other words, our enemy has collected himself in a small number of places, has organized himself into units larger than cells, has given the Iraqi army and police organizations time and space in which to train and grow, and has given the majority of Iraqis not under his control a distinct sense of the stakes if they let the Baathists or jihadis regain control. None of this would have happened had we levelled Fallujah.

But there is another thing the enemy has given us by concentrating and organizing as a regular force: they've not just made it easier to find them, and easier to take them apart, they've also put themselves into a position where it will be Iraqi forces that take them out (my guess, Fallujah will not last as an enemy pocket until the January elections). This will provide both a definitive closure for Iraqis, and a measure of pride that they did this task for themselves, that they would not have gotten had we taken Fallujah in April.

If, in the process, we find serious documentary evidence leading to Iranian or Syrian control (and it's very, very likely that we will), a pretext for war is readily to hand. (Not that I think we need a pretext, but there are a lot of people who will want one.)

Posted by Jeff at 04:31 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

September 15, 2004

New World, New Map, New Strategy

Thomas Barnett's The Pentagon's New Map was the first serious attempt to redefine the world after 9/11, in much the way that "containment" redefined the world in the 1950's. I'm currently about 1/3 of the way through the book form, which is an expanded treatment of the original brief. In summary, Barnett posits that the Cold War rule sets of containment, collective security and mutually assured destruction (particularly once extended to the former USSR and China) ended the threat of great power war, leaving the world divided into two areas: the Core and the Gap. The difference between them is that the Core countries are globalizing, growing and interconnecting and ruled by a Kantian rule set, while the Gap countries are isolated, disconnected and failing.

The implications of this in terms of which rules apply in which places, and how to bring the world together so that everyone is in the core, in the hope of essentially ending poverty and war, are both deep and broad. And this mindset is taking over within the Pentagon, replacing the Cold War mindset. While I quibble somewhat with the PNM framework, it's really not on fundamental points: the PNM framework provides the necessary basis for policy formation in the Core states. (I'll have more on this after I finish PNM.)

It seems to me that the Pentagon has accepted the new world, but the State Department has not yet. In many ways the State Department is still acting like it's 9/10. Part of this has been institutional, and part of it has been a leadership problem from both Secretary Powell and President Bush. I don't know where Powell stands, but Bush by his actions seems to understand the new world that we are in. It remains, though, both to communicate this vision and to bring about consensus. I suspect that the largest block to developing a consensus will not be international, but domestic. At least until after the election, the Democrats are not willing to be serious about these issues.

If we can find a domestic consensus on how the world is working, and how we should approach it, I believe we can sell it abroad. Most of the resistance to the US policies since 9/11 within the Core nations seem to be based on a fear that the actions the US is taking within the Gap may not be limited to the Gap, and on a feeling that the other Core nations will lose access to resources and commercial contracts with Gap nations. Both of these concerns can be addressed, and I hope to see the President doing so soon.

Posted by Jeff at 11:25 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (6)

September 14, 2004

Sacred Terrorism

Mark makes an interesting find at MEMRI. It is an Iranian arguing that Islam and Western liberalism (classical liberalism, not the Marxist spouting that is generally called liberalism) are fundamentally incompatible.

I've had the honor to attack your liberalism, your civil society and your human rights. I am honored to say that the forces of heresy… the forces of God's enemies and of the Muslim's enemies… Isn't it true that these are the infidels' forces? If it is possible to do something so that the infidels will be seized with fear and trembling, then this terrorism is sacred. Go ahead and write: "Abbasi is the theoretician of violence and of sacred terrorism." This terrorism is sacred. We have been claiming this for a long time. The Lebanese Hizbollah was nurtured by these hands. Pay close attention! Mr. Khatami, this is not violence. It is the dialogue between civilizations that is tying the hands of organizations like Hizbullah. Do you see these hands? These are the hands that have nurtured Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad.

The thing that is most worrisome to me is that this doesn't worry me: we've known for a long time that this is a common view among the jihadis. While there are some Muslims who have come to an accomodation that removes the violence from Islam, there are many who have not, and some of these are willing to kill women and children to advance their hatreds.

There are certain disagreements where the disputants do not share even basic premises, and neither side can give up its premises. In some of these cases, one side is evangelistic about their premises, and will not rest until everyone else adopts them. In some of these cases, the evangelistic side is willing to kill or die for their beliefs. This is such a case.

I think we should accomodate their desire to die for their beliefs. The person quoted here by MEMRI, for example, is clearly an enemy of the US. The problem is that the war as legally defined, and the war as it actually is in the real world, are not the same. Until we actually name the enemy, we will be limited in our ability to defeat our enemies. Our enemies, it should by now go without saying, do not suffer under this limitation: they know who they are fighting and they are willing to do anything to win. Are we? Sometimes I wonder.

Posted by Jeff at 09:19 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 05, 2004

Backgrounders on the Caucasus Situation

After the terrible massacre at the school in Breslan, N. Ossetia, more information on the situation in the Caucasus is sorely needed. Fortunately, Dan Darling comes through at Winds of Change. And Rantburg has suggestions on Russia's options for response.

It seems to me that Russia's options are actually pretty limited. They don't have the military to do what we are doing, and neither we nor the Europeans have enough surplus force to fight on Russia's behalf, even though it would help us long-term. Russia doesn't have the economy nor the time to build up a military that could fight cleanly and win as we do. So I'd say the options are these:

  • Small Surrender - As Dan Darling points out, the Russians tried to surrender Chechnya and it didn't work.
  • Big Surrender - The Russians could give up the whole of the Caucasus (well, that of it that they control), in the hopes that they'll be eaten last. Except that this would result in Putin being eaten first, and he's not going to take that. Too, this would be a massive disaster for the non-jihadi world.
  • Occupation - Much of the Caucasus is voluntarily Russian - including N. Ossetia - and what isn't is largely occupied. The Russians could go into the Pankisi Gorge, which would help them short term (at a likely horrible casualty toll) but would lead to real long-term problems, because it's questionable if they could win a war with Georgia, especially if the US backs Georgia.
  • Brutality - The Russians could crack down - hard - including not allowing Chechens or Arabs anywhere in Russia except the "traditionally Muslim" areas, including internal isolation, much wanton killing and the like. The problem with this is that it's unlikely to work, unless Russia is willing to depopulate the Muslim areas the way that Stalin solved the internal dissent problem. If they're willing, and unafraid to cross borders to do it, this would likely work in time. At a huge cost, but it would probably work.
  • Annihilation - Russia could destroy the Pankisi Gorge and Chechnya, along with any other areas that get rebellious, with nuclear weapons. They could kill any Muslim found in Russia. They could, in short, commit genocide on a mass scale. I don't really like to contemplate this option very much, because genocide is repellant to me.

There's one other option, though, which would play to Russia's strengths and weaknesses, and would solve the problem over the long-term. I haven't seen it discussed, but I hope that our State Department is raising it with the Russian government right now: Russia could unequivocally join the US in the Terror Wars. While there would be a bit of a bitter-pill of pride to swallow, the benefits for Russia would be enormous.

First, the Russians would be able to get US money and expertise to transform their military into a force capable of waging the kind of war that can actually defeat the insurrection by killing off the enemy combatants without leveling whole towns or otherwise turning the neutral population against them. Second, the Russians would get an inside line on all kinds of US technical, political and economic aid, which would greatly help their economy as well as their war efforts. Third, the Russians would get an in-depth intelligence sharing in both military and law-enforcement arenas, which again would help them immensely. Fourth, almost everything they'd have to give up (except pride) would actually be to their benefit.

Consider: By rotating troops through Iraq (and possibly other countries later, though most emphatically not Afghanistan or Pakistan), they would get experience working with the US in a combat theater that they could take back to their battles in the Caucasus. The capabilities they gain from this experience would be precisely those they now lack: how to fight a pinpoint war, so as to avoid angering the populace into supporting the terrorists.

While the Russians would have to give up lucrative nuclear contracts in Iran, the US could (and I believe would) compensate them for the loss of revenue in exchange for the intelligence value and the setback to Iran's nuclear program, making this a neutral matter from a monetary standpoint. Indeed, canny Russian negotiators would demand the US help to train and largely pay for Russian nuclear scientists and engineers to upgrade Russian plants and secure Russian nuclear materials. The US would likely consider this a bargain!

The Russians would lose diplomatic influence in the EU core states of France and Germany, but would gain influence with Britain, Poland, Italy and the US (among others) which would be more directly to Russia in any case.

The Russians would likely be required to wage a less brutal war in the Caucasus (to the extent that they can), but this is to their benefit in that it alienates the local population less than a savage war in any case.

It goes without saying that this would be a big win for the US as well, so I won't say it in any more detail.

Posted by Jeff at 08:26 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

September 04, 2004

How it Begins

I've written before that the jihadis seem intent on turning us all into monsters. We have a short time in which to reform the Arab/Muslim societies - for they will not reform themselves - before the waves of hatred build up in us beyond the point where we can resist. I'm not there yet - not nearly ready to call for killing off Muslims indiscriminately, nor to call for hiring discrimination, nor for compelling Muslims to renounce their faith - but events keep driving me in that direction. Here is how it begins, when perfectly sane and reasonable people begin to be overpowered by their hatred, product of their rage - rage truly deserved as opposed to the mere prejudice that most Leftists seem to want to think is underlying this shift.

"mostly cajun" said what I was thinking: "I looked at some of the pictures. I can’t help but see the faces of my children". Stephanie this morning reminded me of the three children traveling unaccompanied on 9/11. What must their last thoughts have been? I do not know what I would do were it me finding my wife's body under a blanket, or rearranging the hair of my dead son, or stacking the bodies of children shot in the back until they could be taken to a proper morgue. I do not know exactly what I would do, that is, but I know that it would involve many, many, many dead enemies.

Tick...tock...time and patience are running out for the jihadis.

UPDATE: And if you don't think they want us all dead, you haven't been listening to them.

Posted by Jeff at 02:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

September 03, 2004

Ossetia

War Nerd has an interesting piece from mid-last month, on the situation in Georgia and South Ossetia. One minor quibble, to get that out of the way first: the best guns (in the field artillery sense) are South African. Russia's artillery probably comes second. But we've got better fire control.

More critically, though, how can you put together a discussion of the relationship between Russia, Georgia and Ossetia and not mention Chechnya and the Pankisi Gorge? It's really easy to criticise the US working with the Georgians - hardly the nicest bunch in the world - if you don't mention that we're helping the Georgians to fight al Qaeda in the Pankisi Gorge, something that the Russians are happy to have us do, apparently.

Posted by Jeff at 03:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Was Freeing Iraq a Good Act or a Tyrannical Act?

Ask Iraqis.

He’s mistaken who thinks that there’s anything that can stop people’s lust for freedom and he’s mistaken who thinks that Iraqis are incapable of practicing democracy, as this maybe the only thing that almost all Iraqis have agreed on, including radical parties such as the communist party and the different Islamic parties, and anyone who says that these parties were forced to do so and that they don’t believe in democracy will further prove our point, as what will force such old and big parties to do that unless they found that it’s the will of the majority and that they can’t stand against it.

Here I would like to direct a question to those who opposed the change. Isn’t it a wonderful thing that a whole country transfers from a totalitarian state run by an oppressive regime to a free democratic country? The results may seem unclear now to some people but the near future will show what a great change was achieved through this war. As for us, the change and success started since the 9th of April and despite all the losses and difficulties, we are unbelievably happy with our freedom and we are full of hope and belief in our future, and I’m not speaking on behalf of all Iraqis, as there are certainly many among us who are not that happy but I’m sure that this too will change sooner or later.

Posted by Jeff at 12:09 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 02, 2004

More on the Russian School Attack

I wrote yesterday about the terrorists capture of a school in Russia, complete with the taking of hundreds of children as hostages and threatening their lives. There is much more information at The Glittering Eye and Logic and Sanity. The Glittering Eye partially translated an editorial from gazeta.ru. Here is the important part:

The seizure of a school with children even for the present terrorist way is a scene that is completely out of line. It is not merely a challenge. It is the last straw. Christianity does not admit of blood feuds. But anyone who stakes the life of a child cannot be reckoned as human. These creatures may have no God, may have no people. This threat to kill a child is a renunciation of membership in the family of man, it is like killing your own mother.

Anyone who thinks that the actions of the jihadis are not driving the world closer to genocide is either not paying attention, or has no sense of history and particularly of the brutality of a decent man pushed past his limits.
The Russias may expect dreadful hours, even days. On the one hand there is a principle "don't make concessions to terrorists". For by this we only take the risk of further sacrifice. But on the other hand there is no principle by which one can sacrifice children.

It is in this reckoning that one renounces the humane. Because the Russian power is bound, in the first place, to save children, and in the second place to give such an answer that no one would think that this has been a successful experiment. If the government cannot do this, then what is it good for?


And gazeta.ru's editorialist puts his finger precisely on the terrorists' methods: make governments look weak and ineffective, and increase the chaos on which the terrorists feed. It's a hard position to be in, because the only options are to collapse or become brutal: the terrorists cannot be deterred, and they cannot be defeated without attacking the (non-combatant) populations that shelter and supply them. And if we adopt brutal methods, and attack civilians, not only will our own nature rebel against our actions, but the hardening of our hearts against this rebellion of our natures, in combination with more outrageous atrocities by the terrorists, could push us over into being monsters. Either way, we cannot get everything we want; the best we can do is survive with enough memory of honor to restore it afterwards. If we can first destroy the terrorists.

UPDATE (9/3): The crisis appears to have ended, bloodily, but not as bad as it could have been (much as the Moscow theater takeover ended). Russian rescuers were allowed inside to remove some of the dead earlier killed by the terrorists (not sure if these were the men blown up in the hallway, the non-walking wounded shot after the initial takeover, the men who were killed resisting, or the children and parents killed during the initial attack), and while they were inside, the terrorists apparently opened fire indiscriminately and set off a bomb that partially collapsed the roof. Hostages fled, and the Russian troops blew a hole in the wall of the gym to create an escape route. The total casualties are not yet known. At least one of the terrorists was captured, and more were killed. More at FoxNews.

UPDATE (9/3): More from Belmont Club, The Glittering Eye, Logic and Sanity and < a href="http://instapundit.com/archives/017580.php">InstaPundit.

I particularly recommend that you go to Logic and Sanity, which has the best coverage I've been able to find. (Better, in fact, than any of the mainstream media - who somehow still wonder why people have started ignoring them.)

UPDATE (9/4): The Command Post has information on how you can help.

Posted by Jeff at 10:47 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

Playing with Fire

The jihadis aim to provoke. They wish to make us act like monsters, perhaps because they need a monstrous society in which to thrive. They may yet succeed in awakening our particular inner demons, but for now it is thankfully still not possible to give an American unit orders to slaughter a terrorist's family or indeed village and have them obey it.

But that's not true of all of our allies, some of whom are Russians (often inept but often brutal) and Ghurkas (never inept and very tough fighters). So what are they thinking when they slaughter Nepalese and threaten to slaughter Russian children?

Posted by Jeff at 09:41 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

September 01, 2004

Kant get it out of my Head

Mark Safranski of ZenPundit has been doing a lot of thinking and writing about the strategic situation, working with Tom Barnett's New Map theory. He has been exploring the implications of "the Gap": those countries which have not connected to the globalized world; "the Core": those countries which have been globalized and which are disengaged from meaningful threat; and the countries in the Core which are shrinking the Gap and providing the defense of the disengaged Core countries (essentially, this comes down to the Western nations in President Bush's "coalition of the willing"). Here is Mark's latest, on Kantian rule sets and the attempts of NGO's and International Law scholars to apply them to situations that cross the boundary, and the disastrous effects thereof.

If you aren't reading ZenPundit, and you are interested in international relationships, you should start.

Posted by Jeff at 02:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

A Matter of Time

As long as the jihadis are adopting the tactic of attacking children by the hundreds (hat tip: Belmont Club), it's only a matter of time before we are fighting not against the jihadis, but against all Muslims. Protection of the children is a fundamental aspect of human behavior, and people will not long abide absolute monsters. Between the slaughter of noncombatant adults and the attacks on children, the jihadis are bringing us closer to genocide.

The only ways to prevent going over that edge are to defeat the jihadis utterly, or to reform their cultures to such a degree that they stop producing jihadis. Faster, please.

UPDATE: Bigwig makes the point better, and in the process says something crucial:

If [sic] fact, when it comes to the capacity for, as well as the sheer enjoyment of, violence and murder, the West is probably the most vicious culture the world has ever produced--a fact that, though fairly clear during the Crusades and in the 1630's, has been repeatedly forgotten in the centuries since--for in the centuries since, the West has repeatedly attempted to restrain itself.

This restraint is habitually misinterpreted as emasculation by the foolish and ignorant of the world. They see only a fear of the night in the mild-mannered stranger sitting in the corner, and fail to perceive that it's because he's a werewolf. The ignorant do their best to push him out of the door, while he, handicapped by the fact that he refuses to give in to his dark animal nature, puts up what resistance he can. The foolish urge the ignorant on, reveling in the incremental progress made. Woe betide them both if the effort succeeds, for what was pushed out into the night returns as a slavering beast, and it will make no distinction between those who pushed it out, those who cheered the effort, and those who merely stood aside.

With every attack they make Islamic Terrorists inch closer to such a conclusion, and they fact that they claim to welcome it is proof only that deep down they don't believe in such a possibility. It is not faith, but madness, and the culture that tolerates such a lunacy risks being devastated by a much more potent insanity at a later date, an insanity that the world might now see sooner rather than later--if the Russians love their children too.


It's a point I've made before, more than once:
For some reason, people around the world (even many in America) fail to understand that our surface civility is a result of our deeper understanding, seldom expressed, that Americans are able and willing to slaughter without mercy or limit when pressed. If they could understand that, they'd be less likely to press us. Because eventually, when the mask of civility falls away (as it did in the Civil War and WWII), there will be hell to pay, and we will be collecting the tab.

I fear we are near that point now. I feel it in my bones. How many more Daniel Pearls, how many more Nick Bergs, before America decides that it is us or them? And when we do, how many will graves will we leave behind when Johnny comes marching home?

Posted by Jeff at 12:32 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (7)

August 31, 2004

Maps and Fences

Little Green Footballs notes the latest tragic terrorist attack inside Israel. The attack was at Be'er Sheva, rather than in the Jerusalem are where most bus bombings have occurred. Looking at a tactical pilotage map of the area, a couple of things leap out.

First, this is well, well within the bounds of Israel proper, well inside the 1949 armistice line. How could such an attack possibly be against "settlers"?

Second, note the dotted line to the West around Khan Younis and Rafah. This is the Gaza Strip, and the whole area is walled off from Israel. Also note the dotted line to the NorthEast. This is the West Bank, and it is not yet walled off from Israel, though Israel is in the process of doing so. Again, the area around Jerusalem has already been walled off, but further South (in this area) that has not yet been completed. Does a more compelling argument on the need for the Israeli security wall exist, than the thought that an utterly innocent 3-year old boy would not be fighting for his life, if only the fence had already extended this far South?

Posted by Jeff at 10:29 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

August 30, 2004

The Right Size for the Army

Francis Porretto comments on a FoxNews article that I saw last night, and decided not to comment on. Oh, well, such things are always subject to change.

I am on record as favoring a larger military, and I stand by that over the long term. However, I do understand the military's desire to first restructure, and then expand if it is still necessary: it is hard to do a major transformation during an expansion: ask many businesses which have tried and failed.

What I don't understand is why we are not building a parallel force, under DoD, for nation-building and pacification. This force could be specialized for occupation and counter guerilla-warfare tasks, reconstruction, civil administration and the keeping of civil order. As part of the civil administration, there should be gradual handovers of power to locals, starting at the local level and working upwards, in order to train the occupied country in civil governance, representative government, personal liberty, and the like. This force would be used for the time period between the end of major combat operations, and the end of military governance (in Iraq, this has already passed, though I'm not sure of the wisdom of the rapid handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government, without any significant intervening work on inculcating the right values for a democratic nation.) I think that this corresponds to Randy Barnett's concept of a "system admin force", but I haven't read more than excerpts of his work at this point, and could easily be wrong about that.

This kind of force can be stood up while the Army is reorganizing, and would be almost immediately useful. The only thing standing in the way is money, and that lacks only the political will to choose guns over butter while we're actively at war. So far, that political will has been lacking. Given Kerry's record as a Senator, I believe that his calls for expanding the Army are based on political opportunism alone: President Bush has resisted (at the request of the military) calls to expand the Army, so Kerry is suddenly in favor of it. I'll be happy if Kerry pushes Bush towards expansion, but I'm not going to change my voting intentions over it.

Posted by Jeff at 10:39 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

August 20, 2004

Goal->Strategy->Plan->Task (again)

First, go read Dan Drezner's question on "good strategy with bad execution" or "bad strategy with solid process", and the excellent discussion it fostered. Then read my response (also in the comments at Drezner's blog):

The problem with this debate is that it isn't high-level enough. Let's start at the bottom and work up:

At the lowest level are the tasks actually carried out in the field. In most cases, these mesh with the plan created by the executives in charge of various departments. (Notoriously, the State Department often acts in accordance with its own private foreign policy, rather than carrying out that of the President, when it disagrees.) This is largely beyond the direct control of the President or his Cabinet: he is dependent on careerists for good execution. Two examples of tasks in the Terror Wars would be hunting down Osama bin Laden (military, mostly) and influencing neutrals like France to work on our behalf (diplomatic, mostly). Essentially, this is the execution layer.

Above that level is the plan. Ideally, the plan is detailed, and specifies who will do what tasks, in what order, to match the plan. It should also specify how to determine failure, and how to react to it, as well as how to determine and react to success. This is directly under the control of the Cabinet-level officers of government, via the deputy's who oversee the various plans (but still largely beyond the President's direct influence). Each department will have their own plans, and they will infrequently co-ordinate in any meaningful way. Essentially, this is the process layer.

The purpose of the plans is to achieve the next-highest level, the strategy. The strategy is generally made by the President in consultation with his Cabinet and with foreign allies and important domestic political figures (like the leaders of the House and Senate, and key governors in some cases). As the plan specifies the tasks, the strategy drives the plans.

At the highest level, and the least talked about, are the goals of foreign policy. This is purely the President's job to manage, and to communicate to the public. But only when the public buys in does politics "stop at the water's edge". And right now, the Democrats and Republicans don't agree on the goal.

The President stated a goal for the US after 9/11: destroy terrorists able to strike internationally, and the governments which support them, in order to create a stable and peaceful international environment.

The Democrats obviously disagree with the goal as well as the strategy (take out rogue regimes too close to nuclear capability, and democratize them, so that prosperity and representative government and liberty will remove the causes of jihadi terrorism), and thus will viciously criticize our every action. It is this reason which ensures that what is good for American in the Terror Wars is bad for the Democrats.

And that does not need to be a bad thing: it was far from clear in 1950 that the strategy of containment serving the goal of eliminating the threat of Communist revolutions was the right way to go. The problem is that the Democrats now (like the Republicans then) do not have an alternative goal to offer the American people, except to go back to 9/10 and act like everything's OK. It's not, and the Democrats must recognize this and offer a goal to include US security before they can be taken seriously.

They seem to be groping in that direction, offering various orbits around transnational progressivism as their ideas. While this in and of itself scares me - I'm no fan of ever-larger and more intrusive governments being in control - it is at least a groping towards a goal.

The debate over strategy is meaningless until the Democrats either agree to President Bush's goal, or the Republicans agree to some goal the Democrats eventually propagate.

Bad execution is nearly the least of our worries if our strategy is meaningless and reactive.

Posted by Jeff at 10:36 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

August 19, 2004

The "Unbiased" Media

I try to be very careful about naming people as enemies, because I believe that no quarter nor respite should be given to enemies: they should be killed, or compelled to surrender, and be quick about it. The BBC is coming very close to being an indisputable enemy in this war.

Posted by Jeff at 10:51 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

August 16, 2004

Winning or Not Losing

Last week I wrote a post on how to win the war, in response to this Stephen Green post. My post got a lot of responses, of which this was somewhat typical of one particular branch of thought.

I suppose it would make some sense to clarify, now that so many people are convinced I'm a hate-filled radical right-winger. There is a difference between winning a war, and not losing it. When you win a war, the result is that you've achieved your objectives, and the enemy has been removed as a threat to you for at least the time being. When you don't lose a war, you may or may not have achieved your objectives, or removed the enemy as a threat, but you have prevented the enemy from achieving his objectives - at least those which were in conflict with yours such that you went to war in the first place.

Stephen Green's analysis was about how to not lose, as we didn't lose the Cold War. In the Cold War, we didn't lose for a long enough period of time that our enemy collapsed and we won by default. That appears to be the plan George Bush is working to now, and it is what Stephen Green was trying to formalize publicly.

I don't have a problem with not losing, under some circumstances: it is a reasonable way to minimize losses overall, and as long as you can outlast your enemy, you may win by default without a big war. Good all around, yes?

But what does not losing mean in this case? It means that we condemn millions to live in stifling oppression and poverty, with their daily life involving indoctrination to hate and kill us (second only to the Jews). "Us" in this case is not just Americans; we are only the face of the West. The jihadis want the whole West subjugated to shari'a law.

Ignoring the classically liberal argument for spreading freedom to all people, not losing also means that we risk the possibility of losing, and losing big. We have a huge military advantage over the jihadis, but that advantage is basically gone the moment that the jihadis have nuclear weapons. At that point, they have a trump card that they can use against the world: we have nuclear weapons hidden in many of your cities, and we are prepared to be totally annihilated if that's what it takes, so if you interfere with us we will kill you by the millions.

I don't want to lose, and that means that I don't want to take the risk of "not losing" turning into losing. A lot of the things I currently advocate for - such as killing imams and ayatollahs who preach the mass murder of Jews and Westerners - make me very uncomfortable. Then again, fire bombing Dresden and Tokyo would have made me very uncomfortable. But when it comes right down to it, I would rather we do these things, than find ourselves in the position of making the choice between genocide and shari'a.

It may be the case that we can not lose long enough for the seeds we planted in Iraq to mature into full-blown representative democracy in the Arab/Muslim world, that we won't have to rip militant Islamism out of the Arabs the way we ripped militant nationalism out of the Germans and Japanese. Or, it may be that, given the fervent pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran and others, we cannot hold on long enough for the Arabs/Muslims to transform by themselves.

And then what?

Posted by Jeff at 10:54 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

August 13, 2004

Coalitions

The prospect of future "coalitions of the willing" in any meaningful sense are almost nil. The only powers in the world that can deploy significant forces anywhere in the world and support them indefinitely are the United States and the United Kingdom. Russia has enough troops and logistics assets, but no cash to sustain them in combat. China has a large body of troops, but insufficient logistics assets to support them outside except in SE Asia. France's capabilities are pretty much limited to the French Foreign Legion and maybe a couple of battallions if stretched, and then they have serious logistics issues. Germany has insufficient forces and insufficient logistics. Japan has constitutional restrictions that prevent sending force abroad. No one else has significant military forces in the first place.

Russia and China can hardly be counted on as members of any coalition on any significant issue, since US gains are somewhat to their detriment. France and Germany - well, let's just say that they aren't exactly willing. And now the United Kingdom is reducing its forces - to the point that it may become impossible for the British to deploy forces abroad larger than the French can deploy. (Hat tip: VodkaPundit) The current global situation, then, becomes one in which regional powers like Russia, China, Japan, Iran, France/Germany/Britain/Italy, Israel, S. Korea, India and Australia focus on their little areas, and only the United States has any ability to solve problems in the world at large.

I think that John Kerry and George Bush both need to be open and honest with the American people about this, because it is going to be one of the two foundational elements in foreign policy for the next couple of decades (the other being jihadi terrorism and the resultant wars). And in these wars, the US will stand alone in terms of main strength, with our allies contributing niche forces and minor combatant units.

Posted by Jeff at 10:30 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

August 11, 2004

What Would You Do?

When evaluating strategy, most people tend to think very shallowly: they act as though their enemy is a static entity which absorbs what their actions, but does not act intelligently on its own. There is a technical term for these people: losers. If you plan only for what you know now, and assume that your enemy will not change and adapt just as you change and adapt, then you will lose. And by the way, this is true in business and politics as in warfare.

The way to think about strategy in a way that allows you to achieve your objectives (that is, to win) is to assume that your enemy knows everything that you are planning and all your caveats and weaknesses and guesses. Then, you look at the situation from their point of view, including that knowledge, and you think: if I were them, what would I do to make life miserable for me? In other words, you have to plan for what you know of the enemy's capabilities and goals, and assume that the enemy knows your intentions and capabilities with complete certainty and veracity. Then, you have to take your best shot and hope it was enough.

Trent Telenko hints at that kind of thinking in this post:

Does anyone doubt for a moment that Israel will, absolutely, positively WILL preemptively destroy Iranian nuclear facilities, with nukes if necessary, to prevent another holocaust?"

The answer, of course, is that many people doubt that, because of the problem with thinking that I outlined above.

But let's look at Iran's position, and assume for a moment that we are the absolute ruler of Iran. Iran's position is this:

  • Iran is not only a theocracy, it is also the country which turned the jihadi mindset of paranoia, xenophobia, and hatred from the madness of a small number of intellectuals into State policy.
  • Iran's major enemies are Israel (for religious reasons alone) and the United States (which opposes Iran's plan to restore the caliphate under Iranian auspices. Israel is not an active threat against Iran as long as Iran doesn't make it so, but Iran is incapable of not making it so. Primarily, this is because the destruction of Israel by Iran would so raise its prestige in the Muslim world that it would make almost inevitible that Iran would succeed in uniting the Muslim world under it's rulership. The United States has since 9/11 been actively and irrevocably an enemy of Iran's current government, though conveniently (for Iran) many Americans don't realize that.
  • Iran is conventionally strong enough to defend itself against invasion from all likely enemies except for the United States. Israel is stronger than Iran, but so far away that Israel could not attempt to occupy Iran in any meaningful way (for both logistics and manpower reasons). Russia is not capable of pacifying Afghanistan or Chechnya, and Iran would be much harder. China is too far away to sustain an invasion, given their poor logistics, though unlike Israel they have the manpower to sustain the occupation. In other words, Iran is the regional power in the Middle East.
  • But...Iran has no hope of defending against the United States. While it would take longer for the US to take out Iran than Iraq, and while it would take more American forces, it is well within the current US capability to defeat and occupy Iran. It's also likely, given the Westernization, education and discontent current in Iran, that the occupation of Iran would be short and easily successful - much more so than in Iraq.
  • Such a move would be disastrous, because it would be the end of the restoration of the Caliphate under Iranian auspices.
  • It would also be another disastrous blow to the restoration of the Caliphate under al Qaeda and Wahabbi auspices, because it would force the jihadis to fight actively across the entire sweep from Iraq to Afghanistan. And in an active fight, the jihadis tend to die in large numbers and to little practical effect (with the exception of fawning adulation from Reuters, et al). As a result, it is in al Qaeda's and Saudi Arabia's interest to prevent Iran from being invaded by the US and occupied. This makes them useful allies.
  • There is one example of a country which has managed to utterly prevent a US invasion: North Korea. It has done so by having a rudimentary nuclear capability - a few weapons - and a limited delivery mechanism.
  • Building nuclear facilities aboveground makes them liable to destruction by US or Israeli air strikes, which have few negative consequences for either nation. As a result, all critical nuclear facilities must be under ground - deep under ground so that the US earth penetrating bombs cannot reach them.

Given this situation, what would you do? Me, I'd do everything possible to tie down the United States military so they'd be too busy to invade me, and I would develop nuclear weapons as quickly as possible, mostly by exchanging cash and oil, which I have in plenty, for nuclear technology, which France and Russia and China and North Korea have. I would build my nuclear program largely underground, and widely dispersed. There is ample evidence that Iran has attempted and is attempting to do all of these things.

Now let's look at Israel's situation:

  • There is the situation with Iran, described above. In addition, Iran has been the benefactor for many years of Hizb'allah, one of the major terror threats against Israel.
  • But Iran is hardly alone. Egypt is nominally at peace with Israel, and will likely remain so as long as it is convinced that it would be destroyed if it attacked Israel, and not likely a moment longer. The peace with Jordan is more likely to last, because Jordan needs Israel's good will more than it needs to be seen as standing up to Israel, at least until and unless the Palestinians flood into Jordan, at which time peace is no longer assured. Pretty much every other Arab state (not all, but almost all) are actively belligerent against Israel and would attack at a moment's notice if they thought they could win. In the meantime, they are using terrorism and the Palestinian Authority to keep Israel as off-balance as possible.
  • Given the genocidal hatred of the Muslims towards Israel, it's a given that if a Muslim country were to obtain nuclear weapons, those weapons would be used against Israel more or less immediately. It's likely that the method of employment would be to give a weapon to a terrorist group, unless the enemy were to have many nuclear weapons, so that he could be insured of destroying Israel utterly even at the cost of themselves being utterly destroyed.
  • Given that the jihadis yearn for death, a suicidal attack (not suicide of the bombers, necessarily, but of the whole country that undertook the attack) is hardly unlikley should a Muslim country obtain nuclear weapons.
  • Israel itself has a large nuclear arsenal (likely 200-300 warheads) and robust delivery mechanisms of multiple kinds.
  • The enemy could not destroy Israel without nuclear weapons, though Israel would suffer heavily in any large-scale conventional war.
  • The United States can only be fitfully counted on to support Israel, and most other countries can be reliably counted on to oppose Israel at every turn.

Given this situation, if you were the absolute ruler of Israel, what would you do? I would try to convince the other countries to aggressively act to prevent nuclear proliferation into the Arab/Muslim world. I would also maintain and expand my nuclear arsenal and delivery systems. I would try to foment discord and division between different Arab factions. I would try to disengage from Palestine and let them tear themselves apart in factional fighting. I would maintain my conventional military strength and stockpile as much fuel and ammunition as I could against any eventuality.

Most importantly, if it became apparent that any Arab or Muslim nation were about to obtain a nuclear capability, and no other nation were going to stop that from happening, I would annihilate that capability no matter the cost, because the alternative would be the annihilation of Israel.

In the case of Iran, that poses some problems: because the Iranian capability is spread among a large number of sites, and is deeply buried, so it would be difficult to destroy or hinder. The upshot of this is that I would have to use nuclear weapons for attacks on at least several, though not all, Iranian targets.

But then I have another problem: Israel would be so roundly condemned for this use of nuclear weapons (witness the condemnation of the United States over Iraq when the US was almost immaculate in warfighting), and given that this is only the normal reaction to Israel existing, it is likely that a large number of nations would move towards sanctions against Israel. In addition to the economic damage, it would be likely that supplies of fuel and weapons from outside would almost completely dry up, and that would mean that in a relatively small amount of time - 18 months at most - Israel would be a shambles. It's also likely that Egypt and Jordan would be compelled to renounce their peace treaties, and it's not inconceivable that the Arab nations would launch an all-out war. If they did this 18 months after the strike, Israel might not be strong enough to withstand the assault.

Given these considerations, I would be strongly tempted to remove my enemies once and for all, so that they couldn't strike in my moment of weakness. The way to do that, of course, is to eliminate their armies, their political structures, and critical infrastructure that they could use to rebuild. This would have to be thorough enough to keep those enemies incapacitated for at least 10 years, because it could take that long to recover Israel's reputation and (more critically) economy and supply situation. So, if I were fairly convinced that Israel was in grave danger of attack in the aftermath of taking out Iran's nuclear capability, I would most likely hit at all of the Arab/Muslim world's military facilities and large units, industrial base, critical infrastructure (including any large cities), and so forth. Some of these attacks would be conventional, but most would be nuclear. And as part of that, I would have to strike Pakistan and eliminate their military and nuclear capability as well, because they are the only Muslim state with a declared nuclear capability, and even if they didn't want to strike directly, there's no guarantee that the ISI wouldn't give weapons to terrorists for revenge attacks.

Now this is not all a given, obviously, but it's clearly possible. So now to the most important point: if you are in charge of US policy, what would you do to head off this course of events?

In the first place, Iran is already your enemy directly, and the current government, while weak, is unlikely to fall to internal revolt. In the second place, Iran is seeking nuclear capability, which would make further intervention after that point very, very costly. In the third place, Israel would go to virtually any length, including potentially nuclear war against the entire Arab/Muslim world, to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

What is it worth to you to prevent this? Would you let Israel annihilate the Arab/Muslim world?

Would you play kick the can via treaties, preventing Israel from stopping this by making it appear that Iran wasn't still seeking a nuclear capability? (This is essentially what Bill Clinton did in Korea in 1996.)

Would you bomb Iranian nuclear facilities to hopefully set them back a few years? (This is what Israel did to Iraq in the 1980s and what Bill Clinton did to Iraq in 1998.) Would you be willing to use nuclear weapons yourself to ensure the destruction of critical and deeply-buried facilities?

Would you be willing to foment a revolution in Iran, and arm and supply it, and provide air power and special forces in support of it? (This is essentially what George Bush did in Afghanistan?)

Would you be willing to invade and occupy Iran? (This is what George Bush did in Iraq.)

How many American lives would you trade for potentially tens of millions of Muslim lives, when many of those Muslims would as soon see you dead?

The thing is, these are not hypothetical questions. They are the questions that the next few years will put to the President, and so they are questions you should consider (if you are an American) when you vote.

For the record, I believe that Kerry would, in extremis, be willing to conventionally bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, and much less likely to support a revolution. Most likely, though, is that Kerry would play kick the can until it's too late to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear capability, at which point it's pretty likely that the Middle East would erupt in nuclear war. (For which I have no doubt that Kerry would cast blame everywhere except upon himself.)

I believe that President Bush would be likely to invade Iran, very likely to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities (potentially, but not likely, with our own nuclear weapons), somewhat likely to support a revolution, and unlikely to either play kick the can or to leave it to the Israelis.

(And frankly, that's a large part of why I will vote for President Bush despite disagreeing with him on abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, government funding of entitlements and a host of other issues.)

Your beliefs may vary, of course, but I do hope you will at least take the possibilities into account when you vote.

UPDATE (8/12): Francis Porretto has been thinking similar thoughts.

Posted by Jeff at 03:52 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (8)

August 10, 2004

Winning the Terror Wars

VodkaPundit offers an insightful and much needed post on what it will take to win the war we are in. The key point Stephen Green makes is that this war is an ideological war in the same way that the Cold War was, and so our plan to win must be similar, but because the enemy's ideology is different, the way we win must be different in detail.

The key underlying facts of this war are these:

  • The enemy is united by only one thing: the ideology of jihad. The key features of this ideology include attacking kufr (that's you and me) wherever you find them and by whatever means necessary, but most particularly in countries which are or once were Muslim and most importantly by killing us or forcing us to submit; dhimmitude (subjugation of servile non-Muslims); universal implementation of shari'a, a Koranic code of justice and prescriptions and proscriptions for living that is deeply opposed to every value and right held by any liberal society; "cleansing" the ummah (think of this the way Catholics mean "Church") of "insufficiently-Muslim" Muslims; restoral of the caliphate (theocratic government of the Arabs and Muslims as a whole covering all of the territory ever under Muslim domination [Sorry, Spain, nice try and all.]); and extension of the caliphate to the entire world.
  • In the Arab/Muslim world, a large number of people are fellow-travellers with the jihadis, even when they do not necessarily agree with the jihadis. Partly, the reasons are cultural, and partly they are religious. Mostly, though, they seem to grow out of the deep sense of failure and shame within the Arab world, channeled by their tyrannical governments into xenophobia and the fetishization of death and hatred. As a result, the jihadis have considerable freedom of movement and action within Muslim populations everywhere in the world (yes, including in the US).
  • The Western ideology owes most of its substance the Enlightenment liberalism of Rousseau (particularly in Europe) and Smith, Hobbes and Locke (particularly in the US). These values include equality of all (including law-makers and law-enforcers) before the law, freedom from arbitrary imprisonment, and the right to be tried by a jury of one's peers; the rule of law rather than the use of force to settle disputes; limited and representative government; mostly-free markets and trade; the right of individuals to life, liberty and property; freedom of speech, religion and the press; equality of people regardless of race, religion, creed, color, gender, parentage, or opinion; acceptance of the value of change; the value of prosperity and the independence it brings; and a rational scientific worldview (even amongst the very religious).
  • In the West, we have failed over the last hundred years to bequeath the legacy of Western civilization and the Enlightenment to our children, because many in the West no longer agree with many of the tenets of that ideology and legacy. We have ceased teaching Western culture and values in government-controlled educational institutions; we have ceased passing these values on to our children; we have countenanced the outright denigration of our culture and our countries in comparison to others; we have sought world government while ignoring self discipline. In large part, we surrendered not our ideology, but our control of its presentation and interpretation to those among us most interested in overthrowing that ideology and replacing it with Marxism or some similarly-utopian ideal.
  • Many of the people in the West who are most opposed to the values of the West are also in active or tacit league with our enemies abroad. In most cases, this comes not from a respect for the culture and values of the enemy, but from self-loathing and bitter recriminations over the imperfections (however minor in comparison) of the West. The primary effect of this (fairly large) coterie (particularly in Europe) is to hinder our efforts at self-defense and at spreading our liberal values to our enemy. In addition, socialism has invested us with a deeply selfish trend which causes many otherwise well-meaning people to oppose any efforts which might reduce government's largess on behalf of themselves or their pet causes. This imposes constraints of both material and will on the ability of the West to defend itself aggressively abroad and even at home.


Our strategy must be tailored to these facts, and I think that Stephen Green's strategy is a good starting point: take the initiative, fight against any challenge (even if we know in advance that we will not win in that particular instance), and remain what we are. In the light of my view of the war, though, I would extend and modify this somewhat.

The modification is to the last point: we must not merely remain what we are, but must articulate and defend that against both internal and external challenges, and must pass on our values to our children actively, as opposed to just letting them get it as best they can from TV and movies. In particular, I believe that a concentration on civics and history are critical. This is far, far more important than arguments over testing, grades, class sizes and the like.

The first extension is that we must modify their culture and replace parts of it with our own, as we did with Japan. In particular, we must democratize the Arab nations and give their people outlets for free expression. This will not only weaken the hold of the jihadis by depriving them of the swill of hatred in which they breed, but will also give them something to cherish in this life, making suicide attacks much less attractive.

The second extension is that, in order to prove to the enemy that their philosophy is bankrupt, we must prove that they do not have their god, as they conceive him, on their side. This must be done without compromising our fundamental values, but it will be brutal and unpleasant (as are all wars), and will require us to make some difficult distinctions.

To do this, we must fight symbolically. First, we must kill the enemy wherever we find him. In particular, we should concentrate on killing imams, mullahs, ayatollahs and other clerical figures who preach jihad. Similarly, where there are madrassas that focus on teaching jihad, we must either destroy them or dry up their funding, and should probably kill the teachers and administrators. Not only will these actions reduce the indoctrination of hatred and xenophobia over the long term, they will also strike directly at the enemy's religious heart: how could god allow this?

Second, we must pick high-value targets for religious reasons as well as tactical ones. Instead of avoiding shrines, we should level them indiscriminately. If mosques encourage jihad, we should level them, too. We should announce quite clearly and calmly that, should any nuclear or chemical attack occur within the US, or against US interests abroad, we will respond by destroying Mecca and Medina utterly. And if it comes down to it, we should destroy Mecca and Medina utterly. Again, the idea is to make them wonder how their god could allow this.

Third, and this will be particularly controversial, we should encourage Christian missionary activity and charity work among the Muslims, and protect the missionaries by force of arms. I'm really not happy with this, because I am not myself Christian and because I believe that a lot of bad things have been done by Christians in the guise of missionary work in the past. Nonetheless, such activity would challenge the jihadis directly on their own ground, and if successful could provoke a cultural change in the Muslim world that would hasten the end of these wars.

Finally, we should pull the gloves off completely and attack our enemies wherever and whenever we find them. If Montessedeq is released by Germany, we should grab him and take him out of the country by force. (Quietly, so as not to unnecessarily provoke the Germans.) Similarly, Moqtada al-Sadr should be dead right about now. We should bomb Iranian military facilities where al Qaeda leaders are hiding, and should assassinate our enemies even in friendly or nominally-friendly countries. If this means that oil supplies are threatened, we should occupy the oilfields and ship the oil ourselves.

Yes, what I'm advocating is a total war of civilizations, exactly what bin Laden has asked for. I think we can take them, and do it convincingly. The alternative is to accustom ourselves to having our citizens periodically and randomly killed by these maniacs. I'm not willing to do that.

Of course, such a course would require a total commitment of our civilization on a broad scale, and may not be politically possible. If that is the case, then we must work diligently at home to bring about the conditions where it would be possible. Or, as a last resort, we could just keep doing what we are doing now, and when the next and worse 9/11 hits, the political landscape will be significantly changed. The downside, of course, is potentially millions of dead Americans and a genocidal response. Perhaps, instead, we could be working on creating the political will now?

UPDATE: Be sure to read the trackbacks on Stephen Green's post, particularly this one.

Posted by Jeff at 04:01 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (11)

August 02, 2004

Kerry's Foreign Policy

Actually, let me emphasize the point of this post on Kerry's probable foreign policy.

There are four components to undertaking an action: goal, strategy, plan and task. If agreement is not reached on the goal, the strategy to achieve the goal is meaningless to those who don't concur with the goal. Similarly, if the strategy is not agreed upon, then the plan is irrelevant at best. Changing goals requires changing strategies, which in turn requires changing plans.

For example, in the Cold War, the consensus goal, developed starting with Truman and Churchill, was that Communism represented a threat to the US and the West and had to be defeated. The strategy, developed soon after, was containment: the USSR and China would not be allowed to spread Communism further than it already had spread. (This is why Viet Nam was a lost war: Communism spread. The fact that S. Viet Nam was not a democracy was irrelevant to any measurement of victory.) In the Cold War, President Carter was judged largely on his failures in implementing that strategy. (Reagan, by the way, changed not just the strategy, but also the goal: from containment to economic collapse.)

Now, with the Terror Wars, history will likely start this period with the fall of the Shah of Iran, overlapping the end of the Cold War. But we did not even think of it as a war until 9/11, and some people (apparently including much of the policy wonks and high political officials of the Democrat Party) still do not see us as being at war in any meaningful sense. So the Presidents of this period, starting primarily with George H.W. Bush, will be judged in the end by their reaction to the threat of Islamist terrorism. Both Bush 41 and Clinton will be judged somewhat harshly for not seeing the rise of Islamist terrorism as the threat it is (though Clinton will likely suffer more, largely because both the end of the Cold War and Desert Storm occurred on Bush's watch): they did not grapple with the problem and espouse a goal.

Bush 43 has set a national goal: the destruction of terrorists with international reach and of all states which support such terrorists. The strategy is not entirely clear, but it seems that "shrinking the Gap" by democracy promotion in formerly terrorist supporting States, combined with absolute containment of nuclear proliferation beyond where it was at the start of the century, is the most likely contender. The Democrats will not help with the enumeration of a national strategy, because they fundamentally disagree with the goal that President Bush has set out.

For most Democrat leaders, Kerry clearly included, the national strategy in foreign policy is to use the military for showboating and tinkering around the margins, largely at the behest of the UN and Old Europe, and only when our national security interests are not truly on the line. The reason for this is that the Democrats largely do not have a foreign policy goal (that is seen as a distraction from the "real work" here at home on advancing towards Social(ist) Democracy in particular and Statism generally). To the extent the Democrat leaders have thought about foreign policy in positive terms (ie: what they will do rather than what the Republicans are doing wrong), they seem to be of the opinion that transnational progressivism - fundamentally the transfer of sovereignty from States to an international government - is the proper policy.

Because there is no agreement between Democrats and Republicans on the goals of foreign policy, there can be no agreement on strategy. And to some extent, the discussion of foreign policy right now is very disingenuous, because the Democrats don't agree with the Bush Doctrine goal (defeat the terrorists and States that sponsor them) but don't want to say so publicly because the public by and large agrees with that goal.

Here's the kicker: if President Bush is re-elected, it is likely that the strategy he has been following will work: we will have a much more stable and free Iraq in four years than now, and likely will have invaded Iran and/or Syria as well, and will have gone a great way to reducing terrorism; while if Kerry is elected, it is likely that we will be where we were at the end of the Carter administration: dispirited, wandering, leaderless and deeply in malaise - and will have suffered many, many more casualties than if we were actively making war on the terrorists.

Again, vote as if your life depends on it.

Posted by Jeff at 07:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Trust Me

According to the Washington Post, John Kerry has a secret plan for withdrawal from Iraq (and thus for likely US catastrophe, but the article doesn't mention that). A secret plan? Let's not even start with the comparisons with Nixon, whose secret plan for US withdrawal from Viet Nam was to sell out our allies and snatch political defeat from the jaws of military victory. Let's look instead at what is known, or at least what is conveyed in the article, about Kerry's plan:

John F. Kerry pledged Sunday he would substantially reduce U.S. troop strength in Iraq by the end of his first term in office but declined to offer any details of what he said is his plan to attract significantly more allied military and financial support there.

In interviews on television talk shows, the Democratic presidential nominee said that he saw no reason to send more troops to Iraq and that he would seek allied support to draw down U.S. forces there.

[snip]

"I've been involved in this for a long time, longer than George Bush," he said. "I've spent 20 years negotiating, working, fighting for different kinds of treaties and different relationships around the world. I know that as president there's huge leverage that will be available to me, enormous cards to play, and I'm not going to play them in public. I'm not going to play them before I'm president."

[snip]

Kerry previously has discussed his desire to reduce U.S. forces in Iraq but declined to attach any timetable to that goal. He spoke more extensively about Iraq after his acceptance speech, suggesting he has an exit strategy.

[snip]

The Massachusetts senator said the administration had failed diplomatically, and he asserted that a change in presidents would produce more international support for the United States in Iraq.

"I think that a fresh start changes the equation . . . for leaders in other countries who have great difficulty right now associating themselves with our policy and with the United States because of the way this administration has burned those bridges," Kerry said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Kerry defended his and Edwards's votes against an $87 billion authorization for military and reconstruction costs in Iraq and Afghanistan, which the Bush campaign has used repeatedly to question Kerry's commitment to U.S. forces. Kerry said he learned in Vietnam that presidents should not get a blank check for policies that do not work.

"We voted to change the policy," he said on CNN's "Late Edition." "We voted in order to get it right."

Kerry supported an amendment that would have paid for the $87 billion by reducing some of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The amendment did not require significant policy changes.

[snip]

On domestic issues, Kerry gave a "rock hard" pledge not to raise middle-class taxes if he becomes president, though he said a national emergency or war could change that.

Reminded that the country is at war already, Kerry said, "We're going to reduce the burden in this war, and if we do what we need to do for our economy, we're going to grow the tax base of our country."


In principle, it's reasonable that a presidential candidate would not want to spell out many details in public, particularly when this involves possibly sensitive negotiations with other nations. It's also necessary, though, that the candidate convince the electorate that his policies are sound. In order to do so, the candidate must answer all of the following questions:
  • How does my policy differ from that of my predecessor?
  • What are the problems with my predecessor's policy?
  • What parts of my predecessor's policy are improved on in my policy?
  • How does my policy ensure that it does not result in worse outcomes than my predecessor's policy in other areas?

How does Kerry answer these questions? Not well, if at all. And when his answer is clear, it is frightening.

What the above makes clear is that John Kerry has no intent of winning the peace in Iraq. His goal is to withdraw our forces without regard to the end state in Iraq (that is what "exit strategy" means as distinct from "strategy to win the war"), to use disagreement with France and others as the rationale for this policy ("seek allied support to draw down U.S. forces" can have no other meaning, since we need no support to pull out or add our own forces and since France, et al, have no forces to add and no will to add them; only diplomatic cover about what good puppies we are can be forthcoming), and to blame President Bush for the inevitable defeat Kerry would have created ("Kerry accused President Bush of misleading the country before the war in Iraq, burning bridges with U.S. allies and having no plan to win peace.").

Kerry plans to lose, and the only reason he is saying it obliquely instead of outright is that he knows saying it outright would win him no votes and would lose him many. This is in easy accord to his past as a Viet Nam war protestor and with his past votes on military and intelligence matters, so it's not terribly surprising.

It would be terrible, though, if carried out, because we would have lost any chance of victory in the Terror Wars for a long time to come: our allies would not trust us any further, so forget about all of the countries currently contributing troops; opposing neutrals (like France, Germany and Russia) would give us nothing but scorn and contempt; our enemies would be proven right, and new terrorists would flock to the cause; our potential allies in any future intervention in the Arab/Muslim world would melt away, knowing they would be betrayed in the end.

That is why Kerry's answers to the four questions above amount to, "Trust me." Because if Kerry said what he plans in plain language, he would be finished politically.

This November, vote as if your life depends on it.

Posted by Jeff at 05:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 29, 2004

I Can Hardly Believe That This is Still an Issue

For some reason, the Democrats are still arguing whether we should fight a war we won more than a year ago. I suspect that their desire is to justify pulling out immediately, should Kerry win the election, by claiming that going to war was wrong, because we did it for the wrong reasons (but if our motives were better, it would have been OK), so retreat is morally requisite, now that we've got our priorities in line.

I know, it's hard for me to hold all of that in my head at one time, too. Thankfully, Donald Sensing does a fine job in showing not only the moral case for the war, but that the President in fact made that moral case.

My hope, oddly enough, is that the Democrats are lying through their teeth (yet again) and don't actually believe that it was a bad thing, but they're willing to say it was if that will help them win the election. At least naked power grabs with no moral foundation are understandable.

Posted by Jeff at 03:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 26, 2004

Credibility, Character, Cause

I stopped reading Andrew Sullivan a long time ago, when it became apparent that his reasoning skills were utterly subject to his emotional state on pet issues, so I only heard of Sullivan's endorsement of Kerry second-hand. From Stephen Green's fisking of Sullivan's post, it would appear that Sullivan has fallen into the Leftist meme of "no justification other than WMDs", and it is that which interests me.

There are three good reasons for for one nation to invade and occupy another: legal requirements, moral requirements, and self-preservation. Alternately, these can be stated as credibility, character and cause, for reasons I'll explore below. All three just causes of action were present in Iraq. (Actually, these causes go further, and also apply in cases of individuals doing violence upon one another.)

Legal requirements normally arise out of treaties, especially mutual-defense pacts. If a country has an ally which is attacked, there is generally a legal requirement to go to the aid of the ally. But there are other such cases, and the UN is a fine example. There is international agreement that the Security Council's decisions are binding, and as a member of the UN we are obligated to uphold those decisions.

In any case, legal requirements normally boil down to credibility: if you say that you will do some thing in a given case, you either do it or are held in contempt. France, Spain and the Philippines, to give some current examples, are basically held in contempt by their opponents, and the UN is also widely held in contempt. Without credibility, you cannot use threats to avoid the need for action, and thus future wars become much more likely for nations which bluster but do not act.

Iraq was in violation of a huge number of Security Council resolutions, and the fact that many of the nations that make up the Security Council were prepared to be held in contempt, and to have the UN held in contempt, does not obviate our obligation to act. Given that obligation, and President Bush's desire that the US not be held in contempt, we had a legal cause of action. And, in fact, this is part of the case that the President made, repeatedly, for taking on Iraq. The WMD case was a part of the legal case: it showed that Iraq had violated UN agreements and resolutions they were bound to uphold. Given that many people in the US and abroad have abandoned the moral case for war, and do not care if the US defends itself or not (frequently, they would prefer not), this is the argument which got the most emphasis.

Moral requirements for action arise out of classical liberalism: all people and nations have an obligation, within the extent of their capacity to do so, to help those less fortunate and more in despair than themselves. (There are religious foundations for this view, as well, which is why I believe that the militantly atheistic Left despises any moral structures not built on selfishness: such structures would tend to validate the religions most despised by atheists.) In State terms, a nation has a requirement to act to preserve or restore or create conditions of liberty and representative government in other nations. "Old Europe" has largely abandoned morality in world affairs, and most parts of the world never had it, but it is still a driving force in the US (and has become so in many other first-world nations which, oddly enough, map closely onto the "coalition of the willing" on Iraq).

In other words, this is a character issue: are you big enough to do the right thing even if it doesn't benefit you, and even though you bear the cost in blood and treasure? Would you turn away from Kitty Genovese, or would you step in to stop the attack? Would you overthrow a tyrant who is murdering his people, or let him go on as long as he hands out oil concessions to Total-Fina-Elf? The problem with throwing away morality as a cause of action is that you also have to throw out with it your humanity and empathy: to rid yourself of moral indignation requires becoming sociopathic (France) or opportunistic (the Democrats since at least 1972, and likely since 1964).

In Iraq, the moral reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein were tied to his oppression and tyranny at home, and his repeated invasions of neighboring countries. When people claim that no defensible case was made for war, they generally mean no moral case was made for war. Of course, that's not true: the President did make such a case. The fact that the press by and large ignored it for the easier-to-cover WMD allegations and legalisms does not remove the case. The problem we as a nation have to face is that a large part of our polity no longer believes in the possibility of a moral case for war. Without that, the entire idea of America is in some jeopardy.

The final just reason for undertaking an offensive war is self-preservation. If you know or strongly suspect that someone who has pledged to destroy you is in fact acquiring the means to do so, you can justifiably act to stop them. Self-defense does not require you to absorb the blow first. If you are not prepared to take aggressive action in your own defense, you will eventually be destroyed unless some benevolent outside power chooses to protect you. There is no power to protect the US in international affairs; the UN (frequently nominated for the role) is a debating society, not a reliable means of stopping unjust wars. Self-defense basically comes down to cause: do you have a reasonable cause to attack another nation, on the grounds that failing to do so will result in being attacked yourself?

For example, in 1967 the Israelis, who had been fighting a low-level war of cross-border artillery duels with their neighbors for years, became aware that those neighbors intended to attack Israel. Rather than absorb the blow, Israel acted first, and in six days destroyed the armed forces of all of its neighbors, absorbed some of their territory, and in the process set up the current template for the Middle East.

This was the least-made case for Iraq (see above about WMDs being a legal justification, not a self-defense justification), but also the most important. When it was made, it was usually in the context of "draining the swamp". In essence, because we had a legal and moral justification for taking out Iraq, and because we had forces available to do so, we were able to achieve a long-term defense against Islamist terrorism: provide Arab Muslims with an alternative to their generally-miserable lot in life, by creating a culture of dynamism, representative self-government, prosperity and hope where before were stagnation, tyranny, destitution and despair.

This is a long-term project, decades-long most likely, and it will be far from easy to ensure. Yet it is necessary, if we are to eliminate jihadis as a viable political and terrorist force. Iraq is an example, but other tyrannies will need to be brought down for the same reason (notably, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia). Those will also be long-term projects.

Sullivan would be a lot more credible if he considered such factors as more important than marginal issues.

Posted by Jeff at 12:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 23, 2004

Hopeful Signs for Afghanistan's Future

Michael Ubaldi notes two very good developments in Afghanistan. I have high hopes for the Afghans: while they have a small population, difficult communications, few resources and virtually no money to work with, these same characteristics have been true of many now-successful and now-free nations (including Israel, Taiwan and South Korea). If Afghanistan continues to embrace political and economic freedom, they too could be a first-world nation in this century.

Posted by Jeff at 10:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

China and the Gap

Zenpundit has an insightful article on China's role in the world and its possible future. Since I lived in Taiwan when I was young (and was born in Okinawa), the region holds great interest for me. Indeed, I've written about this subject before. I think that Mark underestimates one factor (which I've also written about before): the corrosive impact of private property upon tyranny.

A necessary, but insufficient, condition of Liberty is the ownership of private property. If you cannot own property and dispose of it as you like, then you are unable to ever attain independence from others (the State, your boss or your lord or what have you). Without the independence to choose what you will do, without the possibility of your actions causing offense which offense in turn causes you to lose your livelihood, you are not free. You are not free, because you must constantly tailor your actions to not offend those who have power over you, by dint of being able to deprive you of your livelihood. And of course, once a person has that kind of power over you, it becomes terribly easy to offend them, because they don't have any incentive to not be offended, and every incentive (human nature being what it is) to exercise that power.

However, the mere ownership of property is not sufficient to Liberty. In order to be at liberty to do what you will, you have to be able to dispose of property as you will. That is, you need to be able to acquire, sell or give away, allow to lapse or in any other way manipulate your property. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of those who regulate the way in which your property can be used. They have the power to deprive you of your livelihood by depriving you of the ability to obtain wealth from your property. (Note: in a very real sense, your time is your property as well, and the labor you invest in can create wealth just as the improvement of land can.) Even barely-intrusive regulation has a chilling effect on Liberty, and the more intrusive the regulation the greater the effect.

From these simple observations arises the concept of the free market. A free market is one in which a person may take posession of (and in some cases create) property, use it, give it away, sell it or in any other way dispose of it, and in which no outside entity interferes as long as the transactions are between private individuals. The closer to this ideal a market is, the freer it is. The US once had an almost entirely free market domestically. This is no longer the case, but our market is still relatively free, even compared to Europe or Japan (which are much more regulated, but still freer than most of the world). History provides no example I can find of a country maintaining Liberty (or even representative government) without a relatively-free market; nor is there any country I can find which has had a mostly-free market (even at the level of China today) for 50 years which has not become a free country, with a representative government and respect for the rule of law.


China has not quite taken the fatal step: fully-private ownership of property with the government enforcing property rights and contracts. At present, for example, China will still close down businesses that don't toe the line carefully, and has nationalized small businesses in areas deemed critical to the State. It is possible that China will step away from this path, and back towards more State control, because remaining at a semi-private property level is not sustainable (either the people will demand and be granted more and more power over their property, or they will be increasingly restricted as they use the property in ways inimical to the State).

Given China's embrace of capital markets in both domestic and international affairs, it is likely that they will eventually tip towards fairly liberal personal property rights. At the point they do that, China as a Communist nation is doomed: they will eventually face the demands of the people for individual liberty as well as property rights.

The forces of the market are such that no tyranny of the industrial age has survived for more than a few decades with a free market. People who have control of property, and want to use it to create wealth for themselves, increasingly demand to more fully control their property, and thus themselves, and thus their time and resources, and thus their flows of communication (requisite to efficient use of property as a generator of wealth), and thus political power to ensure their property rights are maintained. Eventually the government must become utterly ruthless and destroy the property rights systems (as Communism has done everywhere it has come into control) and many of the people, or they must fall to the demands and possibly revolution of the people who stand to gain much by the exercise of liberty.

I believe that China is on that road, that increasingly China will find itself unable to resist giving more property rights in exchange for more growth, and that this will eventually reach a tipping point. Perhaps, 50 years from now, we will look upon China as we do upon South Korea: a prosperous nation globally interconnected and essentially free. The danger zone is the next two decades, with the central government still unchallenged, the property rights and conception of liberty of the Chinese people still rudimentary, and the increasing power and prosperity of the nation fueling nationalistic forces with much influence in the government and military.

If we can shepherd China through the next 2 or 3 decades without a major dislocation, it is very likely that China will end up as a free and modern nation.

Posted by Jeff at 10:41 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Stranger than Fiction

Saddam Hussein; infamous for invading neighboring countries, using poison gas on domestic ethnic minorities, torturing and brutally killing domestic opponents, attempting to have George H.W. Bush assassinated, and other such acts; has filed a human rights complaint about his detention. No, really.

Posted by Jeff at 11:24 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Naming the Enemy

One of my name the enemy in this war. According to Mark, the 9/11 Commission report (which I haven't yet read) does so:

But the enemy is not just “terrorism,” some generic evil.2 This vagueness blurs the strategy.The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism—especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology.
[snip]
Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe.The first enemy is weakened, but continues to pose a grave threat. The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Usama Bin Ladin and his cohorts are killed or captured.

UPDATE: Wizbang notes a paragraph in my [snip] above, which quite impressed me as well. Since it's come up, I'll post the paragraph as well. It's the 9/11 Commission's take on Islamist terrorism and what we can do about it:

It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.

It's a terrible shame that this report appears to be extraordinarily complete, well-written and balanced, because I still cannot fully credit it: the political shenanigans of the commissioners earlier taints the report. That doesn't mean I won't read it though; just that I will read it more sceptically that I otherwise would have done.

Posted by Jeff at 12:36 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004

Brave Filippinos

To the tune of Brave Sir Robin

Bravely bold Filippinos ran out on us and Iraq
They were quite afraid to die, O brave Filippinos
They were very much afraid to be killed in nasty ways
Brave, brave, brave, brave Filippinos

They were unbelievably scared to be kidnapped by jihadis
And to have their heads cut off and their workers murdered
So now their policy lies in rags and tatters
And MILF is emboldened, brave Filippinos

Their allies pissed off and their enemies funded
And their intelligence mocked and their "bravery" mocked
And their expats ashamed and their funding cut off
And their enemies...
Well that's enough music for now, lads...

Brave Filippinos ran away - No!
Bravely ran away, away - I didn't!
When danger reared its ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled - No!
Yes, brave Filippinos turned about
And gallantly they chickened out
Bravely taking to their feet
They beat a very brave retreat
Bravest of the brave, Filippinos

Posted by Jeff at 02:48 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 20, 2004

Go Boom

Here is something interesting: the view from an F-16 taking out what looks to be about a platoon of insurgents in Falluja.

Posted by Jeff at 06:52 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

July 19, 2004

Spiralling Downwards

Steven Den Beste wrote about the likely outcome of the Israeli wall: a Palestinian civil war.

Belmont Club has collected a lot of recent evidence that shows that a Palestinian civil war may be beginning.

The "international community" continues to be an active antagonist of the Israeli/Palestinian situation, rather than a force for resolving it.

Posted by Jeff at 05:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 13, 2004

Afghanistan's Choice

This New York Times article (you can use BugMeNot to avoid the registration) talks about Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, listing the prevalence of private militias as a greater threat to Afghanistan's security and future than the attacks by Taliban and al Qaida remnants. Afghanistan has largely been forgotten in the West, but it is an interesting example of our problems and opportunities in the Terror Wars.

From the American strategic point of view, our main interest in Afghanistan is to prevent its use as a terrorist base. This does not require representative government to take hold, nor any real level of political freedom for the Afghans. President Karzai, though, realizes that Afghanistan is at a crossroads:

Mr. Karzai, who has largely governed through consensus, met with Afghan and international officials later Sunday to lay out a new strategy.

The United Nations, NATO and the United States-led coalition are involved in Afghanistan, training the police, augmenting the army and providing security for the elections. Mr. Karzai is counting on that process to continue to improve his government's standing.

His leadership over two and a half years, with heavy American backing, has rested largely on accommodation with various forces, an approach he defended Sunday. But his frustration, and that of his top ministers, seemed acute.

Asked to rate his government on how well it had achieved its goals, Mr. Karzai offered the barely passing grade of D. He said that corruption remained rampant and that the failure of the disarmament program was a source of keen anxiety among the people.

[snip]

Mr. Karzai said the struggle with the warlords would be decisive, suggesting that his government and society were at a turning point.


Afghanistan has almost no natural resources of note, and very little infrastructure to exploit what it has. But that was also true of Israel in 1948, and look how far they've come. If President Karzai succeeds in bringing political freedom, representative government, and robust property rights (there's some cause for hope) to Afghanistan, we may see in 50 years a relatively prosperous and peaceful country. Not only will we have met our goals, we would have exceeded them, and we would not need to keep an ongoing effort in place. If Afghanistan does not become politically and economically free, we will still be able to prevent the reemergence of Afghanistan as a base for terrorism, but it would take a continuing effort to ensure that this remained true.

Posted by Jeff at 09:39 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 07, 2004

Mexican Soldiers Interrupt Marine's Funeral

Mexican soldiers, concerned about the ceremonial (non-firing) rifles carried by US Marine escorts at the funeral of Marine Juan Lopez, as he was being buried with military honors in his birth town of San Luis de la Paz, Mexico, interrupted the funeral and ordered the pallbearers to return to their vehicle. (They refused.) [hat tip: Apostablog] One begins to see a pattern developing in Mexico.

Of course, I don't really blame the Mexicans for being afraid: two of our Marines, armed with rifles that don't fire, could probably take their whole army.

Posted by Jeff at 04:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 05, 2004

What if he's got a Pointed Stick?

France is stating that it would "probabl[y]" use its nuclear arsenal to defend its neighbors against outside attack. (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) It's unclear, though, how France would defeat an uprising of armed Muslims, which is a possibility in much of Europe in the next decade or two; using nuclear weapons against an insurgency is not possible without essentially committing suicide. What will Europe do to defend itself, should the US decline to do so?

OK, it's likely that this message was aimed at Arab states seeking nuclear weapons, but wouldn't it be a lot easier in that case just to not sell them the means for making nuclear weapons?

Posted by Jeff at 06:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

July 01, 2004

Surge

Michael King notes an unprecedented test of naval deployment capability planned for the next few weeks: seven of our twelve carriers will deploy at one time to the South China Sea. This is more carriers than have been used at one time in any American war since the Korean War. Put in perspective, that is in the neighborhood of 350 aircraft - more combat-ready aircraft than any but a handful of the world's air forces can deploy - and seven mobile bases for them.

I think we are trying to make a point - either to China or North Korea (or both).

Posted by Jeff at 11:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

June 20, 2004

The "Unbiased" Media

I try to be very careful about naming people as enemies, because I believe that no quarter nor respite should be given to enemies: they should be killed, or compelled to surrender, and be quick about it. The BBC is coming very close to being an indisputable enemy in this war.

Posted by Jeff at 11:09 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 19, 2004

Islamintern

I've been struggling to come up with the right name for our enemy, and failing really. (I'm not the only one; the US hasn't formally named the enemy and we've been at war for 3 years!) Clearly, neither all Arabs, nor all Muslims, nor all Arab Muslims are our enemies; this rules out using either Arabs or Muslims or Arab Muslims as the proper term.

The problem with coming up with a good term, really, is this: the actual description of our enemies is "those Muslims who act according to a particular form of Islam which requires them to make war (jihad - a war specifically to obtain the approval of god, for lack of a better definition) against non-Muslims, and encourages any brutality against non-Muslims, and in particular those who accept the strictest interpretations of Shari'a law; as well as those who support, fund and shelter them; but only in the case that those people are attempting to make war against non-Muslims outside of their home area". Clearly, some way of shortening that is needed.

Islamists is suggestive, but not definitive, because you can be an evangelical Muslim without similarly believing that non-Muslims must be killed or forced into dhimmi status. Granted that there are significant tenets of Islam which would lead an evangelical Muslim to also believe that non-Muslims must in fact be killed or forced into dhimmitude, the term is useful, and I've used it quite a bit. Plus, it has the association with Fascist and Communist as ideologies divorced from explicit religion, which is nice since the enemy perverts Islam so thoroughly.

Islamo-fascist is useful, as it combines the personal ideology with the governmental ideology, as indeed the enemy combines them. The problem is that they are not two separate complementary ideologies for the enemy, but a single all-pervading whole. For the enemy, their god mandates that they kill us, as their god mandates every aspect of life, down to the most trivial. Indeed, anything not mandated by their god is not real to them. So the term is not very accurate, since it combines two Western idea-types to approximate one non-Western idea-type.

Fundamentalist Muslims used to be the term, but really it's inaccurate in that the brand of Islam at issue is not particularly true to Islam, per se, but draws extensively from the tribal customs of some particularly brutal tribes. In particular, the Taliban were an example of this, drawing from the Pashtun tribal heritage, which is among the most horrible set of customs I've come across.

Perhaps taking it from the point of view of a common doctrine will work, which is why I believe that the US government uses the term "terrorists and those who support them" as an all-purpose designation. Of course, that's pretty clumsy, and jihadi is better, as it incorporates both those who practice jihad and those who preach it as a mandatory duty. In fact, jihadi is one of the terms I've most commonly used.

I think Dan Darling, though, has just come up with a really useful referent: "Islamintern". By analogy to Comintern, it suggests a social (and in this case also religious) and governing structure which co-ordinates otherwise unrelated (but sympathetic) groups to further the ideology of the central leadership. That just about fits the bill.

Dan's actual quote, by the way, that got me thinking on this line is:

The complete lack of mention of Abdullah Azzam here is one of the first things that comes to mind. Azzam was bin Laden's mentor as well as the spiritual leader of the Afghan Arabs who were fighting the Soviets (I believe Hamas also claims him as one of their founders) and he was the man who first came up with the idea of establishing an Islamist internationale and helped to establish connections that went beyond traditional ethno-nationalist divisions that had previously divided various Islamist groups. There is also no mention of bin Laden's prior role in assisting the Saudi government in setting up jihadi groups to fight against the communists in South Yemen, which is how he first forged his ties to Prince Turki, who was then the head of the Saudi Mukhabarat. These would all seem to be rather important details.

(The references are to the 9/11 comission report, which I believe to be so deeply flawed as to be embarrassing and useless.)

Posted by Jeff at 02:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

"You Don't Appreciate What Happened...Until You See It"

The title of this post was Aaron Brown's justification for CNN showing the images of US troops humiliating prisoners (Saddam's former torturers, thugs and enforcers, mostly) at Abu Ghraib prison. Yet this justification is very one-sided: the media's ability to suppress squeamishness and decency to convey Truth only applies, apparently, when the "Truth" reflects badly on America in general, and President Bush and his policies in particular. National Review's Nick Schulz used Aaron Brown's theme to showcase that discrepancy, but was too decent to show the truth himself, and only described it.

I feel that it is necessary to know the enemy, to understand the moral difference between them and us, to have a defense against the constant media drumbeat of defeatism and moral equivalence. As a result, I've seen some of the horrors undertaken by our enemies, and have a context for viewing actions seen through the dim and deliberately clouded lens of Western media coverage. In this post, I intend to expose the full horrors of our enemy.

Warning


Do not go beyond this point unless you are prepared to be shocked and outraged, and frankly, sickened. There is evil and horror here beyond what most people's lives have prepared them for.

National Review's article describing the contents of a video showing a few clips of torture inflicted by Saddam's loyalists. Here is the video. If you can watch this and not see a moral difference between that and what the US soldiers have done - horrible at it is - stop reading now and stay off of my property. I don't want you here.

The beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg and Paul Johnson. Note the similarity of display between the Paul Johnson photographs and the beheading of the prisoner by Saddam's fedayeen. Does anyone doubt that the people who do this are evil? Does anyone think that this is limited to one group or subculture? Do you think they would show you more pity?

Lest you think that this method is reserved for Americans, here are a Russian soldier beheaded, a Russian civilian beheaded, and a Muslim civilian impaled.

Here is Frank Gardner, a BBC journalist, shot repeatedly in Saudi Arabia and left to die. Though calling out (in Arabic) "Help me! I am a Muslim!", the crowd standing around did not attempt to help him, even after the terrorists who attacked him had left.

War Nerd has a column on the genocide ongoing in the Sudan. (hat tip: Instapundit) This is text only, and while it describes a horrible situation, it is not as graphic as what is above. Unless you count the picture of the dying boy with the vulture waiting nearby. Basically, the Arab northerners are killing off the black southwesterners of the Darfur tribe (they've already pretty much done in the Dinkas), who are also Muslim but who are of a different racial type. This genocide will likely surpass Rwanda's ethnic slaughter of the mid-1990s, which killed about 1 million people.

So remember these when you hear people - frequently our own elected officials (I'm looking right at you, Ted Kennedy) or our own media (I'm looking right at you CNN) or our own columnists (I'm looking right at at you Christopher Hitchens) - tell us how terrible we are. I think we compare pretty damned well, myself.

In the Arab world, there is the concept of an "honor killing", where a woman who has dishonored the family is killed to restore their "honor". In many of these cases, the woman was raped, frequently by a male family member such as an uncle. Somehow, this makes the woman - or little girl - unclean and dishonored. Then her family kills her - sometimes because they are forced by social pressure and sometimes because they are genuinely outraged, at her - in order to preserve their "honor". This is sadly common in the Arab/Muslim world. Frankly, even after having to check the other images and videos in this post, I could not bring myself to post images of some of the dead girls, one as young as 7, that I found while researching this. I'm going to go off and drink heavily for a while now.

(I hope the links work: I couldn't bear to check them and thus see them again.)

Posted by Jeff at 12:36 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

June 18, 2004

The Silent Defeat of Palestinian Terror

In case anybody cares, Israel's policies of disengagement from and isolation of the Palestinians, and actually killing its enemies (the top leaders of the Palestinian terrorist gangs) is working, as was foreseen. The next step, which seems to me almost inevitible, is the descent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip into internecine warfare, ripping apart the remains of Palestinian society in a last gasp for power.

Posted by Jeff at 04:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Focal Points

It has been said of war that amateurs talk about tactics, while professionals talk about logistics. There has been a lot of talk about tactics in the war on terror lately: to what extent were Iraq and al Qaeda co-operating, where are the rest of the Iraqi WMD programs dismantled before and during the war, how extensive is the Darfur genocide going to become, has Zarkawi taken over operational control of al Qaeda in the greater Mid-East, will NATO contribute troops to Iraq, and so forth. The answers are actually utterly meaningless to determining the course of the war - no more important really than Midway was to determining the outcome of WWII in the Pacific.

Since Midway was the turning point, and resulted in the gutting of the Japanese Navy, most people assume that we would have lost the war in the Pacific if we had lost Midway as badly as the Japanese did. In fact this is not the case. Japan lost 4 carriers at Midway, of the 20 total it produced from the 1920's to the end of the war (some of which were never deployed due to lack of air crews). We had 3 carriers at Midway, of which we lost 1, but produced 15 carriers (not including escort carriers) in 1943 alone (by V-J day, we had commissioned 34 CVs and CVLs, had a good half-dozen being build, and had already cancelled many more). Even if we had lost all three carriers at Midway, and the Japanese had lost none, Japan would have been outnumbered and outclassed by the middle of 1943. Similarly, how many troops are in Iraq from which nations is a sideshow: unless we withdraw because of a moral failure, the US has enough troops committed to prevent Iraq falling apart.

In this war, logistics per se is not really at issue: the US can move its forces and those of its allies about, and keep them remarkably well-supplied. The jihadis are bound to supply more like medieval armies than modern ones, foraging off the civilian societies where they take root. There are a few issues which are key to the eventual outcome, however, in the same way that industrial production and the means to move supplies are key to a total war between industrial nations:

  • The morale of the US public in particular, and of the publics of free-market democracies in general (Europe, Japan, Korea, Australia, and Canada foremost among them). If the American will to fight collapses, the war will eventually be lost. This is why it is so frustrating to watch Western press coverage, which frequently seems to be hoping for our defeat, apparently without realizing that this is not Viet Nam: the enemy will follow us home this time.
  • Control of oil. The world needs it; the US protects its supply for the rest of the world; the major sources are largely on the jihadis' home ground. The oil for food scandal at the UN, the attacks on Western oil workers through the Mid-East and the attacks on oil tankers all figure in to who controls the oil. If the jihadis succeed in taking control of a large fraction of Mid-East oil, they will be in a position to dictate terms to most industrial nations, and to wreck many industrialized economies. If they are merely able to disrupt supplies extensively, they can wreck many industrialized economies.
  • The jihadi religio-cultural value system. In order for the democracies to win the Terror Wars, this ideology must be as thoroughly discredited as the Japanese militant nationalism of WWII.
  • The continued existence of states which sponsor, arm and/or protect terrorists. Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, at least, will need to be dealt with. As long as such states exist - or lawless areas like much of Africa where jihadis can find sanctuary - the war cannot be won by the West.
  • Nuclear proliferation. Should nuclear weapons ever come into the hands of the jihadis, the only likely outcome is genocide on a scale of millions.

These factors are key to the Terror Wars, and without understanding where we stand on these points, it is not possible to understand the state of the war. Sadly, our media is not well-equipped to evaluate and report these stories, because they aren't nearly as exciting as those few places where we are imperfect - or can be made to appear so. Nor are such stories nearly as likely to bring professional renown to a reporter as a hit piece on an American politician.

My I recommend Belmont Club, Little Green Footballs, USS Clueless and Winds of Change as good places to get such information?

Posted by Jeff at 02:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 17, 2004

In the Meantime

Bill Roggio posted a more detailed look at the status of Iran's nuclear program (hat tip: Winds of Change), catching onto the same statement I noted here. I have been thinking a lot about what we can do about Iran, given the inevitability of the eventual success of their nuclear program (unless we stop it) and the current state of the Terror Wars and of our forces. (Certainly the UN can't and won't stop the Iranian program.)

I believe that it is time for the US to strike at Iran's nuclear capability. I do not believe we can afford to wait for the elections; I do not believe that time is on our side; I do not believe that we can wait for Israel to act.

Iran is currently building centrifuges to enrich uranium, and apparently has had some success already. High-enriched and low-enriched uranium have been found in trace quantities, and the best guess that can be made from this is that Iran is within 2 years of having a real, ongoing enrichment capability. Nuclear weapons designs of Chinese origin (the same as were used by Pakistan in its successful program) are apparently already in Iran's hands. This means that within 2 to 3 years, Iran will have a nuclear weapon, and within 5-7 years, it could have a nuclear arsenal comparable to North Korea's.

OK, so why not wait for next Spring and then invade Iran? Mainly because it is unclear that Iraq will be stable enough by that time, particularly because Iran and Syria and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia are trying very intently to ensure that Iraq never becomes stable and democratic. Unless Iraq is stable, there will be a need to keep a substantial portion of our Army and Marines in Iraq; there are simply not enough troops left over to invade and occupy Iran.

If we began mobilizing the Guard and Reserves now, we would likely be able to mount a sufficient force, sufficiently equipped and trained, some 18 months from now. Needless to say, this move would be political suicide unless the President could explain the reasoning for it, and he could not do so without risking that the mission would fail to be launched, because Iran would have a great deal of time to prepare, and the Western media would have a great deal of time to bring down the morale of the voters and the public's will to support the attack.

If invasion of Iran is not possible before their program is complete, what other options are there? There are four that I see: bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, allow the Israelis to take care of the problem, bomb Iran generally, or incite revolution. (The North Korean option - bribe them outrageously in exchange for promises that they will, at some point, decide to not assemble nuclear weapons - has been exposed as the fraud that it has always been and I therefore do not consider it a reasonable attempt at actually solving the problem. Playing "kick the can" with nuclear weapons kept Clinton from having to make hard decisions, but it's playing havoc with our foreign policy in SouthEast Asia now.)

Bombing the Iranian nuclear facilities is likely already somewhat futile. There are two problems: the critical facilities are underground - deep, deep underground - and we don't have the kind of weapons necessary to reach them. Destroying what facilities they do have above ground might buy us some time, perhaps 2 or 3 years, and so is perhaps reasonable. Certainly, if we allow more time for Iran to harden their facilities, and to complete the work for which the above-ground facilities are suited, this option will be pretty much useless. For this reason, we must strike soon if we are to have much hope, and waiting until after the elections reduces our changes of success.

We can, of course, simply wait until Israel decides to take care of the problem. Iran has already stated that as soon as it obtains a nuclear capability it will strike Israel. Israel knows this, and has probably the fourth- or fifth-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Rather than submit to their own destruction, they would certainly use the arsenal. (What would you do in their place?) There are two problems with waiting for Israel, though. The first is that range and other factors make a sustained Israeli conventional bombing attack infeasible; at the least, they make it unlikely that such an attack would seriously hinder Iran's nuclear weapons program. The second problem is that Israel would (because of the first problem) likely strike with nuclear weapons. At the point that Israel was going to take the political and social hit from using nuclear weapons to defeat an enemy, it would be in their best interest to take out some other pernicious enemies: Syria, Hizb'allah, Saudi Arabia and perhaps Egypt spring to mind. I don't think we want to make such an attack - and the consequent near-genocide it entails - more likely.

Bombing Iran with the intent to force them to submit (as opposed to trying to destroy or hinder their nuclear program) has some merit. While the air campaign against Serbia shows that the US, given favorable conditions, can bring enough pressure to bear on a nation to cause it to surrender territory or other claims, the importance of the Iranian nuclear program is such that Iran would likely consider abandoning their nuclear program as tantamount to giving up their sovereignty and their form of government (and thus, the power of those who would have to make the decision to abandon the program). It is simply not possible to compel a stubborn enemy to surrender using only air power, though it is possible to destroy an enemy and his population from the air, particularly if that enemy sees surrender as being equivalent to or worse than its destruction.

Waiting for - even helping along - an Iranian revolution would perhaps be the best possible solution, though there's no guarantee that a new government would be either pro-US or likely to give up the nuclear program. In addition, any help given would be as likely to backfire (horribly and publicly) as to work, and supporting revolutions is, somewhat ironically, profoundly distasteful to Americans in general. Ignoring the distaste, the low probability of success is such that we cannot rely on such an option.

Given the options, I think the best course for the United States to take is to bomb all of Iran's above-ground nuclear facilities - even research labs at universities using F117s and B2s (so as to attack these targets without waiting for the suppression of enemy air defenses to be completed), to attack the enemy air defense infrastructure to allow our non-stealthy aircraft free range, and to target locations housing terrorists (such as al Qaeda and Taliban personnel and Hizb'allah headquarters). During the initial campaign, we would tell Iran in no uncertain terms that we next will attack oil export, military and leadership targets, should Iran fail to abandon - verifiably, permanently and completely, in the manner than Libya has - all of its nuclear programs. (While we're at it, we may as well demand the handover of terrorists in Iran and the cessation of support for terrorism. We're not likely to get it, but why start small?)

Such a strike also has the side benefit of concentrating Iran's attention, and thus likely reducing Iranian interference in Iraq over the short-term. And it is over the short-term that such a reduction is most needed, to allow the Iraqi government an easier birth.

This would not make us popular - as if we were anyway - but it would certainly make us safer for a little while. With complete success, should we be able to attain it, it could make us safer for a great while. And at the very least, such a campaign would reduce the eventual resistance when we finally get around to invading Iran, which would still be necessary at some point, unless the Iranian leadership suddenly completely changes their entire philosophy of life and governance. Further, even should John Kerry take office and cease actively fighting against terrorism and nuclear weapons proliferation (presumably, he would at least continue law enforcement efforts against terrorists), we may have bought ourselves enough time to last through such an administration before facing a nuclear-armed, fascist, totalitarian, terrorist-supporting, fundamentalist Islamist state which considers Israel an abomination and the US "the Great Satan".

The domestic political effect would likely be in the President's favor. Those who would most be offended at such a campaign would not support the President in any case. The President's current supporters would be more likely cheered than dismayed, and the undecided would likely (given the public response to Afghanistan and Iraq) break in the President's favor.

I hate thinking of the domestic political angle here, but the reality is that the only way we can lose this war is to lose our will, and that is a matter of domestic politics.

UPDATE (6/21): Brian James Dunn of the Dignified Rant has some very interesting and useful comments. I perhaps was unclear, in that I agree with Brian wholeheartedly that regime change in Tehran is the only long-term solution; it's what we do in the meantime that I was trying to address. If we can realistically facilitate revolution, I am all for it.

Posted by Jeff at 04:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

June 15, 2004

"We continued in the search for the infidels, and we slit the throats of those we found among them."

I have not yet reached Francis Porretto's conclusion, that there are no moderate Muslims. However, I'll be the first to say that Jim Miller's MEMRI find - an interview with the leader of a recent brutal attack on non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia - shows beyond a doubt that there are some Muslims who we need to kill, because if nothing else, September 11 taught us that when our enemies say they want to kill us to glorify their god, they mean it.

And let me be clear: I certainly support killing, in cold blood and in advance of their doing anything to actively carry out attacks, any person who maintains this attitude, including the preachers of jihad and the sycophants who chant "martyrs'" names in the street after a particularly brutal act of wanton destruction. This is a war, not a law enforcement action, and the end goal is victory - which sometimes just means survival - rather than justice.

Yes, this means I'm willing to accept that innocents will be killed. Here's a news flash: innocents are being killed, but right now they're mostly on our side. My only complaint about President Bush's conduct of the war is "faster, please."

UPDATE (6/17): Francis Porretto responds, and Michael Williams responds to that.

Posted by Jeff at 10:10 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

June 14, 2004

Pack of Lies

John Patrick Diggins has written an execreble revisionist history of the end of the Cold War in an article for the New York Times. Steven Den Beste ably takes the story apart - and story is the right word here.

If we all just try to get along, and hold out our hands to everyone else as friends, then war will be a thing of the past. That's the lesson of the history of the Reagan presidency that Diggins wants us to learn.

There's just one minor problem with that: it's a pack of lies.


Read the whole thing, of course. It's long, but very worth your time.

Posted by Jeff at 10:58 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 13, 2004

Drawing a Bullseye

Iran has been toying with drawing targets on its metaphorical chest for some time, but this time they've unambiguously done it:

"We won't accept any new obligations," Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi told reporters. "Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club," he said. "This is an irreversible path."

Iran must be thinking that it can cause enough instability in Iraq, with Syria's and al Qaeda's help, to keep the US busy until they can enrich sufficient materials for a nuclear warhead. That's not a bet to make lightly, and Iran's only hopes of avoiding a US invasion in the next two years are a Kerry victory or an internal revolution, both of which are at least plausible, but the latter obviously is not preferable to the Ayatollahs.

Oh, and whomever sold the centrifuge parts and magnets can expect some serious economic payback, should the US ever get serious about stopping proliferation, to the point we would sanction a European country over the issue.

Posted by Jeff at 06:49 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

June 11, 2004

Playing God

It must be tough to be God, in the Abrahamic conception of god. First, everyone resents the power and vision and control you have, until they need you to protect or provide for them. Second, there is not a moment where you are free from the special pleadings of multitudes to intervene in ways large and small, social and personal, and frequently in multiple contradictory ways on the same issue or event. If you intervene you are either feared or resented or, most likely, both, and if you do not you are held in contempt and abused.

How's that for a segue into an article about the workings of the international order? Robert Koehler at the Marmot's Hole has a fine essay on anti-Americanism and the US-ROK alliance, which brings up this issue.

Personally, I think the best way to abate anti-Americanism in South Korea is not through reassuring Seoul, but by letting it fend for itself. So much of the anti-Americanism simply comes from naivete about the way the world works. And South Koreans aren't to blame for this -- we are. Some of this is simply the natural result of being a hegemon -- in the end, it's the U.S. which must shoulder the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the international system runs smoothly because we built the system. But hegemony -- contrary to popular belief -- is a team sport, and everyone's got their role to play. American policy makers, being the control freaks they are (probably an understandable malady considering 20th century U.S. history), tend toward overprotection (or over-involvement, depending on your point of view). That breeds not only resentment and contempt, but also a lack of appreciation of the general nastiness that is global politics and strategy. It's easy to condemn U.S. policies in the Middle East when you're not forced to seriously consider how the gas you just put in your Hyundai Sonata got from Abu Dhabi to the LG Caltex gas station in Seoul. If there were Korean boots on the ground in the Middle East and Korean naval vessels patrolling the Persian Gulf, however, not only would Seoul come to appreciate the difficult choices Great Powers have to make, but it might also come to understand why it is that a state like the U.S. could be concerned with the threat posed by a state like North Korea selling nukes to parties that are annoyed at its pursuit of its national interests.

Anti-Americanism in South Korea may simply be a phase in national development. When Korea was weak, it needed us, and its choices were few. Now that it's a powerful state with interests of its own, it resents the limits its relationship with the U.S. places on it while perceiving that its interests may not necessarily coincide with Washington's. At the same time, the role it has played in the U.S. global security system has been so limited that neither its policy makers nor its citizens fully appreciate the realities of international power politics, and instead see only the contradictions between idealistic U.S. rhetoric and some of the less pleasant aspects of U.S. behavior abroad.

This will only change once the relationship between Korea and the U.S. moves more toward "equality."


The US has, since WWII, been the guarantor of freedom of movement across international borders, of freedom of the seas, and frequently of peace and stability. The world combined would be hard-pressed to outdo the US alone in power projection or economic capacity or influence. Cries of the US being forced to rely on the UN primarily are made in ignorance or desperation, because the US would not find its foreign policy changed at all should the UN simply disappear, while the rest of the world would lose the collective influence the UN provides them over the US. "Legitimacy" is a phantasm intended to tie down the US, not a statement of any objective state of affairs, and the ability of the UN to influence world events exists only so long as the US believes that the UN is itself a legitimate actor on the world stage.

We are truly the elephant in the room of international politics.

And for that, we suffer the slings and arrows of the Abrahamic God: we are condemned and despised for not acting (George Bush's first 8 months in office) and condemned and feared for acting (since 9/11). It is only when we pretend to act, but do nothing, that we are merely held in contempt. The root of anti-Americanism is simply that America's benevolent shield over most of the civilized world provides the rest of the civilized world with the ability to act like petulant teenagers, and so they frequently do.

There is a cure, though, a way to provide stability and predictability to the international order, increase liberty (and thus security and prosperity) around the world, and ensure that nations behave more like adults. The United States must take the worlds unruly countries under its wing, and compel others (old Europe, S Korea, etc) to act responsibly. The basic idea is simple: treat countries based on their characteristics, require of them based on their abilities, and make the spread of free people and free markets the key goal of our foreign policy. Overall, this can be summed up into a goal of spreading liberty and rewarding or punishing nations and organizations based upon their willingness to act responsibly on the world stage.

The devil is in the details, of course, and a goal implies a strategy. (As George Will once said, when asked if supporting President Clinton's impeachment meant he supported making Al Gore president, "Who wills an end must will a means to that end.") Here is a basic (and not yet very well thought out) idea of a strategy to fulfill that goal:

  • Make the spread of Enlightenment values (individual liberty and free trade in particular) the key goal of our foreign policy.
  • Deal with countries bi-laterally, or through purpose-specific coalitions, not through collectivist institutions (eg, the UN), which are inherently inimical to the goal of advancing freedom, or static "alliances", which are inherently focused on a particular problem which may no longer exist (eg, NATO).
  • Be prepared to use military and economic power in pursuit of that goal. In particular, be prepared to eliminate tyrannies and create trusteeships to guide former tyrannies towards freedom and prosperity.
  • Condition our behavior towards other countries on how free and prosperous they are. In particular, the degree of trade and political influence a country has should depend upon this.
  • Provide for the security of trustee areas, and their commerce and citizens abroad. Withdraw from coercive involvement in trustee areas as soon as they have the basic conditions of freedom (particularly property rights, representative government, rule of law, and freedom of expression). Withdraw protection as soon as they are able to reasonably protect themselves.
  • Ensure that tyrannies and villainous countries are contained and isolated.
  • Allow nations to own nuclear weapons only when those nations are free (individual liberties and political freedom).

In effect, this is a call for a "liberty empire", where the "empire" exists for the purpose of destroying tyranny, establishing a free state in its place, and then withdrawing to take on the next tyranny. It would not be an empire in the colonial or mercantile sense; nor would it be ruled as a tyranny itself.

I'm not certain that this is the correct path for the US to take, but I do think it should be on the table for discussion.

Posted by Jeff at 11:18 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

June 08, 2004

Reorientation

The military is pulling ground forces from Korea and Germany. This is something which has been under discussion for some years, and marks a realization of the end of the Cold War. Most importantly in terms of our warfighting ability, it means that we have more easily-deployable forces, because we no longer have to worry (once the move is complete) about tensions in Korea or Europe fixing those troops in place when we need them elsewhere.

All in all, this is a very good move to make, and should alleviate some of the overstretch we've been experiencing particularly since the start of the Iraq War. Remaining steps to take to truly reorient US military forces to the Terror Wars will include:

  • Continuing to upgrade expendables production capacity. The issues particularly arise with class V (ammunition) and IX (repair parts) supplies, though the shortage of body armor in Iraq got more press.
  • Continuing to turn less useful units (like air defense, some artillery and the like) into infantry, MP or Civil Affairs units. Really, this needs to be done by disbanding the old units and creating new ones; the repurposing of units being done in Iraq is field-expedient. (This includes reductions in the number of REMFs in Washington - the bureaucracy of the military needs to be cut to put more teeth in.)
  • Creation of a nation-building force structure. Some experiments are ongoing in Iraq towards such a structure, with political warfare as an explicit mission.
  • Additional units may well have to be raised. Certainly, it would be to our advantage to be at the force levels of 1991 at least.
  • Purchasing additional transport assets - particularly KC-10s, C-17s and fast sea transports - in order to deploy units more quickly when troubles arise.
  • Creating permanent basing in Iraq for some units, both land and air, to give permanent access to the Middle East theater. Really, instead of moving units to the US from Germany and Korea, moving them here would be more useful.

There are many other things to be done, certainly, but I see all of the above items as vital to enabling us to outpace our enemies. By raising the OPTEMPO and keeping a constant pressure on all parts of the enemy's organization, we can do a lot to collapse his will to fight and, more importantly, his support and standing among the majority of the Arab/Muslim populations, and it is to this end that we must orient the military in order to win the military fight.

Reorienting the press and the legislature will be harder.

Posted by Jeff at 09:27 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 07, 2004

Thinking Scary Thoughts

The scary thing about this compelling takedown of American traitors (Communists during the Cold War, and their sympathisers among historians and foreign-affairs specialists) is that the equivalent may be happening all over again. The population of "useful fools" seems endless.

(Thanks to Pejman Yousefzadeh for the Reason link.)

Posted by Jeff at 12:44 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 03, 2004

Flypaper and Flywheels

It has been said that the US presence in Iraq acts as a kind of "flypaper", attracting anti-US elements - who now have their enemy close at hand - to fight our military in the field, instead of building their strength to attack American civilians in the US itself. There is some evidence that this effect is indeed occurring. In a sense, the US is striking at the core weaknesses of Arab/Muslim leaderships: the tendency of their supporters to react emotionally and territorially; the desire of many of their subjects to have the freedom, justice and material success offered by the West; their pride/shame culture; and the almost subhuman treatment accorded to vast swathes of their populations. By pushing - hard - on all of these buttons at once, there is a possibility that the leaders - all autocratic - of the jihad will be forced to confront a fate frequently visited on autocrats: the rebellion of their subjects in the hopes of a better life. (This would, it must be noted, almost require the undermining of a central tenet of fundamentalist Islam: life can't get better because this is how god wants it to be. Fundamentalist Islam is remarkably fatalistic; it's like Calvinism with a chip on its shoulder.)

But the jihadis are not passive participants: they are actively working to bring the West - particularly Israel and the US - low, and March 11th in Madrid shows that they understand some of the fault lines in the West. Wretchard at Belmont Club brings up an example of how this might play out in jihadi planning in his fictional "memo to Osama" (here, here and here).

I believe that the most important defense that the West has so far had against the jihadis has been the very, very limited understanding that the jihadis have of the West. In a way, the West actually has fewer dangerous internal faults than the Arab/Muslim world: we allow for sufficient freedom that people generally are happier with their lives than in non-Western societies, but express less happiness with their lives. In other words, we have enough potential to change our society for the better that we get (very visibly) frustrated with any imperfections we perceive.

But it should not be thought that there are no weaknesses, and in particular that these weaknesses are less dangerous than those of our enemies. The analogy I keep coming back to is a flywheel. A flywheel spins very, very fast. The faster it spins, the more perfect it must be. A slight imperfection, harmless in a relatively slow flywheel, will tear a very fast flywheel apart, because there are huge stresses imposed on the flywheel by its own weight as it spins.

Similarly, the West "spins" very quickly in relation to the rest of the world. A news event that would take a month to be absorbed and moved past in the Arab world is barely one news cycle in the West. While Islam looks back on the fall of the Ottoman Empire (at the end of WWI) as a "current event" in many ways, we of the West can barely remember events of just 3 years ago.

As a result, fractures in the West propagate very quickly: the bombing of the Madrid trains on March 11 resulted in the fall of the anti-appeasement Spanish government on March 13. A major attack in the US this Summer, designed to cast blame on the current administration for not preventing an "obvious" scenario (in hindsight, almost everything is obvious), could cause the election to be thrown to the pro-appeasement voices in the US - and would certainly not cause any real harm to al Qaeda in the short-term if it fails: how much more active is the US going to get in the Terror Wars?

The Terror Wars are hanging in the balance right now: events could go either way. The question that Wretchard raises indirectly is whether the flywheel of the West will spin itself apart over internal faultlines, exploited by the jihadis, or whether the jihadis will be destroyed by the slow and steady erosion of their base. Whichever comes first leaves the other side in possession of the field and the initiative, and therefore is likely to decide the outcome (though it will likely be years before the outcome is evident).

Posted by Jeff at 10:34 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 31, 2004

Imagine

P.J. O' Rourke imagines giving the world what it wants, an America more like them. Read it; it's brilliant.

Posted by Brian at 03:41 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 28, 2004

Hey, I've Got an Idea!

Let's get the UN involved in Iraq. Then, they can use their ambulances to shuttle around the terrorists attacking us, and run weapons to them, like they do in Israel.

Tell me again why we are still a member of the UN? It's questionable whether the UN could continue without the US, but it's pretty obvious that people would still talk to the US on much the same terms whether or not we are a member of the UN.

Posted by Jeff at 03:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 25, 2004

One Day?

Michael Totten notes that the most serious abuses - all of the pictures we keep seeing - at Abu Ghraib happened in one day. That is something I've seen nowhere else, and which would seem to bear heavily on whether or not the problem is systemic, and how it's being handled.

Note: his source is the New York Times, so it's possible that the information is wrong or mis-represented, though the fact that this would be in favor of the administration's case means that it's more likely true than not; the Times only tends to make up things against the administration.

Posted by Jeff at 12:29 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 20, 2004

April 9 in Baghdad

This is the kind of story that Americans need to hear more of. It puts events in a lot better perspective than the "traffic accident reporting" style of the major media, and more to the point there are important things to learn here.

Like not all Iraqi civilians who are killed are truly non-combatant, or that we need to put some serious force protection efforts into these convoys. (Find where the enemy is attacking us, then engage them there!)

More to the point, this is the kind of thing to think about when you read things like this:

April 9 was also the day that seven American contractors working for a subsidiary of Halliburton and two military men disappeared after their supply convoy was attacked on the outskirts of Baghdad. Four of the Halliburton workers and one of the military men have since been confirmed dead. Halliburton worker Thomas Hamill escaped his captors May 2 and returned home to Mississippi on Saturday. The other two Halliburton workers and the other soldier remain missing.

Posted by Jeff at 10:26 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Public Intelligence

If you think that the issues of WMD stockpiles in Iraq, 9/11 happening at all, and other such incidents shows that our governmental intelligence is a sad joke, check out the dissection of our public intelligence system - the major media - by Belmont Club. The main point of his article is about the lack of context and orientation in media reporting: how the reports are like traffic reporting, unconnected in space and time.

He notes something also that I've been watching for a while: how initial reports overlay later, more accurate reports, and once the accurate reports are available the event is no longer "news". So the image the public is left with is the initial, inaccurate report, which is usually taken primarily from sources hostile to the US, in the case of reporting in Arab countries.

I believe that this is why the major news media is falling apart: people are beginning to realize that there is not continuity between a military "quagmire" and a total victory less than a week later, "economic disaster" and rapidly-rising economic growth and jobs. People on the whole are basically logical and intelligent over time, and as more people get to cognitive dissonence over new reports, there are two responses: distrust the reports, or join the rabid Left or rabid Right folks who think that black is white or white is black, as long as it's not what the domestic political opposition is saying today.

Since most people aren't political, the result is generally increasing distrust of "news" sources.

Posted by Jeff at 10:59 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 19, 2004

Losing the Moral High-Ground? They Admit we Once Had It?

The Dignified Rant - a far-too-undervalued blog - has this interesting post about America "losing the moral high-ground". It's short and well worth the reading time.

Really, though, the Europeans don't need to worry much about Iran attaining nuclear capability: the moment that they do so, Israel will destroy Iran utterly, and may decide that once it's gone that far, it might as well take out Syria and Saudi Arabia, and maybe Egypt for good measure. After all, they would have to destroy Iran or be destroyed, and once they'd taken that step, they might as well take out their other threats; no further moral condemnation would come to them for it over simply destroying Iran.

Posted by Jeff at 08:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

That Saves Some Time

I don't have to write about actual sarin (nerve) gas found in an actual shell made into an actual IED actually used against actual US troops in Iraq, and the chirping of the media crickets who spent months telling us that no such thing exists, because James Lileks has taken care of that quite succinctly already:

So they found a sarin shell? Eh. Halliburton put it there, it was old, and besides everyone knew Saddam had WMD, and we gave him the sarin anyway, and it would be news if we found 400 shells, but if they were old undeclared shells they wouldn’t count because they weren’t a threat to us anyway – do you know that most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi? Why aren’t we invading them? Not that we should, that would TOTALLY be about oil, anyway , did you read Doonesbury today? He had this giant hand talking in a press conference. This big giant floating hand. I think it was a reprint. I like when he has that bald dude who’s in charge of some Iraqi city. Bald dude is like, wasted.

The rest of the Bleat is - like almost all Lileks' writing - also worth reading.

Posted by Jeff at 10:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Kasparov on the War

Garry Kasparov has a good editorial in the Wall Street Journal today, well worth reading, on the nature of the war and the necessity to name the enemy.

I've long been of the opinion that we need to declare war and in the process to name our enemy. This would not only free the hands of this and future presidents to pursue the war effectively, it would also end the ambiguous nature of the fight. It almost doesn't matter how the war is named, as long as it's against an identifiable enemy (rather than, say, a tactic, such as terrorism). My preference would be "people and organizations which practice terrorism; nations, organizations and people who support people and organizations which practice terrorism or protect those who do so; and nations, organizations and people who proliferate nuclear weapons technology to nations, organization or people who practice terrorism or support or protect those who do so." There needs to be a term for this, because that's a mouthful.

More to the point of Kasparov's article, it would change the terms. Right now the opponents of American or Israeli or coalition action can simply change the terms any time they see fit. Israel is the classic example of this: armed Arab fighters who are in the process of attacking Israeli children are "militants", while armed Arab fighters who are not in the process of attacking Israeli children (but who were on their way to do so) are "civilians". When Israel raids terrorist bomb factories, only "civilians" or "Palestinians" are killed, and they are always named and, if under 18, given an age. The same does not happen to Israelis, where terms of derision are applied to the victims of Arab violence, and they are seldom given names, ages or pictures.

By naming the enemy in a declaration of war, everyone would have to take sides. One couldn't avoid this by changing the terms, because a declaration of war makes the issue concrete: either you are with us, or you are with <insert enemy here>.

Posted by Jeff at 09:52 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 17, 2004

Mantra

Some things you just have to keep repeating to yourself until you believe them:

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush lied; people died. The inspections would have found any weapons if they existed.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Bush lied; people died. The inspections would have found any weapons if they existed.

Or maybe that's all a bunch of self-deluding crap to avoid any moral responsibility. Yes, that's more like it.

Posted by Jeff at 03:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 14, 2004

The Place is a Madhouse; Feels Like Being Cloned

The backstory around the murder of Nick Berg is getting weird. I didn't post on this when I first saw it, because it smelled of a disinformation campaign. But there are too many reliable sources to ignore it now, so I've got to get something out:

It doesn't matter if Nick Berg's father supports A.N.S.W.E.R., is actually a communist (assumed because of his support for an organization of unreconstructed Stalinists), blames President Bush for his son's death. Nothing else about his father or his family matters, either.

It doesn't matter that Nick Berg was apparently Jewish.

It doesn't matter that he had connections to Zaccarias Moussawi, and may have had other connections to al Qaeda.

It doesn't matter who detained him, why, or for how long.

It doesn't matter that he refused a flight out of the country, or ignored the recommendation of US officials to leave.

All that matters is this: Nick Berg was an American, who was beheaded because he was an American with the temerity to try to help the people of Iraq. And if we allow the type of people who beheaded Nick Berg to triumph in this war, every American is in serious danger of that fate.

Posted by Jeff at 07:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 13, 2004

Amazed, Really

I know that things look bad right now, with the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by their American guards at Abu Ghraib, the high death toll last month due to the fighting in Falluja and around Najaf, and the increasingly desperate acts of the enemy (such as the abhorrent beheading of Nick Berg and the barbarous treatment of the bodies of the food convoy guards in Falluja) as we start the handover of governing power to Iraqis. But the more I read letters from people on the scene, and the more I see the results of our strategy of making the problems in Iraq the problem of the Iraqis, the more hopeful I become.

I still think we'll have troops in Iraq 20 years from now, but I have been coming to believe that the combat and occupation portions of that 20 years may be only 3 or 4 years long, rather than the 10 I was originally estimating (comparable to, say, Japan's occupation after WWII). Frankly, I'm amazed at the job that Bremer has done - it would have been more likely for Iraq to fall apart than for power to be handed over on time - and that America has done in Iraq in general.

Don't get me wrong: I realize how fragile and dangerous the situation still is. The difference is, I'm beginning to think that our high-risk strategies (which have been causing fits among the more impatient supporters of the war) are going to pay off. And the higher the risk, the higher the gain.

Posted by Jeff at 11:49 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

"War is Cruelty and you Cannot Refine It"

The quote that is the title of this post is from General Sherman, famous for his systemic way of war that, above all, laid waste to Atlanta (nod to my current project manager: Sherman spared areas that put up no resistence). Rev. Donald Sensing, a former artillery officer, makes a post worth reading on how Americans approach war. As I said a year ago (and frequently before that, though not on this blog), "If you pose an existential threat to us, we are the most ruthless bastards on the face of the Earth, and we will bend you to our wills, or we will kill you." Rev. Sensing points to this chilling quote by D.W. Brogan:

For Americans war is almost all of the time a nuisance, and military skill is a luxury like Mah-Jongg. But when the issue is brought home to them, war becomes as important, for the necessary period, as business or sport. And it is hard to decide which is likely to be the more ominous for the Axis - an American decision that this is sport, or that it is business.

For some reason, people around the world (even many in America) fail to understand that our surface civility is a result of our deeper understanding, seldom expressed, that Americans are able and willing to slaughter without mercy or limit when pressed. If they could understand that, they'd be less likely to press us. Because eventually, when the mask of civility falls away (as it did in the Civil War and WWII), there will be hell to pay, and we will be collecting the tab.

I fear we are near that point now. I feel it in my bones. How many more Daniel Pearls, how many more Nick Bergs, before America decides that it is us or them? And when we do, how many will graves will we leave behind when Johnny comes marching home?

Posted by Jeff at 12:16 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 05, 2004

Naming the Enemy

Michael Totten names the enemy. One of the points he brings up is that there is not broad agreement on who the enemy is, precisely. This once again points out the need for a formal declaration of war by the US: such a declaration would officially name the enemy, and make unity of policy far more likely than it can now be. However, I don't know that this would be politically possible now prior to the election, because the process would become a way for the Democrats to embarass President Bush, rather than a way of formalizing American policy.

Posted by Jeff at 11:38 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Allies, Friends, Opponents and Enemies

While Steven Den Beste and I differ slightly on criteria for classifying the parties in the current global struggle (he looks at long-term philosophical trends, while I look at present goals and their antecedent philosophies); and thus would differ at the margins over who are allied, friendly, opposed or enemy; those differences are very minor in the range of philosophies about the Terror Wars. Steven lays out his classification, and explores some of the implications of it. It's a worthwhile read.

Posted by Jeff at 10:51 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

Slogging On

Like any other human activity, war is so varied and complex that it is hard to generalize; so hard that virtually no categorical statement about war will ever be true in every case. Thus this thesis is open to challenge:

I see war as generally dividing into six (not entirely linear) phases: tension, attempt to overthrow, stabilization, pursuit, collapse and aftermath.

Tension builds as two (or more) parties realize that they have conflicting goals. Each side believes it can win (if not, there will be no war, because the side which believes it will lose will cut a deal), and each girds for war - so long as each recognizes the threat posed by the other. The vast majority of people will not recognize this as any different from normal diplomatic wrangling, and will generally tend to dismiss those tensions that would naturally lead to war while playing up those that can be solved. Even diplomats are not immune to this tendency.

The attempt to overthrow is the first initial burst of offensive activity. The goal is to induce the enemy to collapse utterly without a prolonged war. The action here is fast and furious and large-scale - in modern wars it is always at least an attempt at a blitz. The associated emotion is euphoria on the part of the attacker and determination on the part of the defender: the attacking side is convinced they can win without a long war, while the defender is certain he can beat back the attack.

If this fails, a stabilization period sets in, where the sides are relatively well-matched. The goal is to shape the war to provide structural advantages to one's own side, such as ensuring that the enemy is deprived of some critical resource that is used over time so that a long war will favor you. The action here is incremental, unpredictable to those not in on the grand plan, often confusing and generally small-scale. The associated emotion is concern: the attacker is let down by his failure to overthrow, while the defender sees a host of problems besetting him and, though happy at preventing an overthrow, is not yet convinced of his ability to win.

These two stages can go back and forth. The initial attacker, having been repulsed, might renew the offensive in another attempt to overthrow the defender, or the strategic defender could gain an advantage that allows him to make an overthow attempt. More usually, among well-matched powers, the stabilization will be a long, hard slog of incremental gains and incremental losses. The longer and harder this looks, the more despairing both sides will be, especially so in a democratic nation, where the free press naturally amplifies negative news to a hoarse shout, while burying positive news in amongst the comics.

Eventually, one side or the other will have gained a structural advantage large enough to start turning into tactical advantages, and the battles will become increasingly one-sided. As this happens, victory becomes noticably at hand for the side which is now on the offensive. Action begins to look like an attempt at overthrow again, which in fact it is, and the prevailing emotions now are back to euphoria for the attacker, and despair for the defender.

Finally, the defender will collapse (note that this might not be the same party who started the war on the defensive; by 1944 Germany was the defender, even though it had started WWII as the attacker), and be routed, followed by either disengagement or occupation by the attacker. This sets up the aftermath, wherin the costs and benefits of the war are tallied up, the new international order recognized and formalized, and the seeds of the next war usually sown (WWII being a notable and rare counter-example).

I think that this war has followed the pattern, with a small twist. The enemy attempt at overthrowing the US came after a long period of increasing tension characterized by major attacks which, by and large, were seen by most Americans as background noise; a pair of destroyed embassies and the other attacks simply don't excite us much in the post-Viet Nam era. On 9/11, the enemy attempted to overthrow us, causing us to accede completely to their demands. (Much as they did in Spain, more successfully, on 3/11/04.) When this failed to break our will, the balance of forces was such that we immediately seized the initiative (that being the twist - normally this is not possible to do quickly), attempting to overthrow the enemy first in Afghanistan, which shook the enemy deeply but was unsuccessful, then in Iraq, which was only partially an overthrow attempt: mostly Iraq is part of the stabilization phase, where we've realized the enemy won't go easily, so we have set ourselves up with a base of operations in the enemy's back yard, which we now must defend against all comers until we are able to shape the long-term war to our advantage.

The enemy strategy has become pretty clear: 1) divide the US from its allies; 2) demoralize the US via a complicit or at least credulous Western media; 3) make incremental gains in border skirmishes like Nigeria; 4) terrorize non-radicalized Muslims to keep them off the coalition's side.

The US strategy is also clear: 1) hold the coalition together, and broaden it if possible; 2) grind down the enemy resources in the field (which we can replace more easily than they); 3) remove enemy sources of supply and refuge; 4) win the non-radicalized Muslims to our side (or at least make terrorism their problem); 5) prevent additional enemy overthrow attempts within the US or major allies if possible.

The war in Iraq hurts us with item 1 in our strategy, while helping greatly with items 2, 3 and hopefully 4 (if we can create a stable representative government there).

I believe that we can expect the Iraqi occupation to be ongoing - whether directly under our control or just with our assistance to the Iraqi government - for at least another 3-5 years, possibly longer. One way to shorten the war, and to bring the advantage of time and resources more to our side, would be to invade Iran or, with lesser effect, Syria. We cannot do this with the current force structure, however, and I don't see us being able to do so for at least another two years unless we make some major changes in our ground forces, either by enlarging them, or activating the reserve component more fully, or by reorganizing more quickly that appears to be the plan, or by ditching commitments to the Balkans and Korea.

It's unclear where the incremental work now going on will lead, though I suspect that the major attempt will be to attrit enemy personnel and deny them secure bases of operation while we attempt to stabilize Iraq. The war could thus be inconclusive for several years, and I believe that it is incumbent on the President to show us enough of the plan to give us reasons not to give up, while it is up to us to not give up, and to ensure that the President we choose in November will not give up either.

Donald Rumsfeld was right, though, it's going to be a long, hard slog.

Posted by Jeff at 10:18 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

April 29, 2004

A Broader Jihad

Robert Garcia Tagorda points out the new strategy al Qaeda seems to be following to gain recruits and allies: division of Europe from America by playing up secular anti-Americanism, leading romantic young Europeans to effectively join al Qaeda in search of meaning for their lives. What is so scary about this is how likely it is to succeed. Europe has long been fertile ground for romantic, autocratic visions, and it's been the young men there who fervently jump into such causes. Fascism, Naziism, Marxism, Communism and Islamism are all rooted in the same fundamental idea: the world would be better if we let a strong leader (Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, bin Laden) sweep away the failures of the past and defeat the enemies of progress (lovers of individual liberty, Jews, teachers and intellectuals, capitalists, Americans). It's only after the bodies pile up by the millions - and not always then - that we recognize the error.

What is often lost in our societal teaching of history is that freedom, individual Liberty, limited government, social equality, good education, good health and near-universal wealth (consider that American poor are still among the 5% wealthiest people on the planet!) are all historical aberrations. (I'm cynical enough to believe that this lack of education is an intentional result of the Gramscian "Long March Through the Institutions".) Even now, the Enlightenment is effectively dead in Old Europe, and is fading in much of the Anglosphere. Even in the US, the Enlightenment is under constant and determined attack.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and our progeny to counter at all points the failed ideologies of the Left at home. Otherwise, we will be too weak to counter such ideas abroad when they sweep over entire continents - continents now possessing nuclear weapons, and focused on the US and Israel as the chief devils of the world.

Posted by Jeff at 10:27 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 28, 2004

Somebody Else's Problem

I must admit that parts of President Bush's strategy on terrorism have me stumped. I realize that to some degree this is because President Bush acts like a businessman instead of a politician: he sets goals and then manages by exception, looking for things that are broken instead of micromanaging those things that are imperfect but working. I also realize that there are limits to what he can say, because the enemy will hear as well, and knowing your enemy's strategy is the first step in defeating him: if the Islamists know the details, they'll be prepared for them.

Still, I think I've teased out a thread that I haven't seen discussed elsewhere, and the more I think about it the more I am convinced that I am right: President Bush is turning terrorism into an Arab/Muslim, as opposed to a US/Western, problem.

Consider President Bush's early answer (and he's been consistent since) to whether more troops were needed in Iraq: "As a matter of fact, the strategy is to, is to have more troops but they would be Iraqi troops, Iraqi police, Iraqi civil defense corps, and there's about 160,000 trained Iraqis that are in charge of their own security. The truth of the matter is for Iraq to emerge as a free society, the Iraqi citizens must step up".

Or consider the current strategy around Falluja: negotiate with local leaders to do the job, rather than level the part of the city where the insurgents are holed up; or around Najaf: point out to Sistani how Sadr threatens him, and let him take care of it.

Or consider President Bush's strategy on the Palestinians: offer them a chance, and when they don't take it, get off Israel's back and at the same time tell other Arab nations that they need to permanently resettle displaced Palestinians. Or consider our actions in Afghanistan, where we are providing the heavy striking power while training up an Afghan Army which is slowly building up strength and not only chasing Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents, but also displacing local warlords' armies over time as well. Or consider our treatment of Saudi Arabia: pull out the troops and give no shield for the Saudis from the terror they have spent decades nurturing.

In the end, I believe that President Bush's strategy is to secure the US and our coalition allies (and hopefully Old Europe, though that's largely up to the Europeans), provide a safe haven for representative government in Iraq (and possibly other countries like Iran and Syria), pull nuclear weapons off the table by destroying regimes that are close to developing them, and ensure the flow of oil. The effect of such a strategy, if successfully implemented, would be to remove the West as a productive theater for attacks, while removing America's protection from despotic Arab/Muslim regimes. This would make the Islamist's most productive target those despotic Arab/Muslim regimes that birthed terrorism as State policy, and will thus force those countries to clean up the problem.

As long as we are able to transmit that strategy (assuming that is the strategy) between administrations in the same way that we transmitted containment during the Cold War, there's a chance that we can end terrorism eventually without actively occupying all of the countries that sponsor terrorism.

Posted by Jeff at 10:13 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 23, 2004

Odds of Armageddon

Demosophia has a thought-provoking post laying out the human-nature influences on the meta-conflict between Islamism and the West, and the inability of traditional social contracts to contain the inherent feud that arises from that meta-conflict. Read the whole thing, then come back.

Welcome back. While Demosophia's analysis is largely correct, it seems to me, there is one place where I believe that he has made an error. Demosophia, in arguing that time is not on our side, states:

To be sure, absent the intervention of human technology the role of nature would tend to stabilize the feudal struggle within the Middle East, and between the Middle East and the West. The Ummah and the House of War could arrange some sort of truce, even if it weren't quite as pristine as the one that Henley envisions. The natural boundaries would lower the frequency of interaction to the point that it could be managed by a modest set of contracts, and cultural evolution could catch up to the recursive loop of the feud. But nature doesn't mediate any longer, and time is therefore not on our side. There are so many routes to Trent's scenario, or to Wretchard's Three Conjectures, all developing simultaneously and with great speed, that the probability that one of those routes would be traveled within a decade approaches 1. Even if time were on our side in the long run (which it probably is not) the urgent would still bar the way to the important.

I did some back of the envelope calculations, and I figure that the odds of large-scale (ie, more than a handful of weapons) nuclear exchange occurring over the next 10 years are no greater than 0.3. Over a 25-year period the odds are closer to 0.9, assuming that we are not successful at democratizing the Middle East, or destroying the philosophical underpinnings of Islamism. The largest factors (and also the largest unknowns) are the possibility of a non-State actor acquiring nuclear weapons, and the possibility of Iran achieving sufficient nuclear materials to build a weapon and this becoming known to Israel. Other, smaller-scale, risks include conflict between India and Pakistan, proliferation in SE Asia (in response to N Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons) leading to conflict, internal collapse of N Korea leading to conflict, Brazilian acquisition of nuclear weapons capability combined with an Argentine civil collapse, and loss of control of Russian or Pakistani nuclear stockpiles.

If either of those major events occurs, the odds of a large-scale nuclear exchange approach unity. If neither of those events occurs, the odds of such an exchange are small - certainly smaller than the odds of an exchange in the mid-1960s or late-1970s were. (By contrast, acquisition of nuclear weapons by Brazil would barely change the odds of an exchange.)

The problem is, I don't really see us doing what we need to be doing to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, though it'll be late-2005 before that will be conclusive. I believe that we are working very hard - and probably will be successful - at keeping non-State actors from acquiring nuclear weapons. Given that, I figure the odds of non-State actors getting nuclear weapons are quite small, while the odds of Iran obtaining sufficient material are quite a bit larger, but still under 20% (as I assume that the US will act against Iran in the next 24 months).

Does that make me an optimist or a pessimist, figuring that there are 1 in 3 odds of a major nuclear exchange within 10 years, most likely Israel utterly destroying Iran?

Posted by Jeff at 10:14 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

April 22, 2004

It's OK to be Alone and Right

With Spain and Honduras pulling their troops from Iraq, and Thailand considering the same, with the continued criticism of the US from most nations (and even many Americans) for the act of defending itself, with the fragility of many of our allies (especially Tony Blair) and with the ease of retreating in the face of terror instead of confronting it (at least, until it's defend yourself now or die now), Americans need to prepare themselves for the possibility that we will be fighting this war nearly alone.

In a way, we are in much the same position that Great Britain was in at the start of the Napoleonic wars: the most free nation on Earth, with tyranny battering at the doors, most European nations ignoring the tyranny (until they were invaded) or actively colluding with it, and many neutrals more afraid of France than needy of British trade. This situation persisted for more than a decade. Britain was in a similar position after Germany took Europe and before the US came into the war. In both cases, it would have been easier for Britain to surrender than to fight, but in both cases they were on the right side, and they fought, and they prevailed.

Now we must be prepared to do the same. In particular, we must begin to prepare to win the long-term war even if we have no allies. There are some concrete steps to take.

First, we need to mean it when we say you're with us or with the terrorists. Those nations that want to play the middle game should be marginalized. We can do that with trade pressure, travel restrictions, and using other nations to box in those who oppose us, but not openly. In particular, we should stop giving foreign aid to any nation for any reason if they are not entirely cooperative in the Terror Wars.

We must be prepared to fight Iran, Syria/Lebanon/Hizbollah, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, N. Korea (because of their role in nuclear proliferation) and Pakistan at the very least. With luck and hard work, we won't have to fight all of them. I believe we will have to fight Iran and Syria at least, and likely Saudi Arabia.

We can fight them in sequence with the troops we have, but then we'd just have to keep fighting; to win the war in the end, we must democratize the Arab world (the only alternative is genocide, and no sane person wants to go there). As a consequence, we will have to occupy the nations we've taken - and we have to be prepared to occupy them all by ourselves - for a long time, potentially a decade or even longer. To do this, we must begin raising troop levels now; reorganization is not enough to maintain this pace. We must be prepared to focus the government on this task, even if it means sacrificing programs for Americans at home, or increasing taxes, or both.

We have to be prepared to destroy our enemies utterly, even if that means civilian casualties. It's useless to win the war without killing our enemies; Iraq should teach us this. We must be prepared to remake Islam by force, if necessary killing those who believe or who preach that it is the duty of Muslims to conquer everyone else.

We have to be prepared to face up to ugly truths about other cultures; they are not all sweetness and light. To do this, we must constantly wage the war of ideas here at home, marginalizing those who want us to lose, who refuse to see a difference between us and the terrorists, or who are more concerned with gaining political power than protecting the Constitution and the citizens. We can do this in print, at the polls, in popular culture and in conversations.

We have to be prepared to accept that there are some people who will never love freedom, never love America. We have to be prepared to accept that we cannot convince these people to change their minds, and we have to be prepared to accept that some of these people are Americans.

If we cannot conquer the idea of Islamism, Islamists will continue to attempt to destroy us. Eventually, they will get nuclear weapons; already the capability is dangerously close to ubiquitous. If the jihadis get nuclear weapons, they will use them on the US and on Israel. In the end, if we are not prepared to do these other things, then we have to be prepared to commit genocide, or to be victims of genocide.

It is possible that, within five years, we will be alone. We should be ready to win anyway: it is better to be alone and alive than popular and dead.

UPDATE: See also Winds of Change, where Trent Telenko and Armed Liberal both have interesting and related things to say.

Posted by Jeff at 10:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

The Next Campaign

For those paying attention (too few of the electorate at large, sadly), President Bush has signalled the next campaign in the Terror Wars: Iran.

esident Bush told newspaper editors in Washington yesterday that Iran "will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations" if it does not stop developing nuclear weapons and begin total cooperation with international inspectors.

[snip]

"The Iranians need to feel the pressure from the world that any nuclear weapons program will be uniformly condemned -- it's essential that they hear that message," he said. "The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable, and a program is intolerable. . . . Otherwise, they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."

Posted by Jeff at 08:07 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 20, 2004

Some Things are Just Hard

Michael Ubaldi has an article on Andrew Sullivan's take on the philosophy underlying the Terror Wars. It's worth a read.

I've not really understood a lot of the criticism of the war and its aftermath, in that much of the criticism seems to assume that it's possible to have perfect knowledge (even in advance of events), perfect predictive ability, and perfect execution of plans - that, in other words, perfection is not only possible, but required. (I suspect many of the critics do not hold the same standard for wars started by Democrat presidents.) This is a common-sense issue: have you ever had a perfect experience getting the oil changed in your car? Even once, have all of the following happened: the oil was changed exactly on the mile mark it should have been changed, the time to get to the shop was minimal because all of the lights were green and no one else was coming to a stop sign when you were, there was no wait at the shop, the charge was zero and the oil was the best-quality oil on the market - all of these at the same time?

And if you answered yes, then why did you buy a car whose engine contaminates the oil in the first place? That is the level of criticism that the Bush administration's prosecution of the Terror Wars is getting, and it's just not congruent to how the world works: some things are just hard, and nothing is absolutely perfect.

At some point, we all either learn to live with this or we learn to live under the tyranny of those who do understand.

Posted by Jeff at 10:37 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 12, 2004

The New Iraqi Army Fails a Test

Phil Carter posts about a recent incident that disturbed me when I first heard about it: an Iraqi Army unit tasked to quell the uprising in Falluja took some fire, or was in some way confronted (the details are unclear) by Shi'a in Baghdad during their route march, lost unit cohesion, refused to fight and returned to barracks. It is, as Phil discusses, very difficult to get good men to kill others, and this is compounded when those others are the soldiers' fellow citizens. It's a manifestly good thing that this is difficult; I don't think we'd want to see sociopathy elevated to a cultural phenomenon among any military (and to be sure, there are some where it has been done).

That said, it's also important to have a force capable of fighting societal enemies. In the case of the Falluja battle, it's pretty clear that there are local Iraqis (lawbreakers, for want of a better word) as well as a cadre of foreign jihadis, so there is a mix of foreign and domestic enemies involved. The best way to tackle that kind of mix is to start by defeating the fighters, then send in law enforcement to arrest the enablers, and the locals who ended up not fighting (or escaping the fighting). But that only works if the Army is willing to go in and take out the armed insurgents, because the law enforcement forces would be outgunned (or equally-armed, but restricted by rules of engagement that would prevent their being more effective than those they are trying to subdue).

So in Iraq, we will likely end up falling into a model 180 degrees away from Viet Nam. Near the end of the Viet Nam war (actually after Tet offensive in 1968), the Viet Cong (local insurgents with outside reinforcement and support) were depleted to the point that the ARVN (S. Viet Namese army) was able to defend the country against both VC and the insurgent N. Viet Namese forces that did most of the fighting. The US did fight against the insurgents, but our primary role in S. Viet Nam was to prevent the North from invading with their full army, a situtation the South couldn't handle alone. With the betrayal of S. Viet Nam by the post-Watergate Democrats in Congress (who refused to support S. Viet Nam according to the terms of the Paris agreement that ended US involvement), the North Viet Namese army invaded and defeated the South.

In Iraq, it looks as if the Iraqi army might need to be deployed to protect the borders, while the Iraqi police forces clean up the insurgents, with backing from the US military anywhere the insurgency is active fighting (as opposed to recruitment and incitement). It will be interesting to see how this affects long-term strategy, and I think Phil's take is half right:

I think this is a pretty strong indicator that (1) we cannot turn over sovereignty until we have crushed the most dangerous parts of the Iraqi insurgency and (2) that we must leave some force in Iraq to continue the fight until the Iraqis can build a viable force.

Certainly, we must leave not merely some force, but significant force, in Iraq to continue the fight. However, I do not see this affecting the handover of sovereignty, at least on paper; the Iraqi government will start having to do the day to day work even if it's not ready. But we'll be there for the heavy lifting.

Posted by Jeff at 11:34 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

April 10, 2004

Sending Messages

One of the problems with the way I think is that I accumulate bits of information from many different sources, and then a conclusion pops out. Reconstructing the trail of logic and inference - even reconstructing the sources of information in the first place - that got me to a particular conclusion can be difficult to near-impossible. As a result, I hope you will forgive the tendency of some posts to have no or few links when making assertions. If you want to call me on them, feel free and I'll do my best to justify my assertions with evidence. This is going to be one of those almost link-free posts, though. You might start with this recent Belmont Club post if you're interested in tracking down background for this, or with reading Regnum Crucis.

It's been pretty obvious for some time that Syria is heavily involved in Iraq, trying to hinder US efforts to liberalize the country. Iran has been an obvious actor, but its actions have been less obvious than those of Syria. Until now.

Syria is likely behind the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi. If not directly involved in operations, Syria is at least the logistical provider for these operations, and is likely involved in the planning and prioritization aspects of the operations in this area. It is in addition possible that Syria has actual possession of some of Iraq's chemical stocks; there were persistent and credible reports of their movement to Syria by truck in January 2003.

Iran has been cannier to this point, and less apparently involved except in a moral sense. While Muqtada al-Sadr almost certainly is a puppet of the Iranian ayatollahs, Iran has not been providing large and open support to Sadr's organization. This has apparently changed. There is now not only an apparent influx of money (in the tens of millions of dollars per month) and war supplies, but there have also been reports that some of the forces actually fighting on Sadr's behalf are IRGC and Hezbollah troops, who are respectively Iranian religious troops and a terrorist organization funded and controlled by Iran.

It appears to me that we may now be at the point where Mountain Storm will turn out to be our major Spring offensive. While this is useful, in that there are still dangerous folks along the Afghan-Pakistani border who need to be killed, it is not as powerful a stroke as taking out Hezbollah in Lebanon would have been. But if we are now at the point that we cannot do this, there are still some things that we can do that would be effective.

One thing I would do, and right now, were I in charge would be this: bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities, the IRGC HQ, any Iranian or Syrian offices related to operations or intelligence in Iraq and, for good measure, the camps in Syria and Iran near the Iraqi border which have been sheltering and training fighters coming into Iraq to battle the coalition forces there. I would simultaneously have a press conference, explaining in detail the targets that we're hitting, why we're hitting them, and laying out the intelligence in some detail to support accusations of Syrian and Iranian involvement. What are they going to do, fight us in Iraq?

The point is, there are some times that a message needs to be sent, and in the Middle East, it is often the case that the only message that is heard is the one that hurts. If Iran and Syria are truly involved as deeply in Iraq as they appear to be (and as deeply as logic dictates they should be), they need to be hurt. If we can't actively occupy them, due to lack of forces available for the job, we can at least make their day a little darker.

Yes, we'd take a drubbing in the press, but let's face it: we're going to take a drubbing in the press regardless of what we do or don't do. That at least should be clear from the 9/11 commission, with the loudest press voices against Bush stating that President Bush should have pre-empted the 9/11 attacks, while on the very next page of their papers they are after President Bush for having suspected terrorists on no-fly lists now. So another thing I'd do if I were in charge is follow Clinton's lead: take your case over the heads of the press and straight to the public. That's a message, too.

Posted by Jeff at 11:11 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

OPTEMPO

OPTEMPO is a term of military art, short for operational tempo and meaning the rate at which a force can engage in operations of a given size. For example, as the 1990s wore on, the government was reducing the Army from 18 active divisions to 10, cutting the Navy by something like 44% and lowering the number of active Air Force squadrons. At the same time, the military was being used for more tasks, and more of them were long-term commitments (such as Kosovo and Bosnia) instead of quick in-and-out missions. The practical upshot of this was that the OPTEMPO of the military was increasing while its resources were dramatically decreasing, and the result was that we were barely able to meet our commitments before the Terror Wars started. The shift in global strategy from "win two theater wars" to "win one/hold one" came before the terror wars, and was made not because it was a good idea so much as because we couldn't afford "win two".

It should be noted that our forces have not enlarged notably during the conduct (so far) of the Terror Wars, while our OPTEMPO has increased markedly yet again.

Our best possible OPTEMPO for operations the size of the liberation and pacification of Iraq is two years. That will only be possible if Iraq calms down significantly after the transfer of power to an interim government, or if we adopt something akin to the Roman imperial model, using mostly local forces for keeping order. (See the "More..." link below for an important digression on this.) This is an OPTEMPO that the enemy can, barely, afford to match.

When the fight was almost entirely in Afghanistan, the enemy was largely engaged there, but also had sufficient resources to expand its European and American networks, to undertake offensive operations in SE Asia (including most notably the Bali bombing), and to expand its operations in Africa.

However, once the US invaded Iraq, it was necessary for the enemy to shift a large operational force into Iraq. If Iraq becomes peaceful, more or less allied with the US (or at least not against us), and shifts to an Enlightenment-style nation with individual liberties and representative governance, it will provide a power cultural dynamic to end the conditions that allow the enemy to renew its losses over the long-term. Thus the enemy must defeat the coalition in Iraq. To that end, even while conditions in Pashtunistan are such that the Taliban could undertake large-scale operations, they have not done so. Too many of the al Qaeda forces have been moved out-of-area, and the Pakistani/US offensive along the Afghan/Pakistani border has been effective in disrupting their operations.

At the same time, our and allied operations in the Phillipines and Indonesia have been putting pressure on enemy operations there, the US and some European countries have been cracking in-country terror cells, and there is apparently a US threat to the NE African area currently being assembled. While it is likely that Europe will be a major enemy theater over the next year or more, reduced enemy operations in other areas (and their likely losses in Iraq now that they've been forced into open operations rather than hit-and-run guerilla operations) tell us, I think, that the enemy is operating near the limit of its effective OPTEMPO. If the coalition had the force levels to permit action on a yearly basis, or comfortably on a bi-yearly basis with enough reserve capability to undertake smaller operations in the off years, the enemy would be quickly torn apart as it attempted to orient against too many simultaneous threats to effectively counter. The enemy would have to start giving up some fights almost uncontested, which would further increase our OPTEMPO and thus decrease their own in a vicious (for them) spiral.

In a way, this is how the USSR was defeated, although it wasn't with actual operations, but potential operations, that we defeated the USSR. Because we were acquiring the capability to operate so much more effectively in so many more areas, the USSR had to match our capabilities growth or fold. They couldn't match us, so they folded.

Much the same needs to happen now, but this time with actual operations. But we cannot increase our OPTEMPO, because our coalition partners (even if we added in other free nations as willing partners, rather than neutrals or semi-enemies) cannot add much to our force levels, and we are stretched to almost our absolute limit in deployments. (Our only options at this point for additional deployments would be to deploy all of our land forces simultaneously, which would in a very short time (maybe two years) make many of our units much less effective in combat, due to lack of time to rest, reconstitute, reequip and retrain; or to fully mobilize the reserves and maybe even the National Guard, which would be expensive both in immediate terms and in losses to the economy.)

However, there is another option. It would take some two to three years at least to bring our forces up to the level we had at the end of the Cold War, but it could be done without unduly burdening the economy (particularly if we cared enough about it to stop expanding spending for non-defense programs, and rolled back the prescription drug benefit recently enacted). Over the time that we were ramping up, we would be gradually expanding our OPTEMPO, by adding in more mid-level operations (like cleaning Hezbollah out of Lebanon, taking out enemy operations in Africa or Indonesia and the like).

The mere threat of this expansion would be enough to pressure fence-sitting nations like Egypt to act more in our interest, as Libya recently has done. The eventual ability to employ that force fully would make it impossible for the enemy to keep up. If we maintained an occupation of Syria, Iraq and Iran simultaneously, the enemy would be so stretched as to come apart. All that is lacking is the political will to expand the forces available to us.

A lot of people have a very wrong view of imperial structures and effects. This is because imperialism, mercantilism and colonialism are very frequently combined under the term "imperialism".

Mercantilism and colonialism resulted in attempts to politically control either the economies (mercantilism) or the entire political structures (colonialism) of the imperial possession, to the economic benefit of the imperial power.

There is an older imperial model though: that of Rome. The Roman empire expanded by force when it felt threatened (or when it saw a particularly rich opportunity), but for the most part the Romans pretended to have clientele - client states which were protected by Rome from existential threats, and in return protected Rome from the barbarians outside the borders of the empire, and frequently also provided tribute or soldiers for the legions or both. The main purpose of the Roman empire, in other words, was to ensure that the core was peaceful. This worked so well that Rome was eventually brought down by a combination of the corruption and decay endemic to a society at peace for a long time (and yes, it's apparent to some degree in our own, particularly in the nihilism of the Left) and the fervent desire of neighboring barbarians to be brought into the client-state system. When some powerful tribes were refused, they responded by sacking Rome.

Posted by Jeff at 10:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 06, 2004

Inflection Point in Iraq

It is seldom the case that events describe a smooth curve. Look around you at your own life, your family, your work: does everything happen in a steady, predictable order, or do events head in one direction fitfully and spasmodically, only to zoom off in a completely different direction, or at a rate vastly faster than what you expected, only to settle down again into a somewhat different pattern? To the extent that we are taught history, and frequently in books or movies about past events, the teacher or author or filmmaker is attempting to extract some kind of steady, definitive narrative from the events. This extraction results in our thinking that the past was orderly, but the present is chaotic. The reality is that life has always been this chaotic and unpredictable.

That is not to say that life is unpatterned. One particular pattern that is frequently repeated occurs when a particular dynamic is forcing events to a certain necessary conclusion, and powerful forces are opposing that dynamic without creating a dynamic in their own preferred direction. In such a case, events move towards the logical conclusion, but do so in fits and starts, with frequent small reverses. Eventually, the one of the opposing forces sense that its strength is at its height, and they provoke a crisis. This crisis can go one of two ways: if the force provoking the crisis is opposed to the dominant dynamic and is successful, the dominant dynamic will be largely destroyed, the situation will become deeply turbulent and chaotic until a new dynamic emerges; otherwise, the situation quickly becomes very stable, as opposition melts away and the dominant dynamic becomes a fundamental assumption of the people involved.

This is roundabout language, because I am generalizing. Let me give a specific example to illustrate. In the US, the dominant dynamic created by the aftermath of the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional Convention was towards increasing amounts of individual liberty, at the expense of the States. This created a series of escalating crises, which culminated in the Civil War, when the Confederate States had become convinced that they would lose their culture, based around slavery, if they did not separate themselves from the United States. This crisis ended with the defeat of the South, and the emancipation of the slaves.

But history is messy, and Lincoln was assassinated. His replacement bowed to the hardliners, and treated the South as a conquered territory (Lincoln intended to be much more generous). As a result, instead of true equality, the Jim Crow laws arose in a kind of rear-guard action against the tide of freedom for all. During the chaos after the Civil War, it was apparently not the dynamic that won that took long-term hold, but the practice of segregation.

Yet the dynamic towards individual liberty still existed, and slowly but surely the "first blacks" piled up. Jackie Robinson was not the first "first", just the most famous. Finally, in Selma, Alabama, a young black girl refused to play along with the prevailing system, and a large number of very charismatic and intelligent leaders in the black community used that event to start in motion what amounts to a huge guilt trip: the American ideal is freedom, so why are only some Americans actually free? This was a crisis created by the black leadership, with the aid (sometimes active, sometimes passive) of much of the white population, which finally overcame the last vestiges of States' Rights and tore down the racist laws that predominated in the South in particular. (It's often left out of the histories of the era, but the truth is that the active support for segregation was pretty thin. The prevalence of passive, ignorant racism in the South kept that thin layer in office to hold the line against the rising tide of freedom.)

In the end, it is not really FDR's policies that destroyed Federalism as a guiding principle in America; rather, it was the use of Federalism by racists as a fig-leaf that destroyed Federalism: if Federalism or Liberty had to go, it would be Federalism.

OK, that was a long digression, but the point is that these patterns of behavior result in a building of pressure in fits and starts, and when the pressure is released events move much more quickly than heretofore. This kind of change is called an inflection point or a tipping point. And right now, it is playing out in Iraq.

The coalition created a new dynamic in Iraq by invading and occupying the country. The dynamic is that, absent fundamental change, Iraq will eventually be a secular society with a large scope of individual liberties and a representative government. Opposing this dynamic are a variety of enemies: the jihadis who want the whole world to be a mirror of Afghanistan under the Taliban; the Ba'ath loyalists who want to maintain their dominance of Iraq; the regional dictators who fear that Iraq's dynamic of freedom will spread to their people, and result in their (the leaders') ouster; the (mostly European) governments which had or hoped for large political and commercial opportunities that are now denied them because they opposed the war; the UN bureaucrats who see US success in Iraq as showing them up; the militant Left which sees individual freedom as a threat to their precious, precious state (it's not that they want to live in a dictatorship, as Michael Totten pointed out, but that they want to be the dictators). Some of these are more effective in opposition, and some less so, but all of these forces oppose an Iraq living in self-ruled and stable freedom.

Absent a crisis, a free Iraq is inevitible. The two questions became, when would the crisis come, and who would initiate it. The US set the stage for a crisis some time ago, when it agreed on a tentative date for the handover of domestic sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government. Once the Iraqis signed their interim constitution, it became fairly certain that the handover of that internal sovereignty would happen on June 30, 2004. After that time, the forces of opposition would have a much harder time making their case, because they would be making it against native Iraqis, not against American occupiers. If the enemies of freedom don't win before the handover, it is a certainty that they will lose Iraq.

For that reason, it was necessary (from the point of view of those who want to stop the Iraqis from gaining their freedom) to foment a crisis earlier. Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi - apparently leading the jihadi forces in Iraq - recognized his difficulties at least by February of this year, when he wrote in a letter to al Qaida leadership that "our enemy is growing stronger and his intelligence data are increasing day by day". Zarqawi realized that his only hope was to foment violence that would tear Iraq apart and make a handover of power impossible; otherwise his wellspring of support - already tenuous - would disappear and he would be forced to "pack our bags and search for another land, as is the sad, recurrent story in the arenas of jihad". At the same time, after the capture of Saddam Hussein by US forces, it was necessary for the Ba'athist remnants to derail the handover of power to retain any shot at regaining power in Iraq. And for the Iranians and their sympathisers (such as Muqtada al-Sadr), it had become clear that they could not bring Ayatollah Sistani to their position, nor win enough electoral support to claim control in the elections; therefore they had to foment violence in order to seize their opportunities amidst the chaos.

So we have the elements in Iraq of a true cauldron of chaos: the upcoming power transfer, the requirement of the jihadis and Ba'athists (who are effectively bonded together, now) to prevent that handover from taking place, and the opportunity for al-Sadr to increase his power before the handover if he can hurt the Americans. al-Sadr is at the height of his strength, and feeling his oats, while the jihadis and Ba'athists are rapidly losing their ability to be effective. And so we have the last week's events, which will likely continue for a couple of weeks in some fashion.

There are two simultaneous crises in Iraq, but they overlap. The fighting in the Sunni triangle - particularly at Falluja and ar-Ramadi - is already bloody and will get worse. The jihadis and Ba'athists (previously backed by Syria, though it appears that active Syrian support has largely come to an end at this point) are throwing all of their strength into this fight, and if they lose here they are finished as a major force in Iraq. So long as we prosecute this to its full extent - and it appears that we are - it is almost certain that this enemy will be effectively destroyed, and will lose any power to influence Iraqi politics going forward.

At the same time, al-Sadr's uprising in Baghdad (the SE anchor of the Sunni Triangle) and to the South (particularly in an-Najaf) is a different kind of crisis. Here, the intent of the enemy is to cause chaos and American casualties in order to gain approval (later translated into votes and money) among the more radical Shi'a. This effort is heavily backed by Iran, which really has its hands full with its own population at the boil (bordering on an active uprising) and doesn't want added pressure from a democratic neighbor. This fighting has also been bloody for the US, but again it is an opportunity for us: with al-Sadr having given the US and Iraqi government a valid reason to use armed force against him, and with his forces in the streets, it is likely that al-Sadr's forces will succeed in killing American soldiers at the cost of being destroyed as a militarily-effective force and having al-Sadr and the other leaders of the Mehdi "army" killed or captured.

In the long-run, unless we listen to the other enemies (Leftists like Ted Kennedy and Markos Zuniga have already been at it, and it's only a matter of time until the Europeans and the UN weigh in on how much of a "disaster" and "quagmire" this is, and how much better things would be if we'd only let them have the power), this is going to have wonderful consequences. In effect, it is very likely that this series of crises will prove the death knell of the most powerful forces opposing by armed force the democratization of Iraq. Looking back, we will see the last week and the next few as the time when everything looked hopeless, then suddenly turned around and worked out well.

But it's going to be a very bloody month.

UPDATE: But why are you here when you could be reading Wretchard's analysis at Belmont Club. In fact, read his whole site: it's worth your time. Trust me on this one.

Hmmm...rereading the above post, let me be clear: I think that there is a certain swath of the Left in the US, in Europe and within the UN bureaucracy, who are active enemies of the idea of personal liberty (for anyone except themselves), and thus of America as presently constituted. I do not believe that all (or even the majority) of liberals and Europeans are enemies of personal liberty, even if they disagree (probably stridently) with most or all of what I say.

Posted by Jeff at 10:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

April 02, 2004

Atrocity and Response

After the brutality of the killings in Fallujah recently, there have been many suggestions of how to handle the problem, from the harshly cold-blooded to the brutal and traditional to the calculated to the useless to the insane. Interestingly, none of them directly take on the culture of the area: it's a tribal culture.

I suggest that if we want effectively to make the point that you don't do this, while not at the same time pushing neutrals into the arms of the resistance, we can look back to how we handled the Mexican war in the 1850s. While we were marching on Mexico City, a number of attacks on the food gatherers of the Army were carried out by local "bandits". Winfield Scott pulled aside the local mayor, pointed out that law enforcement was his job and, as the "bandits" couldn't be found and fined, the fines for banditry would be charged to the mayor instead. The attacks stopped.

A similar approach could work in Fallujah and other tribal areas (and not just in Iraq):

The first attack carried out by locals in a given area, or by non-locals who were sheltered by locals, results in the destruction of the homes of the leaders of the tribes involved, and the destruction of the homes of any local inciters to violence (in Fallujah, that would be the local imams).

The second such attack results in the killing of the tribal leaders and those who incite violence.

The third such attack results in the house-by-house search of the whole area, with any houses containing arms or explosives, or sheltering fighters, destroyed.

The fourth such attack results in all the men aged, say, 15-45 in the area being imprisoned until the attacks stop. (Note: even if they're not guilty, they provide cover for the guilty. Once the men are all in custody, any men remaining in the area or just coming into it would stand out and be easy targets.)

And each step sees reductions in local control and increased presence by US troops. The idea is to make the punishment fall on those who can stop the attacks first, then on those who enable the attacks, then on those making the attacks.

If this is applied consistently, it won't take long until the local support for violence dries up - not profitable - or is eliminated. Once the local camoflage and logistics are gone, the area is no longer a threat to us. I guess that puts me in the "brutal and traditional" seat.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste notes in the comments:

The problem with your plan is that it would violate the Geneva Accords. It would violate the prohibition against what I believe was termed "collective punishment".

Well, let this be a lesson to me. I try not to post when I am angry, and this post was made about 10 minutes after I first saw the images of what happened. I was furious.

It would be tempting to argue that the fourth convention (or was it one of the additional protocols signed later) does not apply to guerillas, but the truth is my position above was directed not at the guerillas but at their local support base among the civilian population.

It would also be tempting to argue that the convention is just in the way and should be ignored, but that would be hypocritical of me: I believe that similar actions would be wrong morally in, say, taking the assets of drug dealers without trial, so I cannot condone it here. What I was advocating would punish those not directly guilty of crimes, in order to make life more difficult for those who are guilty of crimes.

Clearly, my solution was therefore morally wrong, regardless of practical effect, and should not be implemented.

Posted by Jeff at 04:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

March 31, 2004

Nuance

Despite the title, this post is not about John Kerry. It is instead about America, and in particular America's way of addressing long-term problems. Steven Den Beste has a typically-provocative essay on how Europeans (in particular) misunderstand America. For the most part, I agree with him. I do have one issue to raise with his essay, though, and this quote is at its core:

So they discount the fact that America remained steadfast during the entire Cold War despite both parties electing Presidents during that interval. There were differences in style and approach towards how the Cold War should be handled, but never any doubt that it would be handled, no matter which party held the White House.

I think that Steven underestimates the differences between how the two major parties would handle the Terror Wars, and this may be a projection of underestimating the differences during the Cold War. These are important matters, not small nuanced differences.

To illustrate, consider the difference between Johnson (don't put out a winning effort in Viet Nam, because it would endanger his domestic programs) and Richard Nixon (who ran on ending the war, and did, but in the process widened the war to give the South Viet Namese a chance, only to be cut off by the post-Watergate Democrat-controlled Congress); or between Jimmy Carter (who by and large favored appeasement and aid that would have had the Soviet Union still going) and Ronald Reagan (who initiated the programs that caused Soviet collapse). These are not matters of minor emphasis; they are major differences of strategy.

To project this into the Terror Wars, consider the probable courses of the two parties, or at least of the two current candidates for the presidency. George Bush's strategy appears to be:

  • active overt and covert warfare against Islamist terrorist groups,
  • active overt warfare against the most prominent state sponsors of terrorism;
  • aggressive law enforcement and economic actions to weaken or remove terrorist support in countries that we couldn't politically afford to go to war against (such as France),
  • an attempt at the cultural equivalent of guerilla warfare, by providing an example of a free Arab/Muslim society in Iraq.

On the other hand, it is becoming clear to me that Kerry would be vastly different in many areas:
  • Kerry would continue active overt warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, but would likely lessen the overt warfare, particularly in Pakistan and Africa.
  • Overt warfare against state sponsors of terrorism would be off the table, unless a major attack on US soil could be directly and incontrovertibly traced to a particular country's support. (FYI, state sponsorship of terrorism is rarely so direct; generally there are multiple small threads from many countries which weave together to enable an attack. In addition to Afghanistan, do we attack Germany, Canada, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq or Syria for 9/11? Do we attack ourselves, since the terrorists were based here for some time?) It may even be the case that Kerry would not undertake overt warfare after a major attack unless the UN supported it.
  • Kerry would likely continue law enforcement and intelligence activities against terrorist groups, but would likely not put effective pressure on countries (particularly European countries) who were uncooperative.
  • Kerry would likely stick it out in Iraq, but without the stick of "and you're next", the ability of the example to change the other Arab/Muslim cultures would be much lessened.

In some ways, Steven is correct: a Kerry foreign policy would have much of the same broad surface appearance that the Bush foreign policy does. Kerry would acknowlege terrorism as a major problem, and would not withdraw from Iraq or Afghanistan. But on every other issue, his response would likely be much weaker, if at all, than President Bush's response has been. The effect of this would be to return us very nearly to a Clinton-style foreign policy, with the emphasis all on domestic issues, and fighting terrorism seen by the executive branch mostly in terms of how it affects votes in key districts.

The result would be disastrous. Even if another Republican administration - or a more savvy and dedicated Democrat administration - were to later renew the fight strongly, our enemies would be encouraged to hold out. They would be convinced that we do have short attention spans, and will eventually give them time to regroup. In the meantime, our coalition partners would face declining support from America, combined with their current active internal opposition movements, which would make it very difficult for parties which take a similar view to President Bush's to remain in power.

Posted by Jeff at 03:54 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (9)

March 27, 2004

Where we Stand

It's time, I think, for a realistic assessment of the Terror Wars:

At this time, perhaps 10% of the world's Muslim community - slightly higher in Europe and somewhat higher in the US, but less in Africa, Asia and the SW Pacific - support the idea of liberalizing the whole Arab/Muslim world, treating Islam as a religion rather than an all-encompassing religio-political ideology, and modernizing the Arab/Muslim societies. Significantly higher numbers of Muslims believe, as one recent poll of British Muslims put it, "living as a Palestinian could have driven her to become a suicide bomber".

In actual fact, it is probably the case at this point that opinion of the US is worse than it was before 9/11, and the pro-jihad opinion is more entrenched. However, this is widely misinterpreted. Certainly, President Bush's and Prime Minister Blair's critics (well, let's just get it over with and say the critics of the idea that free countries should be able to defend themselves, and to promote the idea of freedom for others) have used this change in opinion to cast the attempts of the US and its allies (should I say coalition partners, to distinguish them from, say, France?) to end the threat of resurgent Islamism as a failure at best and a tragedy at worst. But is that a valid interpretation?

Anti-Americanism is hardly new in Europe. Even at the height of the Cold War, France was barely above 50/50 in support of the US. The postmodernism and transnational progressivism movements have weakened support of the West within the West itself - weakened the idea that the Enlightenment values of individual freedom and self-determination are even laudable values to hold. And it's not exactly as if the US is a new target in the Arab/Muslim world (we were called the Great Satan long before the advent of President Bush). But these feelings were by and large intellectual exercises, until 9/11 showed the world the definitive way to express them.

What has been going on since 9/11, with opinion increasingly hardening against the US and its allies, is merely a definition process. Those who believe that individual rights and freedoms are an anathema - whether Islamists or Leftists - have seen definitively that the US and its allies will stand against them in defense of freedom. The hope on the Left and among the Islamists was originally that the US could be deterred from Afghanistan, then that the US could be deterred from attacking Iraq. When the latter failed, it was incontrovertibly shown that the US intended to reform the Muslim world.

This would be a loss for the Islamists, as they depend on a radicalized and oppressed population; freedom for Muslims would lose them thier recruits. It would also be a loss for the Left, as they depend upon the idea that capitalism - or at least the individual freedoms that make capitalism workable - makes things worse (at least for them, since they want to control others, and free people are not tolerant of being controlled); freedom for Muslims followed by the Arab/Muslim world modernizing and becoming more liberal and more successful would show that capitalism and freedom work, and the Left would lose its recruits.

And so we find (and it's not a new observation) that those who believe in personal freedom have two distinct enemies: the Islamists, who believe in imposition of totalitarianism by force; and the Left, who believe in the ascendence of totalitarianism by "the logic of history" or by bureaucratic procedures or by moral persuasion.

Let me make clear that while both of these forces are enemies to freedom, they are not equivalent. It appears that there is an alliance of convenience between the two groups. Witness, for example, the Leftists' condemnation of Israel's killing of the founder of Hamas, and condoning Hamas' bombings of buses full of schoolchildren; or the way that the Islamists are temporarily backing off of Spain since they got what they wanted there - for the moment. But such an alliance of convenience does not mean that the two groups are easily conflated: the Islamists use violence as their tool, while the Leftists use rhetoric.

The road ahead is long - probably decades long. We are at the very beginning of the process. There have been essentially two important changes since 9/11: the US has forced organizations and countries to choose sides, and we have begun the process of combatting Islamism by bringing a degree of freedom to two Arab/Muslim countries - most importantly to Iraq, an important and centrally-placed Arab nation. We have also begun to engage the Left, with a bevy of more freedom-minded folks actively arguing for the benefits of Liberty, though this is still far from general.

At this point, I see several paths we have to take in order to preserve the notion of individual Liberty:

  • We must continue to engage Islamism by liberalizing Arab and Muslim countries. This means that Iraq must not be the last such action. Iran in particular will likely have to be invaded, unless its own people succeed in removing the Islamists from power. This means, too, that we must allow the Islamists to win elections if they can do it fairly. But we must not allow them to be immune from the consequences of their actions. An Islamist government in Iraq, for example, which tried to impose Shari'a should be told in no uncertain terms that such is not allowed, and should be removed if they proceed in any case to do so. Democracy does not mean one man, one vote, one time; and individual Liberty does not include the liberty to take away the rights of others.
  • We must encourage and reward reform movements within Islam and the Arab nations.
  • We must be prepared for the fight against Islamism to get much dirtier. It may become necessary to kill the imams and other religious figures who spread Islamism. As the examples of Mullah Omar, Sheik Yassin and the Ayatollah Khomenei show, the Islamists make no distinction between religion and secular governance, and we must not allow our traditional deference to religious leaders to blind us to the fact that these people are frequently secular (in the sense of providing political and other non-religious direction) as well as religious leaders.
  • We must engage the Left by removing its shelters from reality (particularly in university liberal arts faculties), reducing its means of indoctrination (particularly with media competition and removing schools from government control or requiring particular things (history, economics, logic, etc) to be taught to a particular standard), by putting them on the defensive (pull up most of the silly environmental regulations (leaving the useful ones in place), and do the same with a host of other Leftist pet projects, and then let them spend their time on that rather than the war), and most importantly by engaging in the debate in public. We need to reduce the size of government by the simple measure of actually following the Constitution in all its particulars, and amending it where what it says does not match what we want our government to be like. This is difficult; it should be. It should not be possible to effectively amend the Constitution by ignoring its plain language.
  • There are a lot of websites and authors, and more and more there are counter-demonstrations. We need also to be organizing demonstrations of patriotism, and in support of freedom generally, especially when not connected with particular politicians. We need to be sponsoring art (particularly movies and big-network TV shows, which get the most widespread dissemination) that presents a pro-Western, tolerant, capitalist, secular and logical viewpoint as admirable. (Fine examples of this include James Burke's 1978 series Connections, about how technologies come about and the impact they have on society; or Cyberchase, which teaches logic.)

I don't necessarily hold any of these as more important than the others. But they are all going to be necessary in the decades ahead, unless we are prepared to engage in or be the victims of genocide.

Posted by Jeff at 01:24 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

March 23, 2004

Israel and Palestine Explained Perfectly

Karmic Inquisition explains the situation in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict perfectly. Please go read it; it will clarify your thinking.

Posted by Jeff at 11:29 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 22, 2004

French Foreign Policy

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has a really interesting article about French foreign policy. For me, it really clarified a lot of issues about how France approaches the world.

Posted by Jeff at 11:20 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

And Good Riddance

It's good to see Yassin dead, but I have to wonder about the Israelis passing up this target rich environment. I would at least have seriously considered a major land operation to surround the funeral and arrest or kill all of the terrorists who attended. They were armed, and there would have been a fight, but in the long run such an operation would dramatically reduce the total deaths.

On another note: what's with AP? "Three more Palestinians were killed in Gaza later Monday in clashes with Israeli troops, and one was killed while handling explosives." "[O]ne was killed while handling explosives"???!!! It's like there was no connection between him building a bomb and his sudden death. Or maybe someone snuck in and killed him while he was building the bomb. Yeah, that's plausible.

Posted by Jeff at 09:17 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

March 20, 2004

Dr. Seuss v. the Fascists

Rev. Sensing points out that Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was a political cartoonist before he started writing children's books. Just like the gutless of 1941, the gutless of today just want to keep handing out lollipops.

Posted by Jeff at 05:40 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Dominos

If you believe that the root cause of Arab/Muslim terrorism is the shame of Arab/Muslim societal failure, then it is becoming more and more clear that the war in Iraq was a brilliant strategic move.

Posted by Jeff at 09:21 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 18, 2004

Major Offensive in Pakistan

That title is actually a little misleading. On the Pakistani side of the border, Pakistani forces are undertaking a major offensive against terrorists and their protectors in the tribal areas along the Pak/Afghan border. On the Afghan side, the US forces have stepped up their optempo, and are conducting a major operation called Mountain Storm. So in reality, there is a major offensive in the Eastern region of Pashtunistan.

Frankly, I'm impressed with the Pakistani operation. They are doing some major things right.

Many Al Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas in Waziristan are fleeing their village hideouts and heading up into the mountains along the Afghan border, according to tribal sources in the area.
[snip]
Officials here say the fighters are being squeezed by the government's recent crackdown in the tribal region. Pakistan has deployed 12,000 military and paramilitary soldiers, and demanded help from tribal leaders, to round up Al Qaeda and Taliban elements.
[snip]
Tribal sources estimate that around 600 Al Qaeda guerrillas - mostly Arabs, Chechens, and Uzbeks - remain in and around South Waziristan. While not all of these wanted militants have left the villages, tribal sources believe that many have converged in the forest-covered, snow-swept mountain regions of Shikai, Bush, and Khamran.

"Al Qaeda are now avoiding traveling in Land Cruisers because they think they will either be spotted by American satellite or killed by chasing Pakistani forces," says local tribesman Farid Khan. He says Al Qaeda fighters are paying local woodcutters and shepherds, who are "known as the best guides," $85 to $170 each for the trip into the mountains.


The fact that the terrorists and guerillas are fleeing up into the mountains is a pretty good indication that the Pakistanis are in the right area, and that the enemy is worried about the efficacy of the actions against them.

Ties are strong between the terrorists and locals:

"These poor people sympathized with them, and believe saving mujahideen from Americans is a service to Islam," says Mr. Khan.

Some of the foreign fighters are familiar to the local residents. The region was used as a "launching pad" into Afghanistan for thousands of anti-Soviet mujahideen, trained and funded by Pakistani and American intelligence agencies. After the Soviet defeat, many Islamic militants, particularly Uzbeks and Chechens, preferred to settle down in Pakistan's tribal belt.

"They look like Waziristanis now. They wear traditional dress, speak fluent Pashto, and follow our traditions," says tribesman Nasir Khan.

After the Sept. 11 attacks and the ouster of the Taliban by the US forces, the ideological bonding between locals and Al Qaeda fighters turned into a relationship.

"When Afghanistan was bombed, mujahideen of Al Qaeda married their daughters to the sons of tribesmen. Dozens of the weddings were arranged in emergency as Al Qaeda men were wary of their uncertain future," he says.


But the terrorists have good reason to be worried:
Pakistani authorities are trying to cut off Al Qaeda's local support and supply line by involving tribal elders.

Under pressure to deliver, tribal chiefs have formed a force of 600 armed tribesmen to catch militants and hand over the five most wanted local tribesmen, known as "Men of Al Qaeda."

The clans of the Zakikhel tribe, which formed the tribal posse, will be forced to pay a fine of $870 each day and face house demolitions if they fail to apprehend "foreign terrorists."

This penalty, which began Monday, will be in place for the next five days. As of Monday, the tribal force has caught no one; officials monitoring their performance say that if they fail, Pakistani forces will launch their own operation at "anytime."
[snip]
On Oct. 2, hundreds of Pakistani commandos and troops attacked a guerrilla hideout, killing eight Al Qaeda men and capturing 18. Pakistan identified two of the dead as Hasan Masoom, a top leader of a Muslim terrorist movement in China, and Egyptian-born Canadian national, Ahmed Said Khadr, a top Al Qaeda financier.

In January, authorities gave tribal elders a list of more than 100 wanted tribesmen. Around 60 of them were handed over, but the elders failed to surrender the most wanted men suspected of providing shelter to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

During a Feb. 24 raid in South Waziristan, Pakistani forces captured at least 20 people, including some foreign women, and recovered ammunition and passports of suspected Al Qaeda fighters.


This is a cruel thing to say, but history shows that if a civilian population is actively aiding an insurgent force, you have to give them the "us or them" choice. It's a risky choice, because, as Malik Behram Khan, "an enraged tribal elder," puts it: "If we support Al Qaeda then our houses are demolished and if we side with the government then we are killed by Al Qaeda and their men."

It is a mistake to treat civilians aiding insurgents as non-combatants. In actual fact such people are paramilitaries, even if all they're offering is an operational base, and camoflage, for the insurgents. The limit of this was reached in Viet Nam: this only works against populations actively aiding the insurgents; neutral or friendly populations are instead driven to support the insurgents if pressured in this way.

But it appears that the Pashtun population of the area is certainly working with the terrorists, to the point of intermarriage and active logistical support. So it would appear that the targetted population is well-chosen in this case.

This pressure deprives the enemy of hiding places and logistics, and active aid is turned into passive support. By putting the enemy forces on the run and operating out of improvised areas, the enemy has lost any ability to take the initiative. This kind of pressure demoralizes the fighters who aren't killed, and kept up long enough can kill, cause to give up the fight, or drive the enemy totally out of an area.

UPDATE: And obviously, if this bears out, and the Pakistanis take Zawahiri, that would be a really big victory for the good guys.

Posted by Jeff at 12:02 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 17, 2004

The UN Should Take Over Iraq

The UN should take over Iraq, because clearly they would do a better job at keeping violence under control than the US does.

Posted by Jeff at 07:55 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Where is the Press on This?

I wrote recently about Iran and Syria potentially facing revolutions. Michael Totten talks about Iran today. Reading some of the Arab and Israeli papers, it appears that this is a big issue to them: Iran could very well fall into civil war - if it's not already gone past the point of mere civil disturbance. Where is the US press on this? Surely the internal turmoil in countries on the Iraqi border should be newsworthy? Or does it just not fit the template?

Posted by Jeff at 05:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Sympathy with the Bedevilled

A few things should be very clear, and do not seem to be:

  • The vote in Spain, and the forthcoming Spanish (and now Honduran) troop withdrawals from Iraq, are a clear victory for the jihadis. It does not matter what factors influenced the Spanish electorate, or whether the Spaniards hunt down the people responsible for the Madrid attacks, or even whether the attackers turn out ultimately to be ETA, al Qaida, or some jihadist group: the terrorists killed, and Spain jumped radically towards appeasement. Correlation does not imply causality, but it sure suggests it. In the mind of the jihadis, this was a victory, and it will result in further and more horriffic attacks, in Europe in particular.
  • The Socialists could have redeemed themselves by saying that they still felt the Iraq war was wrong, and would not leave troops in place, but would take action by sending a somewhat larger force to, say, Afghanistan. They did not.
  • When I said, "We are all Spanish today," I did not mean (as Le Monde apparently did with their "We are all Americans now") that I want the Spaniards to be like us. I meant that I sympathised with the Spanish people. I still do. But now, I pity them as well, because they have shown fear in the face of terror, and that makes them a more attractive target for terror. They will pay the price for this; not I. And when they do, I will feel sorry for them, as I feel sorry for the victims of all such attacks.
  • In the end, it does not matter in a fundamental way if the Spanish, or the Hondurans, stand with us. It does not even matter in a fundamental way if the British stand with us. The United States stands against terrorism. We will continue to stand against terrorism, until terrorism is as dead as Naziism and Soviet Communism and the other failed ideologies of the past. We will stand with our friends; and if we have no friends, we will stand alone against the darkness. Melodramatic language, maybe, but something I believe in my core, and a belief that most Americans share. As the British stood against Napoleon and later Germany, we will stand for freedom and against tyranny until and unless we are destroyed.

Posted by Jeff at 09:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

How Will They Know When They're Done?

Here's a horrid thought: how will those who would appease the jihadis know when they are done? After all, it's not like Munich: no one has come forward with a list of demands to be met. Al Qaida's statements have only been to the effect of "surrender or die" (and possibly both). So here is a question for the would-be appeasers: how do you know when you've met the demands?

If al Qaida attacks Europe again soon, was the appeasement ineffective or insufficient? If you give more, how much is enough? How frequently do you have to give? How big? If al Qaida waits for a while before attacking Europe again, did appeasement work in staving off the attacks, or draw more in hopes of further payoffs? How will anyone know?

If al Qaida does not put forward formal demands, then how do you know if you've met their demands? Is it only when you go to pay the jizya that you know you're done? And if you're not willing to be a slave, then when do you stop appeasing and defend yourself? And in the meantime, have you given away so much that your self-defense is not only more difficult, but actually impossible?

Posted by Jeff at 01:44 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Touchstone

Somewhere in Asia Minor, about the time that the Greeks were coming upon what would later be Athens, someone figured out that you could tell the purity of metal by rubbing it on a touchstone: each alloy would make a different mark. You could tell if your gold or silver were pure. Rub gold onto the touchstone and you get a yellow streak. Then you can take any other metal, and if you get that same yellow streak, you know it's pure gold. That's where money came from: standardized metal purities.

Similarly, if you want to know if a strategy is working, they key test is not the first strike, but the second. The first is a mark against which to measure. If the second strike achieves the same kind of result, you've got a winner.

In the Terror Wars, the bombing of the embassy in Lebanon was the touchstone's first mark against the US: we were hit and we left, without first destroying Hizbollah. We were hit again and again in similar ways - Mogadishu is actually not as good of an example, though we left, as the African embassy attacks, where we didn't leave, but also didn't react in any meaningful way.

With 9/11, the terrorists found that, in fact, their strategy was no longer working: the US suddenly cared about preventing this kind of attack, and wouldn't sit ineffectively by, somnolent under the knife. Bali showed that Australia was no easy victim, and it's arguable that the anti-terror measures PM Howard undertook in Indonesia and surrounding countries have been as problematic for the jihadis as the US/Pakistani operations in Pakistan, if not more so.

But the Madrid attacks had a different result: the Europeans, faced with a challenge on home soil (by Arabs who consider Spain also to be their literally God-given home soil), folded. The touchstone had a yellow streak. Now the question is: did the strategy work, or was that a fluke? If, say, Italy has an election, will they be hit? Will Spain be hit again? I think it's likely. (Apparently, so does Rev. Sensing.)

Because that's the real test: if a second attack will make Europe cave in the same way the first apparently is, al Qaida might have found gold.

Posted by Jeff at 12:35 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 11, 2004

Spain

It's odd. The other day, I was thinking, while riding Chicago's elevated train, how easy it would be for terrorists to simply walk on board a dozen cars, wearing the kind of suicide vests used by Palestinian terrorists in bus attacks, and kill hundreds. Today it happened (with backpacks left on the trains), in Spain.

We are all Spanish today.

Spanish Flag - click to start anthem

Posted by Jeff at 06:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 08, 2004

The Iraqi Constitution

The CPA has published an English translation of the interim Iraqi Constitution. I've been reading it, and there's a lot to like.

Article 4 is particularly encouraging, as it sets out the nature of the future Iraq government in such a way as to provide a stable representative form. In addition, there is an explicit rejection (found sprinkled in different forms throughout the document) of various ways of dividing the Iraqis in nationalist of fundamentalist ways.

The system of government in Iraq shall be republican, federal, democratic, and pluralistic, and powers shall be shared between the federal government and the regional governments, governorates [sic], municipalities, and local administrations. The federal system shall be based upon geographic and historical realities and the separation of powers, and not upon origin, race, ethnicity, nationality, or confession.

The federal nature is spelled out clearly later (Chapter 8). The key summary is this: "The design of the federal system in Iraq shall be established in such a way as to prevent the concentration of power in the federal government that allowed the continuation of decades of tyranny and oppression under the previous regime. This system shall encourage the exercise of local authority by local officials in every region and governorate, thereby creating a united Iraq in which every citizen actively participates in governmental affairs, secure in his rights and free of domination."

Article 7, paragraph A is interesting, too. It is an attempt to acknowledge Islam's importance in Iraq without enslaving the government to the religious decrees of clerics. Note that the "principles of democracy" and "the rights cited in Chapter Two" (more on which later) are given equal weight with the tenets of Islam, such that Shari'a could not be imposed under this document. Also, note that the phrase is "the universally agreed tenets of Islam", which further lessens the chances of a fundamentalist takeover of the lawmaking mechanism.

Islam is the official religion of the State and is to be considered a source of legislation. No law that contradicts the universally agreed tenets of Islam, the principles of democracy, or the rights cited in Chapter Two of this Law may be enacted during the transitional period. This Law respects the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice.

Article 7, Paragraph B is a little confusing to me: "Iraq is a country of many nationalities, and the Arab people in Iraq are an inseparable part of the Arab nation." I don't understand the subtleties of Arabic, and I suspect that there is something implied in this paragraph that I need to understand. Help from an Arabic speaker would be appreciated.

Article 12 lays down the fundamental rule of law, and equality before the law:

All Iraqis are equal in their rights without regard to gender, sect, opinion, belief, nationality, religion, or origin, and they are equal before the law. Discrimination against an Iraqi citizen on the basis of his gender, nationality, religion, or origin is prohibited. Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the security of his person. No one may be deprived of his life or liberty, except in accordance with legal procedures. All are equal before the courts.

This provision is, as far as I know, unique in the Arab world. And it's a good and necessary provision for individual freedom to be possible.

Article 13 prevents the government from suppressing criticism of itself, as well as providing for a number of basic rights. It should be noted though that these are positive rights, granted by the Iraqi Constitution, not negative statements preventing the government from abrogating rights. There is actually a mix of positive and negative language in the Constitution as it is written.

(A) Public and private freedoms shall be protected.

(B) The right of free expression shall be protected.

(C) The right of free peaceable assembly and the right to join associations freely, as well as the right to form and join unions and political parties freely, in accordance with the law, shall be guaranteed.

(D) Each Iraqi has the right of free movement in all parts of Iraq and the right to travel abroad and return freely.

(E) Each Iraqi has the right to demonstrate and strike peaceably in accordance with the law.

(F) Each Iraqi has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief and practice. Coercion in such matters shall be prohibited.

(G) Slavery, the slave trade, forced labor, and involuntary servitude with or without pay, shall be forbidden.

(H) Each Iraqi has the right to privacy.

Article 14 could be troubling to Iraq over the long term. What this article essentially does is to create a civil right to be nannied by the government. Should Iraq become quite prosperous, and birth rates decline as a result, and should this provision be carried forward into the permanent Constitution, then Iraq could face a situation where (notwithstanding the "within the limits of their resources" clause) a constitutional crisis would arise from this language clashing with material reality.

The individual has the right to security, education, health care, and social security. The Iraqi State and its governmental units, including the federal government, the regions, governorates, municipalities, and local administrations, within the limits of their resources and with due regard to other vital needs, shall strive to provide prosperity and employment opportunities to the people.

The really cool thing about this is that I'm looking at the Constitution for an Arab government quibbling about how a particular clause might effect the finances of the government in 50 years, rather than noting the total absence of rights - that is encouraging.

Article 15 concerns the application of the rule of law, and in particular limits government powers to arbitrarily punish people. What's most interesting to me, though, after the broad outline is suitably drawn, is that the rights being granted arise from private property rights, which are the fundamental rights which must exist for prosperity to take hold. And since prosperity almost always leads fairly directly to political freedom, property rights are the foundation of a free society. Here is paragraph (B):

Police, investigators, or other governmental authorities may not violate the sanctity of private residences, whether these authorities belong to the federal or regional governments, governorates, municipalities, or local administrations, unless a judge or investigating magistrate has issued a search warrant in accordance with applicable law on the basis of information provided by a sworn individual who knew that bearing false witness would render him liable to punishment. Extreme exigent circumstances, as determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, may justify a warrantless search, but such exigencies shall be narrowly construed. In the event that a warrantless search is carried out in the absence of an extreme exigent circumstance, the evidence so seized, and any other evidence found derivatively from such search, shall be inadmissible in connection with a criminal charge, unless the court determines that the person who carried out the warrantless search believed reasonably and in good faith that the search was in accordance with the law.

Article 16 makes this more explicit. While I'm not a fan of eminent domain in the first place, the property protection provided here is superior to that in most of the world, and effectively equivalent to the property rights guarantees in the US.

(A) Public property is sacrosanct, and its protection is the duty of every citizen.

(B) The right to private property shall be protected, and no one may be prevented from disposing of his property except within the limits of law. No one shall be deprived of his property except by eminent domain, in circumstances and in the manner set forth in law, and on condition that he is paid just and timely compensation.

(C) Each Iraqi citizen shall have the full and unfettered right to own real property in all parts of Iraq without restriction.

The most troubling part of the Constitution, with the possible exception of the Article 7, Paragraph B language, is contained in Article 17.

It shall not be permitted to possess, bear, buy, or sell arms except on licensure issued in accordance with the law.

Effectively, the Iraqi government has the power to disarm the Iraqi citizens, and thus to prevent the last refuge of freedom: defense of the self against the depredations of government agents. This is far more problematic in places where government agents have recently been predatory than in settled nations where the rule of law is well established, and Iraq is certainly more in the former than the latter category. Hopefully, this language will not be in the permanent Constitution

Article 22 is excellent, because it gives individuals and groups the ability to directly sue government officials who violate their rights, and be compensated personally by that government official if he was not acting in good faith.

If, in the course of his work, an official of any government office, whether in the federal government, the regional governments, the governorate and municipal administrations, or the local administrations, deprives an individual or a group of the rights guaranteed by this Law or any other Iraqi laws in force, this individual or group shall have the right to maintain a cause of action against that employee to seek compensation for the damages caused by such deprivation, to vindicate his rights, and to seek any other legal measure. If the court decides that the official had acted with a sufficient degree of good faith and in the belief that his actions were consistent with the law, then he is not required to pay compensation.

The rest of the document is concerned with the structure of government, and limitations on the powers of government:

The armed forces are placed under civilian control, and serving members of the armed forces or Defense Ministry are prohibited from running for office.
The government maintains a monopoly on organized armed forces. (I suspect that this effectively outlaws militias, which is likely not a good thing, particularly in combination with the aforementioned ability of the government to control gun ownership.)

Government officers, legislators and jurists cannot simultaneously hold multiple offices.

The National Assembly (legislature) is given oversight of the executive. These powers are well-defined: "The oversight function performed by the National Assembly and its committees shall include the right of interpellation of executive officials, including members of the Presidency Council, the Council of Ministers, including the Prime Minister, and any less senior official of the executive authority. This shall encompass the right to investigate, request information, and issue subpoenas for persons to appear before them."

Laws must be gazetted before taking effect.

"The National Assembly shall be elected in accordance with an electoral law and a political parties law. The electoral law shall aim to achieve the goal of having women constitute no less than one-quarter of the members of the National Assembly and of having fair representation for all communities in Iraq, including the Turcomans, ChaldoAssyrians, and others."

De-Ba'athification is constitutionally required. Former members of the Ba'ath at any but a quite junior level may not serve in the new government, and even junior Ba'ath members would have to disavow in writing any loyalty to the Ba'ath party. Members of the security services ("the former agencies of repression") are barred no matter what their duties or Ba'ath party level were.

Provisions exist to ensure that members of the Assembly will have foreknowledge of a bill (multiple readings, time requirements between introduction and voting, etc).

"The Iraqi Armed Forces may not be dispatched outside Iraq even for the purpose of defending against foreign aggression except with the approval of the National Assembly and upon the request of the Presidency Council."

The executive authority is divided among three persons/bodies: a Presidency Council, a Council of Ministers and a Prime Minister.

The Presidency Council is a three-member body, chosen by the National Assembly, which wields the authority of the State by unanimous agreement. Aside from the ceremonial purposes of the State, the Presidency Council can veto legislation, appoint the Prime Minister and ministers of the Council of Ministers (all subject to ratification by the National Assembly), and appoint the members of the Federal Supreme Court. Note that the Council is chosen by the Assembly, but is not subject to exercising its power only while retaining the confidence of the Assembly (as is common with parliamentary systems). The Assembly can remove the members of the Presidency Council, but to do so requires a supermajority. The Council can effectively derail treaties, but cannot ratify them (that power falls to the Assembly).

The Prime Minister is the head of government, and commander in chief of the armed forces for operational purposes (with the ceremonial duties being undertaken by the Presidency Council). Unlike the Presidency Council, the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers serve at the pleasure of the Assembly (and for that matter at the pleasure of the Presidency Council - it will be easy to get rid of an underperforming minister).

The Council of Ministers has the power to appoint general officers in the armed forces and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Service, subject to agreement by the Assembly. The ministers, in addition to heading up the various departments their portfolios empower them to lead, also have the power to nominate ambassadors (subject to the approval of the Presidency Council).

The judiciary is independent: "The judiciary is independent, and it shall in no way be administered by the executive authority, including the Ministry of Justice. The judiciary shall enjoy exclusive competence to determine the innocence or guilt of the accused pursuant to law, without interference from the legislative or executive authorities."

The powers and jurisdiction of the Federal Supreme Court are similar to those in practice held by the US Supreme Court (such as the ability to nullify law), except that they are here made explicit. Unlike the SCOTUS, the Federal Supreme Court has the power to enforce its decisions without recourse to lower courts or executive authorities.

A "Higher Judicial Council", consisting of several important judges, supervises the court system, and nominates members to the bench (three per vacancy). The Presidential Council appoints from those nominated, or rejects the slate entirely, in which case the Higher Judicial Council has to submit a new slate.

Local and regional court decisions are only subject to federal review on the grounds of violating federal law or the Constitution.

The Special Tribunal (to examine war crimes by the Hussein regime) is confirmed as-is, as are certain other commissions erected to do one-time jobs (like de-Ba'athification).

Chapter 8 lays out the federal nature of Iraq, starting with this key summary:

The design of the federal system in Iraq shall be established in such a way as to prevent the concentration of power in the federal government that allowed the continuation of decades of tyranny and oppression under the previous regime. This system shall encourage the exercise of local authority by local officials in every region and governorate, thereby creating a united Iraq in which every citizen actively participates in governmental affairs, secure in his rights and free of domination.

Minority rights are protected. The Kurdish government in place in the North is codified into the lawful regional government of the six governorates currently under Kurdish control. "No member of any regional government, governor, or member of any governorate, municipal, or local council may be dismissed by the federal government or any official thereof, except upon conviction of a crime by a court of competent jurisdiction as provided by law. No regional government may dismiss a Governor or member or members of any governorate, municipal, or local council. No Governor or member of any Governorate, municipal, or local council shall be subject to the control of the federal government except to the extent that the matter relates to the competences set forth in Article 25 [exclusive competencies of the federal government] and 43(D) [establishment of regional courts], above."

A base level of regional and governorate funding comes from the national government, and the regions and governorates can increase their funding by levying local taxes.

Except for the exclusive competencies of the federal government (which are fairly limited), power is devolved to the regions and locales. The powers reserved to the federal government are, basically, foreign and trade policy; national security; fiscal policy, including chartering a commercial bank and regulating commerce across internal political boundaries; regulating weights and measures; regulating wages (I assume they intend a minimum wage, rather than the setting of all wages, given the other provisions of the document); managing the natural resources; regulating citizenship, immigration and asylum, and regulating telecommunications policy. All in all, these are fairly limited powers, and everything else is left up to subordinate jurisdictions.

Procedures are put in place for redressing serious problems caused by the Hussein regime.

Provisions are made for the drafting of a permanent Constitution.

Taken together, this is a fine document. There are some places where long-term worries would exist, but this is not intended to be a long-term Constitution. Let's put it this way, I could live under this Constitution, with the sole exception of the granting of powers to the Federal government to regulate gun ownership.

UPDATE (3/10): Steven Den Beste analyzes Iraq's Constitution, with a strong focus on the executive branch, and some emergent properties of the Iraqi Constitution.

Posted by Jeff at 04:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Crisis; What Crisis?

I have been thinking lately about the various crises brewing in the world, and figured I'd list them so I could get a better handle on what is happening. So here is a list of crises I see in progress or impending, ranked by a combination of the risk level and time frame and current commitment of the US:

CrisisSeverityTime FrameBig Risk(s)
IraqMediumimmediateUS withdrawal precipitates anarchy, eventual Islamic republic and resumption of state support of terrorism
IranHigh1-10 yearsnuclear proliferation; hosting and funding of terrorists; financing and aiding insurrection in Iraq and regional factions in Afghanistan
nuclear proliferation to rogue statesHigh1-5 yearsfailure to dismantle A.Q. Khan's network could lead to nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorist groups and an attack on a Western city (likely Israeli or US, possibly British or French)
VenezuelaMediuma few months to 2 yearsMarxist takeover leads to terrorist support, or civil war, or both
Pakistan - tribal areasMediumimmediatefailure to clean out Taliban remnants and jihadist groups leads to ongoing instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan
N KoreaMedium2-10 yearsnuclear proliferation; internal collapse precipitating conflict between S Korea and China; attack on S Korea to prevent internal collapse
Saudi financing of terrorist groupsMediumimmediatenot only allows cross-border terrorist groups to operate, but provides them with ongoing source of recruits
SyriaMediumimmediatefinancing and hosting of terrorist groups; funding and aiding insurrection in Iraq
EuropeMedium30-50 yearsdemographic collapse combined with influx of unassimilated Muslims could result in civil war
Israel/PakistanLow1-3 yearsrisk of Palestinian civil war/terrorism provoking harsh Israeli response
AfghanistanLowimmediatefailure of central government to gain control over all regions, leading to eventual ability of jihadist groups to regain control
EgyptLow3-15 yearsrisk of Islamist takeover
PakistanLow1-15 yearsrisk of Islamist takeover
SE AsiaLowimmediatevarious terrorist groups operating throughout the area (particularly Philippines and Indonesia)

I'd be interested in others' takes on this list and its details. Also, what am I missing?

Posted by Jeff at 11:52 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Sistani's Gambit

Porphyrogenitus questions Sistani's strategy and motives:

It does make me wonder what he's up to. Did he just have second thoughts on bringing things to the brink? Or did he want to show (again) that he can block anything if he doesn't like it? Is it as simple as people still learning how to deal with and accept compromise?

Here is the background: Ayatollah Sistani is, bar none, the single most influential person in Iraq right now, largely because he stayed virtually entirely out of politics during Saddam's period of rule, while many clerics were corrupted into the effective service of the regime, or killed in the process of resisting. As the most honored and respected Shi'a cleric, Sistani has the ability to make Iraq's move towards representative government impossible, or to greatly aid that move. Ayatollah Sistani has, several times, engaged in brinksmanship, most lately this past weekend over the signing of the interim constitution, threatening to withhold support for (and thus cause to collapse) vital reforms or deals. In the end, in each case, Sistani has backed down and allowed things to go forward without changes.

I have a theory, which needs a lot more evidence before I'm confident in its usefulness as a predictive tool. I believe that Sistani genuinely wants a federated, representative government ruling over a free Iraqi people; which government respects and promotes Islam, but without compelling a particular kind of rule on its citizens. But Iraq has never had such a government, nor has any Arab state, nor have many Muslim states. There is a real danger of Iraq collapsing into anarchy if the US leaves, and the US is hardly famed for its farsighted foreign policy (and with if Kerry wins, that reputation might be borne out yet again).

For the last several decades - longer than the majority of Iraqis have been alive - the government has been a dictatorship of the Sunni minority, and the Shi'a and Kurds in particular were heavily oppressed. Each major Iraqi demographic group wants to be protected. The Kurds want to ensure that the autonomy they achieved under the protection of the "no-fly zones" remains in place, and that they are not disarmed. The Sunni want to make sure that they do not end up on the receiving end of what they were putting out under Saddam.

But what about the Shi'a? At sixty per cent of the population, the Shi'a would be the natural majority under any kind of representative system. So why would Sistani be playing brinksmanship games that threaten to retard an advance towards that system, when under it he and the Shi'a in general would have more power and rights than they've ever had before?

I believe that Sistani is hedging his bets. If the US leaves, Sistani wants the Shi'a united behind him, ready to prevent a resurgence of Sunni tyranny. Certainly, he has to fear the jihadis, who are largely in favor of either violently dividing Iraq or putting the Sunni in control. (Iran notwithstanding, Shi'a is considered heretical by most jihadis.)

If Shari'a were to become the source of Iraqi law, which is almost certainly what the Iranian ayatollahs desire, Sistani risks seeing real control devolve to the jihadis, which Sistani does not seem to desire. (Indeed, he has spoken out directly against the jihadis on more than one occasion.)

So Sistani has to ensure that the Shi'a of Iraq would follow him, and to do that he has to prove that he is their hope of a better future. To do that, he has to be seen as a strong advocate for Shi'a interests - and as capable of influencing the situation directly. In other words, Sistani has to be seen to be strong in order to have the ability to influence events later should the worst happen.

I believe that Sistani's gambit is to threaten, but not actually impede, reform, in order to position himself to pull down the entire enterprise later should the Shi'a be threatened by the new system.

Other possibilities abound, and many of them are plausible. It could be that Sistani truly desires Shari'a law in Iraq, but knows he cannot obtain it until the US leaves. However, in that case, it seems to me that Sistani's best move would be to refuse to either condone or condemn the procedings, but to occasionally issue declarations that the process is not Islamic enough, or is not sufficiently in line with the will of Allah, or some similar tone. In other words, Sistani could remove the perceived legitimacy of the process without actively opposing it. This would allow the process to go forwards, and the US to eventually withdraw, at which point a well-worded fatwa could bring the entire Iraqi system crashing down, leaving the Shi'a in de facto charge and giving Sistani the ability to unilaterally implement Shari'a.

Alternately, if Sistani's intent were to bring about direct autocratic Shi'a rule over Iraq without implementing Shari'a, a similar strategy could be followed, but instead of taking the religious slant, a more secular concern for the unity of all Iraqis could be the focus. You see, Sistani could argue, federalism is all well and good for fractious Western nations put together out of a variety of incompatible philosophies and beliefs, but we Iraqis are all brothers in Islam, servants of the will of Allah. Federalism is a threat to all Iraqis because it divides us into factions. By making such an argument, Sistani might be able to pull off the insertion of a "poison pill" into the Iraqi Constitution, some provision that makes federalism apparently active, but with some room to define federalism to include no actual local authority (such as language that no regional government could override a law approved by a majority referendum of the people, which Sistani could deliver and none of the other groups could).

There are certainly other games that Sistani could be playing, but I haven't yet seen any evidence that Sistani is doing more than hedging his bets.

Posted by Jeff at 10:25 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 06, 2004

Food for Thought

Norm Geras has an interesting post on the limits of national sovereignty.

Posted by Jeff at 10:06 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 05, 2004

Venezuela Falling Apart

Venezuela is falling apart, with Hugo Chavez at this point effectively attempting to stifle all sources of opposition. Now, they're coming for the guns. If the people of Venezuela do not soon rise up in armed revolt, they will be unable to do so.

The thing is, we have a couple of choices here (ignoring the ever-popular "hope for the best"): we can use similar anti-Communist strategies to those used in the 1980s in Latin America - fund, arm and train an indigenous resistance - or we can intervene. Intervention, at this point when we are so deeply committed elsewhere, would almost certainly mean a mobilization of much of the Guard and Reserve land forces - not a trivial or quick thing to do. In other words, at best, we'd be unable to do anything meaningful for at least six months after start of preparations. This leaves us with the slow road, arming a domestic resistance, possibly accelerated by a trade embargo and blockade.

The problem is, Venezuela could easily become, under Chavez, an anti-American haven for terrorists. They are also a major oil exporter, and thus likely to be able to get around a blockade by using pipelines.

Ugly, ugly problem.

Posted by Jeff at 09:31 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

If you Want Neat and Tidy...

Some last-minute issues have cropped up with the interim Iraqi Consitution. The two most significant ones apparently have to do with the process of approval of the final Constitution next year, and the size of the Presidential Council:

Hamid al-Bayati, from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said one major point of contention was a clause on a referendum due to be held next year to approve a permanent constitution once it has been drawn up.

The clause states that even if a majority of Iraqis approves the constitution, it can be vetoed if two-thirds of voters in three provinces reject it. The clause was inserted by the Kurds, who run three provinces in northern Iraq and want the power to veto any attempt to rein in their considerable autonomy.
[snip]
Governing Council sources said another point of disagreement was the structure of Iraq's presidential council. They said Shi'ites wanted a five-member rather than a three-member presidential council, with three Shi'ites, a Sunni and a Kurd.


I realize that the Shi'a want to have the majority voice. However, their 60% majority, and the tendency of demographics to take a hand over the long-term, argue against giving in to the Shi'a on either of these points.

The veto provision at issue would allow any of the three major ethnic groups to veto to permanent Constitution if they felt sufficiently endangered by it. (The geographical dispersal of these groups in Iraq is minimal.) Without such a provision, effectively only the Shi'a could veto it.

The second provision at issue would give the Shi'a effective control, because if the three Shi'a members of the council wanted to trample the Kurds and Sunni, their representatives would be outnumbered by the Shi'a members.

In both cases, what is apparent is an attempt by the Shi'a to gain and make permanent their control. Such an attempt could eventually lead to a massive armed resistence on the part of the Kurds and Sunni - to civil war.

As one [Iraqi?] official apparently said: "If you want neat and tidy, get a dictatorship."

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus has more.

UPDATE (03/08): Fortunately, the Constitution was signed without major changes.

Posted by Jeff at 06:57 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Iran's Great Game

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has an interesting post on the power relationships affecting Iran, and the response of the ayatollahs to those power relationships. One thing that is apparent from the overall shape of the post, but which the comments by and large seem to have missed, is that Iran's ayatollahs are juggling tigers. Consider what the ayatollahs are dealing with:

  • an educated, largely pro-Western population, mostly young, whose demands for political reform were so ignored that they are turning into demands for freedom instead;
  • border populations of Shi'a with no fealty to Iran's ayatollahs and living under increasing freedom and safety;
  • an openly-hostile US led by a President who has followed his rhetoric with carefully-considered forceful action, who stands an excellent chance of being President for four more years, who named Iran second in a list of three nations who form "an axis of evil", and who is willing to use force to prevent hostile nations from obtaining nuclear weapons;
  • large US armies sitting on two land borders of Iran, one of which can easily be supplied by sea, and both of which are capable of stockpiling serious amounts of war supplies in advance;
  • a long coastline controlled by the US Navy, and a narrow route for Iran's major commodity, oil, to be shipped through; which route is also controlled by the US Navy;
  • both Israeli and US will and capability to undertake armed attacks on resources for nuclear weapons production.

Joe's analysis of the ayatollahs' options is very nicely done: oppress the Iranian populace, destabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, attempt to sway Shi'a populations outside of Iran into a de facto deference to the Iranian ayatollahs, attack Israel by proxy and attempt to ratchet up the violence there, and create numerous terrorist threats that America cannot afford to ignore.

Now, let's look at the American side. Our situation is as follows:

  • The Iranians are acting in accordance with the strategy mentioned above.
  • The Syrians and Saudis are also attempting to tie down US power, while ensuring that Iraqi moves towards self-rule stall and eventually fail. The Syrians are apparently behind almost as much of the unrest in Iraq as Iran is. The Saudis apparently prefer to link terrorists with resources, and provide cash, training and ideological justification to terrorists.
  • The ongoing occupation of Iraq ties down a significant number of troops while the security situation and border control are unresolved.
  • Significant elements of the American body politic are either unaware of the threats America faces; or unwilling to confront them openly and honestly; or believe that confronting these threats will exacerbate, rather than lessen, our vulnerability. In addition, there is a very small, but vocal and influential, part of the American body politic which actively empathizes with our enemies and considers America itself to be the primary danger to humanity.
  • During this election year, any large-scale actions against other nations would be politically suicidal, in that even were the President to prevail on the policy, the divisions stirred up in America by partisans over any such actions would outweigh the benefits of undertaking the action. This is true so long as no imminent and existential threat exists, but could change if, for example, Iran demonstrated a working nuclear weapon. (That is, any threat horizon more than six months out is not worth considering in this context.)
  • Our post-WWII alliances are in a huge state of flux. Many traditional allies (not least the Axis of Weasels) apparently believe that limiting American power and influence is more important - at least more urgent - than confronting the terrorist threat to us and them alike. At the same time, many of those allies who have been with us up to now (the UK for example) are either overcommitted or politically incapable of following up with future actions, at least until their forces are no longer needed in Iraq. New potential allies such as Afghanistan and Iraq are in no shape to assist outside their own borders, and in fact need substantial assistence from the US within their own borders.

Before formulating a plan for American action over the next few years, there are a couple of pre-requisite realizations that we must make. First, there are different ways, equally valid, to prioritize tasks to undertake. Despite snarkiness from some, such as Tacitus contributors fabius and democritus, it is simply not possible simultaneously to undertake every task we wish to take. Resources are limited, and threats have to be dealt with in a certain order. In some cases, reasonable people can disagree about the order.

Second, the US does not merely have to defend in place against the attempts by Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia - and to a lesser extent Russia, France and China - to prevent us from acting in our own interest. Right now, we're largely playing defense, because we are not yet at the point where our resources exceed our needs. However, Afghanistan is really pretty quiet at this point, at least in a strategic sense, and Iraq appears to be moving in that direction. Once an interim government is in place in Iraq, and more police and border guards are trained, our hand will be considerably freer. But, as with the domestic political sitatuation, this argues against major action this year.

Our high-priority tasks are: removal of the Iranian ayatollahs from power before Iran acquires nuclear weapons; completely dismantling the nuclear proliferation regime set up by A. Q. Khan; further disrupting the terrorist organizations, particularly in Pakistan, India and Lebanon; stabilizing Iraq.

Our medium-priority tasks are: removal of the Syrian regime from power; shutting down the influence of fundamentalist elements (primarily Wahhabi) in Saudi Arabia; bolstering European nations - particularly France, Germany and the Low Countries - to be able to withstand turmoil among or open revolt by the unassimilated immigrant Muslim communities in their nations; reshaping or enlarging the military to be able to undertake multiple simultaneous invasions, interventions or occupations; spreading Enlightenment ideals throughout the Arab/Muslim world, and reinforcing those ideals in Western Europe.

In formulating a plan for the next several years, it is tempting to look at the threats and challenges to the US, along with the limitations of the US and our allies, and simply give up. This actually seems to be the Democrat strategy, by and large, and it's the major reason I cannot vote for Kerry. Despite his Johnnie-come-lately attempts to sound like he's aware that we are actually at war, and cares, he's done little to lay out a plan of action, and doesn't have a history to make any such plan credible. Sending envoys to N. Korea and Iran and threatening to scowl at them is not going to improve our safety at all. So what plan should we undertake?

Certain actions are already underway. We are addressing at least some of the high and medium priorities I listed above: restructuring the Army, spreading Enlightenment ideals in the Arab/Muslim world, disrupting Taliban and al Qaida remnants in Pakistan and working to stabilize Iraq. I suspect that, behind the scenes, we are also doing a huge amount of work to dismantle the off-the-shelf nuclear weapons market set up by A. Q. Khan. We can argue about the effectiveness of methods and the relative priorities, but these at least seem to be actively being undertaken by the US at this time.

This ties up some of our capabilities. A large part of our conventional ground force is tied up in Iraq, and some part of our special forces are tied up in Iraq and also along the Afghan/Pakistani border. This rules out an invasion of Iran or Syria this year. A large part of our law enforcement and intelligence capability is currently focused on limiting the damage caused by Khan's activities, meaning that significant undercover activities will be limited.

Of the high-priority tasks that are not currently being undertaken (or at least, that I don't know about), Iran is the big question mark. I think that we have some options this year, though, that make it possible to return Iran to representative government next year.

First, we should undertake to inhibit Iran's nuclear weapons program. I would do this in three ways: first, conventional attacks on known nuclear sites (such as Bushehr); second, recruiting or assassinating Iranian nuclear scientists; and third, sabotage.

Second, we should fund and encourage Iranian dissidents. Propaganda is effective in this kind of situation, as is the provision of supplies and promises of support and normalization of relations (and we should have the means to back this up!). We can use Iraqi and Afghan territory as a staging base for special forces attacks against regime allies, particularly against terrorist bases in Iran. If the ayatollahs cannot stop us, they will look weak, and that could be fatal to them.

Third, we should attack Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Marines are largely available (I believe about 1/3 of the Marine combat units are currently deployed), are effective at littoral operations (which all of Lebanon is), and have a score to settle. Taking down Hezbollah in the Beka'a Valley, in particular, would be incredibly damaging to both Iran (Hezbollah is their major overseas action arm) and Syria (who would lose face from not being able to keep us out of Lebanon, which they occupy). If the Syrians were determined to actively resist US action in Lebanon, they have to face the possibility of a two-front war, since the US could also attack from Iraq if we had to. The Iranians would be unable to provide sufficient support in time to make a difference, and Hezbollah would be forced to run for the hills. At that point, we could reestablish and support local Christian militias, with help from Israel (who used to be supporters of these militias) to aid in keeping Hezbollah on the defensive.

Each of these steps can be done with different resources which are currently available to the US. Each of them would assist in destabilizing our enemies and putting them on the defensive.

And next year, if Iraq's stability increases as expected, the rotation of troops in Iraq could easily be turned into a surge for an invasion of Iran. It is possible, but not likely, that Iran could develop nuclear weapons in a year. However, with the active interventions described above, we should be able to prevent that. At that point, there would be a single belt of US force stretching from Afghanistan to Iraq. Hopefully, the Arab/Muslim world would then begin to reevaluate its options, and maybe think about modernization and democratization. If not, we could be ready for Syria and Saudi Arabia by 2007.

Posted by Jeff at 05:11 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (7)

We Didn't Know, but We Knew

This was the suicide note of the mayor of Ohrdruf, Germany and his wife in 1945: "We didn't know, but we knew." The mayor and his wife, along with the citizens of the town, were ordered to dig graves for the dead at the concentration camp outside of town. They did, and then the mayor and his wife hanged themselves.

Some day, history will judge us as harshly over North Korea's misery as we judge the WWII generation (particularly in Europe) for their failure to stop the death camps sooner. We have no excuse, because we know, no matter how much we try to deny it.

Posted by Jeff at 03:11 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 01, 2004

Porphyrogenitus on America's 21st Century Foreign Policy

I've been waiting for the series to conclude before posting an index to Porphyrogenitus' America's 21st Century Foreign Policy, but since he's already published an index, I'll just point you there. Porphyrogenitus looks at our foreign policy future in terms of what goal we desire, and how we can go about obtaining it. He contrasts this with past policy. The result is a very useful series for sharpening your thoughts on foreign policy.

Posted by Jeff at 10:57 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

February 16, 2004

Bigger Army - Same Size

The Dignified Rant (sorry, no permalinks) notes this StrategyPage article (look at the February 12 entry) I somehow missed.

February 12, 2004: The U.S. Army wants to spend $20 billion over the next seven years to create a force of 42-48 active duty combat brigades (from the current force of 33), and increasing the number of National Guard combat brigades from 15 to 22. In addition, many unneeded field artillery, air defense, engineer, armor and ordnance battalions will be disbanded while increasing the number of military police, transportation, petroleum and water distribution, civil affairs, psychological operations and biological warfare detection units. The new combat brigades would be smaller than the current ones (two combat battalions each versus three) and have more support units attached to enable the brigades to operate independently. The current 33 brigades include 11 light infantry, 17 heavy mech infantry and armor, 5 Stryker brigades) will be turned into 15 infantry brigades, 22 armored brigades and five Stryker brigades. The new armor brigades will combine tanks and mech infantry by having four companies (two tank and two mech infantry) per each of its two battalions. The armor brigade would also have a recon battalion. The exact details of the reorganization are still being worked out. For example, the fourth and fifth brigades in divisions would use the current headquarters of the aviation and engineer brigades to form headquarters.

It's certainly an interesting proposal. Combined with the intent of reorganizing units to serve together longer (can't find the link), it allows the US to deploy more of the combat power we need for the kind of war we're fighting now, while not increasing the size of the Army in terms of end strength.

I might have to take back some of my prior comments on the size of the military. It appears that SecDef Rumsfeld might actually succeed at engineering a qualitative reorganization within the current authorized end strength numbers.

This has some interesting implications that need to be explored. We'll have less artillery in the field. In modern warfare, artillery has been the most effective battlefield killer, hands down. On the other hand, artillery (especially self-propelled units) require a huge logistical tail. If we can use aircraft to largely replace artillery, and the Iraq war shows that this is to some extent possible, and integrate other artillery directly into the front-line combat units, it means that we can repurpose some of these combat support units (we'll still need some - there will be a continuing need for some artillery into the future). Certainly, one can make the that having an air-defense capability in the military is currently not necessary. It is appearing more and more as if helicopters are going to prove to be too vulnerable to use unsupported, meaning that we'll have to use them strictly as part combined arms operations (a lesson we also learned with tanks, decades ago). The combination of these reductions means we can have more combat troops on the ground, but only if we can compel the Air Force leadership to put a lot of effort and focus into close air support. That means that we'll have to look at dropping either JSF or (more likely) the less-useful F22 Raptor, and using the savings to procure a replacement for the A-10 - a dedicated CAS aircraft.

Another consequence of this will be that there will be no possibility of fighting with a conscripted Army. If we want to institute the draft, we'll have to build a completely new Army (except for the tail end) with a different doctrine and TO&E from the regular forces. We simply couldn't maintain a draft Army long enough to train them to the requisite standards for the kind of warfare that would be undertaken by these smaller brigades.

A third consequence would be that this organization should be capable of sustaining a Middle Eastern war (same or slightly smaller size than Iraq) every other year, with a full-scale occupation ongoing at the same time, pretty much indefinitely. This implies that we expect to be turning countries back to largely local control in each case within a two-year time frame. If we were to perform an invasion every third year, we could likely sustain two occupations in varying stages.

If we can pull off a further transformation, and move a lot of the current administrative tasks off to civilian contractors, or simply reduce the overhead (easier said than done), we might be able to build a large enough force to have a pair of full-scale, ongoing occupations and still fight a war. It won't be easy, but it might be possible.

UPDATE: Here is the missing link on the Army's attempt to keep units together longer.

UPDATE: The Dignified Rant now has permalinks, sort of. But they're not retroactive (at least not yet).

Posted by Jeff at 08:06 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

February 13, 2004

Preemption

I love to see Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld talk, and to read transcripts of his speeches and press conferences. Here is a classic example, from a NATO conference Q&A session:

Q [U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina]:  You may need a translator because I speak southern English, but we will give it a go.  Mr. Secretary, you made a very passionate argument about the war, but as I was here last year, I was very firm in my beliefs that Iraq was part of the problem, not the solution when it came to terrorism.  I am disappointed about the weapons of mass destruction, I want to know why, if we were wrong.  I think it’s important that my country, Senator McCain, President Bush and all of us will find out if we were wrong at all, and I think it’s important that we look at that aspect of our intelligence.  But I do believe the war was just.  I do believe it was right, but here is the problem.  If  I’m a European or Russian, the doctrine of preemption would make me uncomfortable.  I can understand that.  But what I would say to our allies: that after 9/11 the doctrine of preemption, I think, is necessary.  In the Cold War, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction was a very serious doctrine, and it was that if you strike us, you will not survive.  Rationality won out; the belief was that you would not forfeit your life to try to get an advantage, because we have the capability to take your life.  In terrorism, that does not work.  So, Mr. Secretary, if you could, could you please explain from your point of view, why the doctrine of preemption is a rational doctrine in the war on terrorism and how we can better integrate that doctrine with our allies?

Rumsfeld:  I’ll try.  This is a poor quote from somebody, and I forgot who said it, but somebody once said that "a defender has to be right every time, and an attacker, a terrorist, only has to be lucky once in a while." 

Now the problem -- what did we do in Afghanistan?  Here was a country where we made a conscious decision to preemptively, to use the word, go after the Taliban and the al Qaeda in that country because we concluded, only after we’d lost 3000 people, many from your countries as well as ours, that the training and the support for that was reasonably centered there, although not exclusively.  That was different; it was a different thing. 

If someone is going to throw a snowball at you, you may not want to act preemptively; you can afford to take the blow and live with it and do something after the fact.  As you go up the scale from a snowball to a weapon of mass destruction, at some point, where the risk gets high enough that it is not going to be a snowball in your face, but it could be a biological weapon that could kill tens of thousands of human beings; and then you ask yourself, do you have an obligation to take the blow and then do something about it afterwards?  Or if you’ve got at risk, not 3,000, but 30,000, or 300,000 --  whatever -- or do you have an obligation in that case to act somewhat differently?  And it seems to me that when one is looking at the idea of preempting -- I mean think back in history.   If one is looking across a border and they see the enemy massing on the other side of the border, people tended not to wait until the enemy came in and attacked the country; they tended to go after the massing forces before they came in to your country.  So preemption is not something that is new, and it is something in my mind that has to be weighed and considered by all of us with respect to what is the potential loss. 

What is at risk?  That, it seems to me, is something that we all, collectively, individually, are going to have to think through as we go through this period.  What we’ve seen in the press is a network that exists -- a private network in some instances that exists who is moving around weapons of mass destruction and the abilities to produce them.  If that’s happening as we’ve been reading in the press, one has to say, we know there’s an appetite on the part of terrorists to kill people.  They're training.  People are being trained in schools to do that.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that at some point these private networks and these terrorist networks are going to connect, and at that moment people are going to have to face up to the realities of the 21st century.


(Hat Tip: uBlog)

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Jeff at 09:28 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Can't Do That

Josh Chafetz suggests that the US should abandon our plans for holding a caucus in June to pick the next Iraqi government, instead pushing off the time until later and holding a general election.

GAH! WHAT IS HE THINKING???

Sorry, got hold of myself, now.

What would be the benefits of doing that? We could claim to have gone with Iraqi opinion - or at least with Ayatollah Sistani. Many people equate elections with freedom, for some reason, and would therefore see the process as more legitimate than a caucus.

What would be the downside, though? We would be accused of trying to sabotage the right of Iraqis to self-determination, of cancelling the caucus because "our guy" was not going to win, and of using transparent tricks to maintain absolute control. We would be giving the Jihadists more time to organize a civil war between Sunni and Shia groups in Iraq. The process of drawing up election lists and so forth, and maintaining them through the violence that is still ongoing (though apparently decreasing) would be open to exploitation and manipulation. (It will be even more so after the Iraqis are in control, but at least then it won't be the US being accused of manipulation.)

So, really, did Josh think about this for more than three seconds before he posted?

Posted by Jeff at 02:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

February 12, 2004

Careful Whose Side you Take

I happen to believe in free immigration. Should a person desire to come to the US, they should be allowed to do so without any hassle at all, unless one or more of the following is true:

  • they have been previously deported from the US, or are under a current deportation order
  • they have been barred by lawful court order from entering or being in the US
  • they have been barred by lawful executive order from entering or being in the US
  • they have been convicted of a prior felony committed in the US or against a US citizen or US interests abroad

In other words, I have no problem with the massive waves of (mostly-Mexican) immigrants coming into the US to work, and sending money home to their families. Hey, let's face it: it's how most of our ancestors got here. It's just that most of our ancestors didn't have to face the kind of immigration laws we have now.

On another note, I know that many Mexicans are, like most of the world, huge soccer fans. I realize that Mexicans have pride in their soccer team. I applaud that. Part of the world tradition of soccer fandom includes boisterous rooting for your team, and taunting of the other team. All well and good.

But with all that said, you guys ought to seriously consider how you choose to taunt the US at this point: we're kind of touchy about a few subjects right now. 'Cause I'd hate for this kind of idiocy to cause the US to effectively close our borders and start expelling our guests. And if it is not an isolated incident, it could seriously turn Americans against immigration, and that would be bad for all of us.

Posted by Jeff at 04:01 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Things that Keep me up at Night

It occurs to me that what this election is really all about is whether we should stick our heads into the sand, and obsess about Janet Jackson's breasts and Michael Jackson's paedophilia; or whether we should attempt to prevent our people and civilization from falling into ruin. The media has made it's choice: please ignore the man behind the curtain.

The nuclear proliferation containment regime is over. At this point, any country that wants one can get a nuclear weapon within a few years, at small cost, so long as it keeps its nose clean in other ways. In other words, short of overwhelming American pressure on or occupation of places like Iran, Syria and Egypt (possibly Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as well), the timeframe for a terrorist organization to have at least one nuclear weapon can now be definitively measured in years, not decades. We're probably less than 20 years away from a nuclear attack on a major western city. What are we prepared to do to stop it? What are we prepared to do if it happens? We're all soldiers now.

Let's take it as a given that most people want to hide their heads in the sand. It has, after all, been more than 2 years since the 9/11 attacks, and sometimes it seems like the President and a few bloggers are the only ones paying attention to the world at large in an adult way. OK, given that, will it take the destruction of a major American or European city to force people to once and for all leave their naive illusions behind, or can the people be convinced to act in aggressive preemption of serious threats to the existence of the West?

I believe that the American people, while they would by and large not like to think about it, are happy to have the government taking care of threats without bothering us much with it. Since Kerry would almost certainly fold our cards and act French (that is, surrender now in the hopes that we'll be treated kindly when the Mullahs sit in the White House), I guess we'll see in November, at least for the US. I'm guessing that for most Europeans, it will take a radioactive crater in a major European city to make them realize their danger.

UPDATE (2/13): Steven Den Beste has a post responding to Belmont Club. I believe that Steven misses the critical part of the proliferation pipeline: it's not that designs are getting out, but that centrifuges are getting easier to make and more efficient designs are getting out. This will make the acquisition of fissionable material much easier for a state actor. Steven makes excellent points about whether or not a state would trust al Qaeda with a nuclear weapon (though Iran would likely trust Hizballah with one). Then, however, we get into intentions vs. capabilities. I'd like to see the acquisition of the capability prevented (and I'm sure Steven would, as well).

Posted by Jeff at 11:12 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

February 11, 2004

Progress in Iraq

It's good to see stories like this. It indicates that Iraq is moving away from its socialist and centralized past, into a new and prosperous era. Once the education starts to sink in about how capitalism works, Iraq has a real shot at transformation.

Posted by Jeff at 01:40 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

February 04, 2004

Viggo Mortensen, Call Your Office

I suspect though, that John Rhys Davies would approve: Tolkien's Ace in the Hole

Posted by Jeff at 11:22 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

January 30, 2004

Faster, Please

Porphyrogenitus has commentary on a Spectator article which discusses the political backlash of the Iraq war on Tony Blair. While I agree with Porphyrogenitus that we in the US need to be very aware of this, there are two points that I'd like to take up that he did not.

1. The Spectator is anti-Blair, in much the same way as the New York Times is anti-Bush. Any policy backed by Blair can be assured of a thrashing in The Spectator. We do need to take these arguments seriously, and rebut them, so as to prevent them from becoming the evaluative lens through which the war is seen (thus hampering the wider war). On the other hand, we need to treat these arguments on the basis of where they are coming from. Had Maggie Thatcher been in charge and undertaken identical actions, I suspect The Spectator would have been effusive in praising her.

2. This is an argument for going faster in the wider war. We need to ensure that our opponents, the anti-war folks (and, let's face it, the anti-Enlightenment and pro-Islamist folks as well, who far outnumber the true anti-war folks), are kept off balance as much as our enemies. The reason for this is simple: we can be defeated from without only if we are defeated from within. In a sense, this has always been true. Abraham Lincoln, in his "Lyceum Address" of January, 1838, said:

This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

How then shall we perform it?--At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?-- Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!--All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.


And there is a significant threat from within. It is the same threat that cost us the Viet Nam War: the combination of self-satisfied hubris on the part of pro-Enlightenment individualists and aggressive determination on the part of collectivists.

There are at least three ways to address this internal danger, and all must be followed:

1. The argument in favor of individualism must be continually made, on the basis of principle; and this principle must be the basis of our foreign and domestic policies, even at the cost of early electoral reverses. Protection of human rights, for example, is a fundamentally individualist notion, yet it has been hijacked by collectivists as a tool to beat down governments they oppose (such as the US and Israel) for trivial or imagined offenses, while being ignored when true offenses are committed by third-world or collectivist governments.

Without making individualism the focus of our policies, the collectivists can claim high moral ground without having to face the low moral consequences of their positions. Massive increases in the reach and power of government - always at the expense of individuals - must be fought down. This includes collectivized health care, extending the funding of the NEA, and other such "nanny state" provisions.

If this is not done on the basis of principle, loudly and consistently argued, it makes conservatives look mean. If we argue the principle of keeping power from those who would use it against us, we'll have a much better chance of convincing people of the reasons why it is necessary to prevent collectivist expansions of power in the first place.

At the same time, there are valid complaints that must be addressed. For example, we should not argue that Social Security be scrapped because it is ineffective, until we can fix the underlying problem Social Security is supposed to solve. If not for Social Security, how do we prevent the elderly from becoming impoverished? We must not focus on dismantling bad programs, but on replacing them with good programs, or eliminating the need for the bad programs. In some cases, we must simply declare victory and move on. In others, we must solve a problem and convince the undecideds that our solution is better than the collectivist solution imposed since the 1930s. It should go without saying that, in order to convince people of that, our solutions must actually be better than what they replace.

2. We must take the argument to mass culture. The primary methods of spreading the collectivist memes are through music, movies, books and the like. News media (which most bloggers and political geeks pay attention to) is pretty irrelevant in comparison: most people don't pay attention.

We need to create and disseminate works of fiction, both books and movies, which triumphantly proclaim individualist themes. This is not too difficult to figure out how to do, since it was the primary cultural ingredient prior to the late 1960s. We need to make movies about people whose individual actions cause good things to come about, and write books about freedom, and sing songs about how we are being controlled and manipulated and bought off with our own money.

We need to elevate and publically honor the virtues of achievement, politeness, respect, thrift, hard work, personal responsibility and the like.

3. We must keep our opponents and enemies on the defensive by controlling the agenda and pace. In terms of the war, this means that we must move on from fight to fight in a steady pace - at least one battle per year. The post-Afghanistan arguments had just begun to get heated when we started to go after Iraq. Now that the post-Iraq arguments are in full force, we need to invalidate them by going after al Qaeda in Pakistan, or after Hezbollah in Lebanon, or after Syria, or after Iran.

The argument needs to be on the grounds of individual freedom, liberty and safety. Legalistic arguments need to be shunted aside. Going to the UN on Iraq was a trap for the West not just because of the irrelevance of the UN, but also because it forced us to emphasise the least compelling arguments in favor of action.

We need to be in action again by the Autumn of 2004 (I'd prefer by the Spring of this year), or we will slowly began to lose traction to the counsels of fear and timidity, which are always more seductive than calls to duty and sacrifice.

This is true with the war, but not just with the war. A good example is the exploration and settlement of space. I applaud President Bush's attempts to refocus NASA, but I worry about the direction. As with the first President Bush, every possible program will be loaded on as somehow a part of the grand ideal of getting to the Moon and Mars. This is, in fact, how the space station survived to become the boondoggle it has. The combined cost will kill the program eventually. Either it will be starved of needed funding, or the funding will be distributed among worthless (in terms of the end goal) programs.

A much better solution would be to cut and run on the ISS; ground the shuttles permanently; and offer the money saved as prizes for getting to the Moon, getting to Mars, developing suborbital and orbital launchers and manned spacecraft, and the like. Force NASA back into the research role it's good at, and eliminate the regulatory burdens hampering private space initiatives. Force NASA to share its data and facilities with private individuals and companies, on reasonable terms.

This would not only be cheaper than a government effort, it would be more effective.

In each of these areas, political argument, cultural environment, and demonstrative action, the pro-Enlightenment West could significantly advance culture and civilization. Far better to aim for glory and miss, than to listen to the counsels of the craven and timid.

Posted by Jeff at 12:08 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

You Can't Make These Things Up

Let me get this straight: Belgium's Minister of Defense is criticizing the US military for inefficiency:

According to Flahaut: "The Americans throw so much money at their army that it simply can no longer act efficiently. If they have to get fifteen men from point A to point B, they will use three planes to be certain that it succeeds. We would send one plane, or even betterl [sic]: first examine if we cannot fly along with an ally'', says the minister.

Minister, Minister, what you fail to realize is that we don't just move 15 men (which is what? the entire strength of Belgium's deployable force?); we move 15000 - for a medium-sized deployment - and we then fight at the other end. It may not be efficient, but it is effective.

It must be nice to live in a country where the only threat you face is from yourself, since you have a large, powerful ally that protects you from the world, while you debase yourself in pointless criticism of irrelevant concerns.

Not that I'm bitter.

OK, maybe a little bitter.

Posted by Jeff at 09:36 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

January 20, 2004

The Right Message - from an Unexpected Messenger

I've always had very mixed feelings about Bill Clinton. I've never trusted him, and often felt he was putting partisan needs above national needs. That said, until he committed perjury, I felt that his overall record was more good than bad. Once he committed perjury, he had shown that he placed himself above the rule of law, and lost any (admittedly lukewarm) support I had for him previously.

That said, Clinton seems to be doing the right thing, now. Ralph Peters writes about a speech given by Clinton before an Arab audience. It was apparently filled with the kind of message that the Arabs/Muslims will need to both hear and absorb before they can reform and become successful, which will be necessary (though not entirely sufficient) to an end to the war on terrorism.

He didn't pander. He made America's case and made it well. Beginning with a sometimes-rueful look at the progress his administration had failed to make and noting that the wars that plague the world are begun by men his own age or older, but paid for in blood by the young, he refused to direct one syllable of blame at the Bush administration. Accepted as a citizen of the world, he spoke as a convinced American.

Asked by an eager-to-Bush-bash delegate if he, Bill Clinton, would have behaved differently after 9/11, our former president said he would have followed an identical course, pursuing our enemies into Afghanistan and beyond. Queried about his position on Iraq, he stated that any disagreements he might have would be most appropriately expressed at home in the U.S., not before a foreign audience.

He could have made an easy score. Instead, he did the right thing. Clinton has become the perfect statesman.

Pulling no punches, he made it clear that Yasser Arafat was responsible for the failure to secure a Palestinian state. He refused to trash Israel. While admitting - calculatedly - that the United States remains imperfect, he used rational self-criticism as a starting point to tell his Middle Eastern listeners they needed to look more critically at themselves.

With art and ardor, he scolded the crowd that blaming others for their own failings was useless and destructive - warning that even when others truly are at fault for our misfortunes, wallowing in blame only paralyzes us. Actions, not accusations, change the world.

Posted by Jeff at 10:59 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

January 13, 2004

Expansion of the War on the Cheap

It is fair to say that the war on terror is going to be expensive and long-lasting. Especially given the strategy as laid out by Paul Bremer: this will take decades. It's also fair to say that the US Army is stretched a bit thin. We have additional missions to perform, but not the troops to perform them, nor the apparent belief by the administration that the number of troops needs to be increased, though this is changing.

With this as background, take a look at this interesting post on uBlog. Michael Ubaldi quotes Reuel Marc Gerecht:

The Bush administration's embrace of odd, counterproductive notions is nowhere more evident than in its energetic pursuit of foreign Muslim troops for Iraq. The reasoning for these deployments - which probably won't happen unless the United States gets the consent of the French, Germans, and Russians at the U.N. - apparently is that Iraqi Muslims would respect foreign Muslim troops more than they respect American soldiers. Leaving aside why in the world the Bush administration would want to deploy Muslim soldiers from nondemocratic countries to Iraq, the Muslim-likes-Muslim sentiment behind this argument is a myth. Middle Eastern history teaches the opposite.

Michael then goes on to analyze this:
Emphasis is mine for the question I've been asking since the apparent White House reversal hit the news and people started chattering about "Muslim faces on the ground." Irrespective of the gap in equipment and professionalism between top-notch Anglo-Americans and Near Easterners, every nation bordering Iraq is not only opposed to the country's present course towards self-government but eager to carve it up into blocks of arable land and oil fields, too. And with Iraqi civilians topping the casualty lists for recent bombing attacks, no one can claim that insurgents discriminate West from East in their killings.

It is likely that our reconstruction will succeed, as it is becoming clear that the Iraqis want the US to stay for the long term. The thing is, though, that US generals in the position to ask for more troops claim they don't need more US troops. So, why have troops from countries opposed to the US effort? I can think of one good reason.

If they are under US command, and integrated with American troops at the level of individual patrols, these troops do swell the number of infantry-trained forces available to enforce order. With the US troops along, the chances of sabotage to our mission are slight. The risk of deploying such forces is therefore low.

On the other hand, what will these Arab forces see in Iraq? Freedom of the press. Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech and of association. The rule of law. The building of functioning representative institutions, with real accountability to the people. The coming of prosperity.

And when these troops return home - to see once again the state-controlled press, the restrictions on speech, the restriction of religious observance, the fear to associate with others not totally trusted, the abandonment of law for the whim of the powerful, and the total lack of political or economic opportunity - perhaps those soldiers will be a little disgruntled. And perhaps as the experience gets absorbed into the culture - and particularly into the military culture - those soldiers and others will ask why they are denied these things. And perhaps this will facilitate the long-term effect of making those countries not just more receptive of representative, free-market governance, but absolutely insistent upon it.

This may or may not be what the administration intends. I certainly don't think that the President intended the "flypaper" strategy when he decided to occupy Iraq. But we don't have to intend the effect to take advantage of it.

Posted by Jeff at 06:27 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

January 12, 2004

Intelligence and Assumption

To me, the most worrisome part of our failure to find extensive WMD stocks, or at least active development programs, in Iraq after the war was that we had seemed so certain of our knowledge. In large part, this was corroborated by the fact that even those countries opposing our Iraq policies shared the view that Iraq had at least WMD programs; they simply didn't see that as a problem. The problem in all of this is that I did not see how we could be so far wrong and so certain we were right. And if that is the case, how could we trust our intelligence in future situations, where the reliability of that intelligence could decide whether or not to initiate a war?

Now, Kenneth Pollack looks at the intelligence picture, and what went wrong. Given Mr. Pollack's credentials, this is a very persuasive article.

What's interesting to me is how much of the intelligence picture was based on projections and assumptions. We know what was happening up to a certain time, and the Iraqi rhetoric has not changed, therefore we plotted a straight-line course for the WMD programs. Our allies and nominal allies all agreed with our assessment (some even went further), so that is confirmation that we are right. Saddam says he has the weapons, and he's had them before, and we can't think of why he'd give them up when he says he has them, so he must have them.

All of these are rational and reasonable conclusions. The problem is that they are in total so far off the mark. It seems to me that we need to begin addressing the problem sooner rather than later. One way to do this is to be scrupulously clear on what we know for sure, and what we infer. This has to be done both within the intelligence community, and within the political leadership. It might even make sense to separate intelligence gathering and intelligence analysis into different agencies. In any case, whatever the correct answers are to fix our intelligence analysis, we need to begin now, if we haven't already. The potential consequences of failure to reform are vast and unpleasant.

Posted by Jeff at 10:57 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

January 06, 2004

With us or Against Us

Belmont Club, consistently one of the best blogs on the web for analysis of international affairs, has a short post that makes an interesting point: with the publication of Osama bin Laden's most recent tape:

The words "you are either for us or against us" have now been uttered in both English and Arabic.

It will be interesting to see how much both we and al Qaeda will force the nations of the Middle East to choose sides, and which side they will choose.

Posted by Jeff at 10:54 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 20, 2003

Saddam and Iraqi Debt

Donald Sensing has an interesting post in which he asserts that the important part of trying Saddam is to bring out the truth of his crimes, and of those who supported him, in order to allow Iraq to move on from their past.

I concur, but I think that there may be a further point to such a trial: should Iraq be able, via such a trial, to fix the amounts or proportions of debt owed to foreign countries in connection with crimes against Iraq, Iran, Kuwait and humanity generally, such amounts or proportions of debt could simply be declared odious and thus invalid. This, too, would help Iraq in moving on to a better future.

Posted by Jeff at 12:29 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 18, 2003

If You're Not Worried Yet...

Dan Darling at Winds of Change has a post examining some of the war on terror stories that are currently going by under the radar. Some of this was new to me, and some not. Much of it is pretty scary, in that these stories form part of a tapestry, and indicate how much unravelling we will have to do (and how difficult that will be) to eliminate the terror networks.

I suppose what concerns me most - what has most concerned me for a while - is the continuing tendency to treat terrorists as criminals. Take this story, for example. Once we identify these targets, we need to go after them. Unless there's some intelligence value we are getting from them, we should be taking out terrorist financial nodes, just like we're taking out operational terrorist assets.

At some point, we have to start killing the enemy in depth, instead of just on the battlefield.

Posted by Jeff at 09:25 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 17, 2003

We'll Get Right on That

Howard Dean, Wesley Clark and other Democrat candidates for President claim that we should turn Iraq over to the UN ("internationalize" the situation, they usually phrase it, as if there weren't a dozen countries with troops on the ground in Iraq). Yeah, we'll get right on that.

Posted by Jeff at 10:14 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 15, 2003

Credit and Credibility

Steven Den Beste has a post on "who's next" in the war on terror. His point, in very brief overview, is that we are fighting a war of ideals and ideas, not guns and bombs, and that bringing representative free-market self governance (he doesn't use those exact words) to Iraq is a larger threat to terror-supporting nations than is the possibility of our use of force.

By and large, I agree. Barbie and MTV will be bigger weapons than JDAMs and the 4ID, in the long term. But I do feel that we need to conquer more than just Iraq, and soon. If we don't, we may win the war while setting up the next.

It is not sufficient for Arab and Muslim nations to reform, though it is necessary. It is also necessary for at least the largest of the Arab and Muslim nations in the Mid-East (Iraq, Iran, possibly Syria) to democratize under Western occupation. Should the Arab/Muslim world reform itself, there would be a significant chance that the US would be seen as an obstacle to that change, which would have happened anyway (after all, countries we didn't invade reformed, yes?), rather than the instigator of it.

In one sense, this doesn't matter: we will still have ended the terror threat. However, we will not have broken the pride of the Arabs and Muslims, and this we must do. Otherwise, the Arab and Muslim world, free and economically vibrant and likely armed with nuclear weapons over most of its major states, will see us as the enemy still. And as long as the Arabs and Muslims see us as their enemy, instead of their friend and natural ally, they will remain a threat. Unless, that is, we break their pride, and show them convincingly and completely that the Caliphate will never return.

Posted by Jeff at 09:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 12, 2003

About Time, and While You're at It...

Congress is apparently beginning to notice that we don't have enough troops, and is going to fix the problem even if the Pentagon objects. Good.

Call-ups of part-time troops from the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve to fill the ranks in Iraq have intensified the bipartisan sentiment that the Pentagon doesn't have enough troops to fight an extended war on terrorism while keeping enough well-rested, well-trained troops ready for an emergency.

"Momentum is building in Congress for" an increase, says Harald Stavenas, a spokesman for Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "Finally, everyone has come around to see enough is enough."

"This recognizes the reality in the strain and the stretch in all the services," says Missouri Rep. Ike Skelton, the senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. Skelton promises "positive action by our committee early next year."

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld strongly opposes increasing the size of the military on the grounds that the services are not efficiently using the personnel they already have, and increasing the number of troops is enormously expensive. Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says Rumsfeld "hasn't seen any analysis that convinces him there is a need" for a large increase in active-duty troops.

If Congress forces the administration to add troops, it would mark a turning point in the downsizing of the active-duty military that began before the end of the Cold War. These forces peaked at 2.2 million in 1987 and fell back slightly because of budget concerns. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 speeded up the cuts, shrinking the force to just under 1.5 million troops in 1998, where it has remained.


While they are at it, there is one other area that the Congress needs to fix, over administration objections: intelligence. While the failure to foresee the Black Tuesday attacks was regrettable, it has to be realized that some things are just going to be missed. Our intelligence services were organized to prevent another Pearl Harbor, not this kind of attack.

On the other hand, the failure of NRO, CIA and others to pin down Iraq's WMD capabilities is unforgivable and unacceptable. This is, in fact, exactly the kind of thing we were primed to look for, and Iraq was almost our sole immediate strategic focus for more than a year before the war started. In all of that time, we were unable to reliably identify what weapons and programs Saddam had, and where he had them. I do believe that we will eventually find the evidence of the programs, but clearly the intelligence failed to find anything of significance that could be trusted, in that what was publically released (which presumably would be the easiest material to prove) has not held up at all.

This is a serious breach, because we will need good intelligence in the future. At what point do we invade Iran? How will we know the state of their nuclear programs? Will Congress believe the administration (any administration) that tells them it's time, if they were publically embarassed this time?

The President has refused to take action against the director of the CIA, who is ultimately responsible for that intelligence. I applaud the President for his loyalty, but not for his common sense: we need to be able to trust our intelligence services. The President won't fix this problem, but Congress can. It is time, I think, for the Congress to impeach and remove the senior intelligence officers for dereliction of duty in regards to pre-war WMD intelligence on Iraq. It would have a practical effect of concentrating the attentions of these officers' successors, as well as rebuilding Congressional trust in our intelligence services.

Posted by Jeff at 10:42 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 04, 2003

My Enemy, My "Ally"

Mrs. du Toit nails something that's been bothering me about the French reporters recording the DHL attack:

Holding a camera instead of a gun doesn't make you an innocent.

Imagine CNN following Adolph Hitler around--allowing Hitler to pose and get his 30 second sound bytes for the entire world to see. But that is exactly what CNN did with Saddam Hussein and exactly what the French press did in the above story.

When you do things like that, you cease being a member of the impartial press and become a member of the enemy’s propaganda organ.

The enemy's propaganda organ is a fair, legitimate, and strategic target.

It's time people started to realize this. France is not an ally. It isn't even correct to describe them as a wayward friend or a friend we're quarrelling with, with hopes of putting aside our differences at a later date. France is, without a doubt, the enemy.

Posted by Jeff at 11:42 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 25, 2003

Fighting the Next War

This article in the Weekly Standard (hat tip: OxBlog) is a nice analysis of Pentagon planning for transformation, except that it just misses the mark. As with the Pentagon's more ambitious planners, who want to build a single, all-powerful Army of a few divisions, with each soldier being the firepower equivalent of a WWII squad (gun geeks, look no further than this), the authors are too focused on a single event of type of warfare.

Our future wars - the next twenty or more years of American conflict abroad - will largely be split between three types of warfare: rapid invasions and consolidations designed to overthrow a government, the resulting occupation and counter-insurgency, and small-scale raiding (via Marines and Special Forces, mostly) designed to hit non-government organizations like al Qaida.

Each of these wars requires a different, but overlapping, set of capabilities. The invasions need a mix of heavy units like 4ID and 1CAV for punch and staying power with medium divisions (the Stryker units, possibly augmented from the current plans) to provide the initial entry and fix the enemy, destroying light forces and forming a corridor for the advance of the heavy units, which would deploy after the medium units. The counter-insurgency wars and occupations require a lot of light units like 10MTN, 101AB and 25ID, with the backing of a few medium units for extra punch when needed. The low-scale wars and raids quietly going after terrorists in non-permissive environments (OK, countries who don't want us there) require a lot of Special Forces and occasionally Marines.

In every case, there is a difference from our current structure, and the Pentagon is right to address this. Yes, we need to avoid the temptation to focus on just one effort (maneuver warfare) and instead take a broad-based approach. Tom Donnelly and Vance Serchuk do a service by pointing this out. They do a disservice, though, by not following up with what Pentagon efforts are ongoing (or not) in the other areas.

Posted by Jeff at 02:45 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

October 02, 2003

Good

Excellent news from Central Command, as the probable abductors and killers of two US soldiers - Sgt. 1st Class Gladimir Philippe, and Pfc. Kevin Ott - are captured (well, three captured, and one killed in the attempt). In addition, the prisoners were apparently active agents of resistance to the US occupation.

As Tasty Manatees (where I got the link) noted: "Military tribunal. Hanging." Yep, I think that would send about the right message.

Posted by Jeff at 05:03 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 30, 2003

Criticism and Cause

A large part of the criticism of the administration since the 9/11 attacks has been focused on how it is that our intelligence services failed to detect and prevent the attack. Well, here's part of the answer:

Frustration was growing at CIA headquarters. The Counter-Terrorism Center was kept away from the World Trade Center investigation--even though the CTC was designed to be the center of information on terrorist threats. The State Department, the FBI and the Secret Service had detailed personnel to the CTC to make sure that important information was shared, not hidden behind bureaucratic bulwarks. Indeed, one of the reasons that the deputy director of the CTC was an FBI official was to guarantee that information was shared among the institutions.

If the Clinton administration wanted to conduct a joint counterterrorism operation to discover the full breadth of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspiracy and to take action against the perpetrators overseas, the CTC would have been the perfect vehicle. That is what it was designed to do. It also had a secret presidential "finding," written by President Reagan and still in force, that specifically authorized covert operations to smash terrorist cells.

But the FBI, with the president's tacit acceptance, was treating the World Trade Center attack as a law-enforcement matter. That meant that everything the FBI gathered, every lab-test result, every scrap of paper, every interview, every lead, every clue from overseas was theirs alone. No one outside of the FBI's New York office would see it for years.

How could the FBI keep the evidence from other terror-fighting agencies? This was actually standard procedure when the FBI conducted criminal cases, as opposed to strictly counterterrorism investigations. The bureau invoked rule 6E of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. If the FBI shared the information with other federal agencies, then a judge could rule the evidence inadmissible in a court or require the government to share it with the accused terrorists, so that they could mount an effective legal defense. That would provide the accused terrorists with vital information about what the federal government knew and what it didn't. So Rule 6E was designed to prevent information sharing--and preserve the government's evidence for trial. "It is not that they [the FBI and CIA] don't get along--it's that they can't share information by legal statute" in criminal cases, said Christopher Whitcomb, an FBI veteran who worked on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing investigation.


That article is about the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and it does a lot to point out a pervasive problem with anti-terrorism efforts throughout the 1980's and 1990's: by and large the issue was not treated as a serious threat. Even after the 1993 bombing, which could have brought down one of the WTC towers had the bomb been larger, the Clinton administration not only failed to treat terrorism as a serious threat to national security, it sidelined the very organization designed to address this kind of threat. How long was it until that organization again became functional? I'm betting that the CTC didn't seriously function as a coordinated whole even after the attack on bin Laden which missed him by scant hours. In fact, I'm betting that the CTC didn't being to work until 9/12 or so.

You see, there are a few characteristics of large bureaucracies that impact on this. Such characteristics exist in large companies as well as in government agencies. The most pertinent is that the past is prologue: an established habit does not easily change. So once terrorism was designated as a criminal, rather than a security, threat, the agencies formed to fight terrorism as a security threat atrophied.

However, due to another characteristic of bureaucracies - the survival instict - those organizations did not go away. In fact, since clearly terrorism was increasing, those organizations most likely proliferated. Yet a third characteristic of bureaucracies - protection of one's own turf - most likely was the cause of these various organizations not communicating.

So the intelligence that would have indicated the 9/11 attack was coming would have been spread amongst multiple organizations, who did not share information, and would largely have been kept from the organization whose primary focus was indeed to fight terrorism as a security matter.

The one place the Congressional investigation didn't look, was the one place most critical to unravelling how we missed 9/11. The 9/11 attack was missed because of a failure of imagination on the part of the Clinton and later Bush administrations, certainly, but also with the numerous petty hand-tying rules and internecine funding battles and nasty sniping which all came from the Congress.

If we want to do our best to prevent another 9/11, we'd best look into that. Because right now, the biggest danger to the war effort is not al Qaeda or Iran or Syria - the biggest danger to the war effort is the unwillingness of Congress and the opposition parties to pull together and seriously address the nature and likely duration of this war. Until the Congress in particular is willing to do that, our gains in this war are in danger of being undone.

Posted by Jeff at 10:17 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 20, 2003

Threshhold

Required reading: Belmont Club on the nuclear threshhold in the age of terrorism. I've long felt, like James Lileks, that it is inevitable that we will lose a city to nuclear terrorist attack some time in the next 20 years. Wretchard follows the chain of logic to demonstrate why, once the Islamists demonstrate the capability, the rational response is the immediate and total destruction of the Muslim world.

Actually, I think that there is a more measured response that might avoid this. If you look at the Muslim countries, there are four basic tiers in which they fall: nations with intent against the West and with WMD capability in place or close (Iran, Syria, Pakistan?); nations with intent against the West but no WMD capability (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia); nations with no pronounced intent towards the West, but with WMD capability (Pakistan?); and nations with neither pronounced intent against the West, nor WMD capability, though often with insurgent anti-Western forces within the country (Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait). The question about Pakistan's intent is whether they will be able to resist the Islamists, or will give them help to keep them away from Pakistan itself, or will fall to the Islamists.

If a nuclear terrorist attack were launched within the US or Europe, every city in a first tier nation with more than 10000 people could be obliterated, along with their entire military and major economic targets (occupying those critical to us and destroying the rest). This would almost certainly remove their ability to strike at us again. Then we could watch the second tier countries, and let them know that any attempt to acquire WMDs would cause them to meet the same fate. At that point, it could either go towards an outright race to acquire WMDs to use against the West, or the moderates could take over and the Muslims could roll over. If the former, we could obliterate the second tier countries, and mop up anything left over in the first tier countries. If, at that point, there was still a valid attempt to acquire the means to act against the West, we could push to the extremity of the analysis and eliminate every Muslim nation - a nuclear genocide.

This would, needless to say, be very bad politically, economically and socially. However, it would still be better than being destroyed ourselves. By putting in detents in the escalation scheme, we could potentially avoid the worst-case scenario, though I don't hold great faith in the ability of extremists to see reason.

UPDATE (9/21): Belmont Club offers a postscript and some reader response. As clarification of my comments, I agree with Belmont Club's statement that "If Islam desires the secret of the stars it must embrace the kuffar as its brother -- or die." I am simply positing that it is not necessarily the case that, once nuclear exchanges start, they can only end with the destruction of every Muslim state. I believe that cutting the heart out of the Muslim states - the destruction of the radicalised Arab states in particular - would do it. If not, we would eventually get to Belmont Club's end state: Islam - and much else - would be gone.

Posted by Jeff at 01:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

September 18, 2003

Lileks on Anti-War Editorials

This is why everyone should read Lileks. In addition to this wonderful observation:

There’s no more instructive example of the basic facts of human nature than the daily life of a three-year old.

Lileks produces an article full of good points about the editorials against anything President Bush does in the war on terror. In particular, he contrasts today's editorials about Iraq with those from 1998, to show what a difference the President's party affiliation makes.
The Strib had a massive editorial today which implied that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld lied, people died. And by imply, I mean that they said this: "in fact, they'd have reason to assert that 'Bush, Cheney, Rumsfelt and Wolfowitz lied and our soldiers died." Got that? We're not saying Bush et al has sexual congress with goats, only that some would have reason to assert it.

Lileks then lays out some of the evidence of why this assertion is pretty baseless. But he goes on:
Every day I read a piece like the Strib edit. They all have an inescapable conclusion: Saddam should have been left in power. No, they don’t say that. Yes, the writers would surely insist that Saddam was a wretched tyrant, and the world is better off without him in power, BUT, Baghdad’s electricity service is now undependable. No, but. Yes, but. Perhaps, however. Perfection has not been achieved; the depredations of a three-decade nightmare have not been banished in six months, and that really is the issue, isn’t it. Sorry, what was your question again?

On the usefulness of going to the UN:
As I trolled back and forth in the microfiche looking for the relevant piece, I was struck by the other things the chattering classes brayed five years ago. "Lift the sanctions" was a popular item. And why? Because it would show Saddam the world was serious about giving him one last chance. Okay, here’s your gun back. But if you shoot us we’re going to take it away. The naivety nearly makes you weep. These people didn’t want Saddam’s body bobbing ass-up in the Tigris. They wanted a world in which the fascist clique that ruled Iraq curtseyed and bowed in the lovely gavotte of international diplomacy. However many people died in Saddam’s gulags was irrelevant; what mattered was that the UN was Concerned, and that the Iraqi Ambassador - clad in a nice Western suit, skilled in many tongues, daubed with a Macy’s cologne - agreed to facilitate the process of calibrating the precise nature of the consquences of failing to live up to the spirit of the letter of the penumbra of the -

Ah, it’s noon; shalll [sic] we have lunch sent in, or have our drivers take us to the Village? I understand there is an excellent Tibetan restaurant that’s just opened.


But what if Clinton had done what Bush has done?
If Clinton had risen to the occasion, wiped out al-Qaeda, sent Marines to kick down the statues and put bullets in those filthy sons’ brainpans, this would be the most noble effort of our time. We would hear clear echoes of JFK’s call to bear any burden. FDR, Truman, Marshall Plan, forbearance, patience - the editorial pages of the land would absolutely brim with encouragement and optimism every damn day, because the good fight was being waged, and the right people were waging it.

He puts forth a good question, that deserves an answer:
Would the editorialists of the nation be happier if Saddam was still cutting checks to people who blew up not just our allies, but our own citizens? I’d like an answer. Please. Essay question: “Families of terrorists who blow up men, women and children, some of whom are Americans, no longer receive money from Saddam, because Saddam no longer rules Iraq. Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? Explain.”

Go read the whole thing (there are great big bits I haven't quoted!), but here is the conclusion:
“There is one sound conclusion to be drawn from the confluence of events in Washington and Iraq: The conduct of foreign policy is a weighty responsibility that at times requires the undivided attention of a whole, unencumbered president. It is a sad commentary that some voices in Washington are complaint that momentous world events have interrupted their sideshow. . . . Events in Iraq make it clear that there is a world out there which requires the attention of the US Government. It’s time to shift focus away from the neighborhood farce and back to the world stage.”

This was a reference to the impeachment proceedings, of course. The editorialists were appalled that Congress was impeaching the president when the threat of Iraq loomed so large. Now the threat has been dispatched - and does this count for anything? No. The terrorist training campes are closed down, the torture barracks padlocked, the mass gravesare opened to the wailings of the families, the official hospitals of Baghdad no longer welcome cancerous terrorists, the Kurds no longer watch the skies for the helicopters and their bitter gusts, the citizens no longer wonder whether the government men will rip out the eyes of their infant children to produce the proper confession -

Irrelevant.

You know what really bothers some people?

That yellowcake story still looks shaky.

Posted by Jeff at 12:57 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 17, 2003

An Alternative to the UN

Let's say you started a book club with your friends, and over time the club grew quite large. In the process, you have a falling out with some of your friends - in fact you almost come to blows. Others who you still have a lot in common with just really want to hang out with different people, and tend to talk about you behind your back.

Over time, the rest of the club waits to see which book you want, then picks a different book deliberately to spite you. In fact, sometimes they stamp on the book in front of you just to show contempt.

The people who are particularly close to you - especially when they agree with you - are singled out for the same treatment, and some of them aren't even allowed to help decide which books are to be read by the club.

For all of this, you have the distinct privilege of paying 1/4 of the costs of the club. Would you stay in it?

So why do we stay in the UN? Steven Den Beste publishes an article translated from L'Express, which ends with this interesting paragraph:

In the name of their credibility, and of their diplomatic survival, the UN and its Security Council can't afford to miss the opportunity to bring back the all-powerful America into the fold and to retake some semblance of initiative on the critically important Iraq dossier. But it remains to measure their theoretical power, once more, by the measuring stick of concessions from Washington.

By this logic, the UN is powerful only when it makes the US weak. Accession to US wishes is ipso facto proof of UN weakness, even when US wishes comport with the establishment and maintenance of international order, for which purpose the UN was founded. This feeling appears to be very common in the UN and in Europe, and sadly is hardly unknown in the US.

I can see the benefits of this arrangement to the UN, which gains the moral authority, financial backing, political strength and military power of the US. I can see the benefits of the arrangement for second-tier states like France, which get to "punch above their weight." But I don't see where the US gains from having these leaches hanging off of us. The UN no longer provides us any mechanism for gaining the assistance of wavering states, nor does it provide us with moral cover for self-defense, nor does it provide us with other loci of stability and order (so as to reduce the amount of commitments we have to make, thus freeing up our troops for warfighting needs).

The run-up to the Iraq war has shown that the US needs to quit the UN, and the aftermath has proven the point. So what could the US do instead, in order to provide some measure of international security and order?

It's time for the US to form an association of like-minded states, exclusive of the UN and receiving the lion's share of our money and attention, with the following characteristics:

  • All members must be free-market economies and have representative governments (it should not be too difficult to come up with measurable tests to determine if these conditions are met).
  • All members must commit at least certain set amounts (based on their size, GDP and/or other factors) to regional stabilization, self-defense and/or assistance with intervention, stabilization and peacekeeping missions agreed by the organization.
  • All members must commit to abide by the group's decisions, or be expelled. No vote should be required to expel an errant nation. This should be triggered by factors known in advance.
  • All members must commit to aide in security actions of the group. Presumably, the group would be committed to fighting terrorists, preventing WMD proliferation and the like.
  • Within the group, there should be agreed standards for border control. This would make possible the free movement of people between these countries, without passport or even visa. Freedom of movement within, and residence in any member state of, the group would be a requirement of group membership.
  • Similarly, the group should be a free trade area. This would require that standards be set and maintained by each member state as to tarriffs and subsidies.
  • Each member state would be obliged to come to the aid of the others when those states face attack by an external enemy, in pre-defined ways.
  • No member state would be allowed to remain in free-trade agreements outside of the group, unless the agreement was with the entire group. (This would prevent the temptation for one nation to become a portal for goods to the detriment of other members.) This is in fact not dissimilar to the reason for having common border security arrangements.
  • There would have to be a limit to the percentage of GDP (or some other measure) consumed by the government of each member state - the same limit for all member states - to ensure that the free-market inside the group doesn't end up subsidizing the more socialist states at the expense of the more free-market states.

I'm sure that other such requirements could be crafted. The point is to ensure that the group is a group of free nations - both economically and personally. Such a group should supercede other treaties, organizations and arrangements, for the most part.

Right now, I could see this group consisting of the United States, Great Britain, Japan, Australia, perhaps India, Israel, Taiwan, perhaps S. Korea, perhaps Spain, perhaps Italy. Such a group - containing as it does the most important economies in the world with the exception of China - would be a wealth-creating and freedom-maintaining engine for all of its members. It would also, by its very nature, provide powerful incentives for borderline countries (the perhaps's mentioned above, plus countries such as Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Russia, continental Europe and so on) to change the conditions keeping them out, so that they could get in on the benefits of being in the group. In other words, even without robust intervention abroad to fix crises and prevent threats to world order, such an organization could act as a force for stability and peace.

It's worth a try - it certainly wouldn't be worse than the current situation.

Posted by Jeff at 09:06 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 07, 2003

Thoughts on the President's Speech

We were at a friend's house, so I did not watch the President's speech tonight. I did read it, though. The first thing that struck me is that the President and al Qaeda agree on the importance of Iraq to the war on terror. Here is the President:

The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback for international terrorism. The terrorists thrive on the support of tyrants and the resentments of oppressed peoples. When tyrants fall, and resentment gives way to hope, men and women in every culture reject the ideologies of terror, and turn to the pursuits of peace. Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat.

Our enemies understand this. They know that a free Iraq will be free of them -- free of assassins, and torturers, and secret police. They know that as democracy rises in Iraq, all of their hateful ambitions will fall like the statues of the former dictator. And that is why, five months after we liberated Iraq, a collection of killers is desperately trying to undermine Iraq's progress and throw the country into chaos.

Some of the attackers are members of the old Saddam regime, who fled the battlefield and now fight in the shadows. Some of the attackers are foreign terrorists, who have come to Iraq to pursue their war on America and other free nations. We cannot be certain to what extent these groups work together. We do know they have a common goal -- reclaiming Iraq for tyranny.


And here is Amir Tehari, summarizing a new book by Yussuf al-Ayyeri, a senior al Qaeda operative until his death in a gun battle in June:
What Al-Ayyeri sees now is a "clean battlefield" in which Islam faces a new form of unbelief. This, he labels "secularist democracy." This threat is "far more dangerous to Islam" than all its predecessors combined. The reasons, he explains in a whole chapter, must be sought in democracy's "seductive capacities."

This form of "unbelief" persuades the people that they are in charge of their destiny and that, using their collective reasoning, they can shape policies and pass laws as they see fit. That leads them into ignoring the "unalterable laws" promulgated by God for the whole of mankind, and codified in the Islamic shariah (jurisprudence) until the end of time.

The goal of democracy, according to Al-Ayyeri, is to "make Muslims love this world, forget the next world and abandon jihad." If established in any Muslim country for a reasonably long time, democracy could lead to economic prosperity, which, in turn, would make Muslims "reluctant to die in martyrdom" in defense of their faith.

He says that it is vital to prevent any normalization and stabilization in Iraq. Muslim militants should make sure that the United States does not succeed in holding elections in Iraq and creating a democratic government. "If democracy comes to Iraq, the next target [for democratization] would be the whole of the Muslim world," Al-Ayyeri writes.


Well, if the Democrats won't believe President Bush, maybe they'll believe al Qaeda. Here is Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), Democrat candidate for President:
Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, who opposed the war and is a candidate for his party's presidential nomination, said the $87 billion is "more than the federal government will spend on education this year, twice as much as the federal government will spend on our roads, bridges, highways and public transit systems."

"The president is clearly making a judgment that it is more important for us to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan than it is to deal with the very serious problems that we have in the United States," he said on "Larry King Live."


Ignoring the principles of federalism one would assume a Senator would be familiar with, it's interesting that the Senator believes that federal education spending (a very small fraction of education spending, mostly done at the local level and by States) is more important than winning the war on terror.

The President lays out a summary of our strategy in Iraq:

Our strategy in Iraq has three objectives: destroying the terrorists, enlisting the support of other nations for a free Iraq and helping Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense and their own future.

Then he discusses each in detail. First, the aim of destroying the terrorists:
First, we are taking direct action against the terrorists in the Iraqi theater, which is the surest way to prevent future attacks on coalition forces and the Iraqi people. We are staying on the offensive, with a series of precise strikes against enemy targets increasingly guided by intelligence given to us by Iraqi citizens.

This is key. The "flypaper strategy" - that of drawing terrorists in to fight our Army in Iraq, rather than our citizens in New York - even if originally unintended, seems to be working. Islamists are flooding into Iraq, and we are killing them in droves. This is crucial, because it makes all future battles easier, while at the same time distracting the terrorists from attacks on the US and the West. Likewise, engaging the Ba'athists in continued fighting, and destroying them, makes Iraq's future more secure. As these true believers are killed off, they are no longer capable of making trouble in a future free Iraq. It is crucial that we remain engaged militarily in Iraq, and use this opportunity to rid the Earth of some of its most destructive denizens.

The President then addresses the recent proposal the US put to the United Nations. He pegs the motivation for the US at providing cover for other nations (though I think France and Germany in particular want to make sure that this stays a diplomatic circle jerk.

Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq. I have directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to introduce a new Security Council resolution, which would authorize the creation of a multinational force in Iraq, to be led by America.

In addition, the President is laying the groundwork for further distancing the US from the UN, should the UN prove as ineffective now as it has in the past:
I recognize that not all of our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from power. Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties. Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity -- and the responsibility -- to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation.

As the third element of our strategy, the President recognizes the central role of Iraqis in creating a free and prosperous Iraq. The use of concepts from the preambe to the US Constitution ("secure the blessings of their own liberty") is interesting rhetorically:
Third, we are encouraging the orderly transfer of sovereignty and authority to the Iraqi people. Our coalition came to Iraq as liberators and we will depart as liberators. Right now Iraq has its own Governing Council, comprised of 25 leaders representing Iraq's diverse people. The Governing Council recently appointed cabinet ministers to run government departments. Already more than 90 percent of towns and cities have functioning local governments, which are restoring basic services. We're helping to train civil defense forces to keep order, and an Iraqi police service to enforce the law, a facilities protection service, Iraqi border guards to help secure the borders, and a new Iraqi army. In all these roles, there are now some 60,000 Iraqi citizens under arms, defending the security of their own country, and we are accelerating the training of more.

Iraq is ready to take the next steps toward self-government. The Security Council resolution we introduce will encourage Iraq's Governing Council to submit a plan and a timetable for the drafting of a constitution and for free elections. From the outset, I have expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi people to govern themselves. Now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free people and secure the blessings of their own liberty.


It seems that the President recognizes that more US troops in Iraq is not the problem, but I wish he had more clearly stated the need for Iraqis - more importantly than international forces - to take up the work of providing security in Iraq:
Second, we are committed to expanding international cooperation in the reconstruction and security of Iraq, just as we are in Afghanistan. Our military commanders in Iraq advise me that the current number of American troops -- nearly 130,000 -- is appropriate to their mission. They are joined by over 20,000 service members from 29 other countries. Two multinational divisions, led by the British and the Poles, are serving alongside our forces -- and in order to share the burden more broadly, our commanders have requested a third multinational division to serve in Iraq.

The keynote for the war is struck near the end (and the speech probably should have ended here):
The people of Iraq are emerging from a long trial. For them, there will be no going back to the days of the dictator, to the miseries and humiliation he inflicted on that good country. For the Middle East and the world, there will be no going back to the days of fear, when a brutal and aggressive tyrant possessed terrible weapons. And for America, there will be no going back to the era before September the 11th, 2001 -- to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.

All-in-all, this was a good speech. In reality, the message given by the President and the major figures in his administration since 9/11 have been amazingly consistent, Leftist hand-waving and media misreporting aside. The message has been very simple: we are in this for the long haul, we are in great danger, and we will take this war to our enemies and their supporters until they die or give up the fight. "We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail."

Posted by Jeff at 11:40 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

September 04, 2003

Transformation

Foreign Affairs has an excellent article by Max Boot, which has a fantastic summary of combat operations in the Iraq campaign and draws lessons from this about transformation of the military. (Hat tip: Belmont Club) I can't really summarize by quoting a page and a half, so please read the entire article. I would like to quote the most important paragraph, though:

The army needs to tackle the task of "imperial" policing -- not a popular duty, but one that is as vital to safeguarding U.S. interests in the long run as are the more conventional war-fighting skills on display during the second Gulf War. The Army War College's decision to shut down its Peacekeeping Institute is not a good sign; it means that the army still wants to avoid focusing on noncombat missions. The army brass should realize that battlefield victories in places like Afghanistan and Iraq can easily be squandered if they do not do enough to win the peace.

Yes, the Air Force and Navy need to realize that a big part of their job - perhaps the biggest part after logisitical support - is combat air support of Army and Marine forces on the ground, including when those forces are in contact with the enemy. This cannot be done with seconded fighters with nearly the effectiveness that it can be done with dedicated attack aircraft (for close-contact fights) and bombers (for interdiction and strategic weakening). Certainly, fighters need to be dual-role, and need to be used for bomb delivery, but the heart of ground support should be dedicated aircraft.

But that is not the heart of the military's need, just an important issue. The heart of the need is to develop an understanding of, and force structure for, the policing of conquered nations and failed states. It is that which the Army needs to transform itself into being capable of. And that requires that we maintain our heavy forces - you have to conquer before you occupy - and add medium and light forces. In an occupation, the light forces, walking mostly, are the ones who really bring about the necessary order for political and infrastructural rebuilding to occur. The medium forces, in addition to being survivable quick reaction forces for strategic intervention, could also provide easy-to-support firepower to back up light forces in an occupation.

Right now, we seem to be trying to push off that mission on Third World forces, through some kind of UN umbrella or by getting those nations directly into "coalitions of the willing." We need to get serious, though, and realize that we will be occupying more than just Iraq and Afghanistan, and we (and by extension, our Army) will be bearing the major burden, and we will be doing it for a long time to come. We probably don't need to go back up to 18 divisions, but we certainly need more than ten.

Posted by Jeff at 08:22 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Why the UN? Why Now?

Porphyrogenitus (here and here) and Armed Liberal (here and here) are both unhappy about the President's apparent decision to cave to the UN, and ask for "peacekeepers".

When I first heard about this, I too was deeply unhappy, because it seemed to me that the last thing we wanted to do was win the war in Iraq, over the strident objections of the UN, and particularly the Axis of Weasels, only to then give those same countries/organizations the power to derail the entire reformation of Iraqi society. If not for the reformation, why did we fight the war? Without the reformation, the war was just kicking the can downfield.

However, I've learned since the first Gulf War that the best way to treat media reports on political negotiations is in hindsight, and I'm not convinced that the media's portrayal of the Bush administration's position is correct. For one thing, it seems that the US is trying to get a force assembled more like the aftermath of Korea than the aftermath of the various Balkans wars. In other words, it appears that we are seeking a UN force under US command, which is quite different from the "peacekeeping" model. For another, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Boots on the ground are not in short supply; and while we want to rotate them home faster than we have been, and have more forces for contingencies elsewhere, what is really needed is not UN police and soldiers, but Iraqi police and soldiers. These we are making as fast as we can.

I've been trying to figure out exactly what's going on, and here are the possibilities I see, in no particular order:

We really did/will cave politically for foreign-policy reasons.

In this scenario, the Weasels have won. We have recognized that they were entirely right about the reconstruction, if not the war itself. We don't have the ability to do this without the UN, the NGOs and the French. From now on, we must realize our limitations and move only with the consent of other nations, even if their commercial interests oppose our interest in continuing to exist.

Needless to say, I find this extraordinarily unlikely, since it would mean that the Bush administration is even more crass, craven and opportunist than the Clinton administration; even more tone deaf on foreign policy than the Carter administration; and in fact was acting against their "better" judgement for the past 2 years.

The early signposts for this will be deligitimization of the Iraqi governing council, replacement of Bremer by a UN staffer, or failure to get US command authority over troops deployed to Iraq under UN auspices.

We really did/will cave politically for domestic reasons.

In this scenario, the Democrats have won. We have recognized that they were entirely right about the reconstruction, if not the war itself. We don't have the ability to do this without the Democrats. From now on, Republicans must realize their limitations and move only with the consent of the Democrats, even if Democrat electoral and policy interests oppose Republican electoral and policy interests or even the national interest.

This, too, is unlikely in the extreme. It would mean that the Republicans have given up on any independent existence, in the face of overwhelming public approval. It would mean that President Bush would rather be a Leftist than reelected. (It should be noted that some Democrats appear to believe this. In the Times article we find: "Democratic leaders and candidates for president seized on today's announcement as evidence that Mr. Bush was belatedly changing strategy and seeking help from Security Council members he had until now held at arm's length. "It's been a long time in coming," said Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader in the Senate.")

The early signposts for this would be a series of Republican policy shifts which effectively put the Democrat agenda in play, while blustering about increasing Republican influence.

We really don't think we can increase the size of the military.

It may be that we think that we need to have this level of force in Iraq for the next several years, and that we cannot (for fiscal or political reasons) increase the size of the active military, nor activate the Guard and Reserves more than they have already been called up. If so, then using foreign auxiliaries under US control makes sense. However, the underlying policy decision - that a broadly popular President in the midst of a long series of campaigns cannot afford the political capital to either raise taxes back up somewhat, or better yet cut non-defense spending (such as the prescription drugs plan), in order to increase the size of the military - is ludicrous.

This is certainly possible, though it would make me (and likely other conservative centrists) think less of the Bush administration. For one thing, it would mean that they don't realize that more boots on the ground won't help. It's the way those troops are employed that counts. For another, it would mean that they are politically craven.

I'm not sure that this would look like anything other than business as usual, actually. Domestic and international politics would basically continue unchanged, except that we'd be willing to give some small concessions to the UN (not political or military control over Iraq) in order to get international troops deployed.

We are preparing for action elsewhere.

It could also be that we have a new target, which we have to address with some immediacy. We could increase the size of our forces, but not in time to meet the expected contingency. This implies a definite target (not Korea, since we already have forces tasked for that), a clear casus belli and a short time frame. If these allegations are correct, it could be that the President feels that we will have to take on Saudi Arabia next year, for example. Because the timeframe is so short, there is limited ability to raise or deploy forces - with available assets mostly consisting of the Marines and whatever unit is about to be relieved by US-based units, or the relieving force itself (such as 1CAV, slated for Iraq in May, if I remember correctly). However, in a case where a small force/short war is all that's needed (again, using SA as an example, if we just want to sieze the oilfields to cut off the financing of terrorists), this might well be enough force. The problem would be that we would then have an additional occupation ongoing, and less forces than ever to patrol Iraq.

I actually think that this is possible. At least, it's not as unreasonable as either of the "cave-in" scenarios or the refusal to take political risks by increasing the military scenario. The early signpost of this would be if, after the deal with the UN were agreed and began to be implemented, the President were to call for increasing the size of forces, or activating more Reserve and Guard heavy units.

We are trying to make the UN irrelevant.

In this scenario, the administration has decided that the UN must go, but we don't feel we have the political capital to destroy the UN. We do, though, have the ability, the will and the desire to ensure that the UN is not even considered for any of the rest of the war on terror. To do this, we have to show that the UN is patently uninterested in anything other than full control and thwarting the US, while extracting as much money and concessions as possible from the US and Iraq. In order to do that, the plan is to negotiate with the stated aim of trading some control for some commitment of force. If the negotiations work, we can use the forces to relieve our own. If the negotiations don't work, we call the UN out on it, and publically state in explicit terms that the UN is incapable of being a vehicle for establishing world order, because of which the US now views the UN as a forum for discussion, but not an organization capable of acting in the interests of world peace.

This is not likely, most of all because it won't work. The reality is that the Left and anti-American forces overseas see the UN as the perfect place to tie down the US. As a result, constant pressure would be exercised on every American President to put the UN back in "its proper place". It doesn't take a lot of foresight to see that most Presidents would do so rather than fight the political battle over what they see as a side issue.

The signpost for this would be the reaction of the US at the conclusion of negotiations.

We are trying to destroy the UN.

This scenario is similar to the above, except we've realized that the UN won't go away if we sideline them, so we've got to destroy them instead. So we go about this the same way, but when the UN refuses to agree to anything that doesn't leave the Weasels in charge, we declare that the UN is no longer capable of acting as a force for good in the world, and therefore the US is withdrawing from the UN.

This scenario, too, is unlikely in the extreme. The US would lose a huge amount of political goodwill abroad for a measly financial gain and little more actual freedom of action.

The signpost for this would be the reaction of the US at the conclusion of negotiations.

We are trying to move towards the Afghan model.

It could be that we are trying to move Iraq towards the Afghan model, with effective local control being authorized by the Iraqis, UN cover and UN troops providing some of the police functions in major cities, and a smaller-than-current US troop level to train Iraqi forces, and provide muscle to the indigenous government. In consequence thereof, we are trying to set up the institutions now, so that we can make the transition more easily and more quickly later.

Actually, except for the UN involvement, this is already our announced plan. As a result, I think that this is a very likely scenario.

The signpost would be if a limited agreement is reached, giving political cover to the US (and keeping control with the US), legitimizing the Iraqi governing council and giving small concessions to the UN (particularly in freedom of action of the NGOs).

We are trying to create political cover for other nations.

This scenario, like the previous one, fits in well with currently-announced American policy. We want a division or two from nations like India and Brazil. This would significantly ease the strain on the US Army, without decreasing our control by any significant amount. Currently, it is difficult for these nations to aid us, because there is such an ingrained respect for the UN in the Third World (and with some cause, as the UN has consistently been on the side of Third World rulers, no matter how terrible they may be, against foreign powers (such as the US) and even their own people) that it is not possible for these nations to commit forces without UN authorization. With a resolution such as the one the US is apparently seeking, India, for example, would have the cover to put troops into Iraq without the current government suffering electorally for it.

This scenario is fairly likely. The signpost would be a UN resolution which is very bland and minimal, giving essentially no power to the UN and only a tepid authorization of deployment of international forces.

We are trying to lift the perception of weakness without making sacrifices.

Right now, a lot of forces in the world are looking at the US as overcommitted. As a result, our enemies (and even some of our putative friends) are being much more aggressive in attacking the US and trying to pull off things they couldn't otherwise. If the US wants to stop this, we will need to remove the perception that we don't have the capacity to act. One way to do this is by acting, and another way is to make the cause of the percieved weakness - overdeployment in Iraq - go away. By deploying additional foreign troops in Iraq, and rotating more of our units home, we would have additional forces on hand for immediate deployment, and thus would be able to better contain the brushfires currently cropping up unattended.

Certainly, we could also do this by simply mobilizing more forces, but this is potentially politically costly, and would certainly be an election issue. This is really just another variation on the "can't make a bigger military and save the tax cuts" issue, and has the same pitfalls and caveats. I don't think it's at all likely. The signpost would be the US acting more aggressively abroad as we replace US troops in Iraq with international troops.

This is one of those strange political circle jerks.

In the end, it is never unwise to assume that politics - especially foreign affairs - seem odd because politicians are playing large, high-stakes games with partial information and unclear end goals. This could all be one big masturbation session, where the UN tries to get concessions out of us, we try to get concessions out of the UN, everyone throws ideas around, and nothing comes of it.

Frankly, that's where I'd put my bet.

UPDATE (9/5): Stephen Den Beste relates this issue to ongoing US grand strategy.

Posted by Jeff at 12:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

September 02, 2003

The Outer Limits of Sadism

Belmont Club has an interesting thesis on the nature of the suicide bombers, and why they hit the targets they do.

The War on Terror [from the point of view of the terrorist] has been a process of destroying all the remaining conventional taboos which by luck or decency, survived the totalitarian wars of the 20th century. It has become an exercise in discovering the outer limits of sadism.

Wretchard also poses a question:
All that is in doubt is whether it can vanquish the foe without becoming like him.

It's a good question. I think that the answer is 'yes'. I think that we can effectively eliminate the problem by democratizing and secularizing the Arab world, and potentially the wider Muslim world. That will be a very difficult task, and will take a generation, but it beats the alternative. Because, let's face it, the alternatives are genocide against the Arabs - nuclear or conventional - or the killing of all those who not only act out violence, but those who merely preach it. Neither of these would be good for the Western conscience, nor would either of them be preferable to giving the suicide bombers more reasons to live than they have to die.

That said, I have no doubt that the day a nuclear, chemical or biological attack happens on an American city is the day that millions of Arabs will die in a nuclear retaliatory strike. Americans are a gentle and peaceful people, but we are also the most vicious and dangerous enemies to have, once the wall of "fighting fair" has been breached.

Posted by Jeff at 12:44 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (5)

August 22, 2003

The Significance of Iraq

Belmont Club has a great article on the significance of Iraq in the war on terror, Europe's role in Iraq in the wake of the UN bombing, and how the war on terror differs from past conflicts.

The engagement between US forces and a coalition of Ba'ath and Islamist elements has thrown up a bundle of ratlines -- the threads of cells, clandestine routes and support structures which are the basic tactical units in this war. But unlike wars of the past, tactical units are not engaged linearly. The prosecution of a ratline discovered in Mosul is not geographically confined to Iraq but may immediately translate to action in Amman, the West Bank, Thailand, the High Seas or Buffalo, New York. In this deadly game, cells are not always destroyed but sometimes turned. The "sting" operation aimed at corralling arms dealers selling surface to air missiles is one example. And the overall aim of the War is not the physical death of Islamic militants per se so much as the corruption and weakening of their organization and parent regimes. Nor is this effect imaginary. The seismic effect of the War on Terror can be gauged from the upheavals in Riyadh and Teheran.

Thomas Friedman has accidentally hit upon the key strategic value of Iraq in the War on Terror. It is a rich recruiting ground of Arab intelligence assets. It is bursting with ratlines. Iraq is valuable to America because it is full of Kurds and Arabs -- the raw material of the American sword. America is in Iraq for the very same reason that Al-Qaeda set up shop in London, Berlin and Paris: to seize human beachheads in the heart of enemy territory. As such Iraq is both flypaper and springboard and has the potential to be a decisive battleground in and of itself. The War on Terror is a struggle for the hearts of hundreds of millions. Its task is not to turn Arabs into imitation Americans so much as to create the conditions under which Muslims can reconsider and remodel their whole culture. In the process, every regime in the Middle East will be shaken to its very core. Ruling houses will fall. Boundaries will be redrawn. America herself will be transformed in ways that no one understands.


(Hat tip: One Hand Clapping)

And if you're not yet convinced that you should be reading Belmont Club, let me offer this quote from another post, on the capture of Hambali:

The one thing which plastic surgery could not hide were the strange men who Hambali's neighbors noticed visiting his apartment. Men who stood out in that carefree Thai tourist town with an aura of earnestness; whose backgrounds, once examined by the alerted police didn't quite add up. Every clandestine operator should know the danger: the unmistakable signature of a coven of true believers caught like deer in the headlights by accidental intrusion of neighbors from the workaday world. But Hambali did not.

As he returned to his apartment on his last night of freedom, other men forged in equally strange but different ways foregathered in the dark. They, too, had walked the hills of Afghanistan; they too had found a brotherhood. They too were prophets from another place. Hard-muscled and in mufti, they were joined by trusted members of the Thai police. Hambali's neighbors recalled the urgent knocks on the door answered only by silence. After an interval a crash and the sounds of a struggle before silence returned anew.


And then there's this, from a post on al Qaeda's recent attempts at reconstitution and counter-attack, and the Left's reaction to al Qaeda:
At no point since 1940 has the Left been forced to into such an absurd position. Just as Hitler and Stalin had to be portrayed as beneficent when they were patently predators soley to satisfy ideological requirements, the Left must project the simultaneous image of an omnipotent and helpless America; of a War on Terror at once unwinnable and yet too easily won by a bullying United States. The Islamic "militants" must be portrayed as both supermen and victims, and the Left the soul of reason. But absurdities are familiar friends to true believers; and the Left are the neediest of all the faithful.

Posted by Jeff at 02:20 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

August 06, 2003

The Saudi Civil War

It has been said by many that the war on terror is really just an Arab civil war (between socialist Pan-Arab nationalists and fascist Islamist militants), exported to the world to keep the Muslims from killing each other. Saudi Arabia is the microcosm of this - and in fact its source. The Wahabbi sect provides the house of Sa'ud with legitimacy, and the house of Sa'ud in return exports Wahabbism around the world.

Adam Sullivan at the Karmic Inquisition has some thoughts on how we can turn this to our advantage, inciting the civil war within Saudi Arabia, and using that to cut off the financing of the Islamists.

Posted by Jeff at 12:14 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

August 02, 2003

The Real Reason for the Iraq Campaign

Tom Friedman is generally either really wacko, or dead on, depending on the day. Today, he's dead on. Today's article is about why we really went to war in Iraq, why we didn't use our real reasons as jusitification, and what it means.

As Mr. Stothard recalled the scene outside Mr. Blair's office: "the prime minister takes a walk out into the hall and stands, shaking out his limbs, between [his political adviser] Sally Morgan's door and a dark oil painting of Pitt the Younger. . . . Morgan is away from her desk. [Mr. Blair] looks into the empty interior as if the answer to the latest state of the vote count will emerge from her filing cabinets nonetheless. He comes back out, disappointed, and looks around him. `What amazes me,' [Mr. Blair says,] `is how many people are happy for Saddam to stay. They ask why we don't get rid of [the Zimbabwean leader Robert] Mugabe, why not the Burmese lot. Yes, let's get rid of them all. I don't because I can't, but when you can you should.' "

Alas, Mr. Blair never really made this case to his public. Why not? Because the British public never would have gone to war for the good reasons alone. Why not? Because the British public had not gone through 9/11 and did not really feel threatened, because it demanded a U.N. legal cover for any war and because it didn't like or trust George Bush.

Yes, what takes me aback here is the degree of European-style anti-Americanism and anti-Bushism in Britain — which Mr. Blair's personal and overt pro-Americanism has disguised. "Blair had a real George Bush problem," says John Chipman, director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "George Bush is disliked by a large segment of the British public. He offends the European sense of nuance. The favorite European color is gray and the only colors President Bush recognizes are black and white. So in supporting the war, Blair was not just going against European public opinion, he was going against his own."

...

Unless real W.M.D.'s are found in Iraq, Gulf War II will for now and for years to come be known as "the controversial Gulf War II" — and the hyped reasons for the war will obscure the still good ones. Only future historians will be able to sort out this war's ultimate validity. It is too late or too early for the rest of us.

It's too late, because no one will ever know what Saddam would've done had Messrs Blair and Bush not acted. And it's too early, because the good reasons for this war — to unleash a process of reform in the Arab-Muslim region that will help it embrace modernity and make it less angry and more at ease with the world — will take years to play out.

Posted by Jeff at 10:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

July 29, 2003

Give 'em What They Want

Michael Totten has a Tech Central Station column up, in which he asks if it is possible - or at least wise - to allow any measure of victory for the Palestinians. If we give the Palestinians anything that can be interpreted as a victory, doesn't that simply encourage their tactics, particularly suicide bombings?

Ordinarily, I'd say "yes." However, I've been thinking a lot about this problem, and I think that the answer is actually "yes, but..." In order to show why that is, I'll have to start with some axiomatic statements. If you disbelieve any of the following list, then my conclusion will make no sense to you. The axioms of the Israeli-Palestinian situtation are:


  • The aim of the Palestinian and other anti-Israeli terrorsts, and in particular of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Fatah (including the Al Aqsa Brigade) and possibly the Palestinian Authority as a whole, is to defeat Israel. While the Palestinians would like to live in peace, this is less important to them than victory.
  • The Palestianians, at least the very large fraction represented by the groups named above, define victory as minimally including the destruction of Israel, and the creation of a Palestinian state in the entire area encompassed by Israel, the West Bank of the Jordan River, and the Gaza Strip. Some groups (including Fatah) appear to define victory as the victory of Arab Nationalism, with them at the head of the Arab nation. (In this way, they are not unlike the Ba'athists of Syria and Iraq, Moamar Gadafi, or the former Nasser regime in Egypt. Each of these groups want or wanted the formation of a single Arab nation, under their leadership and control.)
  • The Palestinians don't state this as their goal very often. Instead, they state their goal as a fully autonomous and contiguous Palestinian state in the entire Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with a Palestinian-controlled corridor through Israel, connecting Gaza to the West Bank, and without any remaining Israeli settlements or other presence; the return of refugees from the Israeli War of Independence and their descendents to Israel proper, along with restitution, support from the welfare state, restoration of their former property, and eligibility for Israeli citizenship - including most importantly free movement and voting rights; release of all Palestinians held by Israel on "political" charges (that is to say, for killing or attempting to kill Israelis); the formal establishment of a legal right for Palestinians to work in Israel; and destruction of any physical barriers between Israel and the putative Palestinian state.
  • The Palestinians are incapable of imposing their will on Israel by force of arms, and thus attempt to obtain victory (in the more expansive sense) by baby steps, using international pressure, easily-duped NGOs, and Israeli reluctance to fully engage, in order to make it more expensive to Israel to continue the current situation than it would be to give in to Palestinian demands.
  • The Israelis would love to live in peace, but it is more important to them to simply live.
  • If the Israelis met the demands of the Palestinians, Israel would cease to exist. The "right of return" would ensure that the Jews would become a minority in Israel in very short order, at which point the Palestinians would use their electoral power to take control of, and thus destroy, Israel. (If Israel denied returned Arabs the vote, they would have destroyed themselves as a representative democracy.) The return to 1967 borders would ensure that Israel would be unable to defend against conventional military threats, while also cutting large parts of Jerusalem (including Israel's only international airport) off from Israeli control. The destruction of physical barriers between Israel and the putative Palestine would ensure easy access for terrorists into Israel, and the "right to work" would ensure that Palestinians would not be unusual inside Israel, thus allowing terrorists to work with much less chance of drawing attention to themselves. This is precisely the point, from the Palestinian point of view, to their demands. These are not unintended side-effects.
  • Israel could, of course, defeat the Palestinians utterly and in short order, by the use of overwhelming military might against the Palestinian terrorists wherever and whenever they are found, without regard to Palestinian civilians in the area. This would be met with utter revulsion by Israelis, and any government which attempted it would be unceremoniously booted from office. Further, such actions would almost certainly cause the US to cease open support for Israel, while Europe would almost certainly institute a boycott against Israel similar to what the US maintains against Cuba. This would economically devastate Israel, as well as sapping their morale and weakening them militarily. Thus, Israel will not take this tack.
  • Israel could, of course, defeat the Palestinians by the simple means of annihilating Gaza City, Ramallah, Jenin and one or two other cities with nuclear weapons. This would have effects not dissimilar to the previous option.
  • Israel could, of course, defeat the Palestinians by deporting every single Palestinian from the West Bank, either to the Gaza Strip or simply by forcing them into Jordan. The damage to the Israeli psyche of seeing Israeli troops loading people into boxcars to be shipped out would be incalculable.
  • As a result of all of this, the Israelis do not see a way of defeating the Palestinians, nor of giving in to their demands. Israel's strategy is, therefore, to try to keep the violence in Israel proper at the lowest possible level, for the lowest possible cost, while at the same time trying to find a way to change the situation by getting the Palestinians to, in essence, take somewhat less than their critical demands. In particular, Israel would be willing to grant something akin to the offer made by Ehud Barak - a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, with no right of return, borders altered from 1967 to allow Israel a defensible border and control of most of Jerusalem, no guaranteed right of Palestinians to enter Israel, and with security corridors to allow Israel to defend the Jordan River.
  • This strategy depends on the Palestinians being willing to accept less than 100% of what they are asking, and the Palestinians refused an offer to meet 98% of their demands. The situation for the Palestinians is improving, as European money (in particular) flows in, and the US exerts pressure on Israel to bend further and further. The Palestinians, therefore, have no incentive to agree to any concessions at all.

Yes, it would be unwise to give the Palestinians what they want, since that would mean the destruction of Israel in short order, and the use of suicide bombings en masse everywhere Muslims find themselves disputing with a non-Muslim foe in even shorter order. I think that up until this point, at least, Mr. Totten and I would be in agreement.

Where I take issue with Mr. Totten is with his plan. The steps he proposes are "First, defeat terrorism. Second, nurture democracy. Third, negotiate a settlement."

The first phase should be simple. Terrorism must be punished. And anti-terrorism must be encouraged.  The Palestinian Authority should be given one last chance to eliminate terror. And if the PA refuses, the U.S. must do the following:
  • Classify the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization.
  • Declare "regime change" in the West Bank and Gaza the official United States policy.
  • Support to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes.

The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed. These include Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Yasser Arafat's Fatah, the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It may also include the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority will be no more hampered by being declared a terrorist organization than have Hamas or the PFLP. Arafat sees himself as a martyr - he wants to be a martyr - and would welcome a US attempt to depose him, which even (perhaps especially) if successful would actually strengthen the hand of the terrorists, by enraging the Palestinian population. The Israelis themselves cannot defeat the Palestinian terrorists, even if supported "to the hilt" by the US, as long as the Palestinians are essentially a subject population. This is because any actions Israel could take that would involve sufficient force to actually defeat the terrorists, would be impossible for the reasons given above.

There is, however, another way. This way would be risky, because it would give the Palestinians a temporary victory, and over the short term would almost certainly make use of the Palestinian suicide bomb tactics more prevalent. This would be to compel a Palestinian state along Israeli-determined lines. Specifically:


  1. Israel should complete the fence between the West Bank and Israel proper, taking a path conducive to easy defense and walling off Jerusalem in such a way that Israel would have definitive control.
  2. Then, Israel could declare that the settlements are not defensible, and tell the settlers that they have to return to Israel proper by a certain date, or the army will no longer be able to offer them protection. On that date, Israel should pull every soldier and policeman out of the territories.
  3. One day later, Israel should declare that Israel has no presence in the Gaza Strip or West Bank, and has no interest in establishing one. Those areas would then be de facto under the authority of the Palestinian Authority. Israel should not recognize a Palestinian state formally, though of course much of the world immediately would, and Palestine would almost certainly be admitted to the UN within days.
  4. Israel should not allow Palestinian workers into Israel in any way regardless of pressure to do so - there are plenty of others willing to work who would come to Israel for the low-wage jobs. Nor should Israel allow Palestinian refugees to return, nor should Israel in any way negotiate about the fences, or a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, or anything else. Simply declare that Israel has no interest in the West Bank and Gaza, and close the borders.

This would result in a non-viable Palestinian state. Without the job engine of Israel, Palestine is an economic basket case. The split territory, with no land connection between Gaza and the West Bank, would leave Palestine wholly dependent on Jordan for access, and it would be expensive and difficult to travel from one to the other. While the Palestinians would bitch about this, it is also true that the Europeans and even the US would pour in money in an attempt to make the Palestinian state work.

It is almost certain that the Gaza Strip would become, effectively, a separate state (though not in name) under Hamas control, with the West Bank being under PA control. This split leadership, combined with the difficulty of working together practically, would divide the Palestinians into two separate cases from Israel's point of view. It is possible that there could be bloody struggles for control in one or both Palestinian areas. It is certain that there will be massive political infighting to try to get control over all of the money coming in. All of this would tend to distract the Palestinians.

However, it is almost certain that within a short period of time, someone in one of the areas is going to try to attack Israel. Since the option of suicide bombing would be effectively foreclosed by the security fences, the attack would most likely either be by boat infiltration or by rocket/mortar attacks over the walls.

At this point, Israel could make a very effective demonstration. Since Israel no longer has any duty as occupier, the attack would be an act of war. Israel could invade, though doing so would not be very profitable. The better method would be to determine which region the attack came from (if there were any doubt), and take out some high-profile targets in that area. For example, let's say that the attack were by rockets from the area of Beit Hanun. OK, then the Gaza Strip loses the airport and seaport (assuming they'd been built by then) to Israeli bombers. Or if the attack were from the West Bank, the bridges over the River Jordan could be dropped by Israeli bombers. In either case, don't target the other area, because you want to show that peaceful coexistence doesn't invite attacks, while attacks invite immediate and disproportionate retaliation.

If both areas are involved in attacks, or if the strategy of bombing high-profile targets doesn't work, then the Israelis could send in ground troops, surround a Palestinian town, evacuate the residents, and then completely level the town with bulldozers, artillery, bombs or whatever method seemed best. The Israelis would then withdraw, leaving the Palestinians and NGOs to cope with the needs of the resulting homeless. While such an attack would not be politically possible now, since Israelis feel a duty to the Palestinians, this would likely not be the case once Israel was no longer in control of the Palestinians.

Ideally, the situation for Israelis would improve, and the Palestinians would find themselves prospering in exact proportion to how peacefully they acted towards Israel. Almost certainly, though, the Palestinian areas would fall into infighting and ruin, and would strike out at Israel. The ruin, infighting, and Israeli disproportionate retaliation could very well put paid to suicide bombings as a useful tactic in this situation.

In any case, it would be better than the other option for settling the issue, which is a genocidal attack on the Palestinians by Israel.

Posted by Jeff at 12:43 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

July 25, 2003

Intelligence

Andrew Olmstead looks at the structure of US intelligence agencies in the light of the report of the joint Congressional investigation into the 9/11 attacks. He concludes that the structure of the intelligence agencies made detection of the plot impossible, and that the unchanged structure of the intelligence agencies would thus also be unable to detect future plots of a similar type. He recommends a thorough restructuring of the intelligence agencies.

I think that it would be helpful, before doing so, to reflect on why the existing intelligence agencies are what they are.

There are three basic types of information that can be determined by intelligence agencies: capabilities (who has what methods of doing damage), intentions (who intends to do what) and general information (commercial information, like research goals and manufacturing techniques; economic information like resource exploitation and allocation, farm production and the like; and so on). Much of the information that's gathered comes from open sources, and I suspect that the majority of our actual intelligence work consists of drawing connections between disparate information in open sources. This, incidentally, is why totalitarian societies try to keep all of that kind of information secret, to the point that SARS became widespread in China - it was illegal to publish information on who was getting what diseases. Each of our intelligence agencies, plus the counter-intelligence and (to a lesser extent) domestic investigative parts of the FBI, gather information from each of these areas.

Prior to WWII, we didn't have any method for determining intentions. We could detect capabilities to an extent, mostly through open sources, and from the military's efforts. We could gather general information from open sources and the State Department's efforts. But we couldn't really tell what someone intended. There was a huge time required, for example, to determine that the Japanese carriers had all disappeared, put that together with the intercepted diplomatic communiques and the knowledge of Japanese training with shallow-water torpedos, and determine that therefore the Japanese were planning on striking a shallow-water harbor by air; and since they were having difficult relations with us, it would probably be one of our harbors. (Actually, I don't think that we knew about the shallow-water torpedo experiments, and even the infamous bomb-plot communique to the Japanese Hawaii consulate wasn't enough to set off the warning bells in the Army defending Hawaii.) The time was in fact so long, and the analytical capability so rudimentary and scattered, that we never did determine that Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor.

In the wake of WWII, we determined to never again allow ourselves to be surprised, and so we formed the intelligence structure that we have today, adding new agencies as new capabilities became available. And let's face it, our intelligence agencies are supremely capable of determining where enemy forces are; how they are equipped, manned and trained; and what they are capable of doing. That is why we have satellites and listening posts and underwater microphone arrays and the like. It's also why we de-emphasized human intelligence (spies): they didn't add a lot to the mix, in the grand scheme of things.

However, this structure was and is supremely incapable of non-state actors. The FBI is more-or-less set up for it, but that is not the primary role of the FBI, and the FBI mainly is involved in domestic law enforcement. Just as we did after Pearl Harbor, America is saying "Never again." But we don't have the capabilities to make that possible.

So, yes, we do need to reform our intelligence agencies. We need to separate analysis from information gathering. We need to make general intelligence, which is after all gathered from public sources, publically available to everyone in the intelligence community, the military, the State Department, Congressional Staffs, even the interested public. We need to focus the analysts on specific types of threats or customers: state actors, non-state actors, diplomatically-useful information, militarily-useful information. We need to make available to the analysts the information gathered from any means. (An analyst looking at Iraq needs to be able to see the communications intercepts, the military reconnaisance, the satellite data, the general information, and so forth all at once.) When we find holes in information gathering, we need to plug them immediately. When we find holes in analysis, we need to plug them immediately. Most of all, we need to hold people accountable for failure - not the expected failure of missing something when the signs are ambiguous, but the systemic failures of ignoring intelligence for political reasons, for example.

I am not qualified to say what our intelligence agencies should look like, but I hope that the Congress will act soon to reform our intelligence agencies, so that when we say "Never again," we can be confident that can back that up.

Posted by Jeff at 05:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (9)

Reconstruction

If you think that the reconstruction of Iraq is going badly, and that the US isn't getting anything accomplished, you should pay attention to this. The reality is that we are rebuilding a country from scratch, and we have to be concerned not just about governning institutions, but about such daily activities as making sure that the streets are clear of trash. It will take a long time to build up a functioning society, but it seems like we're on a good track to do that.

Posted by Jeff at 10:05 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 21, 2003

Bush Lied? Uh, No.

Steven Den Beste has posted a quite detailed exposition of America's rationale and position in the war on terror, including a listing of root causes, the justifications for war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and some notes on the long-term direction we're going in. His conclusion: Bush can't reasonably be said to have lied; the statement in question from the SOTU is pretty far down on the list of relevant justifications for the war; and the Democrats are just marginalizing themselves by harping on what everyone knows is a really minor nit, to the point of calling for impeachment.

I would have just said, "No, Hesiod, you delusional partisan jerk, President Bush didn't lie." But that's just me.

Posted by Jeff at 08:33 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (9)

July 11, 2003

To Provide for the Common Defense

Trent Telenko at Winds of Change has a must-read article for those who care about the long-term strategy of the War on Terror.

This ties in with General Franks' testimony to Congress about our length of stay in Iraq, as well as to many different bloggers' comments on the matter, particularly those of Steven Den Beste and Porphyrogenitus. (I will refrain from specific article links here, since I've commented on it before, with links, and since Trent's article has many links to the same or similar sources.)

I think that there are a few things becoming very clear about the long-term War on Terror, and our position now, and I'll try to summarize them all here. First, our current position:


  1. We have enough heavy combat troops in the Regular Army and National Guard to handle any forseeable contingency. Should we be required to fight a war in Korea, we have sufficient forces available to commit to handle that mission, assuming the immediate activation of several National Guard divisions (as these have a six-month training cycle, and many of their most experienced personnel are currently committed to active duty units).
  2. We do not have enough active duty troops to occupy Iraq, fight a war in Korea (or be prepared to do so) and do anything else of consequence.
  3. With the exception of the Poles, British, Australians and possibly the Spanish and Italians, there are no countries with significant forces who are both capable of providing forces for foreign conflict/peacekeeping, and willing to do so in support of the War on Terror.
  4. We cannot as a consequence intervene in Syria/Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, sub-Saharan Africa or Venezuela - any or all of which may require our intervention in the next few years - until and unless we can either pull combat units out of Iraq, or nationalize the Guard heavy divisions.
  5. Our only light/rapidly-deployable forces are the 101AB, 10Mtn, 82AB and 25ID. 101AB and 82AB are committed in Iraq and Afghanistan, 10Mtn is committed in Afghanistan, and 25ID is strategic reserve and likely cannot move due to the Korean situation. The Marines are not heavily committed right now, but are really only useful in littoral interventions, rather than for long-term occupation duties. This means that the US does not have sufficient rapidly-deployable forces to intervene should, say, Iran go all to hell with a revolution (or Congo take on dimensions that threaten our security, or Zimbabwe do the same) - without abandoning either Korea or Iraq or undercommitting (fatally?) to both.

Given these facts, I think that the following conclusions are inescapable:


  1. We need at least one more field force the size of the one currently deployed in Iraq, but specifically designed to occupy a nation. In other words, we need 3 to 5 light infantry divisions, with small armored and artillery components for heavy firepower, and with extra contingents of MPs, logisticians, civil affairs troops and the like.
  2. Such a force could likely be raised without a draft, if the political will were available to fund it. That is to say, we would either have to raise taxes again (which I abhor), or cut spending on popular programs (which politicians in general abhor). We must shift to a war footing, which means shifting funding and raising additional troops, or we will be unable to fight at a pace that will defeat our enemies. The President must make this case, and must be willing to take the political risk for it. He should not wait until after the election to do so.
  3. Should we choose to, we could use foreign auxiliaries and US officers to raise such units, in exchange offering the troops American citizenship at the end of their tours of duty. This is likely not politically doable at this time, though it may be in a few years.
  4. Were we to raise occupation troops, and employ them in Iraq, this would free up our combat troops to take on Syria, or be ready for contingency intervention in Iran or elsewhere. Such an expansion of our occupation would, of course, require more occupation troops. At current rates of pay and unemployment, it is likely that we would be unable to raise more than an additional 250000 troops (educated guess, and could be way off) without resorting to foreign auxiliaries or a draft.
  5. We must therefore economize with our forces, and in particular we must avoid pointless interventions (such as Liberia) and pull out of commitments which others could take up (such as Bosnia). This will annoy the Europeans and the American Left. So be it. The Western Europeans have made clear that they have nothing to offer (aside from the nations mentioned above) us except neutrality or vague friendship - and I include Canada in this, sadly. Since we cannot rely on their help, we will have to see to our own needs, and that means leaving them to see to their own needs, and to humanitarian interventions.
  6. We need to organize local militias, in order to provide local self-defense. These militias should have no law-enforcement powers, but purely serve as anti-terror units. During the Washington sniper case, such a militia, with a pair of obviously-armed and alert sentries on each corner, would have proven invaluable. There will be other such cases where this will be needed.
  7. We will have to drop the "war on drugs" in order to free up government resources to fight the real war. It may be possible to do both, but given the budget environment we are now in, it is foolish at least to fight drugs as a Federal matter. Should we maintain prohibition, we need to at least let the States enforce those laws (outside of Customs inspections at the borders).

I don't realistically think that we have the political will to switch to a war footing right now. Absent another major attack, the only way to build that will is for the President to make it the issue he is pursuing. Certainly, short-sighted political opponents will deride him for this, and the Europeans and the press will wail loudly and long, but this is a case that the American public seems to want made to them. It's about time the President does so.


In reality, I don't expect that we will have the political will to go to a true war footing until after the next major terrorist incident on American or European soil.

UPDATE: Fixed the ending. (Thanks to Flit, and to Mog in the comments.) Seems to have been cut off when I saved the post; and I was dealing with kids and didn't notice the error.

Posted by Jeff at 02:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 09, 2003

Liberian History

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting look at Liberia's history. In outline: freed American slaves set up a country stating the best parts of America's legacy, implemented the worst parts of America's legacy, then mixed in the disaster that is most of West Africa to create an appalling result. Bussora is right: is there anyone there worth saving?

Posted by Jeff at 10:04 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

July 08, 2003

The End of the World

Woty Freeman has a really good post in this week's Carnival of the Vanities, talking about how 9/11 changed international relations, and asking the important question, of whether we should grant the demands of the radical Islamists. After all, he notes, the demands are rather scary:

  • Accept Islam as the one true faith
  • Stop ‘fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest'
  • Accept that the Muslims are entitled to take over all of Israel because they are the ‘inheritors of the true Torah'.
  • Accept Islamic theocracy as the just form of government.
  • Accept the anti-semitic libel that Jews are a great evil that is controlling our society, government, media, and economy, and act to prevent their influence.
  • Prevent women from working
  • Abandon the entertainment industry
  • Sign the Kyoto treaty
  • Give up industry and business and capitalism
  • Ignore human rights abuses in Islamic countries

And yet, if we were to grant some of them (such as disfavoring Israel), would that be enough to satisfy the Islamists' rage against us? In other words, should we listen to the Islamists and give them what they want? And if not, then what should we do?

Posted by Jeff at 08:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

July 03, 2003

Liberia

There has been a great deal of discussion in the blogosphere and the mainstream press of the potential for US intervention in the Liberian civil war. (See for example the LA Times, Porphyrogenitus, Right Wing News, Michael Totten, Fox News, Courtney, the New Republic, and this related Winds of Change article on the Congo)

I have been undecided on this issue - actually, a bit conflicted. There are two arguments I would buy for intervention. The first is that we need to bring peace and stability to the entire world in order to truly guarantee the peace and stability of the first world nations, especially ourselves. Given that, and that Liberia is certainly in need of peace and stability, and that people are actually happy with the concept of US intervention there, Liberia is a reasonable place to go now. The second is that Africa needs an example of nationbuilding along the lines of what we are trying to do in Iraq, and Liberia has timber and diamonds and seaports that can be used to bring an inherent wealth to the country, absent civil war and criminal exploitation of the resources to enrich the area's elites (as opposed to serve as a foundation of a national economy).

However, I don't think that these are truly compelling, in the way that the counterarguments are. First, we are deeply committed already in numerous places around the globe. In addition to Afghanistan and Iraq, we are in Korea and continue to maintain contingency forces for a possible Korean conflict; we are in the Balkans; we are (with SOF at least) in Colombia, and that mission could grow larger if Venezuela falls apart; and we still have a number of other missions (like sea control and training rotations) that we have to maintain. In other words, we are stretched to the point that our active duty ground combat force that remains uncommitted is basically the bulk of the Marine Corps. The last thing we want to do right now is to start committing that force to long-term peacekeeping missions in a variety of disconnected hellholes which don't fit into our security strategy.

Secondly, we currently have no real dog in the Liberian fight. Arguments about "America's historical connection to Liberia" are both true and irrelevant. That connection was brief, and more than 150 years ago. Liberia is not a "little America" in Africa; it is a typical West African coastal country, no more connected to America (in any real sense) than is its neighbor, Sierra Leone. If we intervene, even as a backup to ECOMOG, you can be assured that we will suddenly be responsible for every aspect of the security of Liberia and all of its neighboring states, at least in the eyes of "the international community". We would get all of the blame for decades of conflict since the end of European colonialism in Africa, without any credit for anything that goes right. In other words, we'd be expending blood and treasure and reputation - all needed for the War on Terror - for no gain to us.

Third, the problem in the region appears to be Charles Taylor, the Liberian president. A traditional peacekeeping mission would simply freeze the situation in place, which would have the effect of keeping Taylor in power, capable of interfering throughout the region as he sees fit. At the least, such a mission would slow down the necessary process of change that will remove Taylor from power and his followers permanently from the field.

One lesson forgotten by the Europeans is how much fighting and horror had to go on over 300 years for Europe to sort out its borders, economy and forms of government. It is not likely the case that such solutions can be imposed by fiat on sovereign nations, presuming we grant that any internationally-recongized border defines a sovereign nation. It is certainly not true that such impositions have worked in the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia - all places where they have been tried. (Note the contrast to South America, North America and Europe (excluding the Balkans), where the borders formed organically via struggles among the various peoples and interests involved. In all of those places, the borders are commonly accepted, and the nations are generally at peace with one another.)

So, all taken together, I don't believe that there is a case for intervention by the US. What does interest me, though, is why such notables as the European elites, Kofi Annan, the Congressional Black Caucus, Dennis Kucinich and others who were resolutely opposed to American intervention in Iraq, are calling for American intervention in Liberia. I think that it comes down to the most cynical motive of all: anti-Americanism (and, in the US, anti-Republicanism). What would the Left get out of an American intervention in Liberia?

Well, for one thing, the UN would regain legitimacy it lost in the Iraq crisis. Iraq would become seen as an aberration, rather than the first step in a process of UN decline in relevance. UN peacekeeping operations would similarly be religitimized, as the US recognized both their intent and their form, no matter how disconnected from American interests.

For another, America would be engaged in another Balkans-like intervention, which would drag on for years with no reasonable end. The precedent thus set would embolden the UN and EU to demand intervention be initiated or maintained by the US in a number of other hotspots, "to prevent a human catastrophe" of course. The net effect would be to slowly but surely tie American forces down, to prevent or make more difficult US interventions in Korea, Iran, Syria or other places where our national security might actually be threatened, or where we might need to go in a long-term struggle to remove the social and economic underpinnings of terrorism. This reduced freedom of action would make America less activist.

Also, there would be a sudden cost shift almost entirely onto American shoulders, as we became responsible for all of the logistics, equipment, pay and what have you, not only of the other peacekeeping forces which we would lead, but also of the UN operations and NGOs who swoop around such tragedy like vultures. As a benefit, no matter what the UN and NGOs did, the responsibility for any problems would fall on America, while any credit for success would go to the UN and NGOs. Not a bad package, really, if you are the UN or the NGOs.

For the Democrats, this would certainly be an issue used against President Bush in next year's elections. After all, will go the chorus, if President Bush were really serious about the War on Terror, why did he intervene in Liberia when we so evidently needed those forces elsewhere? And what about these petty interventions driving up the debt during a time of deficits and war? Like Kerry's vote in favor of Iraqi intervention, a million reasons will be given for why the Democrats didn't need to see this coming, and the Bush administration did. This barrage of criticism and self-absolution would be used to cloud the issue and paper over the Democrats' own calling for intervention. And best of all, if the intervention failed, look what a political bonanza that would be for the Democrats!

So I can see why the Left wants to intervene. But they won't get my support.

Posted by Jeff at 06:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 30, 2003

Guerrilla

Tacitus posted a speculation that what is happening in Iraq right now - the daily attacks, and the US response - is the beginning of an organized guerilla war, with substantial support from the population. He asks where others who supported the war stand on this.

My opinion: Tacitus is mostly correct. Events in Iraq today are mostly a result of the fact that the Iraqi power structure was not really defeated in their own mind. Certainly, the government was thrown down and the army and police disbanded, but Saddam and his sons are still at large, and the people who had the power before the war still have it now to a large extent, though the scope of their power is much reduced. This, combined with the large caches of small arms, machine guns and RPGs in Iraq, means that the ingredients for an uprising in central Iraq - particularly the area between the rivers to Tikrit - are all in place: leadership, a grudge, fighters, weapons, a target.

But I don't think that the situation is going to get bad, unless the military has suddenly become willfully blind to reality on the ground. In Iraq, we have all of the capabilities and rules of engagement to end this quickly. We can remove the leadership by killing, capturing or determining the fate of Saddam Hussein and his sons, and by rousting out the Ba'athists, who are largely well-known - and we are doing this. These operations remove many of the fighters as well, though foreign fighters will continue to be a problem until we kill them and figure out how to stem the supply.

We can remove the grudge by building local governments and putting forth a set of concrete steps towards Iraqi independence. We have not done this very well yet, and time is running down on this. We have to make clear what is necessary for us to turn Iraq back over to the Iraqis - not a time frame but a sequence of steps - before we become the enemy to the broad mass of Iraqis.

The weapons are a problem, because Iraqis have a legitimate need to own them in a society where there is not good order. That said, I think at the very least, we need to round up the RPGs. That will reduce the lethality of attacks on us without undermining legitimate self-defense by Iraqis. If we were to form local militias, along with the local governments, and give them the power to enforce good order in their areas, this would go a long way to removing the grudge, the weapons and the fighters and putting people more on our side. I don't think that we can disarm Iraq in time otherwise. We need to get locals disarming those who cannot be trusted with the arms, rather than having US troops do so (except in exceptional circumstances, as where the nascent guerillas are too strong for the local militia to handle).

As long as we are there, and as long as we show real power in the street, we will be a target. The only fix for this - short of leaving the job undone - is to do the job. Until and unless we fix Iraqi society for real, we are going to be targets.

Where I think we've been falling down, as far as I can tell from existing reports, is in allowing local self-government, and only stepping in to fix the local issues when it's obvious that the local governments are failing or have to learn how to govern properly. If we set up a clear set of rules, including the rights we expect to be respected for all Iraqis, and then let the local governments figure out how to govern, we'll come out ahead of the game. If we don't - and indications are we are not - let local governments form organically under a defined set of rules, we are risking the long-term objective of stabilizing Iraq, because we are setting up conditions where we would just leave and let a new strongman take over. This would undermine the entire war on terror, so it cannot be allowed to happen.

As a side note, the situation in Iraq, as with the situation in Afghanistan, shows the downside of the American way of warfighting. We win very quickly, but very lightly. We throw down the enemy, but we do not kill large numbers of people or destroy large amounts of national wealth. This is good, in that it is humane, but it is bad, in that it drags out the endgame. By not being brutal, we leave the enemy undefeated in his own mind. He has lost nothing, in his mind, but position. He is still intact, and his country is still intact. Much of the good will he had - to the extent that it was present before the war - is unchanged, and his supporters are often powerful in the followon regimes.

This is OK, I think, in cirumstances where we don't care what happens after we solve the immediate problem (vis Kuwait in 1991, or Haiti any time we've intervened there, or arguably in Afghanistan). It is not so good where we want to build a functioning society before we leave. In those cases, we more troops dedicated to nation building and civil administration - in other words, a ready-to-go occupation force, to replace the heavy divisions once they've done their work.

Posted by Jeff at 01:32 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Demography

I think that most Americans feel a deep tie to Europe. Culturally, linguistically, ethnically and politically, we became what we are because of Europe more than anywhere else. That is why, I think, we're so annoyed when European nations act like weasels. It's also why this kind of article (link via ZenPundit) is scary to me, and would likely be scare to most Americans if it weren't the most significant under-reported story in the world.

One study by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington, predicts that the median age in the United States in 2050 will be 35.4, only a very slight increase from what it is now. In Europe, by contrast, it is expected to rise to 52.3 from 37.7.

European populations are ageing because modern first-world medicine and nutrition allows the population to live longer, but the population is not replacing itself. In fact, according to the article I quoted, the fertility rate in Germany is only 1.34 children per woman. This means that each generation is some 2/3 the size of the generation that spawned it. Given Europe's generous pensions, this cannot continue indefinitely.

The consequences of this will be huge: either significant additional immigration will have to be allowed, possibly leading to a European civil war within the next 20 to 50 years (since most of this immigration is from Arab nations with anti-liberal traditions, and by and large the immigrant populations are not being assimilated into the liberal European mainstream), or Europe's global political significance will shrink to the level of Brazil, while Europe's role changes into primarily a US vacation destination. Either way, as long as Europeans don't have more children, and fix their pension systems, there is no way to avoid some kind of large discontinuity some (historically short) time down the road.

It is my hope that Europeans will get through this dangerous time in their history (I'm sure they see it differently) without it becoming a dark time in all of our histories.

Posted by Jeff at 12:34 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 10, 2003

Imperialism

Michael Totten agrees with Joe Katzman about what needs to be done in places like the Congo, but doesn't like calling it colonialism or imperialism. OK, fair enough. I can see the need for a different word.

Imperialism is the notion of taking adjacent possessions in order to protect the Imperial core (since the outer possessions would be attacked first). Not really appropriate here. Colonialism is the notion of taking possessions generally distant in order to exploit their resources to the economic, political and military benefit of the core. The tactics for establishing and maintaining order are very similar.

What Joe is discussing is a little different: taking possessions in order to stabilize and rationalize them for the benefit of those already there, and in order to prevent the rot from spreading. The tactics would be similar to imperialism and colonialism at first, as the territories are stabilized. The rationalization - bringing freedom, liberal democracy, economic freedom and individual rights to the occupied territory - would have very different tactics. In particular, the occupying power would leave in the end. Effectively, this would mean establishing a temporary empire, and then giving it up. How about "Interventionism"?

UPDATE (6/11): Joe Katzman article by Paul Johnson, who calls this process "moral imperialism". Michael Totten prefers "democratic imperialism", which actually strikes me as fairly wrong - we don't want to create democracies, per se, but federal republics; and given that the territories wouldn't have a vote in the start of the process, that makes the term "democratic" rather misleading. However, I've thought of an even better term, I think: how about "internationalism"? We are, after all, trying to bring these territories into the international system of trade and representative government, and it co-opts the very people within our society who would otherwise argue against the idea by taking a term they already lionize and using it in a new way. Hmmm....

UPDATE: I forgot to mention Michael Totten's other suggestion: "nation building". While this certainly describes the process, it has a historical problem in that most of the places where this needs to be done aren't nations, per se. They are generally collections of tribes whose only common identity is a map drawn by the colonialists of the 19th century. Actually, now that I think about it, that works, too, since we'd be trying to build a common identity. OK, I'll go with "nation building".

Posted by Jeff at 06:02 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Overcommitment

Steven Den Beste (repeatedly), Donald Sensing and Tacitus have all noted how overcommitted the military is currently, particularly in low-density high-demand forces (MPs, SOF, Civil Affairs and the like) and heavy ground forces. We built our force around two theater commitments, plus minor operations, and now we have them in spades. We have a major occupation in Iraq, minor occupations in Afghanistan and the Balkans, and a requirement for contingency reserves for Korea in case the North acts up. We most likely will rotate some of the Korean reserves into Iraq later in the year (particularly 1Cav and 25Inf are good candidates) replacing 3ID and later 1AD or 4ID.

But then what? The truth is, we are going to need one to two full divisions in Iraq for the next five years at least, and we'll need more than that until we can get an Iraqi police force and army off the ground. For the next two years at least, while we're building Iraqi institutions, we'll need three to four divisions in Iraq. We have commitments for another two to three divisions worth of troops in various hotspots, and another two to three divisions to reinforce Korea. Then we're out of troops, and we don't have any more to spread around.

We do have additional commitments to take care of, though. We will possibly fight in one or all of Syria, Iran and Korea in the next three to five years. It is almost a certainty that we will fight in one of those countries. (I expect it to be Syria. Iran and North Korea can be resolved short of war.) In addition to that, there is a possibility of us needing to commit some forces to Africa. And who knows what might crop up that we can't anticipate from the current world situation?

But we do have options. One that I don't hear being bandied about much, though it's been mentioned a few times, is raising new active duty divisions and special-purpose troops. This would certainly be expensive. In fact, it would require either significant spending cuts, or significant tax increases (more than reversing the last three years' cuts) or perhaps some of both. I do not believe that there would be a shortage of people willing to volunteer or to stay in, so that no draft would be needed, provided that they would not have to maintain today's high optempo for an indefinite period of time. This option would also take significant time as well. The good part, though, is that it would fix the problem, and during this time of economic uncertainty, it would be a far better expenditure of government money than most of the ways the government tries to boost employment.

Another option would be to make the strategic decision that Korea is no longer our problem. After all, it is not as if South Korea cannot defend itself. In the absence of the Cold War reasons for being in Korea, we could easily back out of that commitment. That alone would fix a huge amount of our force structure problems, though we would have to be very careful to avoid the appearance of just abandoning South Korea.

It's possible that regional organizations like OSCE or OAS could create regional forces, along with the support units to deploy and support them. Using the UN of course would lend the pretense of legitimacy, though the UN has proven a totally incompetent intervenor in a crisis. I just don't see it happening, though. While lots of countries like the theory of international intervention to prevent disasters, the Congo is a good example of why this kind of intervention doesn't typically work. Basically, you can't wage war by committee.

I really don't see us activating the Guard and Reserve. Let's face it, that would be problematic in the extreme. While we could do it (and would if we had to), the economic disruption of activing a unit like 49AD (from my home State of Texas) would be immense. The political problems would be huge, as well, though I believe they would be surmountable. I suspect that 10 years or so down the road, when the active part of the war on terror is over, we'll transition more heavy forces into the Guard and Reserve, and put more light and medium forces in the active duty Army.

Another way we could bridge the gap would be to create a sort of permanent coalition of the willing. The idea would be to create an organization of liberal democracies, with its own armed forces not subject to direct control of any nation, but with strong national controls to prevent rash use of those forces. In particular, the mission of this organization would be limited to fighting terrorism and nation building. This needs its own post, because the idea needs a lot of explaining and cautions, but if such an organization existed (basically a UN with a far more limited mission, but real teeth to carry it out, and a far more exclusive membership), it would free up a lot of the US forces for use elsewhere. The trick would be to avoid the problems (mostly philosophical) that prevent the UN from being in any way useful in a crisis).

In any case, it's clear we have to do something, and I hope that President Bush makes clear soon what that is to be.

Posted by Jeff at 01:03 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 03, 2003

The State of Iraq

It seems to me that there is a perfectly reasonable solution about what to do with Iraq politically, which would settle for once and all the question of occupation, as well as giving our actions an unprecedented amount of legitimacy. We should announce that we will give the Iraqis the opportunity to become the 51st State.

We will need to completely restore order, to the point of being able to ensure that political violence and intimidation would be minimized, conduct a census of the people of Iraq, and when both of these are complete, hold a referendum, which I imagine could be held within a year. If a majority of Iraqis vote to accept territoriality, then the United States would appoint a Governor, and would proceed to do everything necessary to prepare Iraq for statehood, including the establishment of all of the freedoms, structures and order that we have here, with local laws being decided by the Governor and such officials as he appoints. At this point, the US would assume Iraqi national debt and contracts, would begin the payment of such benefits and collection of such taxes as are appropriate to a territory, and would in all ways make Iraq as much a part of the US as is Guam or the US Virgin Islands. This would include the right of Iraqi registered voters to vote for President, and presumably for non-voting representatives (such as DC has).

During the period of preparation, perhaps 10 years, we would also be conducting massive public education of both adults and near-adults in the theory of American governance. Part of this would be to progressively elect governments, starting at the local level and continuing up through an Iraqi legislature. At the end of this preparatory period, when a set of conditions made public before the conduct of the first referendum was put forward has been met, we would conduct put to the legislature a bill to request a statehood referendum.

If the legislature passed that bill, and the Iraqi people agreed by referendum, then the Iraqi legislature would write a State Constitution to be submitted to the Congress with a petition for statehood, which I imagine the Congress would grant.

The nice thing about this plan is that we win either way. If the Iraqis decide in the first referendum not to become a territory, we concur, do what we need to do to stabilize and pacify Iraq, and then step out of local politics. If the government they form asks us to leave, we leave. If the Iraqis decide to become a territory, but reject statehood, then we concur, step out of local politics, and offer them commonwealth status. If they reject that as well, we concur. If the newly-formed government asks us to leave, we leave. In any case, either we will gain a new State and an infusion of new ideas and citizens, or we will gain immense goodwill by being willing to offer such a massive benefit, and by being gracious in accepting the refusal of such an offer, if it comes.

Actually, while we're at it we might offer statehood to the Canadian provinces from Manitoba westwards. But let's not advertise it with 54-40 or fight, I think.

UPDATE (6/4): Michael Totten has a different take.

Posted by Jeff at 07:09 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 31, 2003

Towards a Final Solution

Little Green Footballs has this article in the JPost. The money quote from the JPost article is this:

The US administration prepared a list of sanctions it would impose against Israel if Israel refuses to implement the 'road map'.
US officials said the sanctions list includes a reevaluation of Israel's use of US-made weapons in the Palestnian [sic] territories, and the withholding of emergency aid, reported Army Radio.

This is pretty scary, if true, because what it actually does is push Israel towards barbarism. You see, if you are an Israeli leader, you have to be thinking right about now that the Palestinians sincerely want to kill you, your entire family, all of your actual and potential descendants, your fellow citizens and in fact everyone who shares your religion, race or nationality. As a result, you might be unwilling to give substantial concessions in return for vague Palestinian promises of future consideration of possibly making a symbolic gesture. This is particularly true in light of the fact that the same authority which is making those promises is simultaneously awarding money and accolades to Palestinians who kill themselves in an attempt to kill you. This is even more particularly true since the US has spent the last decade pressuring Israel into doing just this, and Israel has given up numerous real concessions and has so far gotten virtually nothing in return.

Now, since Israel is vastly more powerful than the Palestinians, it is reasonable for you to believe that it's worth the cost for the small chance of real peace. But consider, what happens if there comes a demand upon you which would be considered by every Arab to be a capitulation; like, say, removing your security forces from the Palestinian areas? Since it is only through this presence that you've been able to keep the violence from escalating out of control, removing the troops would almost certainly lead to an immediate killing spree.

This demand actually comes fairly early in the "roadmap" process, and is only predicated on the Palestinians stopping the attacks within Israel proper (not within the Gaza Strip or West Bank). Given that the history of "the peace process" has been that if the Palestinians agree to something, they are given credit for it even when they are clearly not living up to their agreements, you as an Israeli leader might think that it is likely that pressure will be brought to bear on you to remove your best protection against Palestinian attacks even while the Palestinians are still attacking you.

In that case, would you refuse to pull back your security, knowing that it would cause the US to impose sanctions against you, or would you withdraw, knowing that you were thus condemning dozens or (more likely) hundreds of Israeli men, women and children to a grisly death? For myself, I know I would keep my security in place, because as an Israeli leader, I would not allow my people to be once more led to the charnel house. If the US actually imposes sanctions in such a case, it is clear that Israel will become weaker over time. The US can impose real restrictions and costs on Israel, and these costs and restrictions would surely weaken Israel at the same time that the Palestinians would be growing stronger, due to the inevitable influx of cash and weaponry that happens every time the "peace process" seems to be making headway.

Now, again assuming you are the Israeli leader in such a situation, do you allow your country to grow weaker while your mortal enemy grows stronger, or do you take action? The reality is, the Israelis are incredibly moral people, and they would almost certainly take a substantial increase in civilian casualties before they would do anything drastic. But eventually, if Israel were to continue both to weaken and to suffer more losses, the time would come to make The Choice: it's us or it's them. This would have to be done before the balance of power shifted too far, and before any external power began to station "peacekeepers" on the ground, or Israel would be unable to take such action without risking its own destruction from its neighbors or from outside forces committed to the "peace process" at any cost.

When the time comes to make The Choice, no human would ever willingly watch his people destroyed, shattered, driven out into a hostile world. Where would the Israelis go, if forced to leave? There is no other place where they would actually be welcomed - not even in the US (not by the millions). At that point, I would rather be anything than a Palestinian, because the might of Israel loosed in such a small area against a lightly armed population would be Old Testament Biblical in nature.

And the blood would not be on Israel's hands, but on America's.

Posted by Jeff at 11:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

May 29, 2003

Why Make them Lighter?

This article, which I got via The Command Post, containa a bit that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

it wants to upgrade the forward-deployed 2nd Infantry Division to SBCT (Stryker Brigade Combat Team) status, to make its forces lighter and more mobile. America is also studying plans to send an SBCT unit to South Korea this summer for a military exercise.

A USFK official said the transformation to SBCT was in line with America's long-term plans to reorganize and reduce its troop count here while strengthening its fighting power and deterrence effect at the same time. He denied that the plans were related to the nuclear issue with North Korea. But some experts said the moves seemed to be designed to prepare for a possible worsening of the crisis.


The whole point of a Stryker brigade is to be easily deployable and very mobile, while having a lot of hitting power. It seems that you want for divisions already deployed in Korea to be as heavy as possible, given the threat, terrain, and lack of need to deploy them (as they are already deployed). I can only think of a few scenarios:

  1. I'm reading more into this article than is really there.
  2. The article got wrong what is happening.
  3. The actual reference should be to 2IDs 3d Brigade, which is stationed in the US and would have to be deployed.
  4. The actual reference should be to additional forces being deployed to Korea in the event of war, and the prepositioning is for such forces (although, again, if you're going to preposition shouldn't you preposition heavy equipment)?
  5. We actually intend within the next couple of years to pull USFK - at least the land component - out of Korea to Japan or elsewhere in the region, but want them to be versed in operating as a medium force in Korea before we leave.

None of these seem like really good reasons to me, so what am I missing here? What's the rationale for using SBCTs in Korea instead of heavy divisions?

Posted by Jeff at 02:42 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 28, 2003

Putting a Stake in the Heart of Interservice Rivalry

The A-10 Warthog is the most amazing aircraft in our arsenal, and it may be scrapped by Air Force politics. While I can't agree with Trent that "hat is good for the USAF Brass (bomber pilots then and fighter pilots now) is bad for America, and vice versa," it is certainly true that the Air Force has too disparate a group of missions to fly. The Air Force's missions include strategic nuclear strike, air superiority, deep attack, tactical air support of ground forces, reconaissance, electronic intelligence gathering and warfare and a host of other missions. This is too broad of a mission set, and what ends up happening is that the "sexiest" jobs - fighter pilots - get to make all of the rules, and oddly enough they keep making rules that favor fighters over everything else.

In the area of actual warfighting, Goldwater-Nichols fixed the problem of inter-service rivalry. Since all theaters are commanded by a joint warfighter, to whom all elements report, the various military organizations operate as a single team. This is a huge improvement over earlier eras, where (for example) troops on the ground couldn't talk to their air support, because the radios were different. However, the various services still are in charge of deciding what equipment to buy, how to train the forces, what to actually send to a particular theater and so on. This leads from time to time to situations where a combatant commander wants a certain resource, say A-10s, and it is denied to him or watered down, largely in order to prevent that resource from gaining acclaim which would make it harder to kill off in favor of, say, more fighters. For some reason, the Air Force is really bad about this kind of thing.

It seems to me that we need another reorganization similar to that which followed Goldwater-Nichols. In this case, though, what we would want to do is look not at how we fight, but how we prepare to fight. What I would suggest as a first cut is looking at the military in terms of where it fights and what it needs to fight well. We fight in four arenas currently: inland, at sea, in the air and in the littorals. We could soon add in space to that list. Services and capabilities needed to fight well divide into those things that we must do before we decide to deploy troops, those things which are necessary to deploy troops and sustain them after they are deployed, and those things other than combat forces which are necessary to allow them to fight effectively. Those things that are necessary before we decide to deploy include procurement, administration (including legal staff, accounting and the like), doctrine and training, rear-area medical facilities, family support and so forth. Those things that are necessary to deploy and sustain troops include capabilities to move troops and supplies, as well as management and distribution of the supplies themselves. Those things which enable the combat forces to fight effectively include intelligence, psyops, reconnaisance, field medical support and the like.

The would lead to the combat forces dividing much as they are today: Army for inland combat, Navy for deep-water warfare, Air Force for air superiority and deep strike/strategic bombing and Marines for fighting along the coastlines. I see three minor changes to mission that would be involved in implementing this. The Army should take over the ICBMs and related strategic and theater nuclear missiles, on the grounds that these are no more aerial weapons than is a bullet. They go from the ground to the ground. The Army should also take over the CAS role currently provided by the Air Force (the Marines already have their own CAS, and would keep it). This means integrating the A-10s into the Army, as well as any other aircraft used strictly for close air support. The Marines would absorb the Coast Guard, whose mission would expand rather dramatically - closer to its WWII mission than its current mission.

One thing we need to be careful of is multirole capabilities. For example, we currently have a lot of aircraft which can switch roles. In the early days of a war, while we are gaining air supremacy, we need the F-15s and F-16s to fight enemy fighters and counter-air missions. Later, these can be incrementally switched to support of the ground troops. This is a useful and cost-saving way to implement the capabilities, and we don't want to lose it. It turns out that this distinction is fairly easy to draw, though. We simply would use the Army's aircraft for operations in areas where the Army forces are operating; Marine aircraft for where Marine forces are operating; and Air Force aircraft for interdiction and deep strike. F-16s could still plink tanks; they would just be doing that to units not actually in contact with Army or Marine units.

The non-combat forces could be put into three "services:" joint administration and readiness, covering the things we need to do before we deploy; logistics, covering deployment and sustainability; and joint combat support, covering those non-combat capabilities which enhance the theater commander's ability to employ his combatant units.

This would be a large shakeup, to be sure, and would be politically messy to implement. I think, though, that it would focus the non-combat parts of the military more on how to support our ability to fight, rather than on what got them to where they are. In other words, it would not be a fighter jock deciding if fighters could do it all, but rather a procurement officer deciding what capabilities are necessary and in what amounts to allow the Army's combatant forces to do their jobs as well as possible.

Posted by Jeff at 12:40 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 19, 2003

Prospects for Peace West of the Jordan

The good Emperor is a tad bit miffed at the Palestinians, which reminded me that I was going to comment on the Israel/Palestine situation.

It is inherent in human nature that, when a dispute arises, each side will attempt to meet as much of its goal as possible. In civil society, where each party feels a responsibility to the other, or to be fair, or at least to avoid violence, such disputes are negotiated away until each side gets some of what they want. This is true both in interpersonal relationships, and in relationships between nations.

This is why, when the US and Canada wrangle over fisheries protection, neither side is completely happy when its done. On the other hand, relative power of the nations notwithstanding, neither side is ready to fight over the issue either. Similarly, if France and Germany have a policy dispute, they no longer resort to force of arms, but go to the European Court or some similar body to get the issue worked out. Neither gets everything they want, but both get some of what they want.

This system only works when both sides believe that they cannot get any more through negotiation, and are unwilling to resort to violence. Usually, when one side of a dispute is vastly more powerful than the other, the less powerful side will give in, and hope for the best, because that's better than being forced to give up not only what the dispute was about, but more besides. When both sides are nearly evenly matched, and at least one side cannot obtain their minimum demands, there is a serious chance of war. Obviously, if the situation is that the less powerful side refuses to meet the minimum demands of the more powerful side, there is also a serious chance of war.

But there is one circumstance when the weaker side has an advantage: if the stronger side is a liberal Western representative democracy, and if that state repeatedly suffers the opprobrium of the rest of the world (which it cares about, because it is after all a liberal Western representative democracy), then it is possible that the stronger side will not be as willing to take, or even inflict, losses on the weaker side. It is possible that the stronger side will suffer moral doubts about its right to resort to violence to solve the issue. It is possible that the stronger side will not be convinced that the losses in blood and treasure are worth the benefit to be gained.

In the dispute between Israel and the Arabs, the positions are frequently fogged over, but are really fairly clear-cut. Israel's minimum demands are:


  • Sovereignty - Israel must continue to exist as a sovereign state
  • Security - Israelies must not be at risk simply living in Israel; further, Israel must have defensible boundaries

The minimum demands of the Arabs are a little less clear, because there are multiple parties to the dispute on the Arab side. Here are some of them:

  • Territory - the Syrians want the Golan heights back, to protect Damascas; the Egyptians don't want the Gaza Strip back; the Jordanians don't want the West Bank back; Hezbollah, Hamas and similar groups want all of the territory west of the Jordan river; the Palestinian Authority may or may not be satisfied with the lines prior to the 1967 war
  • Destruction of Israel - as mentioned above, most of the terrorist groups, and probably the Palestinian Authority, want Israel to cease to exist; on their way to that, they might be willing to take a partial settlement, as long as it is so odious that the Palestinian people won't decide that's good enough and stop there. "Right of return" is just a way of destroying Israel more slowly, and so falls into this category.
  • Convenient Distraction - for all of the Arab states, but perhaps none more pressingly than Syria and Iran (now that Iraq is out of the picture), Israel's mere existence provides an escape valve for domestic pressure. We're not the ones oppressing you, our brothers; it is the Israelis. Once the Israelis are stopped, we will be able to share with you the riches we have plundered from you, so go and kill Israelis instead of overthrowing us.
  • A Sovereign Palestinian state - The Palestinians have repeatedly made clear that they will not accept a separate state politically, but disarmed (with Israeli armed forces operating as freely in that state as in Israel).

So let's take it from the top: how could Israel meet its minimum demands, without infringing the minimum demands of the Arabs? There is an immediate conflict between the Israeli demand for sovereignty and the demand of some Arabs for the destruction of Israel. The other issues appear amenable to some compromise, so let's start with the other issues.

Israel is already at peace with Jordan and Egypt, leaving Syria/Lebanon and the Palestinian Arabs as the only sticking points. (Believe it or not, the current situation is a distinct improvement over 1973, for example.) Of the two, Syria seems at least somewhat rational, so let's look there first. In order for Israel and Syria to reach an accomodation, there would have to be a territorial compromise on the Golan Heights. As this would likely leave Israel pretty vulnerable, it will be necessary to make this peace a very strong one.

But, it is also the case that Syria would then have to deal with the issue of its own people, as well as Hezbollah and other terrorist groups it supports. These groups and people have been conditioned for 55 years to think of Israel as a disease that must be eradicated. If Syria were to make peace with Israel, it would have to find some way of pacifying its own population and hosted terrorist groups, or those groups would organize that population to overthrow the Syrian leadership. In other words, the prerequisite to peace between Israel and Syria/Lebanon is that Syria must cease supporting terrorism, evict terrorists from Syria and Lebanon (no proxy warfare allowed) and open up its own society somewhat. It may or may not be possible to do this without a Syria-US or Syrian-Israeli war. Clearly, if a US invasion were to replace the Syrian regime with a representative federal republic, peace between Syria and Israel (as well as the creation of an independent and non-aggressive Lebanon) would be a virtual certainty.

So, even the easiest option for an improvement of the situation will require Syria to take some fairly hefty steps towards domestic liberalization and shutting down terrorists. This is pretty risky for Syria, as it could literally lead them into a civil war. For that reason also, should Israel have to deal harshly with the Palestinians in order to resolve the situation, Syria would be unable to liberalize or cease support for terrorism, as the risks to them would become too great. Even if there were already a peace agreement which included neutering of Syrian support for terrorism, it is likely that Syria would reverse course on that issue in the face of public pressure, should Israel actively attack the Palestinians.

Can Israel make peace with the Palestinians? As the rocket attacks show, even if the terrorist war is ended, Israel cannot go back to its pre-1967 borders. Virtually all of Israel's vital center would be subject to rocket attacks. Israel will therefore have to hold some territory captured in 1967 and later, including most of East Jerusalem, parts of the West Bank south of Afula, between Jerusalem and Netanya, and southwest of Jerusalem (east of Qirya Gat). Since such territorial concessions will not be granted by the Palestinians (see the Clinton attempt at creating a map) and since the Palestinians will not allow Israeli security control over an otherwise-independent state, it does not seem that territorial compromise is possible, at least while Arafat has any measure of control.

Even if the territorial concessions were to be granted, however, there would still be the issue of terrorism. As long as the Palestinian fringe groups think that terrorism will keep the war alive, they will continue to use terrorism. In a land of peace, those groups will have no influence, and that is unacceptable to those who wish to destroy Israel entirely. Such a situation would prevent them from reaching their goals. Since Israel cannot have security without the cessation of terrorism, there is an impasse.

Clearly, then, there is little chance for peace without a violent solution, since neither side will accept the minimum demands of the other. So what is the way forwards?

Syria must cease supporting terrorism. If Syria is unable to cease support for terrorism, because it is unable to liberalize enough to do so and not get Bashar Assad and his government hung from the lamp posts, then the US must invade Syria and bring about a regime change as has been done in Iraq.

Israel must deal harshly with the Palestinians. This will be politically difficult for Israel, because basically Israelis don't want to lower themselves to brutality, no matter what the press reports say. If the Israelis were truly brutal monsters, they would have ended this a long time ago. However, it is not necessary for the Israelis to either exterminate the Palestinians, nor to expel them wholesale. Instead, Israel should draw a set of boundaries which are acceptable to it. It should then make clear that any terrorist act within those borders would be met by a very specific kind of retaliation.

After each such act, one Palestinian village, or a significant part of a large city or camp, would be given 24 hours to evacuate. No restrictions would be placed on who could leave (except that wanted terrorists and criminals would be detained), but no vehicles would be allowed to leave (too much risk of car bombs) and each person and back would be quarantined so that they could be searched for weapons and explosives, after which they could go where they want, within the areas they are already legally allowed to travel to. Once the time limit has passed, the Israeli army would then procede to level the town. Since it would undoubtedly be boobytrapped, this would be done with bulldozers and explosives. In the end, the town's remnants would be plowed under, and no Palestinians would be allowed to rebuild there.

If necessary, this could go on until every single Palestinian village was levelled, and every city was levelled, and every Palestinian was living in tents. All along, the Israelis should make clear what their chosen settlement offer is, and it should be generous, within the minimum limits set out by the Israelis for security and sovereignty, and should certainly include rebuilding cities and towns for the Palestinians, starting up a meaningful Palestinian economy and ensuring that the Palestinians would have political control over as much as possible of their own lives. At some point, the Palestinians would have to either see that their interests were better served by accepting the Israeli offer. If this did not happen, and every Palestinian were eventually reduced to living in tents, with no means of feeding themselves, then it would be time to consider evicting the Palestinians by force into neighboring countries.

I realize just how stark and awful this is. I do think, though, that is is marginally less awful than what is happening now. I certainly think that it is less awful than any other settlement I can think of which would allow Israel to continue to exist and be secure within its borders. I'd love to have someone come up with a better answer, though. (Sticking with the current slow bleed of innocent lives (not to menation the Israeli economy) is not a better situation, as far as I am concerned.)

Posted by Jeff at 04:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 15, 2003

Well, That's a Shocker

Between the museum that was not looted much and the library that was not looted, one has to wonder if maybe, just maybe, the US wasn't so dumb after all in how it chose to deploy its troops? I would guess that these guys won't think so. Notice how they stopped updating their links right around the time that we started figuring out that the reports were overblown?

Posted by Jeff at 03:25 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 13, 2003

Axis and Allies

Over at Winds of Change, D. Lee guest blogs about US-European relations. In the comments, Maxim has a long post, quite critical of the US, in which he gives a European view of the situation: "so not germans changed foreign policy between the aftermath of 9-11 and now, but the US."

But, Maxim, that is the entire problem. The United States spent the entire decade of the 1990s, as bin Laden and others gathered their power and attacked US interests overseas, believing that terrorism was a really minor problem, and that the long-term issues of Israeli-Palestinian peace and of maintaining our ability to contain dangerous regimes like N. Korea and Iraq - and the consequent need to consort/"engage" with oppressive dictatorships such as China and Saudi Arabia - were more important than the minor pinpricks of attacks against the US by Islamic radicals. Europeans spent the 1990s in much the same fog, too obsessed with European integration to really notice the rot in the unassimilated immigrant communities within their own borders.

September 11 exposed the falsehood of that, and gave the US a strong motive to solve the problem of Islamist terrorism. At the same time, our attention was decisively focused on the intersection of "irrational actors" and their support of terrorism, as well as the pursuit of several of them - Iran, Iraq and North Korea - of nuclear weapons. This we could not allow, or we would be threatened with utter destruction in less than a generation.

And so the US thought through its options, and came up with the following list, as far as can be publically seen:
1) organized terrorism focused on global action had to be destroyed as a threat, starting with destroying its best basing and operatives in Afghanistan
2) the "axis of evil" states must be isolated and brought down, whether by military or other means, as quickly as possible and at any cost and risk
3) other state supporters of terrorism must be redirected to either act against terrorism or at least cease support for it
4) any terrorist organizations which had not by that time been co-opted or destroyed would then have to be destroyed

(I believe that this is a lot of what's going on behind the "roadmap" as well - an attempt to co-opt the Palestinians so that we will not have to destroy them later.)

Other nations also reevaluated their positions after 9/11, and in Germany, France and the low countries, the problem of unassimilated immigrants began to be realized in a way it had not before. Now, the increasing anger of the young men among these populations begins to look like a basis for a possible civil war in Germany and France some time in the next 20 years, unless either the Muslims assimilate or demographic trends alter radically.

Strategically, the problem for the French and Germans was to decide how to prevent such a civil war. Their ideology prevents them from simply deporting the unassimilated immigrants, their economies and inability to build public support for funding a strong military deprives them of the ability to confront the problem from a position of strength, and their racism prevents them from allowing the immigrants to assimilate, and thus gain economic and political power which would give them a hopeful future. So the French in particular, and to a lesser extent the Germans, chose the path of Saudi Arabia, and find an external enemy.

This was somewhat natural, as they had already been doing a lesser version of the same thing for a decade by demonizing Israel. Why not simply adopt bin Laden's/Saddam's lie that Israel and the US were objectively the same entity? Then, you could build your own popularity by feeding the forces of dissent at home by bashing on the US, while giving the Muslim immigrants a better target (from the European point of view) in the US than they had in France or Germany. Best of all, the US is such a forgiving nation that we had never spent a lot of energy in the past punishing other nations that stooped to this level, so why would we now?

But the US has changed since September 11, and we're not willing to be either the target of terrorism or the tool of political cowards like Schroeder and Chirac. And this is where the Weasels have fundamentally failed: by not understanding that the US is not content to play the silent victim, they picked the wrong path. Had the French and Germans stood up and said that removing Saddam was necessary, due to Saddam's regrettable actions, they would have been able to not only have a role in reshaping the Middle East, which could have created a society that the immigrants could return to, they would also have had our support if a civil war in Europe did break out. As it is now, I suspect that if such a civil war were to break out, the only concerns the US would have would be preventing the spread beyond France, Germany and the low countries; and ensuring that the French nuclear arsenal were brought into US/UK hands or were destroyed. Frankly, other than that they can go rot.

Note that I am not saying that I have anything against the majority of the French and German people individually; we'd welcome them as immigrants here. But I don't think we'd risk our blood and treasure to save their diseased political cultures for a third time.

Posted by Jeff at 03:11 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (6)

Hayba

Thanks to Winds of Change for the link to this article by Reuel Marc Gerecht. Too good to excerpt, the article discusses the American psychological position in the Middle East, and the threats to it (hint: most of them are internal to the US).

Posted by Jeff at 02:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Layered Warfare

Unlike the Noble Pundit, I'm not dismissive of China's newest tank design. If it pans out, it will be a serious piece of weaponry, which demands a bit of battlefield respect. While larger gun calibers are of somewhat limited utility in anti-tank terms, having a 152mm gun does give the tank better capability against infantry and hardened positions than the Abrams has. It will be interesting to seei f this design includes the armored internal bulkheads and other features designed to maximize crew survivability in modern Western designs. Most importantly, this weapons system will be a threat to Taiwan, equipped with older tanks, should China ever develop a credible amphibious capability before Taiwan can acquire more modern weapons.

In order to successfully beat the US on the battlefield, a country will need to field a broad range of capabilities: a heavy tank capable of defeating US missiles and tanks; either a formidable air force or a powerful mobile high-speed high-altitude air defense; some naval, air or missile force to compel the US Navy to stand far offshore; and a professional NCO corps in an Army organized for independent small-unit action and large-scale coordinated combined arms. This combination of capabilities would make an enemy competitive with us. I believe that this tank might well fulfill the first requirement for the Chinese. The Chinese could easily develop the submarine capability to make the USN nervous. It would be a huge and risky undertaking to get the Chinese air force up to standards, and I'm not convinced that China can do this in the next ten to fifteen years. (They have size, but not quality or doctrine.) They may be able to develop a mobile air-defense capability, though, to put a bubble of airspace denial around their maneuver units, sometime in the next ten years or so.

Where the Chinese will really fall down, though, is in the last element. No Communist society devolves the necessary authority far enough downwards. That requires a level of trust not present in such a society. As a result, it is almost certainly the case that, even should China achieve a weapons parity, they would not have the battlefield flexibility to beat the US. They might be able to slow us down, though, and in that case we might be in trouble. If the Chinese could draw us into a war on their territory, we probably could not compete in a war of attrition, because the Chinese could turn out a lot more soldiers than we could. Even so, the conditions for the Chinese to defeat us basically are: war in China, with the Chinese vastly improved and the US standing still.

Overall, I still don't see a short- or medium-term threat, to us or to Taiwan.

Posted by Jeff at 11:55 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

May 12, 2003

Understanding

It used to be the case that many of the soldiers whose bodies were buried overseas, or returned to the US for burial, were of unknown soldiers. That is, we knew they were American soldiers, but did not know which ones they were. For all but the most advanced nations, this is still the case. The last unknown soldier that the US interred was from Viet Nam, but he was disinterred and identified using DNA analysis. The US will never again recover the body of a soldier and not be able to identify him.

What is amazing about this story (hat tip, Transterrestrial Musings) is not the fight and bravery (I expect that from all American soldiers) but that we are putting so much effort into completely understanding what amounts to a minor incident. Almost no one else will go to these lengths: in war it is inevitable that soldiers will take a wrong turn, and get ambushed and killed. Mistakes, friction, the "fog of war" are everpresent realities.

But not necessarily forever. The US is turning vast amounts of attention to understanding every single aspect of every event in a war zone - no matter how trivial. We are studing who was in what vehicles when, and how they decided to fight, and how they died - and not just on the American side. We also study civilian deaths and enemy deaths.

We are putting such an intense spotlight on the fog of war that we are burning away the confusion, a little at a time. It will never be completely gone, of course; that is an impossibility. But we are reducing it dramatically. Since Viet Nam, we have sought to understand every single aspect of the circumstances of combat, and to correct for those that work to get people killed. We've been willing to pour exceptional resources into understanding events that, in Viet Nam or Korea or WWII or even the Phillipine occupation after the Spanish-American war, would have not even merited footnotes. In the end, I think that it is this focus on the exact circumstances of the death of every American soldier, and the willingness to pay exhorbitant sums to prevent it from happening again, which have led to the exceptionally small number of deaths in wars since Viet Nam.

(By the way, in order to give an idea of how small our number of deaths is, it is useful to look at casualty models. By the models that were in use in 1991, we should have suffered about 8000 to 10000 casualties, about a 3000-4000 of them dead. But we suffered only 146 dead out of less than 650 total casualties. By those same models, we should have lost about 25000 to 35000 troops in the latest war (about 9000 to 12000 dead), rather than under 150 dead and less than 500 wounded.)

Posted by Jeff at 11:35 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 07, 2003

Multilateralism

Calpundit has an interesting article on multilateralism. He mentions US use of multilateral methods in Korea, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine, and then asks:

These are all good reasons for multinational collaboration in foreign policy. They are also reasons put forward by conservatives and by a conservative administration. So why is that Iraq, uniquely in the world, seems to be the one place where none of this matters?

Well, the trite answer is that we have lots of tools in our toolkit, and it's not good to assume that every problem is a nail.

The more serious answer is related to national interests. In the Korean situation, the countries neighboring North Korea have far more interest in the situation than does the US. China and Japan do not want a nuclear-armed North Korea. China does not want Japan and Taiwan to obtain nuclear weapons, which a failure to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons would almost certainly lead to. South Korea does not want to lose Seoul, and does not want to have to pay for bringing North Korea back from the brink. (It would much rather the US pay to keep North Korea barely intact.) The US, on the other hand, just wants the region to be peaceful, and for the representative and capitalist South Koreans and Japanese to remain representative and capitalist. Frankly, we don't have a strong and immediate interest here, which is why we're considering pulling our troops out of South Korea.

In Afghanistan, we use other nations to help keep the peace and to help reconstruct for a few reasons. Mainly, we wanted at the start to keep NATO involved and relevant (it's no longer clear that this is a long-term US goal, after France's stonewalling on defending Turkey), share the costs and give other nations reasons to keep Afghanistan peaceful and on an upward path. The US only has a security interest in keeping Afghanistan from returning to being a base for terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, and we have plenty of troops on hand for that. I would argue that we have a moral obligation to Afghanistan, but I also realize that morality is almost never actually in play in international politics.

In Israel, I think that our main reason for being involved is to keep a lid on the conflict. I don't know that we care if it gets resolved or how, as long as the other Arab nations are not incited to cease co-operating with us in the War on Terror, with selling oil and with other genuine US national interests. We certainly want Israel to remain representative and capitalist, and want to convert other nations in the region to that model, but I don't know that this has anything to do with our involvement in the peace process. I suspect that if we weren't engaged heavily in the region because of the war on terror, we would have completely withdrawn from the process once it became clear that the Palestinians were not negotiating or acting in good faith. As it is, we are making ourselves a target of Arab rage for no good reason. So using the Quartet is useful to somewhat deflect that rage and to give the Palestinians' non-Arab supporters (the UN, Russia, the EU) reasons to actually pressure the Palestinians to stick up to any agreements.

The US has a direct financial interest in Europe. We want Europe to remain representative and capitalist, certainly, and in order to do that the Europeans have to be defended. It costs us a lot of money to defend them, that we'd rather spend elsewhere. There is a raft of indications that the US is about to do just that, whether Europe spends on its own defense or not. This is risky, in that if Europe remains undefended, and an aggressive nation appears in in midst or on its borders, that nation may be able to capture Europe or pressure it in ways that are bad for our interests.

Iraq is a very different matter. In addition to our short-term interests in the War on Terror (Iraqi support for Palestinian radicals, development of weapons of mass destruction, training terrorists and the like), Iraq is a largely secular and educated state. This makes it a perfect place to try to set up a federal, representative republic with a capitalist economy. This would make a fine example for the rest of the Arab world to emulate (by popular demand, and almost certainly against the wishes of the rulers of those other Arab/Muslim nations), so that we would be forced to fight fewer wars in order to end support of terrorism from Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia (and to a lesser extent some other Arab/Muslim nations). Thus, it is heavily in our interests to resolve the Iraqi situation in the way most favorable to us. On the contrary, the UN, France, Germany, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt all have reasons to want us to fail. The UN needs us to fail to prove that only UN-sponsored intervention works. Germany, France and Russia need us to fail for economic reasons (and, in the case of France, for face-saving reasons). Iran, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia want us to fail to preserve their interests in Iraq, prevent us from coming after them, and not incite their own people to try to emulate an Iraqi success by overthrowing their current leaders. Turkey needs us to fail so that they will be able to continue intervening in Kurdish territory. As a result, it will be the US, Britain, Poland, Australia and a few other countries who rebuild Iraq.

Posted by Jeff at 01:51 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 02, 2003

UN Moral Validity? Hah!

David Warren makes an interesting point about the evolving Bush Doctrine:

The U.S. is not ruling out future roles for the United Nations or its agencies, in the reconstruction of Iraq or on any other front. The Bush administration has simply ceased, as a matter of routine, to recognize the legal or "moral" validity of U.N. pronouncements.

Good.

Posted by Jeff at 11:43 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

The Path to Victory

This article by James Webb, courtesy of the Braden Files, talks about the end of the Viet Nam war and the part played in it by the hard left and the entertainment industry. The history of that ending is perhaps the most ignominious chapter of American history, but not for the reasons most people think.

This so-called Watergate Congress rode into town with an overriding mission that had become the rallying point of the American Left: to end all American assistance in any form to the besieged government of South Vietnam. Make no mistake—this was not the cry of a few years earlier to stop young Americans from dying. It had been two years since the last American soldiers left Vietnam, and fully four years since the last serious American casualty calls there.

For reasons that escape historical justification, even after America’s military withdrawal the Left continued to try to bring down the incipient South Vietnamese democracy. Future White House aide Harold Ickes and others at "Project Pursestrings" ... worked to cut off all congressional funding intended to help the South Vietnamese defend themselves. The Indochina Peace Coalition, run by David Dellinger and headlined by Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, coordinated closely with Hanoi throughout 1973 and 1974, and barnstormed across America’s campuses, rallying students to the supposed evils of the South Vietnamese government. Congressional allies repeatedly added amendments to spending bills to end U.S. support of Vietnamese anti-Communists, precluding even air strikes to help South Vietnamese soldiers under attack by North Vietnamese units that were assisted by Soviet-bloc forces.

Then in early 1975 the Watergate Congress dealt non-Communist Indochina the final blow. The new Congress icily resisted President Gerald Ford’s January request for additional military aid to South Vietnam and Cambodia. This appropriation would have provided the beleaguered Cambodian and South Vietnamese militaries with ammunition, spare parts, and tactical weapons needed to continue their own defense. Despite the fact that the 1973 Paris Peace Accords called specifically for "unlimited military replacement aid" for South Vietnam, by March the House Democratic Caucus voted overwhelmingly, 189-49, against any additional military assistance to Vietnam or Cambodia.


The campus radicals, then the students and now the professors, aligned with an internationalist media hostile to the very idea of America, were successful in persuading the Democratic Party, along with a few very right-wing Republicans, to stymie South Viet Nam's efforts at self defense. These very same people, and their ideological adherents (in academia, the media and the entertainment industry), were the loudest voices against American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, and likely will be the loudest voices against any future American moves overseas, either to defend ourselves or to bring freedom to an oppressed people. So were these people right then, and are they right now, and what should we do about it?

I read a biography of Creighton Abrams, the theater commander in Viet Nam from the late '60s into the early '70s. The biography discussed in some detail the ineffectiveness of large-scale maneuver warfare, and how Abrams changed the US methods, and in the process basically won the war. The new way of fighting was so effective that by 1971, Abrams was able to travel alone in a jeep, with only his sidearm, from near the border with North Viet Nam all the way to Saigon. He encountered no troubles along the way. And yet, at the point where we had beaten the VC completely, and held the NVA off so that they were unable to beat the ARVN troops in guerilla warfare, we simply withdrew. Not simply withdrew; we also reneged on all of our agreements to support the South in any way, as the Webb article states. In other words, there is not really a question as to whether or not we could have won the Viet Nam war; we did win it. Then we went home and watched from the sidelines as terror descended. That was our defeat: we simply refused to live up to agreements that would not have put a single American in danger. We gave away South Viet Nam and Cambodia rather than spend small amounts of money. We mooted the blood sacrifice of 59000 Americans and even larger numbers of Viet Namese over what amounts to the irate indignation of college students, reporters and movie stars!

Today, those who architected our defeat in Viet Nam want to repeat the performance. With Communism all but dead as an alternative to capitalist representative democracy, these idiots and fools want us instead to surrender to its pale cousins, transnational progressivism, moral relativism, postmodernism and multiculturalism. The hard left wants America to abandon the moral position that freedom is better than oppression, as they convinced us to abandon such a position in Viet Nam. By cheapening our patriotism, lessening our dedication to freedom, and bathing us in self-loathing, these "intellectuals" hope to make us powerless, as they are powerless. Are we better than the Islamic militants? Are we more authentic? Are we more pure? They want us to surrender, in the end, to them, to allow "our betters" to lead us as only they can, down the path of France into historical irrelevance. As long, that is, as they have tenure, a good story and our unconditional worship of them. If the price of that is dhimmitude, they are willing to have us pay it.

We must not surrender to these whispering (well, shouting, really) voices of defeat and despair. We can refuse, and here is how: we must cut off the indoctrination of future generations. (Reality will, over time, take care of the vast majority of those already indoctrinated, as long as they are unable to gain political power in the meantime.) We can do this by:


  • demanding that our media give us unbiased information, by choosing alternatives that do so. In other words, force the media to live more in the real world.
  • not allowing Federal or State funding for universities, except in the form of scholarships to students. This has the dual effect of making universities more responsive to students, and removing a layer of automatic support for whatever idiocy professors wish to spout. In other words, force the Universities to live more in the real world.
  • not listening to entertainers pronounce on subjects other than entertainment. At least, no more than we would any other random person.
  • home schooling our children, forcing districts to abandon the PC educational fads, or implementing school choice. Each of these measures increases the need for public schools to live in the real world.

The combined effect of these actions would be to reduce the influence of radicals, whose voice is magnified by their presence in media, educational establishments, and the entertainment industry. Over a generation, the reduction in that voice of despair would be rather dramatic, and I believe that such a change in our society would allow us to bring real peace to the world, by removing every single dictatorial government anywhere on Earth and replacing it with a representative government and free-market economy based on the ideals of the Enlightenment. No lesser goal is worthy of us, and indeed no lesser goal will remove the threat to freedom posed by unaccountable despots. Only by eliminating the voices of unreasonable doubt can we tackle such an ambitious goal.

Posted by Jeff at 11:26 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 29, 2003

Prerequisites for a Stable and Free State

David Plotz has a good article on MSNBC (originally from Slate, with a hat tip to Porphyrogenitus for the link) about the prerequisites for a stable, free state in Iraq. I like a lot of what he said, but would like to take issue with a few of his contentions, and point out some things he didn't mention.

Mr. Plotz's sixth (of seven) pre- or co-requisites is to "[l]et the United Nations organize the political process." The intent is to show that the new government is not a puppet of the US. This is an odd way to show that. Given the UN's corruption, ineptness and beholdenness to autocrats, they are unlikely to be able to rebuild Iraq as a free nation in any sense - even as far as guaranteeing free elections. Worse, many Iraqis deeply distrust the UN, because the UN wanted Saddam to remain in power. I don't think that any real legitimacy in Iraq will flow from the UN, and history suggests that such a course would be ruinous.

Wouldn't it be better, overall, if we were to organize elections at the local level, using Iraqi poll workers, getting ballots printed in Iraqi print shops and the like, with the US just providing the organization and advice as to how to do it? The US would probably have to conduct a census first, and set up a system for voter registration. Since all of the workers doing the job would be Iraqi, the US would have no hand in choosing who would run as candidates or who would be elected; we would just provide the organization and resources (and security) to allow it to happen. We should provide bodyguards, by the way, to all of the candidates, with no option for the candidate to refuse. This would not only prevent the assassinations of pro-Western figures in the South, it would also make the radical Islamist candidates accept US military bodyguards, removing an argument they could use to make the pro-Western candidates look like puppets.

Once the local elections were held, and the local governments set up, we could move onto regional governance. The local governments would decide which of their powers were delegated upwards to the regional governments. We would probably require a few powers to be delegated up in whole or in part, but for the most part each region would decide for themselves how much power they want to remain local, and how much they want to centralize. There would be significant time requirements to set up the electoral bodies and organize the elections. This would provide the delay recommended by Mr. Plotz's first point. In addition, this would provide time for the polity to settle out, while allowing people to taste freedom slowly, rather than drinking it from a firehose. After the regional elections were held, the national government could be set up, on a similar process. In other words, the regional governments (I believe the Iraqis call them provinces) would send the delegates who would make up the constitutional convention for the national government, in the same way that local governments would send the delegates for the regional constitutional conventions.

Again, at the national level we would have certain requirements that we would compel into the Constitution (certain freedoms necessary to the maintenance of the society, some kind of federalism, separation of powers, as well as prohibitions on weapons of mass destruction - we would probably also force a 10-year or so ban on modifying the Constitution to remove those parts we required to be there). For the most part, though, at each level, it would be the Iraqis determining not only who will govern, but to what extent and in which ways they can govern. By putting a time limit into the national Constitution which would require some period to pass before necessary limitations and freedoms could be removed, we would both show that we are committed to keeping the Iraqis free, and that we don't intend to indefinitely force them into our model of governance. The time limit would allow Iraq, for example, to get rid of freedom of speech later and replace it with a more limited form (banning criticism of Mohammed, for example, by Constitutional amendment would almost certainly occur in an Islamic nation). While we may not like these choices, we are showing that we do not intend to prevent the Iraqis from making them, and we tell them when that time will come.

Mr. Plotz left out a couple of preconditions, too, that I think need to be addressed. A free market, with transparency at all levels, is a pre-requisite for democracy to succeed. Without this, the ability of individuals to act in their own best interest is at best strongly curtailed. And since it is the freedom we are hoping to establish in Iraq, we will first have to set up a banking system and financial markets (not necessarily elaborate ones) and these institutions will need to be trusted.

Freedom of travel between regions and into and out of the country are prerequisites. That way, if the South wants to impose Sharia law, they can (at least to an extent, as moderated by freedoms granted in the putative national Constitution). But they cannot prevent you from leaving the area, and so not being subject to those laws. Since you could retain your residence there, and vote absentee (I assume we'd set this up as part of the election system), those laws would not necessarily be permanent. That's life in a free country, guys.

Restriction of the vote will be necessary, but not in the way that is traditional in Islamic countries that allow any kind of voting. That is to say, we won't disqualify women, homosexuals and such from voting. We would disqualify high-ranking Baathists, torturers and the like. We would disqualify violent criminals, clearly. We would likely want to find a way to bar clerics associated with Iran. In other words, we'd seek out and prevent from voting (at least until Iraq completely controls its own destiny ten years or so down the line) those people who would work hardest to overthrow the free society and replace it with a tyranny.

Some way will have to be found of giving the Iraqis more to lose by handing control to an autocrat than they stand to gain by having a free society. One way to handle this would be to create a state oil revenue sharing program, similar to what happens in Alaska, with modifications to take local conditions into account. Anyone who was registered to vote would gain a share in the oil wealth of the nation, and the profits would be doled out periodically (quarterly is preferable to annually, since people see the money as more of a steady income) based on the shares one holds. It would be necessary to prevent the sale or transfer of those shares for some time, so that people would not take a quick, raw deal (as happened in the former USSR) rather than an uncertain future profit. They need a history of getting money from the share to realistically evaluate offers made to them to sell the shares. In addition to the economic benefit so provided, such a program would have the benefit of making it important to the Iraqi people to keep governments in charge which wouldn't expropriate the oil "for the nation" or "for the people."

Finally, I believe that it will be necessary to provide regulatory and enforcement authority to government agencies (including police, property registration, etc) before the indigenous executive agencies are formed. There's a lot to say for habit, and if we set up procedures while those agencies are reporting to American or British governors, those procedures will likely carry over once the Iraqis themselves run the executive branch of government. This would go a long way towards ensuring against the immediate erosion of the "small liberties" which are so vital to people feeling free.

Posted by Jeff at 10:41 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 25, 2003

Civil Reconstruction

Phil Carter of Intel Dump asks, Does the Army need more military police? He gives a reasoned analysis.

So many of the missions the Army has today are to do things that MPs are good at: nation-building, peacekeeping, anti-terrorism/force protection, and other police-style missions. In the Balkans, we've succeeded by hammering square infantry units into round MP holes for a long time, with significant training and institutional costs. I've thought for some time that the right answer would be to create larger, rapidly-deployable MP units that could be used for these kinds of missions. Current practice is to give peacekeeping missions to a large combat unit (e.g. an infantry brigade) with 1-3 MP companies attached in support. The MPs just get used for specialized missions, like riot control, while the infantry do the bulk of the MP-style missions like running checkpoints, patrols, etc. It might make more sense to invert this relationship, and build more MP brigades capable of managing peacekeeping missions with an infantry company as a quick-response force.

Furthermore, moving units from the reserves to the active force isn't that simple either. It costs money to do so, and it would require an adjustment in the military's end strength (or cutting of personnel from other areas). Privatizing law enforcement on military bases sounds good, but it would have a real impact on MP training. The reason MPs are so good is because they practice their peacekeeping skills every day they're doing law enforcement. Granted, there's a big difference between patrolling Fort Hood and patrolling Baghdad. But there's a lot of similarity too, especially in the abilities to work within restrictive rules of engagement and employ forceful interpersonal communication skills. So it's not clear this is the answer either.


It is clear that the UN model of civil reconstruction has failed. UN humanitarian assistance is generally welcomed, but frequently stolen or embargoed by power forces in the areas the UN is trying to serve (witness Iraq, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia). UN peacekeeping, in order to secure the humanitarian aid, only works when at least the largest of the factions fighting decide to stop fighting (witness Lebanon, Sinai, Cambodia, Congo). When the factions don't want to stop fighting, you have to make them (witness Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia). It so happens that the only nation capable of doing this anywhere in the world is the United States, though some nations are capable of doing so in their region. (Note that the examples given include both positives and negatives.)

So, when it comes time to stop the fighting, it is generally the US that is called on. This call is begun with admonitions that the US isn't doing enough to secure world peace, and ended with accusations of imperialism and "trying to be the world's policeman." The exact point of criticism on the imperialism scale is inversely proportional to how interested the US is in actually expending blood and treasure to secure an area. The more we want to be involved, the more imperialistic we are, and the less we want to be involved, the more isolationist and arrogant we are. Either way, we are to be called stupid, jingoistic and unilateralist.

When fighting is ended, the UN wants to be in charge of the aftermath (none of the blame if it went badly, all of the credit if it went well), in order to bring in aid and reconstruct a working society. The UN is generally good at providing aid, though it is massively inefficient. However, it is manifestly incompetent at constituting an efficient, responsive, representative and tolerant government (witness Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan (too early to call - and the US might step back in more), Cambodia, Rwanda, Haiti). The record, as the list of countries just given demonstrates, is uniformly pathetic. At best, the UN is no help. At worst (and usually), it actively prevents such a government forming. Here's an interesting bit about Cambodia, just as an example. (If blogspot's archives are broken, it's the article from April 25 titled DEMOLISHING THE OLD CANARD OF " MORAL EQUIVALENCE ".)

So given that the UN model depends at its base on US power, and given that the points where the UN takes over almost always result in a breakdown (are there counterexamples that don't involve the US?), and given that the UN is going to continue to actively oppose the US attempt to lift the Middle East out of its self-imposed medievalism, the question needs to be, "How will the US rebuild failed states when it intervenes?" To answer that question requires a broader answer than Phil Carter gave, and turns his assumption a little on its head.

First, it is a given, I think, that the US military will be the primary instrument creating the conditions for recreating the state, whether that be toppling a tyrannical government, or imposing order on anarchy. In the wake of that military intervention, however, we have a few viable options. Phil Carter's argument, to create company-sized units of MPs specifically for the purpose, using civilian contractors or some other means to take over current non-combat MP duties, is one of those options. I think that there is a better answer.

In the aftermath of war, in most of the situations I've ever studied, there are several situations overlayed on each other simultaneously. First, there is active combat going on in some places, frequently against small bands of guerillas. Second, there is civil anarchy in most areas that are not in the immediate zone of control of the armed forces. Third, some areas have a spontaneous arising of civil leadership, and relatively quick return to peaceful conditions, even without outside assistance. Fourth, there is massive infrastructure damage. Fifth, food, water and medical care are in short supply. Sixth, the range of reactions to the situation spans the range from joy through relief to unease to outright animosity. Seventh, there are criminals, agents of other nations, agents of the deposed faction(s) and agents of formerly-repressed factions all trying to grab as much power as they can as quickly as they can.

The military is good at the combat aspects of this. For the non-combat aspects, there are combat engineers and civil affairs and military police units, as well as the special forces, which are good at much of rest, but they are in short supply and have combat-support missions in most cases. There are generally not any units skilled in building civil governments at any levels other than the very local. I believe, given these factors and how much we will (at least for the next generation) be having to rebuild failed states, that we should create a specialist organization specifically for that purpose.

While this organization could be placed in the State Department or as a stand-alone agency, I contend that its best place to be is as part of the Defense Department, as a branch of service co-equal with the Army, Navy or Air Force. This would allow the combat commander direct control over and call on the organization, so that they would be integrated into the combat plan; would allow separate but integrated equipment acquisition, training and doctrine; and would place the organization in a position to operate as a matter of course in warzones (which would be very handy, and which the State Department for example couldn't provide). As a side benefit, it would also avoid the problems caused by career civil-service protections, particularly of ossification of ideas. Finally, it would make it easier to beef up security patrols, when needed, with soldiers or Marines, than if the organization were not part of the Defense Department.

Such an organization would need engineers of all kinds to rebuild infrastructure; security forces to impose and maintain order; huge amounts of translators to facilitate communications; administrators to quickly set up a functioning government; lawyers and courts to establish and maintain the rule of law; constitutional scholars and historians to advise the newly-liberated on how to set up an Enlightenment-based state within their local customs and traditions; doctors and nurses and medics to establish health care; and a host of other skills. Basically, what we would be creating would be the nucleus of a functioning state, which can be put rapidly in place just behind the front lines - when an area is secure but not necessarily completely in our control.

If we were to do this, I believe that the amount, severity and duration of anarchy in the wake of our military operations would be minimized. In addition, factional fighting not directed at our military would also be reduced. Because of these, the prospects for a successful state rapidly arising in the wake of our military action would be dramatically improved, and the reception we get from the local population would also be improved.

This kind of organization would have been invaluable in Kosovo, Panama and Iraq, and will be invaluable in the future. I think it's a better solution than the narrower one of increasing the amount and role of MPs, though obviously it incorporates that idea within it.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention funding. We pay $2.4billion or so to the UN every year, and billions more to other agencies that would be undertaking activities made redundant by having a US agency for civil reconstruction. The net cost would be small, really.

Posted by Jeff at 08:07 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 18, 2003

Weasel - Not What you Think

This is, if true, remarkable. (hat tip: Tim Blair) The fact that we would be willing to attempt it, that so many nations and NGOs would be willing to help, and that we would be successful, all are somewhat surprising. In a good way.

Nauru has been in the news a lot lately.

Posted by Jeff at 12:43 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 17, 2003

Advantage, Me

In the wake of the successful war in Iraq, Israelis are rereading Basil Liddell Hart. (hat tip, Winds of Change)

Advantage, me.

Posted by Jeff at 02:25 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

How we Win So Easily

A lot of people are trying to figure out how America wins its wars so easily. The most trivial reasons are technological, and they are also the most widely discussed. Consider this, though, does anyone doubt that the US military, fighting with the type of equipment Iraq was using, would not have beaten the Iraqi military, fighting with the kind of equipment we were using? Some people talk about logistics, which is of course vital. FedEx has done as much for US warfighting in the last two decades as has General Dynamics. Many, many people talk about the quality and dedication of our forces, and a few point out that this arises from their being all-volunteer. Many people also point out the quality and responsibility of our long-service NCOs. All of these are important, and together certainly would give us an advantage over most armies. There are more subtle reasons, though, which are more important as well.

Glenn Reynolds yesterday wrote a column discussing the warfighting advantages we get by having an open and free society. Victor Davis Hanson discusses a number of features of our military, and brushes up against what I believe to be a very important point:

More importantly still, the old idea of separate branches of the military is itself becoming obsolete. It is not just that there are Army, Marine, and Navy pilots or that Seals and Air Force controllers fight on land. Rather there is such instantaneous integration between land, air, and sea forces that it is hard to sort out who is doing what when enemy tanks explode out of nowhere, GPS-guided bombs go into the windows of Baathists, and special — forces hit teams take out generals before they can order counterassaults.

It is very neglected - in fact almost unknown - but the key architects of the US war machine of today were Senators Goldwater, Nichols and Nunn, whose 1986 Goldwater Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act changed US warfighting in a few key ways.

First, it was this Act that changed the status of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from arbitrator among the services to the President's primary military advisor, with operational responsibility for all branches of service. (The service chiefs retained organizational, training and equipment responsibilities.) The Act also streamlined the chain of command, with the individual services not in the chain of command at all for operational issues. Instead, the Commanders-in-Chief (CINCs) of the various joint commands were given total operational authority over all force assets assigned to them. In other words, one officer(General Franks in CENTCOM, which is responsible for the Middle East and Africa) in any given region has control over all of the combatant forces, regardless of which service they are attached to.

This has had the effect of eliminating the distinction between the services in combat. No more do we have the kind of interservice arguments that doomed the attempted 1980 rescue mission of the hostages in Iran. Instead, forces are assigned as needed to do what they do best, in pursuit of a single overall operational plan. Decisions about funding various services, and what programs proceed and which get cut, and so forth, still involve a great deal of political infighting in the Pentagon. They do not involve political infighting in the field.

This focus on joint operations has taken a long time to mature. Initial problems began to be worked out in the late 1980s, and the invasion of Panama, while successful, demonstrated some notable issues. By the Desert Storm campaign, many of these issues had been worked through, and the result was an amazing well-coordinated campaign which overthrew the Iraqi Army with minimal coalition casualties. After Desert Storm, resistance within the military to the joint operations concepts largely disappeared, though not entirely.

Our technological advantages, troop quality advantages and so forth are critical factors that allow us to win wars. I believe, though, that the critical factor that allows us to win at low cost is the ability of our forces to work as a single entity, rather than a collection of different priorities, towards a single commander's intent. This ability comes directly from the Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Posted by Jeff at 12:23 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Why Free Nations Don't Fight

There is a reason why nations with free trade, free markets, a free press and representative governments do not go to war against each other. Here is an example of why that is. Since there is relatively free trade between France and the US, the amount of trade is fairly large and makes up a good proportion of the Frence economy (and not an insignificant proportion of the US economy - Michelin for example is huge, and it's not alone).

When we are annoyed at the French, we switch away from their products to alternatives from other places. Because of this, the French wine growers (and soon, no doubt, tire makers and others) put pressure on the French government to shape up. Eventually, this pressure will grow to the point that the French government will change its behavior. (Rest assured, if the US starts to suffer because of French actions against us, we'll put pressure on our government, too.)

Free trade gives people a personal reason to care about the opinions of other nations. Free markets give them a way to act on their concerns against other nations. A free press gives people the information they need to know when and how to act. Representative government allows the people to change the government's behavior to correct imbalances and irritations. Thus is peace maintained.

Fascism denies all of these mechanisms, as for that matter do communism and most other kinds of dictatorship. Government interference in these mechanisms tends to dampen correcting influences, and to that extent makes wars more likely. This is one reason why France swung so dangerously away from the US, and will take a long time to swing back, and it is why it is dangerous that the EU is looking to be so unrepresentative. With the markets heavily regulated and subsidized, the feedback mechanism is slow for France. With the EU policies being subject to the bureaucrats, rather than voters, the response mechanism will be very, very weak.

Posted by Jeff at 09:42 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

April 14, 2003

Turn and Face the Change

Before 9/11, Don Rumsfeld was not well-liked in the Pentagon. Brash and self-assured, Rumsfeld tended to challenge, in blunt language, long- and deeply-held assumptions in the military bureaucracy. The questions that Rumsfeld was wanting answered - about the mission, organization, and size of the force - made a lot of people unhappy, because the answers didn't speak well of their assumptions.

For example, the question the procurement guys wanted asked was "If our mission is to fight two regional wars, why do we only barely have the forces to fight those wars, and not maintain our peacekeeping and other commitments?" This question would have led to increased procurement of weapons systems, which the procurement guys, and the gadget generals for that matter, like. Instead, Rumsfeld asked "Why is our mission to fight and win two regional wars simultaneously, when we can't even lift enough forces to fight one without a six month buildup?" This changed to focus to mission and logistics, away from toys. In other words, it was a harder question to answer, because it required a change in thinking.

On 9/11, Rumsfeld went to the scene of damage, and pitched in until dragged off by officers pointing out that he was in very grave personal danger, and there were plenty of people already there to help. This willingness to risk himself gave the desk jockeys a new respect for Rumsfeld, which bought him some time. Afghanistan, and in particular Rumsfeld's willingness to let his General Staff plan the war while he made sure they had everything they needed, increased that respect. The Iraq conflict will similarly increase Rumsfeld's respect within the military.

But Rumsfeld's mission to change the Defense Department to be relevant to the modern world did not go away. Part of the answer to Rumsfeld's challenge to the military was to make the force lighter, more deployable. This includes the new Strykers, as well as cancelling the unfortunately-named Crusader artillery piece. I suspect that it will soon include a medium tank, less well-armored than the Abrams, but much lighter and more easily-deployed. Doctrines are similarly under review, and will probably include a focus on low-intensity conflicts in distant theaters in the presence of large numbers of non-combatants. This will take a lot from the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the Balkans.

Now, Rumsfeld has asked Congress for the authority to change the personnel policies of the military. These changes include giving people longer time in a particular job, especially at higher levels, and making it less likely that reservists will be called up for "routine" contingincies. There will certainly be some whisper campaigns arising from this, with stories in the media about how Rumsfeld is "alienating senior officers in the Pentagon" and such.

Taken together, it appears that Rumsfeld is attempting to change the US military from a sledgehammer to a rapier. Heavy forces are being reduced or moved to the Reserves and Guard. Lighter forces are being improved, and medium forces are being fielded for the first time since Viet Nam (the unsuccessful Sheridan light tank). At the same time, procurement cycles are being reduced, personnel policies are changing to focus on flexible thinkers and doctrine is changing to focus on rapid operations far from friendly bases of support. In other words, Rumsfeld is refocusing the Pentagon away from the Cold War, and towards the vicious little fights in the failed states of Africa and Asia.

Posted by Jeff at 01:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Lessons to Learn

Our enemies are quickly learning that facing our combat units is not a winning proposition. However, that is not going to make them suddenly stop being our enemies, in most cases. So the question becomes, how will they fight us. Since we've removed any possibility of combat success against our front-line units, the enemy will be forced to take up guerilla warfare, the one part of Saddam's defense that had any success at all against us.

The most vulnerable targets we have during an invasion are our supply convoys. (This has been the case for every army since at least WWII, by the way.) Because our way of fighting, as well as the necessity for most of our enemies to rely upon guerilla warfare, tends to blur or erase the concept of a front line, these convoys will become more exposed.

We will almost certainly have to devote more resources to convoy duty. This has to be a judgement call, because resource you use to guard the columns cannot be used in actions elsewhere. On the other hand, if the columns don't get through, your lead elements don't fight. The fact that some Marines were down to one chow a day for three days (during or right after the sandstorms) is pretty inconsequential militarily. The fact that units in contact in Baghdad were low on ammunition was far more worrying.

During one of the more intense operations of the war, the initial push into Baghdad along Hwy 8, then back out towards the airport, some of the heaviest fighting was by a supply convoy, trying to reach the front-line units, who were running low on ammo and fuel after 10 hours of continuous combat. The convoy was repeatedly ambushed. Here is some footage of one of these ambushes. Note the soldier hopping into the fuel truck to drive it away from the adjacent burning ammo truck.

I think that one meaningful lesson that we will draw from this war is that we need to better train and equip our rear-area troops for combat. They will never and should never be the specialists that the combat arms are, but it is a given that supply convoys and maintenance yards will be targets in the future, because the enemy has identified them as weaker than the combat units. As a result, even without convoys making wrong turns (the event that led to the capture of 6 POWs and the deaths of many more of our soldiers from the 507th), we can expect to see more fighting by rear area forces. We need to be prepared for this.

There is one other lesson, as well. A lot of our losses came from vehicles hit by RPGs. In close-quarters combat, the RPG is a fearsome weapon against buildings, helicopters, and unarmored or lightly-armored vehicles. Given that there are millions of them throughout the Third World, we can expect to see a great deal of action against them. As a result, we need to be very careful with our deployment of medium forces. The Stryker combat vehicles are certainly lighter and easier to deploy than our heavy forces, and require less load in combat. For most of the combat that occurred in the countryside, there would have been no problem using them. For the urban combat we faced, such a unit would have been torn up pretty badly, unless significantly more infantry was available to us than was the case here.

There are cases where the time savings in the deployment of troops make the risk of additional casualties worthwhile. Initial deployments into a combat zone, such as Desert Shield, could benefit from rapidly-deployed light armor, as could operations such as that conducted by the 173d AB Bgde in northern Iraq. However, when heavy forces can get in, they should get priority in shipping and should be put ashore as soon as possible. Without this, our casualty rates will rise sharply, which I don't think any reasonable American wants to see. My fear in this area is that political forces would get us to deploy medium forces in situations where they aren't a good fit, because they won't be seen as being as threatening as a heavy unit, or because they are cheaper than heavy units. We must maintain a heavy unit infrastructure, even if we shift more of the heavy units into the Reserves and Guard as we bring medium units on line in the regular force structure.

Posted by Jeff at 10:58 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 11, 2003

Ramifications II

Porphyrogenitus, in a post which has to win the "Steven Den Beste Very Long Post Making Many Important Points and Pretty Much Settling That Issue" award, covers the State Department bureaucracy's wrangling over how the rebuilding of Iraq will come out, an issue I noted earlier, and how we should deal with those countries who opposed us. He goes into great depth on issues in Europe and how that should inform our post-war foreign policy. You should read Porphyrogenitus' article.

Posted by Jeff at 01:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Ramifications

Porphyrogenitus writes about rebuilding Iraq and how soon we should be holding elections. He is unconvinced by Aleksander Dardeli's argument in the Financial Times that we should first build institutions of law and order, then move towards elections. I also wrote about this earlier.

Here is the crux of Dardeli's argument:

Iraq represents an opportunity for a better approach. The initial emphasis should be on humanitarian assistance, economic reconstruction and building the rule of law. No matter how much the enthusiasts cringe at the idea, the US should delay elections until conditions improve and there is a better chance of a government operating fairly and effectively. Justifying early elections by saying that the Iraqis are a proud people, or that Iraq is not Kosovo, is silly. Iraq's institutions have been steadily battered by Saddam Hussein's regime into a state of dysfunction that will take time to mend.

I feel that we would do well to listen to Dardeli. While the immediate judgement of the international community would be that immediate elections (and pretty much only that) would produce a legitimate government, they also felt that way about Kosovo. Further, international opinion was that Saddam's government should not be removed. I'm more interested in three other judgements: the judgement of the Iraqi people, the judgement of the American people and the judgement of history.

There will doubtless be some in Iraq who will want immediate elections. Let me make a quick prediction: these will mostly be people who want to use quick elections to gain power that they would not have otherwise over institutions that will enrich them over the longer term. This has been the pattern in most places where democracy sprouted too rapidly (see Russia for instance). Legitimacy arises from the consent of the governed, but elections alone do not signify the consent of the governed. Note that Iraq and Cuba both had elections in the past year. They were meaningless because the institutions of freedom which make elections meaningful do not currently exist in either Cuba or Iraq.

For the American people, what is going to matter is not what we do now, but whether the Iraqi people are free in four or five years, or at least well on their way. If we betray the Iraqis into despotism - or even an elected shambles - the Republicans will be out on their ears for allowing it to happen, and rightly so. This issue will be minor in the run-up to the next election, unless we really fail miserably and quickly, but will be very important in the next two elections after that. We must keep our word to the Iraqi people to create a free self-governing society, and we will not be able to do that if they have self-government with no free society to govern.

The judgement of history will not rest on where Iraq is in six months, but in six decades. Note that the successes in Japan and Germany were not truly apparent until the 1960s at the earliest, and really it was only in the late 1980s that Germany showed how far it had come by reabsorbing the East without collapsing. The right-wing nationalists were there, waiting, but their opportunity never came. Look, for further example, at South Korea and Taiwan, both of which were not truly free until the 1980s, though they had elections for quite some time before that.

I believe that we will be seeing regional and local elections within a few months, for positions of limited authority over a limited region. But it will be a year at least before the basic institutions of law and order, protection of property, a free economy and a free press have really begun to be effective. It will be longer still - perhaps three or four years - before these institutions will have really taken hold in a way that makes them hard to reverse. Somewhere between that one year and those three or four years would be the right time to begin having national elections for a representative body, and once that body has taken hold, they can arrange for the election of an executive. This amount of time also gives time for what Iraq really needs: a consitutional convention to decide, based on the experiences of themselves and others whom they wish to emulate, how they want to govern themselves.

Posted by Jeff at 10:06 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

April 10, 2003

Crystal Gazing

Now that we are getting close (within a month, most likely) to the end of active conflict in Iraq, I wanted to make my predictions for what is coming, so that everyone can laugh at me in a year or so.

Current Situation
For the next three to six weeks, max, we will be cleaning up resistance, spreading our troops throughout the countryside to get rid of Fedayeen and other loyalists hiding in more remote areas, and generally bringing the first trappings of order to the country. We will have a lot of work cut out for us in doing so, and in bringing the first breaths of civil institutions, a renewed economy (based on oil exports at least at first) and liberty. This work will last for at least a year, with the balance tipping more and more from coalition governors to local officials and power bases, starting at the bottom. For at least the next six months, it will be impossible to use the troops in Iraq for missions beyond Iraq.

We will also need to rest and recuperate, and most likely that means that US-based units will be coming home, in whole or in part. European-based units will probably end up being transferred to Iraq semi-permanently, with units based around H2/H3, Mosul/Kirkuk, and Basra/Nasiriya. We most likely will not have combat units in the capital, though some sort of headquarters unit (V Corps?) will be there, and many facilities in other Arab nations will relocate to Iraq. This period of relocation, recuperation and reorientation will take at least six months, and likely closer to a year, with a lot of the timing depending on how well and how quickly Iraq pacifies.

During this year, we will be rebuilding our weapons stocks, absorbing lessons learned, and working on political agreements for long-term basing and joint training. We will begin to rebuild an Iraqi army and police force which is accountable to the civilian authorities, which in turn will be accountable to the electorate. We will look at the kind of lessons that our enemies are likely to learn, and will invent and test out tactics to deal with those alterations in our enemies' behavior. During this time, also, we will reallocate MOSs between the regular forces and the Guard/Reserve component. Depending on whether we keep 2ID in Korea, we will be able to move two or three heavy divisions into the reserves. These will be replaced with two or three medium divisions in the regular forces, and we will move a large number of logistics and administrative jobs from the reserves to active duty positions. This will make a callup of forces less disruptive in a short war. In a long war, the active duty forces will be able to operate effectively during the window it would take to activate and ready for duty any heavy units which would have to be called up.

In other words, it will be at least a year before we are ready to turn our attention elsewhere in force.

Enemies
Our chief enemies remain those states at the nexus of terrorist financing and other support and development of weapons of mass destruction. These include Iran and North Korea, named by the President as part of the Axis of Evil. The other first-rank threat is Syria/Lebanon, which is less dangerous than Iraq was in terms of weapons of mass destruction, but more dangerous in terms of terrorist support. Secondary threats include Saudi Arabia, the Palestinians, Sudan and Libya. Each of these is mostly a threat in terms of support for terrorism, rather than development of weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea is very close to collapse, and with China finally putting pressure on the Kim Jong Il regime, by shutting down oil pipelines intermittently, it is likely that the situation in North Korea will be resolved by the fall of the Communists. While China won't like a free and united Korea on its borders, it is likely to accept this for two reasons: first, Korea will be absorbed with the reconstruction for a decade; and second, the threat from a united and democratic Korea a decade from now is less than the threat of a nuclear-armed Japan and Taiwan a year from now, particularly since the US would almost certainly withdraw its military from a united Korea. This combination of factors makes North Korea a small threat long-term, so long as we can assure that North Korea is unable to export WMD technologies prior to the regime's collapse, and can ensure that the regime will in fact collapse. This will require not only pressure from China, but a tightening of the Sunshine Policy on the part of the South.

Iran is in a less critical but still interesting position. Iran is currently on the brink of a revolution to throw out the Ayatollahs and replace them with a secular government. As long as we don't actively interfere, but also thwart any external adventurism (particularly in Iraq and with Hezbollah) on the part of Iran, there is a good chance that Iran will re-Westernize within three to five years. We must make every effort, during that time, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons capabilities. We must be very careful to not allow our relationship with Iran to become mired in the United Nations; otherwise, we will lose the flexibility we need to assist in the downfall of the Ayatollahs without being heavy-handed and obvious.

Syria is the most critical threat, and the most likely next target for the US. There is no internal instability sufficient to cause Syria to reform on its own. There is no external reason for them to cease support for terrorism in Israel and beyond (and much internal reason for them not to, since Assad's position is weak, and his political legitimacy is largely based on sponsoring terrorism in Israel). Although we will apply pressure, it will be difficult for us to truly bring about an end to Syrian support for terrorism, and a lifting of the occupation of the Lebanon, without resorting to the use of force.

In order to pacify the Middle East, Syria will have to be removed as an agent of ill-will and instability. This will, as I note above, likely require force. It will be more difficult than was attacking Iraq, because Syria's army is large, and equipped with advanced equipment. Syria has not suffered under embargo, and has not had the level of self-destruction of the military that Iraq suffered. Also in Syria's favor are their ability to learn from Iraq's mistakes, their time to prepare and the greater dedication of their troops in general.

There are also a lot of factors on our side, however. A large desert expanse in Iraq will be open to us for the basing of heavy units and aircraft, and eastern Syria is largely undefended (with the Syrians oriented mostly towards Israel and somewhat towards Turkey), giving us a large maneuver area. The Syrian equipment tends to be on the level of Iraqi equipment in most areas, though the better units have newer equipment, and the Syrians have more modern anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. A Mediterranean coastlines affords not only good access for carrier-based air and Marine forces, but also for land-based air from Italy. Supply lines would be relatively easy to maintain, given the large number of potential routes and the large stocks available in Europe and (in a year) in Iraq. Most importantly, Syria will have to maintain extensive units in Lebanon and between Damascas and the Golan, in order to oppose Israel. This will make those units very susceptible to airpower. This will be an even worse negative for Syria if Israel decides that Lebanon is a separate country, and invades Lebanon again to remove Hezbollah. Syria would not be able to reorient, in that case, making both our and the Israeli jobs easier.

Politics
The issue of domestic politics will raise its head if we attempt to fight Syria in about 12 to 18 months, when we are at optimal readiness to do so. Either the Democratic frontrunners and President Bush will have to come to an agreement to support the same strategy, or we will have to wait until after the election to avoid making a political issue out of the war. While the war would most likely take only four to six months, the political cost to the US ability to further wage the war on terror by taking out the regimes which threaten us would be greatly weakened by political infighting between the mainstream people in the major parties. As a result, if there is not an agreement between the Democrats and Republicans on a common foreign policy strategy, then the war would be put off (even in the sense of threatening it, though not necessarily in the sense of preparing for war) until at least December of 2004.

Conclusion
Sometime around December 2004, the United States will attack Syria in order to overthrow the Baathist regime.

Posted by Jeff at 09:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 08, 2003

Europe's Core Issues

Innocents Abroad addresses the core issues which lead to Europe's cognitive dissonance. One aside in the article really made me think:

Europeans are more Kantian than Kant, they are Nietzschean last men. This isn’t to say that they are principled pacifists. Indeed, they aren’t really principled at all. They will send their armies, such as they are, to fight, but not with any particular sense of pride.

If you are interested in the Euro-American relationship, you should read the whole thing. (If Blogspot lets you, that is. If not, go to Innocents Abroad and scroll down to Europe, Anti-Europe.)

Posted by Jeff at 12:39 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Not Since the Iran-Iraq War

Tim Blair contrasts a quote from Robert Fisk and one from Mark Colvin, who was on the same inspection trip. Fisk says that "Not since the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War have I seen the Iraqi Army deployed like this."

I believe that this is the first time I've ever seen Fisk get it right:

Here is an Iraqi tank from the Iran-Iraq war.
Burning Iraqi tank from Iran-Iraq war.

Here is an Iraqi tank from the current campaign.
Burning Iraqi tank from current Iraq campaign.

Posted by Jeff at 12:03 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 07, 2003

Heading South

We stopped to buy gas today. Across the highway from the gas station are train tracks. Since my 2 year old likes trains, I got him out of the van to watch the train go by. It was filled with heavy tank transporters, headed South. With trucks, headed South to the Army base. With command vehicles, headed South to the Army base where my friend has been activated. With supply trailers, headed South to the Army base where my friend has been activated, and waits to load them on ships. With ambulances, headed South to the Army base where my friend has been activated, and waits to load them on ships, and take them to war.

Posted by Jeff at 03:47 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Declaration of War

When the Constitution was written, there was not a lot of middle ground between war and peace. The primary armed force of the United States was the militia, which consists of armed male citizens of a certain age (I think 15 to 35 years, but I haven't read the definition in a long time). The army, in fact, could only be funded for two years at a time (this is still true, but now pretty much meaningless) in order to prevent the existence (and related dangers) of a large standing army. In order to make war in anything other than local self-defense, the army would have to be mobilized. In order to mobilize the army, there had to be a Congressional declaration of war.

Beginning during the campaigns to occupy the American West, and continuing with such operations as the putting down of the Moro rebellion in the Phillipines and the occupations of several Latin-American nations during the time before WWII, this line became blurred. Viet Nam was the war that finally muddied the line to invisibility. When Kennedy committed military advisors in a non-combat role, did that require a declaration of war? When Kennedy later authorized them to shoot in self-defense, did that require a declaration of war? When those advisors went on patrol with their trainees, and fired on VC groups setting up machine guns to kill them, did that require a declaration of war? When larger formations were deployed to pacify areas behind the front lines (to the extent they could even be defined), essentially acting as well-armed police, did that require a declartion of war? When those troops were then engaged by large enemy formations, did that require a declaration of war? And so on. The frog was well and truly boiled by that point, yet there had been no declaration of war either by Congress, or via delegated authority (as through the UNSC or invokation of the North Atlantic Treaty's article V). The closest it came was a Congressional resolution, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which amounted to a declaration of war, but without giving the President clear targets or undisputed authority to prosecute the war.

Finally, America recognized that warfare had become a spectrum. Absolute war and absolute peace rarely exist in the world. Most of the time, in most places, there is some kind of in-between situation. Transportation and the falling cost of increasingly powerful weapons means that ill-clothed tribesmen living in a 12th century culture in mountain caves without a road in a 500km radius could launch rockets with ranges of 30km and large high-explosive warheads. In this kind of world, how do we decide when and how the President can deploy troops in protection of American interests, while still maintaining the Congressional authority and accountability to decide when and where we commit those forces that could result in our destruction, should we lose? The answer to this question was the War Powers act.

Setting aside whether or not the Act is Constitutional (possibly not) or should have instead been passed as a Constitutional amendment with additional details supplied by enabling laws (probably), the War Powers act defined the conditions under which the President could act without the explicit authority of Congress. There are, under the War Powers act, only three conditions under which "the President as Commander-in-Chief [may] introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances:"


  1. pursuant to a declaration of war
  2. pursuant to specific statutory authorization
  3. or in "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces"

The President must: advise Congress in advance and regularly thereafter, report specific information to the Congress every six months (more frequently if required by statute), immediately withdraw troops if Congress so requires by concurrent resolution, and "shall terminate" the combat use of the military "unless the Congress (1) has declared war or has enacted a specific authorization for such use of United States Armed Forces, (2) has extended by law such sixty-day period, or (3) is physically unable to meet as a result of an armed attack upon the United States."

Clearly, the President is authorized to make war in Iraq, by the second test established in the War Powers act. In October, 2002, the Congress passed a resolution which states in relevant part:

SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

(a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--

(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

(2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.


While this resolution did not immediately declare a state of war to exist between the United States and Iraq, it did authorize the President to commit acts of war at a time of his choosing, as long as certain conditions were met. I am unaware of any way to construe a difference between authorizing the President to commit acts of war that are not necessary for national self-defense, and declaring that a state of war exists, that would make any Constitutional difference. As a result, this resolution was a declaration that a state of war could be brought into existence, should the President decide that this was necessary and appropriate.

I believe that this is why the President did not ask for, and Congress did not pre-emptively make, a declaration of war. A declaration of war is a recognition that a state of war already exists. Since the President still hoped to pursue a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis, this form of resolution removed the Constitutional obstacle to war without also demanding a war, as an outright declaration of war would have done.

What this all comes down to is that the Congressional resolution of last October 2002 is Constitutionally equivalent to a declaration of war.

Posted by Jeff at 12:51 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

Diplomatic Notes

The Agonist points to this Hurriyet article to the effect that if the US does not prevent the Kurds from moving on Kirkuk and Mosul, then Turkey will intervene militarily in northern Iraq.

There was an interesting incident in the late 1800s, which I sadly do not have a current reference to. This is therefore a probably-flawed account of what happened.

A dissident from Serbia, I believe, came to the United States on a speaking tour, to raise funds for the Serbs to fight their Austro-Hungarian overlords. The Austro-Hungarian ambassador, outraged, demanded that the United States extradite this "criminal" to Austria-Hungary for trial, and included some rather blustery threats against the US if we failed to comply. The Secretary of State responded with a note bluntly stating that the United States values freedom of speech, that this person had committed no crime in the United States, and that "Furthermore, compared to the United States, the domain of the Hapsburgs is but a speck on the map."

A similar note is probably in order to Turkey, something along the lines of: "Any armed forces in the territory of Iraq and not under the command of the coalition, will be considered enemies and will be attacked and destroyed." Really, nothing more needs to be said, and I have to think Turkey would believe us. (Perhaps this should be sent a few hours after a note which indicates that PKK armed groups would not be tolerated in Kurdish areas, and that the territorial integrity of Iraq will be maintained. The note on the inadvisability of Turkey's armed forces entering Iraq, though, should stand alone in a separate communique.)

Posted by Jeff at 10:22 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 05, 2003

The Trouble with Maps

Iraqi Minister of Disinformation, Day 1: The evil invaders have been repulsed at the border.

Day 2: The infidel foe has been utterly defeated at Umm Qasr.

Day 3: The enemy dead litter the field around Basra. Allah is merciful.

Day 4: Our brave, courageous and loyal soldiers have repulsed the enemy at An Nasiriyah.

Day 5: Allah has given us victory at An Najaf, and the enemy plan is in tatters. Surely the kaffir will soon realize the error of his ways.

(Time passes)

Day 14: Al Kut has been the burial ground of thousands of infidels as our brave Arab nation has beaten the enemy with pickup trucks.

Day 15: The ground quakes beneath the wrath of Allah as he slaughters the sons of pigs and monkeys at the Saddam airport.

Day 16: Our brave 10-year old soldiers have repulsed the enemy from the outskirts of Baghdad.

Day 17: No press conference today.

When I become the Dark Overlord, the first thing I'm going to do is burn all of the maps, just in case I get invaded. Wouldn't want the people to lose heart that way.

Posted by Jeff at 11:32 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Risky Business

There is no nation on Earth which can win a stand-up fight against the US, even on their home territory, assuming that nuclear weapons are not used. China would make us bleed from sheer numbers. N. Korea would make us bleed from numbers and terrain. Britain or Israel would make us bleed from competence. Anyone else would be a fairly low-casualty win (at least based on the size of the task) for the US. The US enjoys an amazing superiority in doctrine, technology, numbers, and industrial base over every other nation on Earth. Some can match us in one or another of those areas, but no other nation can match us in all of them.

This asymmetry between our hard power and everyone else's has led to new concepts in warfare by everyone else, either to try to gain some measure of global power or simply to defend themselves. For the Frankenreich (as Porphyrogenitus calls the French-German-Belgian group of nations), the strategy appears to be to emphasize soft power; that is to say, culture and nuance (if you are kind) or sneering condescension (if you're not). The underlying point is to take advantage of our desire to be liked, by using alliances (NATO, for instance) and international organizations (the UN, for example) as methods of binding us via the threat of disapprobation. (Of course, they also have to pass laws forcing French TV stations to show a minimum amount of French-produced programming, or they'd show almost exclusively American fare.)

Al Qaeda, of course, and the nations which support terrorism in general, have adopted, writ large, the Palestinian strategy of making war on civilians, rather than the military. Of course, as events have shown, this strategy only works if the US military doesn't come to get you. Non-state armed groups still depend upon states to house them, fund them and provide them with cover, equipment and people. Taking out the Taliban has removed Al Qaeda's best location to plan, train and recuperate. The current war against Iraq will remove financial support, as well as a source of diplomatic cover and such necessary gear as weapons and explosives.

Other nations also provide support to Al Qaeda and related groups. These include Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. I have not yet worked out Syria's strategy, though it may simply be to take advantage of the threat they pose to Israel to scare us into not attacking them. Certainly Syria is offering real support to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, and political support to Iraq. Saudi Arabia seems to be attempting to play both sides, funding and supporting terrorism while co-operating in fighting terrorism when they must, and retrenching when they can, and loosening up politically when it is expedient, and cracking down again when they can. Iran, though, seems to have developed an activist strategy: infiltration of agents after a US conquest of Iraq, to destabilize the country and make our occupation costly and long. North Korea has opted to obtain nuclear weapons, and other nations will almost certainly attempt the same thing. (Iran is apparently trying.) The most frightening thing about that strategy is that North Korea is crazy enough that they may supply nuclear weapons to others.

Canada appears to have adopted the strategy of becoming irrelevant. On the other hand, Great Britain, Australia and the Eastern European countries have adopted the strategy of being on our side, and by doing so actually do have an influence on the way we behave.

I think that Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia will provide a test for the US. How far will we allow nations to go before we get irritated enough to attack them? I suspect that if Iran does go ahead with trying to instigate guerilla warfare against us in Iraq, while continuing their efforts to keep Afghanistan unstable, we will be at war with Iran within two years. This will happen even faster if Iran appears to be making real progress on obtaining nuclear arms. Saudi Arabia will probably be successful in keeping us from attacking them directly, but in the process they will have to liberalize somewhat, and also lower their level of support for terrorism (and in the course of this, they will need to lessen their attempts to export Wahabbism).

Syria is the real mystery to me. Certainly we have reason to go after them, if only because eliminating Syria's support for terrorism in Israel would make more likely a real possibility for peace in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the other hand, lacking a concrete and fairly immediate threat, Congress is unlikely to authorize the use of force against Syria. Although strategically Syria would be the best next target to eliminate the threat of terrorism against the US, Iran appears to be following the more risky strategy against us, and is therefore more likely to be our next target.

Posted by Jeff at 12:30 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 04, 2003

Building Democracy in Iraq

The Winds of War today has a report that the CIA and top State Department officials are profferring a nationalist named Adnan Pachachi to head the interim Iraqi government that will be installed after the war ends. The article paints him in rather ugly terms in comparison to Ahmad Chalabi, who is head of the Iraqi National Congress.

I know nothing about Mr. Pachachi, and only a little more about Mr. Chalabi. I don't think that Mr. Chalabi is the person to head up the interim Iraqi government, based on what I do know. That is beside the point, though. All of the maneuvering going on now is not about Iraq; it is about domestic political empires and vendettas. Right now, all of the organizations, and the different factions within those organizations, of the executive branch are trying to get primacy over who will be the ones to pick the new Iraqi government.

This is a mistake, and the Congress will compound it if they turn over control to the Department of State. Despite the claims made in the article, reconstruction and nation building is not "traditionally diplomatic territory." Generally, in our history, we have placed military governorships (led by governors general, who are serving military officers) in charge of this process. The reason for this is twofold. First, there is a huge security problem that has to be addressed, and the military is far better able to do this, even in non-military ways, than the diplomats, because to a diplomat everything is negotiable. Second, democracy doesn't work when it drops into your lap.

The second point is key: there are a large number of preconditions to true liberal democratic rule, which is why it doesn't happen much. There need to be institutions which give individuals power over their own lives. These include banks, for financial power (ability to borrow, pool resources, etc); a trusted police force and court system, for individual safety without resorting to individual use of force; and orderly and well-understood laws which provide safety (life), freedom of expression and action (liberty), and protection for private property (which is a cornerstone of the pursuit of happiness).

The only process which has been successful is to first build these institutions; then build elected legislatures at various levels, starting from the bottom up; then finally move the power of the state executive to an elected position. In every case I've ever come across where that path was followed, it has led to eventual liberal democracy in some form, while in every case of democracies which have failed, a different method has been attempted. Generally, you can overlap these steps quite a bit. In particular, giving local control to local officials can be done quite quickly. But even here, you have to have a strong power above the local level which can step in, so as to prevent the gangsterism seen in Russia, and the corruption seen almost everywhere outside of North America, Europe, Japan and Australia/New Zealand.

I fear that our Congress is going to put this in the hands of the State Department, which will then fritter away this vital opportunity. It should be remembered that if we fail to build at least a Turkish-style democracy, if not better, then our effort will be a failure overall. We must provide a positive example for other state sponsors of terrorism which rule despotically over their people. To do that, we have to be able to focus on what is important: building a stable democracy which won't collapse or turn into a meaningless non-entity (or worse, become a tyranny with the trappings of democracy). The State Department, by its very nature as conciliators, is unprepared to do this. Instead, the State Department's history is one of giving in to the demands of every nation and every faction which we want to make happy, regardless of the long-term impact. Stability is our goal here, but not the stability of the tyrant.

At least it appears that we aren't turning reconstruction over to the UN, which would be many orders of magnitude worse.

UPDATE (4/7): For an example of UN redestruction in Kosovo, look here. (Hat tip: Winds of Change)

Posted by Jeff at 01:47 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

General Franks

UPI notices something I pointed out over a week ago: the US has perfected the blitzkrieg.

They go on to say, talking about the upcoming battle to control Baghdad:

The U.S. commanders know what the cities of Leningrad and Stalingrad did to the blitzkrieg experts of 1940. To avoid that fate, and demonstrate the flexibility in the face of new challenges that really tests an army's mettle, the victors of Blitzkrieg 2003 have to learn some asymmetric tactics of their own.

There are two kinds of generalship needed in an army, political and battlefield. Eisenhower was a political general, who was able to bring together the staff and generate the plans and arrange the political conditions with allies and do all of the other things to set the conditions for victory. Patton, in contrast, was a battlefield general, capable of executing his commander's intent brilliantly to bring about victory even when the conditions weren't quite set correctly. Political generals wage campaigns, and battlefield generals fight them out on the ground. General Franks is the political general for the war on terror.

General Franks has planned two brilliant campaigns now in the last three years. Afghanistan was a guerilla war by special forces and proxies, with limited conventional army support and extensive air support, to bring down an entrenched government in forbidding mountainous terrain, and it succeeded quickly and at low cost. Iraq is a conventional stand-up fight, with elements of guerilla combat in the rear areas (this time with the enemy acting as guerilla), and will come to be seen as one of the most brilliant armor campaigns ever conceived. In other words, General Franks has fought and won two very different campaigns in very different circumstances in three years, both done brilliantly with great speed and low cost, and both with the end of toppling hostile regimes.

General Franks will be remembered along with Grant, Eisenhower and Creighton Abrams as among the most successful theater commanders America has ever produced. His most important accomplishment, in my opinion, has been to show our enemies that there is no safe terrain, no safe situation, in which the US military cannot fight and win quickly and at low cost. The one thing he has not yet shown is that we can do this in large-scale urban combat. I have a feeling, though, given his record, that he is about to teach our enemies quite an interesting lesson about urban combat.

Posted by Jeff at 08:50 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 03, 2003

What France is Playing At

"Jane Galt" asks the question: "what were the French thinking?"

I believe that the French were influenced by four very strong forces:


  1. Philosophy
  2. Mollification of Arab Immigrants
  3. Economics
  4. European Power Politics

Philisophically, the French elites are deeply committed to transnational progressivism. They believe that the United States is dangerous, because not only are we a "nationalist" entity, who insists on doing things which are in our own interests, we are also mighty and frequently successful. The combination of our power and our lack of willingness to be ruled by our "betters" in the transnational camp means that the United States is likely to run around like a bull in a china shop, and break a lot of things in international relations. This can only be to the detriment of the transnational elites, because their philosophy derives a lot from Marxism, and we should have already collapsed from our own internal contradictions. If we are successful, and everything points to our being so, in pushing our national interests, and in the process we lift other nations to political and economic success, the elites will be (once more) discredited, and will likely lose their power.

Equally as important, France and Germany have a large Arab/Muslim immigrant community. The Algerians, Palestinians and Libyans in France, and the Turks and others in Germany, provide a large group of culturally unassimilated (thanks to multiculturalism) unemployed young men. If these Arab/Muslim immigrants were to rise up against the government, there would be a massive resurgence of nationalism in France and Germany in particular. This would result in a wave of brutality against the immigrants (who would certainly lose in the end) and a devastation of large parts of urban central Europe. This would be a disaster for western Europe. The French, Germans and Belgians have thus chosen to use a tactic which the Arab governments have successfully used for decades: turn the mob against the Americans and the Jews. The result of this is that WWI Allied cemeteries have been desecrated.

More importantly, or at least more immediately, than either of those reasons is that France has massive interests in Iraq. In addition to selling $9B worth of arms to Iraq, there are the TotalFinaElf contracts for oilfield exploitation, and numerous other large economic links. This is a significant proportion of France's economy, and that economy is struggling, and there are many groups (including the one which wrote that article) who are trying to make it worse, but not allowing any kind of employment or benefit reforms.

Probably most importantly of all of the four factors driving the French, Belgians and Germans is European power politics. Most of the Franco-German resistance to the war, beyond the limits of what sane people could consider reasonable, is driven by the need to humiliate Tony Blair. England is the single most dangerous nation to France and Germany right now, because England leans towards the US, and is strong enough militarily and politically to support and sustain the other European nations (the Vilnius 10, for example) who also lean towards the US. Since France and Germany want Europe to coalesce around a Franco-German core, in order to have some kind of political status above their intrinsic weight, the British political tendency to not cling blindly to Franco-German policies threatens the Franco-German aspirations to international power status. To the French in particular, the risk of destroying the UN is worthwhile if it provides a good chance of removing the British impediments to a European Constitution that would put France and Germany in control of virtually all of Europe.

Posted by Jeff at 01:52 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 31, 2003

Weasels

You know, I'm really tired of hearing about how sad it is that we have strained relations with Germany and France, after 50 years of cooperation and close relations in the Cold War. OK, let's get this straight: 1/3 of what is now Germany was on the other side in the Cold War. And France, while nominally a member of NATO, was not a part of the military alliance, just the political alliance, because they withdrew from NATO because it was too closely aligned with America.

Posted by Jeff at 10:34 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 28, 2003

NGO's Want Theirs

Apparently, the various NGO's, which have largely been shut out of postwar aid operations, are not above criticising the aid we're providing (hat tip: the Agonist), in what looks like an attempt to discredit it. Of course, if our aid programs were discredited, it would be these very same NGO's which would get the money (from the US) and the PR credit.

Posted by Jeff at 06:22 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 27, 2003

Scratch a Fedayeen...

There are numerous reports of Iraqi exiles returning to fight for the regime now that the US is there. I don't buy it. First, why would they return after 12 years running from Saddam to fight for him? Wouldn't they fear the same things they feared when they left?

Some of the tactics the Saddam Fedayeen are using are interesting, too. They hide amongst assumed civilians who are waving at the helicopters passing overhead, then stand up from under the tarp that covered them and fire at the helicopter's tail section. They apparently kidnap children in order to compel their parents to fight the coalition forces. They put women and children between them and us.

This all reminds me of the way the Al Qaeda-trained Somali militia fought - right down to the "technicals" (pickups armed with machine guns, rockets or similar). It reminds me of the way that the Taliban fought, and of the way that the Hezbollah fight.

Coupled with the unlikelyhood that the "returning Iraqis" are really returning Iraqis, I wonder if we won't find, when all this is over, that the Saddam Fedayeen is largely staffed by Al Qaeda fighters having escaped from Afghanistan.

Posted by Jeff at 01:08 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

March 26, 2003

Send for Blix

The AP reported yesterday that Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa Miro of Syria, who voted for UNSCR 1441 and then demanded an essentially infinite amount of time for inspectors to verify that Iraq had "immediately and unconditionally" disarmed, is now calling for "the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of U.S. and British invading troops from Iraqi territory."

I know I speak for the President when I say that we in the US are certainly respectful of the international community and the rule of law, and we are prepared to immediately and unconditionally begin discussions on the process of deciding who will decide how to define who will inspect our units in Iraq to ensure that they have withdrawn. You can call me any time.

Posted by Jeff at 01:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Palestine in Iraq?

Reading things like this:

Jordanian-Iraqi border :: Martin Asser :: 1152GMT

We've just spoken to two Iraqi young men who've come to the border - just in an ordinary Jordanian taxi - who say they're going to Basra to take part in the war.


(from the BBC's embedded reporters journal) makes me wonder if Saddam's strategy might be to poison the well. He has to know he will be defeated, and captured or killed. It is natural that he would resist with every means available to him, but reports like the above are disturbing.

It appears that soldiers and irregulars are switching into civilian clothes, moving around in civilian vehicles, then switching back into uniform at their destination. In many cases, they are fighting in civilian clothes, and among civilians (in one instance at least, putting women and children in front of them). This will make the coalition troops very wary of Iraqi civilians, leading to frequent stops, searches and interrogations. Each of these tiny humiliations will, as the Israelis found out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, push the civilian population a little closer to riots and resistance, which pushes our military to be even more suspicious of the civilians, which escalates to suicide bombings and the like.

I used to think that we had to be very careful to not take out civilian targets, and to not kill civilians even if it meant we had to take more casualties. I am changing my mind, though, and slowly coming around to a Machiavellian principle: perhaps we should not regard civilians, hospitals, mosques and the like as sacrosanct in the war itself. Afterwards, when resistance has been crushed, we can be magnanimous in victory. However, if we allow resistance to fester, we could truly become bogged down in an endless repeat of the Israeli situation. And as the Israelis found out in Lebanon, you can't withdraw; that just makes you look weak and emboldens the enemy.

I'm not yet convinced that we should be brutal and remorseless during the phase of putting down the enemy, but I'm moving that way.

Posted by Jeff at 11:11 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 25, 2003

Nomenclature

What should we call this war? Well, first let's realize that it's not a war per se, but a campaign within the wider War on Terrorism. Afghanistan was the same thing: not so much a separate war as a campaign in the larger war. So I nominate we call this action the Iraq Campaign, and the Afghanistan conflict the Afghanistan Campaign.

By the way, I think that we need to get a broad declaration of war from Congress defining the War on Terrorism, and turning loose the President and armed forces within that context. We will not be able to keep up a consistent effort if we have to go through six-month public relations campaigns every time we need to make a new move.

Posted by Jeff at 11:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Shocking and Awesome

I believe I have figured out the basic operational maneuver plan of the Coalition in Iraq. It appears that we are attempting to win the war without actually engaging the enemy.

In the 1930's, in the aftermath of WWI and its horrible slaughter, generals in many nations began to come to grips with what would be necessary for an attacking army to overcome the defenses which technology had made impregnable to the methods of warfare developed in the 19th Century. BH Liddell Hart and Heinz Guderian, in particular, began to see an offensive in terms of not just its weight in manpower (and later in firepower), but also its agility. It was Guderian who invented "Lightning War" - or Blitzkrieg - though it was the Allies who coined the term, after its employment in Poland and France. Hart and Guderian saw that equipping each tank with a radio, massing the tanks in armored formations (contrary to the conventional usage in England and France, which was to spread them among the infantry units still considered the backbone of the armies of the time), motorizing their supply lines, and combining their assaults with artillery and airpower, with infantry to hold the land taken or to help out in constricted terrain, would allow the armored formations to advance rapidly, and bring pressure to bear on the enemy at a time and place of the attackers choosing.

The Blitzkrieg was remarkably effective. In Poland, France and the USSR during the initial stages of Barbarossa, the Allied armies were rapidly unhinged by advancing German armored formations. The German armor would break through the front line Allied formations, then maneuver deep into the rear by exploiting the seams between adjacent Allied units. The Allies would then be faced with a German armored formation in their rear, and would have to either reorient to face the threat, or withdraw to protect their supplies. If they reoriented to face the threat, then they would be hit in the back by the German followon forces and destroyed. If they attempted to orient forces in two directions at once, they did not have enough firepower to hold against the attack. So they retreated, and the Germans did it again. Eventually, this would turn into a rout.

The problem, for the Germans, was that their speed of advance was limited. First, their transport was largely horsedrawn, which limited the speed of advance of the armor. Second, the infantry was largely on foot, which in practice meant that they were able to move at the same speed as their supplies. The combination meant that deep exploitation was possible tactically, but not strategically. The Wehrmacht was forced to advance broadly across the USSR, rather than having three or four narrow corridors of advance. The narrower corridors, policed with airpower and follow-on infantry at the flanks, would have allowed the Germans to outrun their adversary, which would have meant that the core of the Soviet Army would not have survived the first year. As it was, they almost didn't, and it was only the massive amounts of reinforcements that a nation of that size could train, and their ruthless willingness to sacrifice young men by the tens of thousands, which allowed the USSR to get to the Winter, when deep advances were impossible due to weather. In the Winter, they were able to increase their KV and SU tank production, and get the T-34 into mass production. This turned the tide, and made it increasingly more difficult for Germany's technically superior army to exploit against the numerically superior Soviets. After the second year of Barbarossa, Germany lived on borrowed time.

Looking at the US Army's AirLand battle doctrine, we see a lot of borrowing from Hart and Guderian. We now have fully motorized transport, and infantry that is universally moved in vehicles, most of which are armored and have powerful weaponry of their own. Our armor (US and British) is the best in the world, and our crews are among the best trained, and are possibly the best trained. We have an army which is built on NCOs and the delegation of command authority downwards, and we have unlimited ability to control the air and see the entire battlefield. In other words, we have a virtually perfect theater and force for operational maneuver warfare as conceived by Hart and Guderian.

In contrast, our enemy has inferior equipment, ill-maintained. He has minimal communications to ill-trained and ill-supplied troops. He has troops which are of questionable loyalty and morale, part of whose job is to maintain order over the civilian population in the areas where they are stationed. The only advantages he has are ruthlessness and interior lines. We are equipped to handle his CBW capabilities, mooting that aspect of his ruthlessness. We are willing to take additional casualties rather than kill civilians, which makes the irregulars he is currently deploying against our rear nothing more than an annoyance. This means that his only remaining advantage is interior lines: he can move troops and supplies from place to place within his sphere of control more easily than we can, because he doesn't have to go as far.

Let me amplify a bit: Saddam wants us to kill civilians, so as to turn the already anti-war Leftists to real action, and the easily-panicked Western press into an incoherent and angry (at us) beast on the rampage. This is his only hope: that we lose the will to prosecute the war against him. The only way we as a culture could really do so is to give in to our fears that we are really as bad as the anti-Enlightenment, postmodernist, transnationalist Left tells us we are. If our troops lose their cool, and start killing civilians to get at the irregulars, we will be sickened and disgusted, and many would indeed put pressure on the US and UK to do something stupid, like hand control of the reconstruction to the UN. (The outcome of the war itself is not in doubt. The aftermath still is.)

But back to the main point. Since Saddam's army is basically incapable of sustained maneuver, he has adopted a basically static defense, with regular army troops in the far South and North, and Republican Guards around Saddam's power centers in Baghdad and Tikrit. The question for General Franks was: how do you take down a still-large army, given its advantages and disadvantages, with minimal casualties amongst Iraqi civilians, our troops and the regular Iraqi troops? I believe that his answer was to neutralize the advantage of interior lines enjoyed by the Iraqis, and maneuver the remainder of the Iraqi army into dissolution with minimal fighting.

Part of the method for doing this has been with PsyOps: dropping leaflets and sending emails and in general negotiating with Iraqi troops and officers for their surrender. Part of it has been to ensure that supplies can come in to the Iraqi people by taking Um Qasr. Part of it has been to drive a wedge between the regular Iraqi army and the Republican Guards by attacking North of Basra and using Kurds and special forces to isolate the Iraqi units NE of Baghdad. These efforts leave the only really organized opposition capable of engaging our main thrust as the Republican Guards.

The Republican Guards have a problem. They can stand in place, and get killed from the air and artillery, or they can move, and lose cohesion. There are indications that as the Medina division pulled back from an Nasariyah, it was unable to arrive at Karbala in good order, and as a result has not taken up good defensive positions. This is making the fighting for Karbala easier for 3rd Infantry than it otherwise would have been. On top of this, Medina cannot retreat further without running into Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar divisions. Adnan is pretty much fixed near the Tigris, because the Marines are driving up that way. The only way out for the Republican Guards, assuming that they wanted to abandon their static defense in order to have a fighting chance of survival, would be to go West along the Jordan to Baghdad highway. However, the 101st Airborne is currently moving to cut that route, and it is likely that the Republican Guard will therefore be unable to maneuver.

This means that the Iraqi army can maneuver, and become unhinged, or stay in place, and be destroyed more slowly by air and artillery strikes. My guess is that we'll see the US engage in round the clock combined arms attacks on the Republican Guard beginning in the next 24 hours, in which we hit and then back up. We will repeat this for a few days, making the RG's situation increasingly more desperate. This will eventually either cause the troops to give up and melt into the population, or it will cause the RG to attempt to maneuver in order to defeat the 3rd Infantry in the SW of Baghdad, and the 1st Marines in the SE of Baghdad, rather than be bled to death in place. At the point that they begin to maneuver, we will likely retreat, staying in contact. This will hopefully cause the RG commanders' fangs to grow too long, and the RG will attempt to fight us in the field. At that point, we switch back to the attack, but on his flanks, and the RG will become unhinged and will basically dissolve.

Of course, I could be very, very wrong about this. General Franks has been nothing if not unconventional, both in the Afghanistan campaign and in the Iraqi campaign to date. However, he could easily decide to simply attack the RG divisions in place, counting on our superior troop and equipment quality, and superior artillery and air support, to be sufficient to reduce the RG divisions without massive casualites to ourselves and the Iraqi civilians.

UPDATE (3/26): Or they could be suicidal and attack right into us!

Posted by Jeff at 04:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

March 21, 2003

Casualty Counts

It appears that a US Marine was lost in combat near Umm Qasr, the Iraqi port near the Kuwait border. In other news, a war protester was killed when he fell off a bridge where he was hanging a banner. (hat tip: Winds of Change)

What if they gave a war, and the casualties among the protesters outnumbered the military casualties?

Posted by Jeff at 08:48 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 19, 2003

A Weasel of One

Fox News has an article about Hans Blix and his feelings about Iraq. The Clueless One apparently believes a number of implausible things.

Iraq won't use their chemical/biological weapons, because Saddam Hussein cares about public opinion:

And even on the brink of defeat, when using such weapons might be a last resort, Saddam's government would still care about public opinion, Blix said. "Some people care about their reputation even after death," he said.

The UN, UNMOVIC and Blix himself are still relevant:

Blix gave a news conference ... Wednesday ... to discuss his list of key remaining disarmament tasks for Iraq and what the United Nations can do to provide humanitarian relief when war begins.

The real problem is not Saddam's intransigence, nor France's unwillingness to back up UNSC resolutions with meaningful action, but rather the Coalition's willingness to back up UNSC resolutions with meaningful action:

Blix expressed disappointment that the United States, Britain and Spain had decided so quickly that inspections weren't working. In the face of strong council opposition, the three countries on Monday abandoned efforts to seek Security Council backing for war.

When Resolution 1441 was adopted Nov. 8 giving Iraq a final opportunity to disarm, Blix said he believed all council members were serious about strengthening inspections and giving them a chance.

"But then some didn't have the patience a little earlier than others have done, and I think that's a pity," he said.

Perhaps, oh perhaps, we were serious about disarming Iraq, rather than going through another inspections charade? Not in Blix world. Blix also believes that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction, because:

During 3 months of inspections, Blix said, his teams found no evidence of chemical or biological weapons.

But no matter what happens, it has nothing to do with Blix:

Asked whether he believed Saddam would use such weapons, if he has them, Blix said: "I think they would be able if the weapons were there -- and I'm not saying they are. And I'm not saying that they have means of delivery -- but they could have it. ... But I doubt that they would have the will to do it."

Posted by Jeff at 09:27 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 13, 2003

Troop Deployments and Their Implications

I've been watching the diplomatic maneuvering at the UN and in Turkey and the buildup of troops around Iraq, and I have been wondering what is going on. From a standpoint of what we say we are attempting to achieve, the US government's actions raise all kinds of questions.

We claim that we are going to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, and that no amount of inspections will be able to do that, unless Hussein is willing to let it happen. He's not, and I don't see him changing his mind. More importantly, I don't see us trying to change his mind. We also claim that we are doing this in order to remove a major supporter of terrorism, to bring democracy to Iraq and hopefully by extension to its neighbors, and to get ourselves in position to tackle Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Actually, we don't publicly claim the last motivation, but it's really obvious given our long-term goals in destroying terrorism that we have to have a base to launch attacks which is not dependent on the charity of other nations.

We claim that we are going to go with or without the UN's approval, but we are continuing to dither with the UN long past the time when it's become obvious that the UN is unwilling to act to enforce its past resolutions, and many nations in the UN would prefer to hurt the US diplomatically than to have the US remove Hussein from power. Further, any motivation of helping Prime Minister Blair has quite obviously run past its uses. Any help or harm to the good Sir has been done, and so any delay for that reason is worse than useless, as it not only provides assistance to an ally, but also allows our enemies time to act against us.

We claim that we have more than enough troops already in place to invade and occupy Iraq with relative ease, and enough troops to have reserves in case of untoward happenings. We further claim that we will have a northern attack with or without Turkey's blessing (well, the blessing of their Parliament, at least). Yet we are only now deploying heavy units like 1st Armored and 3rd Cavalry, which won't be in place until after the window of reasonable action (that is, before the Summer starts in the desert) has passed.

So:


  • We claim we will occupy Iraq in order to: disarm Iraq, particularly of weapons of mass destruction; stop Iraqi material and logistical help to terrorists; and bring democracy to an Arab state, both for its own good and as an example to its autocratic or theocratic neighbors.
  • We have a long-term interest in establishing a large base of operations in the middle of the states supporting terrorism, which base is not subject to the political whims of states who frequently support terrorism themselves, albeit less directly than, say, Iraq or Iran do.
  • We claim that we will do this with or without UN support.
  • France has made absolutely clear, and other nations have made somewhat clear, that the UN will not even declare that Saddam has not lived up to Resolution 1441, which stated four months ago that Saddam had to disarm "immediately."
  • We keep going back to the UN over and over and over again, to no avail.

  • We claim to have sufficient forces available to conquer and occupy Iraq, with or without the British or the Turks (should either government be constrained by Parliamentary maneuvering).
  • We claim to be able to have a northern invasion option regardless of the actions of the Turkish Parliament.
  • We are still moving large numbers of heavy ground units, at great cost, from their long-term bases in the US and Europe (Germany, in particular) into the theater.
  • Our window of easy operations closes in less than six weeks, particularly since we expect chemical and biological agents to be used on the battlefield by the Iraqis, which means our troops will be wearing MOPP suits. Wearing MOPP suits in combat in the desert in the Summer is going to cause additional casualties from heat exhaustion, fatigue and impaired judgement.
  • It will take longer than six weeks to get the recently-deployed heavy units into position, so they are useless in terms of an attack on Iraq.

Given all of these things, why is our government seemingly standing still? Why have we not already attacked? If we set a timeline based on UN negotiations, this should still end by the President's declared deadline of Monday, yet the government is apparently willing to let events continue on past that without committing to the attack. Why? Where are the additional heavy units we are deploying going, and what is their mission?

I have come up with three basic scenarios which fit the facts as I know them. It could be that we are going to use the newly-deploying units for occupation duty in Iraq, so that we can refit and rearm the units which fight the war, and give them a rest before their next major commitment. The second option that I see is that we intend to roll straight through Iraq, using the combat units for occupation duty, and the followon units to attack into Syria or Iran or even Saudi Arabia (much less likely than the first two), or, as a variant, they could be used for a serious northern option by invading through Syria into Iraq. It could also be that we are going to send the newly-deploying units to some other theater. Either Korea or Zimbabwe stand out as fine places to go. Each of these scenarios has different implications for what US action in the UN means, as well as what our long-term strategy might be.

Basically, our maneuver elements in theater are:


  • 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne
  • 3rd ACR
  • 3rd Mech Infantry
  • 101st Airborne
  • elements of 10th Mountain
  • 1st Marines
  • 1 (UK) Armored
  • 16 (UK) Air Assault Bde
  • a Royal Marine Commando
  • 4th Infantry (waiting on permission to deploy through Turkey)

And in transit or on notice, we have:


  • 1st Armored
  • 1st Cavalry
  • 1st Infantry
  • 173rd Airborne Bde
  • 2nd ACR
  • 26th MEU

Note that we have as much combat power in transit or alerted to move as we actually have in theater. So let's look at scenarios.

The first scenario is that most commonly discussed in the news media and blogs, and seems to be the assumed wisdom: the additional troops are to act as reserves, or even as part of the attack if we wait long enough, and we'll garrison these units in Iraq (moving them out of Europe, mostly), and refit the units who did the brunt of the fighting.

If this is the intent, the implication is that the military expects the war and occupation to be more difficult than military officials are publicly saying. After all, it's pretty amazing to use more troops for the occupation of Iraq than for its conquest! This also implies that there will be no real ability to wage regional wars faster than every 18 months, since the amount of time it would take to refit, retrain and redeploy this amount of force out of area is large. Once the units are tied down with occupation duties, it will be difficult to turn them back into an offensive force.

It seems to me more likely that we will use a small force for occupation - down to a few brigades after the first year - and a locally-derived army and police force trained, equipped and possibly even led by the US. Not only is this more cost-effective, it also begins the process of US withdrawal, which is almost certain to happen within 5 years after the war ends. Moreover, that approach would free up the limited number of heavy units the US maintains for combat in other places, and would make it easier to rapidly return reservists and guardsmen to their civilian lives.

The problem with the logic of using the currently-deploying forces to occupy Iraq is that it doesn't fit with the other events now occurring. How does this explain the dithering in the UN? While it does allow us an easy way to get our major units out of Germany, which is certainly nice in the long run since Europe is no longer the central theater in which our force will likely be exercised, there are other ways to do this that wouldn't strain our transport units at the same time we're trying to support a war in Iraq. In fact, we could use this same excuse after the war is over, using the ships in a three-legged pattern: troops from Iraq home, empty to Europe, troops from Europe to Iraq. Given the logistical strain of moving the units, it is fair to say that we are going to use those units for something that can't be done otherwise, and soon.

It is certainly true that we might want to have a large force in Iraq, but the real reason for that force is to put pressure on the surrounding states to reform. Iran, of course, is part of the Axis of Evil for its support of terrorism and militant Islamic revolution combined with its active programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Syria is equally complicit in terrorism with Iran - particularly in its support of Hezbollah and Hamas - and is occupying Lebanon, exercising effective control over the entire country. Saudi Arabia is one of the key states in funding terrorist groups, supplying terrorist cadres, and propagandizing for militant Islamic Fundamentalism in general. Each of these states needs to reform or fall to our control. This leads to the second possible scenario, which I happen to think is fairly likely.

This would actually account for the US/UK time spent in the UN in two ways. First, the delay gives us a way to get forces in position to achieve real strategic surprise by effectively not pausing between taking down Iraq and taking down one of its more troublesome neighbors. Second, by constantly reinforcing in the public mind the fecklessness of the UN - even the threat that the UN could pose to US and British citizens by preventing action to remove threats against them - it becomes easier for the US and UK to jointly withdraw from the UN, which would be a necessary prerequisite for further action that doesn't take years to get approved.

Overall, this makes some sense, although it leaves the US in an odd position. It would mean that the President would be exceeding his mandate from Congress to only fight Iraq, and could lead to a serious Constitutional crisis. However, there is one way in which a Constitutional crisis need not arise: an unexpected northern option.

Stick with me here, because this is a pretty brittle line of reasoning. In fact, it is almost certainly not what the US and UK have in mind. Still....

OK, let's say that the US is actually trying to use Turkey's internal politics as well as the UN's politics in order to delay the attack on Iraq. With the combat units for the Iraq attack basically in place and supplied, the sealift exists to move the deploying heavy units listed above. What if the US had decided to go to northern Iraq through Syria? I have been unable to find out what Marine units are afloat in the Mediterranean Sea, but I suspect that there are at least two MEUs. This would be enough to create a friendly beachhead to unload and form up the heavier units which would exploit that beachhead.

This could be justified as covered under the war declaration passed last year in the same way that the Allies attacked Morocco in WWII to get at the Germans in N. Africa. These units would quickly end up in pretty heavy combat with the Syrian army, because that army would resist a US invasion. This would almost certainly result in the US doing to Syria what it is going to do to Iraq. In other words, we would solve the longer-term problem of Syria without having to go back to Congress and to convince the Congress and the US public of the need to fight Syria. It would also be a powerful lesson to Iran and Saudi Arabia, which I think are the two most important state targets in the region in terms of actually ending terrorism permanently, and preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

OK, so that's not very realistic. President Bush would almost certainly not take that kind of liberty with acts of Congress. But it does at least give a plausible reason for delaying and delaying the attack while getting shredded in the UN.

The third option, that the troops are intended for another theater, is actually fairly likely. It would make sense to reinforce American troops in Korea, given the tense situation there, but it is odd to think of us doing that at the same time as Donald Rumsfeld is saying that we could withdraw our troops from Korea altogether (especially with the S. Korean hostility to the US troops right now). It is unlikely that we'd spend the effort to move this much force anywhere except the Mideast or the Koreas, although Africa cries out for democratization.

In the end, though, this still does not explain what we are doing in the UN. There is something that does, though: perhaps the reality is that we have been preparing the US and British populations for a simultaneous US/UK pullout from the UN. This would free the US and UK for action elsewhere with a much faster turnaround than would be the case otherwise. I don't think, though, that this action would come anywhere other than in the Mideast. We certainly don't want to fight a nuclear-armed N. Korea, and any country not in the Mideast would be difficult (politically) to attack without first going to Congress. Given that we don't need the troops for Iraq in the short term, my best guess is that we'll be at war in either Syria or Iran next, and soon.

UPDATE (3/16): I understand from three different sources now that some units are being issued desert camoflage, and others the green (European 1?) scheme. This indicates to me that we do not plan on attacking Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya or in the horn of Africa with these units; or on using them for Iraqi occupation duty. Syria/Lebanon is a possibility still, given their terrain, as is N. Korea.

Posted by Jeff at 11:59 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

March 06, 2003

The President's Press Conference

What impressed me most was that the press corps were serious and respectful. They asked good questions, occasionally even quite tough questions, without being rude or frivolous. I never really expect this from the press. The President's performance was also quite strong, which I expected, though the somber mood was surprising.

A lot of the followup, particularly from Senator Hart, struck me as frivolous and partisan. This is not really an appropriate approach to such serious matters as the defense of the Nation. But then again, I seldom expect the Democrats to act with any real decorum or forethought. It wasn't always this way - I would still vote for Senator Boren if he chose to return to politics and run for President.

The most telling moment was when the President was asked whether he would be making the decision soon to go to war. His answer was, in part:

That's what the United Nations Security Council has been talking about for 12 long years.

It's now time for this issue to come to a head at the Security Council, and it will.

As far as ultimatums and all of the speculation about what may or may not happen after next week, we'll just wait and see.

The way he stumbled over that past sentence, I believe indicates that he has decided that he will give the order next week, barring the very remote chance of Sadaam suddenly deciding to comply or abdicate.

Posted by Jeff at 08:17 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)