Category ►►► Military Machinations

March 22, 2013

Forlorn Furloughs

Military Machinations , Obamunism
Hatched by Dafydd

Surprise, surprise, on the Jungle Riverboat Cruise tonight: The Pentagon has announced that it's "delaying" furloughs of civilian DoD workers for two weeks, while they reevaluate whether it's really feasible to blame Republicans for the unnecessary pain, impoverishment, and fear.

I believe the conclusion of that evaluation will be No; the Obamunists have already discovered that the American electorate blames Barack "Skeets" Obama and his lapdog Senate Democrats much more than they blame out-of-power Republicans.

Besides, by now I think everybody has found out that "sequestration" was Obama's own idea, which he insisted upon inserting into last year's debt-ceiling deal. Even the "plantation media" are reluctantly reporting that by now!

In fact, even the specific means of implementing sequestration via furloughing federal employees -- using the "Washington Monument" strategy of making the cuts as painful and visible as possible -- is entirely under Obama's discretion: Senate Republicans tried to pass a bill a couple-three weeks ago that would give President B.O. total control over how he implements the $43 billion in Defense cuts mandated... but he personally threatened that he would veto any bill that gave him that authority. "Don't call my bluff! Don't call my bluff!"

Since Obama cannot successfully "pin the tail on the elephant," I predict this is the beginning of the end of furloughs. He will push Senate Democrats to join House Republicans in terminating one or two of the big and useless weapons projects that are years late and billions overbudget, and which the Pentagon never asked for in the first place, and cannot use even if they miraculously finished redesigning them, put them into production, and then deployed them in the theater. I think chopping one or two would easily cough up the necessary bullion in spending cuts required by sequestration.

After which, Obama will parade around the press room patting himself on the back for his magnificent display of compassion. Thank goodness we have a president who cares about the peons little people!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 22, 2013, at the time of 4:47 AM | Comments (1)

October 15, 2012

Obama's October (yawn) Surprise?

Election Derelictions , Libyan Ludicrities , Military Machinations , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

The "October surprise" is a favorite tactic of the Left; because they see a presidential campaign as a game to be won by any means necessary -- vice Republicans, who see it as an opportunity to highlight differences in philosophy and policy between the two major parties -- they naturally gravitate to the eleventh-hour punch at the candidate of the Right, whether he is incumbent or challenger, as the linked Wikipedia article demonstrates.

During George W. Bush's reelection, Democrats dropped the "bombshell" that munitions were allegedly looted from al Qa'qaa, supposedly under American control (October 27th, 2004); although it turned out to be false, it likely made Bush's victory smaller. Four years earlier, the October surprise (OS) was the revelation by Algore's campaign that Bush was arrested for drunk driving twenty-four years earlier (last week before the 2000 election).

Bill Clinton sought endlessly for an OS in 1996; he pushed for a peace treaty in Bosnia, an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and finally, in desperation, a massive sting against the Russian Mafia in the United States. Four years earlier in 1992, when Clinton was running for his first term, leftist Democratic "Independent" Counsel Lawrence Walsh saw fit to announce the indictment against George H.W. Bush's Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, just four days before the 1992 election! (Even more obvious: The grand jury had actually indicted Weinberger four months earlier; Walsh sat on the indictment until the week before the election. Subtle, Larry.)

Michael Dukakis didn't manage to pull off any OSs, and he lost. (To be fair, I think he would have been walloped just as hard even if he had produced one.) Finally, back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter tried desperately to forge a last-minute deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini and his wild-eyed mullahs to release the American hostages from Iran before the election. The deal fell through... then when the Iranians released the hostages the very day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, the Left was so enraged it immediately accused Reagan of having concocted a "secret deal" to keep the hostage in custody until after the election -- likely the most bizarre and vile accusation ever leveled after a presidential campaign had already lost. (Much more plausibly, the Iranians were (a) more afraid of Reagan than Carter, and (b) wanted to take revenge for Carter's failed attempt to rescue the hostages by force in April, 1980.)

Barack Obama himself received the best of all "October surprises" in September, 2008, with the economic meltdown -- inadvertently served up to him on a golden platter by a cohort of liberal Democrats, via their legislation and regulation that effectively forced banks and S&Ls to lend money to poor people who could not possibly meet the payments.

So what's Obama's OS going to be this year? I think the odds are darn near 100% that his campaign is cooking up something (or has already set something in motion).

More and more "pundants" have suggested that the president's "October surprise" is going to be some kind of assault on Libya, to retaliate for the assassination of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other embassy personnel.

This could easily happen; it's entirely in the hands of the Commander in Chief to order such an attack, at a time of his choosing. However, the most likely vehicle for this attack is -- a drone with a Hellfire missile, or maybe several. Such a remote attack, just one more in a long line of dubious drone attacks on purported high-value targets, would hardly change the dynamic of the race; in fact, it would lay the Obama campaign wide open to ridicule for having "fired a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt." Only a real assault, at least a successful raid with boots on the ground, could possibly be dramatic enough even to get a few minutes of airtime on the network news.

The only way that boots would hit the ground would be one of two possible scenarios:

  1. If the administration could (a) definitely prove who was responsible for the attack, and (b) demonstrate that said person or persons was/were still in Libya, and (c) positively determine exactly where they were, and (d) convince Barack "Third time's the charm" Obama that the targets were in a vulnerable place, so we wouldn't lose any troops at all. Only then would he have the huevos to send in some Special Forces to take out the bad guys. Unless...
  2. Unless, in the alternative scenario, Obama becomes utterly desperate. Even if the administration knows none of the above, they might nevertheless send in the SF to attack something, anything, any target randomly selected by the administration. The assault in this case would be without regard to any military objective; it would be purely as political stunt to show Obama's "resolve."

The actual result would be irrelevant, so long as the assault came just a few days before the election: just long enough for Obama to spin it as a historic victory (even if it meant lying, a prospect that evidently holds no existential terror for the president), but not long enough for Mitt Romney's campaign to unearth the reality and bring it before the American people.

It takes a lot less time to trumpet a victorious Obama "winning the war against terrorism" (I mean against "man-caused disaster") than it takes for voters to discover the truth, readjust their conclusions, and realize how they have been duped by the master debater. If the Obamunists time it just right, they might well get a five-point bump in the polls that drops to a three-point bump on election day... just as it happened in George W. Bush's first presidential campaign. That one resulted in the gut-biting tie in Florida.

In this year's potential October surprise, the attack would be timed to occur sometime in the last week before the vote -- say Thursday, November 1st, at about five o'clock PM New York time, for maximal live-feed ratings impact. (They would do it closer to the election, except they need several days for people to start thinking Obama is a great wartime leader, but they can't rely on coverage over the weekend when people are out doing their own things.)

Commercials touting Obama's historic victory over al-Qaeda ("It's D-Day all over again!") would hit the airwaves just a few hours after the assault.

Would such an absurdity work? My own opinion is: No, it would not. In fact, I expect we'd see a massive backlash against such shameless politicking of war. But we'll see.

It's possible that if Obama can't get actionable intel, the administration and the permanent campaign might be too afraid to pull the trigger, fretting that it'll be like Geraldo Rivera drilling open Al Capone's vault: We go charging in, live on camera, only to find nobody home (except a camel with a convenient butt); and our troops -- and by extension the Commander in Chief -- end up looking foolish, with egg dripping from their faces.

So, having neatly set up my prediction so that I'll be right whether he does or doesn't pull off an October surprise, your ivory-headed correspondent retires to his villa compound to await confirmation, if not coronation.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 15, 2012, at the time of 6:01 PM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2012

Obama's Orwellian Binge and Purge

Language Is a Virus , Military Machinations , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Sachi

This post is a Sachi-Dafydd joint.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- for ever." George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, chapter 3.

One would imagine that to "know your enemy" is common sense, and nobody would gainsay it. If we're ignorant of whom we're fighting, how can we hope to out-think, surprise, resist, and defeat him?

Knowledge is our most powerful weapon: knowledge of strategy and tactics; of how to maintain supply lines and other logistical necessities; of actionable intel on what the enemy is going to do next; of how to transport combat units quickly hither and thither; and of course, knowledge of who the enemy is (so we know who to attack), how he fights (so we know what signs to look for), and how he thinks (so we understand what the enemy will do even before he himself knows.

One would imagine. But under President Barack "Ve knew nussink, nussink!" Obama, our military is systematically purging that valuable weapon of knowledge, word by word and concept by concept, from our military, intelligence, and political agencies... and all in the name of sensitivity and political correctness.

This Orwellian loss of language, like the "Newspeak" of Nineteen Eighty Four, has one obvious and ominous consequence. Since language evolved, human beings have learned to think primarily in terms of words; so when all the words that describe an idea are banned, it becomes impossible even to think it, because we have no verbal hook to hang it on.

That is precisely what the Obamunists have done... and now it even has its human face. Meet LTC Matthew Dooley, a West Point graduate and decorated combat veteran... a once and perhaps future instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College at the National Defense University, teaching such courses as "Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism."

His courses were popular among students and colleagues. Nevertheless, Dooley was relieved of his position NDU. He and his course was adjudged "unprofessional" and "against our values," by no less a personage than Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Chillingly, this is no isolated case; it has become Department of Defense policy to remove from training materials and even military-university textbooks and course outlines any word or concept that is declared objectionable by Moslem in general or even by Islamists in particular.

In October 2011, a cohort of Islamic and Islamist individuals and organizations -- including a number of radical Islamist groups, including unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial -- the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, and the Islamic Society of North America, ISNA -- jointly signed a letter to a number of federal, state, and local agencies, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, and local law-enforcement. The Islamist letter complains about supposedly offensive, bigotted, and religiously discriminatory documents and training courses, and its authors demand that the Obama administration purge all such material.

The letter was taken seriously by the administration, which responded, as instructed, with a sweeping purge of all military training documents. Page after page of materials were ruthlessly cut from the curricula of training and education courses, simply because the passages contained certain expressions that angered radical Islamsts and their co-dependents. Much of the purge was less surgical and more like an overwrought lumberjack. Sometimes, every single word that could describe a concept was rejected, leaving the concept itself inarticulable.

The purge policy did not arise from a vacuum; oddly, it began under the administration of George W. Bush... and initially was a misguided effort, not to shelter Moslem terrorism, but rather to avoid glorifying, aggrandizing, and popularizing radical Islamists.

In April of 2008, the Bush administration sent a global memo to American embassies; the memo listed specific words that should not be used, such as "jihadist" (holy war or struggle) and "mujahedeen" (holy warriors, warriors for God):

  • "Never use the terms 'jihadist' or 'mujahedeen' in conversation to describe the terrorists. ... Calling our enemies 'jihadis' and their movement a global 'jihad' unintentionally legitimizes their actions."
  • "Use the terms 'violent extremist' or 'terrorist.' Both are widely understood terms that define our enemies appropriately and simultaneously deny them any level of legitimacy."
  • On the other hand, avoid ill-defined and offensive terminology: "We are communicating with, not confronting, our audiences. Don't insult or confuse them with pejorative terms such as 'Islamo-fascism,' which are considered offensive by many Muslims."

I understand the Bush State Department's intent. But any word can be misused or corrupted and be turned into an excluse for the chronically violent to act violently. That cannot mean we should purge such words from our lexicon, particularly when those most anxious to censor our speech are those who ally themselves with our enemies and routinely engage in Dawa -- jihad and the imposition of sharia law through means other than actual combat.

Dawa includes direct propaganda; "lawfare" (using our own civilized legal system against us); calling mass protests; appealing to the eager and pliant "fourth estate," the press; teaching Islamism in liberal universities as gospel; producing or at least influencing the production of movies and television shows, and other ostensible entertainments, that portray sharia and Islamism in a positive lighe; or alternatively, using methods such as boycotts, protests, and political persuasion to prevent the production of movies or tv shows that depict radical Islamism in a critical light.

And of course Dawa includes persuading military leaders, up to the Chairman of the JCS, to do their dirty work for them by purging "objectionable" words, phrases, and understandings in the name of diversity, tolerance, and inclusiveness. Leftist totalitarians are already in the censorship groove; it doesn't take much to get them all het up about "religious bigotry" or "hate speech."

Our Founding Fathers had a different approach: Rather than try to prevent speech considered "bad," they allowed it; and they likewise encouraged counter-speech that was "good," or at least allowed speech aggressively supporting and attacking every conceivable proposition. We now call that our sacred right to freedom of speech; and the religious nature of the phrase is no accident: Such universal freedoms come ultimately from the Hebrew and Jewish side of our American Judeo-Christian heritage, and are utterly rejected by the same radical Islamists who use freedom of speech here to support the imposition of sharia. (Their love of free speech ceases the moment sharia law is established, naturally.)

Rather than purge words from teaching materials lest some Islamist get huffy, we should redouble using those very "forbidden" words; but using them in an accurate, correct, and complete context. We enrich our ability to think by having more word arrows in our vocabulary quiver; and we do not further corrupt the English language by transforming it into Newspeak, trying to bludgeon Americans into concensus by whittling their tongues down to size.

Ever since Obama went on his Middle-East apology tour, Americans have suspected something strange was going on. He called it his "smart diplomacy," but we sensed something more sinister: The president was not simply apologizing for America's sins, he was kow-towing to radical Islamists and changing the language of our official documents -- and by extension through the establishment media, of our very way of thinking about radical Islamism.

Like Obama's Fast and Furious scandal, Purgegate had its earliest roots in the Bush administration; but also like Fast and Furious, the bad seed sprouted a far more poisonous fruit when Obama took office. From the Washington Times piece:

By 2011, Obama’s Counterterrorism and Deputy national security advisor John Brennan was urged by Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations to begin an “independent, effective investigation into the federal government’s training of its agents and other law enforcement” and institute a “purge” of any material that the undersigned organizations deemed unacceptable.

In an October 19, 2011 letter to Mr. Brennan, the groups criticize for anti- Muslim bias the FBI’s 2011 training manual, the books at the FBI library in FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia, specific FBI trainers and analysts, and a report made by Army Command and General Staff at the Fort Leavenworth School of Advanced Military Studies."

Swiftly thereafter, Tom Perez, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, made his final recommendations to John Brennen:

In response to these recent disclosures, federal officials across the country—particularly FBI field offices—have been reaching out to local Muslim communities to state that the offensive training materials do not reflect the opinion of the FBI, its field offices or the federal government. Until the following steps are taken to remedy this problem and to prevent it from recurring, we will not be confident in these assertions. We urge you to create an interagency task force, led by the White House, tasked with the following responsibilities:

We paraphrase the so-called "following steps" that Perez recommended:

  1. Review all FBI, DoD, and Homeland-Security trainers and training materials at government agencies;
  2. Purge all biased materials;
  3. Install mandatory re-training programs;
  4. Ensure all trainers who used "biased" training materials are effectively disciplined (Adios, Col. Dooley);
  5. Ensure that bigoted trainers and biased materials are purged;
  6. Make clear that religious practice and political advocacy are protected under the First Amendment, are not indicators of violence, and shall not be subject to surveillance or investigation.

The recommendations concluded:

The interagency task force should include a fair and transparent mechanism for input from the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities, including civil rights lawyers, religious leaders, and law enforcement experts.

But not, it appears, any military, intelligence, or even diplomatic personnel or organizations that might harbor "bigoted trainers and biased materials." Presumably this would include anybody who saw a connection of some sort, however tenuous, between radical Islam and murderous terrorism.

How significant was the ideological purge of inconvenient military, diplomatic, and intelligence truths? Is there any basis to conclude that this was a deliberate effort to expunge certain ideas from the American mind, so that better and more "flexible" understandings, perhaps more anti-colonial, could take their mental slots? Consider this point from the Washington Times:

In December of 2011 Congressman Dan Lungren, California Republican, questioned Paul N. Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense, at a joint session of the Senate and House Homeland Security Committee. After much back and forth, Stockton would not say the United States was “at war with violent Islamist extremism.” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, had a similar experience in May of 2010, when he questioned Attorney General Eric Holder at a House judiciary hearing about the issue of radical Islam.

The FBI training manual changed. Nearly 900 pages of training that was considered offensive were deleted. Members like Congressman Allen West, Florida Republican, and Congressman Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, were critical of the purge.

Gohmert questioned FBI director Robert Mueller in May 2012 about the deleting of FBI material. Rep. Gohmert went to the House floor and compared the number of times certain terms (at 22:40) were used in the 9/11 Commission report as opposed to the now purged FBI training manual. For example, according to Gohmert, the 9/11 report mentioned the word “Islam” 322 times. However, Gohmert discusses that the FBI training manual can no longer mention the terms: Islam, Muslim, jihad, enemy, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, caliphate, Shariah law.

Now we know why "the fierce urgency of now" demanded Dooley's course be thrown into the ashheap of history and his head on a pike: As far as the Obama administration is concerned, there are some things Man is not meant to know; and among those unknowable things is the absurdity of Obama's perverse foreign policy, where we cast off our allies and bitterly cling to our adversaries and enemies.

Dooley himself is fighting back, trying to regain his job. But the real issue here is not whether one man can stop the boot from stamping on his face, but whether the American electorate can bring itself to believe just how anti-American is the American president... and can find the spine to do something about it on November sixth.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, October 13, 2012, at the time of 10:19 PM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2012

The Prince's New Clothes

Afghan Astonishments , Media Madness , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Sachi

Almost the definition of "TMI", too much information: Prince Harry's naked binge in Las Vegas, shortly before he was deployed to Afghanistan as an Apache pilot. So a young, privileged man got drunk and naked in Las Vegas; what else is new?

Harry, third in line for King of England (after his father, Charles, Prince of Wales; and Harry's brother, William, Duke of Cambridge), was photographed in the buff with some pretty, young, and equally naked thing of the female persuasion, who gallantly crouched behind him during his epic Kodak moment. But that singular embarassment seems to have produced quite a few ripples in spacetime... which may have been the proximate cause of the killing of at least two United States Marines.

A week after Hank's exhibitionist exertions -- and right around the time his sister in law enjoyed her own naked romp in full view of an unnoticed camera -- the princeling was trundled off to war. (What is it with these Royals constantly putting their crown jewels on display?)

Impudent question: Did Harry's harem antics themselves damage British morale, even apart from the deadly, if somewhat tenuous chain of events that followed? Hard to say; how did you feel about Bill Clinton as Commander in Chief, after the flood of bizarre snd squalid sex stories broke? Did you have the same respect for him that you had for other, previous CinCs?

All right, all right; it's not as if the Royal Pains sent the blot away to get him out of the headlines. His deployment was long planned; more than likely, he went on a tear in Vegas precisely because he was about to be shipped out. Alas, the former conjecture is exactly what the Taliban believes, or at least professes: That Harry was sent away to cover-up his "shame." He thus became a perfect target for the cave-dwelling barbarians in Afghanistan, he and everyone else around him.

But let's take a side excursion. When we read the news about Prince Harry heading to Afghanistan, many bloggers with a military background were worried. Too much information was being revealed, allowing the "insurgents" -- radical Islamists in the Taliban and allied terrorist groups -- to track Prince Harry's every movement:

The 27-year-old arrived in Camp Bastion in Helmand in the early hours of this morning, where he will be based for the duration of his tour with 622 Sqn, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps.

His role will be to kill insurgents as he operates the aircraft's weapon systems, which include Hellfire missiles and a 30mm chain gun. He will also be expected to provide air cover on missions by special forces....

In stark contrast to the media blackout imposed when the Prince undertook his previous tour, the Ministry of Defence has taken the decision to inform the public about his presence in Afghanistan from the word go, and arranged for a reporter and photographer from the Press Association news agency to fly to Camp Bastion to provide coverage on a pooled basis.

We understand that the Brits wanted to advertise the fact that Prince Harry is a serious officer in the Royal Army; and they wanted to remove the bad taste from Harry's last deployment, which had to be cut short after he was targeted four years ago:

The Prince was "incredibly frustrated" to be pulled out of Afghanistan 11 weeks into his last tour because of US media reporting on his presence there, said his spokesman, though the fully understood why the decision had been taken.

But was it actually necessary to tell the whole world the exact base at which he would be deployed, precisely what his mission would entail, and even which squadron he'd be assigned to? Whatever happened to the old expression, "loose lips sink ships?"

It doesn't take a General Petraeus to figure out that Harry would instantly become Taliban Enemy Number One; plenty of milbloggers foresaw that possibility; they even joked about the possible outcomes to the careless announcement of Harry's whereabouts:

Prince Harry or Captain Wales, whichever you prefer to call him, is reporting for duty at Camp Bastion as an Apache pilot. I believe that his previous tour in Afghanistan saw him in essentially a JTAC role with the british cavalry. The photo and info below was provided courtesy of the MoD [Ministry of Defence].

Is this the result of his vacation in Vegas (the notes I read state that this was long planned)? And why in the hell would the MoD announce the unit, camp, location, etc of his current station?

Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Riverboat Cruise tonight. Just yesterday, two US marines were killed protecting Prince Harry:

British troops were involved in the firefight to repel the deadly Taliban attack on the military base in Afghanistan where Prince Harry is currently based, it was revealed this morning.

At least two US Marines were killed in the strike on the base in Helmand province, which houses American and British troops among others....

A Taliban spokesman said the attack was in revenge for an amateur film that mocked Islam, and because Prince Harry was known to be at the base.

Why do we say they were killed "protecting Prince Harry?" Leaving the boilerplate about "revenge for an amateur film that mocked Islam" on the cutting-room floor -- it's the all-purpose excuse du jour for any Taliban outrage -- the Taliban themselves say they attacked the base precisely because they knew that "Captain Wales" was there.

And the Marines were killed defending against that attack, which actually breeched the 30-foot high, concrete perimeter wall, something which the Taliban had never been able to do before. They must have pulled out all the stops, desperately trying to kill the British Royal.

And how did the Taliban know the prince was there? Because some subgenius in Britain's Ministry of Defence thought it a wonderful idea "to inform the public about his presence in Afghanistan from the word go, and arrange[] for a reporter and photographer from the Press Association news agency to fly to Camp Bastion to provide coverage on a pooled basis!" [Punctuation altered; the original Brit kept a stiff upper lip and refrained from using an exclamation point. -- the Mgt.]

Bureaucrats, even those in the MoD (and those in our own DoD), simply do not see the world as real, populated with real people with real lives to lose. They treat war like an artfully staged "reality TV" show. What the British and American media did to American and British troops is far worse than anything done by those pathetic filmmakers and their lame trailor.

All the latter did was express their political and religious points of view; but the media released a military secret, thus goading the Taliban into an all-out attempt to pull off a 9/11-type "martyrdom operation," with the potential of causing devastating harm to both our countries. Fortunately, the primitive radical Islamists couldn't quite pull it off; they didn't kill Prince Godiva. But they did kill two American Marines.

I wonder whether General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will call those American and British reporters (along with the British Defence Ministry) and urge them to stop revealing military information and offending free countries. He likes to let his fingers do the kow-towing.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 18, 2012, at the time of 3:34 AM | Comments (0)

September 8, 2012

Poker Force

Election Derelictions , Military Machinations , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Sachi

On August 31, the weekend before the Democratic National Convention, President Barack "Withdrawal" Obama visited Fort Bliss, Texas and met with a less than enthusiastic audience... of American soldiers.

President Barack Obama was greeted with fleeting applause and extended periods of silence as he offered profuse praise to soldiers and their families during an Aug. 31 speech in Fort Bliss, Texas.

His praise for the soldiers -- and for his own national-security policies -- won cheers from only a small proportion of the soldiers and families in the cavernous aircraft-hangar.

The troops were not awed by the appearance, nor were they rapt with attention; summoned to the campaign event, they clearly decided to give the Commander in Chief the respect required and nothing more:

The audience remain[ed] quiet even when the commander-in-chief thanked the soldiers' families, and cited the 198 deaths of their comrades in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The audience's reaction was so flat that the president tried twice to elicit a reaction from the crowd....

CNN and MSNBC ended their coverage of the speech before it was half-over. [Emphasis added throughout quotations.]

Hardly a surprise that the cable mainstream media were too mindful of the Lightbringer's dignity to continue the embarassing coverage.

Why the cold shoulder? Several possible explanations:

  • You might say because Obama has not exactly been supportive of the military in the war against radical Islamism.

Despite the tremendous victory George W. Bush and Gen. David Petraeus finally achieved toward the end of their tenure, Obama is determined to quit, to yank the troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq... without the least concern for our Iraqi allies left behind, or for the negative effect such cutting and running will have on future military campaigns, future allies and alliances, our national security, and even the reputation of the American flag around the world:

The silence deepened when the president lauded his strategy of withdrawal from the war. "Make no mistake, ending the wars responsibly makes us safer and our military even stronger, and ending these wars is letting us do something else; restoring American leadership," he said amid complete silence.

(I don't mind when Barack Obama says "make no mistake;" I just wish that one day, he would take his own advice!)

  • Or maybe the silence was due to the report that President B.O. evidently used an auto pen to sign letters to the families of fallen Navy SEALs; was Obama's hand too tired from those one hundred rounds of golf?
  • Or perhaps the soldiers of Fort Bliss know that veterans are having a difficult time finding civilian work after separation, despite the president's election-year conversion to job creation.

Those may very well be part of the reason these soldiers were unhappy at being made into political actors. But their unhappiness might derive from a much simpler reason, as Russ Vaughn at the American Thinker blog explains:

I'm an old non-com who, as a bachelor lived in the barracks, and as such I'm well aware of the excitement that permeates any military barracks in the days leading up to a four-day, holiday weekend like Labor Day. Virtually every soldier has made big plans to escape his military existence for four precious days and spend that time with family or friends.

A day to get there, and a day to return to Fort Bliss; that leaves but two days with family and friends: Two lousy, infinitely precious days with parents you might not have seen for months, childhood friends, the town you grew up in. But wait -- not two days, but only one! Why? Because...

[S]ome hotshot in the Obama campaign, feeling badly stung by the sparse turnouts for the president's visits to other locales, gets a bright idea of how to produce a really big crowd for a photo op: "Hey, let's schedule one for some military facility where the commander can be ordered to produce a big audience in a sufficiently impressive backdrop."

As a result, the holiday reunions for many soldiers and their families were ruined. Gone are their (possibly non-refundable) flights and difficult to get hotel reservations; gone also is half the time they expected. Not to mention all the wasted money they couldn't afford to lose. All gone.

And for what? Because of a military emergency? A hurricane or other natural disaster? For what lofty reason were these soldiers forced to donate their time, the most precious resource for an active-duty soldier? To listen to a classless, clueless politician talk about how concerned he is about military personnel... while using them as a prop in his own reelection campaign, without regard to whether they want to become part of his next campaign commercial, or even whether they support his reelection in the first place.

I'd say the poker-faced silent treatment Obama received was no more than he deserves. The brass can order the troops to assemble and be respectful to the Commander in Chief, but they cannot order them to cheer spontaneously.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 8, 2012, at the time of 12:18 AM | Comments (1)

April 16, 2012

Scandal, Egads - Scandal!

Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd




...Hiring hookers...



...It's the most unheard-of thing

I ever heard of

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 16, 2012, at the time of 6:14 PM | Comments (1)

January 9, 2012

To Russia, With Servility

Military Machinations , Russkie Resurgence
Hatched by Sachi

The Washington Times newspaper reports -- take a deep breath -- that Barack H. Obama plans to share our ballistic missile defense (BMD) technology with Russia... including our newest mid-range missile, Standard Missile 3 (SM3).

When I heard this news, my mouth fell open, and I could not believe my ears (a bad face day). Surely even President B.O. wouldn't commit such a monumental stupidity!

Sadly, yes:

In the president’s signing statement issued Saturday in passing into law the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, Mr. Obama said restrictions aimed at protecting top-secret technical data on U.S. Standard Missile-3 velocity burnout parameters might impinge on his constitutional foreign policy authority.

As first disclosed in this space several weeks ago, U.S. officials are planning to provide Moscow with the SM-3 data, despite reservations from security officials who say that doing so could compromise the effectiveness of the system by allowing Russian weapons technicians to counter the missile. The weapons are considered some of the most effective high-speed interceptors in the U.S. missile defense arsenal.

There are also concerns that Russia could share the secret data with China and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea to help their missile programs defeat U.S. missile defenses.

Really, you think?

Why whould Obama even counterplate such a thing? What's to gain, even for the capo di tutti capi of gangster government?

Their thinking is that if the Russians know the technical data, it will help allay Moscow’s fears that the planned missile defenses in Europe would be used against Russian ICBMs. Officials said current SM-3s are not fast enough to catch long-range Russian missiles, but a future variant may have some anti-ICBM capabilities.

Ah ha. So the president also plans to leak our most vital secrets from tomorrow's missile technology as well. It makes perfect sense; as a Progressivist, he's a forward-thinking guy.

But really, why shouldn't we keep Russia on its toes? Isn't it a good thing if they're too afraid to invade Europe because they're unsure about our BMD capability? What good derives from letting our previous and potentially future enemy know our vulnerabilities?

Frequent readers of Big Lizards know that I test missile systems for the Navy. I just completed a series of mandatory annual "releasability" training; the instructors drilled us on what information we can and cannot release even to our allies -- Aussies, Japanese, and some (but not all) European countries.

The rules regarding foreign disclosure of military technology are very complex; even though we don't anticipate that the U.K., for example, will use our own technology against us, we nevertheless don't give away our state of the art technology.

Except, evidently, to Obama's new BFF, Vladimir Putin.

Ballistic missile defense (BMD) is part of our AEGIS defense system. AEGIS BMD is a countermeasure against ballistic-missile attacks on our seaborne platforms: destroyers and cruisers, as well as any other ship defended by destroyers or cruisers, including carrier strike groups, supertankers in convoys, and so forth. If this technology is revealed to our pals at the Kremlin, it will quickly be shared with hostile countries; it's like giving a gang leader a spare key to your front door.

Not only this is very dangerous, it is also very illegal; if an ordinary person did secretly what Obama plots to do with great fanfare, he would find himself the defendant of a criminal trial for espionage (unless he was a liberal reporter):

Section 1227 of the defense law prohibits spending any funds that would be used to give Russian officials access to sensitive missile-defense technology, as part of a cooperation agreement without first sending Congress a report identifying the specific secrets, how they would be used and steps to protect the data from compromise.

The president also must certify to Congress that Russia will not share the secrets with other states and that it will not help Russia "to develop countermeasures" to U.S. defenses.

The certification also must show whether Russia is providing equal access to its missile defense technologies, which are mainly nuclear-tipped anti-missile interceptors.

But we are talking about the Obamunist, who thinks laws for paupers don't apply to princes:

Mr. Obama said in the signing statement that he would treat the legal restrictions as "non-binding."

"[M]y administration will also interpret and implement section 1244(sic) in a manner that does not interfere with the president’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs and avoids the undue disclosure of sensitive diplomatic communications," Mr. Obama said.

If Russia gets hold of our SM3s, then Red China will have them shortly. From Red China to North Korea is a short step... followed by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and of course al-Qaeda. How do you think Chinese Silkworm missiles (derived from a Soviet missile) ended up on both sides in the Iran-Iraq war? Where do we suppose Hezbollah in Lebanon got the more advanced rockets they're now firing into Israel? Who supplied the sophisticated IEDs that flooded into Iraq in the late 2000s?

I can see only one political benefit to President Obama from giving up our most advanced mid-range missile technology to Russia: When SM3s wind up in the possession of radical Islamist terrorist groups, it might precipitate a terrible, worldwide national-security crisis; and if the timing is just right, Obama might be able to frighten people away from voting Republican, from "changing horses in mid-stream." At such a critical moment, we don't dare switch presidents now -- times are just too uncertain!

Better the Obama you know than the Obama you don't. What a wonderful "October surprise" that would be, and... happy Halloween!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 9, 2012, at the time of 4:16 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2010

The Turn of a Fiendly Card

Military Machinations , Psychedelic Syllogisms , Southern Exposure
Hatched by Dafydd

The dangerous flip-side of an independent military

There's a war on down south; south of the Rio Grande, I mean.

As most are aware, the drug cartels in Juarez and other Mexican states have become almost as big a problem in Mexico as they were in Colombia. The government is fighting against well-entrenched, heavily armed, deep-pockets banditos, and Mexican soldiers are fighting this "police action" as an all-out, even existential war.

Unfortunately, they're also accused of killing innocent bystanders, then planting evidence to make them look like narcoterrorists:

[American murder victim Joseph Proctor's] mother, Donna Proctor, devastated and incredulous, has been fighting through Mexico's secretive military justice system ever since to learn what really happened on the night of Aug. 22.

It took weeks of pressuring U.S. diplomats and congressmen for help, but she finally got an answer, which she shared with The Associated Press.

Three soldiers have been charged with killing her son. Two have been charged with planting the assault rifle in his hands and claiming falsely that he fired first, according to a Mexican Defense Department document sent to her through the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

It is at least the third case this year in which soldiers, locked in a brutal battle with drug cartels, have been accused of killing innocent civilians and faking evidence in cover-ups.

I think it fairly can be said that Mexican President Felipe Calderon is fighting an existential war against the drug-runners... but does that mean that "anything goes," a tarjeta blanco for the military? Is it acceptable, in the name of fighting such brutal and depraved evil, to protect Mexican soldiers -- who are functioning as domestic law-enforcement agents -- from the consequences of their own sloppy investigations and hair-trigger reactions, to the point of falsely painting innocent victims of overzealous police executions as criminals?

A good case can be made that we in the United States have gone too far in allowing civilian judicial interference in the war against radical Islamism (WARI); but I think it equally clear that Mexico has gone too far in the opposite direction; they're flirting frighteningly with out and out military dictatorship.

When Mexican soldiers are found to be tampering with evidence, or are reasonably accused of such by the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico, the trials are held in secrecy; even the rest of the Mexican government can get virtually no information about the case. Thus when the military acquits its own soldiers of abuse, assault, or murder, it's hard to imagine anyone taking the "verdict" seriously:

Such scandals are driving calls for civilian investigators to take over cases that are almost exclusively handled by military prosecutors and judges who rarely convict one of their own....

President Felipe Calderon has proposed a bill that would require civilian investigations in all torture, disappearance and rape cases against the military. But other abuses, including homicides committed by on-duty soldiers, would mostly remain under military jurisdiction. That would include the Proctor case and two others this year in which soldiers were accused of even more elaborate cover-ups....

The military justice system operates in near total secrecy, choosing what to publicly reveal and when.

What disturbs me most about the example of our nearest neighbor to the south is that I myself have argued against civilian federal courts having jurisdiction over purely military matters, including the holding of POWs and the treatment of unlawful enemy combatants; I have condemned the two Supreme Court cases, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006) and Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), that essentially gave full civilian defendant rights to captured terrorists. But the Mexican war against the cartels demonstrates the horrific dark side of allowing the military to proceed unchecked, unmonitored, and unaccountable.

I believe our own situation is very different from the Central American example for several reasons:

The Mexican army is operating as a domestic law-enforcement agency, arresting, prosecuting, and engaging in summary executions of Mexican citizens suspected of committing crimes.

It is not engaging in "purely military matters."

Our own military is forbidden from acting as police under the states' general police authority by two legislative acts of 203 years and 132 years standing: The Insurrection Act of 1807 and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prevent any use of the military to conduct ordinary police activities within the United States, except during times of actual insurrection, rebellion, or martial law.

But even if the president declared martial law in some section of the United States, that still does not give the military authority to act in secret, to shield its activities from the (civilian) governmental branches of Congress, the administration, and the courts, or to quash criminal or civil cases alleging banditry, abuse, assault, or criminal homicide by military personnel... which appears to be exactly what the Mexican army is doing.

The Mexican civil authorities appear to be powerless against the army, which smells suspiciously like military rule.

The United States, by contrast with our southern neighbor, has a wealth of civilian authorities which can investigate members of the military -- and are themselves armed, granted jurisdiction over crimes committed by the military, given subpoena power, and with the authority to imprison or even execute military officials who are convicted of abuse of authority or other serious felonies, even if the military services in question oppose the prosecution.

First, there is the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Defense; the DoD IG is appointed by the President of the United States and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, civilians all. But in addition, each branch of the service has a criminal investigations divison; and each CID employs many civilian investigators and agents, along with military personnel:

  • Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps
  • United States Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) for the U.S. Army
  • Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for the U.S. Air Force
  • Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) for the U.S. Coast Guard

Our Founding Fathers were greatly worried about even the existence of a standing Army; they certainly insisted that the entire military be under civilian command, which is why the Constitution specifies that the President, an elected civilian official, be the supreme Commander in Chief. And we have seen a number of occasions where the President has indeed exercised his authority against the wishes of the military -- for example, when President Harry S. Truman fired five-star Gen. Douglas Arthur MacArthur for insubordination during the Korean War.

[I originally wrote "four-star" above; but MacArthur was appointed General of the Army in December 1944, and the uniform at that time specified five stars. I don't believe anyone in the American military forces has been authorized to wear five stars since Gen. Omar Bradley in 1950, but I'm not a military historian, so don't take my word for it. Thanks to commenter DK for the correction.]

Mexico has a history of its military seizing power from civilian leaders, for good or for ill.

The United States has never been ruled by a military dictator, but Mexico has had several -- for example, Field Marshal Anastasio Bustamante, Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna, and Gen. Porfirio Díaz, whose last electoral fraud triggered the 1910 Mexican Revolution. It is far more likely that the Mexican generals would seize control from President Calderon than that our own military would execute a coup d'état against Barack H. Obama.

Think a second time... then a third.

Even so, it's well to bear in mind that we set up a system of civilian control of the military for a reason... and we should think many times before advocating, e.g., that the President declare that the civilian courts have no jurisdiction over the military's machinations.

Still, that does not mean that it's inconceivable that, after such thinking, we still reject judicial interference in what really are -- in our case, not Mexico's -- purely military matters. As it happens, even after pondering the current situation south of the Rio Grande, I have not changed my mind about the unAmerican, unconstitutional ruling of the Court in Hamdan and Boumediene.

It's always good to reevaluate one's conclusions in light of new facts; but to reevaluate means to reconsider... it's not a synonym for "to reject." Even upon further consideration, I stand on my previous opposition to Hamdan and Boumediene, the Mexican experience notwithstanding.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 27, 2010, at the time of 11:05 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 22, 2010

Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part IIII - Faster Than a Speeding Pullet

Confusticated Conservatives , Military Machinations , Sex - the Good, the Bad, and the Really Bad
Hatched by Dafydd

As readers well know (and generally lament), I do support the ending of Bill Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that allows gays to serve in the military, so long as they stay in the closet. I believe gays should be allowed to serve openly, but not flauntingly. (Similarly, I believe women should be allowed to serve in any position in the military for which they qualify, including combat.)

But I do not in any way like the way that DADT was repealed. Following the crushing GOP victory in the 2010 midterm elections, it's appalling that the lame-donkey Congress which has just been repudiated has the audacity to vote on major pieces of transformative legislation -- that everybody knows would not pass in the incoming Congress. That's just wrong, and there's no two ways about it.

The previous rants of this ongoing Obamanation are:

There's another outrage besides the revolutionary lame-donkey. Back in June 2009, we posted the thoughts of, as I described him, "an upper mid-level commissioned officer who served two tours in Iraq and now commands a training team," and who goes by the name Boss Mongo. Boss Mongo of course completely opposes the repeal of DADT; but I asked him what he would do to minimize the potential damage from the transition that, indeed, is expected to be signed by President Barack H. Obama next week. Here is what Boss Mongo said in that post, Straight Eye for the Queer Guy:

What, I asked him, would you do? He agreed that he would not resign his commission; he's a career guy, and he would stay in the military and obey orders. So with those caveats, here is Boss Mongo's plan -- including how he arrived at it, which is amazing in itself... I think I spawned a series of high-level meetings that may have set-off a policy prairie fire; what power these blog-things have! Here is what we would need to do in order to make such a policy change work, if the government decides to do so:


Okay, under great protest and not ceding to the premise that the open service of homosexuals would not be prejudicial to good order and discipline, I'll proffer a mitigation strategy for incorporating the policy.

While thinking of the answer, I used the topic, and our e-mail discussions, to conduct a couple round-table discussions with various members of my team and some of my subordinate teams. The demographics of the participants were pretty varied. Tallying it up later, I talked in small groups to: two O4s (one Asian, one Puerto Rican), three O3s (two white, one black), two E8s (both black), five E7s (two black, two white, one hispanic), and one Warrant Officer (hispanic). When I initiated the discussions, the universal first reaction was "Eww."

So it took a while to get the guys to focus on the discussion point; the first X number of minutes were spent getting them off of decrying the policy itself. Most of the senior (ie, ~20 years) guys said that it would be time to drop retirement paperwork (my crew consists of mostly senior guys; my youngest team member is 28 with six years in). Anyway, once we established the constraints of the conversation (and tabled the HIV factor for a later discussion), most of the guys came up with the same concept of response that I had:

  1. First, tangentially, commissioned officers thought that problems would manifest mostly on the battlefield, NCOs [non-commissioned officers -- the Mgt.] thought that the most serious problems would arise in the barracks environment.
  2. The service already has a chain training mechanism in place; it is used for annual, biennial, and quarterly training on EO [Equal Opportunity, I presume -- the Mgt.], Family Advocacy, prevention of sexual harassment, suicide prevention, DUI/Drug prevention, etc. This would be the venue for most training. Officers, NCOs, and junior enlisted would probably have different training evolutions, with unit training at the end, conducted by said officers and NCOs.
  3. The training would have to be tailored to present homosexual service as consistent with the military values -- loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage -- and the military values would have to be the foundation of the training/instruction.
  4. The service-member support networks, from the Chaplains to the headshrinkers, would have to be a part of it and be consistently available to help members with problems arising from the new strategy.
  5. Orders would go out giving the officer and NCO corps instructions on how the chain of command wanted adverse or serious incidents handled.
  6. One thing we all agreed on was that a significant chunk of time and effort would have to be expended on retention, keeping good service members in who are determined to vote with their feet -- or rather, their discharge paperwork -- because of the policy.

That's about it. Everything after that would be adapting to the situations arising and always being ready to call an audible when things go awry, and they will.

This is the sort of thing I was trying to get at in another, more recent post here on Big Lizards, Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part II - a Modish Proposal (linked up top); that was the post in which I proposed a small-scale dry run of repealing DADT. What I had in mind was to give training officers an opportunity to test the Boss Mongo training plan, see where it worked well and where it fell down, then implement the former and restructure the latter.

But in the pell-mell rush to jam through Congress the instant repeal of DADT, I cannot imagine that the Obamunists have the slightest interest in a "go-slow" approach that would give us the time to work the kinks (sorry!) out of the system. Rather, I agree with Paul Mirengoff at Power Line: Obama will shove this revolutionary transformation (which underlying policy I support) down the tracks like a runaway freight train, and any testing policy that tries to slow it down will be squashed flatter than today's GDP growth (which unseemly haste I abhor).

After all, the policy must actually be a done deal before January 3rd; else the incoming House of Representatives might refuse to appropriate or authorize the funds to implement it.

This is exactly what I was afraid would happen: Because conservatives made it clear that they would never, ever, ever vote to repeal DADT, no matter when or how, the "progressivists" rightly concluded that they have only this one brief window, which, if not seized upon, slams shut in just under a fortnight... so the Left must move the policy faster than a cannon-fired chicken. Full scream ahead, and damn the training!

Well, never let it be said that Congress failed to disappoint.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 22, 2010, at the time of 12:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 7, 2010

Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part III - a Blogger Responds

Confusticated Conservatives , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Ordinarily I don't debate blogposts in the comments section; I leave that for the readers to express their opinions. On the other hand, there are a some arguments which merit response. The compromise is to respond with another blogpost in order to answer the many points and questions raised by a previous post in this series... so here goes!

The previous parts of this ongoing series are:

Kill the messenger, not the message

Commenter RRRoark sees a larger agenda in the push to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and allow gays to serve openly:

I too see merit on both sides, but the deciding factor for me is that the demand is coming from a group that has traditionally hated the military.

But why should we penalize gay service members who only want to serve honorably and honestly in the military, simply because their demand for equal treatment is echoed by a Greek chorus (I couldn't resist!) which hates the military -- and whose support is likely not appreciated by gay service members in the first place?

We could make a corresponding "guilt by association" argument that favors repeal: Why do we take the same position against gays in the military that is echoed by the despicable Westboro Baptist Church, the vile haters who invade military funerals to chant "God hates fags" at grieving widows? The answer is, we cannot decide policy on the basis of which side has the worst unwelcomed supporters; there are fanatics on all sides. As Larry Niven says, "There is no cause so noble that it will not attract fuggheads."

Discrimination is as discrimination does

Is discrimination against gay service members akin to discrimination against black service members before President Truman desegregated the troops? Commenter Mdgiles disputes the notion:

The difference -- and it is a major difference -- between segregation in the old military, and allowing gays in the military; is the difference between appearance and behavior. I am black, a fact that can be ascertained over the proverbial country mile. Just as it can be ascertained whether I am short or tall, fat or lean. It's simply a question of how I look. It says noting at all about my probable behavior.

All right, then let's take another example. Should we enact a DADT-type policy requiring Moslem service members to keep silent about their religion, never mention even casually that they sometimes attend a mosque, that they read the Koran, or that they pray to Allah, on pain of being dismissed from the service with an other-than-honorable discharge?

"Moslemness" is certainly not something that can be detected a mile away, or even five feet away. Worse, unlike with gay service members, we have suffered several incidents in which Moslem service members have gone "jihad" and actually attacked and murdered their fellows in the name of Allah and Islam!

By contrast, even if Bradley Manning is gay -- and I have no idea -- nobody has suggested that he leaked classified information to WikiLeaks in an effort to further the gay-rights agenda.

Would it make our military more effective and efficient if we decreed that Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Atheists could all openly discuss their religion, but Moslems must stand silent, and forever live in the fear that somebody might spot them coming out of a mosque or overhear them praying -- even off base, even on leave! -- leading to disgrace and discharge?

Maybe a little, since we could discharge any radical Islamist unwise enough to let the mask slip -- along with thousands of other servicemen who would only have fought honorably for America and never attacked anyone on our side. Too, doubtless some servicemen don't like Moslems and get nervous when they find out somebody in their squad is one; I daresay more servicemen are worried about Moslems in the ranks than gays in the ranks... just as, during World War II, some soldiers were very uncomfortable fighting alongside American soldiers with names like David Hasselhoff or Norman Mineta. Some service members would surely have better morale if all Moslems are excluded from service (or forced to keep quiet about their suspect religion).

So should the slight increase in "effectiveness" and morale lead us to adopt that policy? The answer is an emphatic No -- and the reason cuts to the very heart of why we have a military in the first place.

What's the Army for, anyway?

The point we should understand is that, Rush Limbaugh aside, the ultimate purpose of the American military is not to "kill people and break things;" otherwise, it would be a good thing if an Army unit sortied out from a base in one of our allies' countries and went on a looting and killing rampage. Violence by itself is not the goal of the military, it is one means, a tool it can use to further a goal that is decided far "above the paygrade" of even four-star admirals and generals.

The purpose of the American military is to advance the national interests of the United States of America. This of course includes, but is not limited to, national self-defense.

Sometimes our national interests require killing and breaking; other times they require delivering food, building schools, saving residents of a distant land from the effects of floods or hurricanes, or negotiating a peace between rival tribes.

But at all times, the goal (accepted by the military) of advancing the national interests of the United States always includes promoting the foundational values of the United States, the virtues that brought us into existence in the first place: Democracy, individual liberty, rule of law, and limited government.

If our government uses the military to assail those values, then both government and military have become anti-American and must be stopped. For example, if United States Marines stood in polling booths and told voters how to vote; or if the Army began making mass arrests of peaceful dissidents; or if the U.S. Navy began seizing people they suspected of being pirates and summary executing them on the spot, without a trial... then our uniformed personnel would have disgraced their uniforms -- even if they acted under orders -- and should be prosecuted under the Universal Code of Military Justice.

(And note, I never specified the nationalities of the above victims. It doesn't matter.)

The reason is that the military is not an end to itself; its function is to promote American interests, which includes promoting our foundational values. If they act to demean those values, they violate the sacred trust we endow them by allowing them to wage war in our name. An army of tyranny cannot fight for liberty.

Back to the Moslem example. Were we to proclaim religious liberty with our mouths, then spit on that very freedom within the ranks -- were we to discriminate within the military service against one religion among all others -- we would be mocking the ideals and the credo of the United States; the paltry gain from treating Moslems in our military service as "dhimmi" would be far outweighed by the message of hypocrisy and fraud, which would drag our country down into the same filth as the very countries we're fighting in the war against radical Islamism.

Note that nothing above prevents us from going after Moslem service members who engage in, conspire to engage in, or call for others to engage in jihad against America or our allies. Why not? Because then we are discriminating, not on the basis of religion or any other statistical class of people, but on the basis of violent and criminal actions committed by an individual.

"Unapproved" is not "evil"

I strongly believe that the same holds true for gays serving in the military. While homosexuality is not a religion, the syllogism is strikingly similar in structure:

  1. Gays hold certain beliefs and engage in certain actions that make others "uncomfortable."
  2. But those actions are not inherently mala in se, the legal term for activity that is a crime by its very nature, inherent evil such as murder, assault, rape, robbery, theft, and so forth -- within the American culture as a whole.

    For an action to be malum in se, it must be almost universally considered so in our society, our entire society (which is what the military is there to protect and promote, remember?) -- not just among a small subset of very religious Americans.

  3. Yet we have made it a crime within the military, a malum prohibitum -- a crime only because we have declared it a crime, like driving on the left side of a road or painting your house the wrong color as defined by zoning laws.
  4. And the justification for this malum-prohibitum law is not that anything inherent to homosexuality itself causes a breakdown in morale, good order and discipline, or military effectiveness -- nobody alleges that gays are inherently incapable of engaging in effective combat or standing watch or peeling spuds -- but rather that some heterosexual service members might feel an unreasonable fear or loathing against gays that might stop those heterosexuals from peforming their duties.

That is, the argument is not that "gays can't fight;" the argument is that "some straights are so rattled by the fact of homosexuality that they themselves can't fight." Therefore -- gays shouldn't serve openly? The argument is mad on its face.

-- With liberty and justice for all

Obviously the military can prohibit behavior that quintessentially disrupts military functioning, such as gays aggressively soliciting straights -- or other, non-interested gays -- or straights harassing gays -- or straights aggressively soliciting service members of the opposite sex. And any sort of harassment, oppression, political activism, or evangelism can legitimately be curtailed within the military, whether its purpose is to recruit members into homosexuality or to recruit members into Christianity.

But there is no more reason to single out gays, as a class, for official silencing than there is for singling out Moslems, Democrats, or blacks.

The difference between the American military and, say, the North Korean military is that our armed forces promote freedom and liberty, while theirs promote the whims of the Dear Leader, no matter what those whims may entail.

We engage in the absolute bare minimum restriction of liberty in our culture, even of our soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen; so long as speech or activity does not impede the goal of protecting and projecting the national interests of the United States, we don't treat our servicemen and -women as slaves or prisoners. (After the initial period of training is completed, and lumpen civilians have been turned into fighting men and women, that is.)

We don't tell them who to vote for, or what religion to practice, or even what movies to watch. Heck, we even let them publish blogs, unless those blogs begin to disrupt combat (for example, by giving away our tactics, positions, or objectives). We don't tell servicemen what kinds of girls to date or marry; why should we tell them which gender to date?

There is no mission-related reason to curtail that liberty, especially since the Supreme Court struck down (Lawrence v. Texas) all laws against "sodomy" in the larger culture; it is now only a crime within the military and nowhere else, despite the inability to articulate any reason why homosexuality is inherently incompatible with "good order and discipline."

Personally, I believe it all comes down to irrational hatred of homosexuals and homosexuality. And please do recall that I completely oppose same-sex marriage and support all efforts to promote traditional marriage, even covenant marriage; I'm not a spokesman for the gay agenda.

Who's a sodomite anyway?

In fact, I also think the UCMJ should be brought into line with Lawrence even on purely heterosexual matters; I believe it's still technically "sodomy," under Article 125, for a serviceman to engage in oral sex with his wife, in his own home, on his own time:

Article 125 -- Sodomy


(a) Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient
to complete the offense.

(b) Any person found guilty of sodomy shall by punished as a court-martial may direct....


It is unnatural carnal copulation for a person to take into that person’s mouth or anus the sexual organ of another person or of an animal; or to place that person’s sexual organ in the mouth or anus of another person or of an animal; or to have carnal copulation in any opening of the body, except the sexual parts, with another person; or to have carnal copulation with an animal.

When is the last time a straight serviceman was prosecuted and kicked out for oral sex with a woman? Why is there no DADT for BJs? In addition to everything else, gays also suffer disparate treatment under military law; they are unequally prosecuted for doing (or even admitting doing) what is equally illegal under the code if done by a heterosexual serviceman.

So how many servicemen are there right now in the military who demand that homosexuals serve in secret or not be allowed to serve at all -- yet who are themselves "sodomites" under the UCMJ? And how many of those would agree never again to get a BJ or even reveal that they enjoy it?

Fox in the hole

MDGiles continues:

This might not present a problem to some pencil pusher in the Pentagon (where they seem to have concentrated this "survey") because they go home at the end of the day. However at the "sharp end of the spear" it's often 24/7, and 365.

The implication being that the demands of front-line combat make it impossible to accept openly gay service members fighting alongside straights.

But why? Other than appeal to privilege, nobody has given a real argument why a straight soldier would feel more nervous sitting in a foxhole with a gay soldier than with a soldier of unknown sexual preference. It's hard to imagine that in such a tense situation, anybody, gay or straight, would be chumming for sexual partners.

We all agree that there already are gay soldiers, sailors, airmen, and even Marines in service; evidently, they aren't putting the moves on the other guy in the foxhole, or the DADT-discharge rate would be much, much higher than it is.

I would guess that DADT notwithstanding, most gay members of the military service are already known to be or suspecting of being gay by most of their squadmates. In nearly all cases, the latter generally ignore the fact as irrelevant -- unless the gay member actually starts causing a problem, making a spectacle of himself, or hitting on people left and right... which is a separate problem and easily dealt with by disciplinary action, just as it would be in the case of heterosexual or non-sexual harassment.

This is a silly argument, unsourced and unsupported. It amounts to the ancient stereotype of saying that gays just can't control themselves like straights can: Bob bends over to pick up a sandbag, and Nigel just can't stop himself from grabbing Bob's posterior.

But -- in a foxhole? On the deck of an aircraft carrier? In a Boeing 767 AWACS controlling a battlefield? In a fast-attack submarine? For heaven's sake, isn't this argument just a tad ridiculous? It's reaching so far, it topples off the table. If somebody is that oblivious to external reality, it doesn't really matter if he's gay or straight; he's a menace either way.

Now there is one circumstance where this could happen, but it's not strictly confined to gays. If a gay man is living an explicitly "gay lifestyle" -- say in the ferment of the Castro-Street subculture of San Francisco -- surrounded by other, very promiscuous gay men and heading out to the bathhouse every other night with his friends, then yes, his sexual activities could overwhelm every other aspect of his life. But by the same token, straights who fall into the "swinger" lifestyle might find their own sex lives out of control; and Moslems living a strict and fundamentalist Islamic lifestyle might find their religion getting out of control.

Yet the danger in these cases come from radicalism of any kind, not from Moslems, heterosexuals, or homosexuals as a class. I agree that we should not allow radicals into our armed forces, and we should discharge them if we discover their radicalism after enlistment. But radical anything, I mean.

Slip sliding away

Commenter Pam worries about the slippery slope (bracket-notes added for reference below):

Guess I'm a big picture person, but if we allow gays to serve openly, then [1] couldn't they get married or have a civil union if they so choose? If they can do this, [2] how can the government deny a spouse all the dependent privileges that current spouses have? If this happens, then [3] isn't the Federal Defense of Marriage Act pretty much gone, and if that's gone, then we pretty much have to [4] accept any or all unions from state to state!

Quick answers:

  1. No, just because you are allowed to serve doesn't change the definition of marriage.
  2. A government cannot deny a spouse spousal benefits; but we do not recognize same-sex marriage at the federal level.
  3. You cannot "back-door" (sorry again!) a repeal of DOMA by allowing gays to serve openly in the military, because DOMA says nothing about that issue.
  4. Finally, even if Congress voted not only to repeal DADT but also to repeal DOMA, that would not immediately allow polygamy and sibling marriage; each issue would have to be fought separately, either in the proper venue of Congress and state legislatures, or in the entirely inappropriate venue of the courts.

(This argument is basically, "If we give gays one item from the gay agenda, aren't we obliged to give them every other item?" Of course the answer is No, we're not.)

Brains rinsed while U wait

Commenter Bill Befort raises a jurisprudential point that I've seen from others:

There's a lot more to this than who showers with whom. As Adm. Mullen's comments hint, it means endless brainwashing: the services essentially ordering members to demonstrate acceptance of homosexual behavior, or else.

No brainwashing at all... any more than allowing, say, atheists to serve means endless brainwashing of members to force them to approve of atheism. The answer is that, in order to serve in the military, you needn't approve of homosexuality, promiscuous heterosexuality, atheism, Islam, or even the military culture of orders and discipline: You only need to tolerate those things and be willing (even if you don't like it) to obey orders and do your duty, to support your fellow members, and to be willing to lay down your life, if necessary.

You don't have to like your squadmates, and you certainly don't have to approve of their lifestyles from some cosmic perspective. For that matter, some gay servicemen who happen to be monogamous church-goers might thoroughly disapprove of the lifestyle of a straight serviceman who drinks like a chimney and sleeps with ten different women every month.

But hey, he doesn't have to approve. He only has to tolerate Mr. Don Juan; and both men have to be there for each other when the bullets begin to fly, literally or metaphorically.

Bill Befort continues:

And the services will need to collect data on whether the policy is "working," which among other things will mean Must Ask, Must Tell.

Surely we can tell whether units are coming together (ack, I just can't stop myself!) or falling apart without having to query (sigh) every service member as to his sexuality. The signs would be obvious... just as they are when, for example, politicos dictate unworkable rules of engagement or a bad CO is unable to lead his men.

We need to give the test enough time that units find ways to overcome the inevitable problems that any change brings, but not so much time that a unit that is not adapting is utterly demoralized or rendered unfit for duty.

Measure six times before you repeal

The experiment is to see whether (and how) units can overcome any initial friction and remain melded together. Any change, even a good one like desegregating the troops, brings some dislocation for a while. Let a small number of units experience that and find ways to overcome it, and then we'll have a template for overcoming similar temporary dislocation in the armed forces as a whole.

Alternatively, we may discover that it's impossible to overcome the problems; in which case conservatives have new and potent ammunition to argue against repealing DADT throughout the entire military.

My hackles rise automatically whenever those who oppose some policy on the grounds that it will lead to disaster are unwilling even to support a small-scale test run; I cannot shake the feeling that the real reason isn't that they think a scale run will disclose serious problems... but rather that the scale run will generate solutions that make the policy change easier, less dangerous, and therefore more likely to occur.

But if it turns out that fears of catastrophe are unfounded, yet the same people still oppose the policy, then fear of failure was never the reason for rejecting the policy in the first place.

And then we're back either to irrational hatred of gays, or the inappropriate institutionalizing of specific religious doctrine into military law... or both.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 7, 2010, at the time of 11:35 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 5, 2010

Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part II - a Modish Proposal

Confusticated Conservatives , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Liberals demand that gays be allowed immediately to serve openly in all areas of all branches of military service, on grounds of civil rights. Conservatives demand that gays not be allowed to serve openly but only covertly, under the infamous Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) policy of Bill Clinton, or else not allowed to serve at all -- on the grounds that many-but-not-all front-line soldiers and Marines, sailors and airmen believe that unit cohesion would suffer.

And here I am, stuck in the middle again!

I see merit on both sides the divide:

On the one hand, the troops do not "own" the military; service members are told to do many things they don't want to do, including swallowing rules of engagement (ROEs), commanders, and even missions that severely and negatively impact unit cohesion... for example, being ordered to perform "peacekeeping" duty, a monumentally stupid policy that led directly to the 1983 Beirut bombing, in which 241 American servicemen were slain by Hezbollah terrorists.

But do we give service members a vote on whether to be deployed as peacekeepers, or under what ROEs they must fight? Of course not; when you raise your hand and swear to obey orders "according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice," it's not an à la carte menu; you must swallow the whole meal, even parts that never occurred to you when you took that oath, so long as the orders are legal and they're issued to you by somebody in your chain of command.

On the other hand, people, including servicemen and -women, cannot always control how they feel about people who engage in certain activities that many religions consider "abomination." Try as they might not to let their feelings affect their duty to obey lawful orders, troops are nevertheless human. They may treat those fellow members differently, and that would indeed be bad for morale and unit cohesion, not to mention degrading effectiveness and safety.

On the third hand, an awful lot of members of the same services, combat servicemen, strictly heterosexual, seem to have no problem at all serving alongside openly homosexual members. So why can't the others just shrug off the "ick" factor and treat fellow members' sexual preferences as none of their business?

On the fourth hand, some gays join the military for the sole purpose of making a political statement, adopting a flamboyant and promiscuous lifestyle and rubbing it in the faces of their squadmates, and in general turning what should be a fighting machine into a witches' cauldron of agenda-driven experimentation in pushing the sexual limit.

On the fifth hand -- am I starting to sound like John Kerry? -- there are some pretty darned flamboyant heterosexual swingers, fornicators, and irresponsible impregnators in the military, too, like the sailor with the proverbial "three girls in every port." If religious Christians, Jews, and Moslems can learn to work alongside a man who measures the number of his female conquests in four digits, they should be able to show similar restraint towards a man who has just one lover -- who happens also to be a man, but remains always offstage.

On the sixth hand, when gays who ardently desire to defend their country can only serve while keeping a huge, career-killing secret, that is an invitation to blackmail... which could result in terrible damage to the American military, depending on who is doing the blackmailing and what he demands for his silence.

So let me cut this Gordian cheese with a simple suggestion:

  1. Randomly select a small number of units, some combat and some support, and allow gays to serve openly in them for a period of, say, five years.
  2. During that time, it will be made very, very difficult to transfer out of (or into) one of those experimental units, and definitely no transfers on the basis of "I can't serve alongside gays," or "I'm gay and I want to serve openly." Members are assigned into and out of those units on the normal bases used in every other unit... no special favors for pro- or anti-DADT activists. (This is to prevent politically motivated "grand gestures" from mucking up the test results.)
  3. During that time, rules against harassment (by any party, targeting any party), adultery, rape and sexual assault, and sexual-preference discrimination are strictly enforced (as they really should be throughout the service anyway).
  4. At the expiry of five years, units are evaluated and compared to units still under DADT rules on the usual bases: unit effectiveness (fighting or support), cohesion, morale, problem incidents, and so forth. (Of course, if truly serious problems develop before the five years are up, we can always cancel the program immediately and return to DADT for all units.)
  5. Finally, nobody in one of those units who served openly is to be penalized after the five year period for having done so, no matter which way the decision goes. Without that legal guarantee, nobody would serve openly, because everyone would be too afraid of retaliation as soon as the testing period is finished.

At that point, everyone should agree that we had tremendously more hard data than we do now, data that particularly pertains to the United States military, not foreign militaries. Congress and the Commander in Chief would be much better situated to make the decision yea or nay at that time, and the American people would have much more information to decide whether they approve of that decision, whatever it is -- or hate it so much that they vote the "deciders" out of office.

In other words, I'm suggesting we perform the experiment of allowing gays to serve openly in the military on a scale-model of the military first, and only proceed to a final, service-wide decision when we see how the scale version worked out. (Afterwards, we could use the same technique to test whether allowing women to serve in combat positions in combat zones enhanced, diminished, or had no effect on those same military standards and criteria.)

Why has nobody suggested this before? It seems pretty straightforward to me.

(If there is some reason why it would be worse to test out such changes on a scale version than to go for the whole enchilada all at once, please let me know; although embarassing to be proven wrong, it's much less embarassing than persisting in some foolish error year after year because everyone is too polite to tell you your idea is full of schist!)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 5, 2010, at the time of 10:26 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

November 30, 2010

Don't Gasp, Don't Kvell part I - a Reader Shibboleth

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Let us suppose that, during the "lame donkey" session of Congress (before the newly elected 112th Congress takes power), some combination of Congress, the federal judiciary, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and President Barack H. Obama manages to overturn the infamous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy requiring gays in the military to hide their sexual preference.

Suppose further that after an initial flurry of angst and hairpulling, within six months or so, the troops settle into the "new normal" that gays can serve openly. Whatever roiling occurred dies down, and things drift back into the usual SNAFU of the American armed forces.

Suppose even further that we're not obliterated by some enemy during that half year due to a gay soldier doing... I don't know, something that only gay soldiers might do that costs us the war. Offhand I can't think of anything, but whatever it is, it doesn't happen. We muddle along as usual until the next elections.

Then suppose (this one isn't much of a reach) a Republican president is elected in 2012 and the GOP captures the Senate to go along with the House; now they control all the elected levers of power and can by and large do what they please. I know, it's a lot of s'pposin'; but now we come to the speculation:

In 2013, would you favor or oppose the incoming president and 113th Congress repassing DADT, requiring now openly serving gays to clam up and future gay recruits to hide their sexual preference again?

If so, why? If not, why not?

Inquiring minds -- at least one inquiring mind! -- want to know...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 30, 2010, at the time of 10:06 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 10, 2010

Don't Sue, Don't Judge

Injudicious Judiciary , Matrimonial Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Two positions from the Lizards:

  1. We both strongly believe that marriage should be restricted to opposite-sex couples, not currently married to anyone else, not too closely related, of age, and consenting. But we believe even more strongly that the definition of and rules for marriage for each state should be decided by the legislature, governor, and ultimately the people of that state... not by unelected, life-tenured federal judges.
  2. We both strongly believe that openly gay men and women should be allowed to serve in all branches and capacities of the United States military, and we have said so, often and loudly -- perhaps to the detriment of readership, which is quite unified against our position. But we believe even more strongly that such a profound change must be made democratically by Congress and the President of the United States... not by unelected, life-tenured federal judges.

So even though we agree with the fundamental position of the Log Cabin Republicans that Don't Ask, Don't Tell should be repealed, we fundamentally deplore and reject the injudicious judicial process the LCR chose to "repeal" it.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 10, 2010, at the time of 9:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2010

America's Viceroy

Cabinetwittery , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Having failed to overtake Barack H. Obama in 2008's Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton was unable to realize her bitter ambition to become President of the United States; and she is unlikely ever to get the chance again. But through the perversity of Democratic politics, she may be about to be dubbed, as near as makes no difference, America's first viceroy... who is, as Wikipedia puts it, "a royal official who runs a country or province in the name of and as representative of the Monarch."

For McClatchy News reports that as all American military combat troops and all but 50,000 non-combat troops leave Iraq under the "Status of Forces" agreement with that country, the need for some kind of force protection of State Department personnel will become acute. And the Obama administration has decided that, rather than renegotiate the agreement to allow for protective military personnel to remain in country, the United States will simply create a civilian quasi-military security force under the command of the Secretary of State.

That is, Vice Commander in Chief Hillary Clinton will get her own army to play with:

The arrangement is "one more step in the blurring of the lines between military activities and State Department or diplomatic activities," said Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington research center. "This is no longer (just) the foreign service officer standing in the canape line, and the military out in the field."

"The State Department is trying to become increasingly expeditionary," he said.

The most identifying power of the monarch is command of the military; ergo, handing it over to a lower-level duchess is equivalent to putting her in complete charge of that corner of our foreign policy.

The introduction of a new quasi-military army under State's control doesn't sit well with the more liberal members of Congress, however; recall, the Left was expecting that Obama would gracefully declare defeat in Iraq and go home, allowing "progressives" to argue that the entire Iraq war was a catastrophe and a war crime. They were overjoyed with the agreement negotiated with Iraq, which clearly did not leave enough combat personnel to protect the mission.

But now, defeat is once again imperiled, albeit in a flagrantly unconstitutional way; and the Left is hopping mad:

Already, however, the State Department's requests to the Pentagon for Black Hawk helicopters; 50 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles [MRAPs -- DaH]; fuel trucks; high-tech surveillance systems; and other military gear has encountered flak on Capitol Hill.

Contractors are to operate most of the equipment, and past controversies that involved Pentagon and State Department contractors, including the company formerly known as Blackwater, have left some lawmakers leery.

"The fact that we're transitioning from one poorly managed contracting effort to another part of the federal government that has not excelled at this function either is not particularly comforting," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

"It's one thing" for contractors to be "peeling potatoes" and driving trucks, McCaskill told McClatchy. "It's another thing for them to be deploying MRAPs and Black Hawk helicopters."

"I know there's a lot of bad choices here," the senator said, adding that she'd choose using the U.S. military to protect diplomats in Iraq. "That's a resource issue."

Claire McCaskill has a 95% rating from the Americans for Democratic Action and was one of the earliest and most ardent Obama campaigners during the primaries and the general election. Perhaps we should keep an eye on other ultra-liberal Democrats in House and Senate to see who else has little trust in the probity and command ability of Gen. Hillary.

Meanwhile, conservatives should oppose the scheme -- I would hope! -- as clearly violative of the United States Constitution, which vests all military command in the president, in his role as Commander in Chief. It's akin to giving a mere cabinet member authority to sign or veto congressional legislation: It subverts our very form of government.

Perhaps between the anti-victory liberals and the pro-Constitution conservatives, we can nip this very, very bad precedent in the bud and do what even McCaskill proposes: Just renegotiate the blasted agreement to allow a protective military force to remain in order to prevent our diplomats and aid workers being shot, blown up, or beheaded.

Honestly, we don't need an American viceroy.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 23, 2010, at the time of 6:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 14, 2010

Too Quiet on the Afghan Front

Afghan Astonishments , Military Machinations , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

In a stealth shift of the rules of engagement (ROEs) in Afghanistan last July, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the senior NATO commander in Afghanistan, severely restricted the use of close-air support in our operations there.

Today, our soldiers and combat pilots are really feeling the hangover from that addled, "politically correct" decision, as Taliban and other terrorist fighters no longer "run and hide" when American jets scream overhead; they laugh at us, because they know we're not going to shoot:

Joint terminal attack controllers, airmen on the ground who call in airstrikes, and fighter pilots report that insurgents are encouraging each other to continue firing because they know the Air Force’s F-16s and A-10s are dropping far fewer bombs now than this time last year.

“Keep fighting; [coalition forces] won’t shoot” is the order that enemy leaders are giving -- in Pashtun and Dari, words that the JTACs have heard over their radios....

Much of [Air Force Captain Andy] Vaughan’s time is spent flying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties, even though his A-10 -- with titanium planers underneath the cockpit and a 30mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun mounted on the nose -- was built to fly close-air support.

“The A-10 pilots … are just left circling in the skies,” said an Air Force officer here who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on the record.

Technically, McChrystal gave the order; but considering the negative impact on our warfighting capability and the higher risk to McChrystal's own troops, I find it highly unlikely that the order originated with him. I would bet money that the order came from somewhere far upstream from McChrystal; from Gen. David Petraeus, Commander of Central Command; even from the Service Chiefs. I doubt it even came from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, except perhaps as a conduit.

I am quite convinced that the "decider" in this case wears a suit and never wore a uniform; I cannot imagine any combat infantry commander deciding to forgo close-air support, which we have used to excellent effect since World War I. In fact, I suspect the strategic retreat originated from someone with great power who loathes the military and thinks jihadism can be defeated by a flurry of subpoenas and indictments.

Regardless, the change in the ROEs has a devastating real-world impact:

Before a plane drops any bomb or makes a strafing run, the aircrew and the JTAC work together to determine if an attack can be justified. For example, either the pilot or JTAC must visually identify an insurgent firing a weapon before engaging the target -- no easy task either while flying a plane or taking fire on the ground, airmen here said.

“There are directives on what we need to ask the JTAC,” Vaughan said, and each pilot is looking for the JTAC to say “specific phrases” before he releases any munitions....

Even if a ground commander orders an airstrike, a JTAC does not have to authorize the attack if the situation does not exactly meet the conditions laid out by McChrystal, Bryza said.

When seconds count, the JTAC's determination is only a quarter hour away!

Without close-air support, we're fighting with one hand tied behind our straightjacket. It truly calls into question the seriousness with which this administration intends to fight even the "good war" in Afghanistan.

The goal of the order was evidently to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan:

Fewer civilian casualties have been reported since McChrystal issued his directive. The numbers are difficult to count and often disputed, but the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan puts the civilian death toll from airstrikes in 2009 at 359, down from 680 the year before.

This is a political goal that again points the finger at the civilian branch of the chain of command -- which terminates with the Commander in Chief, of course. Sadly, fecklessness appears to be the normal mode of operation for our post-racial, post-partisan, post-modern, third-millennial president when he tries to run a war.

But if the war on the Iran/al-Qaeda axis is not really a war, only a law-enforcement investigation to "solve" a disconnected series of criminal acts, then there's no reason to treat even its most warlike manifestations with the seriousness a real war demands: We can accomodate our ROEs to fit the politically correct fashion; and if that causes us to lose a few battles (and a few good men), it's a small price for those faceless minions to pay.

If the progressive caste demands a bloodless war with no (non-American) casualties, so be it; we'll order our mighty Air Force to stand down. If a few more soldiers get killed because they cannot call in an air strike, it's their own fault for not finishing skool and getting stuk in afganerstone. If the Obamacle even notices their demise, he'll be pleased they could sacrifice their meaningless lives to such a glorious cause as a war in which no blood is spilt -- except by American troops.

What a cathatric and humbling experience that will be for the lone (whether we like it or not) superpower!

I seriously wonder if we have elected an honest to goodness solipsist as President of the United States.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 14, 2010, at the time of 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 19, 2010

General Courters

Military Machinations , Presidential Campaign Camp and Porkinstance
Hatched by Dafydd

Gen. David Petraeus is edging closer and closer to calling for the end of President William "Billery" Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy anent gays serving openly in military service. Gen. Petraeus has not yet announced his support for dropping the prohibition entirely, but he seems on the verge of doing so:

Meanwhile, Petraeus, who was catapulted to fame by overseeing the troop surge in Iraq more than two years ago, said “the time has come to consider a change” but cautioned that the change to the Clinton-era law should be done in a “thoughtful manner,” and it should not be rendered without first making assessments as to how a change would affect recruiting, retention, morale and cohesion within the military services....

Petraeus, the most popular general of his generation, stopped short of giving his personal take on the current ban, but told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had an eight-minute prepared statement on his position regarding the repeal of the ban.

“This is not a sound-bite issue,” Petraeus said.

There are several ways to interpret this endorsement, if indeed it is one...

  1. Some might argue that Petraeus is just mouthing politically correct sentiments but doesn't really mean them. This strikes me as most unlikely; he is not generally known as a PC kinda guy.
  2. Some might hint that he only supports the "gay agenda" because he's sucking up to President Barack H. Obama (though perhaps a better verb is called for), hoping the president will name him Chief of Staff of the Army.

    But I don't think Petraeus has any hope or expectation of being picked by Obama for such an intensely political position; nobody knows Petraeus' politics exactly, as he quite properly will not divulge them while wearing the uniform of his country. But it's a good bet that David Howell Petraeus is considerably more conservative than Obama would want.

In addition, Petraeus is inextricably shackled to George W. Bush, who promoted him and put him in charge of the Iraq War. Given how the resident president feels about his predecessor, the idea that Obama would ever elevate David Petraeus is laughable. He would be more likely to find some excuse to cashier him or move him to a "window seat."

Eric Shinseki, Clinton's pick in 1999, is more Obama's type. In 2011, Obama will undoubtedly name a four-star who also happens to be a doctrinaire liberal who shares Obama's peculiar ideas about the use of (or abstention from) military force. Bog only knows where he'll find one.

  1. The most straightforward explanation is this: Petraeus honestly believes gays can serve openly without disrupting discipline or damaging morale. If this is true, he becomes the most persuasive and authoritative voice of that policy in American history... for nobody could deny the general's leadership, command ability, and real-world combat experience.

No one can say, "What does he know about unit cohesion and the intense bonding of combat?"

This is the explanation I personally favor, that Gen. Petraeus has concluded that fears about military catastrophe, arising from removing a barrier that I consider risible and indefensible, are overblown and exaggerated -- or unconsciously fabricated post-hoc to rationalize deep prejudice.

But there is a fourth possibility that I would be remiss to miss cataloging:

  1. Gen. Petraeus could be pushing this issue because he intends to run in 2012 for a promotion from Commander of CENTCOM to Commander in Chief.

He may believe he already has a solid base among conservatives, so he may be reaching out to social moderates. If Petraeus ran as an economic and military conservative -- while being less ideological on non-economic domestic issues such as gays serving in the military; outreach to immigrants who truly want to assimilate; support for basic abortion rights, though with more stringent restrictions on late-term and partial-birth abortion (even Ronald Reagan never seriously tried to make abortion illegal); embryonic and adult stem-cell research (perhaps with a prohibition on killing the embryos while extracting stem cells, see our 2006 post on the bioresearch breakthrough) -- I say he would vault immediately to the head of the class.

David Petraeus is the first general since Dwight Eisenhower to capture the fancy and imagination of the American people in a positive way. Gen. Colin Powell came close, but his war was over too soon for the public really to form an opinion. Petraeus' campaign against the One could flow from a single sentence: Petraeus led us to victory in Iraq after Sen. Obama announced we'd already lost.

The only tea leaf that points to his next address being 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is that he plans to deliver a major policy speech in New Hampshire on Wednesday, May 24th. Why New Hampshire? He currently serves at the Pentagon or in the field in U.S. Central Command, he was born and raised in upstate New York, he has no particular tie to New Hampshire. The Granite State is, however, the traditional kick-off point for presidential campaigns.

A candidate such as Gen. Petraeus is a monster-under-the-bed scenario for the Democrats. He is charismatic, articulate, clean; he has no closeted skeletons they can rattle, no ratty little scandals as city councilman or corrupt, small-town mayor; he has no paper trail of questionable compromises as representative or senator. Even a Chicago sleaze machine of epic chutzpah like Organizing for America needs something to work with; Petraeus can't even be attacked as a Mormon!

And imagine voter reaction if Obama tried to run against Petraeus by saying, "What has he ever accomplished? He's not even a politician!"

In fact, he's just as big of a headache to other Republican hopefuls. By contrast, the GOP field seems a tired retread (Mitt Romney), a callow and flighty poseur (Sarah Palin), a who-dat? unknown quantity (Tim Pawlenty), or a goofy kid brother on a 1990s sitcom ("Everybody Loves Bobby" Jindal).

In many ways, Petraeus is the anti-Obama:

  • He comes from a conservative section of New York State, Orange County, which just barely gave its vote to Obama in 2008 by 51% to 48%... when the state as a whole went for Obama by 62% to 37%. By contrast, Obama is from Honolulu, Hawaii, one of the most liberal cities in the United States.
  • He has a PhD from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs -- a quintessentially ivy-league university (and ultra-liberal school within that university); yet he has chosen to devote his life to commanding troops in combat -- very aggressive, bloody combat, furthering the national security of the United States. To a man like Barack Obama, this does not compute.
  • Petraeus has an intensely American view of life, duty, and the world; Obama has a more "cosmopolitan" or Euro-socialist viewpoint.
  • Petraeus is a decider who is always ready to act on his decisions and put his life on the line; Obama habitually avoids making decisions, preferring to be the philosopher king who stands above the fray and disdains personally to act: He leaves such vulgarities to his minions in the administration and his acolytes in Congress.
  • Petraeus spent his entire career in the Army; Obama has spent his entire professional life loathing the Army.

Electability aside, if Petraeus' political positions are in line with the mainstream of the GOP, I think he would make a much better president than any of the other likely GOP candidates. I would certainly trust his understanding of our current war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis better than any president since Ronald Reagan, who understood our war against the evil Soviet Empire.

The only slight flaw in this spiderweb of speculation is that Petraeus himself has repeatedly, emphatically, and betimes rather earthily rejected the idea of running for political office, and especially of running for the presidency. But perhaps he can be persuaded by an appeal to his sense of duty... particularly if he sees a continuing deterioration of America's national-security apparatus.

Here's hoping; beside Petraeus, the other potential GOP candidates seem drab and tedious, and I'm not at all sure any can defeat Obama in 2012 -- unless the president manages to defeat himself.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 19, 2010, at the time of 11:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 22, 2010

Portraying Petraeus

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Much as I would love to be able to cite Gen. David Petraeus as favoring the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and supporting gays serving openly in the military, I can't; Petraeus did not go that far. (Not yet, anyway.)

However, he did allow that no significant problems occurred when other countries, including Israel, jettisoned DADT:

General Petraeus, who said that allowing openly gay service members in Britain and Israel had in the end been “uneventful,” declined to give his own view on the merits of allowing openly gay members of the United States military. “I support what our secretary and our chairman have embarked on here,” he said, adding that he would offer his own opinion if he was asked in a hearing on Capitol Hill.

Note that one of the countries Petraeus has experience with --before and after repealing their version of DADT -- is Israel. This is a particularly strong analogy, as the major argument against considering the experiences of foreign lands has generally been that America is more religious than other countries. Opponets of repeal say that allowing gays to serve openly may work all right in atheistic, socialist countries in the European Union, which generally have only a joke of an army anyway; but the policy could never work in a religious country like the United States.

However, Israel has a much greater rate of religious observance than most European countries, though not as many as in America. By consequence, Israel is a significantly closer match for the religiosity of the United States.

The same Times article reports a survey of those other countries' experiences transitioning from a ban on gays or a program similar to DADT to a military that allows gays to serve openly:

A comprehensive new study on foreign militaries that have made transitions to allowing openly gay service members concludes that a speedy implementation of the change is not disruptive. The finding is in direct opposition to the stated views of Pentagon leaders, who say repealing a ban on openly gay men and women in the United States armed forces should take a year or more.

The study, “Gays in Foreign Militaries 2010: A Global Primer,” is to be released Tuesday by the Palm Center, a research group at the University of California, Santa Barbara....

The report concludes that in foreign militaries, openly gay service members did not undermine morale, cause large resignations or mass “comings out.” The report found that “there were no instances of increased harassment” as a result of lifting bans in any of the countries studied.

In addition, the report says that none of the countries studied installed separate facilities for gay troops, and that benefits for gay partners were generally in accordance with a country’s existing benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

On implementation, the study said that most countries made the change swiftly, within a matter of months and with what it termed little disruption to the armed services. Mr. Frank said the study did not look at what happened if the change was implemented gradually because, he said, “I don’t think any of the militaries tried it.”

I'm afraid that demanding gays be barred from military service, or else forever forced to conceal their sexual preference from their friends and associates, has become a "shibboleth," an ideological test to weed moderates out from the scrum of true believers. Among conservatives, that ideological position has slowly morphed into adamant: Today, I doubt that any amount of any kind of evidence would ever convince movement-conservatives to accept gays serving openly.

It's a sad era when capitalist, individualist keepers of the conservative flame are no more willing to listen to their political opponents than the climatologists and atmospheric scientists caught up in Climategate.

We will certainly follow up on David Petraeus' personal opinion, when (if!) he testifies before Congress.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 22, 2010, at the time of 6:33 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 8, 2010

Here's Exactly What We Don't Need

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

One issue where we differ with probably 90% of our readers is the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy for gays serving in military service. It was enunciated in 1993 by Bill Clinton, later endorsed by George W. Bush and John McCain, along with many conservatives. I suspect that for many conservatives, DADT is a compromise between kicking gays entirely out of the service, which they recognize as impossible (gays in the military don't wear neon signs), and open service, which they reject.

If you'll recall, number 12 in my list of conservative characteristics, "Belief in the legislating of virtue," included this example: "laws against 'sodomy' and other forms of unusual sex." I'm quite certain that most conservatives support the ban on gays serving openly in the military; but at least they try to make a utilitarian argument for it, which I have argued against many times on this blog.

But I hope we can all agree that what we don't need is exemplified by an e-mail I received from an advertiser on the Washington Times (not TWT itself), Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt; its subject line is about as deceptive as can be: Top Admiral Lies to Senate about Homosexuality.

Here is the beginning of Klingenschmitt's argument; I faithfully reproduce his emphasis, except that I use our normal blue highlight color, while he uses red:


Tuesday the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen deceived the Senate Armed Services Committee, repeating President Obama's demand to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) prohibition against open homosexual aggression within the ranks of the military. "We have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens," Admiral Mullen fibbed, revealing his personal belief that "allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do."

Sadly, the pro-homosexual Mullen has believed the lies of homosexual propaganda, and deceived himself, and now deceived Congress, all the while claiming he wants a more honest policy that discourages lying, when in fact Mullen actually demands homosexuals tell more lies to their military commanders when enlisting as open homosexuals. Here's a simple proof: Men who were created by God with male body parts are not women, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, women. Women who were created by God with female parts are not men, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, men.

Mullen's confused argument would permit men to deceptively act like women, and women to deceptively act like men, openly deceiving themselves, the world, and their military commanders, and boldface lying against God's very truth, that He created men to be men, and women to be women. But today's confusing homosexual propaganda equates "honesty" with men openly flaunting their femininity, and "truthfulness" with women openly flaunting masculinity. Who's really telling God's truth?

The Bible describes homosexual liars: "Who changed the truth of God into a lie...women did change the natural use into that which is against nature, and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error." (Romans 1). Thank God Senator John McCain (R-AZ) denounced the Admiral's deceptive plan as destructive to the military, but Senator McCain needs your help to fight this open perversion, and protect our troops from open homosexual aggression...[elipses in original]

Klingenschmitt continues at great length (very great length) in a similar vein, but it all boils down to the argument that we must prevent gays from serving openly in the military because they're evil sinners condemned by God (or at least by Paul, who seems to have a powerful lot of condemning in his epistles; were I his pen pal, I'd constantly be looking over my shoulder).

This is a dreadful approach, even for those who support DADT or wish for a stronger prohibition: It damages the conservative cause. I'll explain why:

Politics is the art of the possible.

If a man makes a series of demands on society that cannot possibly be met, due to prevailing social belief, he is not engaging in politics; he is an idealogue engaging in revolutionary agitprop. For example, if some Moslem group demands that Americans all convert to Islam and that we immediately institute sharia law, you cannot call that a political act; since it's not remotely possible we'll do so, and the speaker knows it, he's not serious about his demand. He expects it to be rejected or ignored.

He makes the demand for other reasons entirely, most likely to buttress his own standing among other radicals and revolutionaries, or even to encourage violent attack on civilians who didn't heed his warning. But whatever his motive, unless he's a complete dope, he's not trying to get elected or persuade legislators or regulators to enact his policy.

Anyone who is engaging in politics should steer well clear of such people; they are poison to a political campaign.

Most Americans rightly despise religious doctrine injected into politics

Note that I do not mean they reject moral principles in politics; I specifically mean political arguments taken directly from the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and so forth.

We worry, based upon bitter history, that when political factions demand we should vote for them because God is on their side -- then every political dispute has the potential to erupt into religious civil war.

The only political curse worse than factionalism is religion-based factionalism.

We are a nation of natural tolerators, not of haters.

Americans have a tremendous capacity to tolerate alternative and deviant views, far more so than the citizens of any other country, despite the fact that we're the most religious people in Western civilization. Is this a contradiction? Not at all -- because one of our most sacred community beliefs is the sanctity of the individual.

Americans have an underlying default in favor of minding our own business. The contradictory impulses towards controlling one's neighbors sit as an uneasy overlay atop this default, and they require constant rationalization to justify them to ourselves.

Thus any political screed that even appears to arise from the realm of hatred will be scorned, and anyone even seemingly associated with it will be shunned.

(I highlighted the most important words in the paragraph directly above.)

The Klingenschmitt argument against DADT fails all three tests.

Klingenschmittism embodies three fatal errors:

  1. It demands the impossible.

The same Bible that condemns homosexuality also condemns many other behaviors that Americans will never make illegal -- such as any sex outside of marriage, or even masturbation. Not even the military bans that; the UCMJ bans adultery but not sex between, say, a sailor and his girlfriend. (In theory, the ban on "sodomy" includes a ban on oral sex, even between husband and wife; when is the last time that was enforced, even in the Marines?)

If one accepts the Klingenschmitt argument, then its natural extension requires wholesale changes in the military that will never, ever happen. Thus the argument that the military should ban whatever "God" condemns -- or whatever one of His representatives on Earth claims He condemns -- is not political, it's revolutionary; America is not a theocracy. Even worse is the real argument, which is that the military should hide whatever God condemns.

  1. It injects religious doctrine directly into politics.

There are many sects of Christianity that do not believe that homosexuals should be excluded from life and society, or even the military, even if the sect agrees that homosexual activity is sin. There's that strain of "hate the sin, love the sinner" that permeates much of the Christian religion.

Other sects don't even buy the "sin" part. And of course, there are other religions and non-religious people.

But even those who agree with Klingenschmitt that gays shouldn't be in the military might still object even more strongly to making law on the basis of a particular religious doctrine. They rightly understand that "The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north": The sect in power today might not be in power tomorrow, and schismaticism is a pernicious precedent that may come back to bite them.

  1. His argument appears to arise directly from hatred of gays.

Klingenschmittism strikes me as full of hate, not only of homosexuality but of homosexuals as people; note, for one point, that he continually refers to the opposite of DADT -- that would be gays serving openly -- as "open homosexual aggression within the ranks of the military," as if a gay man mentioning his boyfriend is an act of aggression tantamount to sexual assault. (Frankly, Chaplain Klingenschmitt sounds as squirrely to me as Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.)

But he won't be the only one to suffer the backlash; to the extent he can convince Americans that his is the conservative position -- not just the policy but the way he argues for it -- he will damage conservativsm far beyond this one policy. Even though I oppose the conservative position in this case, I still agree with conservatives far more often than with liberals; and I would hate to see voters turn against the party of somewhat more limited government, somewhat more robust national defense, a somewhat higher respect for the free market, and a great deal more respect for small business, property rights, lower taxes, gun rights, and individualism.

There are better arguments against repealing DADT, even if I don't buy them.

I fully support the repeal of DADT; I believe gays should serve openly in the military. But I do so primarily because I believe it would make our military stronger, not weaker. (My arguments are detailed elsewhere, recently in Martial Arts and Marital Darts.)

Conservatives should extend the same courtesy, restricting their arguments to the secular and utilitarian, rather than the religious and insulting; on the former plane, debate is at least possible. But the argument that gays should remain in the closet because 'God said so' is designed to shut down debate, not promote it. It's practically an invitation to a bar brawl, equivalent to "This town ain't big enough for the two of us!"

Hard-core conservatives would lose that brawl; moderates of both parties would join with liberals, libertarians, and even some conservatives to swamp the religion-based conservatives... to the detriment of the rest of the conservative agenda, which is far better for America than Obamunism.

As long as this is going to turn into a big magilla in November's election, which I'm sure it will, let's please keep the argument on grounds that will not discredit vital conservativism. To quote some recent interlocutor -- can't quite remember the feller's name -- "we can disagree without being disagreeable."

And Republicans desperately need to remain agreeable, optimistic, and inclusive heading into the most important congressional election since 1994. The infectious optimism of Ronald Reagan, "the great communicator," is as important for winning votes today as it was in 1966, when he won election as Governor of California, and in 1980, when he won the presidency.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 8, 2010, at the time of 6:21 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

November 12, 2009

"I Reject Your Reality..."

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

"...And substitute my own!"

So reads a t-shirt often worn by Adam Savage, one of the two original starts of the Discovery Channel's series Mythbusters, which I have slavishly watched since the very first episode (I think that was the episode where they busted the myth of the rocket-propelled car launching into the air).

The tee commemorates a pithy summary Adam Savage delivered on the show, I can even remember whether he meant it optimistically or sarcastically: "I reject your reality and substitute my own!" I remember Adam saying that, but I can't recall now what precipitated the remark. But after today, I suggest he send his wonderful t-shirt to another fellow who now has a greater claim to it: President Barack H. Obama.

Take a look and tell me I'm exaggerating:

President Barack Obama rejected the Afghanistan war options before him and asked for revisions, his defense secretary said Thursday, after the U.S. ambassador in Kabul argued that a significant U.S. troop increase would only prop up a weak, corruption-tainted government.

"I'm not happy with the options reality has offered me; I demand you produce new fantasy options more to my liking!"

Let's take an Eikenberry detour. Yes indeed, he was once a military commander in Afghanistan; but he's not the commander now, and he hasn't been for well over two years -- during which time the situation has changed dramatically. Note that he also left before Gen. David Petraeus achieved such a thorough and remarkable victory in Iraq using a very similar strategy.

In 2007, as the Iraq COIN was picking up, Eikenberry was named Deputy Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, and NATO was not officially involved in the Iraq War (as they are in Afghanistan). Thus I see no evidence that Eikenberry has spent any significant time studying the Iraq COIN -- or even talking to David Petraeus, who, as Commander of CENTCOM, is now McChrystal's boss.

Nor was Ambassador Eikenberry a COIN specialist when he wore a uniform instead of a suit. So why should his advice trump McChrystal's in the Obamacle's mind? (Except for the obvious explanation: Because what Eikenberry says, by happenstance or design, precisely matches what Obama wants to hear.)

Eikenberry's argument for why we should abandon Afghanistan is not exactly subtle; I think it boils down to the peculiar idea that the purpose of a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy is to "prop-up" the existing government, whatever it may be; therefore, since we don't like the fellow that Afghan voters elected, Hamid Karzai, we shouldn't prop it up by implementing a COIN strategy. Instead, we should focus on "training" the indiginous Afghan troops.

Most others experts on the subject I've read -- I'm certainly not an expert, so I must rely on others, such as Fred Kagen or David Petraeus -- seem to believe the purpose of COIN is to improve civilian security throughout the country, thus to enlist civilian support for the war effort against the insurgents and deny the latter the chaos and collapse they need to seize the government.

It needn't incorporate any support for the specific civilian government at all, just for the concept of democratic voting. All we need from Karzai is that he not interfere with Afghan troops' participation in COIN-related joint patrols and operations... which is, incidentally, exactly how we go about training the local forces, both military and tribal militia, in the first place. No joint ops -- no training.

Here is the Eikenberry thesis on display:

Obama's ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, who is also a former commander in Afghanistan, twice in the last week voiced strong dissent against sending large numbers of new forces, according to an administration official. That puts him at odds with the current war commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is seeking thousands more troops.

Eikenberry's misgivings, expressed in classified cables to Washington, highlight administration concerns that bolstering the American presence in Afghanistan could make the country more reliant on the U.S., not less. He expressed his objections just ahead of Obama's latest war meeting Wednesday.

But there is an even more disturbing possibility: If AP is accurately recounting Eikenberry's objections (and I don't know that to be the case), then he, too, believes that Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendations consist of nothing but "send 40,000 more troops" -- rather than "implement a COIN strategy, then decide how many troops we need." (McChrystal adds, "Psst... it turns out to be about 40,000 more than we have right now"). This would put the former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the same conceptual box as the elite news media.

It's hard to swallow the contention that a former lieutenant general (that's a 3-banger) in the United States Army would be blissfully unaware of what counterinsurgency strategy is, and how it differs from a counter-terrorism strategy... where we "fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt". I hope that's not the problem. But if not, then what makes Eikenberry think he's more fit to opine on Afghanistan than the general that Barack Obama himself hand-picked to do just that? (And who is, as I understand it, an expert on COIN strategy.)

(There is a third, even more disturbing possibility: That Eikenberry knows very well that McChrystal is right, that a COIN strategy is the only one that leads to victory; but the ambassador believes that victory is the last thing Obama wants. In that case, Eikenberry may be quietly conspiring to lose the war, either to give Obama's leftist supporters the terrible American defeat they demand, or to deny President Bush the victory he earned. Or both. I certainly hope this is not what's going through Eikenberry's mind!)

But back to the One, who is ultimately calling the shots here. His philosophy of "I reject your reality and substitute my own" is, in fact, the standard modus vivendi of liberalism. As in:

  • "I reject the reality that one must work hard, or at least smart, to live well; I substitute the reality where I can sit around and smoke pot all day but still receive a national income (big enough to pay for my dope)."
  • "I reject the reality that says the best remedy for bad speech is more good speech; I substitute the reality where we can simply outlaw or ban bad speech, and then all that will be left is good speech."
  • "I reject the reality that increasing health-insurance demand (via mandate) while decreasing supply (by driving companies out of business) will result in much more expensive insurance; I substitute the reality where a complete government takeover will lower costs, improve care, and expand the pool of those covered."
  • "I reject the reality that we need cheap energy; I substitute the reality where we can tax the hell out of it, raise energy costs through the roof (as Obama himself gleefully predicted), declare more and more energy sources off-limits, and therefore make America stronger and more prosperous."
  • "I reject the reality that doubling taxation of the average Joe will leave him with less money to spend; I substitute the reality where doubling taxation results in an explosion of new economic growth, causing the economy to take off like a rocket."
  • "I reject the reality that Israel needs the ability to defend itself, or it will be destroyed; I substitute the reality where, if Israel will only give the Palestinians everything they want, while demanding nothing in return, the latter will be so grateful they will become fast friends with the Jewish state." (Alternatively: "I reject the reality that Jews should be allowed to have a state; I substitute the reality where Jews are so uniquely evil that they are the only "race" who should be barely-tolerated strangers wherever they live.")

To the liberal, reality is infinitely malleable: If you don't like it, just hold your breath, close your eyes, strain really hard, and intensely visualize the new reality. When you open your eyes and gasp in a lungful, the new reality will miraculously have been subbed in!

This seems to work in some environments but not others. It works great in Hollywood; and it works reasonably well in two-party politics -- averaging out to being successful about half the time. However, it doesn't seem to work much at all in warfare, where the default reality has a depressing way of contradicting the happy-facers, rudely and abruptly.

Alas, even that catastrophe could play into the hand of Barack Obama and his incompetocracy; after bargaining down the number of troops we need -- and implementing Slow Joe Biden's counter-terrorism strategy, rather than a COIN strategy -- we might be handed a signal, Vietnam-style defeat. Then B.O. could declare:

  1. "Clearly this means the war was unwinnable from the beginning, and my predecessor should never have invaded Afghanistan in the first place."
  2. "I gave the policy of the previous administration every opportunity; I even sent more troops -- not once, but twice! It's time to admit that the whole adventure was a terrible miscalculation, pull out, accept that defeat was inevitable, and MoveOn."
  3. "Now the whole country understands why I have embarked upon a new era of Strategic Reassurance, talking to our enemies without preconditions, instead of the "cowboy militarism" of the Republican Party.

    "We're going to redouble our efforts to talk Iran and North Korea into doing what's best for America, rather than what's best for themselves. I know we've tried it again and again, and it's never worked yet; but by the Law of Averages, that means we're due to hit the jackpot really soon now!"

In the long run, I don't think a strategy of denying reality is a military winner; and a long-run strategy of hoping for American defeat will not be a political winner in 2010 or 2012. But as John Maynard Keynes is reputed to have said, "In the long run, we're all dead."

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 12, 2009, at the time of 5:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 10, 2009


Military Machinations , Presidential Peculiarities and Pomposities
Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, rumor swept the dextrosphere that President Barack H. Obama was prepared to accept the recommendation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal; the president, quoth the Great Mentioner, would send 40,000 troops to Afghanistan.

And who could doubt the gossip? After all, it came from CBS, bastion of unbiased and utterly credible journalism at the highest standards of integrity. Blogs cheered; Democrats were dismayed. Hugh Hewitt was overjoyed, saying he would cheer the president when he did so.

Thus spake the net that Uncle Walt and Auntie Dan built:

Tonight, after months of conferences with top advisors, President Obama has settled on a new strategy for Afghanistan. CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that the president will send a lot more troops and plans to keep a large force there, long term.

The president still has more meetings scheduled on Afghanistan, but informed sources tell CBS News he intends to give Gen. Stanley McChrystal most, if not all, the additional troops he is asking for.

McChrystal wanted 40,000 and the president has tentatively decided to send four combat brigades plus thousands more support troops. A senior officer says "that's close to what [McChrystal] asked for." All the president's military advisers have recommended sending more troops.

All right, so the rumor was true... the rumor that CBS had reported such a story, that is. As to the accuracy of the story itself, don't hold your breath. By the time I read it, it was already prefaced with the following disclaimer, direct from la Casa Blanca, italics and all:

"Reports that President Obama has made a decision about Afghanistan are absolutely false. He has not received final options for his consideration, he has not reviewed those options with his national security team, and he has not made any decisions about resources. Any reports to the contrary are completely untrue and come from uninformed sources."

But the swift denial from the Obamacle -- "Nonsense, I'm not through dithering yet!" -- was superfluous, just gilding the cake. Even before the administration rejected the foul contention that the Commander in Chief had actually made up his mind, the story was already meaningless blather -- because what McChrystal really needs is not a few extra troops but a whole new counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy... and the CBS story said nary a word about that question.

Nothing in the article so much as suggested that Obama had approved the general's request to implement a COIN strategy; without it, all the extra troops in the world wouldn't bring us an inch closer to victory. The new brigades would just create a target-rich environment for Taliban ambushes and al-Qaeda suicide attacks.

Let's look back to 2007; what won the Iraq war? Not merely deploying five more brigades of infantry and retaining 4,000 Marines who were to have been rotated out; what finally broke the insurgency was a change of strategy: protecting the civilian population, going on joint patrols with Iraqi militias, embedding American military personnel within Iraqi units, loosening the rules of engagement, encouraging the "salvation councils" that acted as a national front against the terrorists, and all the other elements of classical COIN.

After designing the strategy, Gen. David Petraeus calculated the total number of troops he would need, and that came to about 25,000 more than he had: Hence the so-called "surge" of troops.

But all that the leftstream media ever comprehended was "Bush is sending more soldiers" (or alternatively, "Bush is escalating the war, just like in Vietnam!") Thus, the press and the Democrats, to the extent they're not conterminous, began to use the term "surge," implying that the sole change involved was a few more warm bodies. This led to any number of liberals hooting that you can't win just by lobbing more soldiers at it.

Today, the same error infests the coverage of the McChrystal report: Newspapers and TV networks report that McChrystal has requested 40,000 more men, as if that were the sum total of military planning.

It may well turn out to be true that Barack Obama decides to send nearly that many to Afghanistan. But unless he likewise shifts decisively to a counterinsurgency strategy -- which is what Gen. McChrystal concluded was the only viable option -- those 40,000 men will do absolutely nothing to arrest the deterioration of our position in that country, or to lead us to victory against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.

I'm skeptical that the One understands this point. I fear he thinks the only choices he has to make are whether to send more men, and if so, how many. Such misunderstanding leaves us in grave danger. If Obama thinks it's just a numbers game, the temptation to "split the difference" could become overwhelming: McChrystal wants 40,000, the leftist base wants none -- so let's split the difference and send 20,000! That's a fair compromise, no?

No; it's a prescription for disaster. Difference splitting may work fine in labor disputes and buying mutual funds, but half measures are a highway to defeat in warfare. We must pick one grand strategy, implement it, and stick to it until it has a chance to work. And according to our man in Kabul, the only strategy that leads to winning the war is COIN.

Alas, whether Obama gets that point is itself a coin-flip.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 10, 2009, at the time of 4:08 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 8, 2009

A Tale of Two Mentalities

Dhimmi of the Month , Domestic Terrorism , Islamarama , Liberal Lunacy , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

There are so many categories for this post because it touches on so many hot-button issues; but I picked "Dhimmi of the Month" as the primary category. We never did get the polling software off the ground, so you can't vote on it... but I'll still use the category when appropriate.

Sadly, today it's appropriate.

The Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Gen. George Casey, has just uncovered the greatest threat exposed by the Fort Hood massacre, presumably committed by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Is it radical jihadism? A future Islamic terrorist attack in the United States? The use of political correctness as a human shield for potential murderers? The inability of the Army to notice that one of its members swam in currents of hate so strong, they seared his soul (as Winston Churchill put it)?

No. Gen. Casey has identified the real danger: a potential anti-Moslem backlash!

General George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, said on Sunday that he was concerned that speculation about the religious beliefs of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing 12 fellow soldiers and one civilian and wounding dozens of others in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, could “cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.”

“I’ve asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that,” General Casey said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union. “It would be a shame -- as great a tragedy as this was -- it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”

General Casey, who was appeared on three Sunday news programs, used almost the same language during an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” an indication of the Army’s effort to ward off bias against the more than 3,000 Muslims in its ranks.

“A diverse Army gives us strength,” General Casey, who visited Fort Hood Friday, said on “This Week....”

“The speculation could heighten the backlash,” he said on “This Week.” “What happened at Fort Hood is a tragedy and I believe it would be a greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty here.”

Losing our "diversity" would be "a greater tragedy" than the Fort Hood massacre itself? Does any rational human being actually believe this? And does any military historian believe that "a [religiously] diverse Army gives us strength?" I think it clear from context that Casey is claiming that having a tiny handful of Moslem soldiers -- 3,000 out of nearly 1.1 million soldiers -- somehow makes the Army "stronger."

This is ludicrous. I'm positive having Moslems in our ranks doesn't make us any weaker, but neither does it make us stronger, except marginally: If we banned all Moslems from the ranks, we might have to accept a lesser qualified Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist soldier instead of a more qualified Moslem. But the diminishment would be slight at best.

What really makes us stronger is:

  • The independence and initiative of our soldiers, especially officers and non-coms;
  • Our rigorous and realistic training (with live ammunition);
  • Our general population's familiarity with firearms through civilian gun ownership;
  • Our technologically advanced weaponry and other warfighting systems;
  • And most of all, our ideology of liberty, which gives our servicemen reasons to fight more powerful than "because I told you to."

Casey's remark is yet another example of transforming the criminal into the victim; it's political correctness run wild. And if George Casey cannot understand why Hasan's religion -- which appears by all reports to be a violent, extremist, jihadist sect of Islam -- could be the primary motive behind the otherwise senseless spree killings, then Gen. Casey should be removed as Chief of Staff. Immediately.

It's as stunning as if Eisenhower had said in 1942 that we should not "speculate" on the possible role National Socialism might play in the military aggression of the Axis, lest we create a "backlash" against soldiers with names like, well, Eisenhower. For heaven's sake, the ideology of National Socialism was the primary cause of World War II... just as the ideology of violent Islamic jihadism is the primary cause of global Islamic terrorism.

Or doesn't George Casey believe that? Of course, Casey also didnt' believe in the "surge;" he thought it would inevitably fail, leading to American defeat in Iraq. Fortunately for us (and the Iraqis), he was kicked upstairs, and Gen. David Petraeus took his place as Commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq.

I find it curious that Gen. Casey is so worried about a potential "backlash" against other, non-radical Moslems -- when has this ever happened, by the way? -- but he seems utterly unconcerned about the possibility of another massacre at another military installation by another radical [REDACTED]. I guess each of us must prioritize his own concerns.

Does Casey's response make him a "dhimmi," by which we popularly mean a non-Moslem who bends over backwards to explain away or excuse the excesses of radical jihadism? Yes, I argue it does... because Casey tries to deflect blame from the horrific ideology of jihad: "Nothing to see here, folks; let's just MoveOn!" We know that the jihadist mindset directly causes Islamic terrorism; this appears to be terrorism, perpetrated by a Moslem who increasingly appears to have been radicalized. But we can't "speculate" on this seemingly urgent question for fear of that putative "backlash."

Casey's delusional political correctness was echoed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 82%), naturally enough:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, and Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island, took also pains on Sunday to say that Muslims have served honorably in the military and at risk to their lives.

“At the end of the day this is not about his religion -- the fact that this man was a Muslim,” Senator Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

I wonder if Graham thinks that Osama bin Laden's hatred of the West and of Jews has anything to do with his religion; I'm afraid to ask.

In order to conclude that Hasan's religion had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack, one really must ignore an awful lot of evidence. For example (of both the evidence and how it can be brushed aside):

The San Antonio Express-News has reported that classmates in a graduate military medical program heard Major Hasan justify suicide bombings and make radical and anti-American statements. But investigators have said that Major Hasan might have suffered from emotional problems that were aggravated by the strain of working with veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and by the knowledge that he might soon be deployed to those theaters as well.

I think I would go along with the general premise that every radical Islamic jihadist "suffers from emotional problems;" but I understand the defense:

Only a lad
You really can't blame him
Only a lad
Society made him
Only a lad
He's our responsibility
Only a lad
He really couldn't help it
Only a lad
He didn't want to do it
Only a lad
He's underprivileged and abused
Perhaps a little bit confused

I note, however, that "understanding" is not the same as "exonerating."

Before we swing to the second "mentality," let's encapsulate the Casey mentality here:

On the base Sunday morning, mourners were asked [by the garrison chaplain] to pray for Major Hasan and his family, The Associated Press reported.

Yeah. That and not blaming the perpetrator are the most urgent tasks before us right now.

There is, however, another way to respond to the Fort Hood "tragedy" (man-caused disaster?); it was exemplified today by the man who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite senators:

A key U.S. senator called Sunday for an investigation into whether the Army missed signs that the man accused of opening fire at Fort Hood had embraced an increasingly extremist view of Islamic ideology.

Sen. Joe Lieberman's call came as word surfaced that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan apparently attended the same Virginia mosque as two Sept. 11 hijackers in 2001, at a time when a radical imam preached there.

God forbid we should "speculate" about how Hasam's religion might have slightly influenced his murderous actions. "This is not -- the radical imam -- I knew...!"

Classmates participating in a 2007-2008 master's program at a military college complained repeatedly to superiors about what they considered Hasan's anti-American views. Dr. Val Finnell said Hasan gave a presentation at the Uniformed Services University that justified suicide bombing and even told classmates that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.

Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wants Congress to determine whether the shootings constitute a terrorist attack.

"If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance," Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on "Fox News Sunday." "He should have been gone."

Couldn't we arrange for Gen. George Casey to be gone? He could be kicked upstairs again, this time to junior assistant deputy shavetail to the RINO Secretary of the Army, John McHugh. Then we could replace Casey with a new Chief of Staff, one with a mentality more like Joe Lieberman than George Casey.

Alas, that wouldn't work: The new Chief would have to be nominated by Barack H. Obama... and the One would probably name John Murtha!

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2009, at the time of 6:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 9, 2009

Obamic Options 002: The Limits of Tolerance of Pinkos

Military Machinations , Obamic Options
Hatched by Dafydd

Five months ago, in the heady days of Barack H. Obama's spring fling, I noted that he (along with most other liberals) was far more interested in destroying traditional marriage, by foisting same-sex marriage (SSM) on Americans, than he was in extending actual liberty to U.S. servicemen who happen to be gay.

That is, while Obama is wild to enact SSM nationwide, if he can ever figure out how to do it, he nods off when anyone starts talking about repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (DADT) of President Bill Clinton and actually doing what Clinton and Obama both only talked about -- letting gays serve openly in the military, instead of serving in secret.

Five months later, we have this dramatic and unexpected statement from National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones:

President Obama will focus "at the right time" on how to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military, his national security adviser said Sunday.

"I don't think it's going to be -- it's not years, but I think it will be teed up appropriately," James L. Jones said.

Like every policy that "earned" Obama his Nobel Peace Prize, this one is a great big ol' fifty-gallon hat, but neither hide nor hoof of any cattle. He talks a really good fight; he's still promising that he'll deliver on this one, any day now:

The Democrat-led Congress is considering repealing the 1993 law. Action isn't expected on the issue until early next year.

Right. Congress is going to take up gays in the military -- in an election year.

Later, Jones clarified the timetable with great precision:

Mr. Jones, appearing on CNN's "State of the Union," said Mr. Obama "has an awful lot on his desk. I know this is an issue that he intends to take on at the appropriate time. And he has already signaled that to the Defense Department. The Defense Department is doing the things it has to do to prepare, but at the right time, I'm sure the president will take it on."

The great thing is that this statement can never be a lie; in fact, it can never even be wrong! If Obama isn't "taking on" DADT, then clearly it's not the "appropriate time." What could be simpler?

So... any bets on whether Barack Obama will have moved to repeal DADT -- by time his 2012 reelection campaign gets underway?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 9, 2009, at the time of 7:38 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 30, 2009

Withdrawing from Afghanistan, Plus Future Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

Afghan Astonishments , Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation , Pakistan Perplexities , Terrorism Intelligence , Terrorist Attacks , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I just heard Bill Kristol on the Hugh Hewitt show dropping a couple of political bombshells:

  1. First, Kristol now believes for the first time that President Barack H. Obama is paving the groundwork for rejecting Gen. Stanley McChrystal's recommendation of a COIN strategy for Afghanistan, including increasing troop levels.

Note that it was the Obamacle Himself who appointed McChrystal to head up his present commands, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A), just three months ago; and he it was who ordered McChrystal to undertake a complete review of the Afghanistan policy.

I suspect Obama expected McChrystal to recommend declaring defeat and pulling out. But in response to Obama's order, McChrystal released a 66-page report to continuing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that called for significantly increasing troop levels there and redeploying the force in a counterinsurgency mode, similar to Iraq.

Ever since, as several bloggers have argued (notably John Hinderaker at Power Line), Obama has acted like a man who deeply regrets having picked an actual fighting general in the first place -- and who wants to prepare the American people for the complete rejection of his own appointee's report, in favor of a phased withdrawal from "the war we should be fighting," as some guy named Barack Obama called it during the campaign (in contrast to Iraq, the war we were supposed to lose, one presumes).

  1. Second, and far more shocking, is some political intel that Kristol received from a person who is in "cose contact" with top Defense officials: That holdover George W. Bush Defense Secretary Bob Gates will be asked by Obama to step down at the end of the year... and that Obama plans to name former senator Chuck Hagel, who never met a war he didn't want us to withdraw from, as his new Secretary of Retreat and Defeat.

Hagel was an infantry grunt in Vietnam for two years, leaving shortly after the Tet Offensive; that experience seems to have colored his attitude towards all subsequent conflicts: He sometimes votes for them (as for example the Iraq war); but as soon as the going gets tough, Hagel demands an immediate and aggressive surrender.

  • He was one of only four Republicans in July 2007 who voted in favor of cloture on a bill to force withdrawal from Iraq starting 120 days from that vote; the other three were Olympia Snowe (ME, 12%), Susan Collins (ME, 20%), and Gordon Smith of Oregon, liberals all.
  • In railing against the Iraq COIN strategy of Gen. David Petraeus, Hagel called it "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." (I don't recall Hagel ever issuing an apology, or even a statement, after the Petraeus strategy proved decisive in our victory in Iraq.)
  • Speaking about Israeli's incursion into Lebanon to stop Hezbollah's rocket attacks on their northern cities, Hagel blurted out:

    "The sickening slaughter on both sides must end and it must end now.... President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop."...

    "How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend -- the country and people of Lebanon -- is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?" asked Hagel, the No. 2 Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Yes, the perfect man to defend America -- Barack Obama style. I can just picture the furious and manly letters of strong disapproval Hagel will shoot off whenever some dictator funds and gives safe haven to a terrorist group while they blow up another American embassy.

Currently, Chuck Hagel is Chairman of the Board of the Atlantic Council, a foreign-policy think tank cum policy advocacy group that appears to lean heavily towards diplomacy above everything -- talking loudly and forgetting to bring any stick at all, big or small. (E.g., its International Advisory Board is headed by Brent Scowcroft and includes Zbigniew Brzezinski, Richard Edelman, Lawrence H. Summers, and a huge inflation of bankers and CEOs of vast multinational corporations.)

Hagel replaced outgoing Chairman Jim Jones, who was tapped to serve as Obama's National Security Advisor; Jones was last seen offering what we called "the weirdest explanation to date for cancelling the long-range ballistic-missile defense system in Eastern Europe -- while simultaneously betraying our allies, Poland and the Czech Republic."

Since the Jim Jones appointment as security sock puppet worked out so well for Obama, it certainly seems plausible that he would go back to the same well to draw out a bucketful of Defense Secretary. Admittedly, Kristol just lost his father, Irving Kristol; but it was hardly the sort of shocking or unanticipated demise that might throw William Kristol into a blue funk and darken his normal optimism.

The threatened appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense would be catastrophic for the war efforts, all of them: Iraq, Afghanistan, the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, intelligence gathering, interrogations, dealing with Pakistan, North Korea, China, Russia... and of course, Hagel would be a disaster for Israel, as he would almost certainly back Obama to the hilt in the latter's quest to force Israel back to the indefensible borders of the pre-Six Day War era. (In exchange for the Palestinian's promise that they might seriously consider deciding whether or not to recognize Israel sometime in the distant and not very likely future.)

Appointing Hagel would seriously diminish our ability to protect our allies or even defend ourselves, and in general would signal the end of American power and leadership in the world, at least for a while (say until 2013). Therefore, I conclude that Obama is already plotting to make the appointment.

I must also conclude that the Senate will swiftly approve the nominee; Hagel was once one of them... therefore, "comity of the Senate" and all that, Republicans will probably support him, though he rarely supported them while in that august body.

And there you have it, your recommended minimum daily allowance of political pessimism and national-defense despair.

Cross-posted (of course) to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 30, 2009, at the time of 5:39 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 22, 2009

Withdraw for Peace!

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted
Hatched by Dafydd

I've been pondering the new Obamic strategy for Iraq: Withdraw from joint patrols to a Fortress of Solitude, withdraw from the successful counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) of Gen. David Petraeus, and announce to the entire world exactly when we are going to withdraw from Iraq altogether. How has that worked out so far?

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday alleged there had been collaboration between Iraqi security forces and the insurgents whose massive truck bombings killed 95 people three days ago.

Zebari, whose ministry lost 32 workers in the blast at its headquarters, admitted the attacks were a serious security setback and that the government had failed to protect its citizens.

Wednesday's bombings at the ministeries of foreign affairs and finance culminated in the worst day of violence seen in the conflict-hit country in 18 months, with around 600 people also wounded.

It's not that the entire war is falling apart, mind; it's just a small setback -- set back to about 2006, that is, the nadir of the failed "containment" strategy, in which we cached American forces in moated castles, whence they would sally forth to engage any passing enemy army.

The hallmark of COIN was the remarkable cooperation we got from Shia, Sunni, and Kurd, once we made it clear that we were willing to patrol, fight, and if necessary, die alongside Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people. It was that commitment to civilian security that finally turned the tide, snatching victory in 2007-8 from the jaws of a 2006 defeat.

But our new Commander in Chief has other ideas; we no longer patrol with Iraqi forces, fight alongside them, or concern ourselves much with protecting the civilian population. Evidently, Barack H. Obama believes that the two years we've been building up the Iraqi military and civilian infrastructure should be plenty. "Enough!" as he is fond of saying in many contexts. It's been such an incredibly long time that surely our Iraqi partners can stand on their own hands by now.

Let's see... we spent fourteen years (1899-1913) in the Philippine jungles, building up indiginous forces (Philippine Scouts) and inculcating Filipinos with radical ideas such as the rule of law and the evil of involuntary slavery, before we could finally put down the Moro (Moslem) Rebellion and set up a functioning civilian republic. That country is still functioning today, with a vibrant economy (after a recession in the 1980s caused by their brief flirtation with socialism under Ferdinand Marcos), and still strongly allied with the United States. This is the model of a successful counterinsurgency followed by successful nation-building.

By contrast, France under Charles De Gaulle -- whipsawed by the socialists abroad and the French Communist Party at home -- pulled their troops out of Algeria prematurely, only three years after the French COIN strategy finally suppressed the Front de Libération Nationale; thus they never gave the 60% majority of Algerians who opposed complete "independence" from France their opportunity to erect civic institutions and security forces to protect and defend the liberties of a free people. And today, the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria is a socialist totalitarian regime with much closer ties to the Middle East than the West.

President Barack H. Obama carefully pondered these historical examples, analyzed them with his unequaled military acumen... then decided to follow the French example. (Of course!) Ergo, today in Iraq...

Zebari said Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had ordered the arrest of 11 senior security officers on Thursday so they could be questioned on how a four-tonne truck had entered an area where even two-tonne vehicles were barred.

He also made the first official admission that the blasts signalled that security gains made in the past year were under serious strain following a series of deadly attacks in recent months.

"They have been moving their attacks... now they have focused on their main concern, their main attention, on Baghdad and this is a dangerous and a serious development and a security setback," said Zebari.

"This has been going on for the last two months. Every week, every two weeks we see a wave of these bombings and killings of innocent people."

I picture Petraeus tearing his hair out in frustration, watching all the gains of COIN poured out onto the Iraqi sands. Our allies are starting to sound desperate, even plaintive:

But Zebari went further and called for a re-appraisal of the country's entire security apparatus as it was not, he said, obtaining sufficient intelligence to counter the enemy threat....

"Sometimes you can't fight these people with checkpoints. You should be mobile. You should go after them you, disrupt and penetrate their network to get human information. This is the key," he added.

Sadly, however, the real "key" would be a change of leadership here in the United States. That is beyond the grasp of Nouri al-Maliki, Hoshyar Zebari, or any other Iraqi; and the Iranian-backed terrorists in Iraq know they have at least three more years to slaughter and butcher before they must worry about that possibility.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 22, 2009, at the time of 10:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2009

Mother, May I?

Military Machinations , Missile Muscle , Obama Nation
Hatched by Dafydd

Yesterday, we learned that President Barack H. Obama will not "forcibly inspect" the North Korean ship that we suspect is carrying nuclear technology to Burma, which some people call Myanmar:

An American destroyer has been shadowing the North Korean freighter sailing off China's coast, possibly on its way to Myanmar.

Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy met with South Korean officials in Seoul on Friday as the U.S. sought international support for aggressively enforcing a U.N. sanctions resolution aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its second nuclear test last month. The North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam 1, is the first to be tracked under the U.N. resolution.

Naturally, North Korea calls the allegation that they are trying to build a nuclear arsenal a slanderous lie. In completely unrelated news, they have threatened to launch a nuclear strike against the United States if we attempt to board the ship without the permission of North Korea's hereditary king, Kim Jong-Il:

North Korea has in response escalated threats of war, with a slew of harsh rhetoric including warnings that it would unleash a "fire shower of nuclear retaliation" and "wipe out the [U.S.] aggressors" in the event of a conflict.

Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy explains why we can only inspect the ship if the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, suspected of smuggling nuclear materials, gives us permission to board the ship and search for smuggled nuclear materials:

"The U.N. resolution lays out a regime that has a very clear set of steps," Ms. Flournoy said, according to the Yonhap news agency. "I want to be very clear. ... This is not a resolution that sponsors, that authorizes use of force for interdiction." [Well that's certainly useful!]

Ms. Flournoy said the U.S. still has "incentives and disincentives that will get North Korea to change course."

Aha. That certainly closes that case. Barring using any of our vastly superior military muscle, we can still, she notes, use "incentives," such as bribery, and "disincentives": very strong language, followed by very strong language; and if necessary, downright caustic and scornful language -- with perhaps a finger-wag, if the Secretary of State gets involved (her spouse can explain to her the ins and outs of one-digit diplomacy).

Rough language -- fierce -- imperious! I often find that the Obama administration reminds me of one of my favorite poets:

Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.

I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he sneezes;
For he can thoroughly enjoy
The pepper when he pleases!

So now we know that we can only interdict Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty scoffers -- the DPRK is not actually a signatory, so technically it cannot be a "violator" -- if they graciously allow us to do. Thus I think I more clearly understand the Obamic stance on the upcoming missile launch by North Korea against Hawaii: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is absolutely correct that we can shoot that missile down... but we only may blow it out of the sky if we first ask permission of King Jong-Il.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 28, 2009, at the time of 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2009

Straight Eye for the Queer Guy

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

An American officer in Iraq offers a plan -- "under protest!" -- for mitigating problems of gays serving openly in the military

As readers know, I strongly support allowing gays to serve openly in military service in any capacity, and also allowing women to serve in combat. The two policy questions are very different, so I will split them into two different posts.

Please do not post arguments here for or against the policy of allowing gays to serve openly; I opened an "argue" post for that purpose in this post here. Please only put comments in this post about the efficacy of the training regime discussed below, and put any comments for or against the policy itself in the post linked in this paragraph. Thanks!

I recently argued the first in a blogpost titled Martial Arts and Marital Darts -- wherein I took the Obamacle and his Bestial Virgins to task for pushing so hard for same-sex marriage (yes, even Barack "Lucky Lefty" Obama himself, when he denounced California's Proposition 8)... while doing absolutely nothing to allow gays to serve openly: I argued that the favored policy was an attack on traditional marriage and could gravely damage Western civilization, if it leads to further changes in marriage, such as acceptance of polygamy; while the disfavored policy was actually an exercise of liberty and every person's fundamental right to defend his nation and society.

I was naturally aware that many, particularly in the military, rejected the policy of gays serving openly in military service; so when I heard from one such -- an officer in Iraq, a "Transition Team Leader" who blogs under the name Boss Mongo -- I responded, and we had a friendly and fascinating discussion.

Please make no mistake: Boss Mongo very much opposes the policy change I support. He is an upper mid-level commissioned officer who served two tours in Iraq and now commands a training team. He believes that such a policy change would be "prejudicial to good order and discipline," and would damage our warfighting capability.

But I was much more interested in Boss Mongo's expertise than his opinion; I've heard opinions on all sides from officers and enlisted, many with similar combat experience. But this was the first time I was able to speak, one on one, with a training officer who could move the discussion forward beyond the hand-waving stage (on both sides!)

I urged Boss Mongo to tell me what he would do to mitigate the damage -- what training he would have to institute (were the policy ordered) to preserve "good order and discipline." The thought experiment I gave him specified that Congress, the Commander in Chief, and and Pentagon had all agreed -- and no branch of government had consulted Boss Mongo before making its decision (amazing!) So now, the orders have come down the chain (in this hypothetical), and he is ordered to take charge of the training program to prepare current and incoming soldiers, gay and straight, for the New Way.

What, I asked him, would you do? He agreed that he would not resign his commission; he's a career guy, and he would stay in the military and obey orders. So with those caveats, here is Boss Mongo's plan -- including how he arrived at it, which is amazing in itself... I think I spawned a series of high-level meetings that may have set-off a policy prairie fire; what power these blog-things have! Here is what we would need to do in order to make such a policy change work, if the government decides to do so:


Okay, under great protest and not ceding to the premise that the open service of homosexuals would not be prejudicial to good order and discipline, I'll proffer a mitigation strategy for incorporating the policy.

While thinking of the answer, I used the topic, and our e-mail discussions, to conduct a couple round-table discussions with various members of my team and some of my subordinate teams. The demographics of the participants were pretty varied. Tallying it up later, I talked in small groups to: two O4s (one Asian, one Puerto Rican), three O3s (two white, one black), two E8s (both black), five E7s (two black, two white, one hispanic), and one Warrant Officer (hispanic). When I initiated the discussions, the universal first reaction was "Eww."

So it took a while to get the guys to focus on the discussion point; the first X number of minutes were spent getting them off of decrying the policy itself. Most of the senior (ie, ~20 years) guys said that it would be time to drop retirement paperwork (my crew consists of mostly senior guys; my youngest team member is 28 with six years in). Anyway, once we established the constraints of the conversation (and tabled the HIV factor for a later discussion), most of the guys came up with the same concept of response that I had:

  1. First, tangentially, commissioned officers thought that problems would manifest mostly on the battlefield, NCOs [non-commissioned officers -- the Mgt.] thought that the most serious problems would arise in the barracks environment.
  2. The service already has a chain training mechanism in place; it is used for annual, biennial, and quarterly training on EO [Equal Opportunity, I presume -- the Mgt.], Family Advocacy, prevention of sexual harassment, suicide prevention, DUI/Drug prevention, etc. This would be the venue for most training. Officers, NCOs, and junior enlisted would probably have different training evolutions, with unit training at the end, conducted by said officers and NCOs.
  3. The training would have to be tailored to present homosexual service as consistent with the military values -- loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage -- and the military values would have to be the foundation of the training/instruction.
  4. The service-member support networks, from the Chaplains to the headshrinkers, would have to be a part of it and be consistently available to help members with problems arising from the new strategy.
  5. Orders would go out giving the officer and NCO corps instructions on how the chain of command wanted adverse or serious incidents handled.
  6. One thing we all agreed on was that a significant chunk of time and effort would have to be expended on retention, keeping good service members in who are determined to vote with their feet -- or rather, their discharge paperwork -- because of the policy.

That's about it. Everything after that would be adapting to the situations arising and always being ready to call an audible when things go awry, and they will.


Two points that struck me immediately; the first is the disparity between what the commissioned officers think would be the most serious problem versus what the NCOs think (point 1 above); I wonder why they didn't agree? I hope that Boss Mongo will send another e-mail clarifying that disconnect.

The officers thought the battlefield would be the focal point of conflicts, but the NCOs were more worried about problems in the barracks -- I suppose that showers and sleeping arrangements would top that list of concerns, though that's only my opinion. But if the NCOs don't see the battlefield as a serious problem, and officers seem less concerned about controlling problems on bases stateside and abroad, then perhaps between the two, both concerns can be adequately addressed.

The other point that jumped out at me, which I knew but hadn't thought through the implications of, is that within all branches of the military, training is ongoing, constant, and universal; and a great deal of "civilian" values training is already incorporated into that regime. That is, we don't only train our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen to be warriors; we don't restrict training to the martial virtues that Boss Mongo enumerates; we also train them to be "good people" and "good citizens," according to the virtues currently accepted within the nation.

We train our service members not to discriminate on the basis of race, not to engage in sexual harassment, to eschew excessive drinking, and to avoid illegal drugs entirely. We train them to notice early warning signs of suicidal tendencies in themselves and their fellow servicemen, to seek counseling for serious family "issues" (that's a word my sister the MFCC loves), and so forth.

And we already train them in a certain level of tolerance towards gays: I'm sure that Boss Mongo and every member of his team would agree that a response as extreme as actual gay-bashing -- physically assaulting a person because he or she is thought to be homosexual -- is inconsistent with the military virtues they all strive to achieve.

This gives me great expectations that if such a policy is ever enacted -- I hope it is, Boss Mongo hopes it isn't -- it would not be too hard to train the very, very vast majority of servicemen and servicewomen to go beyond mere avoidance of gay-bashing to judging their fellow service members by how well they do their jobs and by their adherence to those same military virtues, rather than by whether they are attracted to the opposite or the same sex.

Please note that I am not arguing that homosexual activity is not a "sin." In many religions it is, and self-proclaimed members of those religions should probably abjure and forswear.

But in those same religions, having any sex outside of marriage is also a sin, even for the unmarried; yet we don't ban sexually active singles from military service, it's no violation of the UCMJ, and it needn't disrupt good order and discipline. (Of course, anything can be a problem if misused or abused; we do condemn adultery in our military, and we disallow certain types of fraternization.) Tolerance is not the same as approval or applause: Under the policy I advocate, straight service members don't have to cheer homosexual squadmates... just tolerate them.

It should be an easy sell for most servicemen to say, "What the other guy likes to do with his naughty bits is none of your business, unless he shoves it in your face -- figuratively or (especially) literally!"

Whether we should make this policy change is a subject for another time; but I hope this post -- especially including Boss Mongo's reluctant contribution, spelling out what can be done and what would need to be done -- advances the topic to the point where we can ask the critical question: Do the positives of allowing gays to serve openly in the military outweigh the negatives?

The better we can quantify each side of the equation, the easier to see which way the scales tilt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 25, 2009, at the time of 6:23 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

May 28, 2009

Martial Arts and Marital Darts

Matrimonial Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Why is the gay Left so hot for same-sex marriage, but not for gay soldiers?

It's an intriguing question; facially, you'd think that if benefitting gays were the primary goal of gay activists -- restoring them a vital and almost undisputed liberty that is currently withheld for obscure and indefensible reasons -- that the very first task they would tackle would be to remove the absurd and dangerous requirement that gays serving in the military do so in secret.

Oddly, however, gay activists by and large ignore that rather breathtaking denial of a fundamental liberty to gays in favor of agitating in favor of same-sex marriage (SSM). Oh, if you delve deep into the websites of some of the major gay activist organizations, you can eventually find that they issued a press release three months ago, blasting some general -- who bears a striking resemblance to the loony brass-holes that Hawkeye Pierce regularly made a monkey of every week on M*A*S*H -- for saying something either ignorant or conservative about gays in the military.

But the endless daily soap opera of As the Marriage Turns is splashed across the index page in full-color, animated Flash graphics, leaping off the page in 3-D modeling, or flinging itself like a caffeinated squirrel out of your monitor and onto your desk (or your lap, if you're unlucky enough to be reading the site on a laptop). The difference in emphasis is brutally stark.

And all for a cause that can only advance when robed high priests of the American judiciary threaten to erase their own state from the map unless the legislature enacts SSM; whereas President Barack H. Obama could this very day demand Congress change the 1993 "Don't ask, don't tell" law preventing gays from serving openly in the military... and he would probably get his way.

Yet despite his campaign promises, he has not done so... and the Pentagon "reaffirms that it has no plans" in the works, having received no hint from the White House that such a policy change is coming.

The ultimate question for me is... why? Why make SSM a priority over allowing gays to serve openly in the military?

I reckon you're shocked, shocked to learn that Big Lizards has its own answer to that question. (If we didn't, why would we waste the bandwidth for nothing... when we could instead waste it to flog our own pathetic, tired, crabbed nostrums?)

Slither on to see just how pathetic, tired, and crabbed we truly are!

Gays in the military -- shoo, gay, shoo!

There are many points that would give pause even to those opposed to gays serving openly:

  • I have never seen a persuasive argument that gays serving openly, rather than secretly, in the military would have a detrimental effect on national security or our warmaking capability.

Nobody can credibly argue today that gay men are any less capable of fighting aggressively than straight men (the idea that gays are "too limp-wristed" or "too effeminate" is laughable); in fact, nobody even tries. The only counterargument I have ever seen -- and it's pretty lame -- is the one used in the current federal statute (10 U.S.C. § 654)... that knowing for sure there were gays in a unit, as opposed to merely guessing, might cause some straight soldiers to freak out:

The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.

As here, this argument is almost never fleshed out; it's left as a hanging assertion, like "Women can't be fighter pilots because they go crazy every month due to PMS." And of course, they don' need no steenkin' evidence; they just say it and glare, as if it would be unpatriotic to ask if they've ever been involuntarily committed to a home for the mentally confused.

This putative "reasoning" is, frankly, risible; it really boils down to "I can't be in a foxhole with Jeffy, he might be looking at me!" There is really no logical distinction between saying "I can't stand the thought of serving next to a homosexual" and "I can't stand the thought of serving next to a black." Though clearly we as a culture have far more of a history of trying to stamp out discrimination against race than discrimination against sexual preference, in both cases the problem is not the individual target of official retribution -- but the reaction of the most bigoted person standing next to the target: Jeff can't serve because Bob is too squeamish.

There is no evidence I have seen to indicate that today, when other members of a unit find out or come to suspect that one of their number is gay, that this disrupts morale, destroys unit cohesion, or leads to any negative consequences whatsoever... except among a tiny number of very bigoted military personnel (making them the problem, not the gay soldier just trying to do his job). In fact, quite the opposite: Many gays who have been prosecuted for discharge have been adamantly defended by their squadmates and fellow soldiers.

Such an argument could have been made in, say, the 1950s or earlier... just as the similar argument against integrating the troops was more believable during and before World War II than after that watershed moment of history; acceptance of racism in polite society took a real nosedive following revelations of Hitler's death camps. But today, the argument of "gay revulsion" is the last refuge of the desperate, clinging to their bigotry.

  • Worse, by requiring gays to hide their sexual preference, we create a ready-made pool of potential blackmail victims... gays who might be extorted into aiding or abetting the enemy.

Gays constitute somewhere around 2%-3% of the population, depending how you define "gay;" presumably they have the same range of ethics and morality as anyone else. Hence, while the vast majority of gays would out themselves, risking involuntary discharge rather than hurt their country, on the margins, there would still be thousands for whom the career is more important... just as there are with straight officers who cheat on their spouses.

But the difference is, you cannot discharge a person from the military merely for wanting to cheat but abstaining. But under current law, a gay man or lesbian can indeed be discharged from the military merely for having the "propensity" towards homosexuality... where propensity means "a natural inclination; innate or inherent tendency." He doesn't even have to act on that propensity in order to be punished with the loss of his career.

A homosexual or bisexual can also be discharged merely for revealing his sexual preference or for having "married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex," even in a state where that is legal -- even if the marriage occurred before he joined the military; even if he subsequently renounced the marriage, got divorced, and considers himself completely heterosexual now! The fact that he once married a person of the same sex is itself sufficient, if discovered (including discovery by being ratted out by a thwarted blackmailer), to get him involuntarily discharged.

There is no other innate characteristic, especially one that many people believe is inherent and unchangeable (I express no opinion on this point), which can by itself bar an American citizen from serving in the military if he has the physical and mental capacity to do so; all other prohibitions are behavioral... e.g., a convicted felon can be barred from service for something he did, not something he is.

  • In a time of existential warfare against an enemy that wants to destroy our civilization because we are who we are, shouldn't it be a liberty issue that every member be allowed to defend that society with force of arms, to his best physical and mental ability?

Yet the law actually goes out of its way to assert that "There is no constitutional right to serve in the armed forces."

I'm certain that is legally correct; there is probably caselaw proving it. But not everything that's legal is necessarily moral or ethical or even in the best interests of civilization itself.

If this war is the crisis and turning point of Western civilization that most of us believe it to be, then we're really not in a position to reject good soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines on frivolous grounds of "ickiness" unrelated to martial ability. It's like saying we won't accept soldiers who have hair on their backs, because some people might find that disgusting.

A tale of two priorities

I suspect that if put this way, Americans would probably agree this policy is grotesquely unfair and unAmerican; and in addition, that it is if anything destructive of America's national security needs. In other words, this is a major fight that gay activists could win. So why do they barely trouble to make it, instead focusing nearly all their attention on cramming SSM down our throats? (It's not even a "more in sorrow than in anger" moment; I get the impression gay activists experience an almost orgasmic rapture from thwarting the will of the people anent traditional marriage.)

It can't be because of the numbers of homosexuals affected; would anybody seriously argue that there are more gays who want to marry people of the same sex than gays who want to serve in the United States military? On the contrary, the percent of gays who want to marry appears far smaller than the percent of straights who want to marry, judging from the marriage rate in the few states that allow SSM.

So -- why? Why focus on the controversial, the uphill battle, the cause that has the potential to alienate the usually silent majority, the argument that has lost every time ordinary voters have had a chance to decide? Why not focus instead on the essentially non-controversial cause that is almost a slam-dunk, that even brings many conservatives on board (those for whom the right to defend our culture outweighs their personal disapproval of homosexuality), and that can be justified and argued by appealing to well accepted, fundamental American virtues?

Consider the reaction (non-reaction) to the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), the case that found the laws across the nation that banned "sodomy" to be unconstitutional. While some conservatives still decry this decision (such as Michael Medved), even they recognize that to the extent the American people even cared about it, they tended to support it -- as I do. It's clearly a liberty issue, affecting what people can do in the privacy of their own homes; and by the same measure, so is eliminating the thuggish "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Status seekers

But SSM is not a liberty issue -- it's a status issue. Nobody in the United States is prohibited from being gay, engaging in gay sex, cohabitating, finding a church, synogogue, mosque, or temple that will religiously marry him to a same-sex partner, and presenting himself to family, friends, employers, and indeed all of society, as being "married." Yet even there, nearly all states have domestic partnerships or civil unions that provide all or nearly all of the state-based material benefits of marriage, everything from disposition of property in probate to visitation rights in hospital.

The law in those states that have resisted judicial tyranny says only that the government of that state does not recognize same-sex marriages. They won't send police to break up your wedding, and they won't arrest you for it; but they will withhold official approval... status, in other words.

Yet a miniscule minority of SSM activists want to change the definition of a core social value -- marriage -- not just of the United States but of thousands of years of Western civilization itself; and they want to force that change against the will of the "we the people." They demand that America award the same status to SSM that it awards to traditional marriage, whether the citizens of a state want to do so or not. Status is not liberty; there is no bar to same-sex couples (or larger groups) behaving as if they were married. But the activists demand not only that the state tolerate their preferences but that it applauds them.

By contrast, allowing gays to serve openly in the military requires no redefinition, does not violate any core value, requires no positive affirmation of an outre lifestyle by society (merely tolerance), likely aids national security by expanding the pool of potential soldiers and removing a forced vulnerability to blackmail, and doesn't even require any fundamental change in American morality: You can believe homosexuality is a sin yet still support gays serving openly. After all, we don't reject single people from the military simply because they have sex outside of marriage.

But what about the comparison of laws banning interracial marriage to laws banning same-sex marriage? Isn't that a good argument that SSM is a liberty issue after all?

Sex vs. race: never the twain shall meet

The comparison of SSM to miscegenation is spurious; by the time courts began ruling that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional -- starting in 1948 with Perez v. Sharp, 32 Cal.2d 711, 198 P.2d 17, by the California Supreme Court -- we already had a strong and growing consensus in California that race should not define marriage; the state courts followed the consensus of the citizenry -- they didn't lead it.

In addition, by 1948 -- and especially by 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court once and for all declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional (Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)) -- we already had a long history of legal precedent for skepticism about official racial discrimination. This history included a civil war, followed by the enactment, from 1865 through 1870, of three constitutional amendments to codify opposition to racial discrimination, and culminating with the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

And of course, we have never had a universal definition of "race" to begin with, because it's scientifically impossible: All scientists agree that racial characteristics exist upon a continuum; there is no sharp dividing line between black and white, brown and red, yellow and white. We are all mongrels, in the very best sense of the word.

But none of this is true anent SSM:

  • There is no national or even statewide consensus in any state that I'm aware of that SSM is the same as opposite-sex marriage or should be treated the same. In some states, there may be a slim majority in favor -- though I doubt it. But "majority" is not the same as "consensus," the latter being a much stronger term that means "an opinion or position reached by a group as a whole."
  • We have never before had states that allowed SSM; there is no precedent. By contrast, from the very beginning of the United States in 1776, a majority seven of the original thirteen states allowed interracial marriage.
  • The courts are definitely leading this charge, rather than reacting to actual changes in social consciousness and democratic legislative actions.
  • There has been no SSM amendment or gay-rights amendment to the Constitution and no federal legislation mandating it. In fact, the only federal legislation touching on the issue, the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, goes the opposite way; it has never been revisited, not even by the Democratic Congresses of 2007 and 2009. No president has ever endorsed SSM, Congress has not passed laws to establish it, and no state referendum has ever enacted it, while a great many have banned it. There is no federal or state consensus of the people in favor of same-sex marriage; it remains the pet project of the pampered, intellectual leftist elite in this country (including the pampered, intellectual leftist elite that controls the Vermont General Assembly).
  • And of course, a person's gender, in contrast to his "race," is easily determined with precision, except in strange and extraordinary cases.

Thus, there simply is no valid equation of interracial marriage to same-sex marriage.

A little privacy, please?

Well, what about the point that we should allow SSM because of the fundamental right of privacy?

This one is really dopey: How could demand for public recognition of same-sex marriages possibly be an act of privacy?


Contrast that nonsensical claim with the perfectly reasonable contention that anti-"sodomy" laws do violate privacy... as they prohibited private sexual activity between consenting adults behind closed doors, even in their own home. See the difference?

"Why" is a four-letter word

All right, we've teased the tiger long enough. Now it's time to open the cage and get our arms torn off and our heads crushed between his mighty jaws. (Some analogies should not be overextended.) I am now prepared to answer the question: Why are gay activist groups so monomaniacal about SSM, but so casual and blase about letting gays serve openly in the military?

I can identify three major factors:

Empowerment is the enemy of control: I believe that gay activists truly do not want gays to be allowed to serve openly in the military, because they truly do not want gays actually mainstreamed into American culture. Special-interest pressure groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination (GLAAD), the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP), the Lamda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Equality California, thrive on power; and their power does not come from mainstreamed gays who are strong and confident to fight to fight their own battles as individuals, as everyone else does. Rather, interest-group power comes from frightened, timid, dependent, isolated people who cling to the activist pressure groups as their only hope.

Similarly, larger "progressive" groups like the ACLU, People for the American Way, Democracy Alliance, and really, really don' t want liberals to feel empowered; because then they would have no need for those groups. The stock in trade of activists has always been "you're weak and powerless, so you must call upon us -- and pay us -- to fight for you." Unions function exactly the same way, and the last thing in the world they want are workers who are more like independent contractors... they want pliant, frightened workers who are always afraid they're only two paychecks away from starving to death -- and if the union ever disappeared, so too would they.

Gay activist groups are no different: They see a zero-sum game between individual empowerment of gays and control by the activists themselves, and it's obvious on which side of the fence the activists fall.

Mainstreaming gays is not in the Left's interests: Too, just like the various "feminist" organizations and "environmentalist" groups, gay activists are nearly always leftists first and gay-rights advocates second.

How would it benefit them for gays in the service to come out of the closet? They're more easily hooked into Socialism (whether Communist or liberal fascist) when they feel insecure and threatened by having to remain under cover. Remember that a socialist government is the ultimate special-interest pressure group.

Too, the Left tends to be anti-military to begin with; thus, I think many of them despise gays actually serving patriotically in the service, because they see them as sell-outs to the straight, traditional culture, just as so-called feminist groups see women in the military as sell-outs to patriarchy. As well, they see the United States as the primary obstacle to a one-world leftist government -- so why should they want to strengthen American military power?

Therefore mainstream gay groups don't waste much time agitating for gays serving openly in the military, just as mainstream feminist groups don't push for women being allowed into combat -- or even for civilian women to be able to get permits to carry concealed firearms. In a conflict, leftism will always trump individual empowerment... just ask Tammy Bruce how she was treated by the board of directors of the National Organization for Women when she was the president of the L.A. chapter.

Transformers: Activists and other fanatics typically don't want a specific solution to a particular problem... they want the complete transformation of society into something alien. They want to utterly abolish the old human being and create the new starchild -- what Marxists called the "New Soviet Man."

They are also catastrophists: They believe that only by a social cataclysm of Brobdingnagian proportions and cosmic reach can they achieve their final goal. Therefore, they see partial solutions not as advancements but rather as big steps backwards: They take pressure off the system, making it less likely to shatter, more likely to survive -- when transformers want the opposite.

So why do they so hysterically support same-sex marriage -- "protesting" by sitting in busy intersections to block traffic, smashing store windows in an unknowing imitation of Kristallnacht, and shrieking spittle-flecked denunciations of anyone who voted for Proposition 8 as a homophobic bigot -- when they show so little interest in the gays in the military issue? What makes SSM so special?

The cause of SSM is everything that the other is not:

  • It's not individually empowering, because individual gay families actually gain virtually nothing from forcing states to call their domestic partnerships "marriages." All the benefit goes to the groups that flex their muscles.
  • It fits in perfectly with the Left's general attack on American society as hopelessly bigotted, racist, sexist, and homophobic; and there is a clear divide between Left and Right, Democrat and Republican on the issue, with liberals and leftists supporting SSM and conservatives generally supporting traditional marriage. Thus enacting SSM -- especially through the undemocratic courts -- benefits the larger Left at the expense of the Right.
  • Forced legalization of SSM constitutes the most wholesale transformation of traditional marriage, a core Western virtue, that has ever been attempted... and both Left and Right agree that achieving that goal would utterly upend Western civilization, Judeo-Christian religion, and all American tradition. Leftists pine for exactly that, while conservatives want to defend what we have now.

And if you think our tradition of freedom of religious worship will protect churches or synogogues, or even ordinary people, whose religion condemns homosexuality, you're in for a very ugly reality check. Please read this Michael Medved column; he explains why the gay activist tactic of offering "guarantees" that no one will be forced against his conscience to officiate at a same-sex wedding, forced to cater or photograph one, forced to allow gay married couples to adopt children on the same basis as opposite-sex married couples, is really no guarantee at all: As soon as SSM becomes a "fundamental right," any such protections written into law will be swiftly struck down by the courts... in lawsuits filed by the very same activists who offered them as "concessions" in the first place!

Conservatives who clutch for such a "compromise" will quickly find out that the deal is really "I win and you lose."

I believe that the Left, despite denials, knows full well that once they establish the precedent that the people have no right to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, they will have established precedent for taking away the right of the people to restrict it to couples altogether... paving the way for polyamorous marriages (marriages between more than two people).

After all, if two men have a fundamental right to marry "because they love each other," then what is the legal argument against allowing three men to marry for the same reason? Or two men and three women?

Or -- and this is what it will invariably turn into -- one man and four women, just as the Koran advises. The addition of a religious demand for polygamy in fact strengthens the case against restricting legal marriage to a mere two people. Thus yet another dollop of sharia law will be injected into the squirming body of Western civ.

After a while, it may dawn on the people that a "marriage" that can mean anything in fact means nothing, and they will simply stop getting married, just as in Europe. And it's a short jump from people eschewing marriage to the same people eschewing pregnancy and childbirth. Just as in Europe.

Except of course the Moslem immigrants, who will begin colonizing America the way they have already colonized much of Western Europe, by immigration and demography.

SSM is a poisoned crossbow dart aimed directly at traditional marriage; its real purpose is not to allow "gay marriage" but to destroy marriage altogether; but in fact, it will result in the transformation of America into a sharia-friendly country, including polygamous marriage.

The path of destruction is clear, and yes, in its own way, it too is existential: If we allow same-sex marriage to be imposed upon us, or even if we give up the defense of Western virtues and "go with the flow," our fate will be the same as that of those who went before, across the pond; the barbarians will enjoy their final victory as our culture suicides itself into oblivion.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 28, 2009, at the time of 7:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 25, 2009

Memorializing Memorial Day

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Today is Memorial Day... and if you don't know what that means, well I'm certainly not going to tell you!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 25, 2009, at the time of 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 7, 2009

The Party of Conditional Compassion

Liberal Lunacy , Matrimonial Madness , Military Machinations , Ubertweets
Hatched by Dafydd

Riddle me this...

Liberals have a mad desire to cram same-sex marriage -- let's just say gay marriage for the moment, since that's how they think of it -- down our throats. They demand it willy-nilly, generally by court order (Vermont notwithstanding) and regardless of the desires of the citizens of the state in question. They seem terribly urgent about it, as if it's the most important "civil rights" battle in America today (they mean civil liberties, not civil rights, but let that slide).

Yet very few gays would get married, were the option available, according to the polls I've seen -- and in the real-life states that have enacted it: Massachusetts, Connecticut, California briefly, and so forth.

But lo! There is a much more blatant and much less defensible example of anti-gay discrimination in American society: The federal policy barring openly gay men or women from serving in the United States military... at all, in any capacity.

It's virtually impossible to justify on grounds of military necessity, since it's been many decades since anyone seriously believed that homosexuals are weaker or less aggressive than heteros; and the claims that a policy of inclusion would damage morale are no more defensible than the same arguments made in the 40s against racially integrating the military (the argument is essentially that the morale of gay-haters would drop).

At a guess, I believe that at least a hundred times as many gays serve (more or less secretly) in the military as want to get married to members of the same gender, and an even larger number are veterans or would like to serve in the future. At a guess, if about five million legal American residents are homosexual (loosely defined -- say 2% of men and 1% of women), easily as many as a million could be directly adversely affected by the policy. (I cannot imagine that anywhere near ten thousand gays and lesbians seriously intend to get married.)

And Congress or the president could enact that change right this very minute; I don't think Republicans could possibly muster 41 votes to filibuster a bill to lift the restriction, even if they wanted to -- and assuming congressional action is even required; it's possible that all it would take is an Executive Order from the Commander in Chief.

The Left could do it in a snap, even against unified Republican opposition (which I doubt could be mustered anyway). So why don't they?

Well, I didn't plan to leave that hanging as a rhetorical question. As anybody who has read more of this blog than just the seven paragraphs above knows, I ask because I think I know the answer -- which is simply this...

Democrats and liberals couldn't care less about gays, lesbians, transsexuals, transvestites, or any other such subgroup. They only champion the gay (or blacktivist, or feminist) agenda when a particular policy serves the larger agenda of the hard Left: the destruction of traditional Western culture and its replacement by secular humanism.

Simply and brutally put, destroying traditional marriage advances that liberal agenda, so liberal Democrats pursue it with a passion; but allowing gays to serve openly in the military does not advance that vile agenda -- so liberal Democrats truly could not care less.

The only thing that might shake the Left from its apathy on gays in the military is if Democrats start to worry about the 2010 elections; they may decide that they can disguise their larger socialist agenda with the "beard" of civil liberties. They still don't care about gays -- they'll vote Democratic by 75% to 80% anyway; the campaign would be aimed at Independents, who may be won over by the question of fairness.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the GOP would not seriously resist lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military. In that case, pursuing the change wouldn't benefit the Left anyway; they couldn't point to Republicans and believably scream "homophobe!" So if the GOP is at least split on the issue, Democrats probably won't waste their time pursuing it, as there is no electoral payoff.

I realize I am sounding more and more cynical about the patriotism of the Left, but is it any wonder? All I read, day after day, tells me that they cannot stand America as we are; the only America they love is Sweden.

In any event, if you are gay, and if you're more interested in serving in the military than in marrying a person of your same gender, then please consider joining the GOP. At the least, you will find yourself among a group of people who honestly respect and applaud your service to the country, however much they may disagree with your positions on a few issues. I think a gay or lesbian soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine would have a much more pleasant time at a convention or fund-raiser headed by Romney or McCain or Palin than one headed by Reid, Pelosi, or Obama.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 7, 2009, at the time of 8:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 6, 2009

More Obama Drama As Zinni Gets Spinnied

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Obama Nation
Hatched by Dafydd

The Mack Sennett presidency strikes again, this time ensnaring Anthony Zinni, the media's favorite general -- at least while he was bashing the Iraq war (he wasn't so popular when he came out in support of the counterinsurgency strategy of President George W. Bush, Gen. David Petraeus, and the AEI).

After Gen. Jim Jones was tapped to be President Barack H. Obama's National Security Advisor, he called Zinni and asked if he would be willing to take Ryan Crocker's place as ambassador to Iraq. Zinni jumped at the offer, and Jones started the eight-ball rolling. The most competent presidency in the history of the United States swung ponderously into action:

About two weeks later, General Zinni said, General Jones called back with a formal offer for the Baghdad job, and an appointment with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Jan. 26.

General Zinni said he met for more than an hour with Mrs. Clinton, discussing a wide range of Iraq issues with her; James B. Steinberg, one of her two appointed deputy secretaries; and William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs.

"She thanked me for taking this, and we went over what needed to be done," General Zinni said. "She turned to Steinberg and Burns and said: 'Let’s get the paperwork moving. We’ve got to move on this.'"

The next day, General Zinni said, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called to thank him for taking the job.

But that was the last word on Iraq that General Zinni said he heard from the administration.

William Burns started ducking Zinni's calls; when they did talk, Zinni reports Burns was "increasingly vague" (!) about the appointment. Finally, Zinni heard from Gen. Jones, who had started the whole process; Jones told Zinni that Obama had decide to pick Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, instead of Zinni... but evidently, like little kids afraid to report the vase they broke playing ball in the house, nobody wanted to tell Zinni.

(Christopher Hill is best known for his lengthy and apparently fruitless negotiations with North Korea, which so preoccupied George W. Bush's second term... that whole farce, when the DPRK claimed it had shut down its breeder reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center -- and then a year later, the North Koreans threatened to reactivate it if they didn't get more fuel and money from the U.S.)

So Zinni is out, Hill is in, and the general to this day has no idea what happened, why he was left spinning like a character from Scanners.

But at least Obama isn't weighed down by all that old-style thinking -- like managerial experience, proper planning, inter-office communication, and common courtesy -- that made the Bush administration the object of scorn and ridicule to the new elites. Now is not the time for thinking ahead or making sure the right hand knows what the left hand is washing. Now is the time for action, action, action!

So what was Zinni's reaction?

"As a sorry offer to placate me, they offered ambassador to Saudi," he said in a separate e-mail message, referring to Saudi Arabia. "I told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine."

Sounds like sound advice. Like Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH, 72%), Gen. Anthony Zinni got his first chance for second thoughts about joining Team Obama.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 6, 2009, at the time of 5:17 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 29, 2009

Military Judge Shockingly Chooses to Follow Law, Not Obamic Decree

Injudicious Judiciary , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Military Judge Col. James Pohl decided to continue with the arraignment of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of planning the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in 2000, an attack that killed seventeen American sailors and wounded fifty.

Nashiri, one of the Big Three who was waterboarded, is about to be arraigned by a military commission at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. But President Barack H. Obama wants to personally "review" all 245 cases before allowing the George W. Bush policy of trying the detainees by military commissions to proceed. To that end, Obama signed an executive order calling for a delay of at least 120 days, while he decides whether to:

  1. Close the facility, drop all charges against everybody, and release all the terrorist detainees in the United States;
  2. Close the facility and rendite all the detainees to European allies -- who refuse to accept them;
  3. Or close the facility and transfer all the detainees to ordinary federal courts -- which will promptly order the feds to produce all classified data from the war on the Iran/al-Qaeda axis in open court, thus conveying it all to al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Jemaah Islamiya, and every other militant Islamist terrorist organization in the world... and when even the Obama administration refuses to do this, the civilian courts will dismiss all charges against each detainee, releasing them into the United States.

But bizarrely, Judge Col. Pohl has ruled that his military commission will follow the law, which mandates an arraignment hearing by a certain date, rather than Commander in Chief's the hastily drafted delay:

The government, Pohl wrote, sought a delay because if cases went ahead, the administration's review could "render moot any proceedings conducted during the review"; "necessitate re-litigation of issues"; or "produce legal consequences affecting options available to the Administration after completion of the review."

"The Commission is unaware of how conducting an arraignment would preclude any option by the administration," said Pohl in a written opinion, which was obtained by The Post. "Congress passed the military commissions act, which remains in effect. The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists, not as it may change in the future."

How can mere law trump the pronunciamentos of the One We Have All Been Waiting For? What's the matter with that judge... didn't he get the memo?

The judges in 20 other military-commission cases that were set to proceed within the next 120 days have purportedly agreed to the postponement; Nashiri's is the only case where the judge denied the prosecutor's motion, at least so far. Now an ordinary reasonable person, one would imagine, would take the obvious compromise: accept the postponements of the other cases and order the prosecutor to proceed with the Nashiri case, as Col. Pohl ordered.

But the One is not to be thwarted or ignored. He is determined that Nashiri will not be arraigned during that period, and they're willing to use any means necessary to ensure that President Barack H. Obama, not Judge Col. James Pohl, wins this standoff:

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said at a briefing today that "this department will be in full compliance with the president's executive order. . . . And so while that executive order is in force and effect, trust me, there will be no proceedings continuing down at Gitmo with military commissions."

So where does that leave us? What means are necessary? I shall have to tell you what the Obama administration is considering, because you would not guess it in a thousand tries: They are looking into the prospect of withdrawing all charges against Nashiri; and then, 120 days from now, trying to refile them.

With the charges withdrawn, obviously Col. Pohl could not proceed. If they're able to refile the charges after the review period, Obama's advisors on military law evidently believe that the case can simply pick up again and proceed as normal. Or else maybe they would have to start all over again; but in any case, Obama will have asserted his authority and shown the military who is boss.

When military defense attorneys heard what was in the offing, some of them said they may force the administration to withdraw all charges against all detainees in Gitmo; I think what they are saying is that they would change their minds about stipulating to the postponement, thus forcing the hand of "the Pentagon official who approves charges and refers cases to trial."

That person is none other than Susan J. Crawford, of course, who came to our attention most recently when she flatly declared that at least one detainee in Guantanamo Bay had been "tortured;" she could not point to a single interrogation tactic that she would argue was torture itself; but she decided the concatenation of tactics bothered her delicate sensibilities:

You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.

She decided not to file charges against the detainee (Mohamed Mani Ahmad al-Kahtani, the "twentieth 9/11 hijacker") in that case. Of course, many, many other prisoners were interrogated using "a combination of things" and could claim it had "a medical impact" on them; thus, they, too, can claim they were "tortured" according to the unique, subjective, virtually iconoclastic standard set by the Pentagon's own convening authority. Thus, she had already set us up for the kill even before Obama's order.

If Crawford now withdraws the charges against Nashiri, and if the military defense attorneys follow through on their threat, Crawford will be caught between the Devil and a deep, blue, hard place:

  • On the one hand, if the defense obects to the postponement, many military judges may follow Pohl's lead and side with the defendant's right to a speedy trial, thus denying the prosecutors' motions;
  • On the other hand, Obama has issued marching orders to his staff that "there will be no proceedings" until the review period is up, no matter what.

This may leave Ms. Crawford with no option but to withdraw all charges against each detainee. But on the third hand, that path is also fraught with peril: If the arraignment is begun and the defendant pleads not guilty before Crawford can navigate the Pentagon labyrinth and formally withdraw the charges, then at least some defense experts claim that jeopardy attaches... and the Obama administration might not be allowed to reinstate the charges later.

At this point, the Supreme Court rulings of Hamdan and Boumediene, so eagerly praised and even sought by liberal Democrats such as Barack H. Obama, may rear up and bite the country hard. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006), the Court held that it retained jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus filings under the law that created the first set of military commissions, created under the authority of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005; it also struck those commissions down. The case was decided 5-3, with Chief Justice John Roberts recusing himself, as he had been on the appellate-court panel whose decision was under review by the Supreme Court; but considering his vote on the Boumediene case below, I suspect this would otherwise have been a 5-4 decision.

Then just last year, in Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. ___ (2008), the Court decided a straight-up habeas corpus case arising out of the second stab at military commissions, this time under the authority of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, enacted by the Republican-controlled Congress in October 2006 as a specific remedy for the problems the Court found with the first version of the commissions.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for yet another 5-4 decision, held that the prisoner did indeed have habeas rights; and further, that such rights could not be stripped by subsequent legislation unless that legislation included a "substitute" method for determining guilt that included, well, all the protections offered by the Constituition to defendants in civilian trials.

Therefore, I doubt that the Court as presently constituted (it won't get better with Obama making future appointments) will allow Susan Crawford or Barack Obama or anyone else to keep Nashiri and all the other detainees in indefinite detention if they have withdrawn the charges and are prevented by double-jeopardy from refiling them later.

I suspect the only remedy available in such a case will be the immediate release of all such prisoners... right here in the United States, since no other nation will likely take them. We can't even deport them, because they would clearly face execution and likely torture in their host countries -- and that violates the same section of the Geneva Conventions that so impressed the justices in the majority on both cases: John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, David Souter, Stephen Bryer, and of course the swing vote, Anthony Kennedy.

Oh well; that the way the cookie bounces when conservatives stay home and refuse to vote for a Republican Congress and president.

The only solution here will be for President Obama to suck it up and just allow the Nashiri case to proceed, ordering Crawford not to withdraw the charges against that detainee. Without the precedent of dropping the charges for one, the other defense attorneys won't have a snowball to stand on trying to force the withdrawal of charges in other cases. If they refuse to agree to the continuance, then those cases will also simply move forward.

So what are the odds that Obama will accept defeat on this issue, with the mild humiliation and political hit it will bring, rather than jeopardize the centerpiece of the defense against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis -- the detention and trial of terrorist murderers and conspirators? I suppose it depends upon which weighs more heavily in the president's mind: the good of the country or his own personal authority.


Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 29, 2009, at the time of 6:43 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 27, 2009

Still Stuk in Irak

Good News! , Military Machinations
Hatched by Sachi

Good news! More Americans are joining the military. Last fiscal year, all components of the military -- active duty, reserve, and National Guard -- met or exceeded the recruitment goals, for the first time since 2004. "And the trend seems to be accelerating," quoth the New York Times.

The NYT has its own idea why; the Gray Lady believes recruiting success is due to a recent sluggish economy... in other words, more people getting "stuk in Irak." As we all know, only uneducated slobs would join the military; so when times are tough, and all those morons cannot compete in the regular labor market, recruiting skyrockets. Simple!

Needless to say, I'm quite skeptical of that analysis. From previous research for earlier blogposts here, I know that our active-duty military has met or exceeded its recruiting goals except one branch in one year -- the Army in 2005. (Note that the links in first table apply to all tables; where the data simply says a service "met" its goals, we entered a score of 100% -- though it could of course be higher):

Military recruiting FY 2003-2008 - active duty
Fiscal year Army Marine Corps Air Force Navy
2003 101% 100% 100% 100%
2004 101% 100% 101% 101%
2005 92% 100% 102% 100%
2006 101% 100% 100% 100%
2007 101% 100% 100% 101%
2008 101% 100% 100% 100%

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, our active-duty military has consistently met or exceeded its goals, with only that one blip in 2005. Even in the militarily tough years like 2004 through 2006, when things were not looking good in Iraq, our active duty units only once failed to recruit enough new soldiers. (And bear in mind, the recruiting goals themselves were increased under President Bush; the military services met them anyway.)

But here is the most astonishing point, given the breathless tone of the Times article: If you look at the chart for active duty units, the rate of recruits for fiscal year 2008 is essentially no different from previous five years.

It is true that sometimes our reserve units (and often our National Guard units) had difficulty meeting their goals:

Military recruiting FY 2003-2008 - reserves
Fiscal year Army Marine Corps Air Force Navy
2003 104% (no data) (no data) (no data)
2004 100% 100% 100% 100%
2005 84% 102% 113% 88%
2006 95% 100% 106% 87%
2007 101% 110% 104% 100%
2008 106% 100% 105% 100%

Military recruiting FY 2003-2008 - National Guard
Fiscal year Army Marine Corps Air Force Navy
2003 (no data) N/A (no data) N/A
2004 (unmet) N/A (unmet) N/A
2005 80% N/A 86% N/A
2006 99% N/A 97% N/A
2007 95% N/A 93% N/A
2008 103% N/A 126% N/A

This is easily understood: During wartime, it's highly likely such units would be called up; this creates problems in life-planning -- you know you'll probably end up going, but you don't know exactly when. Therefore, potential recruits might as well enlist as active duty: The benefits are much better, and life is more predictable.

Contrariwise, as the Iraq war wound down, and it became less likely that reserve or Guard units would be nationalized and sent abroad, the easier career planning would attract more people to such units. The sluggish economy may be a minor factor, but the main reason for the rise in reserve and Guard recruiting is simply that we achieved victory in Iraq.

Too, we cannot neglect patriotism as a motivator: While we're actively fighting a savage and bitter enemy who has vowed to kill us all, American patriots who feel their honor and resolve questioned want to join active-duty service to show the militant Islamists how an American fights, wins, and if necessary, dies. (I haven't looked into it, but I suspect that after V-E Day and V-J Day signalled that we had won World War II, recruitment into the active-duty military dropped significantly in favor of a rise in National Guard and reserve forces.)

But what about all those stories in the elite media, month after month, year after year, crowing that the Army had missed its recruiting goals? There were hundreds of such stories... were they all lies?

Not exactly, but they were highly misleading: If you paid attention, you'd have noticed the reports almost always came out in the months of June, July and August. During the summer, recruiting always drops; kids coming out of high school or university typically want to take their last summer off instead of rushing to join the service. Therefore, recruiting often falls short in summer months.

But those numbers were invariably made up during the month of September, the last month in the fiscal year; and the Army (and all other branches of the active-duty military) always ended up meeting their goals for the year anyway. This same pattern happened every year, surprise surprise.

Contrary to the agenda of the New York Times, military service has never been unpopular in the United States, and particularly not during wartime (at least since Vietnam). The Army and Marines Corps -- where recruits are virtually guaranteed to see action during wartime -- often exceeded their goals and never (except once for the Army) had problems attracting young, patriotic men and women. Even more telling, the retention rate of all branches of the military are also very high, typically exceeding goals, and have been so throughout the Iraq-war period... and recall that by definition, service members who are "retained" (reenlist) past their current enlistment include a great many who have actual combat experience. Evidently these non-coms and commissioned officers don't think of themselves as simply "stuk in Irak."

In other words, there is no new trend. Nevertheless, the Times insists upon explaining “the trend”:

As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.... ["Lured?"]

The Army has managed to meet its goals each year since 2006, but not without difficulty.

As casualties in Iraq mounted, the Army began luring new soldiers by increasing signing bonuses for recruits and accepting a greater number of people who had medical and criminal histories, who scored low on entrance exams and who failed to graduate from high school.

Actually, the Navy actually tightened its test requirements during this period. But there are several problems with this non-explanation for non-failure that didn't happen:

  1. I immediately object to portraying our military as an evil organization which "lures" young, lazy bums who hate going to school with the promise of high pay (heh) and scholarships, turns them into donkeys, and sends them to the salt mines.

For one obvious incongruity, why would lazy bums be attracted by college scholarships?

  1. The Times forgets to mention that this entire time, we have been growing our military by tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

These recruiting goals are actually moving targets, increasing each year. Yet all active-duty branches and nearly all reserve branches have still met them anyway, with only that one exception one time.

  1. During wartime, actual combat, especially the Special-Force dominated combat of contemporary warfare, is inherently more dangerous than any job in the civilian world; and it takes money to recruit people into dangerous jobs.

...Though not as much money as recruiting people into dangerous civilian jobs, such as policing, fire-fighting, or underwater welding, because of the benefits of American patriotism, which is higher than any other country in the West except perhaps Israel.

But the fact some recruits are attracted by higher benefits doesn't diminish or taint the job of recruiting. Except for missionaries, we all expect to get paid well, even if we love our jobs; why expect our warriors to be any different than any other American? Why shouldn't they be compensated generously for the vital work they do defending the country?

The point is, there are many reasons why young people join the service, and all are equally valid and equally honorable. But the Times does not even consider the possibility that our nation's youth is excited about winning the Iraq war and wants to continue defending the country from Islamic terrorists and other enemies. Love of freedom and a sense of patriotism does not even enter into the minds of drive-by journalists, still gloating that they won in November.

Did they ask the recruits why they want to join the military? The Times gives us a handful of self-serving anecdotes:

Sean D. O’Neil, a 22-year-old who stood shivering outside an Army recruitment office in St. Louis, said he was forgoing plans to become a guitar maker for now, realizing that instruments are seen as a luxury during a recession. Mr. O’Neil, a Texas native, ventured to St. Louis for an apprenticeship but found himself $30,000 in debt. Joining the Army, his Plan B, was a purely financial decision. With President-elect Barack Obama in office, he expects the troop levels in Iraq to be lowered.

Going to war, although likely, feels safer to him. “I’m doing this for eight years,” he said. “Hopefully, when I get out, I’ll have all my fingers and toes and arms, and the economy will have turned around, and I’ll have a little egg to start up my own guitar line.”

Ryen Trexler, 21, saw the recession barreling toward him as he was fixing truck tires for Allegheny Trucks in Altoona, Pa. By last summer, his workload had dropped.... As the new guy on the job, he knew he would be the first to go....

Just a few months ago, Guy Derenoncourt was working as an equity trader at a boutique investment firm in New York. Then the equity market fell apart and he quit....

“I really had no intention to join if it weren’t for the financial turmoil, because I was doing quite well,” Mr. Derenoncourt, 25, said, adding that a sense of patriotism made it an easier choice.

This is a classic elite media debate trick; the quotes were clearly selected to reaffirm the paper's agenda, as shown by the complete lack of numerical context. How many soldiers primarily joined because of "eight years of the worst economy since the Great Depression" (as so many Democrats in Congress have put it) -- and how many joined up because of the traditional reasons Americans have always enlisted: patriotism, learning leadership skills, wanting some direction in their lives, learning discipline, getting mentally and physically stronger, and so forth?

These paltry few tendentious personal stories don’t tell the whole story. The Times could have surveyed a representative sample of recruits, asking them to list five reasons why they want to join and score them one to five. But that wouldn't serve the primary purpose of showing that our military recruits are still "stuk in Irak" because of the catastrophic economic policies of the incompetent Bush regime, would it?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, January 27, 2009, at the time of 3:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 7, 2008

Knicks & Knacks II

Malicious Mutterings & Miscellany , Military Machinations , Opinions: Nasty, Brutish, and Shortsighted
Hatched by Dafydd

What knackers!

Today on Power Line, John Hinderaker once again takes up the sensuous man's burden in praise of beauty pageants. Anent the Miss World competition, now underway, he writes about one of the beauties, whose picture he emplaces below the paragraph...

Nevertheless, excitement is beginning to mount. With serious wagering now in progress, betting odds have taken shape. The original favorite, as reflected here, was Miss Ukraine. That's not too surprising, given the home stage advantage that we often see in beauty pageants. What is remarkable is that, notwithstanding the shift in locale, Miss Ukraine still rates second as a betting favorite (as always, click to enlarge).

Click to enlarge? You think you, uh, might rephrase some of those phrases? Hindrocket?

Going to war with the Army you wish you had

So President Barack Obama evidently chose his new Secretary of Veteran's Affairs primarily to poke a finger in Donald Rumsfeld's eye, at least according to AP:

Shinseki's tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.

Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as "wildly off the mark" and the army general was forced out within months. But Shinseki's words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a "surge" of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence.

Obama said he selected Shinseki for the VA post because he "was right" in predicting that the U.S. will need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.

How many misstatements, fabrications, and misunderstandings can an author squeeze into a single article? Here are four from a scant three paragraphs:

  1. George W. Bush did not "miscalculate" how many forces he needed; the president was presented with one strategy that needed a certain number of military personnel... and when that strategy wasn't working, he was presented with a different strategy that required a slightly larger number of military personnel. In both cases, Bush supplied the troops that his generals requested.
  2. Gen. Eric Shinseki was never "forced out" as Chief of Staff; he served his complete four-year term... as AP itself admits in the immediately preceding paragraph.
  3. Shinseki was indeed "wildly off the mark" about the number of troops we would need: He said we would need "several hundred thousand," which would mean at least 300,000 to 400,000. In fact, we had about 130,000, and we needed about 158,000. A "surge" of 28,000 men hardly constitutes "several hundred thousand."
  4. It is clear from context that Shinseki was not thinking about a counterinsurgency strategy (which he never mentioned) when he made his infamous claim... he was thinking about refighting the Gulf War, when Gen. Colin Powell sent more than half a million troops to Saudi Arabia to liberate Kuwait. Shinseki must have known this was utterly impossible, given the slashed military bequeathed to Bush by former President Bill Clinton; I believe Shinseki's only purpose was to dissuade us from going into Iraq at all... which, considering how well it's turned out and what a victory we achieved there, hardly counts as "prophetic"... even if we did end up needing 22% more than Rumsfeld expected in the counterinsurgency phase. In any event, it's not the number of troops that mattered; it was the change of strategy -- which Eric Shinseki never even addressed.

Bush is leaving, Rumsfeld is already long gone, but the vendetta of the elite news media abides.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 7, 2008, at the time of 6:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 8, 2008

NATO: Gravitas, or Graveyard?

Military Machinations , Politics - Internationalia
Hatched by Dafydd

Frequent commenter K2aggie07 sent us a link to this Stratfor analysis of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), an editorial that is... disheartening, in a sense, but envigorating in another. To boil it down to a nutshell, Dr. George Friedman (founder and CEO of Stratfor) argues that NATO is a spent force, unable even to stand up to Putin's Russia -- let alone the more exotic threats posed by the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.

If this is true (and he surely knows more about it than I), then we are simultaneously weakened by the loss of what has been our most streadfast allied organization, mostly financed by us; yet also liberated by no longer having to kow-tow to the increasingly Eurocentric NATO and NATO-driven policies that are still oriented around fighting the Soviet Union, seventeen years after it ceased to exist.

Think of it; we no longer need waste time, blood, and treasure...

  • Soothing ruffled European feathers, pleading with them (our fine feathered friends, not their fine feathers), begging, even bribing them to comply with their most basic obligations;
  • Reassuring them that France, Spain, Portugal, and Estonia are every bit as important to the world as the United Kingdom and the United States;
  • Holding back on military operations, so that non-American NATO forces can not only keep up but pretend to be in the vanguard;
  • Covering for NATO "allies" who show up with strict rules of engagement that, in fact, prohibit any engagement;
  • Turning a blind eye to NATO member states which don't even live up to the democratic standard set by a typical American high-school class president's campaign;
  • And spending billions of dollars for the enviable privilege of being spat upon by our pals.

And if NATO is truly defunct, what about that other relic of the Cold War, the Untied Nations? Given the presence of Russia and China (not to mention France) as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- thus wielding veto power -- what is the point of belonging? Would Russia, for example, ever allow a U.N. expedition to send a significant military force to Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, or the Baltic nations, a force big enough to seriously impede Russia's own plans to "reintegrate" the "renegade provinces" of the old Evil Empire?

Friedman begins with this story, which I had not seen reported by our "downstream" media (a term I heisted from an advert for the Dennis Miller radio show):

German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to St. Petersburg last week for meetings with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The central question on the table was Germany’s position on NATO expansion, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Georgia. Merkel made it clear at a joint press conference that Germany would oppose NATO membership for both of these countries, and that it would even oppose placing the countries on the path to membership. Since NATO operates on the basis of consensus, any member nation can effectively block any candidate from NATO membership....

In one sense, Merkel’s reasons for her stance are simple. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. If the supply were cut off, Germany’s situation would be desperate — or at least close enough that the distinction would be academic. Russia might decide it could not afford to cut off natural gas exports, but Merkel is dealing with a fundamental German interest, and risking that for Ukrainian or Georgian membership in NATO is not something she is prepared to do.

She can’t bank on Russian caution in a matter such as this, particularly when the Russians seem to be in an incautious mood. Germany is, of course, looking to alternative sources of energy for the future, and in five years its dependence on Russia might not be nearly as significant. But five years is a long time to hold your breath, and Germany can’t do it.

But it gets worse. Friedman notes that even giving Georgia or Ukraine NATO membership would be a meaningless gesture, since the alliance hasn't sufficient military power left to stop another Russian invasion of either country. He doesn't mention, but I will, the fact that NATO, the "many-headed one," cannot for that very reason -- too many cooks and crooks -- react quickly enough to a military strike to make a difference, to do anything but be crushed.

(Imagine if, instead of Gen. David Petraeus running the Iraq war, we'd had thirty different defense ministers, each of the same rank and authority as all the rest, who had to get together in a room and come to a consensus how to respond on a day-to-day basis to Iranian Quds forces, rampaging Sadrites, and al-Qaeda in Iraq.)

NATO was established in 1949 specifically to counter the imperial aims of the Soviet Union; its most visible manifestation was the counterforce to the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact in Central Europe, with NATO establishing 180 brigades, a few thousand tanks, and a few thousand ground-support and tactical aircraft in (then) West Germany and other Western states -- where they were badly outnumbered by the Warsaw Pact's own conventional forces. NATO therefore also incorporated nuclear forces, the Soviets followed suit, and the Cold war standoff was born.

But now, NATO hasn't even enough military support from its member countries (other than the U.S. and the U.K.) to hold off a denuded Russia alone. NATO has fallen and can't get up.

So what about the future? How will the new president handle this astonishing change to a status quo that has been around for donkey's years?

John S. McCain will, I believe, accept the inevitable and begin negotiating multiple alliances to replace NATO, perhaps one for each theater of operations. Maybe we could dust off that "organization of democratic states," which others have suggested as an (unworkable) successor to the U.N., and instead recast it as an über-alliance to coordinate and oversee all the smaller alliances for specific strategies. That would mimic on the international stage the vital military reforms pushed though the Pentagon by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

I suspect McCain has already been thinking about this.

I have no idea what would be Barack H. Obama's response to the enfeeblement of NATO; I suppose he would meet without preconditions with the presidents, prime ministers, and assorted supreme leaders of Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom... and beg them all to tell him what positions America should assume in the future (the primary position would be "supine"), what world test we must pass, so that the rest of the membership will allow us to stay in NATO... or at least continue to pay NATO's bills, even if they won't allow us to vote anymore.

I suspect this eventuality has never even crossed the One's mind; he may not be sure what NATO is. It's much older than he, so it can't be of much significance.

In any event, the era of NATO is evidently over. The era of the U.N. is on its last legs. The era of flexible, powerful, but temporary alliances rapidly approaches... and our major news organizations are obsessing over Sarah Palin's per diem.

Don't forget to vote.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 8, 2008, at the time of 7:01 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 1, 2008

The New "Fairness" Doctrine

Constitutional Maunderings , Crime and Punishment , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Terrorism Intelligence , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd
Why civilian judges have no business ruling on Gitmo cases...
and why Patterico, with the best of intentions, got it so wrong

Patterico has been scathing in his denunciation of the Bush administration and the Pentagon for how they conduct the military tribunals. Back in December, he dubbed the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay "Kafkaesque," saying "they just don’t seem fair." He concludes:

But I do know that the procedures in place now just don’t seem fair. If you can’t find out what evidence the Government has against you; if you can’t present your own evidence; if you are arguing to a tribunal that is told to presume that the Government’s position is correct . . . that’s not fair. It runs a real risk of causing us to hold people who are innocent.

There has to be a better way.

Then today, he crows, or perhaps "views with alarm," that a D.C. circus panel threw out the first enemy-combatant classification by the Pentagon of a detainee:

Add this to the Kafkaseque nature of the tribunals process, which has forced detainees to respond to secret evidence, together with the criticism by a former chief prosecutor that the Administration was rigging trials there to ensure convictions, and the picture is not pretty.

So why do I disagree with Patterico, and why do I think he has gone terribly awry? Consider the last line of his earlier post. The real question here is the very one Patterico begs: "There has to be a better way"... to do -- what?

What's all this then?

"Well there's yer problem, right there!"

Those three judges, the "former chief prosecutor" (Air Force Col. Morris Davis), and Patterico all see these Commission hearings as fundamentally judicial. It's not unreasonable to draw that conclusion, since the result is that those found to be unlawful enemy combatants would be held for periods of time up to life -- and could even be executed.

But reasonable does not mean right... and this conclusion is fundamentally wrong: These hearings are not judicial, nor is their primary purpose justice or punishment; they are military hearings to determine if a detainee is dangerous to the United States.

That is why questions of "fairness" are inappropriate. Fairness is a valid, even vital concern in Patterico's line of work as a deputy district attorney. In civilian trials in civilian courts, the most important underlying issue is justice (of which fairness is an essential component). Practically, the most important question litigated is whether the State has proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, by admissible evidence, that the defendant is guilty of the crimes charged.

But military commissions' most important underlying issue is the same as that of every other branch of the military: victory over our enemies. That means safeguarding American citizens and lawful residents and protecting us from international bad guys. Fairness has nothing to do with it.

  • Is it "fair" to bomb a factory during wartime, knowing that at least some of those killed may oppose the war and only be working there under duress, or even as slave labor?
  • Is it "fair" to imprison a captured enemy soldier for years, even if he is a draftee?
  • Is it "fair" to fire upon enemy combatants, even knowing they are using innocent "human shields," who will necessarily be killed as well?

None of these is in any way fair to the innocents (or at least non-guiltys) involved. But in none of these cases is "fairness" the central concern. If any "crime" was committed, it's a war crime; and the prosecution of war crimes is primarily intended to deter our enemies from doing such things in the future, not to bring about abstract justice for acts in the past. For this reason, war-crimes tribunals traditionally grant many fewer "rights" to the accused than are found in civilian trials of ordinary criminals conducted by those same countries.

In the three cases directly above, Patterico would have no difficulty agreeing with me that we cannot invoke abstract "fairness" to refuse to fight in any situation where innocents might be harmed. On the battlefield, nobody except a pacifist absolutist would be so confused; and Patterico is not a lunatic pacifist by any stretch of rhetoric.

But when the military action shifts from the battlefield to a military commission or tribunal, it superficially resembles a courtroom; "counsels" present "evidence" while a (military) "judge" presides. And that is when those who have spent their lifetimes doing yeoman work within the civilian court system, trying to make America a safer and better place, seem to become befuddled. We see this from Patterico to the D.C. Circus to the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision.

It's said that to a carpenter, every problem looks like a nail, and every solution looks like a hammer. To a heart surgeon, every problem looks like a bad coronary artery and every solution looks like a scalpel. And to a lawyer, even many military lawyers, every problem looks like a crime, and every solution looks like a court trial.

Every objection seems to flow from this single, faulty conceptualization of what these commissions are and what they're supposed to do. For example, what about that charge that the commissions are "rigged" against the detainees?

This bloody fight's been rigged!

Col. Davis bases his accusation on three issues: a lack of "openness" at the commission hearings; the use of classified information that neither the detainee nor his counsel is allowed to see (which "could taint the trials in the eyes of international observers"); and that, as the Nation put it in an interview with Davis, "the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees to foreclose the possibility of acquittal."

The piece in that leftist magazine begins thus -- and here is the same misunderstanding, this time flashing in neon letters the size of the Hollywood sign:

Secret evidence. Denial of habeas corpus. Evidence obtained by waterboarding. Indefinite detention. The litany of complaints about the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is long, disturbing and by now familiar. Nonetheless, a new wave of shock and criticism greeted the Pentagon's announcement on February 11 that it was charging six Guantánamo detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, with war crimes--and seeking the death penalty for all of them.

In the piece, Col. Davis lobs the allegation that Pentagon general counsel William Haynes demanded the tribunals produce nothing but convictions:

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes--the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department.

"[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals. We've got to have convictions.'"

First, I am rather skeptical that Haynes said exactly this. Was Col. Davis literally transcribing the conversation while it was in progress? Or is this his reconstruction of the conversation days, weeks, or perhaps two and a half years later? Is this exactly what Haynes said, or is this Davis' tendentious confabulation, based upon his appalled reaction to what he thought Haynes meant?

But let's leave this question aside... despite the fact that it cuts to the fundamental "fairness" of the accusation. How can Davis be unaware of the fact that earlier commissions conducted by the same Pentagon, taking place at the same Guantanamo Bay, managed to release hundreds of detainees from custody... including some who went right out and committed terrorist acts?

Finally, I truly question Col. Davis' historical understanding of war-crimes tribunals if he unfavorably compares the "fairness" of the military commission hearings today with the Nuremberg trials after World War II... considering that far fewer accused Nazis were "acquitted" than terrorist suspects have already been freed from Guantanamo, and the accused Nazis in 1945 had far fewer "rights" than the Military Commissions Act of 2006 gave to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay... even before the Boumediene decision.

To me, it sounds as if Davis is repeating at least one absurdist Democratic Party talking point, regardless of how many others he rejects. The viral meme "MCAs are nothing like the fair and just Nuremberg trials" can be "caught" by anyone whose mind is rendered susceptible by overly legalistic thinking.

The allegation that the system is "rigged" against acquittals is silly, because it has already acquitted hundreds; it betrays Davis' conclusion that these hearings just aren't "fair" to the "accused."

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass -- a idiot."

In the New York Times article that sparked Patterico's post today, we discover that the D.C. Circuit panel threw out the Pentagon finding against Huzaifa Parhat, an Uighur Moslem from China, because the classified intelligence against him was not as specific and credible as one would demand in a civilian criminal trial:

Pentagon officials have claimed that the Uighurs at Guantánamo were "affiliated" with a Uighur resistance group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and that it, in turn, was "associated" with Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The ruling released Monday overturned the Pentagon’s finding after a 2004 hearing that Mr. Parhat was an enemy combatant based on that affiliation. He and the 16 other Uighurs were detained after the American invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The court said the classified evidence supporting the Pentagon’s claims included assertions that events had "reportedly" occurred and that the connections were "said to" exist, without providing information about the source of such information.

"Those bare facts," the decision said, "cannot sustain the determination that Parhat is an enemy combatant."

But "those bare facts" are all that we ever get from intelligence operations! That is precisely the reason why civilian courts have no business making the determination whether a person detained is truly an enemy combatant... because the standard demanded by a civilian court for a civilian criminal conviction is virtually impossible to meet in the context of terrorists picked up because of intelligence.

(For one major point, because terrorism is so incredibly destructive, we try to grab them before they carry out their schemes... which means, since the detainee didn't actually succeed, that little evidence is available other than supposition.)

Do these judges imagine that before the Marines open fire on a fleeing vehicle, they must have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the vehicle contains terrorists? Intelligence is always vague, almost never confirmed, and frequently obtained from foreign sources who do not reveal where they, themselves got it; but if they've been reliable in the past, we must assume they're reliable now, until and unless they disappoint us more than one usually expects from any intelligence. You cannot demand trial-level specificity and sourcing from covert intelligence; it's just not going to be available.

What the court derided -- quoting from Lewis Carroll's the Hunting of the Snark and mocking the administration -- is as good as it gets... and that's the very reason why a civilian court is not competent to make any of these decisions, let alone all of them, as the Supreme Court has now declared. It's as absurd as expecting the D.C. Circuit to approve missile targets in Pakistan.

One law professor understands this point; I'm pleasantly surprised the Times bothered to quote anyone on the military's side at all:

Some lawyers said the ruling highlighted the difficulties they saw in civilian judges reviewing Guantánamo cases.

“This case displays the inadequacies of having civilian courts inject themselves into military decision-making,” said Glenn M. Sulmasy, a law professor at the Coast Guard Academy and a national security fellow at Harvard.

I wonder if Mr. Sulmasy has more or less experience with the needs of the military than do the three judges in the D.C. Circuit panel who decided the Parhat decision.

Old King Cole was a tortured soul

In today's post, Patterico also calls attention to the upcoming trial of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of masterminding the bombing of the USS Cole... and the third detainee, along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah, who the CIA has said it waterboarded. Patterico notes that Nashiri claims his "confession" was induced by unspecified "torture".

Of course, Nashiri could be fibbing; to paraphrase Charles Bronson in Breakheart Pass, if a man is a thief and murderer, it follows he may be a liar as well. But let's suppose he is telling the truth for once. This point tells us nothing about whether he is or is not a danger: Even if the confession was true, he still might only have given it because of this supposed "torture."

Why do we customarily believe that in civilian trials, coerced confessions cannot be used? Two main reasons:

  1. We believe they are of dubious reliability, since the person being tortured might say anything he thinks his torturers want to hear.

Leaving aside the question of whether waterboarding really constitutes "torture" (it certainly forces people to say things they later wish they hadn't), this objection is easily dismissed: If detailed facts came out during the coerced interrogation that were checked and found to be accurate, and if those facts could only be known by the guilty (such as where the body is hidden, in a murder case), then we may conclude the confessor is guilty.

So that leaves only one reason why coerced confessions are never allowed in court:

  1. Forcing people to testify against themselves is, again, simply unfair; it violates the Fifth Amendment protection against enforced self-incrimination.

But this second point again depends upon thinking that the tribunal is an attempt to mete out justice to a mere criminal, rather than a way for the military to decide whether the country would be safer if we kept the detainee behind bars or even executed him.

Finally, one more purely legal point (bearing in mind I'm not a lawyer): It's plausible to argue that the USA PATRIOT Act allows these tribunals to used evidence obtained for intelligence purposes in military commission hearings, even if the intel itself was obtained by means that would ordinarily render it inadmissible in a civilian court hearing, absent the intelligence angle.

This is a point which I don't believe has ever been addressed by the Supreme Court (not even in Boumediene).

Thus, if we reject "fairness" as the core value we're trying to uphold in the MCA hearings at Guantanamo Bay, and accept instead that the core value is "victory in the war," then we cannot have a hard and fast prohibition on using coerced testimony or even confessions: Again, we're not trying to punish miscreants so much as (a) protect the country from them, and (b) pour l'encouragement des autres.

An army of lawyers

A maxim of the law is that it's better that a thousand guilty criminals go free than a single innocent man be wrongly convicted. But when we're discussing a thousand guilty terrorists, we have to think a second time. When we released Abdullah Salih al-Ajmi from Gitmo (which was clearly a mistake in hindsight), he went right out and killed thirteen innocent Iraqi civilians in a suicide bombing in Mosul.

So if Ajmi is typical, then a thousand guilty terrorists released could kill 13,000 innocent civilians and wound an additional 40,000. That's 53,000 innocent lives destroyed. Some may still believe that's better than keeping one innocent person in Guantanamo Bay... but that is not so obvious to me.

Many folks reading this will object that, even if it's true that judges and lawyers have an overly legalistic bias, it's likewise true that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 had an overly militaristic bias. But the captivity and treatment of enemy combatants, whether lawful or unlawful, is at the core of any military strategy -- thus it's fundamentally a military issue, where the most important issue is victory.

But with Boumediene, the Court has held that henceforth, all major decisions in the detention of combatants -- not just the strictly limited set of decisions that the MCA left up to the D.C. Circuit, but all decisions without exception -- will ultimately be decided by civilian courts, even lowly district courts, by civilian judges who cannot help seeing the "trials" as exercises in legal justice -- where the most important issue is fairness.

Perhaps this new "fairness" doctrine is all for the best; maybe I stubbornly refuse to see the obvious. But certainly nobody on that side of the aisle at any level, from Justice Anthony Kennedy to Patterico, has endeavored to make the case to me that in dealing with terrorists, fairness should trump victory.

I'm listening, but I hear no argument.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 1, 2008, at the time of 7:55 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

June 27, 2008

Could Afghanistan Use a "Surge?"

Afghan Astonishments , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

A new Pentagon report on the lack of progress in training up the Afghan army raises an important question; do we need to implement a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan? Many people glibly suggest just such a strategic change; but it's by no means certain it would work even if we tried it.

The Pentagon report was scathing about the lack of progress of the Afghan army:

The assessment was bluntly pessimistic as it described efforts to train the Army and police.

As of March, it said, just one Army battalion and a headquarters unit could operate independently, while 26 battalions, five brigade headquarters and two corps headquarters units could plan and execute counterinsurgency operations with the support of coalition forces.

In addition, as of the spring, the U.S. had provided only 44 percent of the nearly 2,400 trainers needed for the Afghan Army, and just 39 percent of the mentors for the Afghan police.

Development of the Afghan police is taking longer and has been hindered by "corruption, insufficient U.S. military trainers and advisers, and a lack of unity of effort within the international community," the report noted.

The recent deployment of 1,200 U.S. Marines to serve as trainers for the police has beefed up the totals, but when those troops leave in the fall, the need for 1,400 police mentors will remain.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates notes that a major motivator of the resurgence of the Taliban has been the steady loss of control of the Pakistan government by President Pervez Musharraf, in favor of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) of Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan's prime minister, who favors negotiating with al-Qaeda and other insurgents, rather than suppressing them, which was Musharraf's policy:

A key to the deterioration there, he said, has been recent efforts by Pakistan to negotiate peace agreement with tribal leaders along the lawless border. Those talks, he said, took the pressure off insurgent groups and "they've therefore been more free to be able to cross the border and create problems for us."

The report concurs, calling the insurgents' safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas along the border "the greatest challenge to long-term security" in Afghanistan.

So what about developing a COIN strategy for Afghanistan, similar to that which was so successful in Iraq? It may not be as easy to do as to say. For one major problem, the 32,000-troop strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) -- the NATO troops in Afghanistan -- currently has the lead for all combat and reconstruction in Afghanistan. The commander of the ISAF is, I believe, currently Gen. David D. McKiernan, USA; but the ISAF reports to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, in Belgium.

I don't think Gen. McKiernan's chain of command passes through CENTCOM; but the non-ISAF, non-NATO American forces there, as part of the continuing Operation Enduring Freedom, do report to CENTCOM -- which will mean reporting to Gen. David Petraeus, as soon as Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) finally gets around to allowing a confirmation vote. The 8,000 members of the OEF forces are responsible for anti-terrorist operations -- which sounds promising -- but also for training the Afghan army, which hasn't gone very well.

(I know it's confusing; just remember that there is a NATO-coalition -- that is led by the United States -- and there is a separate American-coalition; both these coalitions include many other countries.)

The biggest hurdle is that there would an inherent command conflict between the ISAF and OEF in the event of a COIN strategy: If we're really going to beef up the OEF in a significant way and use counterinsurgency strategy, a la Iraq, to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, that would completely nullify the transition of combat lead to NATO's ISAF.

The tempo of operations would shift away from NATO and back to the United States; and I guarantee the Europeans would scream bloody, blue murder -- echoed by the Democrats, who, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, still control Congress and congressional war-funding.

It would doubtless be much easier for Congress to justify a vote to withhold funding in Afghanistan because we're "screwing NATO" -- than to withhold funding in Iraq because we're winning. Bottom line: We need some Democratic Party support... which means that if there is any COIN program, it would have to be primarily led by the NATO-coalition, not the American-coalition.

But I don't know whether the NATO-coalition would agree to a COIN strategy, since that would involve increasing their troop commitments... though we might be able to gain their approval if we supplied virtually all the "surging" troops ourselves; which would probably be better anyway, because we could bring them all from CENTCOM.

But even so, it's not necessarily going to work as well in Afghanistan as it has in Iraq, for a very simple reason: For two major reasons, we are deprived of the deep well of resentment and hatred of the terrorists that benefitted us in Iraq:

  • Iraqi Sunni comprised very civilized tribes that had always enjoyed some autonomy, but who had been ruled with an iron fist for two or three years, by the likes of Musab Zarqawi and al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia. That terrorist group committed such gruesome atrocities, wanton savagery, totalitarian religious dictatorship, and crimes against humanity, that many Sunni tribes were only too happy to rise up against them and go to war for their own liberation.

    Gen. Petraeus sent Col. David Kilcullen to many tribes, where the Australian counterinsurgency expert helped them set up "Salvation Councils" to ally with Coalition forces. Without those native counterinsurgents, we might not have won.

  • Iraqi Shia were (and are) spiritually led by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who guided them away from Iranian dominance so strongly that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was finally compelled to go to war against the Shiite terrorists and Iranian proxies... primarily the Mahdi Militia, led by Iranian puppet Muqtada Sadr. Again, without the enmity between Iraq and Iraq, Persia and Arabia, we might not have gained Shiite support... which was critical in making the counterinsurgency work.

Neither of these happy circumstances prevail in Afghanistan: The Taliban and al-Qaeda were kicked out in 2001, so it's been nearly seven years since anyone had to live under that rule. Out of sight, out of mind.

And there really is no bitter rivalry or jealousy between the tribes in the south and east, which span the border bewteen Afghanistan and Pakistan; the Taliban and al-Qaeda are still strong and growing stronger in the latter country, and that is the source of the continued insurgency in Afghanistan. The tribes on both sides the border speak the same languages, believe in the same sect of Islam, and see themselves politically as superceding the artificial border -- which was drawn by the United Kingdom in the 19th century -- in the superstate of "Pashtunistan."

I'm not saying that a counterinsurgency cannot work in Afghanistan, but it's going to look very, very different from the one that was so successful in Iraq. And it almost certainly would have to cover all of "Pashtunistan," including the part that lies in the geographical state of Pakistan. That's a very wobbly tightrope to walk, and I suspect it will have to wait until we have a new president.

Assuming, of course, that the new president is the old coot, not the callow youth.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 27, 2008, at the time of 7:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 26, 2008

All the Views They Spit Into Print

Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd
Traduce: v.t.; to cause humiliation or disgrace to by making malicious and false statements; to make defamatory statements about: asperse, backbite, calumniate, defame, malign, slander, slur, tear down, vilify.

It's a vile word. It combines slander and vilification, the essence of what the Bible calls "bearing false witness." A traducer is a person without a conscience, without a chest; a hollow, soulless spirit. Stitching together the worst segments of a harpy and a demon, traducers are sociopaths who literally feel absolutely nothing for their fellow men and women but contempt. They are unable to conceive of other human beings as persons; lives and reputations are tools to be manipulated for the day's desire.

But it's not quite strong enough to describe the editorial board of the New York Times.

There are lies, damned lies, and the Times. To the editors, a man's good name is a wad of toilet paper to be used once then flushed away. Truth is an alien contagion to be warded off by voodoo chants and stuffed alligators. Accuracy is a speedbump on the slander track, over which the Times SUV smashes at unstoppable speed.

Not sure what I'm talking about? You all know that there are several proposals for a "new G.I. Bill" kicking around D.C.; two are significantly popular within Congress.

The first, supported by Democrats, such as Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA, 85%), whom voters fantasized was a moderate non-partisan when they elected him by a razor's edge over George Allen; this followed yet another Democratic campaign of lies and ad-hominem attacks, which is all they have been able to muster in the way of argument in the seven lean years of political oratory. It's also supported by RINOs like Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE, 79%)... a man who, through thick and thin, is always there when he needs you.

This version of the new G.I. Bill gives full benefits -- the same benefits -- to every vet who served at least three years. The net effect of this, of course, is to encourage veterans to leave the service after a mere three years, typically before even rising to the rank of sergeant or petty officer third class. Every institution from the Pentagon to the Congressional Budget Office agrees that it would hurt retention of combat veterans -- in the middle of a war.

The other version is supported by the likes of Republican presidential nominee and Sen. John McCain and by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 88%), and Richard Burr (R-NC, 92%)... and also by the President of the United States, Commander in Chief of the armed forces, George W. Bush. This version has two major differences with the other:

  • It pays benefits on an increasing scale based upon time in service, so the longer the vet has served before retiring, the more benefits he or she receives. This is far superior to the Webb bill, because it encourages enlisted members to stay in military service longer.

    Non-commissioned officers are the backbone of the American military. We give our NCOs unprecedented command authority, setting us apart from, and making us far more victorious than, the other militaries of the world.

  • It allows the veteran to transfer the educational benefits from himself to his spouse or children, thus helping veteran families pay for college eduction for their kids.

With that prolog, here is how the editorial by the New York Times linked above describes, in an unbiased and non-partisan way, the president's and the nominee's rejection of the first G.I. Bill, the one by Sen. Webb:

President Bush opposes a new G.I. Bill of Rights. He worries that if the traditional path to college for service members since World War II is improved and expanded for the post-9/11 generation, too many people will take it.

He is wrong, but at least he is consistent. Having saddled the military with a botched, unwinnable war, having squandered soldiers’ lives and failed them in so many ways, the commander in chief now resists giving the troops a chance at better futures out of uniform. He does this on the ground that the bill is too generous and may discourage re-enlistment, further weakening the military he has done so much to break.

So lavish with other people’s sacrifices, so reckless in pouring the national treasure into the sandy pit of Iraq, Mr. Bush remains as cheap as ever when it comes to helping people at home.

Where on Earth -- or further south -- did the Times get such truculent and absurdist rhetoric? Where did they get the cockamamie idea (whether they believe it or are simply lying for political purpose) to say that Bush and McCain reject the Webb bill because it's "too generous?" What brilliant reporter dredged up a hidden memo, a secret meeting, a cabal of Republican infamy that spouted such a phrase, to justity the New York Times using it as a bludgeon?

Oh, wait; now I remember. Does this sound at all similar?

Barack Obama told veterans Saturday that he can't understand why Republican John McCain opposes legislation that would provide college scholarships to people who have served in the U.S. military.

"Now, let me be clear: No one can dispute John McCain's love for this country or his concern for veterans. But here's what I don't understand. I don't understand why John McCain would side with George Bush and oppose our plan to make college more affordable for our veterans," the Democratic presidential candidate said. "George Bush and John McCain may think our plan is too generous. I could not disagree more."

Or maybe it's from this article, which appeared in an obscure publication that the New York Times may perhaps have missed:

Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, his rival for the Democratic nomination, voted to expand the benefits. Mr. McCain was not present.

“There are some who oppose this benefit, arguing that our men and women in uniform haven’t earned it, that it’s too generous,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I could not disagree more strongly. It’s time we match our words with our actions.”

Thus we now learn that the Times now farms out their editorial pages. With all the journalistic standards and gravitas of a pack of gibbons flinging poo at their rivals, the Times simply parrots Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's gross and offensive caricature of the objections of serious critics of the Webb bill. Apparently, Democratic campaign staff were invited to New York to ghostwrite an "editorial" befouling Bush and McCain.

(I suggest the Federal Election Commission investigate whether this editorial constitutes a substantial and unreported in-kind donation to Barack Obama's campaign, possibly violating McCain-Feingold.)

If you're still not convinced of the mendacity here, let's read a little more of the Times' love letter to Obama:

The Senate version was drafted by two Vietnam veterans, Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska. [Ah, so this version is supported by "Vietnam veterans"... unlike the other version, which is only supported by chickenhawks like McCain.] They argue that benefits paid under the existing G.I. Bill have fallen far behind the rising costs of college.

Their bill would pay full tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for veterans who served in the military for at least three years since 9/11....

Mr. Bush -- and, to his great discredit, Senator John McCain -- have argued against a better G.I. Bill, for the worst reasons. They would prefer that college benefits for service members remain just mediocre enough that people in uniform are more likely to stay put.

What a nice thing to say about Sen. McCain. Of course, liberals would treat him with more respect had he, you know, served his country, as Democrats do.

Lest you think the Times has not thought about the arguments against the bill they support (that is, the one that drains us of our non-coms), here is their unassailable answer:

They [Republicans like McCain] have seized on a prediction by the Congressional Budget Office that new, better benefits would decrease re-enlistments by 16 percent, which sounds ominous if you are trying -- as Mr. Bush and Mr. McCain are -- to defend a never-ending war at a time when extended tours of duty have sapped morale and strained recruiting to the breaking point.

Their reasoning is flawed since the C.B.O. has also predicted that the bill would offset the re-enlistment decline by increasing new recruits -- by 16 percent [imagine a dramatic "ta-dah" playing in the background]. The chance of a real shot at a college education turns out to be as strong a lure as ever. This is good news for our punishingly overburdened volunteer army, which needs all the smart, ambitious strivers it can get. [As opposed to the tired, cynical, doddering NCO hacks the Times wants to boot out.]

So let's see... we lose a bunch of Army Staff Sergeants, Air Force Top sergeants, Navy Petty Officers, and Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeants. But that's okay, because we gain an equal number of buck privates, airman recruits, seaman recruits, and privates.

So what are those ungenerous, veteran-hating Republican macacas whining about? The same number of losers will still be stuk in irak, right? They should instead be grateful the Democrats don't simply ban NCOs all together -- "three stripes, you're out."

The Times editors hasten to add that they support a "larger, sturdier military;" but what is now as obvious as Michael Moore's, ah, fundaments is that liberals, especially those anointed beings who control the elite media, consider the United States military as primarily a massive jobs and welfare program. Its only purpose is to support those illiterate, uneducated, stupid people who didn't study in school. One soldier, one widget is more or less interchangeable with another. And they want to cycle the widgets through the military entitlement complex as quickly as possible, so they can go to college and get "real" jobs.

Like, for example, moving to Chicago to become a "community organizer." I understand that's a career path where you can get to the top really fast.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 26, 2008, at the time of 6:20 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 22, 2008

Patterico and Gay Soldiers: Strict vs. Rational - Liberty vs. Privilege

Constitutional Maunderings , Matrimonial Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Patterico has an interesting post up; I agree with his basic premise -- that pure policy questions should not be decided by the courts but by the democratic branches of government (the legislative and executive branches). But in the course of his otherwise excellent post, he makes, I believe, two fundamental errors: first, mistaking the lucidity of the explanation of a decision for the validity of that decision; and second, applying strict legal reasoning where a broader philosophical reasoning is wanted.

(Some of this is based on suppositions on my part; I'll try to point them out when I notice them.)

Just the FAQs, ma'am

In his post, "Ninth Circuit Issues Deceptively Important Opinion on 'Don't Ask, Don’t Tell'," Patterico slams a panel of three liberal judges on the Ninth Circus for their decision in Margaret Witt, major v. Department of the Air Force, et al -- a case involving the "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gays from serving openly in the military. And Patterico also berates the Supreme Court's majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. He argues that the lack of clarity in the latter created a confusing situation in the former: What level of scrutiny anent gays should courts apply to laws and policies?

This a very important question, as Patterico explains:

The reason this is important is because [sic] the level of “scrutiny” almost always determines the outcome. When courts look at governmental action under a “rational basis” type of scrutiny, it means they’re not making the government work hard to justify its actions. Any conceivable “rational basis” for the government’s action will be enough to justify it.

By contrast, when courts apply “strict scrutiny” to governmental action, they’re essentially walking up and holding a magnifying glass to the government’s decisionmaking process. If the court finds any flaw in the government’s reasoning, however slight, it will strike down the governmental policy.

He then goes on to note that the Court, in its landmark ruling Lawrence v. Texas (majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy) -- which found a fundamental liberty for consenting adults to engage in sexual activity, procreative or nonprocreative, in private (including homosexual activity) -- never properly specified what level of scrutiny to apply to laws and regulations that apply to such sex:

Usually, appellate courts simply state the test they are applying, in a clear way, so that lower courts are easily able to apply the test. This is especially true for the Supreme Court, which must provide guidance for all federal courts in the nation.

But when you’re drunk on judicial arrogance, as Justice Kennedy was in the Lawrence v. Texas decision, the virtue of clarity becomes nothing more than an annoying vexation. The need for clear guidance is petulantly waved aside, as the author of the opinion writes in grand prose. His audience is not the lower-court judges who have to implement his pronouncements. Rather, it is fawning journalists at the New York Times and other elite media outlets.

Thus do the courts find themselves in the predicament of trying to figure out what sort of “scrutiny” the Lawrence v. Texas decision was actually applying. Was it “rational basis” scrutiny? “Strict scrutiny?” Or something in between? Justice Kennedy didn’t bother to say, so the courts are on their own.

One court of appeal has directly ruled on the issue: the Eleventh Circuit, which stated that Lawrence applied “rational basis” scrutiny.

Today, the Ninth Circuit disagrees, saying that some form of heightened scrutiny -- essentially a form a “intermediate scrutiny” -- applies to the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

The distinction here would be between a Court declaring that the Texas law prohibiting "sodomy" had "no rational basis," thus was unconstitutional; or alternatively, the Court ruling that whether or not there was a rational basis, the liberty being infringed was so fundamental and vital that the state of Texas had to go farther and show that:

  • The law served a compelling governmental interest;
  • That it was narrowly tailored to achieve that interest;
  • And that it was the least restrictive means for achieving that interest.

Patterico may well be correct on the narrow, legal point that Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion did not clearly indicate which scrutiny test should be applied. But... "drunk on judicial arrogance?" I cannot believe this attack only targets Kennedy's ability to write a judicial opinion; that would be a rather colossal case of overkill. I can only suppose that Patterico believes the decision itself, striking down "sodomy" laws across the nation, was an example of "judicial arrogance," what we would ordinarily call judicial activism -- that is, legislating from the bench.

Based admittedly on my supposition, I must conclude that Patterico believes there was no "liberty" at issue in Lawrence, no "fundamental right" to have sex that some would call sodomy, and that it was perfectly constitutional (whether or not a good idea) for states to ban it.

I take the contrary position: I believe Lawrence was correctly decided, no matter how good or bad was Justice Anthony Kennedy's legal argument in the opinion. I believe we do have the fundamental right to engage in nonprocreative sex (the usual definition of "sodomy," encompassing far more than gay sex), and that such privacy is a vital liberty issue.

But I completely agree with Patterico that Lawrence should not force judicial decisions in favor of same-sex marriage or striking down the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the military service, thus judicially forcing the military to allow gays to serve openly. The rest of this post explains why, after the "slither on"...

Agreeable disagreement

Now, let me not make the same mistake that Patterico ascribes to Justice Kennedy; here is exactly where I stand on the underlying issues:

  1. I have no argument with Patterico's point that the opinion in Lawrence offered no clarity on which standard of scrutiny to apply; that's a lawyer's question beyond my competence.
  2. Likewise, Patterico and I agree that "don't ask, don't tell" is a foolish policy. I believe I'm also in agreement with Patterico (reading between the lines) that the military should simply drop its prohibition against homosexuals serving openly in the military, at all levels and in every MOS for which the individual qualifies. I think the current policy, even under "don't ask, don't tell," has created a terrible potential for blackmail, leading to espionage and sabotage.
  3. Patterico and I definitely disagree on same-sex marriage; I believe allowing it strikes a dangerous and potentially deadly blow to Western civilization for reasons I have enunciated many times (most recently, in the reposted Californichusetts). But we definitely agree that whichever way a state decides, the process of decision should be democratic, not judicial (as I noted in Marriage, Money, and Ursus Maritimus, which evidently none of you liked).
  4. I have no specific evidence where Patterico stands on laws prohibiting "sodomy," but I imagine (based on extrapolation) that he opposes such laws... but that he believes there is nothing unconstitutional about them; rather, I reckon he believes they should be overturned by legislatures or votes of the people.

    But while I agree with him on the demerits of anti-"sodomy" laws, I dispute the point that they should be constitutional; I believe Lawrence was correctly decided. I'll get to that in a minute.

Where I take issue with Patterico's post is not precisely on point (4) above, though that is the background; where we really part company is that Patterico's post tacitly assumes that a wretched majority opinion in Lawrence (which I cede for purposes of discussion) disproves the validity of the decision itself: A perfectly good decision can be obscured by an incompetent and self-aggrandizing opinion.

I also take issue with another tacit assumption: That if Lawrence v. Texas requires a standard of "strict scrutiny" anent policies such as "don't ask, don't tell," this will automatically force the policy to be overturned.

Scrutinizing "scrutiny"

The second point is the easiest to show; Patterico notes that the plaintiff in the Ninth Circuit case argued that Lawrence v. Texas protects private sexual activity as a "fundamental right," but that the Ninth rejected this position in favor of one Patterico finds barely less sweeping:

Note that the plaintiff

argues that Lawrence effectively . . . establish[ed] a fundamental right to engage in adult consensual sexual acts.

Wow. That argument, if accepted, would grease the ol’ slippery slope up something fierce. To say that any consensual adult sexual act is a “fundamental right” under the Constitution has implications that go waaaaay beyond “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Ninth Circuit doesn’t go that far. Yet. Rather, it takes what sounds like a simple, small step: it decides that the Lawrence court wasn’t applying “rational basis” scrutiny. This is just another step down the slope -- but don’t let its seeming modesty fool you. It’s a big step.

But suppose the court had gone farther and accepted plaintiff's argument. Would that mean that "don't ask, don't tell" would inevitably be struck down?

No, because courts have historically given the military great leeway even with rights everyone agrees are "fundamental"... including the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The service clearly abridges a servicemember's ostensible freedom of speech; and obviously military service does not grant soldiers complete freedom of assembly: They may be disallowed from leaving the base, they can be sent abroad without their consent, and they can be explicitly ordered not to participate in any political rallies. And they can even be prevented from leaving military service so long as they are still needed. And all this is true even in the post-Vietnam, all-volunteer military.

Regarding the strict-scrutiny standard, national security has historically been a textbook example of a "compelling government need." Courts recognize that armies and navies cannot afford their members the same degree of individuality and liberty allowed civilians, even in a free society. I don't think any federal appellate court ever found that the military draft was unconstitutional, for example; and that actually applied to civilians, not soldiers!

If the military lawyers could persuade the courts that there was any basis rationally related to national defense for preventing gays from serving openly in the Navy, Marines, Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard, then I believe that would pass the "strict scrutiny" test. Thus for purposes of military service, the standards of "strict scrutiny" and "rational basis" wouldn't even be that far apart; I believe the Court would tend to defer to the military leaders, no matter what lower courts held.

Liberty bonds; tyranny severs

In arguing my point (4) above, I will not try to make a legal argument. (I'm not a lawyer, though I sometimes play "sea lawyer" on the internet.) But I don't believe that only attorneys at law are allowed to opine on matters of liberty, nor that their opinion should trump any non-lawyer's opinion.

As I see it, the basic question decided by the Court in Lawrence v. Texas was this: Can government regulate private sex between consenting adults?

This brings up a related, very touchy subject: Is there a fundamental right to privacy implicit within the Constitution? There certainly is no explicit right to privacy; the case Griswold v. Connecticut -- ostensibly about whether a couple could purchase condoms -- held that there was just such a fundamental right to privacy found within (infamous expression alert!) the "penumbras" of other, explicitly protected rights in the Constitution formed by "emanations" from those explicit rights:

The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance.

The language seems pompous, antiquated, and quaint, leading many to conclude it is ridiculous and meaningless. But if you actually trouble to look up the words, you will see that the premise is not only defensible, it's actually quite quotidian.

A "penumbra" is "a surrounding area, a periphery." And an "emanation" is just "something that issues from a source." So all that this much derided and thoughtlessly dismissed sentence means is that cases suggest that explicit rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights have implicit surrounding areas of consitutional protection, formed by the requirements of the explicit rights themselves: Some explicit rights, the Court held, could not be protected without protecting some similar, nearby, or related right that is not explicitly mentioned.

Your penumbra has an emanation...

Taking it out of the sexual realm, let me give you what seems like a good example to me; if a lawyer reading this post believes this to be a bogus illustration, please let me know. The Second Amendment is (I insist) an individual right of every adult in America, with some exceptions (felons, illegal aliens, children, drunkards). Here is what it says exactly, anachronistic punctuation and all:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

(The punctuation and spelling were modernized before the Bill of Rights was ratified.)

Note, however, that it doesn't explicitly protect the right of the people to ammunition. The two words are not generally synonymous; there are many references to "arms and ammunition" and suchlike from the 18th century and earlier. So would those of you who reject the very idea of ancillary, implicit rights connected to explicit rights argue that it was perfectly acceptable for the federal government to prohibit the private possession of ammunition?

I doubt it; it's clear that the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" is meaningless if ammunition can be banned. Protecting the explicit right to keep and bear arms requires protecting the implicit right to keep and load ammunition. The right to ammunition forms part of the "penumbra" surrounding the Second Amendment formed by its "emanation" -- the need for ammunition to make the explicit right to arms meaningful.

Examining the private parts

Here is how the Court in Griswold reasoned its way a "fundamental right to privacy;" there is a good, basic philosophical argument here, regardless of whether it was legally well written:

In NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 462 , we protected the "freedom to associate and privacy in one's associations," noting that freedom of association was a peripheral First Amendment right. Disclosure of membership lists of a constitutionally valid association, we held, was invalid "as entailing the likelihood of a substantial restraint upon the exercise by petitioner's members of their right to freedom of association." Ibid. In other words, the First Amendment has a penumbra where privacy is protected from governmental intrusion. In like context, we have protected forms of "association" that are not political in the customary sense but pertain to the social, legal, and economic benefit of the members. NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 430 -431. In Schware v. Board of Bar Examiners, 353 U.S. 232 , we held it not permissible to bar a lawyer from practice, because he had once been a member of the Communist Party. The man's "association with that Party" was not shown to be "anything more than a political faith in a political party" (id., at 244) and was not action of a kind proving bad moral character. Id., at 245-246.

Those cases involved more than the "right of assembly" - a right that extends to all irrespective of their race or ideology. De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353 . The right of "association," like the right of belief (Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 ), is more than the right to attend a meeting; it includes the right to express one's attitudes or philosophies by membership in a group or by affiliation with it or by other lawful means. Association in that context is a form of expression of opinion; and while it is not expressly included in the First Amendment its existence is necessary in making the express guarantees fully meaningful. [381 U.S. 479, 484]

They follow by a list of explicit rights which can only be meaningfully protected by assuming an implicit but nevertheless basic and fundamental right to privacy. You can disagree with the specific examples cited, yet still logically accept the basic premise. I think nearly everybody believes there is a zone of liberty surrounding the individual, inside of which government may not intrude, except under the most extraordinary circumstances:

  • How many of you believe that your state or city -- believing that beige is a particularly soothing color -- can constitutionally pass a law requiring the insides of all buildings, whether public, commercial, or residential, be painted the same shade of beige?
  • Can government ban red and blue clothing, because the city council or state legislature (or Congress) declares them "gang colors?"
  • Can it constitutionally mandate the number of squares of toilet paper individuals must use?
  • Can it ban spicy food, even in one's own home, because it might lead to gastric ulcers and cause more health-insurance claims?
  • Can it make kissing in public a criminal offense?

Many people do, in fact, believe that all of these are constitutional... nearly all such folk are lawyers. They implicitly accept the premise that any power not expressly forbidden to the Congress or the states is therefore perfectly proper for them to exercise. (A perfect example of being "overlawyered" in one's thinking.)

But fundamental rights long predate the writing of the Constitution; they even predate the existence of lawyers, let alone any specific, lawyer-generated enumeration of such rights. And the rest of us understand that no matter what the Constitution does or does not say, there are certain natural limits to the totalitarian impulses of government at all levels.

We also accept that our understanding of these fundamental rights will change over time: For example, in 1796, there was no national consensus that all human beings had a fundamenal right to liberty; a certain class of human beings, slaves, were denied that right. The right itself may have existed then, but if so, much of the country didn't accept it.

But regardless of what people would have accepted in 1850 or 1900 or even 1950, today in 2008, I assert that the vast majority of the American people accept that individual adults have a fundamental legal right to engage in consensual, non-commercial sex behind closed doors... including sex that will not produce a baby. Even most Americans who believe such non-reproductive sex is morally wrong rarely believe the government has the authority to jug sinners for engaging in it.

That means that the vast majority of Americans believe government has no authority to bar the use of contraceptives, because the decision of how many kids to have is not within the jurisdiction of government; in fact, that's one of China's great crimes against humanity. The right to use or not use contraceptives is part of a larger right of privacy.

Likewise, most Americans now accept that the right to engage in sex that your local city council disapproves of is also falls within the fundamental right to privacy. This includes, via Lawrence v. Texas, the right of homosexuals to engage in what some jurisdictions used to call "sodomy" -- particularly when one points out that "sodomy" can be defined, and has been defined in the past, to include virtually any heterosexual act other than the "missionary position." If the State has the authority to ban "sodomy," then it also has the authority to prohibit "adultery," which means any sex outside marriage... and that, too has frequently been done.

Real Americans do not see their governments as a surrogate parent (or surrogate priest), making every decision for every American; real Americans reject totalitarianism, even majoritarian totalitarianism. We all "draw the line" of individual liberty somewhere; most of us assume that there are zones of liberty not explicitly protected by the Constitution, but in which government should not intrude nonetheless.

Only a wretched handful believe liberty is precisely and exclusively limned by the explicit words of the Constitution, that any power not expressly prohibited is available for government, merely because the Constitution is "silent" on the issue. Philosophically, in our liberty-based culture, all else being equal, uncertainty should be resolved in favor of individual liberty, the states, or the federal Congress -- in that order.

Liberty, security, and sanction

I support the decision of Lawrence v. Texas striking down "sodomy" laws. So why don't I accept that "liberty" should also require same-sex marriage? What is the difference?

The right of privacy primarily protects private acts; but marriage is fundamentally a public act: It used to be called "publishing the banns;" even today, marriages are generally public spectacles where people spend thousands of dollars and invite all their friends, relatives, and distant acquaintances; many times, they even publish a squib in the newspaper.

Marriage is the public, social sanction of a relationship. Since those desiring marriage seek the approval, even applause of society, it makes perfect sense that society (through its democratic institutions) can constitutionally decide what specific types of relationship it's willing to approve. Under that authority, society has by and large decided it will not approve of marriages between three or more people, between adults and those below the age of consent, between people who are too closely related -- or between people of the same gender.

Marriage is certainly not necessary to make meaningful the right of gays to engage in sex with each other, unless one believes that sex, intimacy, and love can only exist inside of marriage. So nothing in Lawrence or Griswold even speaks to same-sex marriage (or polyamorous marriage).

All right... but doesn't a fundamental right to engage in gay sex force the end of "don't ask, don't tell?"

Again, certainly not... no more than a fundamental right to freedom of speech and the right peaceably to assemble force the end of military censorship and discipline. When you join the military, voluntarily or by being drafted, you give up certain rights formerly protected by the Constitution.

That doesn't mean the military must prohibit gays from serving openly, only that it can if the president and/or Congress so desires: National defense trumps individual liberty among military servicemembers, even under a standard of "strict scrutiny."

Necessary suppositories

Finally, I want to caution again that some of the opinions I impute to Patterico are actually suppositions I drew from reading between his lines; and I could be wrong. It has occasionally happened.

Very occasionally.

But even if I misstook his position on some issue, my arguments still stand as directed against the position itself... which presumably someone holds. It's a big country.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 22, 2008, at the time of 7:07 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 3, 2008

Memo to Japan: You Are Aware There's a War On... Right?

Military Machinations , Mysterious Orient , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Sachi

On February 19th, a Japanese Aegis destroyer, JS Atago, equipped with an advanced radar system, collided with a small fishing boat Seitokumaru off the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture. Tragically, the accident killed a father-and-son pair of fishermen aboard Seitokumaru. Atago was on her way home from Pearl Harbor, having just finished four grueling months of training and testing in Hawaii waters.

It seemed a mere traffic accident, and it had nothing to do with the Aegis system or the radar installation. However, it was the latest in a series of mishaps and scandals that have plagued the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF -- the Japanese "navy") over the last couple of years. The Minister of Defense egregiously mishandled the collision investigation and public relations, further exposing the deep-seated problems of the ministry itself; and the Japanese press instantly blamed Aegis, demanding to know why a multi-million dollar system designed to intercept missiles in flight didn't somehow make a fishing trawler get out of Atago's way.

The stunned ministry took severe disciplinary action against 88 defense-ministry officials and service members, including Adm. Eiji Yoshikawa, MSDF chief of staff. (This does not include Atago's captain or crew, since the investigation is still underway.) The crew were confined aboard the ship in port, essentially in jail, for over a month; they were subjected to harsh treatment from zealous investigators and scathing criticism from the media. One sailor who'd been on watch the morning of the accident actually attempted to "cut his stomach" -- commit suicide to save his face.

The "mere traffic accident" has metastisized into a full-blown fiasco for the Maritime SDF...

The government concluded that Yoshikawa, who took office in August 2006, should take responsibility for a series of accidents and blunders, including a fire on the destroyer Shirane at Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture in December 2007 and the leakage of confidential information, including data on the Aegis system....

Kohei Masuda, vice defense minister, will have his pay cut by 10 percent for two months.

Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said he will return two months of salary for the minister's post in a self-imposed disciplinary measure.

Year 2007 did not start well for JMSDF. In March, a petty officer second class from Destroyer JS Shirane -- yes, the same ship that later had a huge fire -- was arrested for illegally removing classified Aegis-related information from his ship and giving it to his Chinese wife:

Police confiscated digital storage devices containing the data during a search in January of the home of the 33-year-old petty officer 2nd class in connection with his Chinese wife, who is suspected of violating immigration law. The couple were not identified, and the law the wife was suspected of violating was not specified.

Information on her current status was not provided.

The hard drives and other storage media contained Aegis destroyer radar data and telecommunications frequencies, sources said.

Since the unidentified PO2 did not have authorized access to any secret information, police realized that higher up personnel had to be involved in the leak. A 43 year old lieutenant commander was later arrested as well, and he implicated 34 year old Lt.Com. Sumitaka Matsuuchi.

Note: The linked Sankei Newspaper’s article is in Japanese; this quote comes from the same article from the English-language Yomiuri Newspaper, from which no link is available.

A 34-year-old Maritime Self-Defense Force lieutenant commander was arrested Thursday on suspicion of leaking top-secret information about key functions of MSDF Aegis destroyers.

The Kanagawa prefectural police and the MSDF’s Criminal Investigation Command arrested Sumitaka Matsuuchi, a former member of the MSDF’s vessel development team in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on suspicion of violating the Law Concerning the Protection of Secrets for the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement.

It was the first time for a person to be arrested under the law since its enactment in 1954. The law prohibits the leaking of information about weaponry and warships containing U.S. technology.

According to investigators, Matsuuchi used the SDF internal mail service to send a compact disc holding a computer file of top secret information to one of his colleagues around August 2002, at which time he was working for the vessel development division.

By doing so, he leaked secret material to the 43-year-old lieutenant commander, who was an instructor at the MSDF’s First Service School in Etajima, Hiroshima Prefecture, the investigators said.

Matsuuchi admitted the allegation. He told the investigators: “It’s true I handed it to a lieutenant commander who studied in the United States with me after he asked for it. I knew it was top secret material, but I sent it by the SDF’s internal mail delivery service anyway.”

I want to clarify one interesting point about the age of the unnamed lieutenant commander, because it leads directly into the real problem with the Japanese Maritime SDF: In the Japanese military, members often reach a rank plateau and simply stay there for the rest of their careers. Thus it's not unusual to find a 43 year old lieutenant commander (O-4) who remains at that rank for fifteen years.

Why? Because a central problem for the Japanese military is that neither the government nor the country itself really sees the "Self Defence Force" as a real army or the Maritime SDF as a real navy. Japan has been "allergic" to having a real military ever since the Japanese parliamentary democracy was founded after the post-World War II occupation ended.

2007 ended as it began -- with another blow to the pride of the Maritime SDF: JS Shirane, the same ship from which the second class stole the classified information, caught fire when a sailor brought a defective "unauthorized space heater" aboard:

Japanese MSDF 5200 ton destroyer Shirane scheduled to sail out early morning on December 15, caught fire at about 2220 hours on December 14. The Shirane destroyer can hold three helicopters and this is the first Japanese warship to carry a three-dimensional radar....

This fire cause substantial damage to the ship and inured three sailors.

Last year, I worked in Hawaii with a number of members of the Japanese Self Defense Force (SDF). Right after Japan’s first ballistic-missile defense ship, JS Kongo, successfully completed a live firing event, I talked extensively with the public affair officer from Japan. He told me the success of Kongo was very important because the "series of unfortunate events" surrounding the Aegis program had tarnished the Maritime SDF’s reputation, driving public support to an all time low.

The SDF desperately hoped for the total success of Atago’s Aegis system test events in early 2008... and they were not disappointed. Atago successfully completed the final live firing tests in February, and everyone -- including all the American team members I spoke to -- was ecstatic. Finally, they thought, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force will become the pride of the Japanese people!

Then on the way home, Atago crashed into the fishing trawler.

When I first heard that almost 90 military and civilian personnel were being disciplined, I thought the Japanese government had gone into overkill, as usual. But the more I think about it, the more convinced I become that this purge may be just what they need.

The impression I got from working with JMSDF servicemen is mixed:

  • On the one hand, they are highly efficient, professional, and eager to learn.
  • But on the other hand, they have a certain unseriousness that disturbs me. They seem to think the military is just a jobs program with quirky gamerules.

For a simple example, in the United States Navy, we have a rule that officers and enlisted men must "move up or move out;" if a service member is not promoted after several opportunities, he's pushed out the door (I believe this is also true for the other branches). This keeps a constant circulation of new blood in the service and prevents the military from becoming a dumping ground for useless officers and non-coms who are simply given a "window seat," a Japanese term from the days when nobody was ever fired -- but some employees were sidelined into do-nothing jobs where they couldn't cause any damage.

Don’t get me wrong, the SDF service personnel I interacted with were vigilant about checking visitors IDs and logging all recording media that came in to or went out from the ship. They may think the gamerules are peculiar, but they normally follow them.

But oftentimes they forgot that unclassified and classified media should never be mixed; and I believe it was because they never got the underlying point behind the regulations.

For another example, Japanese sailors train for emergency procedures vigorously, much more than their American counterparts. But the training scenarios are always predetermined and known in advance to all the sailors; they would know the exact day and time of the drill -- which in my opinion defeats the whole point of emergency training.

Just as they treat the military as a jobs program, the SDF is simply not on a “war footing” in any other respect. Nobody seems to take the Self Defense Forces seriously as a real military... and that is a fatal flaw.

China poses a much bigger threat to Japan than to the United States. The Chinese government is quite hostile to Japan, and of course much closer; and that's not even taking into account their other enemy, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- or their very intense competitor, the Republic of Korea. Seeing what China is doing to the Tibetans, and remembering all the Japanese civilials who were kidnapped over the years by North Korea, it's astonishing that the Japanese imagine those countries would never attack Japan.

Serviceman with access to highly classified information must start taking their responsibilities seriously; they must understand that the beautiful Chinese girl who is overfriendly may very well be a spy.

This is no April Fool; the Chinese government has one of the most active, world-wide human-intelligence spying program in the world. In fact, Gregg Bergersen, a weapons analyst at the Pentagon, just pled guilty to transferring classified air-defense information to a Chinese businessman, Tai Kuo, whom he thought "only" had connections to Taiwan, but who turned out to be a spy for Red China. Kuo is a naturalized American citizen.

The nonchalant attitude towards security on the part of so many Japanese members of the Self Defense Forces and the defense ministry, and towards basic safety -- such as not using unauthorized electric devices on board and failing ot keep an observant watch on the deck -- are all symptoms of fundamental unseriousness about the global war against caliphism. The entire culture of the SDF needs to be upended and overhauled: The Self Defense Force needs to become real military.

The hostility of Japanese public opinion towards the SDF in Japan is unbelievable. Before any details of the accident become clear, the Japanese elite media had already indicted and convicted the sailors. In such a political environment, it seems impossible to imagine turning the SDF into a real, full-time, professional military; but the fate of Japan as a significant power in the 21st century demands it.

I have no idea if they can finally grow beyond the simplistic "war, what is it good for?" meme they absorbed following the catastrophic defeat in 1945... but if they cannot, I'm afraid they will never be able to maintain their economic hegemony in the Orient. Japan can defend its own prosperity without having to recreate the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 3, 2008, at the time of 7:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 21, 2008

Petraeus, Shmetraeus; the Real Question Is - Who's Next?

Afghan Astonishments , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times carries the vaguely interesting speculation (whic barely even qualifies as news) that top Pentagon brass are trying to decide what to do with Gen. David Petraeus for his next assignment. The choices seem to be:

  • Commander of NATO, which would give him a strong say in what we do in Afghanistan, where our combat mission is led by American NATO troops;
  • Commander of CENTCOM, which would give him an even stronger say, assuming someone can figure out where to stick Adm. William Fallon. Fallon seems to be doing a bang-up job as CENTCOM commander right now and has said that rumors of his death or imminent retirement are greatly exaggerated.

The idea seems to be for President George W. Bush to give Petraeus an appointment and confirmation before leaving office a year from yesterday. If the administration does not, and if a Democrat wins the presidency, the incoming POTUS will surely do everything he can to sabotage Petraeus' career -- taking petty revenge against him for the crime of rejecting the Pelosi-Reid conclusion that we've already lost the Iraq war... and worse, being proven right!

But if Petraeus can serve a term in a less politically charged job (especially as NATO commander), goes this reasoning, then maybe President Hillary (or President Mike, President Barack, President John, President John, President Mitt, President Fred, or Citoyen Ron) will consider kicking him upstairs to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- a gold watch and a window seat.

I don't know. I don't care. He should stay in Iraq as long as possible, then be moved somewhere he can continue to fight... or perhaps train others to fight. I'm far more interested in the question, who will succeed Petraeus as Commander of Multinational Force - Iraq (MNF-I)?

Here, the Times again channels its beloved anonymous sources:

If General Petraeus is shifted from the post as top Iraq commander, two leading candidates to replace him are Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who is running the classified Special Operations activities in Iraq, and Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, a former second-ranking commander in Iraq and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’s senior military assistant....

Of the potential successors for General Petraeus, Generals McChrystal and Chiarelli would bring contrasting styles and backgrounds to the fight. General McChrystal has spent much of his career in the Special Operations forces. He commands those forces in Iraq, which have conducted raids against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the mainly Iraqi group that American intelligence says has foreign leadership, and against Shiite extremists, including cells believed to be backed by Iran....

General McChrystal, a 53-year-old West Point graduate, also commanded the 75th Ranger Regiment and served tours in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf war in 1991 and in Afghanistan as chief of staff of the military operation there in 2001 and 2002....

General Chiarelli’s strengths rest heavily on his reputation as one of the most outspoken proponents of a counterinsurgency strategy that gives equal or greater weight to social and economic actions aimed at undermining the enemy as it does to force of arms. General Chiarelli, 57, has served two tours in Iraq, first as head of the First Calvary Division, where he commanded 38,000 troops in securing and rebuilding Baghdad, and later as the second-ranking American officer in Iraq before becoming the senior military aide to Mr. Gates.

In a 2007 essay in Military Review, he wrote: “Unless and until there is a significant reorganization of the U.S. government interagency capabilities, the military is going to be the nation’s instrument of choice in nation-building. We need to accept that reality instead of resisting it, as we have for much of my career.”

There are times in a nation's life when its future lies in the balance, and it is within the power of men to turn the tide of history in one direction -- or the other. In this case, the choice of a successor for Gen. Petraeus appears to leave us with two stark directions:

  • If McChrystal is selected, then we have turned towards a policy of clandestine warfare whose only function is to destroy the enemy's will and ability to fight against our interests; this, to my mind, is to return to the cold war strategy of yesteryear, though against a different foe.
  • But if Chiarelli is chosen instead, we will have turned instead towards a policy of undermining the enemy by denying him the fertile breeding ground of political and legal chaos, resentment, fanaticism, hopelessness, and futility that attends failed states. We will be firmly on the path of nation-building.

I believe the latter would infuriate most conservatives... and I believe it essential that we follow that path nevertheless.

I harken back to the seminal book the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett. Barnett's genius was to recognize that virtually all threats to the United States and our interests came from a narrow swath cut through the middle of the map. The Pentagon had long called this jagged cancer in the world body the "arc of instability;" but Barnett realized it was something more profound: It largely comprises those nations that stubbornly refuses to integrate with the rest of the world's politics, economics, and communications net.

Not that the Non-Integrating Gap (as Barnett calls it) is bereft of political organization; factions are constantly maneuvering to bind all the world's disgruntled postal workers into a single, globe-girdling caliphate... that is, groups like al-Qaeda and countries like Iran engage in the ceaseless struggle of nation-building; but the "nation" they're trying to build is one that offers neither friendship nor a place at the table for us.

Turning to our Special Forces, not simply as tools but as the sharp end of our foreign policy, means abandoning the nation-building field to militant Islamism. You can't beat something with nothing: AQ and the mad mullahs offer something: stability under their rule. If we offer nothing but dark-of-night strikes on people, places, or things that piss us off, then we can never win this war.

Rather, it's absolutely essential that we offer a creative, constructive plan to drain the fever swamps that breed bin Ladens and Mezba-Yazdis and build something functioning in its place; otherwise, we may as well resign ourselves to a generational, existential war that we jolly well may lose.

We cannot simply frighten hirabis into quiessence by clandestine ops and air strikes. We're talking about people for whom, as Cal Thomas put it, "death is a promotion." If hirabis eagerly look forward to dying in order to kill us, how do we "deter" them? Besides, they're not even rational actors, and there is no central caliphate command that can surrender to us.

Gen. Petraeus succeeded because instead of just more killing, he gave the Iraqis a "tomorrow." After tearing down the insurgency, he built something better in its place. He protected the civilian population, helped strengthen the rule of law in Iraq, coordinated the "rebuilding" of that shattered state, made military service a respected career choice for Iraqis for the first time since the Baath Party took over, and in general, spread hope that out of the ashes of Saddam's putative empire, Iraqis could grow the green shoots of normalcy.

We need to follow up with another commander who has the same far-reaching worldview as David Petraeus... not just another Special-Ops marauder who can destroy but cannot build.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 21, 2008, at the time of 7:07 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 9, 2008

Sneak and Peek

Military Machinations , Politics 101
Hatched by Brad

[After a scant two and a half years of persuasion (the strappado was found most efficacious), we have finally prevailed upon our older half to begin contributing to Big Lizards. What follows is the first lizardly blogpost by Brad Linaweaver, famous in three counties (and wanted in four) for his efforts to shine a light on Der Krapp of low-budget movies; for his bootless quest to convince us that our nights are lit by a Moon of Ice; for his unrelenting attacks on the hated neocons in Post-Nationalism; for a tetralogy of Doomed books he co-wrote with some other jerk; and for putting the "tine" back in "libertarian." Without further vamping...]

Although I started out supporting the Iraq war and turned against it in 2006, I have never turned against the thin red line of heroes without whom America is doomed. As Dafydd knows, my criticisms of the Iraq policy are based on Old Right libertarian analysis. But that doesn't prevent me from honoring the achievement of General Petraeus in what came to be known as the surge. The General was given a specific military task to perform which he did splendidly. When decided to make fun of this officer with childish attacks on his name and an inability to separate short term military success from long term political hopes, the dumbass American Left hurt their own anti-war effort. Incredible!

This foolish attitude permeates the current films on Iraq. Talk radio and Fox News fail to understand the real problem. These films are not so much anti-Bush or pro-terrorist as they are actually anti-soldier. We are discussing the absolute worst heritage of the American New Left.

Today's Right does not fight this problem to my satisfaction, because they are too busy defending the President or criticizing the enemy. Our culture is in deep nonsense if we condemn those who volunteer to do military service in this dangerous world, or any other dangerous world we might inhabit. We will not have to live under Bush forever. The current enemy is not eternal, believe it or not. But soldiers will always be needed in any conceivable real world.

I'm not going to be a regular contributor to Big Lizards, but I've been reading it all these years, and I'd like to be an irregular contributor; so let me start off 2008 by wishing everyone a Happy New Year and honoring Sachi in her current service to our country.

[Nota bene: Brad is well aware of this; but just in case some readers are not, I hasten to point out that Sachi is a civilian employee of the United States Navy; she is often found asea -- I mean that literally, not psychologically! -- testing freedom's most advanced weaponry. -- the Mgt.]

Hatched by Brad on this day, January 9, 2008, at the time of 4:52 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 20, 2007

Today's Huckalunacy: Back to the Future? No, Forward to the Past!

Afghan Astonishments , Elections , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

Some evangelicals, such as Lee Harris at TCS (Technology, Commerce, Society) Daily, passionately believe that conservatives (and even non-conservatives such as myself) who say bad things about Mike Huckabee's campaign for the presidency, are simply haters who despise religious people. We spend our time nitpicking every word that Huckabee utters, find absurd conspiracies (such as the "floating cross" in his Christmas TV ad that was actually a reflection off his bookshelves), and even fabricate supposed faux pas out of thin air. We are the polar opposites of those believers who see Jesus in a tortilla and the Virgin Mary in a rock formation.

Not so! In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about Huckabee until I began to hear his own words. I have assumed from the git go that he is no more or less religious than that other evangelical, born-again Christian who currently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. And everything I have attacked about Huckabee's campaign has been based upon his own words, either spoken, or in the case of his Foreign Affairs article on his deep, surethoughted foreign policy, written after careful pondering and the hiring of a skillful ghostwriter... thus all, one presumes, the considered position of Gov. Mike Huckabee himself.

So I feel no guilt for bringing to your eyes what I just heard with my own ears, on just about the most friendly venue Huckabee can possibly get: the Michael Medved show, a one-on-one conversation with a pal who has pulled out all the stops to turn his show into a virtual daily campaign spot for Gov. Huckabee.

Today, Medved began by asking Huckabee about the section of his article where he says he wants to build up the military much more rapidly than President Bush is doing. As a reminder, this is what Huckabee wrote, or at least put his name to; I include annotations from myself:

The Bush administration plans to increase the size of the U.S. Army and the Marine Corps by about 92,000 troops over the next five years. We can and must do this in two to three years. [Considering that the president has just barely met his own expansion rate, how exactly does Huckabee plan to double it? Care to tell us?] I recognize the challenges of increasing our enlistments without lowering standards and of expanding training facilities and personnel, and that is one of the reasons why we must increase our military budget. [How would increasing our DoD budget cause recruits to magically appear -- and to magically get 4-5 years of training in 2-3 years?] Right now, we spend about 3.9 percent of our GDP on defense, compared with about six percent in 1986, under President Ronald Reagan. [At the peak of the Cold War.] We need to return to that six percent level. [So he wants to add another $240 billion per year to the DoD budget... if he has a plan for getting Congress to vote this -- without a staggering tax increase -- does he care to share?] And we must stop using active-duty forces for nation building and return to our policy of using other government agencies to build schools, hospitals, roads, sewage treatment plants, water filtration systems, electrical facilities, and legal and banking systems. [That would be a great idea, if we could recreate the Foreign Office of the British Empire; but when has America done such a thing in the middle of a war? The Marshall Plan came after Germany was utterly razed.] We must marshal the goodwill, ingenuity, and power of our governmental and nongovernmental organizations in coordinating and implementing these essential nonmilitary functions.

If I ever have to undertake a large invasion, I will follow the Powell Doctrine and use overwhelming force. [A force that took months and months to settle in the friendly country of Kuwait -- which had just been invaded by Iraq, thus was willing to allow us to do so. Which country in the Middle East would have been willing to make itself a target over a six-month period prior to launching our own invasion of Iraq?] The notion of an occupation with a "light footprint," which was our model for Iraq, is a contradiction in terms. [Oddly, though, it seemed to work -- as even Gov. Huckabee admits a couple of sentences later.] Liberating a country and occupying it are two different missions. Our invasion of Iraq went well militarily, but the occupation has destroyed the country politically, economically, and socially. [Destroyed it? It appears to be doing significantly better by many measures than it was under Saddam Hussein.] In the former Yugoslavia, we sent 20 peacekeeping soldiers for every thousand civilians. [And say, that's worked out well, hasn't it!] In Iraq, an equivalent ratio would have meant sending a force of 450,000 U.S. troops. [Great leaping horny toads. And where were we to get the extra 200,000+ troops? Can Huckabee the Great conjure 20 divisions out of his hat?] Unlike President George W. Bush, who marginalized General Eric Shinseki, the former army chief of staff, when he recommended sending several hundred thousand troops to Iraq, I would have met with Shinseki privately and carefully weighed his advice. [Before or after he publicly smeared you with his "advice" at a Congressional hearing?] Our generals must be independent advisers, always free to speak without fear of retribution or dismissal. [Where "our generals" includes Eric Shinseki, but not, evidently, Tommy Franks.]

Look at that -- lots of attacks on Huckabee's ideas, yet not a single reference to "knuckle-dragging evanvgelicals" or "protofascist Christian theocrats!"

But Gov. Huckabee's military naïveté is perfectly encapsulated by a pithy, sententious aphorism he just delivered on the show, which is what spurred me to write this post. Here is what he said -- transcript from my own memory (but as you'll see, it would be hard to get this wrong):

Donald Rumsfeld famously said, "You don't go to war with the Army you'd like; you go to war with the Army you have." But I say, you don't go to war with the Army you have... you go to war with the Army you need. And you don't go to war until you have the Army you need!

(Actually, what Rumsfeld said was "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time." But Huckabee's paraphrase is near enough to the meaning.)

Think about that for a moment. How many things are wrong with that sentiment?

  1. How do you calculate "the Army you need?"

    Huckabee would use the Powell Doctrine -- where we essentially refight World War II in every military conflict we undertake. The Gulf War was a classic force-on-force confrontation not that different from Patton's North Africa campaign or the Battle of the Bulge. But wars in the future will not much resemble those of the 20th century; and if we're still trying to fight campaigns against agile, assymetrical insurgents with the bigfooted approach of a Colin Powell -- well, look at our Iraq tactics of 2005-2006 and how effective they were.

    And for how many years could we have supported that size of a force in Iraq, by the way?

  2. How long do you wait to go to war, trying to raise the Army you think you need under the Powell Doctrine?

    When Colin Powell fought the Gulf War, he had the advantage of the Reagan Army build-up already under his belt. I understand that Huckabee wants to build up our armed forces; but he's still only talking about another 92,000 troops -- in three years. But he now says we should have used 450,000 soldiers in Iraq, which is more than 200,000 more than we used. So should we have waited six years to attack Iraq?

    What kind of WMD would Saddam Hussein have had by now, had we done nothing for the last six years?

  3. Where exactly would Huckabee have staged an Allied Expeditionary Force of near half a million? Turkey? Kuwait? Iran? Has the governor even thought this through? Which Moslem country was going to allow us to build up such a massive force of crusading Christians on its territory, in the era of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda?
  4. Perhaps Huckabee is covertly saying he wouldn't have invaded Iraq at all; that like President Clinton, he would have been content with occasional bombing runs to "keep Saddam Hussein in his box." And when the sanctions regime collapsed under the weight of the UN's Oil for Fraud bribery scheme, we would have grimly watched -- while building our mighty, Cold-War sized Army -- as Hussein rebuilt his entire arsenal of chemical and biological weaponry.

    (Which, by the way, he might have used against neighboring civilian populations or even his own people, rather than against our soldiers... and the civilian death toll could have been much, much higher... even as high as the ludicrous Lancet guesstimate of 655,000 deaths, or the even more risible Opinion Research claim of 1.2 million.)

    If that is what Huckabee is saying, I wish he would just straightforwardly make that case, so we could confront his arguments... instead of advocating policies that would force us down that road, willy nilly, in future.

  5. And what if our goal to add another 20-30 divisions were delayed indefinitely by a Congress unwilling to increase the military budget by 65%? How long do we wait before going to war... not just in Iraq, but anywhere?

    Years? Decades? Never? But even Huckabee admits that "our invasion of Iraq went well militarily."

    It seems he would preferentially never invade anywhere at all if he couldn't get enough troops to do it more or less like Operation Overlord on D-Day. This is like the king who had the largest army in Europe -- but would never fight for fear of "breaking" it.

Pace, Lee Harris, but this is why so many Republicans don't think much of "President" Mike Huckabee. Those of us who are not captive to the identity-politics of evangelism realize that electing yet another naïve Arkansas governor with no foreign policy experience to the White House is probably a bad idea during an existential war against global hirabah. Heck, the first was bad enough during the American vacation from history!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 20, 2007, at the time of 1:37 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

December 3, 2007

Japanese Ship Sails Dangerous Waters

Media Madness , Military Machinations , Mysterious Orient , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Sachi

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a naval officer in the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF). The conversation turned to the Japanese role on the war on global hirabah, as Dafydd calls it (the global war on terrorism, GWOT, as everyone else calls it).

You might not know that under Japan's pacifist constitution, the JMSDF is not legally allowed to engage in any aggressive war, regardless of its merits. However, as our ally, they are allowed (and obligated) to help our war effort in a limited, non-violent capacity. .. which they used to do by refueling American naval ships in the Indian Ocean, among other tasks.

But this effort was halted at the insistance of the opposition parties in the Japanese Diet (parliament); by refusing to support the anti-terrorism bill that fostered such cooperation, the opposition effectively made sure it would expire:

Japan's government ordered its ships supporting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan to return home Thursday, after opposition lawmakers refused to support an extension of the mission, saying it violated the country's pacifist constitution....

It was an embarrassing retreat for Japan's new Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who was a strong advocate of the six-year mission and had vowed to pass legislation that would let Japan take on at least a more limited role in fighting terrorism in the region.

The order also reflected the growing power of Japan's main opposition party, which made significant gains in elections in July and is pushing to scale back the country's role in international peacekeeping efforts that involve military operations.

Many Japanese do not understand the urgent need to protect their own country. They think the GWOT is something Americans are doing which does not affect Japan at all. Some members of the Diet argue that cooperating with the US will unnecessary endanger Japan; and the Japanese "mainstream media" openly criticize the JMSDF for becoming almost a part of the United States Navy.

But the fact is that Japanese commercial ships are routinely attacked on the high seas by terrorists and pirates. Yes, pirates -- in 2007. And we're not talking Captain Jack Sparrow here: A Japanese blogger (probably female, but bloggers in Japan rarely have "about me" pages on their blogs) called Usagi ni Kaze (兎に風) reminds us of an incident that occurred three years ago. The link is to an English translation; I have left it mostly uncorrected:

April 24, 2004. British Navy assigned to Persian Gulf in part of multinational forces noticed dubious 3 high-speed boat approaching to the Japanese tanker ”Takasuzu” that was piered to the oil-loading port near Basra. Apparently 3 small boats were the self-exploding terrorist attacking the tanker.

The British Norfolk operation log reported that oil-loading port terminal became a target of terrorists. One of the high-speed boats exploded about several hundred-meters off from Takasuzu tanker. The bullets were biting into body of the Tanker making a big hole, and iron-wraught door blew apart. Unfortunately 2 US Marine Corps and and 1 Coast Guard died. Terror was blocked but 3 lost lives.

I think she (or he) means the terrorists were shooting at the tanker before setting off the explosives on the small boat.

My Japanese officer acquaintance reports that Japanese combat ships are not allowed to patrol the area, not even to protect Japanese shipping. Even if a naval vessel happened to have been there, it's not likely they could have done much, because of their overly restrictive rules of engagement.

"Even if we are attacked, we can only fight back with the equivalent power," my acquaintance said. "That means if the terrorists use pistols, we cannot shoot back at them with machine guns. What happens if a boat filled with explosives approaches? Which weapon is the Japanese destroyer allowed to use? Who knows?" He sounded quite frustrated.

Usai ni Kaze and other Japanese bloggers point to this much more recent attack on a Japanese ship to show that the situation is not improving:

A Japanese chemical tanker with 23 Korean, Filipino and Myanmar crew on board has been hijacked off the coast of northern Somalia, a piracy watchdog and officials said Monday. The vessel, believed to be carrying oil products, sent out a distress message on Sunday which was picked up by a rescue centre in Norway and relayed to the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre here. "We tried to establish contact with the ship but we failed to get any response, so we than contacted coalition warships in the area," IMB spokesman Noel Choong told AFP. The coalition naval forces informed the IMB that the ship then entered Somali territorial waters, meaning no rescue could be initiated, he said.

Acccording to CNN Japan, two American destroyers, the Arleigh Burke and the Porter, chased after the pirates. As several Japanese bloggers have pointed out, the Japanese media barely even reported this attack; they're so quiet that the details of the attack are very sketchy.

The Somalian ocean is notoriously dangerous due to rampant piracy; it's the Tortuga of the twenty-first century. Last March, two U.S. Navy warships, the cruiser Cape St. George and the destroyer Gonzalez, exchanged gunfire with pirates off the coast of Somalia:

The battle started after the USS Cape St. George and USS Gonzalez, which were patrolling as part of a Dutch-led task force, spotted a 30-foot fishing boat towing smaller skiffs and prepared to board and inspect the vessels.

The suspected pirates were holding what appeared to be rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the navy said. When the suspects began shooting, naval gunners returned fire with mounted machine guns, killing one man and igniting a fire on the vessel.

(I have some personal knowledge of this incident; a current co-worker of mine (American) was aboard the Gonzalez during the firefight.)

The reason Japanese media is silent about these incidents is that they want to play down the real danger Japanese commercial ships face on the open ocean. They know that if Japanese realized how dangerous maritime activity had become, they would demand that the "Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force" become an actual blue-water navy... which would require the constitution be changed; Japan is an island nation that lives by the sea trade, and Japanese know how vital that is to their own livelihood.

For further evidence of Japan's need for a real navy, and the weakness caused by its lack, see also our series about South Korea, Japan, and the island of Takeshima:

Some concerned Japanese bloggers are very frustrated by the fact that the Japanese government, by law, currently keeps its ships defenseless against terrorists and pirates. "Don't forget," Usagi ni Kaze writes in another post, "three Americans have lost their lives protecting our ship." She (he) thinks it's disgraceful that Japanese purposely allowed the anti-terrorist resolution to lapse, thus forcing Japan to cease protecting the freedom of the seas -- or even its own shipping -- while still giving "plausible deniability" to ministers and members of the Diet who don't want to be seen as endangering Japanese merchant vessels.

Today's AP story addresses the growing problems in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia, the follow up to the seized Japanese tanker incident:

The U.S.-led coalition working to secure sea lanes beset by pirates believe skiffs like the ones used in the attack on the Japanese ship must have come from elusive "mother ships...." [They mean a larger ship that launches the small skiffs and other boats that carry out the actual attack; the larger ship would be the "base" which must be destroyed to stop the pirates or terrorists.]

The International Maritime Bureau has recorded 31 attacks off Somalia this year but believe many more go unreported.

The 31 includes the seizure a month ago of a Japanese tanker carrying as much as 40,000 tons of highly explosive benzene in the Gulf of Aden.

Initially, American intelligence agents worried terrorists from Somalia's Islamic extremist insurgency could be involved and might try to crash the boat into an offshore oil platform or use it as a gigantic bomb in a Middle Eastern port.

When the Japanese vessel was towed back into Somali waters and ransom demanded, the coalition was relieved to realize it was just another pirate attack.

The more recent attack on a separate Japanese vessel occurred some 85 nautical miles from Somalia in the busy lanes used by boats entering the Suez Canal -- too far for the two small boats carrying pirates to have come from shore. Some attacks are even farther from land, as much as 250 nautical miles, Hasham said.

The pirates boarded the Japanese vessel before their skiffs were destroyed and remain aboard. The U.S. Navy has in the past persuaded pirates to abandon ships they have boarded and still hoped to do so in the case of the Japanese vessel -- though that might be complicated now that the pirates no longer have skiffs on which to leave.

No warship has located a mother ship yet, although that could be due to the continuos radio chatter they put out to warn pirates that they are patrolling the area in an effort to deter attacks. However, numerous ship captains have reported seeing the bigger pirate vessels.

Thanks to blogs and other media outlets, the Japanese people are slowly waking up. I am hopeful that the resolution will be re-approved, and that refueling in the Indian Ocean will resume; just as Democrats here in America will be forced, in the end, to approve funding for the Iraq war without an attached date for America to surrender to the terrorists. In America, sanity usually prevails; I am not so sure about Japan, though.

In any event, the pace at which the Japanese are navigating this water is agonizingly slow and nerve-wracking.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, December 3, 2007, at the time of 3:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 20, 2007

One Cheer for Hillary

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Brace yourselves... Big Lizards is about to applaud a position rejected by all the main Republican candidates for president -- but embraced by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. From the New York Times blog the Caucus:

She drew another ovation, too, with her response to an Air Force major, a 20-year veteran of the service who had served three tours in Afghanistan, when he asked how she would protect the privacy of service members if she went ahead with her plan to let gays serve openly in the military.

Mrs. Clinton hewed closely to conduct regulations in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, saying that, under her, the armed forces would punish or discharge any straight or gay service member whose conduct was inappropriate.

Most gay people, she said, were not dismissed because of conduct, but because they had been seen attending a gay rights parade or socializing with openly gay people. She drew a comparison with female service members, noting that some of them had been harassed and mistreated, but said the proper response to such tensions was not to bar women from serving.

“I feel strongly that if someone wants to serve their country, if they’re a patriot, if they comply with the code of military justice and they have the appropriate behavior, they shouldn’t be disqualified from serving simply because they’re gay,” Mrs. Clinton said to applause.

The only part of this I object to is the use of the plural pronoun "they" to stand in for the singular noun "someone." But only one cheer, because of her other positions on using -- or rather, never using -- the military for the purpose for which it is intended.

The major didn't think much of her answer, which evidently missed the point of his question; so I'll respond on behalf of those of us who support full rights to serve our country for gays and for women...

The Air Force major, Gary Mathis of Cedar Rapids, said afterward that he appreciated Mrs. Clinton’s points about conduct, but that she had side-stepped his question about privacy – specifically, what she would do to ensure the privacy of male soldiers who shower, sleep and work out in the gym alongside other male soldiers.

“I don’t think her answer fully recognized the day-to-day realities of military life,” Major Mathis said. “You could extend her argument and say that you don’t need any separate facilities for men and women because as long as their conduct is appropriate with one another, there is no privacy concern.”

My answer is... who the hell cares? If a soldier or Marine is so freaked out by the thought that he's taking a shower next to another man who happens to be gay, then he's too psychologically fragile to be a soldier or Marine.

Were the law to be changed, I frankly doubt that droves of military personnel would actually exit the service in a homophobic panic. I suspect this objection is yet another ploy in the hysterical fight against allowing "homos" into the military -- where, in fact, they have served with distinction since the founding of the country, albeit under cover, though often well known to their fellows in the unit.

There literally is no difference between this sentiment and the sentiment of racists in the pre-integrated Army saying that they would sooner desert than serve alongside -- or horrors, under -- a "nigger." Frankly, anyone who is actually that irrationally racist is more of a danger to us than to the enemy, and we should be glad to see the back of him. But the reality was nowhere near the catastrophe predicted by the racists... and neither would be the reaction to allowing gays to serve openly, instead of semi-secretly.

Nor is allowing gays to shower with straights -- where about 3% of the parties would be with those they might find sexually attractive -- at all the same thing as having men and women generally shower together... where the vast majority of both parties (97% of the males and 98% of the females) would be showering with those they might find sexually attractive. (Especially as gays would know that making any advances in the shower would likely result in a violent response.) This is just more sophistry in support of an indefensible position.

As far as women serving in combat in a combat capacity -- well, we already allow women to serve in a combat zone in a non-combat capacity (nurses, for example, as far back as WWII and maybe earlier)... and we already allow women to serve in a combat capacity in a non-combat zone (as MPs, or female fighter pilots relegated to ferrying Hornets and Warthogs from place to place, and many other examples).

It looks disturbingly like we don't mind our women getting shot at, so long as they're not allowed to shoot back.

American women have often unexpectedly ended up engaging in combat... and have served admirably: Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, for example, won a Silver Star for acts of valor in combat. And female Russian snipers during World War II racked up staggering kill rates, several in triple digits; are American women less competent at killing than Russian women?

And of course, we already employ tens of thousands of women as police officers and bodyguards, where many of them have had to engage in life and death struggles, on a number of occasions killing the bad guys. Are our soldiers wimpier than our civilian cops?

(Note that women have served in units in combat zones for decades... yet we somehow managed to find ways to allow them to shower separately from men without compromising unit integrity. Women can shower at separate times than men; big deal.)

I say anybody who proves himself or herself capable of engaging in combat ops should be allowed to engage in combat ops, regardless of gender. Is anybody here actually prepared to argue that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp makes a better combat soldier than Sgt. Hester?

I make this argument not because I'm concerned about women's lack of promotion in the military, but because it's good for our country and our defense in two ways:

  • National security: The greater the pool of potential recruits for combat duty we have, the better will be our eventual military combat personnel; one Sgt. Hester is worth a dozen Pvt. Beauchamps or more.
  • Americanism: American women have all the same rights as men; it follows they should have the same duties. Since we don't have a draft and aren't likely to anytime in the forseeable future (conscript armies wouldn't be able to fight the way we fight now), this means that by virtue of being Americans, women should have the same right to die defending their country as do men. Unlike our enemies' women, our women are not dhimmi.

I will give Maj. Mathis the last word (from the Causus blog), and even my agreement:

“I wanted to come out and see what [Clinton] was like,” he said. “But I tend to vote Republican, and I’ll probably go with McCain or Huckabee. I respect her, but I can’t see voting for her.”

While I would prefer Romney, Giuliani, or Thompson over either McCain or Huckabee, I would certainly vote for the latter two in preference to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-Carpetbag, 95%).

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 20, 2007, at the time of 4:12 PM | Comments (20) | TrackBack

October 14, 2007

Sing Along With Sanchez - Minor Update

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Former Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez gave a very, uh, interesting speech to the annual convention of the Military Reporters and Editors. It's being played as an indictment of President Bush; but in fact, it's -- oh how I hate to say this about a general who served honorably for three decades -- it's a long and bizarre rant against virtually everybody, left and right, Democrat and Republican who had anything to do with Iraq.

The basic thrust seems to be contained in a single paragraph towards the end: That we should have come in using the Powell Doctrine with 500,000 - 750,000 troops, utterly crushed Iraq, taken command of the Republican Guard, installed an Imperial American proconsul -- preferably, given Sanchez's hatred of L. Paul Bremer, a military man, if you catch my drift -- and then used the Baathist Republican Guard to enforce the diktats of the American leader on the Iraqi people.

He seems most vexed that we haven't somehow brought to bear in Iraq all of our political apparatus -- Sanchez believes that "America" must somehow force the two parties to act in concert -- along with all of our economic might (unexplained), to rein in "the Interagency," whatever that is (sorry about the caps, but I'm not going to waste time rewriting it):


(You'll get no sympathy from me; I had to read the entire speech that way!)

UPDATE: Here is a fully corrected version of the transcript from Michael Yon. Hat tip to commenter SlimGuy.

And here is the paragraph quoted above, in Yon's easlier to read, capitalization-corrected, and reparagraphed version:

America has sent our soldiers off to war and they must be supported at all costs until we achieve victory or until our political leaders decide to bring them home. Our political and military leaders owe the soldier on the battlefield the strategy, the policies and the resources to win once committed to war. America has not been fully committed to win this war. As the military commanders on the ground have stated since the summer of 2003, the U.S. military alone cannot win this war. America must mobilize the interagency and the political and economic elements of power, which have been abject failures to date, in order to achieve victory.

Our nation has not focused on the greatest challenge of our lifetime. The political and economic elements of power must get beyond the politics to ensure the survival of America. Partisan politics have hindered this war effort and America should not accept this. America must demand a unified national strategy that goes well beyond partisan politics and places the common good above all else. Too often our politicians have chosen loyalty to their political party above loyalty to the constitution because of their lust for power.

Our politicians must remember their oath of office and recommit themselves to serving our nation and not their own self-interests or political party. The security of America is at stake and we can accept nothing less. Anything short of this is unquestionably dereliction of duty.

We now continue with the original post...

But here is how the Associated Press portrays it:

The U.S. mission in Iraq is a "nightmare with no end in sight" because of political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today, a former chief of U.S.-led forces said Friday.

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition troops for a year beginning June 2003, cast a wide net of blame for both political and military shortcomings in Iraq that helped open the way for the insurgency - such as disbanding the Saddam-era military and failing to cement ties with tribal leaders and quickly establish civilian government after Saddam was toppled.

He called current strategies - including the deployment of 30,000 additional forces earlier this year - a "desperate attempt" to make up for years of misguided policies in Iraq.

A quick aside about journalists' ability to read and parse grammatically correct English-language passages. The paragraph from which AP pulled the "nightmare" quoteation above -- in which AP claims that the nightmare is caused by "political misjudgments after the fall of Saddam Hussein that continue today", actually reads thus:

There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight. Since 2003, the Politics of War have been characterized by partisanship as the Republican and Democratic parties struggled for power in Washington. National efforts, to date, have been corrupted by partisan politics that have prevented us from devising effective, executable, supportable solutions.

(This nice, non-cap version is from a new source I just stumbled across; alas, he includes irritating stage directions and annotations... so nothing's perfect.)

So first of all, a disturbingly large percentage of journalists are retarded or illiterate.

Second, John Hinderaker at Power Line -- who is both intellectually capable and literate -- points out the delicious irony of the AP reporting: The entire first half of Lt.Gen. Sanchez's speech lambasted reporters for reporting "propaganda" instead of truthful news, for the purpose of getting stories onto the front page... but somehow, AP didn't consider that half of the speech newsworthy!

But let's just focus on the part of the speech where Gen. Sanchez attacks all the government people and policies, the only part that AP or any other drive-by news source I've read bothered to report.

Third: Good heavens... what is this obsession that some people seem to have for the idea that we shouldn't have "disbanded" the Iraqi army?

Contrariwise, every general I've heard speak on the subject has said that we didn't disband them: They disbanded themselves, fading back into the civilian population. One presumes this was because the former military personnel thought that -- like Arab conquerers -- we would put them all to the sword.

And are we not talking about the very same army and the same Republican Guard which brutalized, tortured, oppressed, and tormented the Iraqi Shia and Kurds (and even many Sunni) for literally decades? What makes either Gen. Sanchez or AP think that putting those same thugs in charge of enforcing the commands of foreign princes would be a good way to stand Iraq up on its own two feet?

Do journalists, Democrats, and certain old generals suggest we should have squashed Iraq flat, like a steamroller over a banana slug? That we should have utterly annihilated the cities, killed millions of Iraqis, firebombed the rubble, then dispersed the population to die of starvation and disease... and therefore leave them so helpless and shellshocked that they would meekly follow our orders -- as we did to Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan?

Forward to the past, men! Let's relive the most horrific war in all of human history. It's a disturbing position for a modern-day general to take -- and an incomprehensible one for liberals and the elite media.

But if we were not going to fight a "total war" against Iraq, that meant we would have to show, after conquest, that we were not crusaders or conquerers. And that means we could not assume ownership of Saddam Hussein's engines of oppression... no matter how convenient they might be. If our goal was to create a strong and independent Iraq without us killing five million innocent civilians, then we necessarily had to disperse the Iraqi military (though they saved us the trouble by dispersing themselves).

Finally, I have another problem with the speech itself, apart from the reporting about it: Sanchez is simply not a credible, unbiased witness:

  • He only served a single year in Iraq and has been out of the loop since;
  • It was at the very beginning of the war;
  • He had a bitter and angry relationship with Paul Bremer, the top civilian administrator at the time;
  • His career was later torpedoed over the abuses at Abu Ghraib; Sanchez himself says that it was responsible for destroying his career;
  • He appears to have been a follower of Colin Powell, who is hardly a model of fair-mindedness about the Iraq war;
  • And he seems to have a strangely unrealistic conception of how civilian government works... viz:

    "America's political leadership must come together and develop a bipartisan Grand Strategy to achieve victory in this conflict. The simultaneous application of our political, economic, information, and military elements of power is the only coarse of action that will provide a chance of success."

    Which sounds disturbingly like "Why can't Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the entire banking community, the intelligence agencies, and the blogosphere all just get along?"

Reading the speech is like listening to Bo Gritz ramble on, which Friend Lee and I did for four days one evening. At least Gritz did make one joke in the course of his lecture; unlike Sanchez, who sounds as sincere and earnest as a Ron Paul acolyte in the airport.

To try to extract any single piece from this speech's universal critique, while ignoring the rest, is to do both speaker and reader an injustice. (The elite media is unjust. So what else is new?)

I have yet to find a single MilBlogger who defends this speech or the man who made it. Honestly, there is nothing new in this speech, nor does anybody, right or left, emerge unstoned. The Democrats and their "willing accomplices in the media" are once again grasping at the camel's back.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 14, 2007, at the time of 11:32 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 11, 2007

Bizarre Czar

Future of Warfare , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

There is not going to be a military draft.

Congress opposes it; it would never get through committee. The president emphatically opposes it. The JCS oppose it; the soldiers in the field don't want to fight alongside undertrained conscripts.

In fact, I don't think it's even possible for a conscript Army to fight the way we now fight -- which is highly technical, swift, silent, almost like an army of special forces. A military draft makes no sense whatsoever. The only person overtly calling for it is Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY, 95%)... and he only wants it because he thinks it will scare the pants off parents of teenaged kids, and they will stampede Congress into surrendering in Iraq.

So what the heck is this insanity?

Frequent tours for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed the all-volunteer force and made it worth considering a return to a military draft, President Bush's new war adviser said Friday.

"I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said in an interview with National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

"And I can tell you, this has always been an option on the table...."

Uh... on the table? In anybody's mind but Gen. Lute's?

Did he clear it with the Commander in Chief to go on National People's Radio and announce that reinstating the military draft is an option worth considering and is on the table? Did Gen. Lute even warn President Bush or Secretary of Defense Bob Gates that he was going to say such a thing?

Who is Gen. Lute anyway? He's Bush's new "War Czar," although his actual battlefield experience seems somewhat scant, at least according to his official biography. There is nothing dishonorable about Lute's service; but there is also nothing that gives me confidence he knows what the heck he's talking about in the real worlds of Iraq and Afghanistan, especially when it comes to fighting with conscripted troops:

  • He graduated from West Point in 1975, just after the Vietnam war ended.
  • He went into the Armored Cav... in Germany.
  • Fifteen years later, he finally deployed and fought in Desert Storm (so that's a couple months of combat -- almost as long as John Kerry!)
  • Lute then kept Texas secure from invasion for a few years and protected Washington D.C. from being overrun, before shifting to a new combat position in Louisiana. He was then posted to the Big Red One, back in Germany.
  • He went to Kosovo in 2002, two or three years after that war ended; then back to Europe a year later.
  • Finally, in 2004 -- after thirty years in uniform -- he was back in a real combat zone:

    In June 2004, he began more than two years as Director of Operations (J-3) at US Central Command during which he oversaw combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as other operations in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Horn of Africa.
  • In 2006, he was back in D.C. as Director of Operations for the Joint Staff; and now he's still in the capital, as War Czar.

I can't tell what "oversaw" means in this context. Did he lead troops in combat, à la Gen. David Petraeus? Or is Director of Operations an administrative position? Perhaps a helpful milblogger can fill us in here: What are the duties of the Director of Operations at CENTCOM?

In any event, even if this were a fighting position, I can't get a handle on how much Lute knows from personal experience about today's fighting Army. Is he a Petraeus-like figure, who has figured out how to fight and win a counterinsurgency operation? Or is he one of those Weasley Clark, Colin Powell generals who still envisons the battlefield environment in the same frame of reference he learned back during the Cold War?

I only ask because I have not heard any other senior military officer saying that we should be resurrecting the draft, as if gearing up to refight Vietnam all over again -- "but this time, we'll win, by cracky!"

According to Wikipedia, after West Point, Lute took a Master of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; and he's married to Jane Holl Lute -- who happens to be the UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations. Her poli-sci PhD is from Stanford, and her JD is from Georgetown... which, along with the Kennedy School, completes the set of the top three ultra-liberal university programs in the United States.

Lute is the nation's first War Czar; but he's not the first to be offered the position. Before turning to Lute, Bush tried three times with retired 4-stars -- including Gen. Jack Keane, co-architect with Fred Kagen of the counterinsurgency strategy that Gen. Petraeus eventually adapted and adopted in Iraq.

After Keane and two other generals (Marines and Air Force) turned down the position, Lute accepted. At his confirmation vote on June 28th, 94 senators voted to confirm him, including all but six Democrats. Profile in courage Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 95%) voted "present;" Tim Johnson (D-SD, 85%) did not vote, of course; and only four Democrats voted against Lute: Robert Byrd (D-WV, 80%), and three unrated freshman senators (the percent given in each case is the senator's slender margin of victory over the Republican opponent last November): Claire McCaskill (D-MO, 2.3%), Jon Tester (D-MT, 0.1%), and Jim Webb (D-VA, 0.4%).

Three of the four Democrats voting against Lute are on the Senate Armed Services Committee; Tester is on the Veterans Affairs Committee (as is Webb). Color me biased, but I am not reassured that Lute received such enthusiastic support from the notoriously partisan Democratic majority of the 110th Congress... especially when the four Democrats who voted against him are all on one of the two main military committees.

Did the Democrats know something the rest of us, including President Bush, did not? Is this an attempt to sandbag the president? I cannot imagine, even if Bush wanted to put the draft on the table (which he has repeated said he does not), that he would choose to have Lute leak the news on NPR, of all places.

Does anybody else have any information about this? What is going on?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 11, 2007, at the time of 5:54 AM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

July 13, 2007

Warner, Lugar Draft Bill to Oust President, Declare Congress Commander in Chief

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

[Correction added; see below.]

Republican Senators John Warner (VA, 64%) and Richard Lugar (IN, 64%) have introduced a bill into the Senate that would remove the president as Commander in Chief of the military, requiring him to report to Congress instead and implement battle plans at their direction:

Two prominent Senate Republicans have drafted legislation that would require President Bush to come up with a plan by mid-October to dramatically narrow the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The legislation, which represents a sharp challenge to Bush, was put forward Friday by Sens. John Warner and Richard Lugar, and it came as the Pentagon acknowledged that a decreasing number of Iraqi army battalions are able to operate independently of U.S. troops [because they have been decimated in both men and materials by valiant combat with al-Qaeda and Shiite militias -- as explained deep in the story]....

The legislation would direct Bush to present the new strategy to Congress by Oct. 16 and suggests it be ready for implementation by Dec. 31. [Regardless of what Gen. David Petraeus reports in September, one presumes.]

The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Fortunately, Warner and Lugar explained in great detail why legislation requiring the president to draft a battle plan at the pleasure of Congress -- a plan that would mandate a return to the strategy of 2005-2006 (which was working so well) -- would actually lead to victory in Iraq:

"Given continuing high levels of violence in Iraq and few manifestations of political compromise among Iraq's factions, the optimal outcome in Iraq of a unified, pluralist, democratic government that is able to police itself, protect its borders, and achieve economic development is not likely to be achieved in the near future," the Warner-Lugar proposal said....

The Warner-Lugar proposal states that "American military and diplomatic strategy in Iraq must adjust to the reality that sectarian factionalism is not likely to abate anytime soon and probably cannot be controlled from the top."

Accordingly, Warner and Lugar say Bush must draft a plan for U.S. troops that would keep them from "policing the civil strife or sectarian violence in Iraq" and focus them instead on protecting Iraq's borders, targeting terrorists and defending U.S. assets.

In short, the "surge," not quite a month old, has failed miserably, so we must retreat, surrender, and declare defeat. Well a day! That's certainly compelling... who could argue with that?

But let no one accuse either gentleman of being an "armchair general." Sen. Warner served in the United States Navy during World War II for a solid year, rising to the rank of PO3. He joined the Marines later during the Korean War, then stuck it out for ten years in the reserves, eventually skyrocketing to the rank of captain. Sen. Lugar's career was even more illustrious: After graduating college, he served for three years in the peacetime Navy. Lugar was also an Eagle Scout. He has 34 honorary doctorate degrees.

[Corrected previous paragraph to add Warner's Marine Corps experience. - The Mgt.]

Legal experts, speaking on condition of anonymity because they have not been consulted, do not appear in the article, and in fact know absolutely nothing about the Warner-Lugar proposal, expressed skepticism that it was even constitutional for the United States Congress to order the President of the United States to craft and implement a specific battle plan.

But what do they know? To paraphrase Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%), and, well, nearly every other Democrat and RINO Republican... all three branches of government are coequal; but some are more coequal than others.

We shall watch Congress's future antics with great interest.

(One more point needs elucidation, giving me the opportunity to play "sea lawyer" again -- a chance I rarely pass up! But I'll save it for the "slither on.")

Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer; I never graduated law school; I never attended law school; I never applied to law school; I know absolutely nothing about the law, probably less than the butcher at the Armenian meat market down the street opposite Ralphs Fresh Fare. But I enjoy playing lawyer on this blog. Try and stop me!

The AP article also contains this:

The proposal also would seek to make Bush renew the authorization for war that Congress gave him in 2002. Many members contend that authorization - which led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 - was limited to approval of deposing dictator Saddam Hussein and searching for weapons of mass destruction.

Curiously, however, the actual operational language in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq Resolution of 2002 mentions neither Saddam Hussein nor weapons of mass destruction. It says:


(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.

A dizzying array of "whereases" lurk at the beginning, some of which do discuss WMDs; but there are also numerous whereases that talk about the danger of terrorists from al-Qaeda and other groups operating in Iraq; for example:

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq;

Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations, including organizations that threaten the lives and safety of United States citizens;

Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist organizations;

This seems, at least prima facie, to justify continued combat in Iraq even after Saddam Hussein is deposed in order to prevent al-Qaeda and "other international terrorist organizations" from remaining in Iraq. And then there is also this:

Whereas in December 1991, Congress expressed its sense that it "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the Authorization of Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (Public Law 102-1),'' that Iraq's repression of its civilian population violates United Nations Security Council Resolution 688 and "constitutes a continuing threat to the peace, security, and stability of the Persian Gulf region,'' and that Congress, "supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of United Nations Security Council Resolution 688'';

UNSC Resolution 688 "condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population" and "demands that Iraq... immediately end this repression" and "ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected"-- which seems a pretty open-ended call to create a democratic state in Iraq and not allow any group -- including the majority Shia -- to impose theocratic, dictatorial rule.

While I don't want to get too far out on a limb or express an opinion before the many lawyers (and sea lawyers!) in Congress have spoken, it sure seems as if the 2002 AUMF authorizes rather more than simply removing Saddam Hussein and bringing in international inspectors to look for WMD.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 13, 2007, at the time of 3:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 14, 2007

Does Our Own Military Understand We're at War?

Military Machinations , Mysterious Orient
Hatched by Sachi

Speaking of loose lips sinking ships...

In recent months, several disturbing security breaches occured involving the United States Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF -- the Japanese "navy"); these cases appear to be deliberate acts of espionage on the part of Red China, rather than the foolish mistakes by blabbermouthed Pentagon staffers I talked about in my last post. In both cases, sensitive information was believed headed for China and may or may not have been intercepted before getting there.

  • Last Thursday, a naturalized, Chinese-born electrical engineer, Chi Mak, was convicted of spying for China.

This one hits close to home, because I once had a naturalized, Chinese-born co-worker who had a position of access to classified material and who acted very peculiarly. He disappeared from the job one day, and we never found out why; management seemed very tight-lipped. But we all wondered...

A Chinese American engineer was found guilty Thursday of conspiring to send information about U.S. Navy technology to China that would make it easier to detect U.S. submarines.

Chi Mak, a naturalized citizen, was convicted of conspiracy to violate export control laws, attempting to violate export control laws, acting as an unregistered agent of the People's Republic of China, and lying to the FBI.

Mak was a very long-term, deep cover agent who began his espionage career in the 1960s, moving to Hong Kong -- then still controlled by the British -- to make it appear he was not connected to Red China.

The next two cases both involve Japanese sailors with Chinese wives or girlfriends who have a peculiar interest in highly classified American military hardware:

  • According to Japan Times, on March 29th 2007, several floppy disks which contain secret sensor data were found in the house of a Japanese petty officer second class (PO2) who has a Chinese wife.

This is even creepier, because I have, in the past, been responsible for handling disks and tapes used to record classified data:

Kanagawa Prefectural Police found floppy disks containing data on the Aegis destroyer's radar system and transmission frequencies in the home of a Maritime Self-Defense Force sailor during a probe of his Chinese wife on suspicion of violating the immigration law, investigative sources said Friday.

When I read this, my first thought was, who gave him access to the disks? Here, at least, non-commissioned officers are not allowed to handle such data media; only the technician (usually civilian) doing the recording and the engineers who analyze the data are supposed to touch the disks or tapes.

Clearly, in this Japanese navy case, one of two things happened: Either the person in charge of the disks was an accomplice, or else he was incredibly careless handling highly classified material.

The unnamed MSDF petty officer is also suspected of having taken home data on other destroyer radar systems that may have been provided by someone higher in the MSDF....

As the petty officer second class is not in a position that gives him access to Aegis data, police suspect another MSDF member gave him the information, the sources said. [Yes, but deliberately or stupidly?]

Since I work in a similar environment with sensitive data, I know how such material can be stolen if those charged with handling such disks or tapes are careless... or worse, if they're part of the gang.

And didn't anybody notice the disks were missing? Or did he make copies? The latter would be much more serious, because it would show a clear intent to deceive. Unfortunately, we're not given answers to many questions that arise.

Finally, from the same Japan Times story is this throwaway line:

  • "In August, police found another MSDF sailor had copied data on foreign submarines from an MSDF base onto a compact disc and brought it home. He also made trips to Shanghai to visit a Chinese woman who worked in a karaoke bar he frequented."

I don't at all blame the People's Republic of China for stealing American technology (from us or from our allies): Although we're not exactly enemies, as we were with the Soviet Union, they are still a Communist country. And they are, at the least, strategic competitors. Since I'm happy that we spy on China and North Korea (and I think we should do more spying), I can't complain about them spying on us.

What is disturbing is how many American and allied military personnel are willing to cooperate with Chinese spies -- usually for trivial rewards: for sex or for small amounts of money; most traitors make only a few tens of thousands of dollars for betraying their country.

But the most astonishing point is that simple, off-the-shelf technology -- in use in the private sector for as long as I can remember -- can prevent much of these kinds of theft from happening; but few military bases or ships bother to use it!

When a disk or tape is finished recording, whether on a ship on at a military base, it is supposed to be logged by the person in charge of the physical recording; if at that point, it were immediately slipped into a "drop safe" -- a safe with a one-way slot for inserting materials -- then theft or copying could only occur with the connivance either of the recording operator, who is responsible for dropping the media into the safe, or of a single designated person who is the only one with the combination to the safe.

Whenever an analyst needs to work with the materials, he would have to get that designated person to open the safe and log the fact that so-and-so checked out the data; but when the analyst finishes, he himself can put it back using the drop slot.

Drop safes can easily be purchased from any safe manufacturer; restaurants and retail stores have used them for decades to secure excess cash. Anybody who has worked retail probably knows about them. While a drop safe is not a "magic bullet" against espionage, but it's a simple solution that can make it much, much harder for unauthorized personnel to get hold of such sensitive data.

The fact that such a cheap and obvious security measure has never occurred to the Navy points to a problem that is much more serious than a few Chinese agents running around loose: the complete lack of security consciousness found in so many American and allied military bases. I get the impression that many base commanders in our own services -- and even more so base commanders in allied countries -- don't truly understand that we're at war.

I see this lack of security consciousness all the time: security guards not checking employee ID cards, airport security "screeners" too busy chatting to notice suspicous item on the screen, and unlogged classified data tapes and disks carelessly tossed in a box with no real clue how many there are (making it nearly impossible to tell if one is missing).

Unknown people knock on doors of secure buildings and are let in by "helpful" employees who don't know them from Adam. Passwords that are never changed from the day they were issued -- or worse, passwords changed to something "easy to remember," like the user's name, birthdate, and so forth. Each of these lapses can be prevented by civilian management or military commanders who themselves take security seriously... you know, like were at war or something.

We must be vigilant in guarding our secrets; if they are stolen, the fault is not with the enemy agent... he is only acting as a patriot for his own country. And while the moral guilt may reside with the PO2 who took the classified data home to his Red Chinese wife -- what about that "someone higher" in the military food chain who either intentionally handed over classified military data... or at the very least, left it lying around where it could be grabbed?

Security consciousness applies not only here but in any other country which purchases American technology or cooperates with us in security operations. It can be especially difficult for a country like Japan, which has not seen a real war for over 60 years, to understand the concept. But what is the U.S. Navy's excuse?

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 14, 2007, at the time of 4:38 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 11, 2007

Security Violator of the Year Award

Military Machinations , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Sachi

We have recently read about new military policies promulgated by the Pentagon relating to milblogs; due to security concerns, they now want all milbloggers to receive counseling about operational security (OPSEC) and how to protect it. This got me wondering... just exactly how often do milbloggers unknowingly leak sensitive information?

The answer, according to retired Navy Intelligence Specialist DJ Elliott at the Fourth Rail is -- not often. Elliott has been keeping track of principal OPSEC violators; Elliott is publishing a series of Order of Battle (OOB) reports on Bill Roggio's site.

The type of secret information released to the public often seems harmless at the first glance. Look at the caption published by attached to a photograph published by the Multi National Force Division North:

U.S. Army Soldiers move to the UH-60 Black Hawk after searching the area for items of interest during an aerial response force mission, Iraq, March 31. Soldiers are assigned to the 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway.

What's wrong with this picture? It tells you which unit is operating down to the platoon level, their mission, and the exact date. Our enemies find these pieces of information very useful. I know for a fact that even during training exercises conducted inside the United States, this type of information is closely guarded. Why is it so casully released from the war zone? According to Elliott, this is typical:

Multinational Division-Central: Before they even stood up I knew which Brigades were officially in their command and what area they were getting. Since then the Commanding General has told the press that 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade are also joining them, I have their full OOB and the units are not even all there yet. The elements of 6th Iraqi Army Division in their area get ID'd all the time, however the security on unit IDs of 8th Iraqi Army Division is maintained.

In Elliott's post, he lists some of the worst offenders, ranking them from 10 to 1 (where 10 is the worst). So we're all waiting with bated breath; who is the most egregious offender? The answer may not surprise you, depending on your knowledge of the military:

The worst OPSEC violator in the senior staffs is the Pentagon. I get more advance notice from a Pentagon Press Brief of US movements from Kuwait into Iraq than I get from all other sources combined. The Pentagon acts as if it is not at war, and the leaks emanating from Arlington are enormous.

The Pentagon? Not the milbloggers? Say it ain't so, DJ!

In fact, Pentagon staffers are so bad, Elliott doesn't even bother including them in the list. So here are the lesser sources; all comments, unless [bracketed] off, are Elliott quotations:

  • 10. Multinational Division-North: Shoot your Air Force photographers as enemy spies.

    [Elliott retracted this statement after an e-mail exchange with an Air Force master sergeant combat photographer who, quite understandably, took extreme exception. But the basic point is important enough that we included the retracted comment -- which in fact remains in the blogpost.]

  • 9. Multinational Division-Central
  • 8. Multinational Division-Baghdad: The OPSEC was poor in the past, but it has improved over last three months.

Ranking in the middle are the Marines in Anbar and the training teams. They are good at not revealing specific IDs of Iraqi Security Forces, but they tend to get careless about themselves. Sometimes their commanders "expound a bit too much," as Elliott puts it.

The Brits and the Poles are much better, but even they slip up now and again:

  • 7. Multinational Force-West: The Marines in Anbar.
  • 6. Training Teams.
  • 5. Multinational Division-South East: The Brits have years of experience in talking around a subject and it shows.
  • 4. Multinational Division-Central South: The Polish lead force occasionally provides unit IDs and locations but, normally well after the fact of the operation...

Now the best three. Surprisingly, milbloggers come in third best:

  • 3. Military Bloggers: Despite the worries by the hierarchy, I have seen only five valid OPSEC violations in two years from Military Bloggers concerning ISF/Coalition forces (only 1 in the last year). MilBloggers tend to lose unit IDs and details in their writings in a way that PAOs [Public Affairs Officers] should study and learn from.
  • 2. Special Operations Forces: We have SOF? All joking aside their security is good and the Iraqi Security Forces is following their lead, except they do acknowledge that I SOF conducts operations now.
  • 1. Multinational Division-North East/Zaytun Division (Republic of Korea Army): The best in-theater OPSEC. Period. The only thing I see from their AOR [area of responsibilty] is what new project or jobs training is ongoing. Unit identification of coalition/Iraqi Security Forces below Division does not get released by the Koreans. I get my data on Iraqi Security Forces in that area from US PAO releases and briefs.

If you think about it, it is hardly surprising that boots on the ground (and their families) are very close-mouthed about the units' activities: They are the soldiers most directly affected by violations of OPSEC. The worst offenders are the commanders and senior staffers far from the battlefield, men and women who do not have to face bullets and IEDs themselves. They have a bad tendency to brag about their "achievements."

The good news is that, since the Fourth Rail started publishing these OOB reports, violations of OPSEC have plummeted:

Also since we started publishing these OOBs, the reported unit IDs have dropped by more than half. Some of the previous OPSEC violators have either rethought what they were doing or been "counseled". Good. The harder it is for the OOB to be updated the better I feel.

I congraturate Mr. Elliott and for his fine job and the Fourth Rail for giving him a forum. I hope the military will take this warning to heart and keep up the good work. Remember, "Loose Lips Sink Ships!"

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 11, 2007, at the time of 6:41 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 21, 2007

"Not Responsible for Advice Not Taken"

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

The title, of course, is a wonderful aphorism by science-fiction writer Larry Niven that I have used (with attribution) many times. But it is particularly poignant in this case.

When Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) declared that the Iraq war was "lost" -- and even presumed to read the minds of the Secretaries of State and Defense to pronounce that they agreed with him -- Reid cited, as his only evidence, the multiple suicide and car bombings that occurred on Wednesday, April 18th, 2007. Those five bombings on one day proved that the counterinsurgency strategy was a "failure," Reid pronounced.

On that day, nearly 200 Iraqi civilians died (hat tip to Eason Jordan blog IraqSlogger -- and my apologies for mistaking it for a milblog earlier!) Within hours, Sen. Reid rushed to the microphone in palpable glee at being able to declare defeat and squirt insults, like a squid squirts ink (and for the same reason), at President Bush and Gen. David Petraeus. Petraeus is commander of Multinational Force - Iraq (MNF-I) and architect of the 60%-implemented counterinsurgency that Reid, with his solid history in military studies, has dismissed as doomed.

Most of the deaths that occurred on Wednesday came from a single suicide truck bombing in the parking lot of the Sadriya market in Sadr City, a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad. That explosion alone killed at least 140 people; the other four bombs together killed about 50 more (the exact death toll is subject to some dispute). The Sadriya market bombing accounts for more than 70% of Wednesday's fatalities.

For Reid's conclusion of "failure" to be valid, he must assume that the Sadriya market bombing occurred because of a systemic failure of Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy. Reid must show that the bombing occurred because of some flaw implicit, or at least implicate, in the strategy itself... not because of either a freak chance or somebody failing to do his job.

(Shorthand distinction: A flaw is implicit if it's already present in the strategy but unseen or unrecognized; a flaw is implicate if it arises as a natural consequence of the strategy. Thus, a yolk is implicit in an egg, but a chicken is implicate.)

To un-generalize my point, suppose your strategy for reducing energy costs in an apartment building you manage comprises:

  • Insulating the whole building;
  • Replacing the ancient cooling and heating systems with much newer, more efficient units;
  • Replacing all the incandescent bulbs in the common areas with fluorescent lights;
  • And replacing the old refrigerators with new ones.

Your cost-saving strategy is not discredited if you get socked with a huge electricity bill one month -- because a tenant went AWOL, leaving his electric stove set to 450 degrees!

So what about the Sadriya bombing? It turns out it was only successful because of exactly the kind of idiocy in the analogy above; the explosives-laden truck could not even have gotten into the parking lot -- except that Iraqis removed the concrete barriers that would have forced it to pass through a guarded gate and be searched:

As part of the new Baghdad security plan -- which Petraeus helped design and is in charge of implementing -- large concrete barriers were brought in to restrict access to the parking area after a military "red team" determined that area too was vulnerable. But on April 15, three days before the deadly attack, Iraqi officials ordered the 12-foot "Texas barriers" pulled away after local residents complained about the obstruction.

Clearly, then, the problem the led to the massive death toll last Wednesday was not systemic to Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy; it was neither implicit nor implicate... unless one assumes that Iraqis will always rebel against security measures, though it means their own suicide, and will never be able to learn the routine caution that Western nations pracice. The suggestion seems terribly bigoted to me.

The flaw was in individual and local Iraqi officials, who listened to the immediate complaints of Sadr City merchants about inconvenience instead of explaining the long-term value of security to their constituents. But that lesson was made, with brutal emphasis, by al-Qaeda itself last Wednesday. Perhaps it will now sink in.

Anybody have Harry Reid's cell-phone number? I would love to ask him whether he really argues that a strategy should be considered a "failure" if even a single Iraqi screws up a smallest piece of it on an isolated occasion.

If so, then can we consider the Congressional Democratic majority likewise a failure? Several of them have signally failed to do their jobs in the past 90 days -- starting with Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) and Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid, who have yet to pass a single major bill or indeed do anything at all, other than launch scurrilous and ill-advised attacks upon every Executive official from the lowly assistant to Alberto Gonzales to our military commanders in the field.

Harry Reid: doomed failure who has already lost. Kind of like the sound of that...!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 21, 2007, at the time of 11:25 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

April 9, 2007

In Sign of Desperation, Desertion Rate Plummets!

Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

The New York Times reports that the American military has been "cracking down" on deserters ever since 2002, which they conclude is a sign of desperation:

The increased prosecutions are meant to serve as a deterrent to a growing number of soldiers who are ambivalent about heading -- or heading back -- to Iraq and may be looking for a way out, several Army lawyers said in interviews. Using courts-martial for these violations, which before 2002 were treated mostly as unpunished nuisances, is a sign that active-duty forces are being stretched to their limits, military lawyers and mental health experts said.

“They are scraping to get people to go back, and people are worn out,” said Dr. Thomas Grieger, a senior Navy psychiatrist. Though there are no current studies to show how combat stress affects desertion rates, Dr. Grieger cited several examples of soldiers absconding or refusing to return to Iraq because of psychiatric reasons brought on by wartime deployments.

At an Army base in Alaska last year, for example, “there was one guy who literally chopped off his trigger finger with an axe to prevent his deployment,” Dr. Grieger said in an interview.

Another sad example of how the criminal Bush regime has broken our military, all just to put more billions of dollars into Dick "Haliburton" Cheney's pocket... oh, wait; there is also this next paragraph:

The Army prosecuted desertion far less often in the late 1990s, when desertions were more frequent, than it does now, when there are comparatively fewer.

"Oh! That's very different. Never mind."

So how much has the desertion rate dropped since 9/11? The Times doesn't want to tell -- it doesn't quite fit the Story -- but there are other sources, such as UPI, back in March of 2006:

Desertions from the all-volunteer U.S. military have dropped to half the number faced at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, a report said.

The 2005 desertion rate was 0.24 percent of the 1.4 million members of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. In 2001 there were just over 9,500 desertions from all services, while last year there were just over 4,900....

Vietnam-era desertions were far higher. In 1971, the U.S. Army had more than 33,000 desertions, a desertion rate of 3.4 percent.

Thus, the desertion rate today is about half what it was during the Clinton presidency, and just 7% of what it was during Vietnam. Clearly, "active-duty forces are being stretched to their limits," our soldiers and Marines are "worn out," and we're "scraping to get people to go back." Why, they're even too demoralized to make a nuisance of themselves by deserting!

The Army enunciated a clever bit of handwaving to explain why they might be more willing to prosecute desertion today than in the 1990s:

“The nation is at war, and the Army treats the offense of desertion more seriously,” Maj. Anne D. Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman, said.

Pish tosh! What an obviously concocted rationalization. Why should desertion be treated as something more serious than an "unpunished nuisance," merely because we're in an existential fight against global jihadism?

We may as well let the sociologists have the last word. They will anyway, you know; try and stop them!

Morten G. Ender, a sociologist at the United States Military Academy at West Point, said soldiers’ decisions to go AWOL or desert might come in response to a family crisis -- a threat by a spouse to leave if they deploy again, for instance, or a child-custody battle.

“It’s not just that they don’t want to be in a war zone anymore,” Dr. Ender said. “We saw that a lot during Vietnam, and we see that a lot in the military now.”

Trust the New York Times to focus on the nuances of desertion during time of war.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 9, 2007, at the time of 2:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 4, 2007

Cutting Off Your Dough to Spike Your Race

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%), in a snit that the president will exercise his constitutional authority to veto a congressional bill micromanaging the surrender, now vows to cut all funding for the war.

Perhaps Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) will take her hijab off long enough to tell Harry Reid to "calm down."

As a quick aside, I had no idea just how fatuous Pelosi's entire statement was. First, President Bush explains why he will veto the bill:

"The consequences of imposing such a specific and random date of withdrawal would be disastrous," he said. "Our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars. They'd spend the months ahead plotting how to use their new safe haven once we were to leave. It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, D.C. to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away."

Perhaps I'm just viewing everything he says through red-state-colored glasses; but honestly, he doesn't sound either hysterical or out of control -- the times when it might make sense for someone to say "calm down." To me, it sounds like a calm, simple, and straightforward recitation of what would likely happen were he to sign that bill.

Then the Squeaker responds:

"On this very important matter, I would extend a hand of friendship to the president to say to him, calm down with the threats," Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill. "There's a new Congress in town. We respect your constitutional role. We want you to respect ours.

"When the president says he wants to veto this bill he says, I am vetoing accountability - accountability of my own administration and of the Iraqi government," she added. "He says, I forbid. He told me, I forbid, I forbid accountability. I forbid additional assistance and meeting the health needs of our military and our veterans. I forbid meeting the needs of the people struck by Katrina. I forbid [SCHIP] helping the poorest children in America get healthcare. I forbid disaster agriculture assistance to farmers and cattlemen across the country who need this help."

I forbid? Again, I'm hardly Mr. Even-Handed... but this sounds exactly like Violet Beauregarde pitching a tantrum because she can't have a clown, a pony, a tattoo, and the Harajuku Girls on her eighth birthday party. "You don't ever let me have anything! You don't want me anymore, and I'm going to throw myself in the trash!"

Anyway, back to the annoying Sen. Reid and his puppet friends, who actually seem mature by comparison:

Reid's new strategy faces an uphill battle because many of his colleagues see yanking funds as a dangerous last resort. The proposal increases the stakes on the debate and marks a new era for the Democratic leadership once reluctant to talk about Congress' power of the purse.

"In the face of the administration's stubborn unwillingness to change course, the Senate has no choice but to force a change of course," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who signed on Monday as a co-sponsor of Reid's proposal with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

What fascinates me is the Democrats' stubborn unwillingness to admit that the appointment of Lt.Gen. Petraeus is a strategic change of course: It marks the first time the American military has treated the Iraq war as a counterinsurgency, rather than a traditional force-on-force engagement of one national power against another.

At the beginning, it was entirely a standard invasion: Our enemies was the Iraqi Army of Saddam Hussein and especially the feared Republican Guard (which turned out not to be as bad as they looked on paper); it was a classical manuever-war of regiment vs. regiment. But that phase quickly ended in total victory for the Coalition, as the Baath Party government completely collapsed.

Then we had an interregnum of several months, during which nobody really knew what to do: There was no replacement government, but the insurgency had not yet started. The Coalition Provisional Authority made some progress (and some regress) at rebuilding the country... but nothing done during this time, no matter how clever or thoughtful, would have prevented the rise of a dueling pair of insurgencies: an al-Qaeda-backed Sunni terrorist insurgency, and an Iranian-backed Shiite militia insurgency.

There was a power vacuum in Iraq, and both of the ascendant powers of the Middle East rushed to fill it. In response, we had to rush back in ourselves, this time into a proxy war between Iran, the transnational Sunni jihadis, the ex-Baathists (who still fantasized returning to power), and the Iraqi Ex-Pats -- Achmed Chalabi and that lot, who had little but the title of "interim Prime Minister."

After that shook out, the Iraqi people voted in three successively more successful elections to create a government... at that moment, the enemy's focus shifted to a true insurgency, à la the Algerian FLN.

Alas, our own strategy was not as nimble; we remained committed to the earlier strategy of force on force... so we were stymied.

We killed lots of bad guys but never seemed to make headway, which is exactly what happened to France in Algeria. Finally, Lt.Col. David Galula realized the dreadful mistake France was making and devised a counterinsurgency strategy instead. The war turned completely around within a year... but the politics at home did not, and the French poodles pulled the plug -- by pretending that nothing had changed, there was no "change of course," and everything was hopeless.

The point is that Petraeus is doing the same thing in Iraq that Galula did in Algeria and will likely have the same impact on the war. Rather than admit this, however, the Democrats continue to insist that the president displays a "stubborn unwillingness to change course." There are two macro-explanations for this rhetoric:

  • Majority Leader Reid, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA, 95%), Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and a strong majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress sincerely cannot see the difference between a force-on-force strategy and a counterinsurgency strategy... so they're being honest (but stupid) when they say nothing has changed;
  • They do understand that Bush appointed Petraeus precisely in order to make a major strategic change; but for some occult reason, the only "change of course" the Democrats will accept is 180 degrees about... from moving forward to a strategic rearward redeployment to next-door Okinawa.

I would ordinarily find the first explanation sufficient for Reid, Kerry, and Pelosi, whose intellects are -- let's face it -- not quite first-class. But I cannot believe that their Defense aides are that stupid. And generally, senators don't simply blow off their top aides and start freelancing their most important positions. So I have to assume that, at the very least, they have been informed about the distinction between then and now in Iraq.

So that brings us back to explanation 2: that they know, but either they don't care or, more disturbingly... that they actually fear victory more than they fear defeat.

Mindful that they hold a shaky majority in Congress and that neither chamber has enough votes to override a presidential veto, Democrats are already thinking about the next step after Bush rejects their legislation.

Reid said Monday that if that happens, he will join forces with Feingold, one of the party's most liberal members who has long called to end the war by denying funding for it.

Reid has previously stopped short of embracing Feingold's position. When asked whether he would ever consider pulling funds for the troops, Reid said Congress would provide troops what they needed to be safe.

Reid's latest proposal would give the president one year to get troops out, ending funding for combat operations after March 31, 2008.

"If the president vetoes the supplemental appropriations bill and continues to resist changing course in Iraq, I will work to ensure this legislation receives a vote in the Senate in the next work period," Reid said in a statement.

This line makes the entire argument sound like a power struggle between two branches of the government. It's certainly true that both the Squeaker and the Majority Mouse seem quite intent upon aggrandizing the power of Congress at the expense of diminishing the office of the presidency itself. This actually makes sense for them, no matter who wins in 2008:

  • If a Republican wins the presidency, then naturally the Democrats in the Senate and House would prefer he arrive already emasculated;
  • But the Democrats almost certainly believe that the Democratic nominee will be Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-Carpetbag, 95%); so if she wins... well, let's just say there can only be one queen-bee in a hive.

    I don't think the Divine Ms. P. would appreciate suddenly playing lady-in-waiting to Her Hell-to-payness; and I'm sure that Mr. R. will side with Ms. P. on any issue of relative power between the legislative and the executive branches.

Thus I might be tempted to believe the worst -- that the congressional Democrats want to pull out before the Petraeus counterinsurgency can bear fruit because victory in Iraq is the very last thing they want to see -- were it not for this one argument, which the Democrats appear sincerely to believe... and which certainly boosts the meme that Democrats really are that dense:

Reid's proposal is unlikely to pass. But Democrats say they believe with each passing week - as the violence in Iraq continues and voters grow increasingly tired of the war - they pick up additional support.

This argument presupposes, as an axiom not subject to debate, that the strategy will fail, that Iraq will just get worse and worse, and that defeat is preordained by Gaia.

If the Democrats thought, no matter how secretly, that the counterinsurgency had any chance of success, they would not follow their current course: After all, if six months pass and Reid and Pelosi are still struggling to yank us out of Iraq -- at the very same time that Iraq is looking better and more winnable with every passing day -- that cannot possibly be anything but catastrophic for Democratic congressional and presidential chances in 2008.

Instead, if the majority Democrats thought there was even the smallest possibility of success, they would back away, say "we're going to give President Bush one last chance to turn this around," and then wait and see which way to jump when the outcome becomes a little less hazy.

If it failed, then they would be well-positioned to begin passing defeat-and-retreat bills in October, still long before the first primaries in January (unless New Hampshire gets caught up in a game of "can you top this" and changes their primary date to this coming July).

But if the strategy succeeded, then the Democrats could pat themselves on the back, crow with triumph about how their own forbearance gave Petraeus enough time to pull it out, and find some way to minimize the damage.

Therefore, they must truly believe our efforts are doomed. And that means that when the Petraeus strategy actually works, the Democrats are going to end up looking like Charlie Brown when someone line-drives one of his pitches: upside-down with shoes and clothes flying off in all directions.

Now... here is the take-away from this story: There is one remarkable point that has eluded all the "pundants" in the big-box media:

Reid spokesman Jim Manley said if legislation to cut off funding for the war fails, Reid will try again with the hopes of getting new supporters. "It is the next in a series of steps to try to ratchet up the pressure to try to get the administration to change its policies," he said.

The bill to cut off funds for the war would likely be introduced as standalone legislation and would not be tied to the supplemental spending bill, Manley said.

That tells me that Reid is resigned to giving the president a clean troop-funding bill after Bush vetoes the current bill. To a poker player as savvy as George W. Bush, this "tell" may as well be a neon sign flashing "busted flush, busted flush."

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 4, 2007, at the time of 5:57 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

April 3, 2007

Raft of Daft Drafts Wafted Aft

Congressional Calamities , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Yet another wacky Democratic voice has joined the growing chorus within the caucus to reinstate the military draft... none other than everyone's favorite friend of the military, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA, 65%):

"I voted against the volunteer army because I felt if we ever had a war, we wouldn't be able to sustain [it]," Murtha said during the March 29 edition of CNN's "The Situation Room."

"This is one of the smallest armies we've had since before World War II, right before the Korean War," added the congressman [this is a great help for anyone who doesn't recall when World War II occurred; now you know it was "right before the Korean War."]. Murtha, a frequent critic of the war in Iraq, claimed that the president's handling of the war has depleted the country's strategic reserve.

"And I think also, everybody ought to be able to serve in this country," Murtha said. "I think we ought to not just have a select few who volunteer. I think everybody ought to be obligated to serve. [Did Murtha just change his mind in mid-ramble, or does he literally see no difference between "be able to serve" and "be obligated to serve?"]

"We'd do it by lottery, and we'd call everybody up," he continued. "I think we have a citizen's army is what it ought to be, not just a volunteer professional army."

Murtha -- Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee -- thus joins House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY, 95%), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI, 100%), and then-Sen. Fritz Hollings, Rangel's co-sponsor in the Senate. That's three members of the House leadership and one senior senator who want to reinstate the military draft... and they're all anti-war Democrats!

In fact, Rangel admits that the primary reason for reinstating the draft would be to make it virtually impossible for the United States to actually use its military; like the rest of the Democratic Party, they're living in the past, longing for the good ol' days of mass anti-war protests shaking the foundations of the nation (or so they fantasize; the reality was much less melodramatic):

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Rangel and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) in Dec. 2002 proposed a reinstatement of the military draft in an attempt to stall possible military action against Iraq.

"I think if [members of Congress] went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war," Rangel said at the time, "there would be more cautiousness and more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.'"

The funniest part, however, is the expert trotted out to promote the draft: "John Roper, professor of history at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va." Mr. Roper explains why conscript soldiers are much better than trained, professional volunteers:

"They defeated the professionals who were well trained and who were, on paper, better suited to the battle," he added. "Citizen soldiers accomplished the stated mission in every war from 1775 to 1973.

...Because, of course, everybody knows that the British during the 1700s never conscripted soldiers; and there were no draftees in the Civil War, or among the Axis armies in World Wars I and II (Hitler was morally opposed to forced labor, you see). As well, every member of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army was a trained, professional volunteer... Uncle Ho would never force anyone to fight against his will!

I'm certainly glad I never attended Emory & Henry College.

"Such a drafted army looked like America, as some like to say of other things," Roper stated. "It was America. Everybody was in the army, all racial groups, all religious beliefs, every kind of character, people from every class.

As opposed to today's American military, one presumes -- which exclusively comprises blacks, the poor, and people who din't studie in skool and got stuk in irak. This was Rangel's other reason for the draft, he claims: Because the military now is "30% minority."

But according to the 2000 census, America is 31% "minority." (Only 69.1% of the American population is "non-Hispanic white.") Today, the population is even more minority than seven years ago; I wonder if the military has kept up? (I doubt it.)

Does Rangel want the military to be whiter than the country, affording its manifold opportunities and advantages to fewer minorities than it does today? Rangel defends his own attempt to reinstate the draft thus:

People "from the lower economic levels of our society" should not be the only ones placed in harm's way, [Rangel] said.

This has got to be a first for Charlie Rangel -- the first time he has ever demanded a federal affirmative-action program to ensure that America's largest employer hires more rich white kids!

In the real world, the military population is more educated, more accomplished, and more likely to achieve success later in life than the American population as a whole. Looking at John Murtha's syntax above -- "I think we have a citizen's army is what it ought to be" -- I'm not sure he would be qualified to enlist nowadays.

But back to Mr. Roper:

"The beauty of the uniform was that it could not be designer made, and the poor could wear it as proudly as the wealthy," he noted. "The beauty of the mission was that a democratic people could vote to start it or stop it.

We all distinctly remember that there was a "national war plebiscite" before each and every one of America's previous wars... until Iraq rolled around. Then, not even Congress got to vote. King George simply flung us into combat, willy nilly, over the stentorian objections of the House and Senate! (And George Bush went it alone, too... he and his forty allies.)

Heavens, I used to think I remembered at least something from my history classes; but evidently, I am a complete ignoramus, unaware of the most basic facts about the rapture and joy with which Americans greeted the draft in ages past... and also so unobservant that I'm unaware of the mass protests and riots against the all-volunteer army, demanding that Rangel's Roundup immediately restore the Selective Service process.

I have forgotten all about the Civil War volunteer riots; and a century later, the dirty, smelly hippies out in the streets in the 1960s, chanting "F--- the trained, professional, all-volunteer army!"

I should start reading newspapers.

In any event, just so long as all the teenagers in this country understand who is pushing this -- the leaders of the Democratic Party -- and that it's the Republicans in Congress and running the Pentagon who vigorously oppose it. But I have the sinking feeling that if Rangel, Conyers, and Murtha ever get this passed... somehow, it will turn out to be all Bush's fault.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 3, 2007, at the time of 6:22 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 15, 2007

Democrats In the Dental Chair

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

One of the weirdest -- and funniest -- segments of the original Roger Corman movie the Little Shop of Horrors is when dental patient Wilbur Force (Jack Nicholson in a very early role in his career) demands that the dentist, Phoebus Farb, drill Force's teeth without anaesthetic: Wilbur Force is a masochist, you see, and that's how he gets off. (When first we see him, he's sitting in the waiting room, reading an issue of Pain Magazine -- and giggling.)

Whenever the Democrats throw another handful of defeatist red meat onto the floor of Congress, I always think of Jack Nicholson squirming in the dental chair, laughing in masochistic glee. I'm not sure why I have that association...

The latest volley of dueling Democratic defeat-o-ramas -- one in the House, three in the Senate -- raises my earlier question to greater urgency: Does the 110th Congress plan to do anything besides making symbolic gestures of surrender?

Do the Democrats have any agenda at all, other than to bring the troops home in failure and disgrace? They seem to believe that if only America can be "chastened" and "humbled," if we stop acting as though we're somehow "better" than other countries, then maybe the rest of the world will love us again. It might be true: The reaction to 9/11 proved that the world loves America when America is on its knees.

But as usual, the result of these non-binding (or binding but unpassable) resolutions outside of the liberal fantasyland is just more pain and humiliation for the Democrats. As witness today, when the House Appropriations Committee only narrowly passed along an emergency supplemental surrender bill to the full House... and the Senate actually rejected a similar cut-and-run bill by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%), 50-48.

Yup: The Democrats needed 60 votes; they couldn't even get 50. And if both McCain and Johnson had voted, it would have been an absolute majority against, 51 to 49.

Only one Republican, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon [72%], voted in favor of the measure. Two Democrats, Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas [90%] and Ben Nelson of Nebraska [55%], voted against it, as did Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut [80%]. Senators Tim Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota [95%] who is ill, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican [65%] who is in Iowa, did not vote.

(The House bill was passed by the committee with one fewer vote than there are Democrats on the panel: Rep. Barbara Lee -- D-Berkeley, 95% -- decided it was too pro-Bush and too right-wing, since it didn't call for an immediate pull-out... not today, man, yesterday!)

Meanwhile, a pair of -- wait for it -- non-binding resolutions in the Senate, each promising that funding would not be cut for troops in the field, passed overwhelmingly, according to Paul at Power Line:

The [Sen. Judd] Gregg Amendment, which I understand calls says that Congress should not eliminate or reduce funds for troops in the field, has passed 82–16. The [Sen. Patty] Murray Amendment, which I understand calls for Congress to provide funds for training, equipment and other support for troops in the field, has passed 96-2.

How many holes can we drill before the Democrats are left utterly toothless?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 15, 2007, at the time of 8:03 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 28, 2007

Desperate Dems Declare Dastardly Deal

Congressional Calamities , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Congressional Democrats, still struggling for attention from an increasingly bored and impatient electorate, have decided upon a new attempt to humiliate the president, undercut the troops, and perhaps finally, finally satisfy the nutroots that the elected leaders really are radicals and not just poseurs. If you can figure out what they're trying to do, my hat is off to you, because I can't make heads or teakettles out of it:

House Democratic leaders are developing an anti-war proposal that wouldn't cut off money for U.S. troops in Iraq while requiring President Bush to acknowledge problems with an overburdened military....

The tactic is more likely to embarrass Bush politically than force his hand on the war. He would have to sign repeated waivers for units and report to Congress those units with equipment shortfalls and other problems.

All right, show of hands... how many can honestly say they have any idea what the Democrats' plan actually entails? Isn't this AP story even more uninformative than usual? Why can't they just tell us what the Democrats plan to do?

A curious thought just occurred to me: many Democrats thought that the plan pushed by Rep. John "Mad Jack" Murtha (D-PA, 75%) was "brilliant": to enact a binding resolution putting all sorts of restrictions on the deployment of troops, each one supposedly for the good of the troops themselves.

For example, one element of the plot guaranteed, by law, one full year of "rest" between deployments -- followed by many months of training before they could be sent back. This would have made it virtually impossible to send reinforcements or relieve forces that had been in Iraq for a long deployment. The Democrats believed that they would be able to put the Republicans between Iraq and a hard peace, forcing them either to vote with the Democrats, or to vote against "helping out" the troops.

But then Murtha went and shot his mouth off on some internet interview site; he actually let the beans out of the cat about his real purpose: to strangle the new security operation a-borning, to kill it with kindness. This confession was picked up and bruited all about the internet, then all about conservative talk-radio, and finally all around the entire communications grid... and the Democrats had to call it off.

So now, with the warning firmly in cheek that "loose lips sink ships," along comes AP -- which runs a story about a new Democratic strategy, but fails to go into any details at all about it!

Coincidence? We report, you decide.

In any event, I doubt this will succeed any better than the other schemes. Here is the rapid-reaction Republican response:

The House Democrats' plan brought a sharp response from Brian Kennedy, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

"If this is the Democrats' last ditch effort to appease the ultraliberal wing of their party while appearing to support the troops at the same time, I don't think they are going to convince either one of any commitment whatsoever," Kennedy said. "This appears to be political posturing at its worst and yet another attempt to undermine the mission of our troops in harm's way. The American people are going to see right through it."

Tagged, bagged, and released back into the wild with a microburst transmitter up the drainpipe.

The Democrats (and the Bigfoot media) consistently misunderestimate the capacity of the American public to see through their little Kabuki dances. Just because Murtha didn't lurch to the mike to broadcast his too clever by half scheme this time doesn't mean that the voters will fail to see that this ruse is just the same as the earlier attempt to micromanage the war. Once bitten, twice shy.

Or to haul out another hoary quotation: "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence. The third time, Mr. Bond, is enemy action."

Don't let us meet for a third time, Mr. Murtha.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 28, 2007, at the time of 4:32 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 25, 2007

The Pentagon's New Map - Simplified

Grand Strategy , Military Machinations , Moslem Miscellany , North Korea Nastiness , Southern Exposure , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I just realized I can boil down much of what Thomas P.M. Barnett writes in his book the Pentagon's New Map to a single pair of sentences. This drops all the fine detail, of course; its advantage is that it makes the central point as clear as a nutshell.

Barnett divides the world into two regions: the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap. And I can define those two thus:

  • The Functioning Core comprises the nations whose people say "We love life." This includes all those countries that are taking advantage of globalization to interconnect their economies, their communications, and their legal systems to the rest of the civilized world, hoping to "immanentize the eschaton" -- or at least create la dolce vita.
  • The Non-Integrating Gap comprises the nations whose people say "We worship death." This includes all jihadist states, of course, but also places like Rwanda-Burundi, Congo, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Haiti... places where life is a flickering spark, and murder is a negotiating tool or an expression of tribal triumphalism.

I use the verb "to worship" with great deliberation: it's not an abstract love of death that animates these cultures; rather, it's almost like human sacrifice -- as if they must appease a dark and terrifying Chaos Lord by feeding him blood and souls.

Although the details are important, it's also critical to understand that our Grand Strategy over the next few decades (what replaces the Cold War) is the fight between the culture that loves life and the culture that worships death. Our task is to shrink the geographic area that comprises those nations that are members of the latter... to deny our enemy territory.

Clear enough?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 25, 2007, at the time of 4:33 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

We've Got the Goods on Qods

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

In a dramatic, fact-filled presentation today, military and intelligence analysts presented overwhelming evidence that Iran has been arming the Shiite militias in Iraq and killing American servicemen since June of 2004. Congressional Democrats and their unindicted co-conspirators in the press were underwhelmed... but forced to make concessions:

[Senior United States military officials] spread out on two small tables during a news briefing an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories. But by far the most potent item on display was a squat canister designed to explode and spit out a molten ball of copper that cuts through armor. That bomb is perhaps the most feared weapon faced by American and Iraqi troops here.

Never before displayed in public, the canister, called an explosively formed penetrator, or E.F.P., arrives in Iraq in what the officials described as a “kit” containing high-grade metals and highly machined parts, like a strangely shaped, concave lid that folds into the ball while hurtling toward its target.

This presentation represents just the tip of the iceberg; I am convinced that this is going to be the next "shot heard round the world;" and that, far from being a one-off PR stunt, this briefing is the prelude to much more dramatic action against Iran... either diplomatically or militarily, depending upon the reactions of our competitors at the U.N.

Bill Roggio, as usual, has more details:

"Iran is involved in supplying explosively formed projectiles or EFPs and other material," such as "explosive charges, booby traps, mortar shells of different calibers and remote controls" to detonate IEDs to "multiple" insurgent groups...."

"We have evidence that Iran provided insurgents with explosive devices and trained them to use these weapons, produced between 2004 and 2006," Said MG Caldwell....

Evidence was also unveiled that Iranian agents are actively planting explosive. MG Caldwell displayed identification cards of Iranians captured while "involved in acts of violence...."

"We assess that these activities are coming from the senior levels of the Iranian government," the defense official said, "noting that the Al-Qods brigade reports to Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamanei...."

The Irbil raid in early January netted the most significant evidence, as well as a senior member of the Iranian Qods Force. Six Iranians were detained in Irbil, including Mohsin Chizari, the operational commander of the Qods Force, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps specialized force that is equivalent to U.S. Special Forces.

Evidently, we have been accumulating the evidence since June of 2004, when the first U.S. soldier was killed by an Iranian manufactured EFP; the total now is 120 American soldiers and Marines killed by Iranian forces in Iraq. But until now, we have kept the actual evidence under wraps, leaking only rumors and hints. So why call a press conference and do an info-dump now?

I've been mulling that question for a couple of days now... and I believe President Bush is setting up an ultimatum he plans to deliver... to Europe: either they handle the situation by allowing heavy, meaningful, biting sanctions to be imposed against Iran -- or else we'll handle the situation with our military.

No further discussion, no need to get a permission slip from the U.N., and no veto authority for France, Russia, or China. This won't be a U.N. operation, nor even a NATO incursion: I think we're talking about a Kosovo-style air war.

But the danger is that it might be more like Operation Desert Fox, in which we bombed Iraq intensively for 70 hours in 1998, but succeeded only in "hardening" the Hussein regime and convincing top Baathist leaders that they could survive the worst that America could dish out.

Derided at the time as a "Wag the Dog bombing," the attacks were neither intensive enough nor widespread enough to seriously threaten Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq. According to an interesting analysis by Dr. Mark J. Conversino of the Air Force's Air War College...

In the end, DESERT FOX was a militarily effective use of airpower. Terminating the already very brief operation short of a change in either Iraqi behavior or leadership, and limiting targets to a relative handful, however, was a political decision. Yet the lure of achieving a bloodless yet devastating military victory while making a rapid exit possible, if necessary -- what Eliot Cohen called "gratification without commitment" -- ultimately, perhaps inevitably, led to the misapplication and abuse of airpower. Many airpower theorists had long cautioned against using airpower in penny-packets or in hyper-constrained political environments. "When presidents use it," Cohen wrote, "they should either hurl it with devastating lethality against a few targets (say, a full-scale meeting of an enemy war cabinet or senior-level military staff) or extensively enough to cause sharp and lasting pain to a military and a society." The 70-hour operation became what Cohen cautioned against: an attack on Saddam with a "sprinkling" of air strikes that would merely "harden him without hurting him and deprive the United States of an intangible strategic asset", an asset that Cohen called the post-Gulf War "mystique of American airpower...." [emphasis added]

Moreover, DESERT FOX lacked clear political goals, an omission for which no amount of firepower could compensate [emphasis in original].

We need to have those "clear political goals," as Dr. Conversino argues, fully worked out before striking Iran; and the strikes themselves should be designed to further those goals. At a minimum, those goals should include the following:

  • Either an end to Iran's nuclear weapons research, or at the very least, setting Iran back by a number of years;
  • A complete cessation of Iranian interference in Iraq, either directly (Qods Force) or by proxy (Muqtada Sadr and the Mahdi Militia, the Badr Organization, etc.); we cannot compromise on this one -- Iran must draw a bloody stump back from Iraq;
  • A continuing threat to Iran's energy supply by U.S. control of Iranian gasoline imports and destruction of Iran's domestic gasoline refinery capacity;
  • Severing of the ties between Iran and Syria by giving the former a more urgent goal to worry about and the latter a taste of what might be in store for the Baathists in Damascus;
  • A clear signal to the rest of the Middle East that the days when we would indulge the ludicrous and dangerous global ambitions of failed oppressor states are gone, and the new world order includes no room for nations exploiting the chaos of the "Non-Integrating Gap" to wage terrorist war against the "Functioning Core," to use Thomas P.M. Barnett's phraseology.

If we sustain the bombing and missile campaign until all known nuke sites are obliterated, and if we carry through the rest of the plan, and -- this is the biggie -- if we move quickly to exploit the diplomatic opening that such a devastating blow naturally creates, we can have a very different and very much better world by the time of the 2008 elections. This would be grand, not only for Americans but also for the rest of the world... especially that large portion of it that must live in the Non-Integrating Gap.

Meanwhile, in a separate briefing, a major general dropped another bombshell: that dreadful string of American helicopters being shot down recently was not the result of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, as many had speculated, but from small-arms fire instead:

The military command in Baghdad denied, however, that any newly smuggled Iranian weapons were behind the five U.S. military helicopter crashes since Jan. 20 - four that were shot out of the sky by insurgent gunfire.

A fifth crash has tentatively been blamed on mechanical failure. In the same period, two private security company helicopters also have crashed but the cause was unclear....

In a separate briefing, Maj. Gen. Jim Simmons, deputy commander of Multinational Corps-Iraq, said that since December 2004, U.S. helicopter pilots have been shot at on average about 100 times a month and been hit on an average of 17 times in the same period....

The major general said Iraqi militants are known to have SA-7, SA-14 and SA-16 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles but none of the most recent five military crashes were caused by those weapons. He said some previous crashes had been a result of such missiles but would not elaborate.

Once again, it's always a good idea to measure six times before you leap.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 12, 2007, at the time of 6:19 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

Hostile Takeover

Iran Matters , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations , Syrian Slitherings , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I've been thinking about Iraq lately.

All right, all right; I rarely think about anything but Iraq lately, unless it's to think about Iran. Or Syria. Or the GWOT in general. A few days discussing the principles behind police raids was a welcome respite. But here I am again, like a junkie, back in Iraq (mentally).

Yep, I'm goin' to Mes'potamia in my mind.

The Iraq war was really two main phases. Some folks split it finer, but that's more detail than I want at the moment. Broadly speaking, we had the kick-out-the-Baathists phase I -- which was a screaming success -- and the build-up-a-stable-democracy phase II... which has been less than a screaming success. I wouldn't say phase II was a failure; but it was sure going a lot better a year ago than it is today.

For some reason, this reminded me of the classic example of a start-up technology company: they often have an incredible first two or three years; they introduce radical and highly profitable technological advances, allowing them to capture a small but still significant market share... but then they tend to stagnate.

Suddenly, they can't do anything right: they mismanage their IPO; they start having labor problems; QC becomes a big problem, and they're swamped with help-desk calls. They promote their smartest engineers to head up the European division, and within six months they're hopelessly mired in regulatory purgatory. They drop a bundle on TV advertising -- and sales actually go down, rather than up!

The Midas touch has turned to a black thumb. What's going on? How did they go from gold to grunge in such a short time?

Often the very person who made them such a success at the very beginning -- the entrepeneur who started the company and whose vision has been guiding it all along -- is precisely the reason they fail later. The successful engineer is not only creative and innovative, he is easily bored by the mundane reality of running a middling large company. Of course he is; if he weren't, then he probably would have continued working where he was before starting his own company!

The very act of starting a new company implies the entrepeneur prefers to roll the dice than slog through the day-to-day quagmire of corporate shenanigans. But when a company reaches a certain size, it needs an innovator at the helm far less than it needs a steady and experienced player who knows how to work the machine and where all the metaphors are buried.

Innovation is essential; but it's less essential than really knowing how to get a payroll out, how to mollify the workers and (if necessary) deal with the unions, and yes, how to grease the skids of foreign regulatory systems: who you must pay off to get certified for retail sales in Upper Iguana.

The company no longer needs an entrepeneur at the helm: it needs a CEO.

But the founder will rarely leave his baby voluntarily; thus, unless the board of directors ousts him and hires an actual corporate-manager CEO, the company will probably founder, becoming yet another failed start-up.

I think you may see where I'm going with this...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been one of the most innovative SecDefs in American history; a recent article or blogpost I read about him said he had initiated over one hundred major reforms at the Pentagon. His "snowflakes" (Post-It notes asking tough questions or suggesting alternative ways to think about some problem) are legendary.

And he had a tremendous impact on the American military, probably moreso than any SecDef in the last forty years.

But Rumsfeld has also antagonized the hell out of the E-ring of that five-sided building. He has become the lightning rod for everybody who hates American hegemony. He has been subject to scurrilous and vicious attacks by former generals, foreign defense ministers, the U.N., NATO, and many other representatives of "the military industrial complex" around the world.

In other words, Rumsfeld, like the classic entrepeneur with a cool start-up, has been long (very long) on innovation but quite short on management and people-relations. For a good, long while, that was exactly what we needed.

But now that the Iraq war has shifted into a new state -- call it phase II.V, if you want -- where what it needs is finesse, management, diplomacy (to drag in more coalition allies and make them actually fight), diplomacy (to wheedle a reluctant Democratic Congress aboard), diplomacy (to sooth the ruffled feathers of the brass and hold their hands while the reforms creak slowly forward), and above all, diplomacy (to do a better job explaining to the American voters what the heck we're doing)... well, I think maybe it's time for the entrepeneur to step aside in favor of the experienced CEO.

Robert Gates may be just the fellow:

  • He's a career bureaucrat who rose up the ranks of the CIA from a mere analyst to the Director of Central Intelligence... probably the only man ever to do that; so he knows how to play a bureaucracy probably better than anyone currently in government. (In that respect, the Pentagon is likely little different from Langley.)
  • He has served in the White Houses of five different presidents, both Democratic and Republican; so he knows how to talk to both sides of the aisle and cajole them into doing what the current president needs to have done.
  • He worked closely with James Baker -- and with Ronald Reagan.
  • He can convincingly peddle the line that he had nothing to do with getting us into Iraq... but now that we're there, we'd bloody well better win, not lose.
  • He has credentials both as a "neocon hawk" (with Reagan against the Soviet Union) and as a "moderate realist" with Baker and Scowcroft... so he will probably get along better with various factions within the GOP.
  • And he might turn out to be better at communicating with everyone that Rumsfeld was -- which frankly wouldn't be hard, as the current SecDef is notoriously prickly and closemouthed.

The reforms that Rumsfeld initiated have become part of the system; the best person to shepherd them through now is probably someone who is part of that system, not an outsider imposing it from above. Such monomaniacal brilliance was necessary to kick-start reform in the first place; the insiders were too comfortable endlessly refighting World War II. But now that the bureaucratic reform ball is a-roll, I suspect we need a bureaucrat (who isn't afraid of innovation) to keep it rolling in the right direction.

The entrepeneur vs. the CEO; I have always suspected that the larger a corporation, the more it resembles government. I think we're about to see just how far that analogy applies.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 29, 2006, at the time of 5:26 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 27, 2006

Gates of Mire

Blogomania , CIA CYA , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

The rap against Secretary-designate of Defense Robert Gates, former Director of Central Intelligence -- mostly from the conservative blogosphere -- is that he is too close to former Secretaries of State James "Mr. Realism" Baker and Dr. Henry "Hammerin' Hank" Kissinger. Viz.:

The Pentagon is drafting its own recommendations for how to win in Iraq. Its goal is to provide the administration with a counterproposal in the event the Baker group's report is unsatisfactory. But the Pentagon's effort may face a serious complication in the form of the nomination of Robert Gates, who has been working with Baker, to head the Defense Department....

No wonder, then, that the Baker group seems poised to recommend that we enlist Syria and Iran to pacify Iraq. If Baker was willing to have Saddam do it, then why not Syria and Iraq?

So it goes. But these speculations are all fairy castles built on clouds; nobody has found any writings, talkings, or previous actions of Robert Gates that would imply that President Bush brought him aboard so he could order CENTCOM to surrender to the Iranians. And in fact, in a lengthy discussion of Gates by Michael Barone (hat tip to Power Line, of all places!) in his US News & World Report column, the noble Barone throws cold water on the fevered speculation:

The picture I get of Robert Gates from his book is that of a careful analyst, one who sees American foreign policy as generally and rightly characterized by continuity but one who sees the need for bold changes in response to rapid changes in the world -- and doesn't look for answers from the government bureaucracies. He is very much aware that we have dangerous enemies in the world, and he was willing over many years to confront them and try to check their advance.

Gates pal R. Emmett Tyrrell, jr., Lord Protector of the Washington Times, also pronounces the doomsaying "wild speculation":

Now in comes Bob Gates, and as is the custom in this town there is wild speculation. He is George Bush I's guy. He is James Baker's guy. He is the CIA's guy. He is coming in from the presidency of Texas A & M to pull the plug on our involvement in Iraq. Actually, he is George Bush II's appointee. And though I shall only mildly speculate, I suspect he will do as his boss tells him. That seems to mean he will apply a fresh set of eyes to Iraq.

But back to Baron Barone. Barone answers a number of the fantasized criticisms of Gates, who has not even been barbecued by the senatorial chefs yet, as a defeatist, a captive of the bureaucracy, an unreal Realist, a State-Department lackey, and as spineless. Just as with Harriet Miers, in about 60 seconds, we went from "I don't know enough about him" to "he's an agent of the Democrats sent to the Pentagon to declare defeat in Iraq and redeploy to Okinawa with Jack Murtha."

But the portrait Barone paints -- mostly from reading Gates' book, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War -- is of a career bureaucrat who nevertheless doesn't look to the bureaucracies for policy, who prefers continuity but is also willing and able to turn 90 degrees in response to changing facts on the ground, and who has often advocated forceful confrontation and going in hard. This is a very different picture than we have seen.

Some examples; Barone on Gates' flexibility and distrust of the very bureaucracies he rose through:

Yet Gates also discusses times in which policy had to change course sharply in response to rapid changes in the world, notably during the collapse of communism in the early 1990s. Interestingly, this career government bureaucrat did not find the government bureaucracies of much use in coming up with new ideas. Instead, his impulse was to create small committees of political appointees. In July 1989, he sent [former President George H.W.] Bush a memo citing developments in the Soviet Union and concluding that "we should not be confident of Gorbachev remaining in power."

As Gates recounts in his book: "Bush agreed to the contingency planning I had first considered in the spring, and in September 1989, I asked Condi Rice to gather a group of people and in very great secrecy begin this work. When I met with her to explain the task, I told her that I thought the planning was very important because the situation in the Soviet Union could go bad in a hurry, and the U.S. government was on 'autopilot' when it came to thinking about such dramatic developments.

And here is Gates himself, from his book (as quoted by Barone), on the need for forceful confrontation of the Soviets in Nicaragua:

"By the end of 1984, I concluded that we were kidding ourselves if we thought the contras might win. I wrote [CIA Director William] Casey on December 14, and began by saying, 'The contras can't overthrow the Sandinista regime.' I continued that we were muddling along in Nicaragua with a halfhearted policy because of the lack of agreement within the administration and with Congress on our real objectives. I urged moving to an overt policy including withdrawal of diplomatic recognition; providing open military assistance and funds for a government-in-exile; imposing economic sanctions, perhaps including a quarantine; and using air strikes to destroy Nicaragua's military buildup -- no invasion but no more Soviet/Cuban military deliveries. I concluded, 'Relying on and supporting the contras as our only action may actually hasten the ultimate, unfortunate outcome.'"

Once again, I think a lot of folks in the blogosphere are, as Mark Twain put it in Life On the Mississippi (1850), getting "such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

Can't we better restrain ourselves -- this time -- and at least wait for the confirmation hearings before shaking our heads "more in sorrow than in anger" at all the horrible things we imagine he might do?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 27, 2006, at the time of 4:53 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 15, 2006

Won't Say "We Told You So," But...

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Long, long ago (I mean last Saturday), we posted the speech that we hoped -- and thought -- President Bush would be making some time in December or January. The essence was this (this is supposed to be Bush speaking):

I always said that when it came to waging wars, I would always listen first to the professionals who actually have the responsibility for victory. After having consulted extensively with the commanders on the ground, and with both the new leaders in Congress and also those of my own party, I have concluded that I was wrong, and the critics were right. We sent enough troops to overthrow Saddam Hussein and win the war. But after major combat operations ended, I did not leave enough troops in Iraq to secure the peace.

So tonight I am announcing that I have decided to send an additional 75,000 troops to Iraq. The command staff shall submit a report as soon as possible detailing exactly how many more personnel of each service we need and where we need them.

Specifically, we pointed to three major goals that we simply had to achieve in order to win in Iraq:

  1. "Secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria;"
  2. "Secure the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar;"
  3. "Secure the capital city of Baghdad, where more than 20% of the entire population of Iraq lives."

The consensus around the blogosphere (both hemispheres) was that the Democrats -- many of whom ran on a Murtha-esque "yank 'em out now" or Sen. Carl Levin's (D-MI, 100%) "Murtha Lite" -- had thereby painted themselves into a hole: they would have to push for some species of withdrawal, whether it was total or just a draw-down. (To remind you, Levin is the senator whose spectacles are superglued to the bulb of his proboscis.)

But now, a whole new paradigm has burst forth, like whoever it was from the other fellow's brow; and it's being argued by none other than the New York Times, epitome of left-wingwallowing, with a headline that gives away the plot twist... Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say:

One of the most resonant arguments in the debate over Iraq holds that the United States can move forward by pulling its troops back, as part of a phased withdrawal. If American troops begin to leave and the remaining forces assume a more limited role, the argument holds, it will galvanize the Iraqi government to assume more responsibility for securing and rebuilding Iraq....

But this argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.

If this sounds familiar, it's because you read it here first (or at least "earlier"). For example, Big Lizards:

Certainly there is no consensus of the American people to give up, to surrender, to withdraw and leave Iraq to be dismembered by Iran and Syria. Americans aren't Spaniards.

Rather, Democrats were elected on a considerably more nuanced platform: they promised only a "change of course" in Iraq, mostly because they couldn't agree among themselves: John Murtha never convinced Anthony Zinni, and Eric Shinseki never persuaded Harry Reid.

The New York Times:

Anthony C. Zinni, the former head of the United States Central Command and one of the retired generals who called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argued that any substantial reduction of American forces over the next several months would be more likely to accelerate the slide to civil war than stop it....

Instead of taking troops out, General Zinni said, it would make more sense to consider deploying additional American forces over the next six months to “regain momentum” as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq that would create more jobs, foster political reconciliation and develop more effective Iraqi security forces.

I would hate to think that the Times was taking its cue from Big Lizards for the proper response to win the Iraq war! If so, then why can't I get above 2,000 visitors a day "circulation?" (Of course, all the drive-by media may be headed down where Big Lizards is; maybe we'll pass them on the way up?)

John Batiste, another one of the "anti-Rumsfeldians," has chimed in supporting the Zinni proposal:

“The point of the proposal is to force the Iraqis to take hold of the situation politically,” Mr. [Carl] Levin said.

But some current and retired military officers say the situation in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq is too precarious to start thinning out the number of American troops. In addition, they worry that some Shiite leaders would see the reduction of American troops as an opportunity to unleash their militias against the Sunnis and engage in wholesale ethnic cleansing to consolidate their control of the capital [Baghdad].

John Batiste, a retired Army major general who also joined in the call for Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation, described the Congressional proposals for troop withdrawals as “terribly naïve.”

“There are lots of things that have to happen to set them up for success,” General Batiste, who commanded a division in Iraq, said in an interview, describing the Iraqi government. “Until they happen, it does not matter what we tell Maliki....”

Indeed, General Batiste has recently written that pending the training of an effective Iraqi force, it may be necessary to deploy tens of thousands of additional “coalition troops.” General Batiste said he hoped that Arab and other foreign nations could be encouraged to send troops. [Fat chance, unless by "Arab and other foreign nationals," he means Syria and Iran -- who would be overjoyed to send armies into Iraq!]

And what exactly should be the goals of these new American forces? Rather, "Coalition" forces... assuming there are any countries left in the West besides us who can actually fight. The Times answers that question:

  • Reduce Iraqi unemployment;
  • Secure Iraq's borders with both Iran and Syria;
  • "Enlist more cooperation" from tribal sheikhs -- in the Iraq frontier, primarily in the province of Anbar;
  • Weaken or crush the militias -- which primarily plague "the capital," i.e., Baghdad.

Finally, Kenneth M. Pollack, a Brookings Institution guy, argues that pulling out now will make a bona-fide civil war inevitable; as Wikipedia puts it, "the Brookings Institution is a center-left think tank, based in Washington, D.C.... currently headed by Strobe Talbott."

This is precisely the fig leaf the Democrats can use, if they choose, to turn on a dime and give a nickle change. Especially if the Iraq Study Group (the Jim Baker commission) recommends a troop increase, as I suspect they will, instead of a pull-out: then the momentum for sending in a bunch of troops to secure borders, borderlands, and Baghdad will become irresistable.

At least, let's keep our fingers crossed: not only will it make the war infinitely more winnable than if we were to pull out prematurely (like Onan did) -- which is the most important consideration -- but secondarily, it will enrage the nutroots and cause them to go all-out to force a Kossack wack-job on the party as the 2008 presidential nominee. I don't know if they'll succeed... but I like the idea of la bataille royale within the Democratic Party for the next two years!

One more thing; take a look at the last line from our previous post:

By the way... if I'm right, and the Democrats are willing to go for a change in this direction instead of insisting on that direction, then I predict they will also go ahead and confirm Robert Gates as SecDef.

And compare to Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Caesar's Palace, 100%) "top priority" that we quoted from an AP story yesterday:

[110th Congress Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid told The Associated Press that a top priority for the remainder of the lame-duck session will be confirming Robert Gates as defense secretary, succeeding Donald H. Rumsfeld. "The sooner we can move it forward the sooner we can get rid of Rumsfeld," he said.

Heh again.

The Democrats might surprise me and prove more stubborn and mulish in their demand for an American defeat than I imagined. But on the other hand, don't be too surprised if next month, or else at the beginning of the new year, you hear Bush give a (better written) version of the speech from our ancient post of four days ago.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 15, 2006, at the time of 4:42 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 15, 2006

Whack-a-Mole -- or Seal-a-Hole?

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

The antique media is infamous for burying the lede: not understanding the real point of a story -- or else not wanting us to understand it! -- and instead hiding it deep within the article, where they know few eyes dare to scan (the eyes usually wandering off after the first two or three paragraphs of wretched writing).

In this case, an AP article focuses on a new tactic of digging trenches around Baghdad. The trench idea is interesting and probably smart; anything that makes it tougher for bad guys to creep like moles in the night into Baghdad can't help but be good for the war effort.

But AP lets slip a far more important point 22 paragraphs (out of 31) into the article: that Operation Together Forward, while being the worst-named operation in recent military history (which is saying a lot), designed to clear Baghdad of sectarian militia murders, is in fact working literally like gangbusters:

Both the Bush administration and military have said sectarian killings and violence are surging around Iraq and in the capital, although the military has said the attacks are limited to parts of Baghdad not yet included in the security operation.

In other words, it's working great in those areas where it has been used; and the violence is only spiking in areas that have not yet been subjected to the house-to-house searches and interrogations by the Iraqi Army and National Police and the American soldiers and Marines.

I later confirmed this unsourced claim by referring to a CENTCOM release:

This approach appears to be working in the focus areas, where violence is down, [Army spokesman Maj. Gen. William] Caldwell said.

However, he acknowledged that violence in other parts of Baghdad experienced a “spike” yesterday and noted that terrorist death squads “are clearly targeting civilians outside the focus areas.”

“Overall, Baghdad’s level of sectarian violence has been reduced,” he said, “but remains above the levels of violence we saw before the Golden Mosque bombing in Samarra in late February.”

It's glib and easy to say, "gee, there's still violence in Baghdad -- nothing has changed -- the war is a failure -- let's declare defeat and head home." In fact, that pretty much describes the Democratic Party's “Real Security Act of 2006.” Alas, even some Republican jellyfish, such as Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT, 20%) have wriggled aboard that bandwagon.

Shays doesn't entirely buy the Democratic defeatism; he does not advocate the Democratic position of cutting and running, for example. But the central conceit for all the defeatists is that, "since January of this year there has been no progress," as Shays claims.>

Fortunately, this position is nonsense on stilts.

If you see somebody playing a game where he keeps whacking plastic moles on the head with a mallet over and over again for hours, it would be easy to conclude he's playing Whack-a-Mole. In that game, the moles pop up again and again from the same holes; every time you whack one, it goes down, only to be resurrected moments later.

But when you look closer, you discovered that every time the player whacks a mole, the mallet stays stuck in the hole, permanently blocking it. The player grabs a new mallet and whacks the next one, sealing off another hole. You notice that the moles never come popping up through the sealed holes, only through the holes that are still open... and you also notice that there are a finite number of holes -- and the player is rapidly sealing them up.

This is a new game called Seal-a-Hole, and it has a very different dynamic from Whack-a-Mole: the normal game is one of futility; the game continues until the player gets tired and quits or he runs out of money. But Seal-a-Hole actually has a victory point: when all the holes are sealed, the game is over -- and the player, America, has won.

Even though Seal-a-Hole is not futile, it nevertheless requires a great deal of patience; there are many, many holes, and each hole has a mole who must be whacked. Some of the holes, such as Sadr City, are very big and will require many mallets to properly seal. But if we have the courage and fortitude of our American forebears, we will seal those holes... and we will win.

Like all analogies, this one doesn't "prove" anything. But I hope it gives you a different perspective from which to view the actual evidence of success emanating from the penumbra of Baghdad.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 15, 2006, at the time of 4:47 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

SF Strap-Ons

Future of Warfare , Military Machinations , Techno Geekery , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

The Predator vs. the Eagle... sounds like a new series from Marvel or DC. But really, we're talking about the great divide among Air Force brass over whether it's better to put more emphasis on actual warplanes, such as the F-15 Strike Eagle or the F/A-18 Hornet, or pour more resources into unmanned Predator drones, flown in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries, but piloted (according to Robert Kaplan) mostly from trailers at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas (subscription required to read this link, which costs $1 million, I think).

In this case, the "SF" in the title stands not only for Special Forces but also for science fiction, because this story is really about both: science fiction become reality for use by Special Forces in the war against jihadi terrorism.

In the Drone Wars, there are clear advantages to each competitor:

  • Human pilots are actually present in the cockpit with the real attack planes, which always gives them an advantage in perception: they know what's going on better than does a pilot flying remotely. They can not only see better, they can hear and feel, or sense, the progress of the engagement.
  • But that also means they are in danger themselves, obviously; and less obviously, the ability of the plane is held back by the limitations of the human body. It's easy enough to design a plane that can make a 14-G turn; but it's impossible to locate a pilot who can do the same.
  • The drones (unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs), besides the obvious advantage that they don't risk an American life, also have the advantage of being much, much smaller than an airplane, which must be big enough to house one or two human beings; thus, the Predators are virtualy invisible on radar and hard to spot even with the naked eye.
  • However, they're also slow; they fly by propeller, not jet, and it can take them a long time to get where they're going.
  • Plus, being so much smaller, they cannot carry as many armaments as a full-sized plane can -- only a couple of Hellfire missiles or JDAM-equipped bombs, in the case of the prevalent MQ-1 Predator.

    By contrast, the A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" carries up to eight missiles or bombs, plus the devastating 30mm Avenger Gatling gun, which can fire depleted Uranium shells at a rate of up to 70 rounds per second (after the first, somewhat slower second)... that would be 4,200 rounds per minute, except that it only carries 1,350 rounds. Even so, that is considerably more armament than any UAV carries.

So the argument rages: Man, or machine? But as often happens, the philosophical debate is about to be smashed wide open by a technological advance: a German company, ESG, has developed monofiliment strap-on wings. Holy bat-wings, Batman!

Bat Wings for Special Forces

Glidertroopers of tomorrow's war

Airborne units can use these wings in conjunction with a normal parachute to leap out of an airplane and glide for up to 120 miles before pulling the ripcord. In addition, the wings double as storage lockers, allowing the paratrooper to carry 200 lbs of gear to a safe landing.

Elite special forces troops being dropped behind enemy lines on covert missions are to ditch their traditional parachutes in favour of strap-on stealth wings.

The lightweight carbon fibre mono-wings will allow them to jump from high altitudes and then glide 120 miles or more before landing - making them almost impossible to spot, as their aircraft can avoid flying anywhere near the target.

The range means that the actual insertion aircraft need not get anywhere near the target dropzone, dramatically improving the survivability not only of the plane and its crew but the paratroopers themselves. In many cases, such a range -- which can be hugely extended by the addition of a small turbojet engine on the wings -- means that the plane needn't even enter the airspace of the target country; they can drop the paratroopers over friendly territory, allowing them to glide (or fly) themselves into enemy territory.

The radar signature is, of course, barely larger than the paratrooper himself... which means nearly as small as a UAV; but because the wings have human "pilots" (airborne troops), if the tactical situation changes, they can react on the fly (dang!)... I mean, they can just wing it (stop me, someone!)... well, they can respond to their own on-the-spot threat assessment.

One of the critiques that Robert Kaplan levels at the increased reliance of UAVs is that, since they're remotely piloted from the United States, there is too much danger that the top Air Force brass will over-supervise each mission and cause mischief, as in Vietnam; having "glidertroopers" carry out these missions avoids that problem, naturally, since the men making the decisions are the non-coms actually on the ground... or rather, in the troposphere.

It's not too great a jump to imagine a slightly more powerful engine with more fuel, and lightweight, mounted guns or missiles that the glidertroopers can operate. Those would just be minor improvements to what is already demonstrated technology, but the impact on future warfare would be colossal: invisible flying serpents with perfect night vision (NVGs) and a lethal dragon's breath? What would such a unit be called -- the Quetzalcoatl Battalion of the Smaug Regiment?

Swarms of flying monkeys could buzz in from an unexpected quarter, shooting Gatling guns and firing missiles; then disperse in all directions, silent, unseen, untrackable by radar, only to regroup and swarm back from a new angle. An individual man could range high above a city, using telescopic night-vision goggles to follow a small group of terrorists to their lair -- then swoop in and destroy it with a couple of well-placed JDAMs or bursts of gunfire.

There is no reason why slightly more powerful engines could not allow a man to take off from the ground, which would give special forces, even those not trained as glidertroopers, a perfect way to extract from a mission: they return to a pre-determined spot, where wings have previously been hidden (before the enemy is alerted to our presence), strap them on, and fly away to safe rendezvous coordinates; the wings would be equipped with autopilots that use GPS to fly their human cargo in to a perfect landing, all by themselves. This avoids the dangerous necessity of getting a helo into a combat zone now buzzing with enemy activity, following a SEAL or Ranger mission.

And now that I think of it, the same wings, packed with medical equipment, could have a huge impact on military or civilian search and rescue: individual paramedics could zoom across the search area at 150 mph, anywhere from fifteen hundred feet to ten feet off the ground. Once they find victims, if they can't get a helo in to evacuate them (due to proximity to a cliff, for example), they can request an airdrop of some fuel, strap the wounded into the wings, and program them to fly to a location where a rescue helicopter can land.

We could also use these wings to evacuate people trapped inside a burning highrise: skyscrapers could be required by law to keep some large number of such gliders in storage on the roof; a fire-department "smokeglider" flies in, helps victims to strap in, and sends them over the side, where the autopilot takes them a safe distance away and lands.

Unless we actually internalize a science-fiction mentality, we cannot analyze the future.

The one thing we can say with certainty about the future is that it will be very different from the past. It may not differ in just the way we imagine; but without developing the mental muscles of open-minded speculation -- and the sense that technology will do more to determine future society than any other trendline (because technology affects all of the rest!) -- we haven't even a wing or a prayer of being able to respond to that future when it arrives.

Which will be sooner than you think, but later than you wish.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, August 18, 2006, at the time of 5:13 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 3, 2006

Federal Judge Issues Orders to Navy

Injudicious Judiciary , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

First the federal judiciary took control away from the president in the treatment of unlawful combatants; then they seized control away from Congress in the ratification and enforcement of the Geneva Conventions and for determining the jurisdiction of the federal courts -- which can now determine their own jurisdiction, and the Constitution be damned.

And now, a federal judge ("but some are more equal than others") has anointed herself the Commander in Chief of the armed forces; she has issued an order to the Navy not to use sonar during a "mid-frequency active sonar" test in the Pacific Ocean. Why? Because sonar might bother whales:

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday barring the Navy from using a type of sonar, allegedly harmful to marine mammals, during a Pacific warfare exercise scheduled to begin this week.

The order comes three days after the Navy obtained a six-month national defense exemption from the Defense Department allowing it to use "mid-frequency active sonar."

In a lawsuit filed by [the usual suspects] before a judge appointed by [take a wild guess -- hint: 1999], Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ruled that there was a "possibility" (her word) that the sonar to be tested might kill, injure, or disturb the whales, dolphins, walruses, otters, beavers, dogpaddling elephants, or other mammalian species that just happened to be lounging around Hawaii... so therefore, she has ordered the military not to test it.

In a related decision, rumor has it that Judge Cooper is just about to rule that we can no longer use radar, because it might emit radiation; fighter jets, because they're too noisy (and too closely associated with George W. Bush); and Predator drones -- because, as a vegetarian, she doesn't like the sound of that name.

Were I giving advice to the president, I would tell him, "Dude" -- which is one reason I'm not advising the CinC -- "it's time to draw a line in the sand." (As a Texan, he should appreciate the reference.) Bush should call a press conference and announce that the federal judiciary does not have authority over the military; the Constitution clearly gives that authority solely to the president as Commander in Chief. So he thanks her honor for the suggestion, but the test will proceed as planned, and as the Pentagon has approved.

Lady, we are in a war, for God's sake. You don't stop the military from testing the weapons that save our lives every day just because your heart bleeds for Flipper, Shamu and all their undersea chums.

I realize your calendar stops at September 10th; but for the rest of us, what happened the next day changed everything. In particular, it changed forever the level of monkeyshines that we are willing to tolerate in the war against jihadis.

The chutzpah of the federal judiciary is exceeded only by the arrogance of the elite media.

So to be perfectly polite about it, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper can go take a long walk on a short pier. If the DoD believes we need these tests to defend the nation, and if the Commander in Chief agrees, then neither the judicial nor the legislative branch has the least thing to say about it.

Judge Florence-Marie Cooper: go away.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, July 3, 2006, at the time of 9:40 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 13, 2006

Gaza Beach Bingo: the Rest of the Story

Israel Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls
Hatched by Dafydd

In our post Provenance, we noted that there was a great deal of question whether the civilians killed on the Gaza beach were hit with an Israeli artillery shell, as the Palestinians and the world elite media all declared. Rather, we suggested, it's entirely possible the real culprit was an errant Qassam rocket -- fired by Hamas terrorists at Israel.

Well, Israel has completed enough of its investigation to have preliminary results... and sad to say, it appears Big Lizards was wrong. It turned out not to be a Qassam rocket after all.

Those civilians were slain by a Palestinian mine.

Yesterday, Israel already knew enough to state with some certainty that the family was not killed by an Israeli artillery shell (a tip of the hat to Right Wing News -- who must have linked us, because we're getting a lot of referrals, and our traffic is sky high!) According to the Jerusalem Post:

[Defense Minister] Amir Peretz said the panel's preliminary findings showed that the Ghalia family was not killed by a shell fired by the IDF ground forces or the IAF. Peretz said that one of six artillery shells fired by the IDF was unaccounted for, but that there was a gap between when the shells were fired and the time the Palestinians said the shells landed.

AP reports that the time gap was at least ten minutes; so unless Israel has a field piece that can fire shells up around the altitude of the Shuttle's orbit, that missing shell didn't come down and blow up the beach.

Associated Press falls all over itself to throw a bone to the Palestinians... but Mark Lavie, who wrote the piece, fails to note that he must contradict himself to do so:

It was not clear how the explosive got there, or whether it might have been an unexploded Israeli shell from an earlier military barrage. Peretz did not address that issue in his remarks. Israel has been claiming that Hamas militants planted a device to set off against Israeli commandos....

According to Israeli findings, shrapnel taken from two wounded Palestinians who were evacuated to Israeli hospitals showed that the fragments were not from the 155-millimeter shells used by Israeli artillery.

Thank heavens for those many layers of editorial cross-checking.

Back to the Jerusalem Post:

Olmert opened the cabinet meeting by expressing Israel's "deep regret" over the incident, and saying that Peretz had set up an investigation....

Olmert, who stressed that he was not apologizing because the facts were not yet clear, said past experience had shown that myths could be created that were divorced from the facts.

He was referring to Muhammad al-Dura, the 12-year-old boy killed [sic; we do not even know that much] during an exchange of fire between the IDF and Palestinians on September 30, 2000. Images of Dura hiding behind his father and then being shot and killed were beamed across the world, with Israel widely blamed for his death until researchers three years later brought ballistic evidence showing that the shots could not have been fired by IDF soldiers.

AP -- as well as Reuters -- also makes tedious reference to the alleged 16-month "truce" that Hamas had declared... until those wicked Jews violated it. Again, we wonder whether the news editors actually read the stories they're supposed to be editing:

The seaside carnage contributed to a sudden spike in Israeli-Palestinian violence. After the beach blast - and Israeli forces' killing of a top Gaza militant - Hamas called off a 16-month cease-fire that had significantly reduced casualties on both sides.

The antique media here uses a special definition of truce (or "cease-fire"), one not found in the commonly accepted dictionaries. As we noted in Provenance, and as the Jerusalem Post noted yesterday,

Regarding Friday's incident, Olmert said it must be made clear that Kassam rockets - designed to maim and kill Israelis - have been fired from the Gaza Strip continuously over the last few weeks.

"This firing is very serious," he said. "It strikes at the fabric of life in communities in southern Israel and threatens peoples' lives... This is an unending series of terrorist attacks designed to strike at civilians."

Needless to say, Hamas has rejected Israel's findings. They express stupifaction that anyone could imagine that an organization born out of suicide bombings of women, children, teenagers, the aged, and innocent civilians of all sorts -- including Moslems -- would ever plant mines to deter "Israeli commandos" in an area used by Palestinian civilians:

"This is a false allegation, and the Israeli occupation state is trying to escape from shouldering its responsibility by accusing Palestinians without evidence or any proof," said Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

"The eyewitnesses and the evidence that we have confirm that the massacre is the result of Israeli shelling, and the allegation about land mines planted by Palestinians is baseless," he said.

Those "eyewitnesses" have extraordinary vision indeed to be able not only to see a shell coming in, but also to know who fired it. Hamas does, after all, have artillery pieces too. Hamas is joined in blaming Israel, regardless of the evidence, by the George-Soros-funded and virulently antisemitic Human Rights Watch. AP quotes a "military expert" who speaks for the organization:

Human Rights Watch military expert Marc Garlask, the first independent analyst to inspect the scene, said he examined the shrapnel on the beach, saw the civilians' injuries and concluded the blast was caused by an Israeli shell. He held open the slim possibility that it was planted there by Palestinian militants, although fragment patterns did not back that.

"Our information certainly supports, I believe, an Israeli shell did come in," he said, ruling out a land mine.

No word on whether he wrote his report on the plane flight to Yasser Arafat International Airport. But it's largely irrelevant; unless Israel arranged for their artillery shells to be manufactured from the shrapnal of Palestinian mines, I think the evidence is in. Since I choose to believe Israeli investigators over a "military expert" from Human Rights Watch -- I admit my bias -- I have to say "case closed."

However, frustrated at the failure of the Israelis to live down to their MSM caricature (and perhaps by the sputtering failure of Fitzmas to come), the elite media has turned with a vengeance on the brutal, callous, and utterly senseless killing by Israel of even more innocent women and children:

An Israeli missile strike on a van in Gaza carrying militants and rockets killed 11 Palestinians, nine of them civilians, on Tuesday in the deadliest such attack in nearly four years.

The air strike signaled that Israel would not flinch from targeting rocket squads in densely populated areas in spite of an outcry over the deaths of seven Palestinians on a Gaza beach on Friday in a blast militants blamed on Israeli shellfire.

"We have been showing restraint due to the international storm caused by the incident on the Gaza beach, but no longer," Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz was quoted by the YNet news Web site as telling reporters in northern Israel....

"The car that we hit was loaded with Katyusha rockets and launchers and they were on their way to launch those Katyusha rockets at Israel," an army spokeswoman said after the attack in the eastern outskirts of Gaza City.

But of course, the important point is that the nine civilian deaths -- evidently, they ran out of their houses to go look at the van, into which the perfidious Zionists were pumping missiles -- included "two children and two medics."

Make of it what you will, but it's clear that when Israel removed the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, it was not an act of surrender or even appeasement. With the area depopulated of everyone but the enemy, Israel can now treat these attacks from Hamas as what they are: acts of war conducted by a foreign power against the nation of Israel.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2006, at the time of 4:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 12, 2006


Iraq Matters , Israel Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls
Hatched by Sachi

[Dafydd also contributed extensively to this article.]

We often describe a situation where different parties are saying completely different things, and there is no way to tell which is right, as a case of "he said, she said."

But to the antique media, when the "he" in this equation is a Moslem jihadi, then "he said, she said" usually turns into "he said, and that's good enough for us!"

Take the recent attack at the beach in Gaza, where seven (or eight) Palestinian civilians, including children, were killed by... by what? Palestinian spokesmen who were not present at the time insisted it was by an Israeli shell... and that's good enough for the UK Times online:

Israeli artillery fire killed a Palestinian family who were picnicking on the beach in Gaza yesterday, as the shoreline was packed with people on a Muslim holiday.

Body parts, bloodstained baby carriages and shredded holiday tents were left strewn on the sand near Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, after the late- afternoon strike that killed at least seven people, thought to include the parents and children of one family.

They seem awfully certain it was Israeli artillery fire, and not an errant Qassam rocket, that killed the civilians; but why? What is their source for saying so? They never say; in the entire article, not once does the UK Times online tell us how they know it was the Israelis and not Hamas that fired the deadly weapons.

The New York Times weighs in on the same story -- and takes the same line. After all, just because Hamas is a terrorist organization that specializes in killing innocent men, women, and children, wants to see Israelis all driven into the sea, believes Jews are responsible for all the ills afflicting the Palestinian and Arab peoples, and which has lied many times in the past, doesn't mean we can't take their word when they say that they know for certain that the family was killed by Israeli shelling (that's what the Ouija Board said):

Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel, a day after eight Palestinians were killed on a Gaza beach, apparently by an errant Israeli shell.

"Apparently?" What does that mean? Apparent to whom?

Israeli officials said they regretted any casualties among the innocent as Israel tried to stop the firing of Qassam rockets into Israel by shelling the areas from which they were launched. Defense Minister Amir Peretz sent a message expressing regret to Mr. Abbas, who called the incident "a bloody massacre" and declared three days of mourning.

On Friday, the Israeli Army was shelling a target area popular with rocket launchers 400 yards from the beach. The army believes that a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded.

The "army" believes? I guess they mean the Israeli Defense Force... but who exactly within the IDF told them that? Where did they get such information? The New York Times is no more willing to reveal a source for unraveling this mystery than their namesake in London was.

Here is a very interesting pair of sentences from the NYT story. Maybe somebody can figure out "what is wrong with this picture":

Hamas fired at least 15 Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, ending a tattered 16-month truce with Israel....

Since the beginning of the year, Palestinians have fired hundreds of largely inaccurate missiles toward Israel, while Israel has fired more than 5,000 shells into Gaza.

That's a very interesting "truce" Hamas has been observing! What did they do, promise to limit the number of missiles fired at Israel to only "dozens of the inaccurate but potentially deadly Qassam rockets each month," as the UK Times put it?

And if the Qassam is so "inaccurate but potentially deadly" -- it has no guidance system at all -- then isn't it at least equally likely that the explosive thing that killed those eight (or seven) Palestinians on the beach was a Qassam, not an Israeli artilly shell gone awry? How do the two Timeses know to such certainty that the family were accidentally killed by Israelis (a "war crime"), rather than accidentally killed by Hamas militants (a tragic error?)

Associate Press has its own version of the story (this is starting to sound like the movie Rashomon), but it adds an interesting twist:

Pounding on the sand, Houda Ghalia shrieked for her father after he was killed with five of her siblings at a seaside picnic by what Palestinians said was an Israeli shell.

Footage of the 10-year-old screaming "Father! Father!" has played over and over again on television, driving home the devastating impact of what Palestinian leaders are calling "genocidal" and "a war crime...."

Israel expressed regret Saturday for the killing of eight civilians, but stopped short of taking responsibility, saying an investigation was under way.

Israel's military chief said the killings may have resulted from a misfired Palestinian rocket. Palestinians insisted they were caused by an Israeli artillery shell.

So maybe the IDF doesn't think that "a shell fell short or that a dud, previously fired, exploded." At least, the part of the IDF that spoke to AP doesn't agree with the part (if any) that spoke to the New York Times. Never let your AP hand know what your Times hand is doing.

And everybody ignores the undisputed fact that previously, someone from Gaza was shooting Qassam rockets into Israel, despite a supposed "cease fire." Isn't that significant in deciding whether something was a "war crime," let alone "genocide?" (Do Palestinians even know what the word "genocide" means? Palestinians, other Arabs, and most Israelis are actually the same "race": Semites.)

As in Rashomon, we can never know for sure whose errant whatever actually fell on the beach and killed those seven or eight civilians. Even if the Israeli investigation shows that whatever fell left Qassam pieces, not artillery pieces, behind, who will believe them? The world would rather believe Hamas terrorists than Jews.

The same thing can be said about the Haditha "massacre." All we have are the words of anti-American "civilians" who may be in cahoots with the terrorists themselves... and a questionable videotape that only proves that somebody died violently somewhere in Iraq more or less around the time of the claimed "massacre." We don't even know whether those bodies in the video go with that incident or some other incident days earlier or later.

The MSM ignores the not so hidden agenda of the "witnesses" and "reporters;" after all, why bother investigating when you have handy Marines to blame?

This battle is being waged with very sophisticated propaganda tools: on Special Report with Brit Hume Friday night, during the "Grapevine" segment, Jim Angle showed a photograph that was run by the London Times, and later picked up by the Chicago Sun-Times. It showed a number of dead Iraqis stacked up against a wall; the victims' hands were all bound behind their backs, and the wall was riddled with machine-gun bullet holes.

The London Times claimed that the photo showed Iraqis murdered by the US Marines in Haditha. Days later (maybe weeks), it was evidently pointed out to them that the photo did not match any of the witness statements about what supposedly had happened -- even from the Iraqis' point of view. The magazine investigated and discovered that the picture they'd run was actually of a group of Shia who were murdered by Sunni terrorists; it had nothing to do with Haditha or with the Marines.

The London Times (and the Chicago Sun-Times) eventually ran a correction and apologized. But that begs the question: how could a supposedly respectable newspaper editor and publisher look at such a photograph and say, "oh yes, that jolly well looks like just the thing the American Marines would do." What would make them think such a thing?

They might say "where there's smoke, there must be fire." But they, themselves are the ones who put all the "smoke" there in the first place. The only reason people keep thinking that US forces engage in massacres is that the elite media keeps saying so; they say so because it's so obvious to them, everyone knows it; and it's so obvious because, after all, look at all those other unsubstantiated stories of massacres in other newspapers.

It's the most circular of all circular arguments.

But finally, our side is speaking up.

A sergeant who led a squad of U.S. Marines accused of killing 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha told his lawyer the unit did not intentionally target civilians, followed rules of engagement and did not try to cover up the incident, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

The newspaper said Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 26, told his lawyer several civilians were killed in November when the squad went after insurgents firing on them from a house. But Wuterich said there was no vengeful massacre and described a house-to-house hunt that went awry in a chaotic battlefield, his lawyer said.

"It will forever be his position that everything they did that day was following their rules of engagement and to protect the lives of Marines," said Neal Puckett, who represents Wuterich in the investigations of the deaths.

"He's really upset that people believe that he and his Marines are even capable of intentionally killing innocent civilians," he said.

I am not saying we should blindly believe what SSGT Frank Wuterich says. But we should understand it is still "he said, he said" -- not "he said, and that's good enough for the Times."

I will refrain from expressing my own opinion as to whom I would believe. We should wait for the investigation to be completed... in both incidents.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, June 12, 2006, at the time of 3:19 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 2, 2006

Questions? Who Cares? It Bleeds, So It Leads

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Now that the first wave of hysterical overreporting is past -- where antique media sources casually tossed around phrases like "U.S. military officials have since confirmed to Reuters that that version of the events of November 19 was wrong and that the 15 civilians were not killed by the blast but were shot dead" (which "military officials" were those? why can't we find any such confirmation on the record?) -- we are finally starting to get a little skepticism... at least some probing questions.

Alas, aside from one CNN reporter who became suspicious about some of the children's Haditha testimony (which Sachi is working on a post about), all of the questioning is coming from the blogosphere.

But that's actually not bad: I've thought for some time that the best us of blogging is not to engage in original reporting (most of us have no access to the resources necessary to chase down stories), is not opinion-mongering (yeah, get in line, pal!), but rather applying actual skepticism to claims of certainty by the major media.

For example, Sweetness and Light has noted two interesting points about Iraqis involved in the Haditha story:

  • Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani, the reporter who conducted the video interviews of the supposed survivors and witnesses, was just released in January after being held for five months at Abu Ghraib on suspicions that arose in connection with photographs he had in his camera (possibly of terrorists setting up IEDs) and other evidence that connected him with terrorist groups.

    Al-Mashhadani also wrote the major Haditha story for Time Magazine on March 21st, which is still being used by news services today as the template: claims, accusations, even entire phrases are still being lifted from this story... written by an Iraqi stringer who, whether you believe he was innocent or guilty, has more than enough reason to hate the American Marines.

    Additionally, al-Mashhadani shares a last name with the head of the Hammurabi Organisation for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, Abdel Rahman al-Mashhadani; Hammurabi is the group that first brought the supposed Haditha "massacre" to Time's attention. Sweetness and Light notes this may not mean much, if it's a tribal name; but the reporter sharing an unusual last name with his primary source should have been investigated by Time before running the story... if only to add "no relation to," if that's the case.

  • Dr. Walid Al-Obeidi, the Haditha doctor who claims to have examined the bodies of the victims of Haditha and claims that they were all "shot in the chest and the head -- from close range" also claims to have himself been tortured by U.S. Marines back in October. Again, regardless whether this is true or false, if he actually believes it, it gives him ample reason to very much want to find that the Marines executed innocent people in November. (And if he doesn't really believe it, but he's saying it anyway, that's even worse.)

(Hat tip for the above to Little Green Footballs, and to commenter MTF, who first brought this to our attention in the comments of another post on this blog. Thanks, both!)

This must be set against the background of a previous claim of American forces -- soldiers, this time -- "massacring" innocent women and children in Ishaqi (north of Baghdad)... a claim that has now been emphatically refuted by a U.S. military investigation of the incident:

U.S. officials described a nighttime raid aimed at finding a specific guerrilla, who then fled the building but was later caught.

U.S. forces at the site began taking direct fire from the building, and the commander at the scene "appropriately reacted by incrementally escalating the use of force from small arms fire to rotary wing aviation, and then to close air support, ultimately eliminating the threat."

A defense official said an AC-130 gunship was called in to help.

As with the Haditha incident, local police forces and local "civilians" (scare-quotes because we really don't know, do we?) had claimed that the troops intentionally massacred the victims at Ishaqi:

Police in Ishaqi [said] five children, four women and two men were shot dead by troops in a house that was then blown up.

They said all the victims were shot in the head, and that the bodies, with hands bound, were dumped in one room before the house was destroyed. Television footage showed the bodies in a morgue. Their wounds were not clear, although one infant had a gaping head wound.

This sounds eerily reminiscent of what is claimed about Haditha; but it turns out to be a complete fabrication. Which is not, of course, evidence that the Marines behaved appropriately at Haditha; we await the forensic evidence to draw any conclusions about that.

But these three points together do make the case that eyewitness testimony and even "expert" opinion are not necessarily as reliable in a country like Iraq, with its tribal affiliations and serious terrorism problem, as they might be in a more civilized country with more institutional safeguards against officials and witnesses simply making stuff up, either due to collusion or because they have been threatened into doing so by the very people who benefit most from these charges: Musab Zarqawi's "al-Qaeda In Mesopotamia" organization.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 2, 2006, at the time of 5:21 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

June 1, 2006

Haditha vs. Abu Ghraib

Atrocious Analogies , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

I want to make perfectly clear what I'm talking about in this post: in the real world, the allegations (no proof or even evidence yet) of what was done at Haditha are of course infinitely worse than what we know happened at Abu Ghraib. A series of deliberate murders of children, women, and non-combatant men is obviously far more horrific than mere humiliation.

That aside, let's turn to the lesser question of politics... which could turn out to be of more moment than the reality.

The politics of Haditha may well determine whether we continue in the Global War on Terrorism. If the anti-war, anti-Bush maniacs can spin this into a Nuremburg trial, where the entire military is indicted for war crimes and atrocities, then the 110th Congress (which begins next January) may severely curtail the war effort... and if there is a Democratic president in 2009, he or she may simply pull us out, willy-nilly. So as sad as it may be to admit, the politics and the policy are inextricably intertwined.

So it's fair to ask, what will the politics of Haditha be?

If a thorough investigation ends up exonerating the Marines, then I believe there will be little problem: the usual suspects (here, in Europe, and in the Middle East) will scream cover-up; but theyr'e always crying "wolf!" anyway. We've already factored in that reaction.

So for analytical purposes, the only case that needs to be looked at is the awful possibility that the charges are at least partly true: that some Marines did, indeed, deliberately kill civilians, possibly even including children.

I am not saying that happened; I am saying that is the only case where we really have to ponder how it may affect the war effort. Any lesser result of the investigation will have no particular effect at all.

Surprisingly, I believe that even if the essential Murtha charge turns out to be true, Haditha will not have as big an impact on public support for the war as Abu Ghraib did. We have spent so much time thinking about the substance, which is much worse than Abu Ghraib, that we've failed adequately to address the politics... which would be much less destructive than Abu Ghraib.

I know a lot of you are incredulous, but walk a few steps with me first.

What was it that caught our attention most about Abu Ghraib? It wasn't concern for the prisoners; we know they're most likely terrorists or at least terrorist supporters. They have killed innocents, and not many Americans care one way or another if they are tormented.

It was not the claim that prisoners were being beaten or threatened with dogs; we all understand that imprisonment is force, and war is deadly force -- and sometimes, those who administer force go too far. We punish them when they do; but we also understand why they did.

No... what stunned and infuriated voters was the sheer perversion of those American troops. Stripping Iraqi prisoners naked? Dressing them in women's clothing? Having a woman dance around and jeer at -- and publicly fondle -- their genitals? This is just weird, disgusting, sick, lurid stuff that belongs in the pages of the National Enquirer, not the playbook of military prison guards.

It was creepy: one of the rumors was that Lynndie England spent a lot of time prancing around the prison nude herself... not only in front of prisoners, taunting them, but the other American soldiers themselves. This claim of exhibitionism, whether true or false, is the kind of abnormal sexuality that preys upon the American sense of decency and morality. We desperately do not want to think of our soldiers as the sort of people who hang out in public restrooms and expose themselves. Any scandal that forces us to do so -- Tailhook, for instance -- outrages the American people more than almost anything imaginable.

It's weird; it's decadent. Worse... it's French.

Americans can understand mere murder, but sensationalism and sexual depravity freak us out. Even after being released from prison, we make convicted flashers register whenever they move into a community; but not criminals convicted of mere murder.

Logical or not, that's how we look at it. Maybe Europeans are different; certainly the U.N. appears to be, considering how blasé they are about allegations that "peacekeepers" and aid workers in Africa forced famine victims to give them sex in exchange for food.

Such debauchery and decadence outrages us far worse, I believe, than would a scandal where some Marines might have snapped under the pressure and turned into the sort of "Ghengis Khan" barbarians of the fevered imagination of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (Such people certainly were found occasionally in Vietnam; but there is not a shred of evidence John Kerry ever met any among the Swift Boat crews.)

And for that very reason, I believe the public will be far more willing to accept that such things happen in war: it's only the tiniest of minorities (perhaps five Marines out of 950,000 military personnel who have cycled through Iraq, 0.0005%); they will receive the maximum punishment if convicted -- probably death by hanging or firing squad; yet we still must move on with the war, not throw in the towel because some mentally deranged individuals killed civilians without reason.

I do not believe that Haditha will have the same grip on the American psyche that Abu Ghraib did (and still does today). Not because it's not as bad; it's worse in the cosmic sense. But because it's a more understandable kind of "bad."

Any honest person who isn't a dyed-in-the-mud pacifist can think of circumstances where he or she would contemplate committing murder. But how many Americans can even imagine themselves stripping prisoners naked and lovingly slipping women's panties over their heads?

Murder is evil. Abu Ghraib was grotesque.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 1, 2006, at the time of 6:21 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006

Big Lizards Has No Opinion. Yet. UPDATED - Hey, It's a Fast-Breaking Story!

Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

But plenty still to say...

UPDATED: See bottom of post.

Everyone by now must be aware of an investigation by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service of a number of possible civilian deaths in Haditha last November. Alas, nearly everyone is leaping to a series of conclusions before the investigation is complete.

Some conclude that the Marines committed a war crime, a massacre of up to two dozens civilians, including women and children, just because the Marines got angry. Others conclude that the whole charge is a slanderous lie invented by anti-war activists like Rep. John Murtha (D-PA, 50%). Both sides are drawing conclusions far beyond the available data.

The fact is that we don't yet know the facts. The dribs and drabs we've gotten from Murtha, from the Los Angeles Times, and from other antique media are anything but illuminating; they critically depend upon anonymous sources, and they conceal weasel-words like "may be," "could be" behind a veil of unfounded certainty:

U.S. Marines could face criminal charges, including murder, over the deaths of up to two dozen Iraqi civilians last year, a defense official said on Friday.

The case could prove a further setback for President Bush who described the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal as America's "biggest mistake" and admitted saying "bring 'em on" to insurgents in 2003 may have "sent the wrong message."

Note two arrows in the quiver of journalism's jihad against Bush and the war:

  • First, that the Marines "could" face murder charges. Here is what Reuters' "defense official" actually said -- though you only get this by reading a different article; the explanatory context is dropped from the first article linked:

    The defense official noted that criminal investigations into deaths could lead to murder charges, but was not more specific about possible charges.
  • Second, the usual Tourette's-like eruption of irrelevant but negative commentary about Bush, designed to taint the sample... and therefore make people more likely to believe the worst.

(I've come up with a neologism to describe that last tendency: I shall call it Spurette's Syndrome, a portmanteau word formed by combining "spurious" and "Tourette's.")

What the Defense Department official clearly said was that one of the possible charges resulting from such an investigation would be murder... which should be obvious, as the claim (by an Iraqi "human rights" organization) is that the Marines wantonly killed unarmed women and children. Clearly, if -- a very big "if" -- if the investigation reveals that this is even partially true, all those involved should be charged with murder... and if they're convicted, I want to see them swing.

Yes, even if they are Marines; and even if they were upset by the IED-death of one of their own, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas. There is no excuse, no mitigating factor, no conceivable rational explanation for executing children in front of their parents -- which is what the Hammurabi Organization for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy alleges they did.

Any Marine who did such a thing -- if any of them really did -- has so dishonored the uniform and the Corps that he should first be dishonorably discharged and then hanged by the neck until dead... and everybody in the unit, indeed every Marine we have (via closed-circuit TV), should be forced to watch the hanging.

I don't know when is the last time we executed a member of the military; but if this allegation turns out to be true (I'm still very dubious), we should resurrect the practice.

But how likely is it? What do we actually know? Darned little:

  • So far, we have Iraqi civiilans who died, though the number is disputed;
  • We have a politician (John Murtha) claiming it was a massacre, but who is also known as a serial liar whose primary purpose has become to accuse American military personnel of committing atrocities and war crimes on a Kerryesque campaign;
  • And we have a videotape.

Reuters says it received a videotape of the alleged victims from the abovementioned Hammurabi human-rights group:

A video of people killed in the incident, given to Reuters in March by Iraq's Hammurabi Organization for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, showed corpses lined up at the local morgue with bullet wounds in the head and chest.

The video showed houses with bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood, and clothes and pots scattered on floors. Residents described a rampage by Marines.

That's what we know (I don't believe Reuters is lying). But what don't we know?

  • We do not know whether the corpses in that video are actually from the incident at Haditha.
  • We do not know whether the gunshots are actually executions -- or shots fired from a distance that hit innocent bystanders.
  • We do not know whether the "bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood, and clothes and pots scattered on floors" betoken deliberate executions or a massive firefight.
  • We do not even know whether those bullet holes were made by M-16s or some other American weapon -- or whether they were made by AK-47s.

None of this information has been released, and no MSM report that I have seen even attempts to show evidence filling these vital lacunae. Here is how the Los Angeles Times luridly describes the supposed incident... and note especially how they characterize the provenance of their information:

Marines from Camp Pendleton wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, military investigations have found.

Officials who have seen the findings of the investigations said the filing of criminal charges, including some murder counts, was expected, which would make the Nov. 19 incident the most serious case of alleged U.S. war crimes in Iraq.

Which officials are those? Would they include Rep. Murtha and others of his ilk? Note that the LA Times does not even go so far as to say "military officials," which implies to me that the officials are not military; the Times is perfectly capable of using the longer term when they choose, to make their point stronger -- as here:

Marine officials also confirmed Thursday that an investigation had been opened into an April 26 incident in which troops allegedly killed a civilian in the town of Hamandiya, west of Baghdad.

Though the Times admits -- once -- that their entire source for the content of the report is the Ubiquitous Anonymous Informant, who did not even show editors or writers a copy of the report (the article is based upon what "officials said"), the entire rest of their piece is written in simple, declarative, absolute statements, expressing utter certainty about their story:

An administrative inquiry overseen by Army Maj. Gen. Eldon Bargewell found that several infantry Marines fatally shot as many as 24 Iraqis and that other Marines either failed to stop them or filed misleading or blatantly false reports.

The report concludes that a dozen Marines acted improperly after a roadside bomb explosion killed a fellow Marine, Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas.

Looking for insurgents, the Marines entered several homes and began firing their weapons, according to the report.

What they actually mean is, "according to what some civilian somewhere in the government said about the report, which he claims to have read, but won't show us." But besides being cumbersome, that wouldn't fit the "story" as the LA Times conceives it.

Again, we want to caution: Big Lizards is certainly no more prepared to say that the Marines are innocent than we are to say that they are guilty. We're agnostics on this... but we're militant agnostics: we don't know, and neither do you, dang it!

And neither will anyone know, save a handful of people, until the reports are actually released. Until then, as you read increasingly tabloidesque stories in the elite media, bear in mind not only what you have been told but what you haven't been told... particuarly about the source or sources of this story.

UPDATE, a few minutes later: a story in the New York Times gives more specificity to the allegations, though it adds nothing to the provenance: all is still attributed to anonymous "officials":

Congressional and military officials say the Naval Criminal Investigative Service inquiry is focusing on the actions of a Marine Corps staff sergeant serving as squad leader at the time, but that Marine officials have told members of Congress that up to a dozen other marines in the unit are also under investigation. Officials briefed on the inquiry said that most of the bullets that killed the civilians were now thought to have been "fired by a couple of rifles," as one of them put it....

All of those who discussed the case had to be granted anonymity before they would talk about the findings emerging from the investigation.

So it emerges that the investigation is centered around one or two rogue Marines who may have gone on a several-hour long rampage, and also upon several other Marines, probably to determine whether they tried to cover up the incident -- which would of course depend on whether they knew (or reasonably should have known) that what they were reporting was false. Assuming, that is, that it was false.

If true, this is still an atrocity; but rather than indicting the entire Marine Corps, the investigation appears to have narrowed the focus.

I still believe that if this is true (we're no further on that question), those convicted should be hanged and the rest of the Corps forced to stand at attention and watch. But we're still going to wait for the results to be released, and they certainly will be released publicly, before leaping to either conclusion.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 26, 2006, at the time of 5:50 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006

Fake Soldier Exposed

Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Sachi

This is the "Winter Soldier Project" all over again... but this time, the guy who is pretending to be an Iraqi veteran was exposed as soon as his video interview was made public.

I found this story at Belmont Club. Evidently, there is a video interview of one "Jesse Macbeth" circulating in the blogsphere for the last couple of days. Macbeth claims to have been an "Army Special Force Ranger" (his words, not ours); in his interview -- posted at a website called (five points to Slytherin if you can guess their political orientation) -- Macbeth talks about horrific atrocities supposedly commited by him and his Army Special Forces Ranger Marine Airborne SEAL Green Beret Afrika Korps unit in Fallujah and other parts of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Belmont Club has posted a complete transcript of the interview, but here's as much as we can tolerate:

Jesse Macbeth, formerly a Special Forces Ranger in Iraq, is now active with Iraq Veterans Against the War in Tacoma, Washington. The Rangers are elite units sent door-to-door in Iraq to combat the insurgency. They were also sent into Fallujah to crush all opposition to the occupation of that city. Justice recently interviewed Jesse....

What did your division do?

I was in the Third Ranger Battalion. Our job was to strike fear in the hearts of the Iraqi people.

We would go into people's houses and plow down entire families. We would interrogate people. If we didn't like the answers that they gave, then we would kill the youngest child. If they gave more answers that we didn't like, then we'd move on to the rest of the family. They could've been innocent people. [They could have been innocent. Maybe. Dunno... we're not really sure about those youngest children; maybe they were Fedayin Saddam.]

We would leave the bodies in the streets and blame it on the Shi'ites or the Sunnis. [In Fallujah] we were ordered to go into mosques and slaughter people while they were praying. I won't go into full detail because I'm still haunted by the memories. [It's seared, seared in him.]

Before even reading his outragous claim, his title -- a "Special Forces Ranger" -- did not ring true to me. I thought Special Forces and Army Rangers were two different things... and it turns out the Army thought so, too (see below). In any event, a few short hours after this video was posted, a million milblogs had already ripped this guy to shreds.

First of all, his appearance is riddled with errors: his beret is wrong, his patch is funny, the way he rolls up his sleeves is Marines, and numerous other bits and pieces of his uniform are simply wrong. Black Five has the hilarious picture.

If Just Citizens is correct, the Army has no record of Mr. Jesse MacBeth either.

This is a direct quote given to me by Army spokesman John Boyce:

Initial research by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg shows no Soldier with the name of Jesse Macbeth having ever been assigned to the Special Forces or the Army Rangers -- which are, in fact, two separate disciplines.

This appears to be some sort of hoax. No Soldier by that name at Fort Lewis to our knowledge, in the past, either. Of course, the line about "go into the Army or go to jail" is vintage TV script not heard since the 1960s.

There are also numerous wear and appearance issues with the Soldier's uniform -- a mix of foreign uniforms with the sleeves rolled up like a Marine and a badly floppy tan beret worn like a pastry chef. Of course, the allegations of war crimes are vague, as are the awards the Soldier allegedly received.

It seems this isnt' the first time MacBeth had told this tale; he's been dining out on it for more than two years now. According to Smash of the MilBlogs forum on Mudville Gazette, this guy has been pretending to be an Iraq vet and telling lies about committing war crimes as early as November of 2003.

An article in the Eastern Arizona Courier, dated November 3, 2003, begins with the following paragraphs:

The war in Iraq was officially called to an end a few months ago, but according to Private First Class Jesse MacBeth, 19, of Pima, the turmoil has just begun.

MacBeth, a ranger in the U.S. Army, returned to the states two-and-a-half months ago after sustaining an injury in his back. He spent 14 months serving in the Middle East -- first in Afghanistan and then in Baghdad. Formerly from Tucson, MacBeth now resides in Pima, where he has family, friends and a fiancé. He said that small-town life is the perfect remedy for the various traumas that he suffered during his service in the Middle East.

If true (and it clearly isn't), this would mean that MacBeth had returned home from Iraq in mid-August (coincidentally, about the same time I returned from my deployment). This was long before either of the two major actions in Fallujah.

We've seen likes of him before, haven't we? I remember a couple of plastic "soldiers" in this war alone. Macbeth might have gotten away with it, back in the Vietnam era; after all, the Winter Soldier guys were hailed as heroic whistle blowers... until half the people in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War were exposed as "stolen valor" fakes.

Say... maybe in a few years, Macbeth will pop up as a candidate in an election, salute, and say "Corporal Macbeth, reporting for duty!"

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 23, 2006, at the time of 11:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 8, 2006

Gary Sinise, the Music Man

Military Machinations
Hatched by Sachi

When you hear the name Gary Sinise, you may wonder "who's he?" But unless you're a hermit, you do know him. He's the actor you've seen a million times, but you're just not quite sure of his name.

Sinise has been in many popular movies; you may know him as Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump; as Ken Mattingly, the astronaut who got measles at the last minute in the absolutely wonderful movie Apollo 13 -- the guy who finally figured out the sequence by which Tom Hanks could restart some vital piece of equipment without frying the capsule's circuitry; or as a regular on the popular TV show CSI: NY, where he plays Det. Mac Taylor.

But he is better known to U.S. troops for his tireless support of them via the United Service Organizations, the USO.

I first noticed Gary Sinise at the beginning of the Operation Iraqi Freedom. When new USO leader Wayne Newton was having a hard time recruiting celebrities to go to a war zone (and in particular Iraq, with the political implication of endorsement), Sinise was one of the few who volunteered. (Another was rocker Joan Jett, a passionate opponent of the war but an ardent entertainer of U.S. troops everywhere.)

I saw Sinise on TV being interviewed at the time. He said that, since he was just an actor who couldn't sing or dance, all he could do was shake hands with the troops and show his appreciation. Even that would be enough; but it turned out he was being modest about his musical talent (uncharacteristic for Hollywood).

Over the years, he has done a lot more than just shake hands. He co-founded the Iraqi Children Fund that sends school supplies to Iraqi children. And he formed the "Lt. Dan Band" and traveled all over the world, including numerous trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, to entertain our troops.

On May 5th, Sinise and his band kicked off second annual "America Supports You" salute concert tour commemorating "Military Appreciation Month."

Sinise, who returned with his band just yesterday from a whirlwind concert tour through Afghanistan, said he found high troop morale wherever he went and a solid belief in the mission.

"Everywhere I went - and we covered a lot of territory there, we talked to literally thousand of people, I shook thousands of hands, took thousands of pictures, signed thousands of autographs - and everywhere I went... I didn't meet anybody who was down," he told today's audience.

"Everybody was dedicated, everybody felt that the mission was important, and everybody was happy to be there doing their job," Sinise said.

It is not like Sinise has nothing else to do. He's a regular on CSI; but even during the TV season, he spends his weekend visiting bases at home.

Needless to say, his work is much appreciated by the troops.

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England presented Sinise the Superior Public Service Award in honor of these contributions. "He's a superstar!" Rumsfeld told today's audience....

"This is one of the best days I've had since I've been here," said Army Sgt. Leroy Scott, a Walter Reed Army Medical Center patient who lost his right leg in Iraq in July. Scott said he remembers when Sinise visited his unit in Germany before his unit deployed. "He's a great guy," Scott said. "He's always there for us."

We solute you Gary Sinise!

Hatched by Sachi on this day, May 8, 2006, at the time of 5:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2006

Uricane Oogo

High-Falutin' High-Larity , Military Machinations , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

Unelected Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez remains in his position only by dint of an "election" in 2000 that even Jimmy Carter declared invalid, and a recall election in 2004 where exit polls showed Chavez losing 60-40... but when Chavez's team finished counting the ballots, they discovered, mirabile dictu, that he had won by 60-40, instead.

Today, he steadfastly maintains that the United States is plotting to assassinate him, invade Venezuela, and steal Caracas. Or all the oil... we're there to steal something, that's for sure. And now he adds a new chapter to the annals of his reign (which double as university textbooks for abnormal psych).

Hugo Chavez now declares that the Caribbean Sea is off limits to American warships; we must leave and not return. In this, he presumes to speak not only for Venezuela, long a victim of American running-dog imperialism, but also for Cuba, long a victim of Castroite running-nose poverty:

President Hugo Chavez, who accuses Washington of planning to invade Venezuela, said on Tuesday recent deployment of U.S. warships in the Caribbean Sea threatened his country and its ally Cuba.

Four U.S. warships, including an aircraft carrier, and 6,500 sailors, are in a two-month deployment in the Caribbean Sea dubbed "Partnership of the Americas" by the U.S. Navy.

"They are doing maneuvers right here," Chavez told a student meeting in the country's west. "This is a threat, not just against us, against Venezuela, against Cuba."

He is particularly irked that we dropped anchor at Aruba, which he appears to believe he owns. (We await the inevitable "all your base are belong to us.")

Hugo Chavez has also revealed the military plan by which his citizen militia will repel America's inevitable invasion of fair Caracas:

Chavez, who has created a civilian reserve to resist the assault he says Washington is planning, has threatened to repel U.S. forces with arrows coated with poison.

You'd think he could at least borrow some Brazillian blowgunners.

Needless to say, I strongly suspect that we will not honor his demand. We will continue projecting American might (including our naval vanguard, Royal Caribbean cruise ships) into Aruba and many other islands. (As a side issue, in my one cruise in the Caribbean, we did, in fact, dock in Caracas, Venezuela. It was just a city back then, not the socialist paradise it is now, the envy of the world, and the concerted target of the Lexus of evil, the United States of America. After conducting intelligence-gathering operations for the Navy, I rejoined my parents and we continued on to Grenada.)

One wonders how long it will be before Hugo's head bursts open like a cocoon... and what, exactly, will come slithering out.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 18, 2006, at the time of 7:02 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Politics As Unusual

Future of Warfare , Iraq Matters , Media Madness , Military Machinations , Politics - National
Hatched by Dafydd

The newest wrinkle in the "Seven Days In April" (Tony Blankley's term) conspiracy of generals to unseat Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (and hurt Republicans in the November elections) brings the essentially political nature of the rebellion into sharp focus. Oddly, though it's a day old, it's still not being reported in American mainstream news media -- at least not as I write this.

Brit Hume mentioned on Special Report yesterday that the newest addition to the Griping Generals is none other than former NATO commander and former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. But I can't find that news on any American news feed (via Google News search; I don't subscribe to the hideously overpriced LexisNexis)... not even on

It's reported in foreign news sources, however. ABC News Australia:

A former commander of NATO, Wesley Clark, has joined six other retired United States generals in calling for the resignation of the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

He says Mr Rumsfeld has also lost the confidence of some serving officers, because of his handling of the war in Iraq and because they believe Mr Rumsfeld does not listen to advice.

General Clark, who was a candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2004, said Mr Rumsfeld had pushed the US into war in Iraq, before the diplomatic process had ended.

But you won't find it by searching here.

The Guardian has it, though they fail to note the political significance:

Mr Rumsfeld's position became more tenuous after six retired generals called for him to quit, followed by the revelation he was "personally involved" in "degrading and abusive" treatment of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, according to an internal military inquiry. On Saturday General Wesley Clark became the seventh ex-commander calling for him to go.

The Guardian misses the fact that Clark is not just an "ex-commander," he was also a candidate for president on the Democratic ticket.

And here's the Beeb, which highlights what the Guardian skipped:

Ex-Nato commander Gen Wesley Clark, who ran for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2004, backed calls for Mr Rumsfeld to resign....

Gen Clark said in a television interview: "I believe secretary Rumsfeld hasn't done an adequate job. He should go."

Gen Clark said he believed Mr Rumsfeld, along with Vice-President Dick Cheney, had helped push the Iraq invasion when there was "no connection with the war on terror".

Gen Clark said the secretary had lost the confidence of some officers in the military who were asking for "somebody in the military chain of command who will listen".

Gen Clark has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

So what is the political component here? Why do we say the addition of Candidate Clark changes the complexion of the criticism? Because it makes it clearer than ever that this is a political revolt against Republican policy, driven by the Democratic Party -- not the concerns of unbiased military professionals.

The leadership role played by Gen. Anthony Zinni -- who, according to Fred Barnes, organized this political stunt by actually telephoning generals to talk them into joining the rebellion -- already pointed towards the real core of dissent, as opposed to the stated reasons: they're unhappy with the 2004 election results and hope to do better in November.

Big Lizards has noted the intensely political nature of Gen. Zinni's opposition to Rumsfeld from our first post on this subject. Zinni is widely expected to be Rumsfeld's replacement if John Kerry wins election in 2008; other Democrats might also consider him. Zinni opposed the "unnecessary" Iraq War from Day-1; he has repeatedly said that sanctions against Saddam Hussein were working and keeping him "in his box."

In 2000, Zinni himself said that Iraq had WMD, active WMD programs, and that there was a danger that terrorists could get WMD from Iraq and other state sponsors of terrorism. But starting just before the 2004 election, Zinni began claiming the opposite, that the Bush administration manipulated pre-war intelligence on WMD to manufacture casus belli.

We noted how the Democrats immediately began using the talking points generated for them by the Gripers to attack the Bush administration. And now the mask is off: a once and Democratic candidate openly joins the ranks of the Gripers.

I believe the Democrats have once again overplayed their hand, as at the Paul Wellstone memorial. When the Gripers only comprised generals who had actually served under Rumsfeld, they could be portrayed as simply worried and concerned that Rumsfeld was screwing up the war.

When General Zinni emerged as the ringleader, however, that started to make clear the political motivation of the group (as well as making the generals themselves seem like sock puppets)... but only to those who followed politics closely enough to know who Zinni was in the 1990s and could be in 2009.

And with the emergency of Wesley Clark, light dawns. Even the most casual follower of current events should remember that Clark ran for president as a Democrat in 2004 then withdrew and campaigned for John Kerry; that he was the preferred candidate of Michael Moore and most of the Hollywood lefties; that he opposed the Iraq War even before it began, testifying against it before Congress in 2002; and that he touts himself as a "progressive" from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Clark should now seize the mantle of "spokesman" from Zinni; Clark is unquestionably the best-known member of the Grumbling Gripers, and one would think that he can get "face time" more easily than Zinni. But the curious reluctance of the antique media even to mention that Clark is now part if the mob seems peculiar... does it mean the MSM realizes how this changes the tenor of the revolt from concerned-but-loyal troops to partisan hacks feeding talking points to the Democratic Party? Or are they just being slow on the uptake, as so often in recent years?

Since the 1960s, the New Left has followed a deliberate policy of infiltration and subversion of great American institutions, twisting them into front groups for "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party": newspapers and television news, movies and television entertainment, schools (public and private), the clergy of several major religions, the Girl Scouts (they're still trying to get inside the Boy Scouts), corporate America, the Civil Rights movement, the AMA and APA, and so forth.

In this, they are only following in the footsteps of the Master, for such subversion was an integral part of the worldwide Communist subversion of the 1930s through the 1950s, the Stalinist period. (The red-diaper babies of the New Left, from the Port Huron Statement on, have basically been Luddite Stalinists, more radical than their pro-industry Communist parents. Their "useful idiots" are progressives, such as Zinni, Clark, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), and the like.)

It is now clear that they have infiltrated and subverted at least some portion of the military, reaching all the way up to the highest rank (Zinni and Clark are both four-stars). There exists now a slice of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps that is in fact the military branch of the Democratic Party. They serve the Party, not the country; although the public face comprises entirely retired general officers, they claim they have many allies within the active-duty ranks... and there is no reason to doubt that they do.

Certainly Tony Blankley buys it, per a column from which I got that catchy phrase "Seven Days In April" up top (hat tip, Scott Johnson at Power Line). Blankley references and quotes from a Washington Post column by former ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke:

First, it is clear that the retired generals -- six so far, with more likely to come -- surely are speaking for many of their former colleagues, friends and subordinates who are still inside.... Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold, who was director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the planning period for the war in Iraq, made this clear in an extraordinary, at times emotional, article in Time magazine this past week when he said he was writing "with the encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership." He went on to "challenge those still in uniform . . . to give voice to those who can't -- or don't have the opportunity to -- speak."

Holbrooke is a relentless Democratic campaigner; President Clinton seriously considered him for Secretary of State to replace the retiring Warren Christopher (Clinton picked Madeleine Allbright instead). Holbrooke goes on in that column to insist the generals "are not newly minted doves or covert Democrats." He does not claim, however, that they are not overt Democrats; and indeed, the two ringleaders assuredly are. The rest repeat earlier Democratic talking points (such as that there was "no post-war planning"). [Hat tip to commenter jd watson, who spotted an error in the succession order of Clinton's two Secretaries of State. - the Mgt.]

Holbrooke makes clear his own sympathy with this group of revolting retired and active-duty generals:

The major reason the nation needs a new defense secretary is far more urgent. Put simply, the failed strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be fixed as long as Rumsfeld remains at the epicenter of the chain of command.

Tony Blankley wonders whether a conspiracy among active-duty generals to retire, one by one, and then immediately denounce the Bush administration and the Secretary of Defense, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and Republicans in general might constitute a crime, either under the federal civilian law or the UCMJ:

A "revolt" of several American generals against the secretary of defense (and by implication against the president)? Admittedly, if each general first retires and then speaks out, there would appear to be no violation of law.

But if active generals in a theater of war are planning such a series of events, they may be illegally conspiring together to do that which would be legal if done without agreement. And Ambassador Holbrooke's article is -- if it is not a fiction (which I doubt it is) -- strong evidence of such an agreement. Of course, a conspiracy is merely an agreement against public policy.

Big Lizards is less concerned about that aspect (does Blankley suggest that Alberto Gonzales begin issuing arrest warrants?) than we are curious whether anyone will actually believe in such a drip, drip, drip of sudden and "independent" resignations and denunciamentos -- or whether, with each new "falling star," the public will grow more and more skeptical of the political independence of the group.

Especially when it is led by Wesley Clark, the man who would be president.

Big Lizards anticipates the latter: as we implied a few posts ago and mention supra, the Democrats have yet again overplayed their hand. But then, like the scorpion and the frog, it is their nature to do so.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 18, 2006, at the time of 4:51 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

April 17, 2006

All Right, Shinseki Can Keep His Epaulettes

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Upon reading this story in the New York Times, I will revise my previous statement that Gen. Shinseki should have been drummed out of service for blabbermouthing to Congress his personal position on how many troops were needed for "peacekeeping" in Iraq.

First, the set-up. Everybody agrees on this much:

General Shinseki, who commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia, testified before Congress in February 2003 that peacekeeping operations in Iraq could require several hundred thousand troops, in part because it was a country with "the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

Why was Shinseki wrong to say this?

First of all, generals and other staff (civilian and military) express their opinions privately; they are privately evaluated, and then the President of the United States (POTUS) decides. The content of such privileged communications cannot be divulged: what happens with POTUS stays with POTUS. Without such privacy, policy advisors will be reluctant to give their candid assessments, because they might leak out with unpredictable results.

Second, once a decision is made, the generals do not have the right to tell Congress that the decision is wrong. (And telling Congress is functionally equivalent to calling a press conference and telling the world, because somebody in Congress is sure to do so.)

Such congressional testimony inevitably becomes a political meme that will cause no end of problems forPOTUS and his entire administration. The opposition party will seize upon it (right or wrong) as "evidence" that the Commander in Chief is incompetent, use it to undermine his leadership and stir up anti-war sentiment across the country... which in turn can severely undercut congressional support for the mission.

The Pentagon planners, the service secretaries, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and President George W. Bush had already determined that we needed a smaller peacekeeping force (for good reason: see below) than Gen. Shinseki wanted.

Shinseki's congressional testimony called all that into question, as 535 "armchair Commanders in Chief" got to hear Shinseki's views -- but not the reasons why they were ultimately rejected.

For, third, as it happens, Gen. Shinseki's position was flatly wrong. He was only looking at the immediate military goal. There was a reason why Bush and Rumsfeld decided to do it the way they did.

Bush's overall plan -- enunciated in the January, 2003 State of the Union speech and other speeches before the Iraq war began -- was to democratize the Middle East, starting with Iraq. He believed, and rightly so, in my opinion, that there was no other way to drain the fever swamps, the centuries of accumulated moral filth, poverty, hopelessness, despair, and desperation that bred terrorism the way literal filth breeds disease.

For decades, we followed a policy of "stability, not liberty." But Bush came to believe (again, rightly) that the lack of liberty had not led to stability but its opposite -- chaos and madness, which had its demonic Omega in the 9/11 attacks.

Bush chose, as president, to follow instead a path of liberty -- not stability. Hence, the goal of Iraqi self-reliance was equally or more important than crushing a post-Hussein "insurgency."

You cannot set a country on the path to self-reliance by colonizing it. Had we inundated Iraq with "several hundred thousand troops," not only would that have offered many more American targets without a corresponding increase in effectiveness (we would be sending less-trained personnel and couldn't properly rotate them out, forcing them to stay for much longer tours)... but also, it would infantalize the Iraqis, leading not to self-reliance but greater dependency. We would simply substitute one despotic, condescending ruler for another... ourselves.

I'm sure we would have been an improvement over the Baathists. But we would not have advanced one iota towards the urgent goal of democratizing the region.

So what Gen. Shinseki said was wrong on three counts:

  • He had no authority to reveal the privileged communications between the Commander in Chief and his military and civilian staff;
  • Because Shinseki's recommendation was at odds with the final decision, it became a political football and damaged the president's leadership and public and congresssional support for the mission;
  • And the advice Shinseki gave was simply wrong, because he only understood the military goal... not the equally important, long-term political goal.

What he did was insubordinate. But I now think it likely that he was merely stupidly insubordinate, rather than mendaciously so. This, in particular, is the passage that caught my eye and slightly softened my stance:

General Myers said he believed that news media coverage had overblown the confrontation and had failed to take note that General Shinseki had been "put in a corner" in questioning before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"General Shinseki was forced to make that comment under pressure, pulled a number out, wasn't wedded to it," General Myers said. He also said General Shinseki did not push for more troops after giving his Congressional testimony.

All right, Myers was presumably there; he probably knows the sequence of events. But he is wrong in one particular: Gen. Shinseki was not "forced" to answer that question. He could have refused... just as he would have had some Congressman asked for operational details of the upcoming invasion.

There are some questions you do not answer... and a four-star general who is the Army Chief of Staff is expected to know what those questions are.

I suspect Myers likes Shinseki and is miffed that one of his colleagues got (mildly) chewed out for doing something really stupid. But he still got off easy. As I now believe it was not deliberate politicking but simple dumbth, I agree he should not have been fired (as he was not).

He should have been reprimanded.

Shinseki should have gotten a letter in his file. No one else need see it; he was retiring anyway. But he should have retired knowing that he did something really, really stupid that damaged support for the war by making it seem futile and mismanaged, when in fact all the decisions made were reasonable and had right reason behind them.

Instead, all he got was a mild oral rebuke:

Days later, Mr. Wolfowitz, then the second-ranking official at the Pentagon, called the estimate "wildly off the mark," a sentiment that Mr. Rumsfeld repeated in comments that were widely interpreted in Washington and within the Pentagon as a rebuke of General Shinseki.

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld then had to go to Congress and do damage control. And to this day, the president still has to defend himself against disingenuous accusations of sending too small a force... mostly from people who wouldn't have invaded Iraq at all.

I believe I understand why everybody behaved the way they did: Shinseki had a brain fart; Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were trying to undo the damage Shinseki's brain fart caused; Bush felt loyal to Shinseki and did not want to damage his career or push him into premature retirement; Myers is in a loyalty tug-o-war between his duty to his former commander and his friendship with Shinseki.

But the reality is that Gen.Shinseki got away with a "senior moment" that should have exacted payment more dear.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 17, 2006, at the time of 5:02 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

The Captain Veers Off Course

Military Machinations , Politics - National
Hatched by Dafydd

Captain Ed appears to join the Ignatius Chorus calling for Bush to throw Rummy overboard "in order to bring Congress back in line on the war and to reassure the electorate that fresh eyes will review the military plan for it."

From deep 'neath the crypt of St. Giles...

Honest to goodness, this is about the rummiest idea I've ever seen on an otherwise excellent blog. I mean, this is bonkers.

I admire Rumsfeld greatly, and wish that the situation did not bring us to this question. But if replacing Rumsfeld with another SecDef with a better relationship with Congress and higher credibility with voters can assure our full and unified commitment to the war on terror, then bringing in John McCain or Joe Lieberman may be the best move for the war.
Came a shriek that resounded for miles...

First of all, the very idea that Bush can regain momentum and swing Congress to his side by caving in to the liberals is nutty. When has showing weakness and appeasement ever helped a president?

Check out John Hinderaker's insightful addendum to a Paul Mirengoff post on (duh) Power Line (I've reparagraphed it, because I have a phobia about big lumps of text):

Here is why I think so many liberals are anxious for President Bush to replace Rumsfeld: they have staked a great deal on the proposition that the Iraq war has not gone well, and, in fact, has been a disaster. But they are troubled because they are not at all sure that is true.

By any reasonable standard, casualties have been low and Iraq's progress toward democracy has been impressive. This doesn't mean the project couldn't still go off the rails; it clearly could. But it is also possible--likely, I think--that the Iraqis will succeed in forming a government, violence will continue to decline, our troops levels will be substantially reduced, and, in a year or two, the consensus will be that the war was pretty successful after all.

This, I think, is what liberals fear most. They want President Bush to stipulate, in effect, that the war has been poorly conducted and has been a failure. That's the way in which firing Rumsfeld would rightly be interpreted.

This would largely insulate liberals against the consequences if the war does, in fact, turn out to be successful. The same logic, I think, explains why liberals are always hectoring President Bush to "admit his mistakes." What they fear, deep down, is that the President's policies haven't been mistakes at all.

The vicar said, "gracious"...

John's point is well taken: where do David Ignatius and Captain Ed get the idea that keelhauling Secretary Rumsfeld would be seen as anything but a complete capitulation to Harry Reid -- as well as the tacit admission that the Democrats have been "right" all along?

Everyone, and I do mean every Man Jack of them, Jack, would take such an action as a sign that the war was a fraud and a terrible failure, the last three years a "complete waste," and that all those soldiers died in vain.

McCain would immediately send an additional several hundred thousand troops, trying to refight Vietnam (and this time winning it, by Jiminy!) Lieberman would sit and stare, a deer in headlights.

It would be an unmitigated political disaster of the first division.

Has Brother Ignatius...

But more to the point, if we step away from politics for a bit -- what makes anyone think that either McCain or Lieberman has the slightest ability to actually run the Department of Defense? It's one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world, full of hotheaded generals (every one of whom knows how to really win this war), with a budget in the hundreds of billions, employees in the millions (including civilians), dealing with tens of thousands of defense contractors, hundreds of other countries (scores of them our enemies), liasing with every other department in the country, and with responsibilities ranging from guarding the White House to housing NORAD and US Strategic Command in Cheyenne Mountain, whence we could unleash nuclear devastation upon the entire world.

And upon that single entity rests the continued existence of the United States of America.

My God, it was bad enough when Clinton stuffed Les Aspin and Bill Cohen into the job (William Perry was at least qualified on paper). I don't care how long somebody has served on the House friggin' Armed Services Committee; that doesn't make him eligible to run the Pentagon. Not even during peacetime.

Rumsfeld was ambassador to NATO and then Chief of Staff to the President of the United States before he was Secretary of Defense the first time -- and even he was arguably unqualified (on paper) back then, though he proved his mettle by successfully fighting Hammerin' Hank Kissinger in a turf war -- and beating him. He was far more qualified in 2001, when Bush appointed him; besides his previous stint as SecDef, he had served as CEO of several multinational corporations by then, as well as on many Defense-oriented administrative boards, commissions, and committees.

Oh, and have we forgotten that Donald Rumsfeld was eight years in the Congress? Obviously, being a Congressman does not automatically mean you can get along well with your colleagues: neither McCain nor Lieberman seems to have much cachet with his own party these days.

Forgotten the bishop has piles?

This is silliness compounding silliness. Let's see if we can all stop panicking long enough to recognize that Donald Rumsfeld is no more a liability today than he was five years ago... and that he has now won two wars, is currently winning one and a half peaces (I only give him half a star for Afghanistan), and has almost singlehandedly -- and successfully -- instituted the biggest change in how we fight wars since Ulysses S. Grant.

Let the man alone to do his job, please.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 15, 2006, at the time of 1:48 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

April 10, 2006

A Few More Good Men (and Women)

Future of Warfare , Good News! , Media Madness , Military Machinations
Hatched by Sachi

Back in September 2005, the antique media emitted a collective primal scream about the Army facing the "Worst Recruiting Slump in Years," as the Associated Press put it (rather triumphally).

So why is it that this good news gets hardly any attention at all? Could it be just because -- it is good news?

USA Today reports that in the first six months of this fiscal year (October 1st, 2005 through March 31st, 2006), the Army had an incredibly good soldier-retention rate (15% above the re-enlistment goal) plus new recruit numbers that actually slightly exceed the recruitment goal, even with the new, higher recruitment targets:

The Army was 15% ahead of its re-enlistment goal of 34,668 for the first six months of fiscal year 2006, which ended March 31. More than 39,900 soldiers had re-enlisted, according to figures scheduled to be released today by the Army.

Strong retention has helped the Army offset recruiting that has failed to meet its targets as the war in Iraq has made it harder to attract new soldiers. The Army fell 8% short of its goal of recruiting 80,000 soldiers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, although it is exceeding its goal this year. Army recruiting figures for the first half of the year are to be released today.

Note an interesting point: the Army missed its new recruitment goal last fiscal year by 6,400 soldiers. But in fact, since they retained an extra 5,000+ soldiers over the reenlistment target, the actual shortfall was only about 1,000 soldiers. This year, they're meeting their target of 80,000 new recruits -- and if reenlistment rates keep up this pace, the Army will likely have as many as 10,000 more experienced soldiers than they planned.

That would more than make up the slight shortfall of 2005... which means they'll probably have to stop accepting new recruits sometime in the next few months: no vacancy!

In fact, Army retention numbers have been exceeding the goal for the last five years. Bear in mind, these are the guys who actually have been to the war zone and fought there (the Marines have always exceeded their enlistment targets; the Army was the only short service among active duty branches). These reenlisted soldiers know what to expect... and evidently, they want to stay and fight.

That says a lot more about our troops' morale than any number of misleading Zogby surveys.

Soldiers like the Army, "and the war is not causing people to leave," says Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman. Through March, 2,325 U.S. troops had been killed in Iraq; 1,593 were Army soldiers.

When I had a chance to talk to a Navy captain back in February, he said the same thing: there are actually too many sailors reenlisting, and he had to turn away many.

Not only is the war "not causing people to leave," it's attracting recruits and reenlistments in droves. Our military now has a higher percentage of experienced and motivated warriors than any time since directly after World War II. And we're still getting plenty of young kids, as well; the Army is not turning into the "fat, gray line," as many feared we would. We still have many "citizen soldiers;" it's not an army of nothing but career professionals.

The future of our military is very bright, indeed.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 10, 2006, at the time of 9:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 20, 2006

Iraqi Battalion's First Independent Operation

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Sachi

We have talked about the readiness of the Iraqi Army for months. So it's nice to read a story like this one from the 1st Marine Regiment and the Military Transition Teams (MTTs) who train the Iraqi troops. Iraqi soldiers from the "2-2-7" recently conducted their first independent counterinsurgency operation in the Anbar district:

More than 100 soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division conducted their first independently-executed mission to disrupt insurgent operations here March 14.

The soldiers, who were accompanied by a handful of Marines, patrolled through and cleared three kilometers of village just south of the town of Haqlaniyah along the Euphrates River in western Al Anbar Province, northwest of Baghdad. The Marines, outnumbered by the Iraqi soldiers 10 to one, were on hand in an advisory role only.

“It’s good for the Iraqi people not to see us out there and to see the Iraqi Army doing all the work in keeping their community safe,” said Capt. Quintin D. Jones, a Memphis, Tenn., native and member of the Military Transition Team (MTT) here. MTTs are groups of Coalition servicemembers assigned to logistically assist and guide individual Iraqi military units’ transition to independent operations.

The Iraqi-led mission was part of the latest counterinsurgency operation, dubbed “Raging Bull,” conducted by Coalition forces in western Al Anbar Province.

Despite relentless negative reporting from the MSM, I cannot help feeling optmistic about Iraq. That is because I focus on progress, not setbacks.

Of course we need to look at the serious reality of the war; but there must be balance. "Reality" in Iraq has three legs: progress, promise, and cost. But the media teeters precariously on a one-legged stool.

Remember the first Falluja offensive, where Iraqi troops abandoned their posts and fled in the face of the enemy? Today, no Iraqi soldier will show his back to the terrorist vermin infesting his country. These soldiers (we can definitely use that proud term now) are eager to prove their courage and the skills they learned from the best in the world: our own United States Marines.

And today the 1st Marines are proud to count the Iraqi Army as comrades.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 20, 2006, at the time of 2:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006

The Grand Tale of Tal Afar

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Sachi

I am sure readers must remember this thank you letter from Tal Afar Mayor Najim Abdullah Abid al-Jibouri to the commanders and men of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who, with the 1st Brigade, 3d Division of the Iraqi Army, finally liberated Tal Afar. The letter was widely reported in blogsphere back in February.

Last Sunday,(March 12, 2006, the CBS show 60 minutes featured the current situation in Tal Afar. Much to my surprise, the report by Lara Logan was amazingly balanced.

You should be able to view the video from here (click the "60 Minutes" link in the left sidebar, then click on the link titled "Al Qaeda's Town"); but when I tried, it stopped in the middle. It's RealPlayer: "abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

The quick take: the retaking of Tal Afar is a model for how we will fight such wars in the future... and a great vindication of the vision of President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the other architects of small-footprint warfare.

Tal Afar is located at the Syrian border, in the Ninewa province (sometimes called Nineva). It had been used for years as a conduit for terrorists entering Iraq from Syria. Back in 2004, U.S. troops kicked out the terrorists; but like in Fallujah, there were not enough American toops to hold the town; and the Iraqi troops back then proved unreliable. Inevitably then, when we left Tal Afar, the terrorists came roaring back -- literally with a vengence. The town was overrun by Musab Zarqawi's group al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, who began a spree of revenge killing, torture, and brutal, thuggish rule.

Sharia law as enforced (on the citizens; the terrorists seemed to have special dispensation). And 200,000 citizens of Tal Afer were held hostage. Mayor Najim describes the situation in his letter:

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed.

Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city.

Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young.

After a year of training and building up the Iraqi Army, so that we would have a force that could actually hold a city like Tal Afar (or Fallujah) after we liberate it, we decided in September, 2005, that we were ready at last to recapture the town.

Col. H.R. McMaster is commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry and Multinational Force-Northwest; he now also serves as one of the military's top advisers on fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He described to 60 minutes what the 3d Cav found when they entered Tal Afar.

Masked gunmen led by al Qaeda roamed the streets of Tal Afar at will, publicly executing and kidnapping people. Col. McMaster told 60 Minutes some of the terrorists were foreign fighters, but many were Iraqis from the area. Pictures of their attacks were circulated in videos like one in which you can hear them chanting a call to jihad.

"They had schools for snipers. They had kidnapping and murder classes that were attended by people on the best techniques," says McMaster.

The terrorists they encountered were far more sophisiticated than anyone imagined. Aside from foreign fighters, there were many former soldiers and officers from Saddam's army, men with actual combat experience and training. The enemy organized well, both for combat and extreme brutality:

The colonel says he was surprised to learn the enemy in Tal Afar was so organized. "You had this blending of former military expertise and organizational ability with, with a radical Islamic ideology, and it was fertile ground here."

On September 3, 2005, the fight began. After three days of heavy ground fighting and air strikes, the fire was ceased for two days in order to let citizens escape. But then, three more days of delay were ordered by the Iraqi goverment, allegedly because they were concerned about civilian casualties. However, the recent exposure of "several ranking Defense Ministry officials" as allied with al-Qaeda -- either for money or ideology -- certainly suggests other explanations.

Regardless, this extra respite allowed many of the terrorists to escape as well. Michael Ware, Baghdad bureau chief for Time Magazine, who was embedded with the 3d Cav, explains what happened:

"The al Qaeda presence in Tal Afar was surrounded. And the attack was primed. And then it was stopped dead in its tracks. And so, as the troops I was with battled throughout the day and into the night with al Qaeda fighters so close you could throw a stone and hit them, when we woke up the next morning -- poof -- they were gone!" says Ware....

When the troops finally entered the Sarai section of Tal Afar on the ninth day of the battle, they used tanks to blast holes through buildings so the soldiers could move forward without being exposed.

But after waiting so long, Michael Ware says the momentum was gone; and — so it seemed — was the enemy.

"Where an entire al Qaeda society had existed, the troops that I was with found one body," Ware recalls.

To prove they were not defeated, al Qaeda unleashed 12 suicide bombers in a day of bloodshed in Baghdad. They publicly called it revenge for the loss of Tal Afar, where the U.S. Army calculated enemy dead at 151. Eight Iraqi soldiers and one American were also killed. But Col. McMaster told 60 Minutes that using numbers to measure victory is a mistake.

"Body counts are completely irrelevant. I mean, what is relevant is, 'Is the population secure so that political development, economic development can proceed?'" he explains.

But what happened after the battle is more important: American troops began training the local police, recruiting both Shia and Sunni, and reopened schools and markets. Their success at winning the hearts and minds of the Tal Afar citizens is obvious from the 60 Minutes segment video.

American soldiers like Capt. Jesse Sellars have taken on added responsibilities. On regular patrols through the city, he is part politician and part policeman.

These days, he walks the streets like the pied piper, with crowds of Iraqi children chanting his name. They're the same streets he fought for just a few months ago.

I was struck by the children chanting Capt. Sellars first name like a cerebrity: "Jesse! Jesse!" This raises an important question: Is it actually legal for CBS to show footage favorable to President Bush, Republicans, or the U.S. military? Isn't there something in the Constitution against it?

The segment ends on an upbeat note:

"If anybody tries to operate in Tal Afar, they're gonna be detected and …" the colonel replied.

"But is that a yes, colonel? Are they trying to come back?" Logan asked.

"Oh yes. Of course the enemy is trying to come back. In an insurgency, there’s not going to be a big decisive battle and then the white flags come out and it’s over, OK," says Col. McMaster. "But what we have here is as close to that as you really can get."

The terrorists will come again; it's the Middle East, and they always come. They will slither back into Tal Afar and Fallujah and the Anbar province.

But this time, when they come, they will face Iraqi troops defending the town, province, and country. Training-up the Iraqi Army has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of any of the Democrats -- or Republicans -- in Congress; but the actual boots on the ground, the generals, the service secretaries and Donald Rumsfeld, and of course George W. Bush himself always knew it would turn the tide in the end.

The sentiments of the citizens of Tal Afar toward the American soldiers are summed up in the Mayor's letter. Let's let Mayor Najim have the last word:

God bless this brave Regiment; God bless the families who dedicated these brave men and women.

From the bottom of our hearts we thank the families. They have given us something we will never forget.

To the families of those who have given their holy blood for our land, we all bow to you in reverence and to the souls of your loved ones. Their sacrifice was not in vain. They are not dead, but alive, and their souls hovering around us every second of every minute. They will never be forgotten for giving their precious lives. They have sacrificed that which is most valuable. We see them in the smile of every child, and in every flower growing in this land.

Let America, their families, and the world be proud of their sacrifice for humanity and life.

Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, March 16, 2006, at the time of 4:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 8, 2006

At Last - Intelligence In the Intelligence War

Military Machinations , Terrorism Intelligence
Hatched by Dafydd

Frustrated by repeated leaks and contrarian policies, the Bush administration must be wondering how it can fight a two-front war: one front abroad, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and elsewhere in the world, fighting against jihadis... and the other domestically, against the Central Intelligence Agency, which has consistently demonstrated its determination not only to support but to control foreign policy.

Now, the New York Times reports that more and more battlefield intelligence, even strategic intel, is going to come from Special Ops military intelligence forces -- not the compromised and untrustworthy CIA.

The new mission could become a major responsibility for the military's fast-growing Special Operations Command, which was authorized by President Bush in March 2004 to take the lead in military operations against terrorists. Its new task could give the command considerable clout in organizing the nation's overall intelligence efforts.

The Special Operations command reports to Mr. Rumsfeld, and falls outside the orbit controlled by John D. Negroponte, the newly established director of national intelligence, who oversees all the nation's intelligence agencies.

These new teams, called Military Liaison Elements, are not just tasked with gathering intel but with acting upon it:

Special Operations forces include the Army Green Berets and Rangers, the Navy Seals, the Marines and special Air Force crews that carry out the most specialized or secret military missions. Their skills range from quick strikes to long-range reconnaissance in hostile territory, military training and medical care.

Needless to say, the CIA is fuming about this. They are outraged that for no apparent reason, apart from their five-year war against President Bush, the commander in chief is cutting their turf out from under them.

"The Department of Defense is very eager to step up its involvement in counterterrorism activities, and it has set its sights on traditional C.I.A. operational responsibilities and authorities," said John O. Brennan, a 25-year C.I.A. officer who headed the National Counterterrorism Center before retiring last year. "Quite unfortunately, the C.I.A.'s important lead role in many of these areas is being steadily eroded, and the current militarization of many of the nation's intelligence functions and responsibilities will be viewed as a major mistake in the very near future."

Mr. Brennan, now president of the Analysis Corporation, an intelligence contractor in Virginia, said that if Socom operations were closely coordinated with host countries and American ambassadors, "U.S. interests could be very well served."

But, he added, "if the planned Socom presence in U.S. embassies abroad is an effort to pave the way for unilateral U.S. military operations or to enable defense elements to engage in covert action activities separate from the C.I.A., U.S. problems abroad will be certain to increase significantly."

I think this is an excellent idea. The CIA has proven itself to be not only disloyal but extraordinarily fumble-footed... missing such big stories as the 1979 Iranian revolution, the nuclear detonations by Pakistan and India, the A.Q. Khan WMD-of-the-month club... and then first assuring the president that finding "large stockpiles of WMD" in Iraq was a "slam dunk"... and then eagerly participating in covering up the massive quantities of dual-use WMD we did find, labeling it "civilian" -- when quite clearly Iraq had no conceivable peaceful purpose for, e.g., massive quantities of Cyclosarin-based pesticides stored in camouflaged ammunition bunkers, right next to chemical-ready but unloaded munitions.

And they're still at it:

The Special Operations Command has not publicly disclosed the Military Liaison Element mission, and answered questions about the effort only after it was described by officials in other parts of the government who oppose the program.

We must undertake every opportunity to shift intel responsibility from an agency that wants peace at any cost to one that is at least willing to consider that sometimes, war really is the answer.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 8, 2006, at the time of 5:50 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 7, 2006

Who Didn't Desert When Come To the Wall

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Here's one that hasn't gotten a lot of newsplay. From USA Today, linked by Drudge:

At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although the overall desertion rate has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

But wait -- I thought George Bush's cavalier disregard for the lives and health of the soldiers in his mad pursuit of absolute power as King George the 1th had degraded, demoralized, and destroyed our troops and their combat capability. After all, there was that Zogby Poll just a few days ago that supposedly found that 72% of the soldiers in Iraq were so sick of the terrible losses they'd suffered that they wanted to abandon everything and just leave. Or at least, that's how John Zogby and the newsies interpreted the ambiguous poll results.

Perhaps that wasn't the right explanation after all....

After all, if morale were so low, increased desertions would be inevitable. But in fact, looking at the yearly tables, we see no such pattern:

  • The Army desertion rate steadily rose through the late 1990s, reaching a peak in FY 2001 (October 1st, 2000 through September 30th, 2001) with 4,597 desertions, 0.95% of the Army.
  • In FY 2002, which began October 1st, 2001, just after 9/11, desertions dropped slightly, down to 4,483, for a rate of 0.926%.
  • Next fiscal year, the one that included both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, running from Oct. 1st, 2002 through Sep. 30th, 2003, the desertion rate dropped substantially to 3,678, or 0.76%.

But wait, maybe it's not the actual combat the saps morale and causes more desertions; maybe it's the long slog of occupation, the endless battles with a surging insurgency, Iraqis who all hate us, and the crushing, demoralizing knowledge that we're suffering nothing but defeat after defeat with no successes whatsoever, as the Antique Media keeps telling us. Perhaps that is when the full realization of futility and defeat will set in, leading to massive desertions.

  • In FY 2004 -- all of which occurred after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, entirely during the occupation -- the Army experienced 2,376 desertions for a rate of 0.491% -- more than a third down from 2003.
  • I cannot find the desertion rate for FY 2005, which ended on September 30th last year; but I'm pretty sure that if it were significantly greater than FY 2004, it would have been screaming headlines in every newspaper in America and the top story on all the networks.

This isn't dispositive; shortly after 9/11, we changed how we treated desertions. We used to prosecute immediately, but now we return deserters to their units and let the CO decide what to do; some end up reassimilated. But certainly there isn't a shred of evidence that Iraq service increases desertion, despite repeated and typically unsourced claims made by lefty blogsites and the mainstream media (apologies for any redundancy).

Bear this in mind when you read the next anti-war rant or Zogby-style poll arguing that the troops are crushed and demoralized and ready to give up.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 7, 2006, at the time of 3:58 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 8, 2006

The Last Remake of Beau Prophetism

Military Machinations , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

I know, I know; I'd hoped that Abbot and Costello would have killed off this thread, like they tried to do with Frankenstein. But like that venerable construction of the good doctor, Radical Prophetism yet lives!

This entry is mercifully short, however (by Big Lizards standards).

Hugh Hewitt, who still agrees with me, is currently flogging the analogy of Spain under Franco during WWII: he worries about countries like Pakistan that currently aid us in the GWOT but which might be pushed into the arms of the jihadis by these cartoons. But I have a different analogy in mind, focusing on the very beginning.

I agree that we must eventually have it out with militant Islamism over freedom of speech vs. sharia law: in a free society, obeying a religious code like sharia (or the 613 laws of Judaism) is optional; Moslems not only want to make it mandatory in their territories but in ours as well... and that is completely and utterly unacceptable and will spark a war to end all wars if they seriously try to impose it. I agree in principle with the Danish editor, Flemming Rose, whose paper, Jyllands-Posten, first published the cartoons:

When I go to a mosque, I behave by the rules that exist in that holy house. I will not stand up and make a cartoon of the holy prophet in a mosque. But I think if any religion insists that I, as a non-Muslim, should submit to their taboos, then I don't think they're showing me respect. I think they're asking for my submission. This is a key issue in this debate.

But there is another point to be made, and that is that you do not fight a war on the enemy's terms... not if you want to win; you make the enemy fight it on your terms. And here is the analogy that sums up my point:

You're at war, and you have a line against the enemy. You need to make a breakthrough; after carefully studying everything, you and your generals decide that the battle will be won in the North. You start to lay the groundwork for a surprise attack in the North... when all of a sudden, Major Jack D. Ripper -- enraged by the enemy's taunts -- leads his handful of tanks in a futile attack in the South, where you have prepared nothing to support such a push. The enemy swarms down there and threatens to break through your own lines, unless you respond instantly. Caught by surprise by your own troops, you're forced to rush pell mell down to the South to shore up the line there. And the battle proceeds, not where you meant to strike, but on ground selected by the enemy.

That is the problem. I want to fight the free-speech battle on the high ground of, e.g., the Mark Steyn piece that Hewitt keeps mentioning ("It's the Demography, Stupid"), which discusses the demographics of mass Moslem immigration into Europe; this is a piece that not only can be defended on free-speech grounds but is also an extraordinarily important work in itself, and could well turn the tide of the war -- if Europe were to take it seriously.

Alternatively, we could find a really, really good piece on freedom versus tyranny, then pay a bunch of newspapers in Moslem countries to run it (which is the normal practice in many places). That sort of piece will divide the jihadis from those Moslems in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and elsewhere who want to live in freedom.

But these stupid cartoons, which should still be defended as free speech (in fact, must be so defended, now that the battle is engaged on the other side), are nevertheless offensive and in bad taste... putting us once again in the box of having to defend the nearly indefensible, rather than the great. It is not the ground we would have chosen for this war; by handing such ammunition to our enemies, Jyllands-Posten and Flemming Rose gave them the gift of selecting where and when we would fight and over what provocation.

It couldn't have gone any better for the jihadists if they'd planned the whole thing from the beginning -- right down to the original publication. I'm not saying Rose is an Islamist; certainly he is not. But he is a dupe and a useful idiot... to the terrorists: he fell into their trap and dragged the rest of us along with him.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 8, 2006, at the time of 6:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 11, 2006

"Softly Softly" Accuses U.S. of "Harshly Harshly"

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

Does anyone else see the irony in this Reuters story, British officer blisters US Army in Iraq critique?

The U.S. Army has displayed damaging cultural insensitivity in Iraq, while being blinded by unrealistic optimism and predisposed to use maximum force, a senior British officer wrote in a blistering appraisal in a U.S. military publication.

The essay by British Army Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who served with U.S. forces in Iraq from December 2003 to November 2004, appeared in the latest edition of the magazine Military Review, published by the U.S. Army.

(Just as an aside, was it culturally sensitive enough of us to allow Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster to hock and spit in our own Army publication? Would the Brits have returned the favor?)

The British Army's primary area of responsibility has been southern Iraq, and in particular, Basra Province. But Basra is precisely the area where Iranian-backed Shiite militias have taken over the police forces, right under the noses of the Brits.

Back in September, pro-Iranian militiamen in Basra kidnapped two British soldiers and held them hostage. In a daring and successful raid that defied the normal "softly, softly" approach by Great Britain -- hence, in all likelihood, was planned and executed at a level below flag rank -- British troops stormed the Basra police station to rescue their comrades. They discovered they had been moved to the militia headquarters in the city; so the troops then stormed that location and successfully rescued the hostages, killing several Shiite terrorists and arresting others in the process.

Whereupon the British government promptly apologized to the Iran-connected city council and agreed to pay extortion money to keep the council from instigating an anti-British riot. (The AP links have expired, alas; but they can probably be resurrected via Google's cache facility, if one is so inclined.) As we reported back in October:

The joint statement said: "We regret the incidents that took place in Basra on 19 September 2005 at the Serious Crimes Unit.

"We also regret the casualties on both sides and the material damage to public facilities.

"The British government is prepared to pay valid claims for compensation for casualties and material damage in the well-established manner."

The British "softly, softly" policy -- which is just chock-full of cultural sensitivity, brimming over with European pessimism (sorry, "realism"), and predisposed to humbly apologize for any use of force against the enemy -- has been by and large a disaster. They allowed Iranian controlled militias and actual Iranian agents to infiltrate Iraq all the way from Basra to Sadr City; they were next to useless in dealing with Muqtada Sadr; and they wasted a lot of time and squandered moral clarity by complaining that American troops were "insensitive" by, e.g., wearing helmets instead of berets.

I have heard from many sources that the ordinary British soldiers and the junior to mid-level officers are terribly frustrated by their weak posture and wish that their own brigadiers had as much spine as ours... or even as much as their own majors and colonels.

Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster is a textbook example of what is wrong with Europe today -- and of how creeping Euroism is making significant inroads into Great Britain's military, particularly at the senior officer (political) level.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 11, 2006, at the time of 2:31 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 18, 2005

Who Is John Murtha?

Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

The fact that a man steps up, joins the Marines, and does his duty in Korea (one year) and Vietnam (one year) makes him a brave, resourceful, and responsible citizen.

It doesn't necessarily make him bright.

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has a BA in economics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania -- a minor degree from a minor university. He went into politics at age 36 and has been there ever since (he's 73 now). His seat appears to be totally safe: Wikipedia says his only two close electoral calls were both in primaries; he took the seat from the Republicans in 1974, but that was in the depths of Watergate... since then, it has been a totally safe Democratic seat.

Although he has been in Congress for thirty-one years, his highest rank has been chair/ranking member of an appropriations subcommittee; that is, his subcommittee votes on spending bills. He has never been in the House leadership, minority or majority.

For all of John Murtha's website boasts about his "first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues" that made him "a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties and one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in Washington," I don't see anything in his background that would mark him as particularly knowledgeable about high-level strategy: he seems never to have commanded any unit larger than a company; he doesn't claim to have been through the Naval War College; he has never been Secretary of Defense or a service secretary.

There are twenty-nine Democrats who are members of the House Armed Services Committee (including Loretta Sanchez and Cynthia McKinney), but John Murtha is not one of them.

John Murtha appears to be a reasonably well-respected back bencher, one of the innumerable nomenklatura that litter the halls of the Capitol.

His attack on Dick Cheney as a chickenhawk is fascinating from a psychological standpoint: it seems excessively defensive. In reality, Cheney has had a much more successful career at virtually every level, and in particular in military matters: he was White House Chief of Staff to Gerald Ford at age 34 (the youngest in history); in the House of Reps, he was chairman of the Republican Conference and then Minority Whip (same position as Tom DeLay, except the Republicans were then in the minority).

As Secretary of Defense under Bush-41, Cheney actually sat in the War Room in the Pentagon with the top flag officers, planning strategy for Operation Just Cause (Panama) and Operation Desert Shield/Storm (Kuwait). Murtha, of course, has never done this. In fact, Murtha never served in any administration, so he has no strategic command experience in any way or form.

During the Clinton years, Cheney headed one of the largest companies in the world, Halliburton (currently ranked 654th in the world on the Forbes 2000), market cap around $20 billion, revenues about $20 billion, nearly 100,000 employees under Cheney's management; Halliburton is primarily an energy-construction company, but they do a lot of military contracting... so Cheney saw that side of military strategy as well. And he has now been vice president for five years, intimately involved at every stage with both the Commander in Chief and the current SecDef, his old boss, Don Rumsfeld, during two significant wars and scores of U.S. military involvements around the world.

Murtha is not privy to any highly classified intelligence; Cheney of course sees virtually all of it.

Yes, true: Dick Cheney signed up for a draft reclassification to 3-A (married with children) in 1965, and he was not drafted into Vietnam. He was already twenty-four at the time, just two years from likely not being draftable anyway. BFD.

John Murtha's background -- even in military matters -- doesn't begin to approach Cheney's, and Murtha knows it. The fact that he spent two or three years on active duty (and thirty-five years in the reserves) doesn't alter that essential fact: Murtha has never had any experience with, let alone responsibility for, military strategy... he simply did what he was ordered to do, first as an enlisted Marine, then as a Captain. This is honorable, but it is not a qualification for passing judgment on the strategic progress of a war.

Rep. John Murtha has no qualification to judge whether a war is "unwinnable" or should be abandoned. Dick Cheney does. End of story.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 18, 2005, at the time of 5:01 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

Gen. Pace: Thirty-Nine Iraqi Battalions "In the Lead"

Good News! , Iraq Matters , Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was just this moment a guest on the Hugh Hewitt show, with Jed Babbin (of NRO fame) sitting in for Hugh. Gen. Pace dropped a rather stunning bombshell.

Babbin asked Gen. Pace for an assessment of the Iraqi fighting forces, and the chairman made the following points:

  • There are now over 200,000 Iraqis either in the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police forces.
  • There are over 100 battalions of Iraqi army now considered battle-ready; Gen. Pace said he believed it was actually 117 battalions (which matches other reporting).
  • And in breaking news, the chairman stated that fully one-third of these battalions are already "in the lead" in fighting the terrorists. The other two-thirds are fighting alongside American troops but not yet ready to assume the lead.

Assuming that last figure is correct, that would mean at least thirty-three Iraqi battalions and as many as thirty-nine battalions of the Iraqi army (as many as 39,000 men) are actually taking the lead in fighting for their own country. This is incredibly good news... and even though Sachi is traveling, it deserves to be reported.

I doubt I'll be able to scoop the MilBlogs (some of which you can see blogrolled to the right) -- they probably got this same information weeks ago during one of their weekly breakfast briefings with Gen. Pace -- but at least I have the forlorn hope of scooping Prof. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit!

(I will of course scoop the MSM with this good news... but that would still be true if I sat on it until Shrove Tuesday.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 24, 2005, at the time of 3:44 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 30, 2005

An Army of One... Million

Military Machinations
Hatched by Dafydd

The headline is deep. Dark. Scary:

Army Faces Worst Recruiting Slump in Years

Cue the bass, the sad snare-drum tattoo, thunder in the distance.

The Army is closing the books on one of the leanest recruiting years since it became an all-volunteer service three decades ago, missing its enlistment target by the largest margin since 1979 and raising questions about its plans for growth.

Many in Congress believe the Army needs to get bigger - perhaps by 50,000 soldiers over its current 1 million - in order to meet its many overseas commitments, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army already is on a path to add 30,000 soldiers, but even that will be hard to achieve if recruiters cannot persuade more to join the service.

The mind of the mathematician suddenly registers something it likes: numbers! We have a million men; we want one million and thirty thousand; maybe as high as one million and fifty thousand. A quick calculation: so our force is just too small -- we desperately need to increase it... by 3% to 5%.

Already I'm scratching my head. Three percent? That's the total increase that we need to be a powerful fighting legion once more?

The Army has not published official figures yet, but it apparently finished the 12-month counting period that ends Friday with about 73,000 recruits. Its goal was 80,000. A gap of 7,000 enlistees would be the largest - in absolute number as well as in percentage terms - since 1979, according to Army records.

So we wanted 80,000 recruits but fell 7,000 short. That's 8.75% short of what we wanted -- or a shortfall of 0.7% of total Army members. In other words, we recruited enough to reach 99.3% of what we hoped to gain. Since we are trying to increase the number of troops, that 99.3% figure means we likely at least achieved replacement levels: in other words, the "recruiting slump" means that, while we didn't gain as many additional soldiers as we wanted, we probably at least broke even and didn't actually lose men. And this in the midst of a war that appears, at least if you get your news from the News, to be dragging on and on.

Is it just me? Or is this not a bad result at all? In fact, it seems pretty good... especially when you consider that the entire shortfall occurred in the early part of the year; for the last four months, Army recruiters actually exceeded their goals -- and that's not all:

A summertime surge of signups offered some hope the slump may be ending. An Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, said that despite the difficulties, recruiters were going full speed as the end of fiscal year 2005, Sept. 30, arrived.

"We have met the active Army's monthly recruiting goals since June, and we expect to meet it for September, which sends us into fiscal year 2006 on a winning streak," Hilferty said. He also noted that the Army has managed to meet its re-enlistment goals, even among units that have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. [all emphasis throughout added by Dafydd]

So let's review the betting: among people who have never been in the service, and who therefore probably get nearly all their knowledge of the military from news and entertainment shows on TV and in the movies, recruitment is slightly down from expectations, though probably enough to maintain the level of troops we have now.

But among soldiers who have actually fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who therefore know what is really happening on the ground from personal experience, re-enlistment rates were met. In fact, since the goal is to retain more people than normal (to meet the goal of increasing troop strength by 30,000 -- right?), it's safe to bet that the re-enlistment goals were higher than in previous years... which means there are more veteran troops in the Army than before, which would partially mitigate the lower numbers of raw recruits.

Since one experienced soldier is worth several kids straight out of boot camp, I'd say we got a bargain.

The Associated Press story tips its hand early. The "story" they want to tell is put forward with all the subtlety of a Democratic National Committee talking-points paper:

The outlook is dimmed by several key factors, including:

- The daily reports of American deaths in Iraq and the uncertain nature of the struggle against the insurgency have put a damper on young people's enthusiasm for joining the military, according to opinion surveys.

Even the DoD itself falls into a funk over this:

The factors working against the Army, Hilferty said, are a strong national economy that offers young people other choices, and "continued negative news from the Middle East."

But this actually makes no sense. If the factor dragging down recruiting were the toll of the war in Iraq, why would those soldiers most affected by that war -- the ones who actually fought in it -- be re-enlisting in such huge numbers, easily exceeding retention goals?

But wait. So far, we've only talked about the Army. Before we fly with those scarelines in the Associated Press release, what about the other services? What about the Marines, the Navy, and the Air Force? The Marines, at least, have seen even heavier ground-war fighting during this last year than has the Army. If the war is turning people off of the military, then surely the Marines would suffer at least as badly as the Army, or even more so.

Oddly enough, the Department of Defense actually keeps a record of these sorts of figures. In fact, they make that record publicly available. Now, they haven't released the final figures of FY2005 (which would include the month of September), but they have released the year-to-date figures for October 2004 through August 2005, eleven months out of the twelve. You can find them here.

According to the chart, we see the following pattern of recruitment (I believe "accession" means recruitment and does not include retentions, which are in fact up for the year-to-date for all branches) :

Fiscal 2005 Active Duty Enlisted Recruiting from Oct. 1, 2004-Aug. 31, 2005

Marine Corps
Air Force


As the table makes clear, the only service suffering any shortfall at all in active-duty recruiting throughout the year has been the Army. Not counting the Army, the other services achieved 101% of their active-duty recruiting goals. And in particular, the United States Marines, who have been in nearly continuous combat for their entire deployment, lead the way in retention rates of Marines who have actually served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is a different story in the reserves, as the last table on the DoD web page makes clear. The Marine Corps Reserve and the Air Force Reserve strongly exceeded their recruitment goals, but the Army and Air National Guards and the Army and Navy Reserve recruitment was down. Retention in the reserves and National Guards, however, was strong, exceeding goals. This is the same pattern as above: those who have actually served in the reserves have evidently come to terms with the inherent uncertainty in it, and they are re-upping. But those men and women considering the reserves or National Guard for the first time are likely put off by not knowing from month to month whether they will be home, working at their regular jobs, or off in Iraq killing jihadi and Sadr-ites.

Even so, far from the doom and gloom article in AP, it appears what is happening is that we're trading away a large-ish number of raw recruits for a slightly smaller number of seasoned veterans: fewer boys and girls are joining up, but more men and women are returning.

Considering the intense requirements placed upon our armed forces by an urban terrorist war that will go on for many years in various countries, this seems like a very fair trade indeed.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 30, 2005, at the time of 3:06 AM | Comments (44) | TrackBack

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