20 November 2007

The Canadians are asking the right questions

Why aren't we?

CDA � Canadian Military Journal: “Why would we even consider fighting an asymmetric situation with conventional forces?”

18 November 2007

Krauthammer's only sort of paying attention

newsobserver.com | Alliances warm, not scorched
What's changed in the last year? Bush's dress and diction remain the same. But he did change generals -- and counterinsurgency strategy -- in Iraq. As a result, Iraq has gone from an apparently lost cause to a winnable one.

Let me tell you what else has changed in the past year... W has gotten one more year closer to being out of office. And with Dick not running, there's no dynastic succession coming. Other countries maybe trying to get close to jockey for favorable position with whoever's up next. But right now that means cozying up to who's 'now' with an eye toward the future. Otherwise Merkel would've been here years ago and no one would've said a word about the infamous shoulder rub that W laid on her. Sarkozy was elected when he could be, and Blair left when he said he was, so it's not like the other guys could've come years before now.

31 October 2007

Talking sense about Blackwater in Iraq

newsobserver.com | When lawlessness reigns
When lawlessness reigns
STANFORD, CALIF. - Six weeks after the shootings in Baghdad that left 17 people dead, more than a dozen public and private investigations of Blackwater USA have reached a seemingly irrefutable conclusion: Blackwater's forces in Iraq are behaving as brutal outlaws.
A congressional investigation found that Blackwater opened fire far more often than other mercenaries. American soldiers counted shell casings at the scene of the shootings and found none that might have come from attackers. The Iraqi government interviewed witnesses and victims who said Blackwater fired first.
Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., denies the allegations. But all of it leaves an indelible image of lawless renegades.
I am not here to defend Blackwater -- or Unity Resources Group, whose guards shot and killed two women driving home from work recently. But none of the investigations, hearings, lawsuits and reports generated in the past weeks has put the contractors' actions in context. The contractors are working in an utterly lawless, anarchic society.
I don't think most Americans appreciate how broken Iraq really is. I've worked in Iraq several times, between 2003 and 2006. During the most recent trip, accompanying Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, our motorcade from the Baghdad airport was held up by an explosive device -- discovered in the road just in time.
Visit Baghdad, and one of the first things you notice is the total lack of even rudimentary traffic rules. Want to make a left turn, but a traffic island makes that impossible? Make a U-turn down the road, and then drive into oncoming traffic for several blocks until you reach your street. No one will raise an eyebrow.
Imagine you are concerned about security in your neighborhood. So you install roadblocks of sand bags, cement bricks and barbed wire, manned by armed mercenaries, at both ends of your block. An unintended result: None of your neighbors can drive home. That happens across Baghdad, and the neighbors have no recourse, no one to complain to.
Maybe those problems seem petty when compared to the larger picture of violence and death. But they do give a flavor of a society out of control.
Blackwater is accused of killing 17 people in a drive-by shooting. Well, drive-by shootings are a daily occurrence. Pick just one day, Oct. 10. Gunmen driving a black Opal Vectra fired upon General Abdulameer Mahmoud, a security official. He and two guards were hospitalized. Gunmen fired on a bus full of Railways Commission employees driving home from work, killing one and injuring five. That same day, gunmen fired on a Kia minibus full of civilians, killing one and injuring six others.
Across Iraq that day, according to a McClatchy Newspapers roundup, eight bodies were found, seven of them unidentified. Four roadside explosive devices detonated, killing two people and injuring six others. Kidnappers seized one government official. A car bomb killed two people and inured 17. A mortar attack on a school for girls injured 11 students and two teachers. Gunmen shot and killed three policemen. And if that day is like most every other, no one will ever be taken to account.
During my first reporting trip to Iraq, in late 2003, my colleagues and I were awakened early one morning by an explosion. Several of us drove to the scene of the bombing. A crowd had already gathered. We got out, and as we walked toward the scene, several people from the crowd looked back at us. One shouted something. The crowd turned and rushed at us, screaming, "kill them!" They began hurling rocks. We scrambled back into our car and took off, but not before a rock had hit our photographer on the head, and others had smashed several windows.
The incident helped force us to reappraise our stance in Iraq. After that, we began to consider every new situation potentially hostile.
A few months later, Iraqis attacked four Blackwater employees driving into Fallujah. A mob shot and burned them, then hung two charred corpses from the struts of a bridge. That helped force a reappraisal of the American stance in Iraq. After that, is it any wonder that Blackwater began to consider every new situation potentially hostile?
Earlier this month, the house passed a bill authored by U.S. Rep. David Price, the North Carolina Democrat, that would hold contractors accountable under American criminal law. A similar bill is before the Senate.
I support that bill. As Americans, we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. But before we pillory Blackwater and the other security companies, consider where they work.
(Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New York Times.)

27 October 2007

UN expert to probe killings by US troops, killings by Iraqis area apparently A-OK...

UN expert to probe killings by US troops - Yahoo! News
UNITED NATIONS - A United Nations expert said Friday he plans to study whether members of the U.S. military or government contractors such as Blackwater USA violate international law when they kill civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Philip Alston, a professor at New York University law school who has been an adviser to the UN's commission on human rights since 2004, said the U.S. had invited him to look into the issue. He said he would begin work in the spring and did not yet have an itinerary or list of people to interview.
'I am very interested in questions relating to military justice ... in other words, the response to alleged extrajudicial executions by members of the U.S. military, particularly in places like Iraq and Afghanistan,' he told a news conference after briefing the General Assembly's human rights committee.

No word yet on whether or not Phil is interested in investigating the Sunni/Al Qaeda terrorists blowing up hundreds of civilians with car bombs.

15 October 2007

Two interestingly juxtaposed articles

Consecutive headlines from today's news

Lawsuit being filed because... why? Innocent Iraqis killed? Or because the contractor is capable of being sued through their nation's legal system?

Blackwater says lawsuit "politically motivated" - Yahoo! News
U.S. military reports from the scene of the shooting indicated Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force. The Iraqi government has accused Blackwater of deliberately killing the 17, and wants Blackwater to pay $8 million in compensation to each victim's family.
The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, charged that Blackwater violated U.S. law by committing 'extrajudicial killings and war crimes.'
The legal advocacy group charges that Blackwater 'created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees,' and seeks unspecified compensatory damages for death, physical, mental and economic injuries, and punitive damages.
Prince said Blackwater guards responded lawfully after a State Department convoy they were protecting came under small arms fire and there was no 'deliberate murder.'

In the meantime, no lawsuit was filed in the wake of the latest indiscriminate killing by other Iraqis.

Suicide bomber kills six in Iraq checkpoint attack - Yahoo! News
A suicide car bomber killed six members of an anti-al Qaeda tribal police unit when he struck their checkpoint near Baghdad on Monday, police said.
Police said several others were wounded in the attack near Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of the Iraqi capital. It was the latest attack on members of the Salahuddin Awakenings Council, an alliance of tribes in the Sunni Arab province of Salahuddin opposed to al Qaeda's religious extremism and its indiscriminate killing of civilians.

11 October 2007

Ben Stein gets upset

OK, everyone knows I can't stand Fox News. But in this clip, the Fox guys are (fortunately) mostly quiet and let Ben Stein do his thing.

30 September 2007

Dear Kettle... This is the Pot

Just thought you'd like to know - you're black!

Iran's parliament votes to label CIA, U.S. Army 'terrorist' groups - CNN.com: "Iran's parliament votes to label CIA, U.S. Army 'terrorist' groups"

27 September 2007

Sic 'em, George!

George F. Will - Sauce for the Times - washingtonpost.com
Sauce for the Times
By George F. Will, Wednesday, September 26, 2007; A19
Two days before Christmas in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson, visiting the Vatican, presented Pope Paul VI with a foot-high bust of Lyndon Johnson. Small choices can reveal the character of a person.
Or of an institution. Consider the New York Times' choices concerning MoveOn.org's issue advocacy ad calling Gen. David Petraeus "General Betray Us" and accusing him of "cooking the books for the White House."
In June, the Times was in high dudgeon -- it knows no other degree of dudgeon -- about the Supreme Court's refusal to affirm a far-reaching government power to suppress political speech. The court ruled that a small group of Wisconsin residents had been improperly refused the right to run an issue advocacy ad urging the state's two senators not to filibuster the president's judicial nominees.
Because one of those senators was seeking reelection, the group's ad was deemed an "electioneering communication" -- one that "refers to" a candidate for federal office. McCain-Feingold bans such communications by corporations, including incorporated nonprofit citizens' groups, in the weeks before an election -- when the Times' editorial page is in full-throated enjoyment of speech rights it would deny to others.
Concurring with the court's judgment that the Wisconsin group's ad should have been permitted, Justice Antonin Scalia noted that although McCain-Feingold was written to prevent "corrosive and distorting effects" by entities with "immense aggregations of wealth," it actually muzzled -- with the Times' strenuous approval -- a small group of Wisconsin residents.
Less than three months after the Times excoriated the court for weakening restrictions on issue ads, the paper made a huge and patently illegal contribution to MoveOn.org's issue advocacy ad. The American Conservative Union, under Chairman David Keene, immediately filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, noting that the purchaser of the ad, MoveOn.org Political Action, is a registered multicandidate political committee regulated by the mare's-nest of federal laws and rules the multiplication of which has so gladdened the Times.
The Times, a media corporation that is a fountain of detailed editorial instructions about how the rest of the world should conduct its business, seems confused about how it conducts its own. The Times now says the appropriate rate for MoveOn.org's full-page ad should have been $142,000, a far cry from $65,000, which is what the group paid. So the discount of $77,000 constitutes a large soft-money contribution to a federally regulated political committee. The Times' horror of such contributions was expressed in its enthusiasm for McCain-Feingold.
FEC regulations state: "The provision of any goods or services without charge or at a charge that is less than the usual and normal charge for such goods or services is a contribution." Individuals are limited to contributing $5,000 in a calendar year; corporations such as the Times are forbidden to make any contributions.
MoveOn.org is going to send the Times a check for $77,000. The Times has apologized, which is sweet, but normally the FEC does not accept apologies in lieu of fines. And often FEC fines are levied after intrusive investigations into motives and intentions. Will there be such an investigation of the Times? The FEC is not lenient when dealing with individuals who, less lawyered-up than the New York Times Co., fall afoul of regulations much more recondite than the bright line the Times ignored.
Bob Bauer, a Democratic lawyer specializing in laws regulating political speech, notes -- not approvingly -- that the Times supposedly has a policy of rejecting ads involving "personal attack" speech. But the Times accepted MoveOn.org's ad accusing a soldier of betraying his country. According to the Times' public editor, a Times official said the ad was "a comment on a public official's management of his office."
Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., defending the decision to run the ad, said: "If we're going to err, it's better to err on the side of more political dialogue. . . . Perhaps we did err in this case. If we did, we erred with the intent of giving greater voice to people." Bauer notes that Sulzberger might have used words from a Supreme Court decision: "In a debatable case, the tie is resolved in favor of protecting speech." And: "Where the First Amendment is implicated, the tie goes to the speaker, not the censor." So spoke Chief Justice John Roberts in the Wisconsin decision that Sulzberger's paper denounced because it would magnify the voices of, among other things, "wealthy corporations." The Times Co.'s 2006 revenue was $3.3 billion.
The Times' performance in this matter confirms an axiom: There can be unseemly exposure of mind as well as of body.

26 September 2007

Chickens crossing Iraqi roads

Why Did the Chicken cross the Road?

Coalition Provisional Authority: The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making authority has been transferred to the chicken well in advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its own decisions.

Halliburton: We were asked to help the chicken cross the road. Given the inherent risk of road crossing and the rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the US government $326,004.

Muqtada al-Sadr: The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will be killed.

US Army Military Police: We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the road. As part of these preparations, individual soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence of any chicken rights violations.

Peshmerga: The chicken crossed the road, and will continue to cross the road, to show its independence and to transport the weapons it needs to defend itself. However, in future, to avoid problems, the chicken will be called a duck, and will wear a plastic bill.

1st Cav: The chicken was not authorized to cross the road without displaying two forms of picture identification. Thus, the chicken was appropriately detained and searched in accordance with current SOP?s. We apologize for any embarrassment to the chicken. As a result of this unfortunate incident, the command has instituted a gender sensitivity training program and all future chicken searches will be conducted by female soldiers.

Al Jazeera: The chicken was forced to cross the road multiple times at gunpoint by a large group of occupation soldiers, according to eye-witnesses. The chicken was then fired upon intentionally, in yet another example of the abuse of innocent Iraqi chickens.

Blackwater: We cannot confirm any involvement in the chicken-road-crossing incident.

Translators: Chicken he cross street because bad she tangle regulation. Future chicken table against my request.

U.S. Marine Corps: The chicken is dead.

Navy: The chicken upon crossing the road was painted and lashed to the curb.

Kerry: "The chicken crossed the road before it did not"

Baghdad Bob: The chicken never crossed the road! He is safe in Baghdad, miles from the marauding vehicles of the infidel! THERE IS NO ROAD!

USAF: "As you can see here in the target video, the bomb was locked onto the chicken...and there it goes...the chicken is still moving...still moving...and unfortunately passed out of the parameters of the guidance system so that the bomb completely missed it and hit the weasel instead. Gotta admit thought, it's impressive footage..."

23 September 2007

Solid Military Perspective

Someone should've given Rumsfeld this speech.

The State | 09/23/2007 | The Marines take on a long land war
Early in the Kennedy administration, when there was talk about a U.S. invasion of Cuba, Gen. David M. Shoup, Marine commandant, gave President John Kennedy and his advisers a tutorial. David Halberstam wrote in The Best and the Brightest:
“First he took an overlay of Cuba and placed it over the map of the United States. To everybody’s surprise, Cuba was not a small island along the lines of, say, Long Island at best. It was about 800 miles long and seemed to stretch from New York to Chicago. Then he took another overlay, with a red dot, and placed it over the map of Cuba. ‘What’s that?’ someone asked him. ‘That, gentlemen, represents the size of the island of Tarawa,’ said Shoup, who had won a Medal of Honor there, ‘and it took us three days and 18,000 Marines to take it.’

18 September 2007

Blackwater worse than civil war?

Iraq to review security firms after shooting - Yahoo! News
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq will review the status of all security companies working in the country after a shooting incident involving guards from the U.S. firm Blackwater, the government said on Tuesday.
In fresh violence, four car bombs in Baghdad killed 17 people and wounded 50, police said.
The government said the cabinet supported an Interior Ministry decision to "halt the license" of Blackwater, which provides security to the U.S. embassy and its diplomats, and launch an immediate investigation into the shooting.
"Cabinet affirmed ... the need to review the situation of foreign and local security companies working in Iraq, in accordance with Iraqi laws," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement.
"This came after the flagrant assault conducted by members of the American security company Blackwater against Iraqi citizens," Dabbagh said after the cabinet meeting.
Iraq's Interior Ministry said 11 people were killed when Blackwater contractors opened fire at random after mortar rounds landed near the convoy.

So it's OK when Iraqis kill 17 and wound 50, and it's shrugged off by the government as part of doing business. But US contractors whack 11 in a reaction to an actual firefight, and it's time to throw the bums out of the country. How do you know it's OK when the Iraqis blow each other up? The government hasn't done a damn thing to stop it themselves.

17 September 2007

If you think that's the reason...

The State | 09/17/2007 | IN FOCUS: the war in Iraq
• Let the generals run the wars
Tom Turnipseed wrote a criticism recently of President Bush’s use of advice from his generals (“The president who obeys his generals?”).
Strategy in the Vietnam War was directed by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and other civilian authorities.
Dams that contained surface-to-air missiles were off-limits to bombing attacks. This policy resulted in losses of American aircraft and crews.
In contrast, World War II plans were directed by Gen. George C. Marshall. World War II ended in total victory over two formidable foes. Vietnam concluded in a withdrawal with 50,000 casualties.

Uh, yeah, because it was just bombing target choices that cost us the war in Vietnam... not a complete lack of exit strategy... Never mind that when we left, the VC were broken, the NVA were on their side of the border, and the ARVN were a formidable fighting force capable of repelling an invasion in 1972. It was when Congress cut off the money to the ARVN that it fell apart, and the 1975 invasion from the north rolled right through the south.
Even handcuffed, the US left Vietnam with most of their objectives intact.

11 September 2007

Doctrinal terminology and accuracy

The State | 09/11/2007 | Changing the definitions of success
also George F. Will - A War Still Seeking a Mission - washingtonpost.com
The purpose of the surge, they said, is to buy time — “breathing space,” the president says — for Iraqi political reconciliation. Because progress toward that has been negligible, there is no satisfactory answer to this question: What is the U.S. military mission in Iraq?

I've been looking thru the US military doctrinal manuals. I can't find any reference of the mission "provide breathing space" or any performance measures for it.
The US mission to Iraq has become a greater boondoggle than Somalia ever was.

05 September 2007

How to Think About Al Qaeda

from FPRI.org


by Michael Radu

Al Qaeda is stronger now than at any time since 9/11, say some; it is
less strong than it could have become, answers the administration.
Congressional Democrats say that instead of catching Bin Laden, Bush took
his eyes off the ball and got mired in an irrelevant war in Iraq; the
White House replies that if we don't fight the jihadis in Iraq, we will
have to do so in Manhattan.

And so American politics argue in what seems to remain a cognitive
vacuum, confusing the public and producing inane statements from our
elected leaders. Had Al Qaeda consciously planned how to thoroughly
confuse the infidels, this would have been the ideal result. It is all
the persistent and inevitable outcome of executive delusions (jihadis are
"a small minority") and Democratic flippancy ("the war on
terrorism is a bumper sticker," Sen. John Edwards has charged)
against a background of popular ignorance and an oversupply of lawyers
and human rights activists. The result is that six years after 9/11 we
(and the Europeans are generally worse) are still fighting a war in a
conceptual fog--and not getting any close to winning it.

In reality, the nature and goals of the enemy, albeit complex, should
be quite clear, as should the ways to defeat it. Until we understand a few
key realities, we will continue to tread water and remain on the

Al Qaeda ("the base") is at the same time an Islamist totalitarian
terrorist organization and the particularly violent part of a global
Muslim revivalist movement. As the name implies, it was established as
a vanguard, elite organization, not dissimilar, conceptually, from
the previous Marxist Leninist self-selected vanguards of the proletariat
(Shining Path in Peru, Red Brigades in Italy, etc.), seeking to
reestablish Islam's historic (and mostly mythical) supremacy and purity
throughout the world via the unification of the umma, the Islamic
community, under a single political and religious leadership and
state--the Caliphate. The means to accomplish this is jihad, strictly
defined by the followers of this ideology as warfare.

Al Qaeda was not originally intended to exist as a territorial
base, but the victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan unexpectedly
offered that opportunity. Al Qaeda took advantage of that opportunity, but
controlling those lands was neither intended nor absolutely necessary.
The same applies now to the wild areas of Pakistan that Al Qaeda uses for
refuge and training--they are important but not vital. That fact is still
misunderstood and explains the continuous surprise of some that after the
Taliban's fall in 2001 and the heavy losses it incurred at the time, Al
Qaeda did not die.

While it incessantly claims to be defending an Islamic umma under attack
from all sides--the most theologically convenient way to justify
jihad--Al Qaeda's ideology and strategy are aggressive and
revisionist. Al Qaeda aggressively attacks the home base of the
"Crusaders" (see 9/11 or the attacks in the UK) and revisionistically seeks
to reintegrate into the umma the long-lost territories of Islam, such as
Al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula).

Al Qaeda's ideology is rigorously anti-nationalist. That allows it to
attract alienated and poorly integrated elements among Muslim
communities in the West and explains in part the attraction it has
among Muslim elites everywhere. As Iraq today suggests, however, it could
also be a serious threat to the organization, since it also clashes
with the interests of established postcolonial elites and regionalist or
separatist groups (Kurds, Berbers, many Palestinians).

The enemies, and thus the targets, of jihad are a) all governing
regimes in the Muslim world (the "apostates"); b) their outside
manipulators, controllers and supporters (the "Crusaders" led by the
United States but including all Western states and Israel; c)
all other infidels "oppressing" Muslims (India for Kashmir,
Russia for Chechnya, China for Turkestan); and d) for the most radical
jihadis (the takfiris), all Muslims who do not actively support the
cause and, especially, the Shias. While these are all enemies, the
priority given to each depends on circumstances, capabilities and

This latter fact is another cause of confusion in the West, as demonstrated
by the case of Iraq. While an Al Qaeda associate group did have a small
presence in Iraqi Kurdistan prior to the spring of 2003, at least on a large
scale Iraq is a target of opportunity. Al Qaeda's growth (or present
decline) there depends on the chaos and confusion that followed the
2003 invasion and the vacuum created by the fall of Saddam. The scale of
and media attention on its presence in Iraq aside, Al Qaeda's role there
follows the same pattern as in Afghanistan and Chechnya in the late
1990s, or Somalia more recently - it tries to implant
itself wherever a political vacuum or persistent instability develop
in the midst of military conflict. Lebanon, Gaza, the Sahel, southern
Thailand and Philippines are, or should be expected to become, such areas
of implantation. In all such cases Al Qaeda interferes in an evolving
conflict, exacerbates it, and tries to channel the outcome towards its own
goals and translate local motivations into a coherent ideological and
global cause.

It is precisely this Al Qaeda piggybacking on existing conflicts that
makes the often heard distinctions between our fighting sectarian
conflict or Al Qaeda in Iraq nonsensical. Al Zarkawi stirred up the
Sunni-Shia conflict but did not invent it, and separating the two in
practical terms is not a serious proposition, any more than trying to do so
in Afghanistan between Taliban, Pakistani Islamist spillover, and Al
Qaeda. For Al Qaeda such parasitic behavior serves to magnify its
influence, and it will try to repeat it in every possible
circumstance. This fits perfectly in the organization's elite, vanguardist
ideology. It sees itself and behaves as the spearhead of global jihad, not
as its rank and file.

Ultimately, what seems to escape so many commentators, especially among
politicians, is that Al Qaeda is two things simultaneously: (1) a
violent Islamist organization with worldwide tentacles and a small
core leadership of ideologues and strategists, and (2) part and parcel
of a large and growing political-religious movement of Islamist revival.
The organization tries to channel and recruits from the movement, and the
latter looks to it for strategic direction and, often, tactical purpose.

The Islamic revivalist movement that is by now dominant in most of the
Muslim world from Malaysia to Morocco, including huge segments of the Muslim
communities in the West, shares some of Al Qaeda's basic ideological
tenets: that Islam is in crisis and under attack, from inside and outside
by alien, Western, mostly American influence and domination. Roughly put,
Islamic countries and Muslims generically are victims of the West. The
only solution is a return to the "original"
principles of the faith, those that gave it world importance and power
centuries ago, and to umma unity and solidarity.

These basic perceptions are shared by a majority of Muslims and Islamic
organizations everywhere, from the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest, to
individuals and smaller groups, whether in Muslim-majority countries or in
the West. While refuge in religious revivalism as an answer to
civilizational, political and military decline is far from unique to Islam,
its contemporary manifestation is largely Islamic.

The interface between the general perception of Islam as victim of the
West--a perception often encouraged by Western elites themselves--and Al
Qaeda's (or the Salafi) view that the victimization is largely due to naked
aggression is thin. This is demonstrated by a seldom noticed aspect of the
reaction of nonviolent, even anti-Al Qaeda groups and personalities,
including those in the West, to Islamist terrorism.
Those groups have steadfastly opposed not just the conflict in Iraq,
where the arguments used in favor of the U.S.-led intervention could always
be debated, but also the 2001 U.S.-led attack on the Taliban. Indeed,
almost always in Islamic critiques of American and British
policies, whether they come from London or Riyadh, the Muslim Brothers
or others, Afghanistan is mentioned in the same breath as Baghdad. Since the
removal of the Taliban and its Al Qaeda proteges was a clear-cut case of
self-defense, Muslim condemnations of the Afghan operations could only
mean that umma solidarity is more important to them than the Taliban's
crimes. Precisely the kind of attitude Al Qaeda needs to thrive.

Where most of the Islamic revivalist movement and its supporters
depart from Al Qaeda's ideology is the method whereby Islam is to be
renewed. In that sense, Western leaders' claim that "most Muslims"
reject jihadism is correct, but far from encouraging. Despite attempts,
such as those sponsored by Jordan's Crown prince Hassan to have
respected imams condemn jihadi terrorism (the method not the ideas leading
to it), not only has no important Sunni scholar declared Bin Laden
a non-Muslim (the most influential, Al-Qaradawi, would rather let
Allah decide), but many large Islamist organizations, such as Hizb ut
Tahrir (an international Party of Liberation) or the Tablighis
(Muslims missionary movement), could and do claim to be seeking the
Caliphate by nonviolent means while their recruits often "graduate" to
jihadism--again, same beliefs, different methods, and all unhelpful.
Thus, even when revivalist Islamists sincerely claim to oppose jihadism,
they are voluntarily tying their own hands. Hence the eternal and
annoying "we condemn terrorism . . . but" that so confuses Western
politicians, media and publics.

Why, in this context, anyone in the West would expect such Muslims, as a
whole or organized ones, to condemn anything other than acts of terrorism is
a mystery.

The relationships between the different Al Qaeda parts of the movement are
dynamic, both centripetal and centrifugal at the same time.

Centripetal. The centripetal expansion of the movement follows general,
indeed universal terrorist patterns of recruitment and indoctrination. In
the specific case of Al Qaeda this means two distinct, but related methods.

The first is centered on the thousands of trainees who graduated from
the Afghan camps prior to the end of 2001, who returned to their
countries of origin--Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and countries in North
Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Europe. Once back, they
either established cells or founded or radicalized existing
organizations (the cases of Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon). These people
know and share Al Qaeda core's ideology and many retain ties, including
personal ones, with it and with each other.

A typical case is that of Saad Houssaini, a.k.a. Moustapha, one of Al
Qaeda's most prominent cadres in Spain and North Africa. Born in Meknes,
Morocco, from a middle-class family (his father was a professor)--an almost
universal pattern among Al Qaeda cadres, Houssaini obtained a government
scholarship to study chemistry and physics at the University of Valencia in
Spain. It was there that he was attracted, or recruited, to Islamism under
the influence of Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, the London-based ideologue and
leader of Al- Nahda (the Revival), Tunisia's major Islamist organization.
Already under Spanish surveillance, in 1997 he fled to Taliban's
Afghanistan where he underwent further training in explosives in Al Qaeda
camps, met other Moroccans, Bin Laden, Al Zarkawi and Al Zawahiri--the
latter was a witness at his marriage. Following the U.S. attack in the
fall of 2001, he returned to Morocco in April 2002, became a founder of GICM
(Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, now part of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb--AQIM) and trainer of its bomb makers. By September 2006 he was
running a network of Moroccan volunteers to Iraq, until his arrest in
March 2007.[1] It was under the influence of one of the
many "nonviolent" Islamist ideologues in Spain harbored by
"Londonistan" that he was radicalized, shifted to jihadism, established
personal ties to the Al Qaeda core, and later served as a force
multiplier for the organization thousands of miles away.

Second, Al Qaeda's central core (Bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Khaled Sheikh
Mohammed, etc.) have sometimes accepted and given their "brand
copyright" to organizations formed independently, such as the Algerian
Salafi Group for Combat and Preaching, which last year became the
AQIM, or autonomously, like Al Zarkawi's group, now Al Qaeda in

Like metastasized cancerous tumors, members and trainees of these formal Al
Qaeda franchises, and some informal ones, like Southeast Asia's Jemaah
Islamiah, spread the ideology and expand the committed membership of the

Centrifugal. There is, however, another dynamic within the movement, a
centrifugal one. This consists of thousands of individual Muslims, many
from the West and including a disproportionate number of converts to
Islam, who have no personal ties to the Al Qaeda core or its main
franchises, but feel attracted to its ideology and the methods it uses.
With each spectacular jihadi attack or campaign, their numbers grow and
they flock to the latest battlefield, as defined by Al Zawahiri in his
Al Jazeera statements or by the innumerable jihadi Internet sites and
their do-it- yourself jihad recipes.

There is not always a clearly defined line between the two dynamics--Al
Qaeda recruiting for its cause and would be, self-recruited jihadis
seeking a battle under its flag, or at least its cause.

The case of Shaker Al-Abssi, the leader of Fatah Al-Islam in the Palestinian
refugee camp of Nahr Al-Bared, near Tripoli, Lebanon, lately under assault
by that country's army, is revealing. A Palestinian born in a camp near
Jericho, his family migrated to Jordan after 1967, and he joined Yasser
Arafat's Fatah as a teenager. The organization sent him to study medicine,
but he dropped out in favor of becoming a pilot, receiving training in
Libya and later serving as an instructor in South Yemen. Later he
participated in combat, on the winning Sandinista side in Nicaragua and
on the losing Libyan side in that country's conflict with Chad.
Disappointed with Arafat's corruption, he joined dissident, pro-Syrian
factions and moved to Damascus, where he discovered religion and
became a fervent believer. Afterward he became associated with Al Zarkawi's
group in Iraq and Jordan, and was sentenced to death in absentia for his
role in murdering an American diplomat in Amman in 2002. Why? Because,
says his brother Abdel Razak, a doctor, "The Palestinians have tried
Marxism and Arab nationalism. All failed. I believe that for Shaker
Islamism was the ultimate solution." Now, claims his family, "we wait for
him to become a martyr, hoping that his death will be the fuel that will set
on fire the Palestinian cause."[2]

This, then, is a case of a rebel in search of a global ideological and
strategic anchor to articulate and justify his fight for a particular
cause. Associating with Al Qaeda satisfied both needs. The fact that Fatah
Al-Islam is seen as both an Al Qaeda spin-off and a Syrian tool should not be
confusing, not in light of the organization's pattern of tactically
piggybacking other causes.

Another good example is a new jihadist group, Ansar al Islam fi Sahara al
Bilad al Mulazamin (The followers of Islam in Sahara, the land of those
lifting the veil). Made up of Moroccans, Algerians, and Mauritanians,
dissident elements of AQIM, it first surfaced in June 2007. Ansar refuses
to obey direct orders from Al Qaeda's core, all the while telling the
latter that "You should know that we are in the same trench." Indeed, it
shares Al Qaeda's well-known obsession with the "recovery" of Al-Andalus
and hatred for all North African governments and France.[3] This is a
perfect example of what French analysts call the "Al Qaeda
nebula"--a multiplying system of jihadi groups ideologically,
but not always hierarchicaly, tied to the core group. We are once again
confronted with the interface of movement and terrorist group.

German-Turkish author Nacla Kelek was right when he pointed out that

"Politicians and religious scholars of all faiths are right in pointing out
that there are many varieties of Islam, that Islamism and Islam should not
be confused, that there is no line in the Koran that would justify
murder. But the assertion that radical Islamic fundamentalism and Islam
have nothing to do with each other is like asserting that there was no link
between Stalinism and Communism."[4]

But just as Stalinism (and Pol Pot or Mao) was made possible by the mass of
usually peaceful and naive believers in the Marxist Utopia, Al Qaeda and
its nebula are permanently feeding up from the growing Islamic revivalist
movement. To separate the two should be the goal of Muslims and non-
Muslims alike, since they are all targets of jihadism. To deny the
intimate link between the two is to deny reality.

By making artificial distinctions between the two, one only postpones and
avoids the real struggle..


[1] For his career, see "Adil Boukhima, Portrait: Le Marocain d'Al
Qaida," TelQuel (Casablanca), May 17, 2007; Craig Whitlock, "In Morocco's
'Chemist,' A Glimpse of Al- Qaeda Bombmaker Typified Resilient Network,
Washington Post, July 7, 2007; Driss Bennani, Abdellatif El Azizi, Ismail
Bellaouali and Lahcen Aouad, "Enquete. Au-dela de la
panique," Tel Quel, July 5, 2007.

[2] Cecile Hennion, "De la colere au djihad, le chef du Fatah Al-Islam
raconte par son frere," Le Monde, June 5, 2007.

[3] Antonio Baquero and Jordi Corach n , "Actividad
Extremista En El Desierto. Un nuevo grupo terrorista magreb¡ amenaza a
Espana," El Periodico (Barcelona), July 12, 2007.

[4] Quoted by Peter Schneider, "The New Berlin Wall," New York Times, Dec.
4, 2005.

30 August 2007

The need for an editor...

Without sucking up to Jim Z too much, it's a darn good thing The Wargamer has a full-time, quality editor. Otherwise you end up with this:
"Even Saddam came along, the Sunni Arabs had dominated the area, that is now Iraq, for centuries. "
(From Intelligence: The Information Edge in Iraq)

25 August 2007

Comparing apples to applesauce

The State | 08/25/2007 | Democrats hedging their Iraq bets
Of course, they quickly add, as did Levin, that a political settlement has not yet been achieved and isn’t the Iraqi government just awful for taking an August vacation? This is said while Congress is on vacation.

Of course, the US Congress isn't trying to broker an equitable power-sharing peace between intractable warring ethnic groups whose limited security is only being provided by another country whose patience for their military casualties is beyond thin. The US Congress has time for vacation. Iraq's does not.

The full op-ed (for reference)

Saturday, Aug 25, 2007
Posted on Sat, Aug. 25, 2007
Democrats hedging their Iraq bets
Tribune Media Services
George Orwell, call your office. You can add to your list of opposites (“war is peace,” “ignorance is strength” and “freedom is slavery”) a new one. It is the emerging plan of congressional Democrats, joined by at least one Democratic presidential candidate: “Losing is winning.”
After years of embracing defeat and openly saying of Iraq “the war is lost” and “this surge is not accomplishing anything” (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among others), is that a light at the end of the Democrats’ dark tunnel?
Apparently hoping to head off a potentially positive report next month from the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, some leading Democrats are acknowledging that the surge of American troops is succeeding.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, who recently returned from Iraq with Sen. John Warner, Virginia Republican, says, “The military aspects of President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq... appear to have produced some credible and positive results.” Levin is by no means a neo-con, noting in a conference call with reporters that the purpose of the surge was to help produce a political settlement, which has not yet been achieved. Still, even acknowledging progress on the ground is a far cry from a spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said recently that Democratic leaders are “not willing to concede there are positive things to point to” in Iraq. That was less than a month ago, but some are willing to make such a concession now for the same reason they weren’t before: politics.
Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., voted against authorization for President Bush to invade Iraq. But he told the Olympian newspaper he is convinced the military needs more time in the region and that a hasty pullout would produce chaos that could only help Iran and damage U.S. security. Baird, too, recently returned from a visit to the region, including Iraq.
Even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who can’t afford to be on the wrong side of victory no matter how far away it might seem, acknowledges the troop surge is producing results. So does Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin. Of course, they quickly add, as did Levin, that a political settlement has not yet been achieved and isn’t the Iraqi government just awful for taking an August vacation? This is said while Congress is on vacation. In politics and with vacations, this is known as trying to have it both ways so that no matter how things turn out, Democrats can claim they were on the right side all along.
Yes, says Sen. Clinton, the surge is “working,” but according to her it is coming “too late” and so it’s time to bring the troops home. If one suffers from terminal cancer and a last-ditch effort is made with experimental drugs to save the patient’s life, would a responsible physician give up and declare the situation hopeless, even as the drugs show progress fighting the disease?
All of Iraq’s political leaders are not on vacation. The Bush administration says Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other members of the elected government are negotiating a political settlement that would be acceptable to all sides. In his weekly radio address last Saturday, President Bush predicted political progress at the local level that will help end the national stalemate. I know he once said, “mission accomplished” when it wasn’t. But the window for measuring accomplishment this time is a lot narrower.
Democrats at last appear to have a war strategy. It is to snatch victory from the jaws of victory, even after claiming lack of progress and forecasting defeat for at least the last three years. Before the Internet, talk radio, cable TV and the bloggers, they might have been able to get away with it, but Democrats have painted themselves into a corner from which they cannot escape.
If Bush administration policies produce a political settlement and a sustained decline in violence, Democrats won’t be able to claim they favored victory all along. If violence increases and there is no political settlement, Democrats will be left to win the war and the peace on their own, should they win the White House and maintain their congressional majority.
Embracing victory, however reluctantly, is a risky gamble for their party, but what other choice do they have?
Write to Mr. Thomas c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, N.Y. 14207.

21 August 2007

A very important voice from Iraq - the soldiers

The War as We Saw It - New York Times
The War as We Saw It


VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

13 August 2007

And you know this... how?

Leadership: The Taliban Ducks and Decentralizes
There are now four official Taliban spokesmen, all using the same name. That's mainly to confuse the counter-terror forces chasing them. The mass media don't care who briefs them, as long as it's headline worthy stuff.

So whaddaya think? Did StrategyPage actually ask anyone in the media if they care who briefs them? Did they investigate the briefings by attending them and seeing who's briefing, and who the audience is? Do you think SP ever talked to anyone in the media to see what their perspective is?

Of course not. You know better.

03 August 2007


Suspect burned in Glasgow airport attack dies - Yahoo! News
An Indian man who took part in a suspected bomb plot in Britain has died in hospital after suffering horrific burns in a botched attack on a Scottish airport nearly five weeks ago, police said on Friday.

02 August 2007

Good article on wargaming

Good for the links as well as the article itself.

Scratchpad - A Farewell to Hexes

21 July 2007

Arguing over Iraq

I just watched Senator's Webb & Graham (D-VA and R-SC, respectively) on Meet The Press. I know, I know, I'm almost a week late... Thank goodness for TiVo.

Both of them tried to interpret why re-enlistment rates are so relatively high, given that we're 4 years into a rather unpopular war.

Here's a thought: ask the soldiers!

12 July 2007

Because we're a bunch of candy-ass wimps

EU rejects assassination as tool to fight terrorism - Yahoo! News
The European Union does not support the idea of using assassinations in the fight against terrorism, EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini was quoted as saying on Thursday.

He continued, "we've got no problem with them killing us, we just prefer not to kill them..."

27 June 2007

Sense from a military hero

It'll be interesting to see if the Republicans try to take shots at this guy. But then again, they haven't taken many shots at anyone lately, have they...

Troops need better leadership, not a vacation
New study recommends troops get a month of rest every 90 days
COMMENTARY By Jack Jacobs, Military analyst, MSNBC
Updated: 9:58 a.m. ET June 24, 2007
Fueled by reports from both inside and outside the military service, there has been quite a bit of public concern about the mental health of the American fighting force.
Some blogs and e-mails from troops report the frustration, fear, disorientation and anomie that are the hallmarks of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Now, in a study reported last week in USA Today, Army psychologists recommend that, to alleviate battlefield stress, military units be given a month’s rest every 90 days.
After more than four years in Iraq, the strains on the Army are beginning to become glaring, and the deleterious effect of stress is only one of them. But a month-long break?
For one thing, the Army is so small that it can’t perform its missions now, and even the proposed small increase in end strength will not be nearly enough. The length of the Army combat tour has recently been increased by 25 percent because we don’t have enough troops in Iraq, and the Army is talking about the possibility of yet another extension. Pulling units off their missions for a quarter of their time in Iraq would negate whatever value accrues to extending the tour in the first place. And you don’t have to be a psychologist to conclude that troops would opt for rest at home over rest in Iraq every time.
In addition, it isn’t entirely compelling that marginally more rest is the cure for battlefield stress anyway. One of the lessons of PTSD is that even coming home doesn’t help. If permanent removal from combat won’t work, it’s difficult to envision how a month’s rest, with the certainty of going back to fighting, will be any better.
When I was in Vietnam, particularly during the Tet Offensive in 1968 and in 1972 with the Vietnamese Airborne Division in Quang Tri, we were in combat nearly continuously for very long stretches, many months at a time. To be sure, combat is stressful, and I never met anyone who was exempt from the fear that is the everyday lot of the combat soldier. But while PTSD wasn’t entirely absent, it was not the problem it appears to be in Iraq. Why?
The answer may lie in strategy and tactics, not time off.
In World War II, our strategy included an unambiguous end to the conflict: the unconditional surrender of the Axis. Troops were deployed overseas and usually came home only when they were killed or badly wounded or when the war was over. In addition, a very large percentage of the adult male population served in uniform; most people were in the same unpleasant situation, and sympathy was something anticipated only by the families of the dead, not the survivors.
There was more ambiguity in Korea and Vietnam, but all these conflicts were markedly different than the war in Iraq in one very striking sense: the nature of the combat.
Most of the casualties we sustain in Iraq are the result of improvised explosive devices, and you are just as likely to be killed or wounded if you are a support soldier driving a truck as you are if you’re an infantryman in a firefight…perhaps more likely. And this danger is wholly one-sided, the result of being a passive victim of an act of violence, not much different than an unarmed Iraqi civilian.
In previous wars, we loaded our weapons, and we and our enemies went after each other, often toe to toe, until the engagement was decided by the withdrawal of one side from the field, even if temporarily. There was a strong sense that we were in control of our fate, that we created our own victory through superior intelligence, logistics and tactics.
But if you are a casualty in Iraq, it’s almost certain to come from just being unlucky. It is easy to develop a feeling of impotence and hopelessness if your perception is that you and your commanders have no control over whether you live or die.
Our troops don’t need more time off. They need better leadership.
Jack Jacobs is an MSNBC military analyst. He is a retired U.S. Army colonel. He earned the Medal of Honor for exceptional heroism on the battlefields of Vietnam and also holds three Bronze Stars and two Silver Stars.

22 May 2007

One of the worst ideas among many bad ones

U.S. senator calls for American troops in Darfur - Yahoo! News
U.S. Sen. Joe Biden said that he would commit U.S. forces immediately to stop militia in Sudan's Darfur region as long as there were reports of genocide.
Biden, a presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Monday that in his personal opinion nations had at "some point to cede their sovereignty" if they engaged in genocide.

1. The idea of ceding sovereignty is bad, bad, bad. At what point does the US start to lose its own sovereignty for what happen to American Indians?
2. What mission would you have US troops accomplish in Darfur? What's the goal? The end-state? Democrats are happily cheering for the Bushies' downfall over a flawed execution of a bad strategy in Iraq, in large part criticizing the lack of clear end-state to be achieved. Now they want to send troops into the latest bleeding-heart cause. Guess what? There's no clear end-state there, either...

02 May 2007

StrategyPage continues to beat the wrong drum

Information Warfare: We Support the Stupid Mercenaries
In November, 2006, Senator John Kerry made comments concerning an alleged lack of intelligence among the troops and the notion that many of the recruits are poor.

No. NoNoNoNoNoNoNo.
Kerry was taking a shot at the President. The wording of it left open the ability of the right-wing crisis machine to take shots at Kerry. But it was clearly a shot at President Bush and only those far-right culture warriors and their minions think otherwise.

24 April 2007


In light of the recent decision to allow wiccan symbols on servicemembers' graves, I found this interesting.
I also found it interesting (comical) that the Islamic symbol can't be shown for "copyright reasons"(?!)...
Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers - Burial & Memorials

26 March 2007

Thoughts on Iraq

I posted this over at the Wargamer.com Forums, but I wanted to archive it here, too, since I think it pretty well sums up the points I want to make.

Without writing a long Foreign-Affairs style article, I want to toss out a few points to consider in the argument:

1. We need to change terminology. We're not fighting "terrorism". Terrorism is a method. It's like trying to fight "snipers". Lots of people use snipers. Lots of people use terrorism. This particular war is against a particularly violent, intolerant, and conservative brand of Islam. This particular movement has no nation-state from which they can act in any official manner. They lack an organized military capable of direct or indirect battlefield action, and they lack the infrastructure to create one (tho admittedly, they were probably pretty close in Afghanistan). Because they lack the ability to employ forces in any other fashion, they have resorted to terrorism as their method of choice. But we are not fighting "terrorism".

2. I would argue that in this fight, the center of gravity is not a physical point on the ground, or even a political entity to be eradicated or altered. The center of gravity is the religion of Islam that tolerates the behavior of its extremists, and apologizes for their behavior rather than lambasting and excoriating it. When some nut job uses Christianity as an excuse to kill an abortion doctor, the major Christian demonimations disavow him. When a nut job uses Islam as an excuse to blow up a civilian market because the bulk of the customers pray with their left hand instead of their right, half of Islam openly cheers, and preachers call for more from the mosque. That's your center of gravity - the support of intolerant Islam and the methods its chosen to pursue goals it could not otherwise achieve.

3. I'm willing to bet that if you really got into most American's heads and drilled down to their exact thoughts on the war in Iraq, you'd find the following opinion:
"I understand that the forces in Iraq are fighting to assist the Iraqi government in securing their country against intolerant islamo-fascists and other anti-American martyr-wanna-bes. I also understand that if we bail out too early, Iraq will dissolve into a greater disaster than it already is. If Iraq turns into a new geographic hard point for training islamo-fascist-terrorists, it will be more dangerous than Afghanistan was, because Iraq is closer to, and more connected to, nations with whom the US has great ties.
However, I no longer trust the Bush administration to properly plan and execute the strategy for winning the war, because they have failed to define a measurable end point against which we can measure the success of our soldiers; they have repeatedly misinterpreted, misused, and misdirected the intelligence collection and analysis in the theater; they have repeatedly miscalculated and misjudged the behavior of the Iraqi public; and they still, four years later, have yet to secure the borders of Iraq!"

I really think it's not the war in Iraq, but the conduct of it, that bothers most Americans who no longer support the war effort.

13 March 2007

Prepare to repel protesters!

Top U.S. general calls homosexuality immoral: report
The chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff said he backs the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" limits on gays serving in the military because he believes homosexual acts are immoral, the Chicago Tribune reported in Tuesday's edition.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace told the newspaper he felt the immorality of homosexual acts was comparable to a member of the armed forces having an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member.

Because the professional indignation crowd won't allow him to have an independent opinion...
And no, I don't necessarily agree with him. But I don't begrudge him the right to his opinion.

02 March 2007

Real danger? Or CYA by the cops?

nbc4i.com - News - 'MacGyver' Type Bombs Recovered At Apartment Complex
Police described the explosives as 'MacGyver type devices' that don't need lighting to explode.
'(The bottle) starts to expand and it can't hold any longer and the bottle explodes,' said Columbus Division of Fire Battalion Chief Doug Smith.
Authorities said the devices were 2-liter bottles filled with hazardous chemicals.

I'm sure every person who's been in the field with the military was chuckling at this. Sounds just like someone crumbling an MRE heater into 20oz soda bottle, dumping some water in it, and screwing a cap on tight. What's really fun is watching some E4 with an attitude pop them around a tank ammunition supply point, and then watch the E5 in charge go ape-shit as little explosion pop off every 20 minutes.
MacGyver indeed... These things are only dangerous if you try to swallow them.

27 February 2007

Majority wants troop deadline in Iraq: poll - Yahoo! News

Majority wants troop deadline in Iraq: poll - Yahoo! News
A narrow majority of Americans now favor setting a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq and a record number say they disapprove of the war, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Monday.

I don't care whether you support the war in Iraq or not, tying the withdrawal to a calendar instead of progress on the ground is stupid. Go ahead and schedule the withdrawal for 1 October 2007. And go ahead and stake out your seats now for the Al Qaeda Victory Parade on 2 October 2007. Calendars are useless of these types of missions.

20 February 2007

Americans should be very, very afraid of this

Serbia lines up wholesale rejection of Kosovo plan - Yahoo! News
Serbia will reject every element of a U.N. plan for Kosovo that points to the creation of 'another Albanian state' during final talks beginning on Wednesday in Vienna, a senior Serbian official said.

The precedent set here is that an ethnic group can move into the sovereign territory of an adjacent nation, and through either the movement of people (in and out) or birthrates, eventually expand into a majority. At which time, they may agitate for independence, autonomy, unity with their previous nation, or other such political solution.
How long before the HIspanic population of LA, El Paso, San Diego, Nogales, and others start to demand unity with Mexico, using Kosovo as a precedent?

08 January 2007

The problem with the President

Bush's retreat from reality
The Baker Commission's recommendations for a new diplomatic initiative and preparations to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq will draw no more than lip service when the president speaks.
Their months of labor, a gift from the elder George Bush intended to provide his son some sort of cover for a strategic retreat from the disaster he's created in the Middle East, will be ignored as an inconvenient truth.
Those who'e sacrificed the most - America's Army and Marine ground forces and their families - will be asked to continue bearing the burden and paying an even higher price in dead and wounded for a president's ego and intransigence.
The very troops who will make up the temporary bump in U.S. forces in Iraq are those who've already paid that price over and over. They'll be found by a sleight-of-hand maneuver: ordering units already tapped to return to Iraq to go there earlier than scheduled.
That isn't even robbing Peter to pay Paul. It's robbing Peter to pay Peter.
George W. Bush believes that he can buy another couple of years of violent stalemate so he can hand off the disaster to whoever succeeds him in the White House on Jan. 20, 2009. How many more Americans and Iraqis must die to ensure that Bush's parting words as he retreats to Crawford, Texas, will be: I never cut and ran. I stood tall. I kept America safe.