Sunday, July 31, 2005

Solemn

We're not worthy.

Pay your respects and be thankful we have so many honorable and valiant people amongst us, from all corners of the Earth.
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Survey Says...

Tonight's fortune cookie: "You have an ability to sense and know higher truth."

So no worries guys, you're in good hands.

Now, if it had been in the New York Times...
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Leading UK Cleric "Rails at Injustice of Muslim Bashing"

Not encouraging:

"The most senior Islamic cleric in Birmingham claimed yesterday that Muslims were being unjustly blamed in the war on terrorism and that the eight suspects in the two bombing attacks on London "could have been innocent passengers"."

Just like the Saudi Prince who suggested that there was no evidence the Saudis onboard had actually been the hijackers; they might have just been innocent passengers. Uh huh, right.

Mohammad Naseem, the chairman of the city's central mosque, called Tony Blair a "liar" and "unreliable witness" and questioned whether CCTV footage issued of the suspected bombers was of the perpetrators.

He said that Muslims "all over the world have never heard of an organisation called al-Qa'eda".

...

Mr Naseem, who was speaking after police seized Yasin Hassan Omar in Birmingham, delivered his unprompted outburst when he was invited to a press conference with West Midlands police and Birmingham city council to help calm fears of racial or religious tension after the arrest.

His comments shocked senior police officers.

Sources said that attempts to encourage Muslims to pass them information on the bombers' activities would be hindered. One said: "We are trying to gain the trust of the Muslim community and these kinds of comments have the opposite effect. All they do is encourage communities to close ranks against us."

To the obvious embarrassment of council officials and police standing next to him, Mr Naseem said the Government and security services "were not to be relied upon".

...

Mr Naseem is one of the most respected Muslims in the city and is considered a moderate. He has regular meetings with the chief constable to discuss religious harmony."


This is the guy they dragged out to put on a moderate face and encourage cooperation...it's going to be a long war.
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The New Lawrence of Arabia

Interesting story.

"Sheik Horn floats around the room in white robe and headdress, exchanging pleasantries with dozens of village leaders.

But he's the only sheik with blonde streaks in his mustache - and the only one who attended country music star Toby Keith's recent concert in Baghdad with fellow U.S. soldiers.

Officially, he's Army Staff Sgt. Dale L. Horn, but to residents of the 37 villages and towns that he patrols he's known as the American sheik.

Late last year a full-blown battle between insurgents and U.S. and Iraqi forces had erupted, and U.S. commanders assigned a unit to stop rocket and mortar attacks that regularly hit their base. Horn, who had been trained to operate radars for a field artillery unit, was now thrust into a job that largely hinged on coaxing locals into divulging information about insurgents.

Horn, 25, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla., acknowledges he had little interest in the region before coming here. But a local sheik friendly to U.S. forces, Dr. Mohammed Ismail Ahmed, explained the inner workings of rural Iraqi society on one of Horn's first Humvee patrols.

Horn says he was intrigued, and started making a point of stopping by all the villages, all but one dominated by Sunni Arabs, to talk to people about their life and security problems.

"They saw that we were interested in them, instead of just taking care of the bases," Horn said.

Mohammed, Horn's mentor and known for his dry sense of humor, eventually suggested during a meeting of village leaders that Horn be named a sheik. The sheiks approved by voice vote, Horn said.

Some sheiks later gave him five sheep and a postage stamp of land, fulfilling some of the requirements for sheikdom. Others encouraged him to start looking for a second wife, which Horn's spouse back in Florida immediately vetoed.

But what may have originally started as a joke among crusty village elders has sprouted into something serious enough for 100 to 200 village leaders to meet with Horn each month to discuss security issues.

And Horn doesn't take his responsibilities lightly. He lately has been prodding the Iraqi Education Ministry to pay local teachers, and he closely follows a water pipeline project that he hopes will ensure the steady flow of clean water to his villages.

"Ninety percent of the people in my area are shepherds or simple townspeople," said Horn. "They simply want to find a decent job to make enough money to provide food and a stable place for their people to live."

To Horn's commanders, his success justifies his unorthodox approach: no rockets have hit their base in the last half year.

"He has developed a great relationship with local leaders," said Lt. Col. Bradley Becker, who commands the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. "They love him. They're not going to let anyone shoot at Sheik Horn."

He has even won occasional exemption from the military dress code - villagers provide a changing room where he can change from desert camouflage to robes upon arrival.

There are downsides. In his small trailer on base, Horn keeps antibiotics to take after unhygienic village meals.

"I still refuse to kiss him," joked Becker, referring to the cheek-kissing greetings exchanged among sheiks. "He doesn't have any sheep - he can't be a sheik," said Becker, apparently unaware of the recent donation of the small flock.

Some may say he's doing a tongue-in-cheek Lawrence of Arabia, but Horn says he doesn't know much about the legendary British officer who led the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I.

He acknowledges some villagers are offended at seeing a foreign soldier in clothing usually reserved for elders, but he says this has diminished over time.

The sheiks told Horn they will give him an official document deeming him a sheik before he goes home in about two months. He plans to frame it.

And the robe? "Maybe I'll put it in the closet and wear it on occasion," Horn said."


I'm a bit worried by the mention of resentment, but nevertheless an interesting story of the Iraqi-American relationships we're building. Besides, judging by the mortar attacks, it works - can't compain with success. Potentially, Iraq could provide a wealth of information and allies for the future. If we can only break down the barriers and resentments.

Indeed, the constant contact with the Iraqis will itself create a tremendous reserve of knowledge within the American military and government. Hands on operations and direct involvement are the best educators.
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Finding Common Ground - Rebuilding the Trans-Atlantic Alliance

"We French are pathetic losers, says ad chief."

Yes, yes, I know, not constructive - but I couldn't help myself.
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Saturday, July 30, 2005

It's l33t!

Easily one of the funniest things I've ever seen [I'm easily amused]:

*Hitler[AoE] has joined the game.*
Eisenhower has joined the game.
paTTon has joined the game.
Churchill has joined the game.
benny-tow has joined the game.
T0J0 has joined the game.
Roosevelt has joined the game.
Stalin has joined the game.
deGaulle has joined the game.
Roosevelt: hey sup
T0J0: y0
Stalin: hi
Churchill: hi
Hitler[AoE]: cool, i start with panzer tanks!
paTTon: lol more like panzy tanks
T0JO: lol
Roosevelt: o this effin sucks i got a depression!
benny-tow: haha america sux
Stalin: hey hitler you dont fight me i dont fight u, cool?
Hitler[AoE]; sure whatever
Stalin: cool

...

Roosevelt has left the game.
Hitler[AoE]: wtf?
Eisenhower: now we need some1 to join
tru_m4n has joined the game.
tru_m4n: hi all
T0J0: hey
Stalin: sup
Churchill: hi
tru_m4n: OMG OMG OMG i got all his stuff!
tru_m4n: NUKES! HOLY **** I GOT NUKES
Stalin: d00d gimmie some plz
tru_m4n: no way i only got like a couple
Stalin: omg dont be gay gimmie nuculer secrets


Read the rest, fellow gamers will understand exactly what it's talking about.

HT: Wunder Kraut.
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Et Tu? Uzbekistan Taps Out At Least Temporarily

This happened sooner than I thought it would.

"Uzbekistan formally evicted the United States yesterday from a military base that has served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon and State Department officials said yesterday.

In a highly unusual move, the notice of eviction from Karshi-Khanabad air base, known as K2, was delivered by a courier from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, said a senior U.S. administration official involved in Central Asia policy. The message did not give a reason. Uzbekistan will give the United States 180 days to move aircraft, personnel and equipment, U.S. officials said."


As I said here, we are in a very bad neighborhood, with less and less leverage. I am not a logician, but this is a menacing development, not only for our military operations in Afghanistan, but because of the trend it sets.

It also illustrates the costs of democracy promotion:

"The relationship has been increasingly tense since bloody protests in the province of Andijan in May, the worst unrest since Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was going to pressure Tashkent to allow an international investigation into the Andijan protests, which human rights groups and three U.S. senators who met with eyewitnesses said killed about 500 people. Burns was also going to warn the government, one of the most authoritarian in the Islamic world, to open up politically -- or risk the kind of upheavals witnessed recently in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, U.S. officials said."


There were actually local rumors that the US was involved in the disturbances. Of course, on the homefront, critics used the opportunity to decry American hypocrisy towards democracy. Will they give us any credit for biting this bullet? No, they'll just move onto another subject.

At the same time, Taliban attacks have picked up in Afghanistan:

"After the Taleban failed to mount the promised campaign of disruption during last year’s presidential election, American military commanders and their Afghan counterparts confidently predicted that the rebel movement was finished. But the intensity of the battles in remote provinces such as Zabul, predominantly in the southeast, have revealed that the Taleban are still a force to be reckoned with, able to count on a steady supply of fresh recruits from the madrassas of Pakistan, where the religious movement was born."

Since the winter snows melted this spring and fighters came out of the mountains, hundreds of Afghans have perished in battles, assassinations and ambushes. Most of the dead have been guerrillas, in fighting that American commanders attribute to a more aggressive search-and-destroy campaign, but many other victims have been government officials and Afghan security forces attacked by the rebels.

Among the dead have been 37 American soldiers, making the past four months the bloodiest period for US forces since they invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 to oust the hardline regime from power. Commanders who just a few months ago were writing off the rebel force now say that the country should expect a further increase in violence before the parliamentary elections in September."


It will be very difficult to stamp out the Taliban so long as the Pakistani tribal areas provide a free flow of manpower and a safehaven out of our reach. Americas forget that even their righteous intervention in Afghanistan was not cheered in the Muslim world, but scorned and attacked. This was especially true in Pakistan, to whom the Taliban was a dedicated ally and creature of the Pakistani ISI. The current situation is dangerously similar to that which faced the Russians, although not yet as bad or widespread. That could change as our regional position worsens, or we suffer more propaganda disasters.

*Update* Captain Ed has a bit more optimistic view, see here.
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Friday, July 29, 2005

Don't you know there is a war on?

This just about covers it.

"A man who attempted to kill hundreds of Americans gets sentenced to twenty-two years in prison [this] is an outrage."

Throw in some time for good behavior, and who knows when he'll get out. Due to the prisoner's intransigence, two other cases will be unable to continue.

Jim Lynch editorializes:

"But perhaps we just tried him under the wrong law. Can the case be made that he was a fraudulent CEO? Ex-WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in his corporate fraud case. Or maybe we should look into the possible harm Ressam’s actions would have had on the environment. In 1998 an illegal landfill operator in Texas was sentenced to 30 years. While we’re checking on things, did anyone discover a stolen TV in his possession? Junior Allen served 35 years of a life sentence for second-degree burglary. And of course we can’t over look drugs. James Tranmer was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 1994 for conspiracy to import marijuana."

To top it off, the sentence was followed by the judge lecturing the court about Gitmo and military tribunals. You see, apparently in bizarro world this case proves that the above are unecessary. Pathetic. Set it beside the 15 year sentence given to a 9-11 accessory, and the acquittal of Afghan terror camp trainee Abdelghani Mzoudi, both in Germany. If this is par for the course, the temptation to simply disappear these people will increase tremendously.
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"Welcome Aboard"

Nothing makes me happier than seeing stories such as these.

I'll let it stand on its own, anything I could say would only cheapen it.
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Thursday, July 28, 2005

An Email Exchange - Part 2 (A Neo-Conservative Manifesto)

From Part I:

"A few months ago, I suggested to a family member that they read Norman Podhoretz's World War IV, which I thought was worth proliferating, especially due to its coverage of our domestic enemies, and the origins of the permanently cadred "anti-war" movement. In response, this person sent me a number of questions, that I answered in depth, and in which I outlined many of my basic assumptions towards our global strategy and the Iraq War. Due to their importance towards my general world outlook, I'll recreate them in a number of posts. They were written in March, so some of my comments may have been overtaken by events, for better or for worse. Nevertheless, I'll reproduce them now."

---

"3. The Marshall Plan was heavy on economic aid, how much would $200 billion dollars give in economic assistance to the world?

My response:

Well, it always depends on where the money goes. The Marshall Plan worked because we forced the Europeans to sit down together and deal the money intelligently among themselves. In this way, it wasn't wasted, and the Europeans learned to work with each other. Furthermore, Europe was, although it had just destroyed itself, a very economically and socially advanced country. The problem is that the areas of the world need economic assistance are also areas where putting it in is very wasteful. The problem with places like Africa or the Middle East is the sheer incompetence and corruptness of the leadership. Money goes in, but it doesn't actually do anything because it is skimmed by the leadership - and even the UN itself (when the money is given through the UN).

Aid doesn't work unless given to a country that has competent government with financial transparency, and checks on the people that hand it out. Furthermore, it needs the societal framework, such as property rights laws, that makes the area worthy for further outside investment. We're doing everything we can to bring these improvements to Iraq, but this is an anomaly. Most of the UN efforts do not make this attempt; they simply shove money into the area to pretend they are making a difference to assuage Western consciences. So to answer your question shortly, money by itself doesn't work (the quote I've heard is: "Financial aid (as it is commonly practiced) is the art of transferring income from the lower and middle class people in one country, to the rich people in another country") without societal reforms. It is simply a drop in the bucket until you address the real reasons for the country's poverty, and most of the international organizations don't bother doing so.

4. What are the drawbacks to the us as being a superpower destined to bring freedom to all the world?

My response:

The drawbacks are obvious - we risk the success of our own project by trying exporting it to others. I once heard the comment: "Liberals are people who want to protect the world from America, Conservatives want to protect America from the world.") This is why the Paleoconservatives do not like Bush. They feel he is too Wilsonian, and is attempting to export freedom to places that will not take it, at the expense of American security, treasure, and society.

Truthfully, I am very skeptical of idealism and utopianism - Wilsonianism is an insult to me. As a result I'm somewhat sympathetic to realist and paleoconservative ideas - the world is a scary place, and the American experiment was not predetermined and almost unique. I do not promote the spreading of freedom as an American responsibility. This is why I do not like the argument of many Democrats (Colin Powell said it too ironically) that "because we broke it, we have to fix it." No, we don't. It was broken before we even went in there, and it is not our inherent responsibility to fix it. To me it is nothing but an offshoot of this third-worldism in which we have to be the world's welfare agent.

That is where I sometimes differ from neo-Conservatives - some of them believe we should do it because we are destined to. I don't think that. What I do think, however, is that if we don't do it, we're going to lose our American democracy and liberties anyway. Neoconservatism thought is to me a tactic rather than an identity. In the absence of a USSR, stability doesn't work. And with the spread of high technological weaponry (say nuclear bomb plans on the web, or Sarin gas in a Tokyo subway - as happened in Tokyo in 1995) it is only a matter of time before the dangers we face are really existentialist (General Tommy Franks surprised a lot of people when he said that a future attack might lead to martial law. But really, if we were being attacked by terrorists with nuclear weapons and chemical weapons, would we be able to keep the freedoms we enjoy today? How? With the spread of technology, do you think that possibility is feasible? I do.).

During once of his speeches Bush that at this time "our goals and our ideals intersect." What he meant was that we no longer have to be as ruthless as the realists were during the Cold War, for reasons of national security. This time, we can promote liberal democracy, our values, because it is in our best interests.

to be continued...

Open posted at Outside the Beltway.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Problem With An Independent "Kurdistan"

In the comments section of a recent Belmont Club post some commentators lamented our failure to set up an independent Kurdistan. Said one:

"I too think America missed a good opportunity to create a true ally in the middle east by creating a Kurdish state – and what good is a Turkish ally when they’re not there when the chips are down, as in allowing the troops to move in from the north. A Kurdish state on the other hand would have revered the name of USA for a hundred years. But it’s too late now."

I have no moral qualms about punishing the Turks, nor do I have qualms about punitive policy in general. You can't expect people to help you if you're going to play nice with them even if they don't help you - you need sticks and carrots. In this vein, I was horrified by the suggestions that we should "play nice" with the Canadians, French, and Germans in dealing out reconstruction contracts - thereby being the 'bigger man.' Foreign relations isn't the same as your everyday relations, being the 'bigger man' is to be the fool.

That being said, as much as I emotionally want to help the Kurds, I don't think that antagonizing the Turks is in our interests. Turkey is already tottering, undergoing the same Islamization as Pakistan. This ongoing battle is reflected in the latest international poll, and its "Islamic Democrat" Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It is my opinion that these worrying developments at least partially explain our frenetic efforts to nursemaid Turkey into the EU.

Kurdistan would be an American ally, through necessity and affection, but it would also give Al Qaeda yet territorial grievance [real or imagined] to sway Islamic public opinion, one especially useful to target the already shaking Turks.

Under the Treaty of Sevres after World War I, Turkey was actually set up with a Kurdish autonomous area. Kemal Ataturk rejected it, won a war against Greece, and Turkey gradually eroded the rights that the Kurds had been promised. From the 1980s till the mid to late 1990s the Kurdish PKK fought a guerilla war against the Turkish army, with over 30,000 dead on all sides. "The damage to infrastructure and the money spent to end the conflict is claimed by the Turkish government to stand at 200 billion."

Kurdish Turkey covers approximately 1/5th of Turkey's total landmass and comprises a similar proportion of its population; it is reasonable that Turks fear a renewed independence movement, no matter how justified that movement is. War between the Turks and the newly independent Kurdistan is also hardly unimaginable - a conflict between a NATO member and defacto US protectorate, one we'll be hardpressed to stay out of.

In the end, if you create an independent Kurdistan, but "lose" Turkey, our one long-lasting example of a secular, yet Islamic democracy [except for possibly the now diseased multi-ethnic Lebanon], are you better off or worse? Most likely worse. Kurdish independence is not a neglible Turkish interest, and the Turks are not a people we want to tip more into Islamist hands. As another reader commented, "sometimes you can't do all that you want to do."
-
Open posted to both Outside the Beltway and Wizbang.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Enemy Within

One of the ways that you'll know we've gotten serious is this sort of person won't be deported, he'll be jailed.

"A London-based supporter of Osama bin Laden who runs a website depicting beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq has forfeited his right to asylum in the country and should be deported, MPs said last night.

Mohammed al-Massari was shown on a BBC documentary earlier this week defending the jihadist messages placed on the Tajdeed site that he runs.

It includes a film of a suicide bomber killing three British soldiers in Iraq, the murder of American civilian contractors and a self-help guide for would-be terrorists.

Al-Massari, a Saudi academic and dissident who fled to Britain more than 10 years ago, has been given permanent residency in this country after unsuccessful attempts by the last Tory government to remove him.

After the July 7 bombings in London, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said refugees who condoned violence or fomented hatred of the West would face deportation. However, there has been no move against al-Massari.

Patrick Mercer, the Tory spokesman on homeland security, said last night it was ''absolutely extraordinary'' that al-Massari could continue to support the jihadist cause without any action by the authorities.

''I see no reason whatsoever why we continue to extend this man's right to stay in the country,'' he said.

...

"Al-Massari helped to establish a press office for bin Laden in London in the mid-1990s and received personal thanks from bin Laden himself. He is considered by Islamist experts to be a key influence on young jihadists in Britain.

In December 2004, he told the Seattle Times that CDLR was the "ideological voice" of al-Qa'eda, and in an interview with BBC Radio he said it was legitimate for Muslims to assassinate the Prime Minister and kill British troops.

Al-Massari's website has previously featured a music video fronted by a young British Muslim brandishing a gun and a Koran. The rap song praises bin Laden and the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and sold in large quantities at mosques.

Al-Massari said of the video: ''I thought it was an excellent attempt to use modern methods to get a message across. I do not know of any young Muslim who has not either seen or got this video.''

Al-Massari is also a key figure behind Radio al-Tajdeed, which is transmitted to the Middle East over a French satellite from studios in London."

...

''He has got to be dealt with. In any climate his comments are inflammatory; at the moment they are extraordinarily dangerous.''"


So too is our complacency. You don't evacuate the enemy, you incapacitate or kill him.
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The One

For the first time in its 35 year history the University of Washington's women studies chairman will be a man.

Says Professor David Allen, "it's not so much risky for me individually as it is politically. One way to interpret this is, 'Here's yet another white guy claiming to have expertise over women.'"

He'd be the first I know of.
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Seizing Back History

Many modern day liberal commentators have correctly noted that our current plan in Iraq is [astutely] to gradually transfer responsibilities to the Iraqis themselves, phasing out American troops. This has often been accompanied with snarky comments describing the failure of an earlier comparable effort, Vietnamization. This is doubly troubling. Not only because it distorts history, but because it is a distortion meant to justify a Democratic controlled Congress' steps to undercut the army that the distortion slanders.

State of Flux features a very useful post analyzing one of the great myths of Vietnam War, specifically the failures of the South Vietnamese Army, or ARVN. The ARVN became one of history's bastard children. It was largely scapegoated by liberals to explain the supposed hopelessness of the war, after all, "if the Vietnamese wouldn't fight for their freedom, why should we have fought for them?" It is my opinion that this myth has also flourished because it also soothed conservatives, who also enjoyed a scapegoat that could partially explain America's embarassing defeat. The truth is that while it had flaws, especially in the beginning of the war, the ARVN often fought harder and more capably as the war carried on.

Even more depressing, as I have written before, is that as the war carried on and the indigenous Viet Cong perished, the ARVN was increasingly in a much stronger position to carry on the war:

"Let it be said that I respect Creighton Abrams. After the disastrous body counts of Westmoreland, he led the effort to take back the countryside of South Vietnam, and in doing so pretty much annihilated (along with Tet) the indigenous Viet Cong. In doing so, he stabilized Vietnam to the point where victory was possible. From then on, the South Vietnamese mostly fought the conventional North Vietnamese Army. They repelled the 1972 "Easter Offensive" invasion (backed by US airpower and the mining of Haiphong harbor, something long overdue), but finally fell to another outright invasion in 1975.

The irony here is that we had from the beginning stupidly prepared the South Vietnamese Army to fight a conventional foe. At one point they had numerically the fourth largest air force in the world, for example. This was inappropriate so long as their most potent foe was the agile and indigenous VC. Following the destruction of the VC, the South Vietnamese were set to face a more appropriate foe in the NVA, and as said, defeated it in 1972. By the mid 1970s, however, Richard Nixon had been pushed from the White House by Watergate, and the Democratic controlled congress cut off all military aid."


After undergoing years of warfare, and spending 50,000 American lives, Congress drastically cut military aid to Vietnam in one of the most ideologically driven and poorly thought out decisions in American history. The shame is not that we fought to save a foreign people from Communist tyranny, but that we pulled support from them so callously, at such an inopportune time.
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Monday, July 25, 2005

An Email Exchange - Part 1 (A Neo-Conservative Manifesto)

A few months ago, I suggested to a family member that they read Norman Podhoretz's World War IV, which I thought was worth proliferating, especially due to its coverage of our domestic enemies, and the origins of the permanently cadred "anti-war" movement. In response, this person sent me a number of questions, that I answered in depth, and in which I outlined many of my basic assumptions towards our global strategy and the Iraq War. Due to their importance towards my general world outlook, I'll recreate them in a number of posts. They were written in March, so some of my comments may have been overtaken by events, for better or for worse. Nevertheless, I'll reproduce them now.

---

"Excellent article by pohoretz, couldn't put it down. He makes a compelling argument as a liberal turned conservative, he does undestand the dirty side of the radical left.
Please read this email in total as I devoted a big piece of time reading this article of 58 pages.

1. Osama hates us in because of our support of Israel and the corrupt government in Saudi Arabia which he feels is not truly islamic - our ideology is not what drives him."


My response:

This is true, to an extent, but Osama's world view is driven also by a much larger objective. In the short term, he hopes to force us to withdraw our sanction from apostate governments in the Middle East, force Russian withdrawal from Chechnya, Indian withdrawal from Kashmir, and a host of other geopolitical wishes. His intermediate goal is the reestablishment of a pan-Islamic Calphiate in place of the current apostate governments. In the long term, it is a general war against the non-Islamic world. It sound cliche, but his ultimate goal is Islamic world domination and out subservance to Allah. This means that ultimately, there is no appeasing our enemy - we can only defer war, we cannot avoid it.

In the 1980s Al Qaeda was presented with two strategies: It could either start at home, overthrowing regimes such as the Saudis, Pakistan, etc, or it could skip ahead and directly confront the West (of which we are the flag ship).

Bin laden chose wrongly, for the reasons that Podhertz covered in detail. He miscalculated how much strength was left in the United States, and thought if he could hit us hard enough, he could completely take us out of the picture, allowing him to overthrow the Middle Eastern regimes. We are lucky in retrospect that Bin Laden chose so unwisely, because in effect he jumped the gun by alerting us to the danger before he could really threaten us. Imagine, for example, if Bin Laden had waited until he actually had WMD, and the revenue of any of the oil producing countries, before he waged open warfare against us. There was little motivation in the US to do anything about even Afghanistan, a state in open war against us, before he hit us at home. This is not to say that we are yet fully aroused, nor that our victory is assured, but by acting prematurely, he erred greatly.

It is still up in the air which strategy Al Qaeda (and Al Qaeda only one organization [although the premiere one] within a larger Islamic fundamentalist front...so it must be remembered that other parts of this Islamic political creature can act in different and conflicting ways) is currently emphasizing. Their attacks against their enemies in Saudi Arabia, and against Musharraf in Pakistan, for example, suggest that they might now realize that is more effective to turn to the more local strategy - America isn't as weak as they thought, although they are bloodying us in Iraq.

On the other hand, they already started the war by revealing themselves too early, so in order to avoid looking weak to the Arab street they are required to keep hitting us or our Allies at home. In my opinion, they are currently avoiding attacking the American homeland itself, to lull us back to sleep, and are instead attacking our allies - to force their disengagement and isolate us. Also, under no conditions, can they give up the fight in Iraq, where an American success would be a disaster to them.

"2. We created saddam, and both Rumsfeld and Bush armed him to keep a counter-weight against Iraq's Khomenei. Our insistence on controlling and interfering in other countries has had unintended consequences. If it were not for our military aid Saddam could not have wreaked the evil he did."

My response:

Words mean a lot. You may not mean it to an extent that Europeans do, but the canard that "we created Saddam" is damaging when it becomes an oft repeated cliche. We did not create Saddam. Ba'athism is a mix between European fascism and socialism, which is what makes it so ironic that the Europeans would blame us for creating a movement that originated from their flawed ideological history. We didn't create Saddam - we were allied with him against the Iranians, at times. It is a matter of definitions, but it is significant. In addition, the French, Soviet Union, and Chinese supplied most of Hussein’s arms; is airforce flew Russian MIGs and French Mirages, and his army drove Russian and Chinese tanks. We supplied a mere 1% of his arms", something you predictably do not see in the media.

Creating him is a lot different from working with him, and we shouldn't be so quick to cede that propaganda point to our enemies. Furthermore, Iraq was not the only recipient. During Iran-Contra, we gave the Iranians TOW and Dragon anti-tank missiles, not only for hostages, but because Iran was losing the war against Iraq, and desperately needed munitions to neutralize Iraq's armored divisions. So, it is truer that we wanted neither side to win, rather than Saddam. It just so happened that Hussein miscalculated and that for the last 6 or 7 years of the war, Iraq was largely on the defensive, and thus the recipient of our aid.

That's how the Cold War worked, and the realists had sway. I'm not quick to criticize the realists so strongly, because the USSR was a very capable enemy and in response we did use clumsy coups and backed bad leaders to keep it at length; it was required by containment. In my opinion, in the aftermath of 9-11 we were offered a chance to reverse this tradition in the Middle East, and create something worth backing strategically and morally. We no longer face the USSR, and we can afford one chance at avoiding the realism that created so many problems for us later. The status quo, stability, does not work against the enemy that we are fighting, it only 'kicks the problem down the road', as Podhertz said concerning Clinton's limited responses.

to be continued...
*Update: Continued here.*
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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Our Shaky Position in Afghanistan

I realize I'll get flak from friendly quarters for saying this, but I've never, ever, bought the idea of Afghan democracy. From a strategic point of view, it is a decades long task that isn't worth the effort [and judging by the British and Russian experiences, too risky, better a low profile]. Even if it was worth the effort, however, it would be unlikely to succeed.

This was inevitable:

"Tajik Tajik Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov said today that since the threat of Afghanistan for Central Asia has declined, the presence of Western military in the region is not needed."

This is in the same vein as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's [China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbebikstan, Tajikistan] request for "relevant members of the anti-terror Coalition to set final dates for the temporary use of: infrastructure and the stationing of military contingents on the territory of SCO member countries".

Things are not over in Afghanistan. We are in an awful neighborhood, surrounded by countries that do not like us, and have much longer-term interests than helping us out. We were able to force our way in after 9-11, but the farther we get from that aroused America, the easier it is for them to put pressure on us. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan will be forced to live with the Russians and Chinese long after we withdraw from Afghanistan. We're just passing through, they live there.

This natural effect is also aggravated by our insistence on Democratic reform. In a vacuum, this would be feasible. In the case of Central Asia, however, there are two nearby neighbors that would gladly back authoritarians in place of the morally squeamish Americans. I do not say this to discourage the spread of democracy, I believe in it. However, this does not mean that "history has ended," and we must support democracy at the expense of all other goals. We must utilize different strategies for different contexts. Unfortunately, the current political environment makes it much harder to support helpful authoritarians, because it undermines our effort in the Arab world.

What does all this mean for Afghanistan? It means that we do not have many good options. Karzai is not strong enough to survive on his own, he is forced to rely on the goodwill of the still powerful warlords, who put up with him only so long as they want to, and he has our big stick behind him. The Taliban is not dead; it can operate with impunity in neighboring Pakistan. This is not to say they're getting the better of us militarily, when they congregate, we smash them. For PR reasons we keep up the charade that Karzai is self-sustaining, but in reality we're just buying time, keeping the Taliban from power and Afghanistan from being an Al Qaeda "core country".

However, time is ultimately on their side, and the side of the indigenous warlords, for the simple reason that they're never going anywhere, and we cannot sustain 15,000 troops in Afghanistan indefinitely, especially with the regional actors turning against us. The current end game in Afghanistan is not a self-sustaining democracy - isolated elections does not make a democracy. Iraq may have the human capital and potential, Afghanistan does not. For now, removing Afghanistan as a sanctuary must do. But for how long?
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Remembering the Gruesome Two-some

This AP dispatch takes the cake:

Title - In Saddam's Birthplace, Fond Memories of Uday and Qusay

"Awjah, Iraq (AFP) - Villagers of the town where former dictator
Saddam Hussein was born said they retain fond memories of his slain sons Uday and Qusay, but had good reasons for not going to pay their respects on the second anniversary of their deaths."


I imagine their victims might lynch the visitors.

"We could not go (to the cemetery), because we are afraid that the Americans have installed invisible cameras to pick us out and then arrest us," said Ahmed al-Khattab, a cousin of the Hussein family.

Personally I'd prefer they shot you, but that's just me. Perhaps we should get ahold of this "reporter," find Ahmed, and go right to the thumb-screws. See how much he knows about the insurgency.

Hajj Saad Khraimus said he could not visit for health reasons.

"I am handicapped and ill. I can't go to their graves, but I ask God to take pity on them and shelter them in paradise."

...

"These young men are the most honorable in
Iraq," said Saad al-Nassiri, outfitted in a traditional dishdasha robe and white head wrap, and who also claimed to be related to the deceased."


Quite possibly the most honorable young men in the family...another potential target for thumb-screws in my opinion.

"The Americans used their most sophisticated weaponry to take them out."

Yeah, I suppose if you consider TOWs [a 30 year old anti-tank missile] our "most sophisticated weaponry." We actually latch our shuttles onto them for our space flights.

"They died in a ferocious gunbattle in the northern city of Mosul after US troops were tipped off by the man who was hiding them in his house, recalled a neighbour, Shaher al-Khazradji.

"The fighting lasted four hours then US soldiers pulled out Uday's body (by the feet), while the other bodies were covered and removed," he said.

Al-Khazradji had bitter words for the man who gave away Uday and Qusay's whereabouts because he aided US troops.

"The prostitutes of Mosul have more honor than him," he said.


Having done his best to resurrect Uday and Qusay's good memory, the reporter gets on to even more pressing concerns, lamenting the current state of Iraq:

"But 43-year-old Khaled al-Naimi said Iraq now has greater concerns.

"Uday and Qusay, that's the past. Today we don't have water, electricity or infrastructure in our third year of occupation. Their deaths don't mean anything. This country doesn't belong to them. It belongs to all Iraqis."


"Their deaths don't mean anything." Apparently, neither do the deaths of their victims - raped, tortured, and killed. I'll have to check the microfilm files to see if AP was running stories quoting Franz the former SS man lamenting the death of Heinrich Himmler back in '46. After we're done interrogating Khaled, Saad, and Ahmed, I think we should find this reporter and see how much he knows.
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Forgotten War

A poster on Free Republic is apparently translating accounts of Russian military men during the Cold War. It is a very interesting read, especially the accounts of a Russian submariner. In one passage, he relates his experience working with the Egyptian Navy:

"And then there occurred a whole bunch of catastrophies, as if to spite headquarters. The Jews stole a brand-new radio-location station, using a helicopter. The flew in across the canal, smashed the weak guard detail, hooked the wagon up to the helicopter and just took off with it. We we set up a new air-defense station, but the enemy just would not give up. They'd fly in before we got them in operation, and blow them to bits. Many of our air-defense officers were killed.

Another big event: three torpedo boats left Port Said to set some AMD-500 sea-bottom mines. The first boat flops around and then breaks off. The second drops its mine and then blows up on it; nothing was left. The third boat turns and took off to who knows where, we searched for it for a long time. The (Egyptian) command had been following them, to review their heroism, but was located on the second torpedo boat. The Arabs were setting these mines independently, without our instructors."


This might explain the shellacking that the Egyptian Navy received from the Israelis in 1973. In one instance, outnumbered and outgunned Israeli missile boats blew a number of Egyptian Osha class missile boats out of the water, suffering no losses, even though their Gabriel missiles had approximately half the range of the Egyptian Styxs.

Also interesting is the submariner's description of the various nationalities he worked with:

"Egyptians struck me as nice peopple. A bit intrusive, if you are a guest in their home - everyone demands that you eat something with them. They are disorganized like children, however. Once we had surfaced, and at any minute I might declare a crash-dive. One of their sailors is standing on the deck, listening to a tape-player. It doesn't occur to him that there's a war on. The ship commander comes out, and I point him out. The commander goes up to the sailor and tosses the Japanese tape-player overboard.

Every nationality fights differently. You can't really say anything about Russians, they are all different, like a mixed-up salad. The Cossacks are the most steadfast. On watch they are hardy and efficient. You can count on them. Lithuanians can be described with only the very best of words. If I was taking part in selecting my crew, I always tried to grab as many Lithuanians as possible. They are the cleanest and most efficient of sailors, straight-A.

Latvians, however, are very different from Lithuanians. They are lazy and untrustworthy, but the worst nationality for any service has to be Muscovites. The biggest headache for a commander will always be from these.

If we have to speak of seamanship under non-standard conditions, or making technical decisions, the best of course have to be Ukrainians and Russians. Latvians are simply retarded. Tartars are often sent to the underwater fleet, and are practically identical to Russians. Jews don't serve poorly, but during all my years of service I never saw more than 5 Jewish sailors, though they make irreproachable officers. By the way, Armenians on a ship - hardly ever.

Of my former assistants, seven became ship commanders, though one later burned out. This is a very rare recommendation. Even Petrov, commander of cadres in Moscow, made a report of my example. Something along the lines of 'There are captains who brought up seven commanders, among them two Jews, outstanding commanders. For example, Zverev, who later became Combat Operations Commander, and now chief of the Baltic Fleet'.

Some Georgians came my way. They are a temperamental people, though they try from the heart. Two of my chief petty officers were Georgians. Azerbaijanians usually end up in the bilge, no one trusts them with serious jobs. They have deficient educations, no understanding whatsoever of electronics, and you can't adapt them to complicated mechanisms. The backbone of the sailors and petty officers were Slavs, but the crew of a submarine could only live as a single organism. All the boys quickly found their place in it, and acted like the fingers of a single hand. Life depends on it, even in peacetime. Although in the Army the nationalities may bunch together, it's simply not possible on a submarine. When the hatches are slammed shut and the boat dives, nationality disappears."


In another post by the same translator, a news story features a Kazakhstani veteran of the Yom Kippur, who served as a Soviet adviser to the Egyptians:

"The first Soviet troops started to arrive in Egypt in 1970, mainly as pilots and and anti-aircraft artillery gunners. Their mission was to fix up the nation's air defense forces, since Israeli 'Phantoms' felt themselves to be the undisputed masters of the heavens above the pyramids. One must admit, these 'sports instructors' succeeded rather quickly - overflights soon dropped to zero.

"In Alexandria, we were put on a barge and went up the Nile," Danakan recalled. "An interesting place. Big river, along the banks just a few dozen kilometers of greenery, then nothing put sand. Somewhere in the desert we had a base. I spent eight months there. The conditions were the worst - unusual climate, exotic diseases, a huge number of crawling, jumping, and flying insects. During formation everyone was scratching themselves - soldiers and officers both. Not everyone could stand it, and we had to send a few back home. Moreover, almost every day the Israeli aircraft flew over, and this didn't have a beneficial effect on our nerves. Our base was never bombed, though, and they fed us pretty good. But we never had a real bath or shower for eight months. Sometimes they took us to a nearby city, to a swimming pool. The locals treated us variously. Some regarded us sullenly as enemies, while others were the opposite and greeted us from the bottom of their hearts."


Staffed by Russian "advisors," these were the SA-2 and SA-3 SAM crews that covered the Suez Canal against the Israeli Air Force during the early days of the Yom Kippur war. At the same time, Russian pilots also periodically flew air missions against Israeli pilots. In one instance, after one of the inter-war intermittent air battles, the Israelis realized that they had been up against Russian aircrews. In retaliation, they set a trap, tempting the same aircraft to engage in battles against handpicked Israeli crews - resulting in the downing of numerous Russian aircraft and zero Israeli losses.

The article is also interesting for the distinctly one-sided description of Middle Eastern events:

"Even today, little is known about the USSR's role in the Arab-Israeli wars. Officially, there were no Soviet soldiers in the Near East. The Soviet Union actively assisted the Arab nations, sending weapons and equipment, what else could they do? The Soviet Union just could not stand by while their eternal enemy, the USA, lavished forces and materials in support of the new Israeli government, which was waging war to the left and right almost from her first day. The first war between Israel and the Arab world began in 1948, when the Israelis seized 7000 square kilometers of Palestine. Nine hundred thousand Arab residents were driven from this territory, even though the land had been assigned to them by a 1947 UN resolution. In addition, Israel grabbed the western half of Jerusalem, despite a UN demand that Jerusalem remain an independent administrative entity. The eastern half of Jerusalem at that time went to Jordan. In 1967, Israel seized the other part of the holy city. Thus, it was not difficult for the Soviet Union to justify helping 'fraternal peoples in a just struggle against Israeli extremists and their overseas accomplices'."

This "news" summary is, of course, largely fraudulent and one-sided by omission. Nevertheless, it illustrates the difficulties that Israel has, being forced to deal with former East Bloc propaganda served as "news." Interestingly, during periods of difficulties, Poles, Czechs, and other Eastern European peoples took up pro-Israeli sentiments to revolt against Soviet domination.
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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Jacksonian America Lives, Part II

A fine post by Stephen Green at Vodkapundit.

"But millions of Americans - probably a wartime majority - do hold by Jackson's traditions. We try to play fair, and mostly we succeed. But we will not play fair with those who refuse to honor the rules of the game. In fact, we think it speaks pretty well of us that those Gitmo prisoners are being treated as well as they are.

Sometimes, we even wonder if maybe we've gone a little too soft - if maybe we shouldn't be taking prisoners at all."


Stephen "gets it." At the moment, we're fighting war-lite.

I do take issue with this:

"Maybe someday we'll read about something truly horrifying going on at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib. You know, thumb screws or lashings or Chinese water torture. If and when that day comes, my first thought will be, "Now that's wrong. That's un-American, and it's got to stop." My second thought will be, "I wonder what those guys did to deserve it?" My third thought will be, "It's still wrong, and it's got to stop."

First, as I have written, we've already used waterboarding on Al Qaeda big wigs [Khalid Sheik Muhammed, 9-11 planner, for example]. Second, there's nothing un-American about saving innocent American lives through harsh means. My extended thoughts on torture can be read here.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Jacksonian America Lives

A post worth reading at the Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill.

Somebody's pissed:

"The idea that this war is about winning friends and influencing people is what has us wearing white gloves to handle Korans at Gitmo, its what has us bending over back-wards to appease the very fiends that want to murder us in the millions. Wars are not about winning friends and influencing people, they are about completely breaking the will of those who are attacking you. You crush their will to fight then you make friends with them. If a war is being fought to win friends and influence people then you had no business fighting it in the first place. Wars are fought when your village faces an existential threat. You don't waste the finest of your young people lives in brutal wars to make friends and influence people, you prayerfully send them out in front of the enemy to crush the enemy so that the children and old don't have to face them.

We face an existential threat from an enemy that has been attacking the west for over 1,400 years. Ok if we want to try and give them freedom and democracy to attempt the peaceful reformation of their brutal religion I am all for it. That tolerance will end if one of my cities goes up in smoke. At that point it may be a bibilical war only because only one side will come out of the other end. It may well be that our elites cannot handle that sort of war, it may well be that those who consider themselves advocates for the defense of this nation dont really have the stones to fight the way we have fought when our backs have been forced up against the wall. But there are a lot of those sorts of people around. And I would warn our enemies that you trifle with that side of our country at your ultimate peril. That part of the country is not sorry about Hiroshima or Nagasaki, when we weighed the balance between their side dying and ours dying we found it easy to pull the trigger. We have alot more triggers now, fuck with us and we will find you and everyone even remotely associated with you. When President Bush declared that you are either with us or with the enemy he was appeasing us, if he fails and one of our cities goes up in flames he will lose his job and someone serious about ridding the world of that cancer will get the job done.

Tancredo may have done the other side a favor by letting them know that there is a significant portion of this country that doesnt look at war as an intellectual exercise but as brutal horrible stuff that we don't intend to lose. It is horrible to misunderstand your enemy, Tancredo's statements should be looked at as a sort of wake up call to those moderate muslims to get control before its too late. He was letting them know not to underestimate us that might be the most important gift they have gotten in a long time."


During my senior year of high school, my history class buried a time capsule, to be opened up in 50 years. Along with a long journal, describing my opinion on 9-11 and the events immediately following, I included a number of papers. In view of combatting historical revisionists, one of them was...a detailed paper justifying the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"And I would warn our enemies that you trifle with that side of our country at your ultimate peril. That part of the country is not sorry about Hiroshima or Nagasaki, when we weighed the balance between their side dying and ours dying we found it easy to pull the trigger. We have alot more triggers now, fuck with us and we will find you and everyone even remotely associated with you."

I hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does...You said it, brother.
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If Loose Lips Sink Ships - We're Sunk

From the UK Times:

"Under police sniper squads are tracking as many as a dozen Al-Qaeda suspects because security services fear they could be planning more suicide attacks, writes David Leppard.

The covert armed units are under orders to shoot to kill if surveillance suggests that a terror suspect is carrying a bomb and he refuses to surrender if challenged.

The deployment of the teams in the past week signals the huge “intelligence gap” that has opened up since the London bombings.

Police fear the suspects could be planning a further wave of attacks but do not have enough evidence to arrest them, or place them under the government’s new anti-terror control orders.

Scotland Yard and MI5 say there may be more “bomb factories”. However, officers admit that they have no idea which suspects could be planning the next attacks so they are deploying the sniper squads as an emergency measure.

A member of S019, Scotland Yard’s elite firearms unit, said: “These units are trained to deal with any eventuality. Since the London bombs they have been deployed to look at certain people.”


This information should not be in the public sphere. The public does not have a right to know about such ongoing efforts. The sources for this story should be located and then cashiered.

These leaks - including how we get information [scroll to mid], human intel sources, intelligence reports, who we've caught, and warplans [Iraq and North Korea] - have to stop, now.

I could find scores of examples. It is undoubtedly true that some of these leaks are intended to mislead the enemy, but the vast majority stem from petty turf battles, partisan attacks, and attempts to acquire good publicity. Politicians and bureaucrats, anyone that is willing to jeopardize our lives for the sake of those petty and selfish justifications needs to be prosecuted and thrown out on their ear. It won't happen, however, because the government and military have created an environment where it is routine. In only the most serious cases is anyone punished, and then only the lowest level offenders.

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*Update*
The Belgravia Dispatch has a somewhat related post on a French leak, one later revealed as wrong, here.
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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Meet Ya in the Middle

From the New York Times:

The draft of a chapter of the new constitution obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday guarantees equal rights for women as long as those rights do not "violate Shariah," or Koranic law...

Well, if it is good enough for Canada, I suppose it is good enough for Iraq...
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The 3 Conjectures Return to the Spotlight

Republican Tom Tancredo [previously known for tough talk about illegal immigration] sparked a firestorm by suggesting that we threaten to nuke Mecca in response to a hypothetical nuclear attack in the United States. Most commentators that I've seen have reacted harshly against Tancredo, to say the least.

Before I begin, I'll reproduce a germane response I gave in the comment sections a few days ago:

A few nights ago I was walking home through D.C., when I almost walked into a rotating spot light, pointed into the sky. Please excuse my sentimentality, but my reaction was sadness due to how much the world has changed in the past few years [or at least my perception of it]. Many of the scandals and concerns of the 1990s don't even seem real compared to those of today. Even our wars were much cleaner, at least on our side - our politicians even debated the altitudes at which our planes bombed during the Kosovo conflict. It is amazing in retrospect, because today we squabble about torture, total warfare, nuclear retaliation, altogether a much scarier and harsher environment.

As a youth I acquired an interest in military history, particularly 20th century. I have to admit that on some level, I regretted that my generation likely wouldn’t be afforded the opportunity to accomplishing something so noble as defeating Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, or international Communism. These days, I berate myself for being such a naive fool; I’d give anything to go back to the simpler days before 9-11. Obviously, that is not an option, so back to work - and onward to victory.


Few people want to debate nuclear weapons use. It is an action that that leaves noone unbloodied or unstained, whether the cost is in lives or faith in our system. Stephen Den Beste once suggested that a nuclear response [he used the context of North Korea] would kill America's soul, by alienating so large a portion of its population from the rightness of its existence. Nevertheless, Den Beste also said that in war, he advocated removing nothing from the table, because it does nothing but display weakness and limit your options.

In this, I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, it illustrates the most basic philosophical conundrum of the Geneva Conventions - if the interests involved are so serious that you are willing to fight a war, why would you "follow rules" if those rule threaten your war effort? The answer, in the case of the Geneva Conventions, is that in theory, by following the rules, you also receive its benefits. Even in the case of Nazi Germany, for example, our prisoners [in contrast to Russian] were relatively well treated in return for our reciprocal efforts. Thus, at the heart of the Geneva Conventions is reciprocity, otherwise it makes very little sense [self-defeating morality set aside]. The same principles were at work with MAD - we didn't destroy them, so they didn't destroy us - but both sides could and were willing otherwise. If you removed the will from either side, the other no longer had any reason to hold back.

Machiavelli offered two ways to deal with potential enemies: you can either induce them to love you, or fear you. Thus far, in the Muslim world, America has chosen the former route. NeoConservativism foreign policy is not a warmaking philosophy, it is a peace making one. At its very core, it accepts that American way of governance can be applied anywhere [drawing from American universalism], and that American can survive the long effort it takes to reform our enemies]. I do not mean to suggest that our venture in Iraq is a touchy-feely venture that involves throwing flowers at our enemies, but its ultimate goal is, at the moment, to create an Iraq that is pro-American and gradually changes perceptions in the Muslim world towards us.

Repeated nuclear strikes in the United States undercuts the second assumption. Nuclear terrorism is a direct and obvious threat to the American way of life and democracy. It simply cannot work where one person retains the ability to destroy entire cities - an open society becomes obsolete. If the second assumption of NeoConservative foreign policy is moot, than America cannot act with the intentions of being loved - it must return to coersion, and be feared. Potential nuclear annhilation tends to the clear the mind.

In the current atmosphere of "inducing love," Tancredo's idea is unhelpful. Threatening Mecca will not bring them into our camp, and largely negates our efforts to create good will in Iraq. It will be broadcast daily by Al Qaeda's propaganda arm at Al Jazeera and elsewhere. Nevertheless, in the context of coersion, nuclear retaliation [not necessarily Mecca: our goal is to scare them, not to turn the entire region into fanatics] is most certainly on the table.

If we can identify the material as being, or suspect it as being from a state sponsor - that state sponsor will be nuked. It is a simple matter of deterrence. Likewise, even if we cannot identify a state sponsor [and don't think that because we cannot identify one, there isn't one - intelligence, especially ours, isn't that perfect], there is a strong possibility that we will respond somewhere in kind. If you do not, you attract more in the future. To do otherwise would declare a nuclear open season on the United States, provided you can hide the source, and judging by the state of our intelligence services, that hardly seems impossible.

*Update: He actually didn't threaten to nuke Mecca, just bomb it. Nevertheless, the question on nuclear response is still out there.*
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I'm planning on posting more later, got to think this through some more.
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Monday, July 18, 2005

Worth a Shot

Tonight I had my book bag stolen from my gym locker, along with about 50 pages of notes on foreign affairs and books I've been reading. This included ideas on everything from the relevance of the Geneva Conventions, to nuclear deterrence, Al Qaeda's operational strategy, and a book review on Michael Scheuer's Imperial Hubris. I was planning on using these for new material on here, so forgive me if posting is a bit slow the next few days. Losing them has set me back a bit; it is disappointing considering the effort I put into them.

I also decided that I might as well send in a link to my post on torture to "The Watchers," and see if they like it.

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.

Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.
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Sunday, July 17, 2005

International Pew Poll Numbers

A large number of bloggers have responded favorably to this report on Muslim attitudes in selected countries towards suicide bombing and Al Qaeda. Favorably, because the report records somewhat of a drop in favorable ratings towards suicide bombers and Osama Bin Laden, and some Muslim optimism towards the adaptability of democracy in the Muslim world. I’ll take my own stabs at explanations for the poll’s findings, and the implications of them.




















There is a general drop in support for suicide bombings, with the odd exception of Jordan. The high number for Lebanon can be explained due to the popularity of Hizballah, which perfected the Muslim use of suicide bombing as a weapon. This resulted in the deaths of over 240 US Marines, and the eventual Israeli retreat from Lebanon, the Muslim world's one lasting victory thus far over them. Pakistan's tribal regions are notorious for Al Qaeda support, and its own jihadists, armed and sent by the Pakistani ISI, use suicide bombings against the Indians in the disputed regions of Kashmir. Jordan is the extreme outlier, and I can only guess that it has to do with Jordanian [Arab] sympathy for Palestinian methods.

The general drop is predictable as Al Qaeda's terrorism becomes increasingly a Muslim [Iraqi] problem, rather than a Western problem. It is much easier to glamorize Al Qaeda as freedom fighters when they're killing Americans and Israelis, and the odd European, rather than co-religionists. Zarqawi himself recognized this early on, it is the unique danger of democratization - it forces him to kill the Iraqis themselves, with the inevitable alienation:

“We fight them, and this is difficult because of the gap that will emerge between us and the people of the land. . . . Democracy is coming, and there will be no excuse thereafter. . . . With the deployment of [Iraqi] soldiers and police, the future has become frightening.”

The question of course is how much of the Islamic world still believes that suicide bombings against civilians are perfectly acceptable so long as it only kills infidels, and whose opinion only changed in the context of dying Iraqis. For a specific example, see an Iraqi man's reaction to the recent suicide bombing,which killed 27 people, mostly children, by attacking US soldiers handing out candy:

"Why do they attack our children? They just destroyed one U.S. Humvee, but they killed dozens of our children," he said as women screamed, slapped their faces and beat themselves over the head..."

As a Belmont Club poster said, the implication is:

"Here is a native, lamenting the amount of damage to US was insufficent grounds for the collateral damage done. If US loses had been higher... well then the sacrifice could well have been worth it."

The Iraqis and their co-religionists better get serious about the enemy. It isn't the Jews; it isn't the Americans; it is your own spawn and neighbors. The conspiracy theories are a nice crutch when the people dying aren't you, but when it comes home in living color, reality is a bitch. End the foreign blame game, and start proactively cleaning house; the enemies live among you - are you. Calling them non-Muslims who were sweet men after they commit the crime isn't enough.


















Most bloggers also commented positively on this chart, pointing out the decline in Bin Laden's popularity in 4 of the 6 listed countries. Honestly, I don't hold so much optimism.

It clearly shows that although politically correct, the description of Bin Laden as attracting support from the "fringe of the fringe" of Islam has little basis in fact, especially in the Arab world. This poll confirms that Bin Laden has favorable majorities in both Jordan and Pakistan. If Jordan is reflective of the Arab world in general, and I suspect it is, we've got problems. Pakistan's high number is no surprise, considering Bin Laden’s popularity among the Taliban sympathizing Pakistani Pashtuns and Pakistan's generally conservative streak. Neither Morocco nor Turkey are particularly known to be bastions of Islamism. The extraordinarily low number for Lebanon, I can't explain. Perhaps the combination of Christians, Syrian Alawite/Sunni secularism, and Hezbollah's radical Shi'ism turn off support for Bin Laden and his agenda.

A key thing I would take from this poll is the large manpower pool that Bin Laden is obviously drawing from. The "fly trap" theory may work to distract Al Qaeda, but it certainly won't drain the world of jihadists. He has much more support than anyone in American political discourse is willing to acknowledge, and we don't even have numbers from a number of countries in the Arab world [Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc] where he's traditionally received high support. For example, an internal Saudi poll estimated that "of several hundred educated people between the ages of 25 and 40 found that 90 percent of the sample expressed support, on some level, for bin Laden."

There’s certainly a gap between respecting Bin Laden for humiliating the Americans, and supporting Al Qaeda, but these aren’t the sort of people who are going to help us eliminate him and his network, at least until they feel the drawbacks themselves [or see Iraqis suffering them].


















Personally, I thought this was the most interesting of the graphics. First of all, it dispels the caricature of Americans as knuckle-dragging anti-Muslim bigots. In fact, except for the conspicuous position of Britons [one wonders whether that's changed in the past week?], Americans gave a lower unfavorable rating to Muslims than any other Western people. The Dutch predictably gave the highest, sparked by backlash against the killings of both populist politician Pim Fortuyn and film maker Theo Van Gogh by unassimilated Muslims. See this piece for more. Generally, European unfavorable ratings towards Islam reflect this fear of unassimilated Muslims: Algerians in France, Turks in Germany, etc. I'd be very interested in seeing post-London polls.

Not surprisingly, it also shows that anti-Semitism is beyond epidemic in the Muslim world, even in increasingly Islamic Turkey. There’s also large amount of ire directed towards “Christians,” something reflecting the anti-“Crusade” siege mentality of the Islamic world. It is interesting that the one country with a large Christian population, Lebanon, is the most favorable towards Christians. European anti-Semitism has been on the upswing in the past few years, typically as a reaction against Israel and drawing from traditional European anti-Semitism.

Some other conclusions: Watch Turkey, there is definitely something happening there. There’s been numerous articles in the Western press describing its increasing Islamic tilt, reflected by the election of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Pew poll seems to confirm this extended influence of Pan-Islamist sympathies. The internal division towards whether increased Islamic influence in Turkey is good or bad (39 vs. 50) reflects the battle between Islamic democrats and Ataturk’s secular legacy. Jordan is also very ominous, and may be a troubling indicator of the state of the wider Arab world. The Jordanian government, even if not its people, is generally considered a more moderate Arab government. One wonders what the poll numbers would be in Jordan had Al Qaeda operatives successfully carried out their intended chemical attack in Amman.
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Saturday, July 16, 2005

Darwin Award Candidates?

From the Pakistan Daily:

"Thousands of tribesmen shouted anti-US slogans on Saturday as they buried three of the 24 suspected militants killed inside Pakistan by US forces operating out of Afghanistan."

"Mourners chanted "Long live Islam" at the funeral held in two villages in the North Waziristan tribal region."


We should have bombed the funeral.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Problems in Shangri-La

Zarqawi has always struck me as an incredibly forceful and ruthless personality, a good enforcer, but also someone who'd tear apart an alliance to have his way. He also has a reputation for positively despising Shi'ites. This led to an early disagreement with Bin Laden over the need to scale back Iraq suicide bombings for public relations effect. Now, he's threatened his former mentor for showing the same misgivings.

His determination is impressive. Nevertheless, I'd still enjoy seeing him slowly pulled through Baghdad for resentful Iraqis to spit at. We could hang the pictures up beside those of Iraqis hitting Saddam statues with their shoes.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Erroneous Headlines from the Guardian

Perhaps someone should tell the British Guardian that, in spite of their headline, the London bombers were not the "first British suicide bombers." In late April, 2003, two British citizens used their foreign passports to exit Gaza with explosives, and one bombed a night spot in Tel Aviv, Mike's Place, killing 3 and wounding 50.

The Guardian also rediscovers the "t word," describing the London bombers as "home-grown terrorists." Because killing Israelis is so much more politically correct, I strongly doubt the Guardian decided to pronouce Britain's prior exports as "terrorists." What's good for the goose is not good for the gander, after all.
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