Monday, July 07, 2003

Tommy Franks: Bring 'em on

This, from ABC News:

On the last day of his command, Franks told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America that he agreed with the president's comment, and he doesn't think more U.S. troops are needed to deal with the recent spate of attacks against American forces.

"The fact is, wherever we find criminals, death squads and so forth who are anxious to do damage to this country and to peace-loving countries around the world, I absolutely agree with the president of the United States: 'bring 'em on," Franks said."

"The sense I have now is that it's not time to send in additional troops," Franks said during an interview with ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer from U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

Repeat after me, 'Tommy Franks knows nothing, absolutely nothing, about modern warfare. The BBC is a far better source of military judgment than Tommy Franks. Tommy Franks needed more men to take Afghanistan. The Afghan winter was going to kill all Western soldiers unused to it. They will never penetrate the caves of Tora-Bora. The force sent against Saddam's elite Republican Guard was inadequate. Baghdad will be another Stalingrad. Mesopotamia will be the death trap of the US Marines. Tommy Franks is a Texan cowboy, how can he know anything? Tommy Franks didn't go to Oxford, how can he know anything? ..." Come to think of it, he didn't even go to West Point.

Now General Franks is not invincible, nor he is an oracle that is invariably right. Yet his judgement represents a synthesis of the best intelligence available weighed by a command judgement that not even Norman Schwartzkopf can equal. Tommy Franks is not always right in matters of war, just usually.

The Four Teams

The murder of a 1st Armored Division soldier at Baghdad University after he bought a soft drink and the American response provides confirming datum on the nature of the fight against the Ba'athists in Iraq.

  • The resistance is organized into at least three, and now possibly four cells, each distinguishable by a modus operandi. The first cell specializes in close-range shots with a small caliber pistol to the back of the head of the victim.  Three victims have fallen to this attack: an American soldier shopping in Baghdad on June 27, 2003 and a British cameraman on June 29th. The second cell is built around a sniper called The Hunter. Two and possibly three US soldiers have been shot by a man at long range probably using a specialized weapon with a telescopic sight. The third cell or cells, which are far less specialized, use remotely controlled exposives or rocket-propelled grenades to attack isolated vehicles. The fourth, and newly organized cell used mortars to attack a US Army base on July 4.
  • The American forces are well aware of the nature of the threat against them. By employing counter-ambush tactics, a US patrol killed 11 attackers who were attempting to waylay them with rocket-propelled grenades. The US response to the murder of the soldier on the Baghdad campus is also telling. They had probably analyzed the earlier murder on June 27th and immediately "flooded the zone" with searching troops when a similar incident occured in the hopes of catching the assassin as he walked away.

The pattern of operations clearly indicates that the resistance does not consist of unschooled farmers or imams who resent the American presence. The techniques of small-caliber assassination and long range sniping indicate their perpetrators are professional killer, probably ex-secret policemen trained by Soviet techniques. The use of mortars is strongly reminiscent of the Hezbollah's attacks in Lebanon. Even the use of remotely controlled exposives is a skill far beyond the normal training of an ordinary Iraqi ex-Army veteran. In a strange way, this is very good news because it indicates that the opposition is very narrowly based.

But it is the tempo of attacks that is most revealing. There's a gap of several days between attacks of a given method. This strongly suggests a limited number of teams. The Hunter, for example, operates in built-up Baghdad, as does the small-caliber pistol cell. The rocket-propelled grenade teams operate north of the city, in the area between the capital and Tikrit. The intervening period is probably used to identify a new target, reposition and set up a new attack. The probable goal of the Ba'ath is to kill one American a day, and more if possible.

The Response

The American response seems to have taken two forms. The first is an attempt to find the cells from the center. The killer teams need central direction and money. The US sweeps, namely Peninsula Strike, Desert Scorpion and Sidewinder, have been aimed at catching parts of the command apparatus who know the names of these Ba'athist killers. The second response is more tactical. One the road, the patrols have been stalking the would-be ambushers. Although nothing has been announced, the US is probably fielding buddy teams, where one team provides an overwatch while the other moves. There are probably US snipers engaged in counter-sniper stalks around Baghdad. Ground commanders are probably engaging in counter-surveillance: that is, spotting people who are watching US troops. Patrols are probably randomly and evasively routed.

The US is probably retasking a lot of technical assets too. The aerial surveillance and computer-controlled video cameras are probably going to be used to provide blanket coverage of any place an incident occurs. There are reports of a very high performance image recognition system which can track individual faces through cheap, networked video cameras.

And of course, there are informers. The US has seized several hundred Ba'athist cadres in recent weeks, and doubtless some of them are going to be doubled. When you come right down to it, the informer game runs on money. And America has more money than the Ba'ath.

Yet by and large the Ba'ath are failing to stop a single American initiative. Oil production continues. Iraqi policemen continue to be trained. Reconstruction continues. Although the Ba'ath killers are able to create the regular incident, their enemy continues to sink his roots deep into their soil. Saddam's men are shoveling sh..t against the tide. America will win. And the Ba'ath will die.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

The Last Days of Militant Islam

The smell of putrefaction is in the air.

Leading the parade is the Al-Quaeda, who may have been behind a suicide attack on a Pakistani Shi'ite mosque, killing at least 44.  Meanwhile, two female suicide bombers detonated bombs at the entrance to an auditorium where a popular rock group called the Wings was playing for Russian 40,000 teenagers, killing at least 16 and wounding 60. Meanwhile, a roadside bomb wiped out an entire formation of  Iraqi police cadets, killing 7 and wounding more than 50. Elsewhere, the principal suspect in the suicide bombings in Riyadh blew himself up, along with two others when cornered by Saudi police. All in the last couple of days.

It is the smell of Militant Islam rotting.

Muslims killing Muslims; Muslims killing kids; Muslims killing themselves. The Death-O-Rama that is the Religion of Peace. Did they think that the hatred -- and the belt-bombs, ricin, anthrax -- they so generously funded would never be directed against themselves? Did they not stop to think that they themselves would soon be the principal victims of the fatwahs, stonings, handcutting, beheadings and floggings they were so fond of? That when the prayer leader brandishes his sword from the pulpit that it might not be their necks stretched on the chopping block? Did they imagine that dressing up their children as little suicide bombers would have no effect? That the child might one day return to his father's door to put his childhood instruction into practice? That's what one Canadian father has just realized.

The father of a Canadian terrorist suspect who was killed in a shootout with Saudi police said Friday his son was a "perfect teenager" but fell prey to extremist groups that valued his western passport, fluent English and North American education. "They tricked him," Mansour Jabarah said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from Kuwait City.

And therefore never send to know for whom the fat lady ululates; she ululates for thee

Friday, July 04, 2003

The Last of the Vietnam Vets

The retirement of Tommy Franks from CENTCOM and active service (see Ulysses Comes Home at the Belmont Club brings the US armed forces very close to the time when the last of the Vietnam veterans will have gone from its institutional memory. Frank's replacement, John Abizaid, graduated from West Point in1973. The Chief of the Joint Staff, Richard Myers, was a combat fighter pilot in Vietnam, but he and the others who served with him in that country, will soon be gone.

After that, the only remaining Vietnam veterans will be in the press, where they are never retired, nor indeed had to have been present to achieve their status. For Leftist journalists the world over, the bar at the Caravelle Hotel will always be open and the calendar forever stuck in 1965.

Which is a pity, because "U.S. troops today killed 11 Iraqis who ambushed a convoy outside Baghdad in one of the heaviest clashes since major hostilities in the Iraq war ended two months ago", according to the Washington Post. Vietnam just won't come back. The Post adds hopefully that "other American soldiers were injured in three separate attacks that demonstrated the increasing sophistication and brazenness of guerrilla-style strikes in Iraq" The Ba'athist attacks over this period included a mortar attack on Balad, at which two soldiers were seriously injured and a sniper attack in Baghdad, in which one soldier was killed. Left unsaid is that on this same day, apart from major combat action, US forces made hundreds of arrests from over 2,000 patrols nationwide. Many of these arrests are targeted at the Ba'ath resistance leadership, which may be headed by Saddam Hussein himself. Belmont Club predicts that since the Ba'ath are losing bigtime and keep losing, that they will lose. The bar at the Caravelle will stay open, but all the waiters will be ghosts. Vietnam is as distant in time from Iraq as the Somme was to Vietnam.

So the press reserves small print for this: Suicide Attack on Pakistan Mosque Kills 44. It doesn't fit with the Vietnam scenario, but is astounding on its own terms: the bombers are Sunnis and the bombees are Shi'ites. Muslim suicide bombers against a mosque. Therefore there will be no inquiry by the United Nations, no marches in Paris and London, because the Left in its own racist way, consider crimes by nonwhites on nonwhites to be noncrimes.

A suicide bombing attack by Episcopalians against a Catholic church resulting in more than 40 deaths might arouse some some comment, but this massacre can only elicit the irrelevant observation that "the attack will come as an embarrassment for Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led 'war on terrorism,' who tried during his visit to Europe and the United States to calm investors' fears after a spate of attacks on Western and Christian targets in Pakistan last year blamed on Islamic militants." Hardly. This suicide bombing shows that the toxic doctrines of militant Islam are starting to consume Muslims the world over. There have always been sectarian conflicts in the Muslim world. Did they imagine that the ricin, airplane bombs, anthrax, suicide belts, fatwahs etc would never be turned on apostates?

Leftist blinders have impoverished the intellectual powers of the press. The monumental events convulsing Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Africa, Iran, the Middle East and North Asia pass almost unremarked, or only cursorily analyzed -- because it does not suit their book. It isn't Vietnam. None so blind as they who will not see.

How many for Canada?

Marcus Gee of the Toronto Globe and Mail sets new standards for presumption:

Yesterday in Monrovia, a crowd gathered outside the U.S. embassy for a pro-American demonstration. Yes, you read that right: pro-American. For the past week or so, Liberians have been coming to the embassy to beg U.S. President George W. Bush to send troops to their chaotic country. ''George Bush, save Liberia!'' they shout. Or: ''Send the Marines to guard us.''

In a world ablaze with anti-Americanism, the Liberians' plea for U.S. intervention is more than just a curiosity. It is a golden opportunity.

On what empirical basis does Marcus Gee conclude that the world is "ablaze with anti-Americanism"? In my own experience that are literally billions of people who would undergo considerable hardship to become or have a chance of becoming Americans. Including Canadians. Did you hear that, Marcus Gee?

And to back that assertion up, I propose an empirical test. In any Third World country at all, bar none, including Arab countries, let's ask give a sample of the population whether they would rather move to Toronto to read the Globe and Mail or move to New York to read the New York Post. If Marcus Gee's assertion is correct, the vast majority would want to go to Toronto. In fact, the vast majority would go anywhere but the United States. If Marcus Gee were right. But of course, he is wrong. More people probably want to go to Sydney, Australia than to Toronto, Canada. And significantly more people would prefer to live in Buffalo than Toronto.

How many for Canada? Eh?

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Bring them on

President Bush correctly challenged the Islamists to attack American troops in Iraq. CNN quotes the President as saying on July 2, 2003:

"There are some that feel like if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they are talking about if that is the case. Let me finish. There are some who feel like the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on."

On June 22, 2003, the Belmont Club wrote in Come on Down that, "while the death of every American soldier is a tragedy, in the calculus of war, the Arabs must lose. By congregating in Iraq, the Islamists are unilaterally giving up their advantages of dispersion. The convoy system during the Battle of the Atlantic was designed to bring the U-boats to the destroyers. Now the Islamists are coming to the US Armed forces. Let them come."

President Bush's challenge, which essentially makes the same point, makes perfect military sense. Iraq is an ideal place to engage the Islamists because it develops in the US Armed Forces exactly the capabilities necessary to defeat them globally. Moreover, a defeat of Islamic fundamentalists inside an Arab country, right next to Iran will manifestly show that the Jihadists can be beaten anywhere, even in conditions most favorable to them. As the previous post puts it, "A United States defeat in Iraq will be a setback, but an Arab defeat will be a catastrophe."

Democratic Presidential candidate Dick Gephardt said "the president should stop with the phony, macho rhetoric. I have a message for the president," Gephardt said in a statement. "We should be focused on a long-term security plan that reduces the danger to our military personnel." Gephardt's idea is rank idiocy. The purpose of a nation's armed force is to seek out and destroy the enemy. It has no other function. If he were the Commander of the Western Approaches during the Battle of the Atlantic, Gephardt would anchor every destroyer and corvette in harbor. He would save every destroyer and in the process, lose the entire war.

It is Gephardt's rhetoric that is phony -- and stupid besides. The Democrats had better field a candidate that understands national defense real soon. The Gephardts, Pelosis and Howard Deans are promising to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Ulysses Comes Home

CENTCOM has announced the replacement of General Tommy R. Franks, who successfully conducted the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq,  by Lieutenant General John P. Abizaid on July 7, 2003. According to MSNBC, General Franks, 57, will retire.

Military officers in many other nations cling to power as long as they can, often subverting civilian authority in an attempt to prolong their tenures. But the retirement of General Franks recalls the departure from service of General Norman Schwartzkopf and underlines the American tradition returning the victorious warrior home to private life, however great his accomplishments, just as did George Washington, Robert Lee, Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. Washington famously resigned his commission at the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris and rode straight home to Mount Vernon. Robert Lee returned from Appomatox to serve as president of Washington College.

His replacement, Lieutenant General John P. Abizaid, is an American parable in a different sort of way. The grandson of Lebanese immigrants, Abizaid speaks Arabic, studied in Jordan and at Harvard. Before seniority took him away from direct field command, his military career read like a history of the late Cold War and it's aftermath in miniature.

Lieutenant General Abizaid was commissioned a second lieutenant of Infantry upon graduation from the United States Military Academy in June 1973. He started his career with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served as a rifle and scout platoon leader. He commanded companies in the 2nd and 1st Ranger Battalions, leading a Ranger Rifle Company during the invasion of Grenada.

Lieutenant General Abizaid commanded the 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Battalion combat Team in Vicenza, Italy, during the Gulf crisis and deployed with the battalion to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. His brigade command was the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He served as the Assistant Division Commander, 1st Armored Division, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Following that tour, he served as the 66th Commandant at West Point. Most recently, he commanded 1st Infantry Division, the “Big Red One,” in Wurzburg. The 1st Infantry Division formed the core of Task Force Falcon in Kosovo.

Individual American commanders enter the stage of history from ordinary life and return to it, in affirmation of the truth that the sole value of war lies in what it is meant to protect. In some essential way and despite all the trappings of modernity, the United States Armed Forces remains what it was at Lexington, a body of men for whom warfare is just an unwelcome interruption, with the harvest waiting and the hearth-fire calling.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Notes from all over

They don't make quagmires like they used to

Ralph Peters argues that the press is wrongly portraying the Ba'athist attacks on US troops in Iraq as a quagmire.

Our troops are doing remarkably well - but the headlines make it sound like a disaster. Last weekend, almost as many Americans died in a residential balcony collapse in Chicago as have been killed by hostile fire in "postwar" Iraq. As a former soldier, I don't discount any American casualties as unimportant. But the fact is that, despite real errors and miscues, reconstruction efforts in Iraq are going surprisingly well. How bad is it in Iraq? It's terrible - if you're a former Saddam loyalist, ex-secret policeman or Ba'ath Party muckety-muck on the wrong end of Operation Sidewinder. The party's over for Baghdad's bully-boys, and they don't much like it. ... We shouldn't be surprised that the last embittered thugs are engaging in occasional acts of terrorism against us - on the contrary, we should be relieved that we see so little continuing resistance. After toppling a totalitarian regime that ruled a population of 25 million for over a generation, it's amazing that we face only one or two attacks every few days. We could be suffering hundreds of incidents daily, if the population stood behind Saddam & Co. On our worst day last week, when two convoys came under attack, more than 600 other U.S. convoys didn't hear a single shot. Two patrols got into firefights. The other 500 patrols didn't even get hit with a water balloon.

 Peters disagreed with the press all throughout the Iraqi Freedom campaign. He was right, as it turns out, and they were wrong.

The French

Not a big fan of Little Green Footballs, but they are right to denounce the removal of the American flag from the Battle of Normandy Museum in Bayeux, France. This is not only dishonest historical revisionism, but sacrilege. My uncle came ashore on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. He was four-foot eleven, but after looking at the proud pictures of this sophisticated French Museum, I can confidently say that he had more courage in his little body than may be found in all of French polity today. The French deserve themselves.

Some Real Intellectualism for a Change

Those of you who pine for a higher level of intellectual discourse, i.e. Leftist discourse, need wait no longer. A guest blogger from France at Winds of Change writes this gem. Note the clarity of analysis. Observe how the Marxist critique allows the mind to virtually soar on wings.

The False Bourgeois Consciousness Of The Left: Towards A New Hermeneutic
by Gabriel Gonzalez

"I am not a Marxist" – Karl Marx

The debate over the war in Iraq has exposed a gaping chasm between the Left's rhetoric of opposition to Western domination and imperialism in the cause of championing a progressive and nominally pro-third world agenda and the hard "reality" implied by the concrete positions it actually espouses. The contradictions between left-wing anti-war moralism and the horrors of an oppressive police state have laid bare the symptomatically flawed dialectic within leftist discourse. This is most manifest in the structuration of current leftist dogma articulating a set of ideological themes that share as their central focus a neo-capitalist reconceptualization of exploitation and oppression within a narrow range of political discourse. These dominant leftist themes are:

  1. anti-globalization,
  2. an uncompromising and essentialist pacifism,
  3. an extreme desexualized feminism, and
  4. a pro-Palestinian (anti-Israeli) ideology.

On all of these issues, whilst the Left views itself as externalizing positions and motivations in opposition to global capitalism and empire and in favor of liberation from exploitation, in reality, these positions and motivations reveal themselves to be objectively pro-capitalist. Indeed, they reflect two related political facts: (1) the false bourgeois consciousness inherent in leftist ideology and (2) the reduction of leftist politics to a tool of late imperialist capitalism.

Anti-Globalization

The left's opposition to globalization is clearly not motivated by a concern for "true" liberation from oppression – i.e., intrinsically and independently self-validating – or for the interests of third world peoples, who largely favor free trade and open markets as a means towards sustainable development. Indeed, leftist narratives, upon closer examination, tend to advocate the localization of surplus value within advanced capitalist societies, thus promoting inequality and, more important, allowing the resolution of conflictualities arising out of the concentration of increasingly diffuse – and hence uncontrolled - means of production within a dialectic that is both satisfying and depolarizing. The outcomes are reflected in the form of increased capitalist exploitation of labor in pre-proletarian advanced economies, coupled with increased imperialist domination in pre-capitalist societies. The exportation of such dominant ludic pedagogies to third world elites perpetuates the system of patriarchal imperial capitalism on a global scale in which such elites are complicit, even if unconsciously so, thereby maintaining, and demonstrating, the force of the substructural determinants of the dominant ideological, self-referential narrativity of bourgeois values. Leftist ideology thereby contributes to the defense of capitalist systems and the impoverishment of the developing world...

Read the whole thing. I believe he's serious.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Grinding the Enemy Down

Europeans and Asians are often distressed by the monomaniacal nature of American society. There is probably no deeper desire in US culture, with the possible exception of getting rich, than the desire to "get better" at something. In the guerilla war between the Ba'ath Party stay-behinds and the US Army, Saddam's men enjoyed the initial advantage of familiarity with both inhabitants and terrain, and a built-in network of contacts. How could they lose to newcomers? As the Belmont Club predicted, they would lose progressively, as the US singlemindedly built up their intelligence capabilities with all the focus that American monomania and resources could produce. The Americans would get "better" until they were the best. In particular, Americans would remember what the Ba'ath forgot: that those who have local friends have local enemies. The dollar and resentment creates informers.

Nowhere is this more evident than in this CNN report:

U.S. troops arrested the interim governor of Najaf on kidnapping and corruption charges Monday as they continued efforts to quell attacks on coalition troops in Iraq. The arrest of Abu Haydar Abdul Mun'im "demonstrates the coalition's determination to enforce the rule of law in Iraq," a statement from the U.S.-led provisional authority said. Mun'im's deputy will replace him as interim governor, the statement said. Mun'im is accused of kidnapping and holding hostages, pressuring government employees to perform financial crimes, attacking a bank official and stealing funds, the statement said. Details of the charges were not released. He was arrested at the request of Iraqi court officials in Najaf, south of Baghdad, and will be tried under Iraqi law, according to the coalition provisional authority.

Najaf, as the reader will recall, was one of the centers of Iraq resistance in the days after the Iraqi Army disintegrated. Note the shrewd use of "divide and conquer". The Christian Science Monitor, in an article entitled Iraqis begin warming to US presence describes this:

Starting at dawn Monday, American soldiers searching for weapons on the southern outskirts of Baghdad knocked on door after door, visiting house after house. On 2,300 separate visits, they were let in by quietly cooperative Iraqis, and then moved on. ... Another neighborhood this unit patrols divides evenly right down a main street - with slightly more posh houses on one side. On the "poorer" side, "they love us to death. You can't drink all the tea they offer us," Lt. Col. Haight says. But on the other side, full of Baath Party loyalists, it is "pretty anti-American."

Like all Third World societies, Iraq is divided into a set of oppressive haves and oppressed have-nots, a divide which Americans will ruthlessly exploit. By making the Iraq justice system work and by providing meritocratic channels for the poor to rise in society, the United States can trump guerilla warfare with class warfare. The Ba'ath ruling class will discover what the Royally appointed Tories learned in the War of Independence and what the southern slaveowners discovered during the Civil War: that the sword of freedom is terrible and swift, and that liberators can always find an abundance of allies among the downtrodden. That is something the Left, which speaks of liberation but acts to oppress, will never understand.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Desert Sidewinder

This today:

CAMP BOOM, Iraq (AP) - U.S. forces launched a massive operation early Sunday to crush insurgents and capture senior figures from the ousted regime in a show of force designed to stem a wave of deadly attacks on U.S. troops. Also Sunday, the U.S. civilian administrator of Iraq said American forces must kill or capture Saddam so he can no longer be a rallying point for anti-coalition attacks that have killed more than 60 American troops since the war ended. The operation, dubbed "Desert Sidewinder," was taking place in a huge swath of central Iraq stretching from the Iranian border to the areas north of Baghdad, and was expected to last several days, military officials said.

The most notable thing about this operation is it's simultaneity and wide geographical coverage to prevent one group of fugitives from seeking shelter with another. The Arab Times says that "Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division and Task Force Ironhorse conducted more than 20 simultaneous raids involving attack aviation, armor and infantry forces," the US military said in a statement. More than 60 suspects were detained in the raids along with weapons and military documents believed to relate to the former regime, the statement said. "The raids target former Baath Party loyalists, terrorists suspected of perpetrating attacks against US forces and former Iraqi military leaders, and to locate weapons and ammunition caches," the statement added." It's also interesting that Paul Bremer should set up the marker of killing or capturing Saddam Hussein. Executives normally don't like to raise expectations unless they know they can exceed them. Certainly one of the units slipstreaming behind the 4th ID units will be the shadowy Task Force 20.

A long article by MSNBC recounts an operation against a convoy suspected to be carrying Saddam Hussein and his sons. It ends with the correspondent standing before "something out of a James Bond movie, a group of palatial compounds with nothing but sand for miles around". It was empty, but troopers that MSNBC interviewed believed that the occupants of the compound were swept up by Task Force 20 and taken to an undisclosed location. One thing is for sure, whoever was captured that night has a lot of company today.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Building a Second Tier Force

Esther Schrader of the Los Angeles Times is reporting a new Rumsfeld initiative at the Pentagon: the organization of a standing peacekeeping force. "The force would operate outside the United Nations and NATO and would include thousands of US troops trained and permanently assigned to peacekeeping work." Charles Pena, of the Cato Institute, is quoted as saying: "We're not terribly good at peacekeeping, so I don't know why we would be training people to be peacekeepers." Well neither is the United Nations, Mr. Pena, but you missed the best part of Schrader's article:  "Mr Rumsfeld's proposal would probably be opposed by the US Army, which has resisted efforts to have its troops drawn into peacekeeping duties." That's the clue to this ballgame right there.

Donald Rumsfeld's drive to recreate the US Armed Forces into a lighter, next-generation combat machine raised the problem of what to do with all the legacy equipment and personnel. Schrader's article answers part of the question. The unwanted stuff is going into a second tier standing peacekeeping force. Pena and most commentators are wrong to think of this as a wholly new development. It is nothing more than an institutionalization of the existing peacekeeping arrangements in Afghanistan and Iraq and the creation of a dumping ground for all the losers of the Rumsfeld reorganization.

For example, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) deployed in Afghanistan is made up of troops from over a dozen countries. Although sanctioned by the UN Security Council, it is under NATO command. The peacekeeping mission in Iraq will involve even more nations than Afghanistan. So it makes perfect sense to replace the palimpsest of ad hoc arrangements with a definitive new peacekeeping command.

One of the principal defects of the UN peacekeeping system was it's lack of professional staff work. There was simply no headquarters which would anticipate and prepare for contingencies, unless the travesty in New York were regarded as serious. What peacekeeping needed was the equivalent of the regional global commands into which the US Armed Forces has long been organized, which would anticipate and prepare contingency plans to which operating assets could be "chopped" or assigned as needed.

This initiative will be opposed, not so much by the left, but by the old warhorses in the Pentagon facing what amounts to a professional demotion.

Friday, June 27, 2003

The Low-intensity Battlefield

In the last 24 hours, these headlines:

  • Israelis versus the Palestinians
  • Saudis versus the "militants"
  • Two Americans soldiers missing in Iraq
  • Communists raid a military camp in Southeastern Philippines
  • Fighting in Liberia
  • NZ, Australian soldiers bound for the Solomons
  • Tamil Tigers make demands on Sri Lankan government

All of these are "low-intensity" conflicts. The US Armed Forces is the definite master of high-intensity fighting. But valid doubts remain over it's ability to prosecute war against a chronic foe. In the public mind, the ghost of Vietnam has never been fully laid to rest by Desert Storm or Iraqi Freedom. The left especially is unconvinced that the US can win against a guerilla enemy.

It is ironic that guerilla warfare has been epitomized by the Vietnam conflict, because it was the least so. Nearly all the major engagements were fought between uniformed members of the US and North Vietnamese Armies. The Tet, Ia Drang, Khe Sanh and Cambodian border campaigns were straight fights between armies. Those who watched Mel Gibson's We Were Young and Soldiers, will note that not a single "guerilla" action took place in this quintessential Vietnam war story. What made Vietnam different was the declaration of "sanctuaries" and the imposition of unilateral restraints on American action by Lyndon Johnson. The better model for guerilla warfare is Lebanon. Here, the Israeli Defense Forces were engaged against clandestine cells funded by Syria. Substitute Iraq for Lebanon and Iran for Syria and you have today's battlefield.

Against a hezbollah type enemy, current US doctrine calls for sword-and-shield tactics. The American sword is information, as stored in computers and organizational experience, and exploited by highly trained hit teams. The shield is the dumb old army, whose battlefield function is to preserve the sword from enemy attack. By contrast, the guerilla nervous system -- it's computer files, communications, leadership cadres, arms caches, etc are subject to seizure. Once found, it is dead meat for high-intensity forces. The American calculus is that it will acquire information dominance over time, as it's human and technical assets grow with an investment that is not subject to disruptions or loss due to enemy action. It will do to the guerillas what it did to the Japanese airmen of World War 2: pit increasingly experienced pilots against increasingly inexperienced ones.

The Islamic guerilla has begun to adjust to this strategy. For example, the Al Qaeda has abandoned its old hierarchical cell structure, which has been devastated, in favor of decentralized, locally funded "franchises". Emphasis has moved away from high-tech assaults on targets like the World Trade Center or the Pentagon to simply shooting an American, Brit or Israeli -- anywhere in the world. It is attempting to counter the American attack on its nervous system by abolishing the nervous system itself. It is attempting to implement random murder as a method of warfare. If in simple military terms, the Islamic strategy is inconsequential, (Killing seven Americans a week in a world where there are 800 US traffic deaths per week.) it is the symbolism that matters: Arabs are fighting! Moreover, the mere continuation of the threat imposes a disproportionate cost on the world in terms of airport searches, curfews, the loss of tourist revenues, anxiety, etc. The ultimate achievement of the Islamic guerilla has been to transform himself into a boogeyman. Both Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have abandoned their physical existences and become dark spirits, where they commune, perhaps literally, with Freddy Kreuger. Against this, US doctrine has no riposte -- yet. But we know from open source literature that nano-listening devices, biological tracers, pervasive electronic surveillance, and submollecular-assasination devices will form part of the American sword of the future.

The soil of Arabia is infest with old evil: Baal, Moloch and Pazzuzu -- and others you might care to add --  such that the Cult of Assassins spontaneously sprang up in that fertile field. Old and secure on its ancient ground, this evil flicked down a pair of towers in downtown Manhattan. Now, from the over the sea, comes a Storm with bright talons and piercing stars in its whirling heart. The old gods of Arabia smile but feel a secret doubt. For the first time in history, the old evil of Arabia may have met a force greater than itself.

The First Shoe Drops ...

The Belmont Club held that the death of the six British military policemen in Majar Al-Kabir in Iraq resulted from  an overly defensive British posture, and that treachery played a significant part in the incident. All of the initial media stories, especially those from the BBC, initially put the incident down to Iraqi hatred towards Westerners. Now the Washington Post is confirming the Belmont Club. Here's the take on British defensive tactics.

The reliance on militiamen to maintain public order -- a tactic used by British forces in other parts of Iraq because of what some military officials contend is a shortage of troops -- has led to unease among many Iraqis. The irregular security forces are not only poorly trained and equipped, they say, but place the interests of their tribal, religious and political leaders above the law.

The British reliance on local militia, the so-called "hearts and minds" campaign praised by the media in contrast with the American hunt of the Ba'ath, was fatal.

when an angry mob surrounded the police station here and began shooting at a group of British military police inside the building, the militiamen vanished. With only a few Iraqi police trainees fighting in behalf of the outnumbered British, the throng waited until the soldiers had exhausted their ammunition before barging in and killing at least four of them at close range.

And the attack was planned. Here's the treachery part.

... Mahoud (a locally famous guerrilla fighter) said he believed the killings were motivated by more than just anger over weapons searches and an attempt by British paratroops to patrol the local market. He said he believed provocateurs -- either agents from Iran or members of the Baath Party -- were responsible for instigating the crowd.

The death of the British soldiers served everyone's book. The smugglers could keep their heavy weapons. The Iranian Shi'ites could kill their Brits. The Ba'ath could escape. All that was needed were a few bucks in the palms of the militia. Here's the Belmont Club's revised scenario, identical in essence to the original. After the attack on the Parachute Regiment patrol, the British military policemen were assured by the militia that it was safe to continue their mission. An irate crowd "happened" to appear in the course of training. The militia asked the Brits to help control the crowd. The MPs left their Land Rover and radio. As the Brits attempted to guide their "trainees" in the nonviolent procedure, the trainees vanished.. The Brits fell back on the police station, sans radio, only to find themselves alone. The rest is history.

All the earlier media stories about a mob of devout Muslims incensed by the use of dogs, or rumors of a weapons search among women, were, as I suspected, a crock. As Sherlock Holmes used to say, "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Come On Down

The Daily Star reports that "Attacks against American and British troops in Iraq will increase and could encourage an influx of Arab volunteers to join the emerging resistance, analysts say. “I believe we are seeing the beginning of an Iraqi national resistance, which will spread out and escalate throughout Iraq,” said Mohammed Aziz Shukri, a professor of international law at Damascus University.

This is excellent news.

The selection of Iraq as a battleground between the United States and Arab terrorism is a fatal choice for the Islamists. A United States defeat in Iraq will be a setback, but an Arab defeat will be a catastrophe. Having lost on the conventional battlefield, the Islamists want to try consequences in the field of low-intensity warfare. They will fail utterly.

The pattern of combat operations in Iraq is this: the Islamists attack isolated vehicles or individuals. In contrast, the United States attacks the Islamist leadership structures and their cell structure. The American attack the Chiefs; the Arabs the Indians. And the Americans kill by the hundred. While the death of every American soldier is a tragedy, in the calculus of war, the Arabs must lose. By congregating in Iraq, the Islamists are unilaterally giving up their advantages of dispersion. The convoy system during the Battle of the Atlantic was designed to bring the U-boats to the destroyers. Now the Islamists are coming to the US Armed forces. Let them come.

As the US intelligence networks in Iraq improve with the acquisition of local informers, as more intelligence leads are prosecuted, the Islamist casualty rate will skyrocket beyond belief. The Islamists will lose the low-intensity fight in Iraq by a catastrophic margin.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Dedicated, with Amazement, to the Man I Used to Be

The wonderful thing about the past is that is always better than it was. This is true of nations and individuals, but particularly true of journalists. Especially those who warn darkly of a "quagmire" or a "spiral" in Iraq. Turn back the clock ten years and what do we see? One third of the entire United States Navy routinely deployed to the Persian Gulf: ten and twenty thousand men at a time -- the manpower equivalent of two infantry divisions -- plus an equivalent number in transit and another in training, deployed year, after year, after year. Then there was the "No Fly Zone" of which there were two, in which hundreds of aircraft operated out of hideously expensive rented facilities in Turkey and Kuwait to patrol designated boxes of Iraqi airspace. And there were casualties, too, in those days of peace.

  • 1995, attack on U.S. military advisors in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 7 deaths, 42 injured
  • 1996, Khobar Towers USAF barracks bombing, Saudi Arabia, 19 deaths, 500 injured
  • 1998, bombing of U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya 291 deaths, 5000 injured
  • 2000, bombing of U.S.S. Cole, Aden, Yemen 17 deaths, 39 injured

And more, if we count the Islamic Jihad bombing of the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1982 which resulted in 291 deaths. And of course, September 11, 2001. Back in the days of peace.

The entire strategic thinking of the United States, in those halcyon days, was called the Two Major Regional Conflict Strategy, which basically meant that half the US Armed Forces was tied down waiting for trouble in Arabia, while the other half was tied down waiting for trouble in the Korean Peninsula. Quagmires did not exist  back then, when the most effective US military response was to salvo hundreds of cruise missiles, each costing more than a million dollars, into the hills of Afghanistan.

Today, the United States Armed Forces are still taking casualties, but they are taken in the act of tearing the heart out of the Arab system; the jihadist system, the terrorist system. There are special teams, like Task Force 20, which are hunting out the terrorists all over Arabia. There are American advisers who are molding a new Arab army in a different image. There is plain security work. There is reconstruction work and a educational system in the bowels of the enemy. The past is a beguiling thing, but it is the press and not the United States Armed Forces, that is stuck in it. For many journalists the world over, the clocked stopped at the bar of the Caravelle Hotel, in Saigon, 1969.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A Setup

The BBC provided me with an additional reason to believe that the six British soldiers were killed by treachery, and not by an angry crowd. Their own picture. In an article titled Eyewitness: Walls riddled with bullets, BBC correspondent Clive Myrie says: "Yesterday hundreds of people protested in front of the police station," he told me. "The soldiers fired shots and the people fired back. They then attacked the building."  The local people say four Iraqis were killed and four were injured. By all accounts the attack on the police station was frenzied. Scores of people armed to the teeth flooded in and the British military policemen taking cover in the desolate building didn't stand a chance. Four of them died in a small room at the station and two more were killed outside in the yard.

Bullshit. Look at the BBC photo below showing the "bullet-riddled" police station building. The marks on the building were made by one or two bursts of assault rifle fire, perhaps 15 rounds total. It isn't aimed fire. The shots are not clustered around windows. The lightbulb near the water pipe isn't even scratched. If hundreds of frenzied armed men were firing at a building, it would really would be "riddled".

Some other things that may occur to you, dear reader, which will never occur to a BBC reporter are:

  1. why British MPs should fire at a crowd and not call for reinforcements;
  2. why no Iraqi policemen were injured in the attack;
  3. why an ambush on a UK Parachute Regiment patrol involving RPGs and heavy machineguns (try moving those around secretly) occurred in the same town at the same time. Frenzied crowds sure do get around.

By the way, the British Army's version, which is given one line in the BBC account is:  "The British authorities say it was an unprovoked attack by the crowd - cold-blooded murder." You decide.

What's the world coming to?

A French Novel Trashing NGOs ...

Well it seems it really is open season on NGOs. A French author called Iegor Gran has just written a novel titled "ONG", which is, of course, French for NGO. From the little that I can make out, it is an absurdist account of how an NGO goes about scheming and blackmailing ways. Read the review in Amazon (in French). Of course, the shenanigans of NGOs has been documented before. Graham Hancock's Lords of Poverty remains a classic which may make you think twice about dropping that dollar into the donation pail.

The United States of Europe won't be like the Original

Media groups on Tuesday reacted with disbelief to the disclosure that the European Commission is considering a law to ban sexist television programs and advertising. The European Publishers Council, which represents 29 media corporations, described the move as an “extraordinary” move towards censorship.

Read the whole thing.

Wrong Move by Britain

Britain has demanded the surrender of the killers of 6 UK soldiers from civilian authorities in Majar al-Kabir, Iraq. This strikes me as entirely counterproductive. What will Britain do if the civilian authorities refuse? Demand the surrender of the civilian authorities from the civilian authorities? And if they move to arrest a defiant civil authority they will have two enemies in place of one. They should have gone for the killers themselves.

The Belmont Club earlier contrasted the aggressive US policy of hunting down terrorist cells with the British approach of winning "hearts and minds" -- with Tommies in cases standing guard in coexistence with armed militiamen. The press has praised the British approach, which is one reason to suspect it. Anyone who does the math will realize that the Americans are capturing or killing many tens of key Ba'ath cadres for every soldier they lose. The downside of this ferocity has been analyzed by Phil Carter, but the Americans have intelligence files and key enemy leadership in custody. What the British have is dead soldiers and empty hands.

Affirmative Action from an Filipino-American Point of View

There are two articles worth noting by Filipino-Americans on Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the principle of race-based affirmative action. The first is from an American Spectator article by Robert Garcia Tagorda, a Filipino-American due to attend the Harvard Kennedy School of Government this fall. Tagorda cites his own experience to demonstrate how Filipinos by a quirk of categorization, are placed in the same handicap category as Japanese-Americans, while Mexicans with whom he shares a greater cultural similarity, are given preference. That meant, in Tagorda's own experience, that a preferred minority with a lower GPA and a similar extracurricular achievement standard meant that he lost out.

In 1996, my high school sweetheart and I ranked atop our class. I had a grade-point average above 4.30 and she just slightly below. As I co-captained the volleyball team and co-founded the poetry club, she entered swim meets and helped coordinate the honor society. After school, she tutored elementary students, and I delivered pizza. We served as student senators, volunteered at local charities, and scored 1270 on the SAT (I later retook the exam and reached the 1300s). Besides enjoying the same education, we lived in comparable middle-class Los Angeles County neighborhoods. With nearly identical records and backgrounds, we applied to the same top schools, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Claremont McKenna College.

The similarities ended there. Though we both had immigrant backgrounds, her family came from Mexico and mine from the Philippines. Eventually, whereas she earned admission to all but one school, I got rejected from all but one school. Of two equal candidates, university officials preferred the Mexican American to the Filipino American.

Due to a bug in blogger which prevents long posts, this is being continued below.

Another Filipino-American, Michelle Malkin in Asian-Americans have nothing to celebrate says, that as practiced, affirmative action amounts to nothing more than the promotion of certain politically favored minority ethnic groups at the expense of others:

Clueless Asian-American students and leaders are proclaiming "victory" with other minority groups in the wake of the Michigan decisions. But as Peter Kirsanow, one of the rare voices of sanity on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, notes, "were Asian-American students not discriminated against in the college-admissions process, they would constitute the largest minority group, if not an outright majority, at many schools." A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the percentage of Asian-American applicants granted admission at the University of Texas-Austin rose from 68 percent to 81 percent immediately after the Hopwood decision struck down race-based admissions policies in the Fifth Circuit. After California's Proposition 209 ended race-based admissions, the percentage of Asian-American freshmen at Berkeley rose 6 percent.

Kirsanow continues: "Asian Americans, though only 4 percent of the nation's population, account for nearly 20 percent of all medical students. Forty-five percent of Berkeley's freshman class, but only 12 percent of California's populace, consists of Asian Americans. And at UT-Austin, 18 percent of the freshman class is Asian American, compared to 3 percent for the state."

For liberal race-fixers, having "too many" Asian-American students winning admissions on their own merits is a bad, bad thing. Overcoming the encumbrance of colored skin is viewed not as an accomplishment, but as a liability. A sad irony of the battle over racial preferences on campus is that many of the leaders who want to re-jigger the numbers to fit a politically correct, proportional ideal are traitorous Asian Americans themselves.

The notion that something besides merit counts in weighing the worth of a person has now been enshrined by Grutter v. Bollinger. Filipino-Americans who have in the past, automatically voted for liberal Democratic candidates might have something to think about when their sons or daughters receive their college rejection letters in the mail.

Non-government organizations

They are called NGOs, short for non-government organizations. They are typically privately incorporated, nonprofit organizations that perform governmental functions, such as relief delivery, research, medical or educational services, although they are not part of any government themselves. Although many NGOs are supported by private donations, many receive tax money from the international aid agencies of various governments. Glenn Reynolds reports that the Bush administration is requiring NGOs which receive US Government money not to engage in actions which the US Government feels is inimical to its interests. Not surprisingly, the idea went over like a lead balloon among some NGOs, according to the Guardian. The American Enterprise Institute, which is itself and NGO, is leading the charge to put NGO activity under scrutiny and to use the power of the public purse to influence their behavior.

This may not change NGO behavior much because most have already cozied up to funding whose strings they welcome. The US will be excoriated not so much for imposing conditionalities, but for belatedly remembering them so late in the game. Almost every NGO has a portfolio of funding sources whose beneficial purpose is specified and very often audited by the funding agencies themselves. Many left-wing NGOs are specifically tasked with spreading a particular world view by their funding sources. Still others are devoted to performing specific activities, such as promoting abortion, and the renewal of their funding is dependent on how well they perform these tasks. NGOs are formed around a set of purposes that both their members and funders agree upon. They were never independent. And this is as it should be.

But for the longest time Washington simply handed out money without explicit strings. Now that they are behaving like a normal funding agency, the NGOs are shocked. The Guardian says:

USAID told several NGOs that have been awarded humanitarian contracts that they cannot speak to the media - all requests from reporters must go through Washington. Mary McClymont, CEO of InterAction, calls the demands "unprecedented" and says: "It looks like the NGOs aren't independent and can't speak for themselves about what they see and think."

Hardly unprecendented. Private shipping, construction, delivery or engineering companies with US government contracts don't object to being prohibited from giving press conferences because they are not political organizations. Despite their nongovernment status, NGOs are intensely political. Their actions have always had a political content and purpose. The new policy of the Bush administration will simply force NGOs who cannot openly identify themselves with America to European or UN funding. And it will attract a new crop of NGOs who are willing to embrace American ideals into the field. And this is as it should be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Six British Soldiers

Treachery at the Iranian Border

Six British soldiers were killed and eight wounded in firefights with unidentified persons in the town of Majar al-Kabir, just 40 miles from the Iranian border. In the first incident, "Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon told Parliament in London that the British soldiers military police on a mission to train Iraqi police were apparently killed in a police station in the town." Significantly, there was no mention of Iraqi police casualties and no mention of a rescue attempt by British forces.

Elsewhere in the same town, a "large number" of Iraqi gunmen opened fire on a British patrol Tuesday with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and rifles, Hoon said. The British returned fire, and one soldier was wounded in the fight.

A rapid reaction force, including Scimitar light tanks and a Chinook CH-47 helicopter, came to help the ground troops but also came under fire, Hoon said. Seven people on board the helicopter were wounded, three of them seriously, the government said.

Hoon said commanders were investigating whether the deaths and the ambush were connected.

Due to a bug in Blogger, this is continued below.

It is almost certain that the incidents were not only connected, but coordinated. Majar al-Kabir is a small town in which it would be unusual for the police to be wholly unaware that a "large number" of gunmen with heavy weapons were setting up ambush positions for a British patrol. The weapons pits would have to be cleverly camouflaged in order to conceal them from a sharp-eyed patrol. That the ambushers were well-trained combatants is indicated by their tactic of ambushing the relief force of the Chinook and the Scimitars before breaking contact. But the police station incident is the most disturbing. On the face of it, the British trainers were simply led to their deaths inside the police station. If the police station were externally assaulted there would be Iraq police casualties. The absence of any Iraqi casualties at the police station incident shows the Brits were taken by surprise, before they could call for help or resist.

The dangers of the defensive

One danger facing coalition forces in Iraq is that international terrorist groups will turn it into another Lebanon, honeycombed with secret guerilla groups. But the Lebanese situation fed off two things: the support of terrorist groups within it by Syria and the passive acceptance of guerilla cells by the conventional Israeli army that formerly patrolled the area. The contrast between the aggressive US policy in the north and the softer hearts-and-minds policy of the British in the south cannot be greater. And now the British are paying the price for that policy.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Quagmire in Iraq

There has been a lot of editorial space given over to "guerilla warfare" by Iraq stay-behind operators against US forces in Iraq. In order to better put that action in perspective, it would be useful to review the US occupation of West Germany after V-E day.

During the early days of the US occupation of Germany after World War 2, German resisters used to string wire across roads at exactly the height necessary to decapitate a soldier driving a Willys jeep. US Army histories reported the following incidents in the XII Corps area in the week after the German surrender:

"21 May. Period was generally quiet except for a few scattered incidents. At 0300 hrs this morning, trucks belonging to the 410th FA Gp were fired on just South of Grafenau. Fire was returned and one German killed. Civ reported six armed SS troops in woods N of Renstein vic at 2000 last night. Civ reported five armed enemy soldiers in woods S of Chocholatalhota toward Husinec. . . The 26th Inf Div reported one boy, civilian, was killed by a minefield vic Kohlgruben . . . . The 90th Inf Div reports a sharp increase in the sabotage of communications during the night. Three telephone poles were chopped down vic (P272176) and wire was cut vic (P290048) (P215145) and (U365930) . . . There were two reports of sniping during period. Personnel of the 27th AAA Gp were fired on from the woods near Drachelsried yesterday morning. Appropriate action was taken but snipers had fled. A party of six U S officers were fired on vic Konusin last night. One officer was reported wounded. Civilians reported 22 May that an organized group of armed German soldiers is in Frymburk. . . 25 May. During period enemy activity consisted of cutting field wire four times vic (06071). Patrol investigating incident at present. 90th Inf Div: Polish and civilian informants reported 21 SS trs, armed with machine pistols ("burp" guns) vic Zfitiarn; investigation of report resulted in wounding of one SS trooper, while remainder fled into woods in the area; investigation continuing. 26 May. 4th Armd Div: Civilian reports approximately 200 SS troops vic (0175735) hiding in woods during day time and enter towns that vicinity at night to loot. Other units have nothing to report . . . . 28 May....

Due to a bug in bloger, this post is continued below.

In order to reduce the pockets of resistance, the US Army adopted tactics like:

  • curfews
  • checkpoints
  • the seizure of documents
  • raids to effect the confiscation of "illegal weapons; location and apprehension of subversive groups of individuals; checking individual identity and travel papers, particularly of male civilians; and the seizing of illegally possessed or operated motor vehicles." These were called "SWOOP" raids.

This is a pattern of activity not very different from Iraq. The occupation of West Germany lasted 8 years and involved 13 military police brigades in addition to the regular Army forces deployed to deter an attack by Warsaw pact forces, in a country 2 1/2 smaller than Iraq and predominantly populated by Europeans.

At present, an average of one US soldier has been killed for every day since major combat ceased. If this rate were to continue unabated for ten years, it would begin to equal the number of civilian deaths experienced in one morning on September 11, 2001.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

An optimist may believe that by simply promoting software development or nanotechnology in say, Burma, one hastens the day when the geeks and not the narco-Generals dominate that country. But what Magno neglected to mention is that a government captured by drug lords may tend to a Markovian "absorbing state" -- the mathematical equivalent of the Hotel California -- a place you can get to but never leave. Once captured by crooks, a nation will eventually be wrecked by the dysfunctional elite -- and Africa is full of examples -- the educational, legal and human resources infrastructure of the nation are destroyed beyond recovery and escape from hell becomes impossible. Magno's Philippines may be entering such a state now, with its declining educational standards, it's lower proficiency in English, etc.

Neither the United Nations (of course) nor the United States has ever explicitly addressed the issue of how to help reverse this downward cycle. Some aspects of the problem have been indirectly tackled by programs like the War on Drugs, or alternatively, the campaign to legalize drugs. But no program to systematically return Columbia to the hands of an electorate based on a legitimate economy has been more than desultorily attempted.

Winds of Change has a long exchange about the vital necessity to address the socio-political aspects of combat, the so-called "nation building" aspects of war. But the discussion revolves around simply improving and increasing support and reserve units in the US military. That's not enough to address the Magno effect.

Friday, June 20, 2003

The Rosenbergs, Ronald Reagan and the SS Graves

When President Reagan visited Germany in 1985 to commemorate the post-war peace between Germany and the United States, he visited the Bitburg Cemetery, which as it turned out, contained the remains not just of Wermacht soldiers but of the Waffen SS. Reagan later expressed his regret at the poor choice of symbolism. Which is more than the New York Times will do in its celebration of the Rosenbergs, who spied for Stalin, the greatest mass murderer in history, a greater criminal than Adolph Hitler. The Times itself admits: 

THE available evidence now suggests to historians that Julius Rosenberg did in fact spy for the Soviet Union. The evidence against Ethel Rosenberg, however, is considered flimsy at best. But whatever they may have done, it is far from evident that they had handed Moscow the key to its first atomic bomb, as charged at the time.

But they tried. Tried to give Stalin a far greater weapon than any the Waffen SS wielded in their brief, bloody career. Still the New York Times has the gall to write:

Killing the couple was one thing. But to do the deed on the Sabbath, apparently, was quite another. 

The Rosenbergs -- and the SS -- are dead; and if they were evil, they served their perverted causes with a certain undeniable bravery. It is a distinction which the fellow travellers, the bourgeoise sympathizers, the dilettante authors who play at revolution, while sipping their cappuccinos in Manhattan, will never attain to. Jason Blair was not the bottom. There is none at the New York Times.

Organizing against Islamic Fundamentalism

Two posts ago, the Belmont Club discussed how Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals could be used to turn Islam against Islamic fundamentalism. Here's a case study. According to the Washington Post, Fundamentalists in Pakistan are banning all English books deemed 'un-Islamic', like Gulliver's Travels and Tess of the d'Urbervilles. They are also cracking down on the Westernized Pakistani elite, who have their own local productions of the "Vagina Monologues" and avante garde art. Parenthetically, the Post article mentions that "Islamic militants in the province's capital, Peshawar, have taken the law into their own hands, vandalizing satellite dishes and other things they see as symbols of Western decadence." Needless to say, nearly the entire Post article is devoted to the outrageous treatment of these artists who should be allowed their creative freedom. The question of the vandalized property is never mentioned again.

Yet from an organizer's point of view, creating an opposition based upon a crackdown on English classics, productions of the "Vagina Monologues" or the banning of art, is entirely the wrong one. The correct organizing point is the vandalism of satellite dishes and similar devices. Let us review what Saul Alinsky taught:

  1. Use the enemy's own stated values against himself. Islam, in common with other religions, has strict prohibitions against the destruction of property. Thieves can have their hands chopped off. Vandalizing satellite dishes is prohibited by Islam itself. Who knows but that the owner was watching Al Jazeera?
  2. Organizers should start from particular grievances, not general ideas. The notion of artistic freedom is an extremely vague one, and unlikely to create a focus for organization. But destroying a poor man's satellite dish in a country where it could cost many week's wages is something every poor Pakistani can identify with. People can get worked up about that. That's a good organizing issue.
  3. Organizers should persuade people to confront particular targets before they are prepared to face the "system". Starting a campaign to promote "artistic freedom" means that the entire Islamist system is confronted in all its generality. That is much too large a step. The enemy should be confronted piecemeal. The people who vandalize satellite dishes have names. They are low-level functionaries. They can be railed against. They can be confronted without much danger. They can be forced to pay for their destructive acts -- or else suffer the penalty under Islamic law.

Alinsky famously taught that people learned about freedom by defending their own liberties. It may seem that defending the right to own a satellite dish is wholly unrelated to the right to read Gulliver's Travels. Yet Alinsky's genius lay in the realization that if you taught people to defend themselves in small things, they would soon enough defend themselves in big things. Of course, the Washington Post writer doesn't see this. But then, he's a journalist, not an organizer.

... but if I did have to take on the Islamist's book ban

This is the way to do it.

  • Take the Islamist's efforts at face value and submit all the books that can be found in closets, attics, garage sales and dumpsters for their review. Say to them, 'we want to put these 500 books on the library shelves. Would you review them?' Ensure that a fair number of those submitted for review are in the Pakistani national library or are owned by prominent Islamic persons, so that if the books are banned, the religious police will have to enforce it against powerful persons or institutions.
  • involve the grassroots in the screening of objectionable video material. Make sure that videos like those featuring the 3 Stooges or the Roadrunner and Coyote are evaluated. Hope they are banned. If they are not banned, point out that the voice of both the coyote and the roadrunner is provided by a Jew. Point out that all the 3 Stooges are Jews.
  • Take the Islamist's efforts to ridiculous extremes. Propose a ban on medicines that were developed by Jews.

You can have fun and fight terrorism too. By the way, all these tactics can also be used against US-based Islamic groups. You can really have fun and fight terror too.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Life on the Run

The Daily Telegraph has this to report about the capture of Abid Hamid.

Up to 50 people believed to be part of Saddam's security or intelligence apparatus or members of paramilitary groups were taken prisoner. "I believe over the next three to four days, you will hear much more about the number of senior Iraqi individuals we have detained here over the last couple of days," said Maj Gen Ray Odierno, commander of the US 4th Infantry Division.

So there are more in the bag, or nearly so, but the lid is still on. Although US troops "found £5.3 million in US dollars, up to £250 million in Iraqi dinars, quantities of British pounds and euros and £600,000 in gems", life on the run for Hamid was, well, the life of a fugitive. According to the AP, Hamid was found in a farmhouse whose owner was allegedly asked "to put up a guest for a few nights. The man arrived Sunday and slept on a mat in the living room. On Monday morning, Awad said, her husband had figured out the identity of their quiet house guest. 'My husband was scared,' she said. 'But we couldn't just tell him to leave our house.'" Hamid was on the roof when US helicopters swooped down and the raiders captured him.

Although one shouldn't take the operational details reported in the newspapers as gospel, a few things seem fairly certain:

  • Hamid was captured in farmhouse in Tikrit. Not in secret underground headquarters surrounded by communications equipment, but in an ordinary home in which he was a transient.
  • That other raids similar to this must have taken place close to the same time frame for General Odierno to speak of a "number of senior Iraqi individuals we have detained here over the last couple of days".

Post continued below. There's a bug in blogger which balks at posts of a certain length.

In an underground organization, such as the Ba'ath Party has become, the key information that fugitive must know at all times is whether his cell contacts are still secure. If they have been captured, turned, or followed, he must quit his abode instantly. Those with experience in these matters will immediately recognize the practical problems of life on the run.

First, the fugitive must make a clean sweep of his place of departure before leaving. All papers with telephone numbers, names, meetings and the like must be taken with him. This is surprisingly hard. Invariably some scrap is left behind. Which is why long-term fugitives, even those with money, soon acquire the aspect of hobos. They tend to keep nothing more than the clothes they can jump out the window in.

Second, he must maintain contact with the cell above and below him, otherwise he will snap the link -- or worse -- be suspected of turning coat himself. The problem of where to run when you suspect that some of your cell contacts have been broken is an exquisitely difficult one. The standard practice of running to a fallback safehouse or contact is exceedingly frightening, because one has no way of telling whether that link has been compromised too. Inevitably, there is the temptation to hole up with someone you personally trust, someone outside the organization. It is a kind of return to the womb. 'There,' you say, 'I'll lie low for a while, then cautiously regain contact after checking things out.' This is the beginning of the end and any professional operator knows it.

Third, he must keep himself in funds. This is no easy task when you have to operate without bank accounts, ATM machines, checks or credit cards. Money is what you can put in your pocket or a small bag. And that runs out.

For the hunter, the most important thing to maintain when operating against a clandestine network  is tempo. Tempo breaks up the cells, sends their members scurrying, flushes them out into the open, makes them take desperate chances to obtain money or lodging. Tempo, tempo and tempo.

The Belmont Club believes the inner wall of Ba'athist security has been breached; that Saddam, if he is still alive, will soon fall. The attacks on individual US soldiers  are an attempt to force CENTCOM onto the defensive. But even killing a soldier a day for ten years will not be enough. That many died on a single morning on September 11, 2001. Saddam and all the Islamists who participated in the attack of that morning should know: we're coming to get you.

Saul Alinsky, meet Osama Bin Laden

In their excellent paper, The Changing Face of War, five American officers discuss the principles of fourth-generation warfare as applied by terrorists.

  1. The more successful terrorists appear to operate on broad mission orders that carry down to the level of the individual terrorist. The 'battlefield" is highly dispersed and includes the whole of the enemy's society. The terrorist lives almost completely off the land and the enemy.
  2. A shift in focus from the enemy's front to his rear. Terrorism must seek to collapse the enemy from within.
  3. Terrorism seeks to use the enemy's strength against him. Terrorists use a free society's freedom and openness, its greatest strengths, against it. They can move freely within our society while actively working to subvert it.

The terrorist, as exemplified by Al Qaeda, will just "bypass the enemy's military entirely and strike directly at his homeland at civilian targets. Ideally, the enemy's military is simply irrelevant to the terrorist.". The application of these principles has plunged many observers into deep gloom. Here is an enemy who seizes American aircraft and crashes them into American buildings. Here is an enemy who builds mosques in the great cities of his enemy and recruits adherents under the very noses of those whom he intends to destroy. Here is an enemy who does not hesitate to lay charges against the authorities who would dare incarcerate his fighters in Guantanamo Bay  -- in the enemies own court of law. Here is an enemy whose target may be any amusement park, theater, kindergarten or hospital, instead of a uniformed enemy on a field of honor. Isn't such an enemy invincible?

When the General Braddock and his 1,200 Redcoats standing packed in the open were nearly annihilated in 1755 by a mere 250 French and Indians firing from behind trees, the British thought their enemy was invincible too. They refused to do the one thing which would have evened the odds: follow them into the trees. For if a Frenchman could hide behind a rock, why not an Englishman?

Once the perspectives are reversed, it becomes apparent that applying the same principles against the terrorist will have devastating results. Perhaps the finest exponent of institutional ju-jitsu was the Saul Alinsky. He set forth most of his principles in his Rules for Radicals, a book whose examples are now dated and whose political agenda is widely discredited. Yet beneath the '60s veneer are a set of principles which would rival Sun Tzu for conciseness and elegance. These can be summarized as:

  1. Use the enemy's institutions against him. Make him live up to his declared principles, for he cannot;
  2. All action starts with a particular grievance and evolves to a general opposition of the enemy. All lasting organizations begin from small groups which are later swept under a single umbrella;
  3. People come to hate the enemy from direct experience only; therefore all organizing must be aimed at generating a confrontation with the enemy.

Islam, and in particular, radical Islam is an easy mark for Alinsky's methods. The September 11 hijackers were flush with money, frequented places of ill repute; communicated using codes in pornographic images. The Iranian Mullahs are corrupt and worldly, no less so than the Saudi Princes. Yasser Arafat only makes a show, and a poor one at that, of being nominally Muslim. Radical Islam, in common with all theocracies, is a viper's nest of hypocrisy. It would theoretically be easy to use sharia law itself to demand punishment for Osama Bin Laden. Yet Islamic corruption is never used against the Islamists. Perhaps the only reason that the US Armed Forces have not beaten the Islamists to death with their own rule book is because they are institutionally too purblind, like Braddock, to do so. Instead, they fall back on the familiar: better weapons, better aerial surveillance, better elint, better comint, better computers, harder physical training. All of that is good, but it leaves the asymmetry unaddressed: while Islamists use the institutions of the West against them, the West gives Islamic institutions free rein.

Every Islamic country is riddled with injustice, corruption and poverty; the more Islamic, the more so. Yet Western counterterrorism is curiously reluctant or unable to seize on particular grievances and help people organize around them. Do we imagine that the Iranian students demonstrating in Teheran are fighting for some abstract principle of freedom because they read a copy of the Declaration of Independence in translation? Hardly. They are reacting to a hundred little grievances, each more or less personal. In mid-March, 2002, a fire broke out in a little girl's school in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Because the "mutaween" or religious police refused to let the pupils evacuate without their Islamic head cover, 15 little girls were burned to death. Saul Alinsky taught that grievances such as these made the best seeds for organizing. He would have met the burned children's parents quietly in their own homes until he found enough to go to the religious authorities offices and present a perfectly reasonable request to punish those responsible. Of course, those parents would likely have been beaten, threatened or ignored.

That would suit Alinsky's book exactly. He believed that confrontations between ordinary people seeking redress for a small, plausible grievance and tyranny would, in nine out of ten cases, produce a Pauline conversion. Nothing, he believed, would convert the passive accepter of tyranny into a passionate opponent quicker than a good knock on the head. Disillusion runs deepest in the devout. The discovery of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church generated the strongest outrage from it's most devoted members. It was not the sex that they minded: it was the betrayal.

When considered soberly, Islamic societies are extraordinarily vulnerable. They are rigid; sanctimonious, largely poor societies -- in a word, medieval societies -- whose non-religious institutions are almost pathetically weak. Arab armies, governments, industries, scientific institutes: what are they but shams? These are the true pressure points of the enemy, and it is remarkable how studiously they have been ignored by a defense establishment that will lavish the greatest care on flight testing an F-22 Raptor to make sure all weapons can be carried across the entire spectrum of the aeronautical envelope.

How strange that some of the finest conceptual counter-terror may yet emerge from a 1960s radical whose writings are now all but forgotten. Yet in a contest between Saul Alinsky and Osama Bin Laden, Alinsky wins, at least conceptually. Follow them into the woods, boys. Follow them into the woods.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Getting a Backfix on the Last Days of Saddam

This is speculation. Take it for what it is worth in the light of the capture of Abid Hamid Mahmud, the Ace of Diamonds.

In the final days of the Ba'ath regime, the inner circle of Saddam Hussein must have realized that the fall of Baghdad was inevitable. In line with Saddam's penchant for political warfare, they decided to conserve their forces and withdraw to a redoubt. From there, they would wage a version of the feyadeen-type warfare which found some success against American formations. The plan was to project the vision of a "quagmire" before the Western media. They had fallen for it before. They would fall for it again.

  • They withdrew to the heart of the Sunni triangle, the area north of Baghdad and around Tikrit, in which they had many family connections, a sure of base of supporters and a network of marshes to hide in.

In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, CENTCOM's efforts would be consumed by two tasks: restoring order to Iraq and replacing the divisions which had seen active service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Ba'athists calculated they could infiltrate the post-war Iraqi government in that transitional period, as well as prepare for a feyadeen campaign against American outposts and patrols.

  • Knowing the Americans would eventually come looking for them, the Ba'athist inner circle made a critical decision: they would abandon all the lower cards of the Deck of Death, who would not be told the plan. In the days after the liberation of Baghdad, nearly all the small cards were scooped up by the Americans. But what did they know? The Ba'athists little calculated that their unexpected ignorance was itself a clue.
  • The feyadeen attacked, not for maximum military damage, but for maximum theatrical damage. Soldiers and civilians died because CNN would report it.

Two things went wrong with that plan. The first is that the Americans kept elements of the 101st and the 3rd ID in country instead of completely rotating them with the 1st Armored and the 4th ID as planned. This gave the US forces, as Phil Carter pointed out, enough force to prosecute the peacekeeping and rehabilitation missions and begin an offensive against the Ba'athists much sooner than expected. The outcomes were Operation Peninsula Strike and Desert Scorpion. The ferocity of the resistance, which included the shootdown of an Apache AH-64 and several counter-attacks meant that the US forces had made contact with the core of the Ba'athist forces deep in the Sunni Triangle. This was, of course, misread by the press to mean that the US attacks were futile, little thinking that those Ba'athist counter-attacks would never have materialized had the American blow been directed against empty swamp. Right behind the troops were a team of linguists and interrogators who would exploit the intelligence.

VOA quotes the Commander of the 4th ID, commenting on the capture of Mahmud, as saying:

"Our soldiers are involved in almost daily contact with non-compliant forces, former regime members and common criminals," he said. "To defeat these attacks and to continue to improve the security and stability within our area, the task force is conducting search and attack missions, presence patrols and raids to disarm, defeat and destroy hostile forces as well as to capture the former regime members."

General Ordierno says the raids are helping to stabilize areas north of Baghdad.

He says in the latest raid U.S. soldiers discovered large amounts of cash and detained senior Iraqi military officials.

"Soldiers from 122 infantry conducted two raids on separate farm houses outside of Tikrit seizing $8.5 million (US), 300 to 400 million Iraqi dinars and English pounds and Euros yet to be counted," he explained. " In addition we seized a large cache of jewel and gems estimated to be worth over a million dollars in value."

General Ordierno says soldiers also confiscated late-model Russian-made night-vision goggles, sniper rifles and uniforms of Saddam Hussein's personal guard.

The capture of Mahmud signifies two things:

  • the Americans were well aware of the Ba'athist strategy and have specifically addressed
  • the inner wall of Ba'athist security is breached. The sacrifice of the lower cards in the Deck of Death was ultimately in vain; if Saddam and his sons are still alive, they must flee the country now or be captured in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

UN Envoy Pleading for Suu Kyi Has Burmese Junta Biz Contracts

Max Soliven of the Philippine Star quotes the Wall Street Journal's Michael Judge as reporting that Razali Ismail, the UN envoy sent by Kofi Annan to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi is "a major player in a Malaysian company called Iris Technologies, a manufacturer of smart chips for electronic passports that had just signed (in 2002) a substantial contract with the military junta in Rangoon." Belmont Club can't find theWall Street Journal article online, but Soliven further quotes it as saying:

"The conflict is apparent to the naked eye. Yet the Office of the UN Secretary General says it can see no disharmony in Mr. Razali’s post at Iris and his job as special envoy. ‘He’s not UN staff.’ Hua Jiang, deputy spokeswoman for the secretary-general’s office, told me, ‘He’s employed in a contract which only categorizes him as UN personnel when he is doing business for the UN. What he does in his spare time is his own business."

But I did find this from an Associated Press feed:

May 7, 2002

U.N. envoy whose company did business in the country had no conflict of interest, U.N. says

By GERALD NADLER, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS - A special U.N. envoy to Myanmar whose company will sell the country electronic passport technology has no conflict of interest, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Monday.

Razali Ismail, who helped secure Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's release from house arrest, said in Kuala Lumpur Monday his impartiality was not compromised by the business deal with Myanmar's military government.

Razali, a former Malaysian U.N. ambassador, acknowledged in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press that he was chairman of a Malaysian company called IRIS Technologies and held shares in it.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said the kind of part-time contract that Razali has with the United Nations doesn't carry any restrictions on business activities.

Eckhard said Razali was asked about the deal and said the company entered into a contract not just with Myanmar but with all the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Eckhard also quoted Razali as saying the contract for the high-tech passports embedded with microchips was done before Razali became special envoy in April 2000, and that he never discussed the deal with Myanmar authorities."There's no conflict of interest," Eckhard said.

Razali, who has made seven trips to Myanmar, has been trying to help break a 12-year political deadlock between Suu Kyi's party and the military junta ruling the country, formerly known as Burma.Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy swept parliamentary elections in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power.Until she was freed Monday by Razali's efforts, Suu Kyi had spent most of the past dozen years under various forms of confinement to her home.The release was a major achievement for Razali's diplomacy.

In the interview in Kuala Lumpur, Razali said he had come under no pressure from the United Nations to resign and was looking forward to returning to Myanmar to facilitate further negotiations.

Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest? This is the normal behavior of an organization that reappointed the man in charge of the Rwandan mission to negotiate peace in the Congo, and which at one time was headed by the man shown below.

Photo taken in Yugoslavia in 1943 shows future UN Secretary General Waldheim (2nd from left) in German Army uniform.

Waldheim was accused of participating in the mass deportations of Greek and Yugoslav Jews to Nazi death camps, and in the execution of Allied prisoners, in 1942-45.

"What he does in his spare time is his own business"

The UN: Count on us to let you down.