Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Alliance

Reader DM notes Jacques Chirac's objections to using the NATO Response Force (NRF) in Afghanistan. The NRF is a quick response unit consisting of rotating contributions from different national elements designed to provide a force projection capability for NATO, which it currently lacks.

The French president also resisted US pressure to deploy Nato units to boost security in Afghanistan. Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, warned that opposition to deploying the NATO response force (NRF) could be circumvented by taking a decision in a forum which excludes France. But Mr Chirac, unhappy about deploying the alliance outside its cold war era European area of operations, made clear he thought the force should not be used to help secure the Afghan elections in September.

One of the reasons that the NRF was created was to provide "global reach" to enable the alliance to operate out of the traditional European area. Although its mission is "yet to be determined" officially, Chirac has determined it for himself, at least in the negative when he said, "The NRF is not designed for this. It shouldn't be used just for any old matter." The Afghan elections are arguably the most important milestone since the campaign to topple the Taliban, in which NATO was also absent. What then would constitute sufficient matter to engage Chirac? Patrick Belton of Oxblog argues that if NATO's role in Afghanistan got any lighter, it would evaporate.

'ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) however, was never resourced to move outside of Kabul in a more than symbolic way, and when it finally did, has focused more on its own security than that of Afghans. Despite Afghanistan being widely proclaimed as Nato's highest priority, the unwillingness of Nato member states to adequately resource ISAF with troops and equipment has seriously undermined the ability of ISAF commanders to do their job effectively.'

'Prime Minister Tony Blair's 2003 declaration that the international community 'will not walk away from' Afghanistan missed the real question: When will the international community really walk into Afghanistan, and make the necessary commitments and investments that will give the Afghan people a reasonable chance at building a peaceful and stable country?'

This goes to the real heart of the alliance problem in War on Terror. France and its allies must convert every campaign against terrorists into a diplomatic demarche because such solutions are the only ones available to them, absent a credible military capability. If American power consists of "hard" and "soft" components, France's claim to great nation status relies almost entirely on its membership in "soft" institutions of diplomacy which compels it to torture problems into these venues even when confronted by situations like providing security in the lofty Central Asian mountains. Yet far from welcoming an effort to provide Europe with a nascent expeditionary capability, Chirac may misgive it. For if once the NRF, with an eventual projected size at divisional strength exists, it may be used by a  America to suck Europe into overseas commitments. After all, the only sure way to avoid drawing a sword is to cast it away.

Yet Afghanistan, is if anything, the best indicator of what those who feel so deeply about Iraq may think two years hence: a place that has outworn its anti-American propaganda value and returned to its seat in the forgotten places of the world. For now there is enough of an American presence there to prevent the Taliban from returning but not enough to allow Washington to shape events decisively. Critics of the war who say Washington hasn't put enough "boots on the ground" are strangely silent about where such boots are to come from. Certainly Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 isn't designed to boost enlistment nor will the Europeans -- if Chirac has his way -- be forthcoming. The Pentagon has tried to generate forces by reorganizing existing divisions into smaller brigades, a process explained in this TRADOC article, spreading out American blood a little thinner, for which they will get no thanks.

Nor is the problem confined to land. The Economist talks about the challenges of combating seaborne terrorism which is threatening something more immediately valuable than Afghanistan: world trade.

A quarter of the world’s entire maritime trade, including about half of all seaborne oil shipments, passes through the Malacca strait in South-East Asia, which at one point narrows to as little as one-and-a-half nautical miles. The strait and the seas around it are infested with well-organised, armed and ruthless pirates (see map) who hijack ships and kill or maroon their crews before repainting the vessels at sea and sailing into port under a new, “phantom” identity. If pirates can do this so easily, why not terrorists? Imagine the devastation to world trade if one or more giant tankers were captured and used to block the straits. Or the possible casualties if a hijacked phantom ship were used to carry a nuclear “dirty bomb” into one of the world’s main ports or to launch missiles at a coastal city? These are nightmare scenarios worthy of a Hollywood disaster movie. But they are also the sort of threats that are being taken seriously by the world’s governments. On Monday June 28th, leaders of the NATO military alliance, meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, agreed a package of anti-terrorism measures including new defences against attacks on ports and shipping.

The United States Coast Guard says it intends to board every ship that does not comply with the rules on its first entry to an American port from July 1st. This will be quite some task, given that there are 60,000 calls at American ports each year by ocean-going ships. Nevertheless, the American authorities are confident that this will not cause serious hold-ups to trade.

Well and good, but here again the question of bearing the cost enters the picture.

However, those elsewhere are not so confident. Christoph Brockmann, an official of Germany’s main maritime agency, told Reuters news agency last week that, if European Union countries insisted on strict compliance, there would be disruption to trade. Mr Brockmann said only 60% of the roughly 200 ships that call at German ports each day have the International Ship Security Certificate that will be compulsory from July 1st.

The Americans too may experience a disruption to trade but are committed to enduring it. The question will be whether Europe is prepared to accept the cost and inconvenience as part of the price of meeting the terrorist threat. The debate over the War on Terror has been grotesquely distorted to focus on Iraq; on Abu Ghraib; on President Bush's underwear, creating a mutant public policy map drawn according to some lunatic projection. The real major fronts on the War on Terror are generational problems: nuclear containment, homeland security, dealing with failed states, combating terrorist organizations and their state sponsors and providing maritime security. In Afghanistan, France has basically told America to go it alone. As Chirac said, "We are friends and allies but we are not servants." Perhaps France will help in the Straits of Malacca.


I'd like to take this opportunity to correct certain factual errors in past posts. The worst offender was Zarqawi's Oath. Reader SN corrects on the relationship between Zaraqawi and the Ba'ath.

Your June 24 posting, to which there was a link in a forum I frequent, seems to imply that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is leading the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. I am unaware of any evidence to back this assertion. The Falluja insurgents, who are mostly Iraqi but have a strong Syrian contingent, mostly profess loyalty to the Islamic Scholars' Front, an overt organization based in western Baghdad, although the ISF almost certainly has no operational control of their actions. There is also an element, mostly former Republican Guard officers, claiming to be loyal to a reconstituted Baath party. I have heard this from colleagues who regularly travel to Falluja, but you should also be able to find it in any number of reports from the town, of which there are now a fair number. Most observers of the insurgency believe its leadership to be fairly decentralized. Zarqawi's operation may be tolerated by the Iraqi insurgents, but most disavow its actions and certainly do not submit to its authority. Also, I am unaware of any connection between al-Qaeda and Hizbullah, the Shia militia normally credited with having "harried" the Israelis out of Lebanon. While it's certainly possible that they talked, I would be very surprised, given Zarqawi's professed views on the Shia, that they had much of a connection.

This paints a much more detailed picture, with more actors than my bumbling charcterization. I sincerely regret the error and will be more careful with my research next time.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Email Answering Break

Posting will be light over the next few days as I try to catch up on emails from readers. Meanwhile check out this link at Michael Tucker's Gunner's Palace.

"The war in Iraq is far from WWII or even Vietnam. A tiny sliver of society is fighting a war while the rest of the country watches. We are not all "in this together". We live in two separate realities. I began to see that this film was more than just a snapshot of a place and time -- it could bring the war home. For me, it wasn't about being 'for the war' or 'against the war,' it was about the people in the war. They needed to have a voice.

Tucker came back again and again to Iraq for reasons he himself doesn't quite explain, at least, not in one sentence. The closest he comes to an explanation is when he wears a personal medallion with the likeness of a soldier who had died after hearing someone Stateside remark that at least the dead were volunteers. Well some people rap and some write poetry in between raiding enemy safehouses and Michael Tucker will certainly tell us the words but he may have a hard time with the voice. There are some things you have to know before you can know them; and some voices you have to hear before you can hear them.

"I asked soldiers what they thought and their answers were surprisingly simple. After nearly a year, it wasn't about Iraq, the Iraqis, democracy, Donald Rumsfeld or oil. It was about them. Simple. They just wanted to finish the job they were sent to do so they could go home. As a soldier/poet says in the film 'You may not like this, but please respect it.'"

Tucker describes himself as being left of center, but that is irrelevant to his central question. Have we given the troops a job they can finish and the means to finish it? Or do we send them out again, on another day, with divided orders from a divided nation?

Monday, June 28, 2004


Patrick Belton at Oxblog has a long post on the issues NATO will examine in Istanbul. The US wants the alliance to face problems outside of Europe, notably in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. But it is largely locked in place, a hostage to Continental politics and a lack of means.

the basic problem of the alliance ... is cash. While the US contributes 3.3% of its GDP to national defence, 12 of the 19 pre-2004 Nato allies contribute less than 2% of theirs. To look at it another way, the US picks up the tab for 64% of Nato military expenditures ($348.5 million, 2002), while all other allies together contribute only 36% ($196.0 million). For their part, European governments are facing budget shortfalls and budget pressure from ballooning pension costs.

What comes out of this is a capabilities gap. Of 1.4 million soldiers under NATO arms in October 2003, allies other than the US contributed all of 55,000. Nearly all allies lack forces which can be projected away from the European theatre. SACEUR General James Jones testified before Congress in March 2004 that only 3-4% of European forces were deployable for expeditions. ... Allies other than the U.S. have next to no precision strike capabilities, although these are slowly improving. The US is generally the sole provider of electronic warfare (jamming and electronic intelligence) aircraft, as well as aircraft for surveillance and C3 (command, control, and communications). The US is also capable of much greater sortie rates than its allies.

The other problem is political will, which is most in evidence on the issue of terrorism. There's been progress (beginning with the 2002 Prague Summit) toward the creation of a NATO Response Force capable of sophisticated counterterror missions. There's also been progress toward the drafting (which has been done) and implementation (which hasn't) of a military concept for counterterrorism. But allies still strongly disagree about whether counterterrorism should even be one of NATO 's primary missions - so the principal task of the US at the moment lies in the area of creating political will among allies to adopt counterterrorism as a NATO  responsibility. That we have not done so is at least in part our fault - Allies felt rebuffed after they gave the US unprecedented political support through invoking Article 5, and then were not consulted in the prosecution of the war in Afghanistan. For their part, the civilian leadership of the Pentagon believed Kosovo had been an unacceptable example of 'war by committee', and political interference from allies would prevent a quick and decisive Afghanistan campaign. Perhaps it might have, but now at NATO the United States is facing the consequences in the form of less enthusiasm for counterterror missions.

It's hard to say which expectation is more unrealistic: the American hope that Europe will reverse decades of military atrophy or the European idea that America will share command with a Continent that can project only two battalion's worth of troops. Thomas Barnett of the Naval War College in his article The Pentagon's New Map believes that most future terrorist threats will spring from "areas of disconnectness" -- chaotic parts of the Third World, the very places where Europe's forces cannot or refuse to go. Meanwhile, the US has been moving its forces steadily south and east, into Central and SouthWest Asia as well as the Middle East. Perhaps more tellingly, US forces are being restructured from divisional-sized building blocks to independent commands can centered around brigades. The breakup of the old triangular divisions (each division traditionally consists of three brigades) into notional units containing four smaller brigades each will increase the number of usable units by a third. This is in part based on the perception that US units have become so powerful in conventional warfare that they can safely be used in smaller packages. But it also arises from the need to use the Army in more places throughout the troubled and chaotic world. A TRADOC article says:

"We’re making the brigades the Army’s units of action because the divisions are, like the chief (Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker) said, $100 bills," Mixon explained. "If you want the capabilities that are resident in land forces for the Army piece of it, you have to break a $100 bill. “(The chief) wants $20 bills, where you can get what you need without breaking a $100," he added. "The modular BUAs will give you that $20-bill capability. You have all the resident capabilities that are in a division inside the brigade. In a smaller package, but you’ve still got it so you can spend that $20 bill when you need it."

"It starts this year with the 3rd Infantry Division, 101st, 10th Mountain," Mixon said. "It continues with the whole Army in the next three years, and probably a little bit beyond, to get all the Guard and Reserve units done, but it’s underway, it’s happening. “Reorganizing the brigade combat teams in each of the divisions to BUAs is a critical and key step in making the Army more modular, flexible and relevant to the combatant commander," Sergeant Major of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said. "The BUAs will be smaller but more capable than their predecessors, the BCTs. The plan now is to grow the active Army from 33 BCTs to initially 43 BUAs, and then potentially to 48 BUAs."

The mission has left Europe: US forces which were designed to fulfill a NATO role -- destroy Russian tank armies crossing the inner German border -- are being re-engineered for intervention in "areas of disconnectness" where European NATO members cannot or will not go in large numbers. Thus, while Europe will continue to remain important, the value of Israel and Turkey, by virtue of their proximity and engagement with the terrorist foe, will rise relative to traditional Western European allies like Belgium, France and Germany. Threatening to further downgrade the importance of the old Atlantic alliance is the rapid rise of two new major powers in the East. James Hoge writes in Foreign Affairs:

The transfer of power from West to East is gathering pace and soon will dramatically change the context for dealing with international challenges -- as well as the challenges themselves. ... Today, China is the most obvious power on the rise. But it is not alone: India and other Asian states now boast growth rates that could outstrip those of major Western countries for decades to come. China's economy is growing at more than nine percent annually, India's at eight percent, and the Southeast Asian "tigers" have recovered from the 1997 financial crisis and resumed their march forward. China's economy is expected to be double the size of Germany's by 2010 and to overtake Japan's, currently the world's second largest, by 2020. If India sustains a six percent growth rate for 50 years, as some financial analysts think possible, it will equal or overtake China in that time.

But if the game, not only against terror, has moved East and European NATO has dealt itself out of it, America is still in. Hoge continues:

Militarily, the United States is hedging its bets with the most extensive realignment of U.S. power in half a century. Part of this realignment is the opening of a second front in Asia. No longer is the United States poised with several large, toehold bases on the Pacific rim of the Asian continent; today, it has made significant moves into the heart of Asia itself, building a network of smaller, jumping-off bases in Central Asia. The ostensible rationale for these bases is the war on terrorism. But Chinese analysts suspect that the unannounced intention behind these new U.S. positions, particularly when coupled with Washington's newly intensified military cooperation with India, is the soft containment of China.

The crux of the problem, of course, is that the immediate post-World War 2 world and its associated institutions has faded into history. Yet many politicians, perhaps misled by their own youthful memories, continue to act and behave on subconscious assumptions half a century old. The accusation that President Bush was guilty of willful dereliction by not making the United Nations, France and Germany equal partners in the War on Terror is rooted in an inflated conception of their actual importance. Whatever these prestige these hoary old names may conjure, in practical terms their cooperation is probably less vital than that of Pakistan or Israel. The Foreign Affairs article notes how the temples of international diplomacy are infested with discredited gods:

At the international level, Asia's rising powers must be given more representation in key institutions, starting with the UN Security Council. This important body should reflect the emerging configuration of global power, not just the victors of World War II. The same can be said of other key international bodies. A recent Brookings Institution study observed, "There is a fundamental asymmetry between today's global reality and the existing mechanisms of global governance, with the G-7/8 -- an exclusive club of industrialized countries that primarily represents Western culture -- the prime expression of this anachronism."

Some have derided the US coalition against terror, comprised of nontraditional names like Korea, Japan, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Kazakhstan as a kind of pickup team fielded by a desperate America only because it couldn't get first-string Germany, France and Belgium to play. But this is unjust; it is not a temporary condition but a harbinger of a new state of the world.  It's not that NATO has gotten smaller, just that the world has gotten bigger.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Price of Newsprint

The Washington Post has an account of the victory -- yes the victory -- that the First Armored Division won over Moqtada Al-Sadr's militia. Scott Wilson describes how US Forces fought around politically constituted sanctuaries, an admission of how the mighty US Army might rule the battlefield, yet bow to the almighty media.

Over the next 60 days, more than 5,000 troops from the division engaged in the most sustained urban combat operation of the now 15-month occupation. In desert cities that once welcomed American troops, they battled a Shiite uprising that threatened to upset the June 30 transition to an Iraqi interim government. Their orders were stark: Smash the uprising, and capture or kill its leader, the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.

By the time the uprising was over, silenced in a cease-fire June 4, the U.S. military success appeared decisive. While 19 U.S. soldiers had been killed in combat and scores wounded, military officials estimate that 1,500 insurgents were killed. Sadr's militiamen had been driven from positions many had died defending.

At Karbala, for example, Americans fought to retake positions from Sadr simply because rules of engagement governing other Coalition Partners prohibited them from participating in their own designated areas of operation. "Karbala had been the responsibility of a brigade of Polish soldiers. Like Spain, Ukraine and other U.S. partners responsible for security in the Shiite south, the Polish government had prohibited its soldiers from conducting offensive operations. The rules rendered them useless when Sadr's militia rose up." At Najaf Americans took hundreds of mortar rounds and thousands in small arms from two sites without being able to fire a shot in retaliation.

For weeks, Sadr's foot soldiers had used the impenetrable acres of Najaf's cemetery, the largest in the Islamic world, as a staging area. Just blocks away is the Shrine of Imam Ali, the holiest place in Shiite Islam. As the battle loomed, both sites were designated by U.S. commanders as "exclusion zones" for their troops. ... The British, the firmest U.S. partner in Iraq, were already angered by what they saw as provocative U.S. military tactics in the holy cities. ... U.S. soldiers said the zones awarded a tactical advantage to Sadr's men, who used them as refuges. Operating near the Shrine of Imam Ali, U.S. patrols came under steady fire that they did not return. Each night, mortars fell on their camp -- 495 in all -- fired from a mosque complex in Kufa, a few miles to the east, also protected by an exclusion zone. "Our soldiers were getting hurt in the same places every day because of these zones," said Spec. Christopher Stinespring, 30, of Arthurdale, W.Va. "There was nothing we could do."

In what was probably the most psychologically revealing moment of the battle, infantrymen fought six hours for the possession of one damaged Humvee, of no tactical value, simply so that the network news would not have the satisfaction of displaying the piece of junk in the hands of Sadr's men. The enemy understood the rules of engagement too well, but from the other side. "Squeezed into a few downtown blocks, Sadr militants began using children to shuttle ammunition, soldiers said. Youngsters carrying large plastic bags darted from corner to corner, and the soldiers would not shoot them. 'We all grew up knowing you don't hurt women and children,' Taylor said. 'And they used that to their advantage.' The US estimates that 20 civilians were killed in operations around Najaf. The Najaf hospital claims 81. When the Russians retook Grozny after a disastrous first foray, they returned to the operational formula of Marshak Konev in Berlin and rained down 8,000 artillery shells per hour on the town, killing perhaps 27,000 before attempting it again. The vastly more powerful Americans did not, yet triumphed. They are inept, as everyone knows.

Ted Koppel was determined to read the names of 700 American servicemen who have died in Iraq to remind us how serious was their loss. Michael Moore has dedicated his film Farenheit 9/11 to the Americans who died in Afghanistan. And they did a land office business. But at least they didn't get to show Sadr's miliamen dancing around a battered Humvee. The men of the First Armored paid the price to stop that screening and those concerned can keep the change.

The Grand Bumblers

People who really insist on characterizing US strategy and forces in Iraq as bumbling failures should really go back to 1995, in the golden era of Clintonian peace, where despite appearances all was not well. President Boris Yeltsin had attempted to reassert Russian influence over Chechnya by covert means. It failed and Chechen President Jokar Dudayev responded by parading captured Russian operatives on television. Unaccustomed to such cheek, the Russian President ordered his armies into the Chechen capital, Grozny, from three sides. Parameters describes what happened.

The first unit to penetrate to the city center was the 1st battalion of the 131st "Maikop" Brigade, the latter composed of some 1,000 soldiers (120 armored vehicles and 26 tanks) ... Russian forces initially met no resistance when they entered the city at noon on 31 December. They drove their vehicles straight to the city center, dismounted, and took up positions inside the train station. Other elements remained parked along a side street as a reserve force.

Sixty hours later, the unit had been wiped out. "By 3 January 1995, the brigade had lost nearly 800 men, 20 of 26 tanks, and 102 of 120 armored vehicles." It had been surrounded and despite urgent pleas for relief, been utterly destroyed. "Its commander, Colonel Ivan Savin and almost 1000 officers and men died and 74 were taken prisoners. As for the two Spetsnaz groups south of the city, they surrendered to the Chechens after having tried to survive without food for several days," one historian observed. A Russian soldier described what he saw as they approached the train station around where the "Maikop" Brigade had been.

En route to the Central Train Station, the streets are crammed with burnt and mangled hulks of "armor" and strewn with dead bodies. The bodies of our Slavic brothers, all that's left of the Mikop Brigade, the one that "spooks" burnt and wiped out on the New Year's Eve 95-96.

Whoever said "spooks" couldn't fight forgot to tell the Russians. They met tactical methods which have since become refined and familiar. The sniper, the RPG ambush, the IED, and using civilians for cover. More from Parameters:

The principal Chechen city defense was the "defenseless defense." They decided that it was better not to have strong points, but to remain totally mobile and hard to find. Hit-and-run tactics made it difficult for the Russian force to locate pockets of resistance and impossible to bring their overwhelming firepower to bear against an enemy force. Russian firepower was diluted as a result and could be used only piecemeal. Chechen mobile detachments composed of one to several vehicles (usually civilian cars or jeeps) transported supplies, weapons, and personnel easily throughout the city. Chechens deployed in the vicinity of a school or hospital, fired a few rounds, and quickly left. The Russians would respond by shelling the school or hospital, but usually after the Chechens had gone. Civilians consequently viewed this action as Russians needlessly destroying vital facilities and endangering their lives, not realizing who had initiated the incident. The Chechen mobility and intimate knowledge of the city exponentially increased the effect of their "defenseless defense."

These methods were used in far greater force against American forces eight years later with a different result. US forces in Iraq defeated an entire multidivisional conventional army and fought a yearlong campaign against a more sophisticated version of the resistance the Russians encountered, in an area the size of California, abutted by two hostile countries for fewer deaths than the Russians bore in sixty hours over a few city blocks. These two map (1 & 2 ) sections showing the density of IEDs encountered in the Baghdad-Ramadi road corridor alone should tell the reader why terrorist groups were so confident in believing that America could be driven out of Iraq. It's not that the enemy lacked the metal; its that the American targets were not cooperating. The Russians were brave but the American methods were better. The Strategy Page remarks:

It’s no accident that American tactics in Iraqi are remarkably like those in Israel. American officers and NCOs have been visiting Israel for years (usually in civilian clothes in the past decade) to observe and study the Israeli counter-terrorist tactics. This is kept quiet, but not secret. The Israeli tactics work, and have been widely adopted by American combat troops. ... The key to this ... is the greater use of intelligence (information gathered on what the armed Palestinians are up to and where they are), and using Israeli troops in high speed and unpredictable maneuvers. This is a classic military tactic. Using a combination of informers, electronic eavesdropping, overhead surveillance (cameras and spotters in helicopters) and constant analysis of Palestinian operations, the Israelis gain an information advantage over their opponents. They then use this edge to conduct raids to disrupt Palestinian combat operations.

Saddam Hussein, many people now forget was captured using operations research -- the logical analysis of information from all sources. The recent series precision strikes against terrorist safehouses in Fallujah are reminiscent of the Israeli helicopter strike tactic, except that Americans use way bigger bombs. And they are aimed, like the Israeli strikes, at leadership targets. But the Americans have one further weapon: they can wield the wedge of sectarian politics. The killers in the Sunni triangle, now on the payroll of Zarqawi, were saved from extermination in April 2004 by matching Shi'ite unrest in the south. But after the US pulled the wheels from Moqtada al-Sadr's wagon and outmaneuvered the UN's Lakhdar Brahimi's attempts at constituting an Interim Government preferred by Kofi Annan, the strategy of Sunni noncooperation with the Coalition authorities backfired big-time. The new Iraqi government was going to be dominated by Shi'ites outwardly prepared to cooperate with America. What looked like a Shi'ite-Sunni deal to drive the US out of Iraq in April turned out to be a deal, all right, but not the kind the Al Qaeda had bargained for. An enraged Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's vowed to kill Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, murdered 100 Iraqis in a single day and probably engineered an attack on Shi'ite political party headquarters.  Allawi responded by announcing a plan for checkpoints, a curfew, a ban on demonstrations and even hinted at declaring martial law. The man who had pleaded with America to lift the siege on Fallujah was all smiles at the news of the latest American precision strike. Zarqawi's woes were compounded by Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani whose response to his offensive was pretty nearly blood-curdling.

At a Friday prayer meeting in Karbala, a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani told worshipers that Al Qaeda's top leaders are "filthy infidels". He names Osama bin Laden and the Jordanian-born terrorist purportedly operating in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. He says they are "bastards" who "nurture malignance" against Shiite Muslims. A prominent Shiite leader was assassinated in Iraq on Thursday night. Al Qaeda's leadership is made up of Sunni Muslims from the Wahabi sect.

The Strategy Page thinks Zarqawi's offensive is already failing. Despite the importation of fighters from all over the world and the use of weapons in numbers orders of magnitude greater than those directed at the Russian Maikiop brigade, the Jihadis have been unable to keep the inept Americans from creeping to within a hairsbreadth of installing a new government in the heart of Arabia.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Zarqawi's Oath

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's oath to fight "until Islamic rule is back on earth" -- besides being historically wrong, as it never was -- and his vow to kill the Shi'ite President of the interim Iraqi government, can be more accurately understood as a desire to fight for leadership of the Sunni triangle. The control of Iraq has slipped forever beyond his grasp. Iraqi blogger Hammorabi's breakdown of the the foreign fighters killed in one US strike on Fallujah underscores the point:

Nationality Number
Saudi 5
Somalia 2
Emirates 1
Yemen 1
Morocco 1
Algeria 1
Syria 1
Libya 1
Kurdistan 1
China 1
Mauritania 1

From the looks of it, Zarqawi has brought in the Al Qaeda first team to derail the June 30 turnover to Shi'ite Iyad Allawi. But although he has quality, for his fighters are far better than Moqtada Al-Sadr's rabble, he has forgotten that the April upsurge of violence, which some had breathlessly hoped would signal the downfall of the US in Iraq, was only made possible by Teheran's decision to unleash simultaneous unrest in the south, in the hopes that a desperate America would pay any price for relief. But after the US calmly beat back both attacks, grinding Sadr down to a powder, it was no longer faced with a two-front war. There is now no way that the Shi'ites will allow the Sunni-backed Zarqawi to call the shots. The Sunni Saddam had lorded it over them once before; and neither the Kurds nor the Shi'ites will so easily let that happen again. A more attainable goal will be to prevent the emergence of any independent Sunni figure in the new government. Zaraqawi's methods are nothing if brutal. His elite forces have killed 66 Iraqis and 3 Americans in the Sunni triangle in the last 24 hours, a reminder that any Sunni who breaks with him should prepare to die.

One can only sympathize with those who want an independent Iraq. With the Syrians attempting to pull the strings of the Sunni politicians and the Iranians intending to manipulate Shi'ite figures like marionettes and the Kurds wanting out of the nation altogether, the new Iraqi government is in danger of being answerable more to foreign capitals more than to voters of the Land Between the Rivers -- whenever they get to vote. The United Nations which so gravely expects America to withdraw from the scene has no similar expectations of Saudi Arabia, Syria or Iran. Indeed, Kofi Annan dispatched Sunni Lakhdar Brahimi to serve as his own plenipoteniary to ensure that the UN's own bureaucratic interests are protected.

This leaves the US in a curious position of strength. Although both the Sunnis, the Shi'ites and the other interests like France, possibly fronted by the UN may form occasional tactical coalitions against America, their interests fundamentally conflict. Like bank robbers squabbling over the loot, they may decide to jointly resist the police but will knife each other at the earliest opportunity once the coast is clear. Only America can play the lone hand. Some observers believe that both Washington and Teheran are clearing the decks for final showdown over Iraq once the two weaker players are ousted from the game. Clearly the Shi'ite-Iranian theater is the decisive area of operations. The Sunni Triangle, however disgustingly Zarqawi's elite fighters behave, is the secondary front.

As an aside, one might remark on the extremity of the Jihadi effort in Iraq. They are sending their best team, the team that harried the IDF out of Lebanon to no good effect.  US forces have quietly become very efficient, with chemical test kits to screen suspects for explosive residue, aircraft which electronically detonate IEDs, a steady drumbeat of raids on explosives factories and other operational advances. The enemy is still able to kill Americans, but not in any decisive numbers. But how will America use its capability to achieve a strategic result?

The answer to that question will not be revealed until after the November Presidential election if George Bush is re-elected: whether America will go West to Syria and Lebanon or move its sights squarely on Teheran. The Al Qaeda operational bases in Afghanistan have moved, it said, to the Bekaa in Lebanon. So there is reason to clean that out. But Teheran threatens to become a nuclear power in the very near future and is, despite Sunni pretensions to the contrary, still the central star in the Jihadi firmament. For the present, it is actually in the Coalition's interest and probably no one else's to build up a truly independent Iraq. Iraq would become another player to the game to balance off Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran. A strong Iraq, especially an independent Shi'ite Iraq would be a deadly threat to the Mullahs. A region so evenly divided could be tipped in any way by America and would complicate coalition building against it.

The week leading up to the formal transfer of power to the Iraqi interim government will be punctuated by heavy yet pointless violence. The event is as unstoppable as the Overlord invasion, Zarqawi or no. The enemy had better prepare his fallback position and prepare for the next phase of the campaign.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Revolution Within the Revolution

The particular venom with which the Liberals regard President Bush is at heart a reaction to what they perceive as a coup d'etat directed against the carefully constructed edifice of their historical achievements. To understand why the President and individuals like Paul Wolfowitz are described as "illegitimate", one should not, like the man who doesn't get the reference, look to the Florida chads or US Supreme Court decisions. Liberals are not talking about that kind of statutory legitimacy. Rather they are referring to what is perceived as a brazen attempt to negate the cultural equivalent of the Brezhnev doctrine, the idea that certain "progressive" modes of behavior, once attained, are irreversible. In this view, an entire set of attitudes, commonly referred to as "political correctness" and their institutional expressions, like the United Nations, have become part of a social contract, part of an unwritten constitution.

President Bush, so the indictment goes, is guilty of ignorant trespass on these civilizational norms; he is simply too stupid, too much of a yokel to know better. Like a hairy caveman guided by only the most primitive of instincts, he is accused of reacting to the September 11 attack on America by clubbing all, near and far. Yet if George W. Bush is beneath contempt, not so his archpriests the "neoconservatives". They are the worthy heirs of a role historically filled by the Knights Templars, Masons and Jesuits: the scheming manipulators of the half-witted king.

In the days following September 11, the Liberals watched aghast as America went to war -- when that had been abolished! -- against Muslims in the Third World, all but twitching away the hapless figures of France and the United Nations in the process. Arrivals to America were not ushered to sanctuaries run by enlightened clergymen. They were interviewed by Homeland Security. Abroad, the doctrine of containment for rogue states, kept in place by gentle diplomatic prods, was replaced by outright confrontation. But worst of all, liberals were faced with an intellectual movement, one that had developed an alternative ideology, a competing explanation for the way the world worked. Prior to that, Conservatives, however distasteful, were inchoate; they had tacitly acknowledged the intellectual leadership of the Liberal project. No more. Now Liberals were confronted with people who didn't want to read the New York Times, were unimpressed by celebrity and didn't want to go to Harvard. Many liberals didn't recognize "their" familiar country any more. James Lileks described the intensity of the revulsion at the barbarians at the gates; not Osama Bin Laden, but rather someone else. (Hat tip: Roger Simon

I ask my Democrat friends what they’d rather see happen -- Bush reelected and bin Laden caught, or Bush defeated and bin Laden still in the wind. They’re all honest: they’d rather see Bush defeated.

Osama Bin Laden, if he was regarded as a foe at all, was the 'far' enemy; but President Bush and the neoconservatives were the 'near' enemy. Osama Bin Laden's men came but once, like flaming apparitions across a blue sky mayhap never to be seen again, but President Bush sat day after day in the People's White House to their everlasting chagrin. In the most ironic of reversals the Liberals had unconsciously taken on the mantle of defenders of the ancien regime while the neo-conservatives donned the robes of Jacobins overturning the old order. But just as the terrorist threat didn't emerge overnight, neither did the nemesis of Leftist edifice. Both took shape at around the same time, in the dying days of the Soviet Union, while Jimmy Carter racked his brains helplessly for a response to the Ayatollah Khomeini, where if one looked carefully one could see that Leftism in the West was dying too.

The key factor in the moribidity of both the Soviet and Western cases was that Leftism had ceased to work. Its last serious intellectual exponents, Baran, Sweezy and Joan Robinson had gone shuffling off to retirement homes. Its stultifying effect on demographics and freedom have been described elsewhere; but in one particular its failure was life-threatening: the "progressive" edifice had ravaged the Third World with its nostrums and willful blindness. Countries like India and China quietly abandoned the dogmas of Leftist progressivism in favor of a market economy but the more dysfunctional societies of the world turned to stronger waters. In Africa it was mayhem; in Arabia and South Asia it was Islam. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism coincided with the collapse of Nasserism. The Koran was what the incendiary Arab grasped when he cast away the Little Red Book in despair.

Through the long summer of 1990s, the wounds festered as the infection deepened. It was masked by the ineffectual cologne of NGO projects, corrupt aid delivery, United Nations peacekeeping public relations projects, by selective media coverage and by the jangling of fund raising concerts at which a Secretary General appeared, like some secular pope, to give his blessing, until the boil burst over Manhattan on that bright autumn day. As the debris showered on New York it obscured the fact that a new post-post-colonial ideology was ready to push the Liberal edifice aside and take up the challenge of Islamic terrorism; underneath the War for Terror there was now a War for the West.

James Lilek's friends must know that electing John Kerry to the White House will not restore the antebellum world. Things have gone too far for that. The Third World in general and the Islamic World in particular have burst their bounds; they can no longer be herded into the decrepit and threadbare tent of the United Nations; the Kyoto climate agreement; the International Criminal Court or any of Potemkin treaties woven by the European Union. Islamic fundamentalists are openly attacking Russia; besetting India; seizing British naval vessels; threatening to interdict the Straits of Malacca; menacing the House of Saud; renewing hostilities in Kosovo; bombing trains in Spain; raging through the Sudan and building nuclear enrichment plants. No Clintonian ceremony in the Rose Garden can replace the planets in their old orbits. All John Kerry can do if he must pay the price of restoring the Liberal dream is to withdraw, like Prince Prospero, into the artificial gaieties of last Bal Masque while the Red Death stalks without. Niall Ferguson, writing in the Wall Street Journal described a world exactly like that: 

"...a world with no hegemon at all may be the real alternative to it. This could turn out to mean a new Dark Age of waning empires and religious fanaticism; of endemic rapine in the world's no-go zones; of economic stagnation and a retreat by civilization into a few fortified enclaves."

But that nightmare does not lie at the end of the Conservative dream; a dream which springs not from the Paris Commune but from the Declaration of Independence. And therein lies the problem for Liberals; that the only impetus to social survival springs from someone else and that illegitimate. To John Kerry's task of corralling Osama Bin Laden must be added the daunting job of persuading many Americans to renew their touching faith in the United Nations; to grasp the pages of the Time and Newsweek again as if they were gospel; to laugh on cue at the network anchor's artificial smile: to return, in short, to the Big Tent so recently punctured by the suicide pilots of the Al Qaeda -- as if nothing ever happened.

From a practical standpoint, the Liberal project will not die overnight. It is too old and established for that. But neither will the new faith that has risen to challenge it be banished by single John Kerry term. It is too vigorous for that. Sooner or later Liberals and Conservatives must form a coalition of national unity to face the barbarian horde as one. Perhaps President Bush is too polarizing a figure to achieve that; perhaps the current crop of Democratic candidates are too narrow to see that their world has ended forever. They will pass, and a new polity will emerge as the old wanes. On a long-ago summer in that vanished world, children played and sang a song so beautiful that it seemed it would never end:

Some will come and some will go,
We shall surely pass.
When the wind that left us here,
Returns for us at last.
We are but a moment's sunlight,
Fading on the grass.

But the last strains have sounded: the golden children have aged; night has fallen and the Morlocks have come. At their peril, for a flame still burns in the West.

Monday, June 21, 2004

High Over the Mojave

SpaceShipOne has successfully carried a man into outer space. Sixty two years-old old test pilot Mike Melvill has become the first person to win his astronaut's wings on a private aircraft. He will be old enough to remember this message from Centauri (.wav file). The stars were never made for those who refuse to look up; nor are they vouchsafed to those enslaved by ancient hatreds. Well done.

The Enemy Offensive Begins

If there's any doubt that the enemy full-court press has begun, the seizure of three RN smallcraft by Iran and the attack on 4 US Marines in Ramadi, probably by Ba'athist special forces, should erase any doubt. Fighting with the Ba'athists began again after the US killed two dozen foreign terrorists in Fallujah. It was only a matter of time before they struck back, as they do in Lebanon, where many of the Syrian-backed fighters train with Hezbollah. That was expected. But the seizure of the Royal Navy patrol vessels is surprising because it represents a public and unilateral escalation by Iran. As a political statement, it must rank with Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, which was calculatingly delivered against a weak Jimmy Carter. It is an indication of how politically emasculated the Mullahs think the Coalition is, that they should have attempted this at all. Shortly after the conclusion of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Mullahs were practically trembling on their thrones. But now they smile; the BBC has done its work well.

The origins of the seizure, which have no apparent operational rationale, are rooted in the April 2004 offensive against Coalition Forces in Iraq. Iran saw that the US was unwilling to engage in large-scale combat operations against either the Ba'ath in Fallujah but more importantly against Moqtada Al-Sadr in Najaf in an election year. Instead, American commanders attempted to finesse the situation by applying limited and targeted force hand in glove with political warfare. Teheran saw that if those were the rules they were willing to play.

If the British sailors are not forthwith released it suggests that the Mullahs see Blair and his American ally, George Bush, as reduced to impotence by domestic political forces and see an opportunity to humiliate them. The Mullahs should be careful about trying to replay history. Karl Marx said "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce"; little knowing how apt his sneer was; in time he would be to Hegel as Napoleon's nephew was to Napoleon. The problem with putting Tony Blair in the batter's box where Jimmy Carter struck out is that Blair will immediately realize how not to approach this problem. Jimmy Carter lost his job by scraping to the Mullahs and Tony Blair did not come this far to alphabetically precede Carter and Chamberlain in the dictionary of failures.

Although the Iranians may try to dominate the agenda with the usual television parade of hostages and prisoners, just as their terrorist counterparts in Iraq and Saudi Arabia do with their captives, the only real question should be how to humiliate the Mullahs. Tables were made to be turned. They should be made to remember this day so that if their miserable theocracy lasts another ten years they can never bring themselves to look at a calendar opened to the month of June without trembling. The British Tories are subject to periodic and nagging bouts of patriotism, a feeling the Democrats have conditioned Teheran to believe is extinct in the Western political opposition and whose consequences may now surprise them. The Mullahs have rolled the dice and the only answer should be to insert them, one by one, between their bearded lips.

You Talkin' to Me?

Irving Kristol listed out a classic set of of rules for polemicists, people who are trying to set out a particular set of ideas. Rule 1 says that you should forget about trying to convert your adversary.

"In any serious ideological confrontation the chances of success on this score are so remote as to exclude it as a rational objective. On the very rare occasions when it does happen, it will be because the person converted has already and independently come to harbor serious doubts and is teetering on the edge of ideological defection. This is due, more often than not, to some outrageous action by his own side or some shocking revelation."

Rule 3 says we should we should concentrate on "preaching to the converted"

"Preachers do it every Sunday. The strengthening of the commitment, intellectual performance, and morale of those already on your side is an essential task, both in order to bind them more securely to the cause and to make them more effective exponents of it. As religious move-ments in earlier times and the anti-Vietnam-war and civil-rights movements in our times have shown, dedication and enthusiasm are enormous assets, more than compensating (in the initial stages) for lack of numbers"

Al Qaeda appears to have taken his advice or at least independently come the same conclusion. STRATFOR's Geogpolitical diary for June 21, 2004 argues that the recent beheading of American Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia and a similar threat against a Korean kidnapped in Iraq is pitched to the Middle Eastern audience. This supports observations that Al Qaeda has given up on directly confronting the United States in favor of a new strategy of trying to gain influence and power in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The first would give them power over a large share of the world's oil reserves; the second would give them control of nuclear weapons.

Al Qaeda has three audiences: the Islamic world, non-Islamic U.S. allies and the United States. In the United States, as al Qaeda surely knows, the impact of the beheadings ... will reinforce the feeling that al Qaeda must be resisted at all costs ... It is also not working particularly well among U.S. allies. ... That leaves the third audience, the Islamic world. ... Beheadings are a demonstration of will and ongoing capability.

Al Qaeda may have come to the conclusion that if it hopes to win abroad, it must first of all win at home. The wonder is that America has not taken hymnal in hand and preached to its own choir. One of the implicit assumptions of a the forward strategy for freedom in the Middle East is that is possible to appeal directly to the Arab street; that is to say to convert our adversaries. As Michael Ledeen noted in his The War Against the Terror Masters, the fires of Islamic fundamentalism burn lowest in places like Iran and Afghanistan, where the enemy's cruelties are well known; we have adherents, in Kristol's words "due, more often than not, to some outrageous action by his own side". If anything, the appeal to freedom will find a more receptive audience in Teheran where people must listen to the Mullahs than in Riyadh or Cairo where people can listen to the BBC.

Yet perhaps that is not entirely accurate. Although the process began in the Reagan years, the "converted" did not exist as a coherent ideological flock until the end of the 20th century. To a certain degree the choir only began to sing after September 11, 2001. The attack on New York and Washington was to conservatives what the Paris Commune and the October Revolution were to Marxists: the birth of an intellectual nation. The real significance of the Osama's attacks on America to future historians may be that it marked the end of the transnational project of a politically correct world order; delineated the final boundary of the European tradition of Marxist thought and created the first post-post-colonial Western ideology. The Global War on Terror is in certain respects spectacularly ill-named. Its principal victim has not been the Al Qaeda network but the old order. The notion of the centrality of the United Nations; the idea that terrorism is a law enforcement problem; the idea that history is an irreversible march toward a Green-Left future are projects as cold beneath the earth as the Taliban's armies. If the European Union as envisioned by France finally dies; it will mark its departure, however long it may linger, from the time Mohammed Atta's aircraft struck the Towers.

The Al Qaeda may now understand that it cannot topple America -- let us not say the West -- by a coup de main. It has now settled into a war of civilizations. It is consolidating its own forces in a final bid to impose Islam on humanity. And by it's actions it is forcing populations long asleep to reinvent themselves.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Phase 2

Reader DL asks whether the simultaneous upsurge of attacks in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan is a sign of increasing Al Qaeda strength. From the very beginning there has been a debate within Al Qaeda over whether Osama's method of challenging America directly by attacking New York and Washington DC was correct or whether the alternative method of seizing power in one or more Muslim countries was the true path to victory. Michael Ledeen, in his book The War Against the Terror Masters observed that the wells of Islamic fundamentalism flow strongest in "moderate" countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, who are nominally American allies and weakest in places like Afghanistan and Iran. In the former it represents an idealized future to those disenchanted with their repressive and corrupt governments; but in the latter it is an all too real and despised quantity.

Walid Phares seems to believe that the polarizing effects of America's War on Terror has lent the Al Qaeda new strength in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda's ideology, he argues, is not only shared by a large section of the general Saudi citizenry but also by influential factions of the Saudi power structure. While Osama's direct challenge to America met with miserable failure, it had the unintended effect of making the second route to Islamic fundamentalist triumph -- the seizure of power in Islamic countries -- apparently more feasible.

One more time most of the press run headlines such as "Killing Arabs signals chaos within al Qaeda." One more time, the authors of these analyses fail miserably to comprehend what’s really going on. ... The Monarchy is shaken, its emirs promise punishment, but its Achilles’ heel is now revealed. ...Early in 2004, Abdul Aziz al Maqri, al Qaeda's regional commander, launched his Spring offensive. With al Zarqawi pounding Iraq and threatening Jordan, the Jihad in Saudi Arabia crossed one line after another. Al Maqri's men attacked Saudi security headquarters and finally landed in Khubar, the capital of Saudi oil. With high ideological precision, the terrorists struck twice: first against the nerve sensitive web of Petro-dollars and then against the "infidels." In a sinister reminder of the Nazi onslaught against the Jews during WWII, the armed men applied the teachings of Wahabism: "The world is divided in two: Muslims and Infidels." Ethnicity and language cannot help any more. During the killings, a Jordanian Christian and a family of Lebanese Christians had to lie about their religions to avoid execution.

The Arab world unanimously criticized these operations and stood firmly by the Saudi regime. But in the underworld of the radical clerics and the Jihadists, the "amalya" (operation) was a success. Some Imams-on-line (or so they define themselves) called for more and more, till the monarchy comes back to “the rule of Allah.” It is difficult for Americans, and many others in the international community, to fathom the nuances of the Wahabi paradigm. I was asked one day in the classroom: "If the Wahabis want a fundamentalist state, what do the neo-Wahabis want?" I answered without hesitation: The neo-Wahabis want it now and at any cost.

The truce between the Pakistani ruling classes and the Islamists may also be ending. The Washington Post reports on how the Islamists are now directly challenging the hand that used to feed them.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Recent high-profile attacks by Islamic militants on government targets, including a nearly successful assassination attempt on a senior army general last week, are pushing security forces into an escalating confrontation with extremist groups they once embraced as instruments of state policy, according to diplomats and analysts.Until recently, Pakistani militants have avoided direct confrontation with the army, whose Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, has a long history of association with radical groups. The militants have seemed to distinguish between security forces and President Pervez Musharraf, an army general and supporter of the U.S.-led war on terrorism whom they twice tried to kill last December.

Over the past few months, however, some Islamic extremists now are seen to be broadening their anti-government campaign, according to the sources, staging frequent ambushes of army troops in the rugged borderlands near Afghanistan. In one high-profile attack on the morning of June 10, assailants sprayed automatic-weapons fire at the motorcade of Lt. Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat as he commuted to his office in downtown Karachi. Ten Pakistanis, including the alleged ringleader, have been arrested in connection with that attempt, which was described by a Western diplomat as a "qualitative step up" in the nature of extremist violence in Pakistan.

From this point of view, the Islamists can regard the new Iraqi regime represents as precisely the kind of "moderate", nominally American ally they can subvert in the same way as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Where better to generate hate for America, whether in the Middle East or in Europe, than within an "allied" nation? Yet from another perspective, this strategy constitutes a transformation from direct confrontation between Muslim and non-Muslim into a struggle within the fundamentalist heartland itself; it marks a tacit admission that America cannot be tipped into defeat by one or two spectacular blows. Whatever their shortcomings, the US campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have returned the battleground to its native soil. After all, terrorism was never going to be finally defeated in Iraq or Afghanistan for as long as its roots remained untouched in the KSA and Pakistan. It is there and Iran where the final conflict will be waged.

Yet if the US Armed Forces were at least superficially suited to the Iraqi and Afghan campaigns, America singularly lacks a mechanism for swaying the hidden struggles which the War on Terror is now evolving into. Traditionally, the action space between a diplomatic protest and a Marine amphibious landing has been filled by clandestine action by the Central Intelligence Agency. But although that agency is supposed to have been revamped and strengthened after September 11, it is unclear whether it alone can bear the burden of the clandestine and twilight struggle within Islamic World. By charter and culture it fundamentally remains an intelligence gathering apparatus and not a secret army. America had a ready answer to Osama's direct challenge. But it is still evolving a response to the bid for power between vicious and still more vicious factions within Muslim countries.

The public agenda too will have to adjust. The bulk of Western media attention has been focused on Iraq and Afghanistan and on curious side-shows like Abu Ghraib while Al Qaeda makes a bid for Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and Saudi Arabia with its oil. The press cannot recognize these events as a long-held alternative Islamist strategy to power because it would undermine their principal contention that all terrorist events the world over are consequent to the Iraqi campaign; that Operation Iraqi Freedom represents the Year Zero, before which nothing happened and after which all terrorist history began.

The big battles in the War on Terror involving large regular formations may be over. The field itself may shifting to capitals of the Middle East and South Asia that have never seen an American tank. Fox news is reporting new developments on the Paul Johnson murder, "... the Al Qaeda cell behind Johnson's killing ...(said) ... it was helped by sympathizers within the Saudi  security forces."  The House of Saud becomes the House of Usher. President Bush was correct, but poorly served by the phrase that "major combat operations" had ended in Iraq.  He should have quoted Winston Churchill after a British victory over the Afrika Korps:

Now this is not the end.
It is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Oil for Blood

The BBC tut-tuts over yet another proof of American helplessness. In an article entitled Oil attacks target Iraq recovery, author Matthew Davis writes "despite huge efforts to secure oil terminals and the 'economic lifelines' that carry oil through Iraq's deserts, they are proving almost impossible to protect."

Coalition forces, Iraqi police and soldiers backed by rapid response vehicles and air patrols are guarding hundreds of terminals, refineries and pumping stations. But night after night, out in the open countryside, the saboteurs manage to damage the pipelines. ... The latest strikes will have a 'big impact' in terms of Iraq's oil revenues, but perhaps not the $1bn cost of the most pessimistic forecasts, he said.

The "big impact" was later spelled out as amounting to $200M in lost revenues over the last seven months. Reuters put some numbers on the losses: "a trio of pipeline sabotage attacks that brought Iraq's 1.6-1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of exports to a halt. Oil officials in the country said they hoped to resume limited supplies of around 700,000 bpd quickly, but repairs continued on Friday, sources said." Nearly as damaging to world oil supplies was industrial action in Europe.

Adding additional stress to an already taut global supply chain, 200 Norwegian oil workers went on strike over pay Friday, forcing oil companies there to begin shutting in nearly 400,000 bpd -- or 13 percent -- of output from the world's third-biggest exporter.

 Global oil supplies, which America thanklessly protects, may be the new strategic target of terrorists. According to Bloomberg:

Iraqi militants this week attacked pipelines that supply the nation's Persian Gulf oil terminals, halting shipments from facilities that handle 90 percent of Iraq's exports and costing the country $50 million a day. Sabotage also has curtailed exports through a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Attacks on Iraq's oil industry are increasing as the U.S. prepares to hand over power to an interim government on June 30, hampering efforts to increase production and fund reconstruction. Any decline in Iraqi output, 2.6 percent of global supply last month, undermines the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' ability to reduce near-record oil prices.

'There is no capacity in OPEC to make up for the absence of Iraq oil,' said Fadhil al-Chalabi, executive director of the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies and a one-time undersecretary at Iraq's Oil Ministry. 'The sabotage now has been coordinated to hit the north and the south, cutting them off. It has the double effect of weakening the Iraqi government and tightening oil markets.'

Concern that terrorists will disrupt Middle East oil supplies has added as much as $10 a barrel to the price of crude, ministers from OPEC's estimated this month. Oil prices in New York closed at a record $42.33 a barrel on June 1, the first trading day after an attack on oil company offices in Saudi Arabia killed 22 people.

The dynamics here are complex. The damage to oil facilities will be partially offset by higher prices from the product which reaches the market. Terrorist activity has the same economic effect as a cartel-mandated reduction in production. It means that oil exporting countries can charge more for less. For so long as terrorist damage is restricted to fairly cheap sections of pipe through "Iraq's deserts" -- in the BBC's phrase -- or to expatriate Filipino cooks, Indian janitors or Australian chefs, the oil exporting countries can actually be net gainers from terrorist activity.

The Belmont Club pointed out in an earlier post that the STRATFOR consulting company estimates consumers are already paying an $8/barrel "terror premium".  Part of that goes to -- you guessed it -- paying oil producing countries money to "assist" them in securing facilities. For example, "the Canadian oil company Nexen, which operates the ash-Shihr oil export terminal, agreed in January 2003 to provide assistance to the Yemeni government in improving security" after an attack on the French-flagged tanker Limburg in 2002. Over and above the private security utilized by oil companies, Americans provide taxpayer dollars and lives to provide strategic cover, such as maritime security and forward force projection, like that kind that the BBC delights in reviling.

In particular, America bears a disproportionate share in keeping "oil chokepoints" open. World oil flows, on which Europe, Japan and the Third World are heavily dependent, go through the Bab el-Mandab, Bosporus, Hormuz and Malacca Straits, not to mention the Suez canal. Reader MT links to the case of the Straits of Malacca described in the Economist's article Going for the Jugular.

Facing west from Singapore's shores, it is hard to make out the Strait of Malacca, thanks to all the boats and islands scattered across the water. An endless procession of tankers, container ships, tugs, fishing boats, ferries and cruise-liners sails between tiny islets, through a shipping lane that narrows to as little as one and a half nautical miles at one point. Some 50,000 vessels, carrying roughly a quarter of the world's maritime trade, pass through the strait every year. So do about half of all seaborne oil shipments, on which the economies of Japan, China and South Korea depend. If terrorists were determined to devastate the world economy, it would be hard to find a better target.

So, at any rate, reasoned many of the participants at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore last week. Tony Tan, Singapore's deputy prime minister, pointed out that a ship sunk in the right spot, where the sea lane is only 25m deep, “would cripple world trade”. He also raised the possibility of hijacked ships being turned into “floating bombs” and crashed into critical infrastructure such as oil refineries or ports. Donald Rumsfeld, America's secretary of defence, stopped in at the conference to push the “regional maritime security initiative”, whereby America would help South-East Asian countries defend against such attacks.

At the moment, the strait is relatively poorly monitored, especially north of Port Klang, where the sea lanes widen. The cash-strapped Indonesian navy has perhaps 20 seaworthy patrol boats, to guard an archipelago of 17,000 islands. Singapore and Malaysia are richer and better equipped, but have no right to pursue ships into Indonesian waters. Singaporean sailors say that when they pass information to their Indonesian counterparts, it disappears into a black hole. Malaysia and Indonesia have already rejected the idea of American patrols in the strait or rapid-response units at the ready, both out of prickliness about sovereignty and for fear of inflaming anti-American feelings among their citizens. But they say they would accept American help in the form of advice, equipment and training.

In other words, Indonesia and Malaysia, peace be unto them, would accept American money; money for which America would get no thanks, to secure oil supplies through a Strait not a drop of which is used in America but by Japan, Korea and China. The War on Terror may prove to be "all about oil" but not in the way the Peace Lobby means it. International energy security, to which the Europeans contribute industrial action, is premised on the "commons" of American-provided maritime security. It is being turned into a money machine through which the most atrocious regimes on earth can extort ever increasing amounts of political influence and wealth through a glorified protection racket by proxy. Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. Ask not for whom the cash register rings; it rings for he.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Second Star from the Right

On June 21, 2004, Burt Rutan is going to attempt to put the privately-funded SpaceShipOne into sub-orbit. If he succeeds, individuals using only commercial resources -- in principle anyone-- will have achieved what the UK, France and Germany or Japan have not attained as nations. The fact that the prize will likely be won by an American company is incidental. Teams from the UK, Canada, Argentina, Israel  and other countries are competing for the X-Prize and may win it yet. Thousands, including Dale Amon of Samizdata, are heading for the Mojave Airport to watch SpaceShipOne make its attempt. Atmospherically the event recalls nothing so much as Lindbergh's attempt to solo the Atlantic, as this poster perceptively suggests.

In an age when bravery itself is suspect and achievement considered a kind of oppression; when every new technology is hedged around with anticipatory restrictions it is wonderful to know that some men at least would like nothing better than to rise on a column of fire toward the beckoning stars. For every successful flight of this nature slips not only the "surly bonds of earth" but also breaks hidebound modes of thinking. It departs not just from a place but from a time. It takes us not from where we ought to be, but to where we belong.


Iraqi blogger Hammorabi (hat tip: MW) has more details on the possible alliance between the Al Qaeda's Abu Musab al Zarqawi and the Ba'athist stragglers. They've set up headquarters in Fallujah.

"There is news from Falluja talking about a special meeting recently took place in one area in the centre of Falluja in which the (Mujaheeden) has pledged allegiance to appoint Al-Zarqawi as the Ameer (Prince or Governor) of the City of Falluja! Zarqawi was in the meeting which was attended by top leader of Mujaheeden including Arabs from Jordan, Saudis, Syrian and Palestinians.

They divided the city into various areas and called it Emarat El-Falluja (Emirate) with Zarqawi as the Ameer (Prince). They appointed a leader for each one of these areas among the Mujaheeden with one group under his leadership. They gave Zarqawi an Oath to set out the Islamic state of Caliphate in Falluja and from there they will spread it into the rest of Iraq and the region. They now try desperately to gather lot of youths and young people enthusiastic for that to join them. They also tried to get themselves extended well beyond that area to Baghdad and other regions. Among them are many Saudi Wahabis and Syrian with other Arabs."

The Belmont Club earlier linked to an article from the Site Institute which reported that Izzat Ibrahim, once vice president of Iraq and one of Saddam's high ranking security henchmen had transferred his allegiance to Zarqawi, presumably because the Saddam well has run dry. Hammorabi also alleges that Zarqawi and his goons have their hooks right into the Iraqi Police in Fallujah. He counsels: don't run to the station house for help. The expletives are his.

In a news report distributed by Iraqi demonstrators in Baghdad, the IP in Falluja with the Wahabi terrorists captured and killed 6 Shia Iraqi youths. The demostrators seen in the above picture was during the funeral of the 6 men in Baghdad Today. The incident happened on 5th June 2004 when these men hired by a person from Falluja to transport goods there. Once they transported the goods they have been captured by the Group called Mujaheeden (Wahabist) with the help of the local IP in Falluja!

During their return to Baghdad the 6 Shia men have been stopped by gun men terrorists who introduced themselves as the Mujaheeden who fought against the US Marine in April 2003! The 6 men managed to escape and seek refuge with the IP station in the city. The IP then handed them to one of the Wahabi extremist Mullah who handed them to the thugs. The thugs (some Arabs terrorists among them) asked for a ransom of 3000 US Dollar for each one alive! Among the captured was Mohammad Khodier a 12 years old boy who was released later. He told that the Mullah handed them to the terrorists who speak with non-Iraqi different Arab axons. They then decapitated and mutilated them and among them were his older brother and his uncle! Another man called Alaa Marai said that he went to negotiate with the terrorist to give them alive and most of them were Syrian who refused unless the money paid! Shamran Mohammad Dawood one of the relative who went to negotiate their release told France Press that Mullah Al-Janabi (Wahabi) told him to come back after 2 days to get them! When they returned back the terrorist told them to go to Al Ramadi hospital Mortuary. There the thugs asked the relative to pay 700 US Dollars for each body to be given! The relatives then have to give the money to Al-Janabi (Wahabi Mullah) to receive the mutilated bodies of their beloved ones! Janabi with an interview with the Fucking Al-Arabyiah TV said he have nothing to do with their blood and he denied his involvement.

After tortured and abused; two Mullahs from the Wahabi sects called Abdullah Aljanabi and Thafer Al-Dilaimi ordered their execution and mutilation of their bodies and confiscating their belongings including their clothes! Just to remind that the Saudi thugs who killed the American engineer in Riyadh in the most barbaric way and filmed it and those kidnapped another one called themselves the Falluja Brigade! I feel sorry for the wife, the son, the daughter and family of the engineer when they saw him kicked and shout down in that film as I feel sorry for the Iraqi Shia youth's families whose bodies mutilated then given back to their beloved ones. The well known fucking Arab media which works as a mouthpiece for the terrorists propaganda with the hypocritical Red Cross concentrated and sympathized with the mass killer Saddam yet haven't mentioned any sympathy with victims of the above mentioned attacks. The only thing they showed is the film of the killing of the engineer in Riyadh which I am sure is very agonizing for his family to watch!

Apparently, Fallujah has cops who hand you over to the perps and imams who consider mutilation their ministry. This is part of the community which Iraqi political leaders sought to spare when the Marines were storming across the city. This transcript from a June 13 "Meet the Press" interview between Tim Russert and Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar illustrates the point:

MR. RUSSERT: Thus far the United States has lost 827 soldiers, airmen, military servicemen in Iraq; more than 5,000 injured and wounded. And yet you recently said the United States was guilty of genocide. Do you think that's appropriate gratitude for what the United States did for Iraq?

PRES. AL-YAWAR: I never said that, my friend.

MR. RUSSERT: You said the United States in Fallujah...


MR. RUSSERT: ...was committing genocide.

PRES. AL-YAWAR: Yes. Yes. That was in the Fallujah case when a massive army besieges a city. Yes, we are against the bad elements in Fallujah, but the best way to get rid of them--by separating them from the rest of the people. When you besiege a city with an army and you start shelling it with jet fighters, definitely you are turning the law-abiding citizens of Fallujah to be comrades in a struggle with the bad elements. We don't want that to happen.

Mr. Russert may be shocked to learn that bad elements in Fallujah have transformed six simple law-abiding citizens into men of many parts. Mr. Russert's indignation about Marine heavy-handedness is not shared by a Washington Post reporter whose vehicle was reduced to junk by gunmen who pursued it all over Fallujah.  Daniel Williams of the Washington Post took his bullet riddled vehicle to Abu Ghraib, of all places, for safety. "Despite damage to the vehicle, it eventually limped to Abu Ghraib prison, about 20 miles west of Baghdad, where U.S. military police gave us refuge. Few residents of the notorious facility probably ever entered the compound as happily as we did." When Williams asked Marine Colonel Larry Brown why they didn't do something, the Colonel answered, "inevitably, if we went in, there would be a lot of collateral damage. People would defend their homes. We would only go as a last resort". The Colonel might have added, but tactfully refrained from saying, that the Post would be the first to pillory him if they did.

The June 30 transfer of power is less than a fortnight away and the Iraqis will have to start deciding whether their country is worth fighting for or not. It is the Iraqi half of a coin whose American face will be stamped in November, when the voters will signal whether they want to defeat the terrorist enemy or attempt to coexist with them. It is a transaction with no return, no exchange.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Europe and the Middle East

The two major items of the week are what happened in Europe and what may happen in Iraq. The UK Independence Party, which aims to withdraw Britain from the EU suddenly became a serious political party and fired a shot across the bow of European project by placing third in the UK European Member of Parliament elections.

Party Percentage Change from Last Number Elected
Conservatives -9.0% 27
Labor -5.4% 19
UK Independence Party +9.2% 12
Liberal Democrats +2.3% 12
Greens 0.0% 2
British National Party +4.9% 0

Both the Labor and Conservative parties, the former which promotes and the latter which does not oppose further European integration, lost substantial ground. According to Brian Micklethwait of Samizdata, part of the motivation for this shift, apart from feelings of nationalism, is the growing perception that European policies are undermining Britain's future.

"How come? Well, simply, most of the business people of Britain support UKIP. They hate the EU and they want out. Maybe not the big business people. But in terms of the sheer number of businesses, the majority of them support UKIP. The majority of the people whose job description is 'Managing Director' want Britain out of the EU."

The bleak future that Britain seeks to avoid was recently described by the Economist (hat tip: reader MIG) which predicted that if current trends continue, Europe will have a markedly smaller, older and much poorer population than the United States by 2050. Higher American fertility rates, immigration and economic growth will demote Europe from a position of rough comparability to a second-rate status.

Category by 2050 America Europe
Population 550 million 350 million
Median Age 36.2 years 52.7
Percentage of workers over 65 years of age 40% 60%
Percentage under 15 23% 12%
GDP Twice the size of Europe, perhaps more  

The fundamental weakness of the core European states was underscored by the election of a pro-independence candidate to the presidency of French Polynesia, which was annexed by France in the 19th century. France appears to be less influential than it once was even in Africa (thanks to Instapundit). Realistically speaking, these negative trends cannot be expected to continue indefinitely. As other Europeans, like the British, became aware of the catastrophe they are facing, parties with reformist platforms like UK Independence Party will wrest leadership from the current elite to try and steer them clear.

The other item, the more peculiar for not having happened yet, is the suggested Iranian buildup to destabilize Iraq. Michael Ledeen names Abu Musab al Zarkawi (AKA Zarqawi) as Teheran's point man to lead the expected wave of terror to precede the handover of sovereignty to the interim Iraqi government. 

"the relationship between Zarkawi and Osama bin Laden is ambiguous, having seen some evidence (primarily the famous letter captured by U.S. special forces late last year) that Zarkawi was unhappy about the lack of support from al Qaeda. But whatever their tactical and personal disagreements (and these can be feigned), they share a common strategy for Iraq: kill members of the Coalition and any Iraqi who cooperates, and provoke internal conflicts among the various ethnic and religious communities. That tracks with my own analysis, which is that we are dealing with several different groups, supported by the various terror masters in Tehran, Damascus, and Riadh, in a joint operation within the overall matrix of Hezbollah — which of course means Iran."

Reader MIG links to a story from the Hadramoot Arabic Network, via the Site Institute, which reports that the most senior of Saddam's holdouts, Izzat Ibrahim, has pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al Zarqawi. If true, this may suggest that Iran has also swept up the masterless ronin of the former dictator and enlisted them under new management: in short, Iran may now own the Ba'athist remnants.

"It added that, at the sight of Zarqawi, Izzat Ibrahim shouted: “You are the commander and we are your soldiers”. His son Ahmad handed him a copy of the Quran. His father took it, placed his hand and the hands of his sons on it, and they made an oath to God, pledging allegiance to Zarqawi in the Jihad until victory or martyrdom, in good and bad times”.  In the end, the network stated that, “the meeting was brief. Izzat’s sons were placed with the Mujahideen, and the father was placed in the ranks of Zarqawi and other Mujahideen leaders. That day witnessed distribution of hundreds of automatic weapons and large quantities of ammunition on the Mujahideen”. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri was vice-president of Iraq and deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council before the war in Iraq in 2003. Currently one of the most wanted men in Iraq (the king of clubs in the US's deck of cards), he is believed to be a leading figure behind the resistance attacks against US-led forces and has a $10mn bounty on his head, for his arrest or information leading to his capture."

The Command Post links to an article which somewhat alarmingly claims that Iran is gathering troops at the border in the event of a sudden American withdrawal:

Beirut, Lebanon, Jun. 15 (UPI) — Iran reportedly is readying troops to move into Iraq if U.S. troops pull out, leaving a security vacuum. The Saudi daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat, monitored in Beirut, reports Iran has massed four battalions at the border. Al-Sharq al-Awsat quoted “reliable Iraqi sources” as saying, “Iran moved part of its regular military forces towards the Iraqi border in the southern sector at a time its military intelligence agents were operating inside Iraqi territory.”

Of course the cool heads at the Command Post understand that four battalions of Iranian regulars could hardly be contemplating engaging even a single US battalion. If the report is true at all the Iranian regulars are probably providing cover against Coalition Special Forces who may be engaging in "over the fence" operations. Still, reader M links to an article which alleges that six Shi'ites were horribly murdered by Sunnis in the resort town of Fallujah, a reminder of what a powderkeg the region remains.

BAGHDAD (AFP) -- Armed men and police in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah arrested six young Shiites and executed them on the orders of two religious figures in the town, representatives of Shiite tribes in southern Iraq said on Tuesday. During a protest to which the remains of the six men were taken, some 200 southern Shiites handed out photographs of the bodies which they said had also been mutilated by the Fallujah Sunnis.

In a statement also handed out in Fardus Square, Baghdad, on Tuesday, the protestors said the six went to Fallujah, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Baghdad, to deliver goods for one of the town's residents. "After having delivered the goods for the Fallujah resident, they were arrested by members of a group calling itself "Mujahideen", in collaboration with the police," the members of the Rabiya and other southern Shiite tribes said. The men were arrested on June 5 and, according to the statement, their execution was ordered some time later by Abdallah Janabi, imam (preacher) of the Saad ibn Abi Wakkas mosque, and Dhafer Dulaimi, imam of the Hadra Muhammadia mosque.

The pot is boiling, with no shortage of cooks to stir the soup, nor is there any lack of gentle preachers willing and able to mete out mutilation. Kurdistan too, has seen recent attacks, with an Iraqi oil company security chief being assassinated and a pipeline being blown up. It seems only reasonable to expect a flare up in violence before the June 30 handover, and though it hasn't happened yet, the storm clouds are gathering. And yet in in this uncertain hour, no one -- not even French Polynesia -- looks to France or the United Nations to steer them through stormy seas. Roger Simon describes a fascinating interview of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President and Ghazi al-Yawar, the new Iraqi President, both of whom are in the US to meet with American officials. Their presence is a reminder of how the power realities of the world really stand and how the unwanted cup that has come at last to the only place it could -- "the last best, hope of earth".