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.

The Shape of Things to Come


When the 20th century opened, the British Royal Navy had ruled the oceans, unchallenged, for more than a century. It had more then 150 steel warships, far more than it's nearest naval rival. There was only one problem: the technology existed to make them all obsolete. Rather than await events, Sir John Fisher, the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty in the years before World War I, decided to make all the King's warships obsolete before the King's enemies could. He built the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought, which set the naval tables back to zero. At a stroke, the world's navies would have to start from scratch using Dreadnought building-blocks.

Chuck Spinney argues that the United States cannot afford to modernize its Armed Forces because the sheer size of the defense establishment means it cannot be constantly renewed, any more than New York city can be razed and rebuilt every twenty years. Moreover, most of it's weapons were designed to fight armies like those of the former Soviet Union. So although the America spends as much as the next 20 powers combined, it's vast military legacy is ill suited to Fourth Generation Warfare, as exemplified by the Al-Qaeda attack on Manhattan on September 11, and finds itself in much the same position as the British Navy a century ago.

Rumsfeld the Destroyer

Enter Donald Rumsefeld, who may elect not to modernize the US military in any traditional sense at all, and choose, as Fisher did, to jettison the panoply of brightwork and sail and begin building anew from a totally new set of bricks. The political name for that effort is called transforming the military. Rumsfeld, like Fisher, is letting nothing stand in his way. Army Secretary Thomas White was forced to resign and retired Special Operations General Peter J. Schoomaker tapped to be US Army Chief of Staff in the furtherance of Rumsfeld's vision.

If making the US Armed Forces smaller sounds like a good idea, it is not without danger, says Phil Carter, who quotes outgoing General Eric Shinseki as saying, "Beware the 12 division strategy for a 10 division army". Carter says:

This note of caution should resonate around the Pentagon, because this is a real problem. America's military is stretched very thin right now, and Secretary Rumsfeld has proposed troop cuts and realignments which would cut it even further. I'm a huge fan of transformation and efficiency, wherever it can be done. But many missions require manpower -- boots on the ground -- to be accomplished. They can't be done with money or machines.

In the months following September 11, 2001, aircraft carriers like the Abraham Lincoln spent almost a year at sea, as much as a man-o'-war in Hornblower's day. Units like the 101st Division and the 3rd ID have not returned from Iraq, but are being kept there to perform new missions. And the unease is growing that, if revolution breaks out in Iran and there is trouble in North Korea, there will not be enough United States forces to go around. Although the United States is using French, Italian and German troops to perform second-tier missions like the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in order to reserve American troops for real combat missions, it is cold comfort to those who must hold the line while the Armed Forces are being transformed.

The New Dreadnought and the End of Armies

Into what? Although there will always be a specialized  military organizations, there are suggestions that in the future, war-making will no longer be the exclusive function of soldiery. Entire societies will become weapon's systems in a way never formally recognized before. Although Victor Davis Hanson claims that, from ancient times, war has always been a contest of civilizations, traditional strategy never built an operational doctrine around the concept. But in a seminal work entitled Into the Fourth Generation  in 1989, five US officers predicted that terrorists would simply bypass each other's militaries and strike "directly at his homeland at civilian targets". In such a war, societies would be at war at many levels with each other, and ideas, beliefs and economies will be as important as weapons. Osama Bin Laden understood this, and killed 3,000 people in Manhattan. Donald Rumsfeld understands this too, and will battle the djinn in his cave.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Zulu Time

Dear reader, the Belmont Club is now recording all it's posts in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Zulu Time, as it is otherwise known, in order to provide a common time frame for articles.

Please visit our new links, Defense and the National Interest, for an education, and Day by Day for an occasional bitter laugh. Mwa-ha-ha.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

This day

Desert Scorpion

From Centcom:

BAGHDAD, IRAQ (15 JUNE, 2003) – In order to isolate and defeat remaining pockets of resistance seeking to delay the transition to a peaceful and stable Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force 7 initiated Operation Desert Scorpion today. ... Combat operations will be followed by synchronized stability and humanitarian operations designed to assist a transition to Iraqi self-rule. These include engineer and civil affairs initiatives to repair damaged infrastructure, support the growth of police forces and local government and improve the lives of Iraq’s citizens.

It's what is implied by this statement that's interesting. There's a follow-on pacification effort behind the military strike. The US isn't passing through: it's taking over at the grassroots. The police forces and local government officials who come in the wake of Desert Scorpion must root out the Ba'athists. Their lives literally depend on it.

It's also interesting to note that ever since the US forces started going on the offensive, now that they have the capacity to both police Iraq and attack, that casualties from Ba'athist attacks have declined. No combat deaths in Peninsula Strike or Desert Scorpion so far. The best the Ba'athists have been able to do is damage a truck (lead story in the Independent) and a helicopter. The Left will say, 'but this is the start of another Vietnam!'. The Left should remember that the US Army never lost a single major battle in Vietnam. And this time, there are no sanctuaries in Cambodia or Laos. The better analogue is US operations against Communist guerillas in post-World War 2 South Korea. Without Lyndon Johnson and with Harry Truman, guess who won that one? And the Left, by the way, are no longer players on the world revolutionary stage. They are has-beens, now suceeded by radical Islam. It's time to take down that flyblown poster of Che Guevara, boys. Even grandpa can't remember who he was.

Pans in the Fire

President Bush is calling for the "international community" (read Europe) to clamp down on Hamas. As the Belmont Club has often asserted, Western Europe is a major political theater of operations in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In order to defeat the terrorists, the United States must successfully wage political warfare in Europe. Pushing the Israelis back gives him the leverage to ask the Euros, how 'bout it, bub? In the same speech, President Bush encouraged the demonstrations in Iran, calling them a step on the road to freedom. President Bush has stepped into the glare of the casino lights and put his money on a color. Now history is spinning the wheel. He may have some idea where the wheel might stop. Either that or he will keep betting on the same color at double the money till it comes up. Will Iran go back to the 8th century or will it pop into the 21st. How 'bout it, bub?

What happened in Mecca?

ABC Online is reporting that a large firefight broke out in the pilgrim city of Mecca between "terrorists" and Saudi security personnel.

Clashes between police and suspected terrorists in western Saudi Arabia have left 10 people dead, including five members of the security services, the daily Okaz reported.

The paper says five other security officers were injured in the fighting in Mecca's Khaldiya district, and seven people on the authorities' wanted list were arrested.

The London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia (MIRA), citing "diverse sources" in Saudi Arabia, says that eight security officers and three civilians were killed in the clash.


The most detailed account of the shootout so far comes from Iran Broadcasting. The astounding bits have been highlighted.

11:42:21 AM Riyhadh, June 15 - Ten people, including five members of the security services, were killed in an overnight clash between police and suspected terrorists in the holy city of Mecca, western Saudi Arabia, the daily Okaz reported Sunday.

Five other security officers were injured in the fighting in Mecca's Khaldiya district and seven people on the authorities' wanted list were arrested, the paper said.

Okaz said the shootout occurred after a group of men aboard a vehicle ignored police orders to stop and took refuge in a building in Khaldiya following a car chase through the streets in which shots were fired.

Police evacuated the building and stormed the apartment where the suspects were holed up, the report added.

Inside they found a large quantity of weapons and explosives, while one of those arrested was wearing a suicide bomber's belt.

Okaz said that the dead included a captain in the security forces while a lieutenant-colonel and three sergeants were among the wounded.

There was apparently a night car chase, bullets flying, a hasty siege in an upscale part of Mecca, an apartment full of explosives and a sudden rush in which a senior intelligence officer died. Middle East News say that

Police seized 72 locally-made bombs of various sizes, in addition to several automatic rifles, guns, ammunition, communication devices, chemicals for use to manufacture bombs and masks, said the statement.

It's possible that something was in the last stages of planning and the security forces caught a lucky break. Reuters is reporting that the Saudi's shorts are in the shredder:

Residents of the nearby port city of Jeddah reported two-mile traffic tailbacks into Mecca amid security checks, including inspections of women's handbags, a rare step in a country which enforces strict gender segregation.

Al Qaeda under attack in Mecca. The times, they are a changin'.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

Just another quiet weekend

Operation Peninsula Strike

Lots of good stuff at Phil Carter's Intel Dump, on Operation Peninsula Strike, far too good for me to regurgitate. He puts it in the context of the new offensive capability of US forces in Iraq, which is now surplus to their peacekeeping capabilities. He also narrates the earlier actions of Pvt. Jesse Halling, who was mortally wounded by an RPG while repelling an attack. He has been recommended for a Silver Star, America's third-highest award for valor under fire. Read the whole thing.

One hundred Iraqi KIA in the operation so far. No US combat deaths.

Iranian Student Demonstrations

The word demonstration will soon have to be redefined to include chains, clubs, cattle prods and firearms. Not only are the students chanting "Death to Khamenei", they are significantly, calling for the rejection of President Mohammad Khatami who has been dubbed a "reformist" by the Western Press. The Mullahs are, not surprisingly, accusing the United States of stirring up dissent. Ever since Europeans dismissed talk about the Axis of Evil as the mere ignorant spouting of a cowboy, things haven't quite been the same in Iraq, Iran and North Korea.


Meanwhile, the ragtag rebel armies of Africa have killed 400 persons in fighting around Monrovia, Liberia, over the past week -- four the times the number the US 4th ID and 101st Airborne have killed in Operation Peninsula Strike -- probably because they kill just anybody. But don't worry, the UN is on the job.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Why the "roadmap" only shows part of the map

In a June 11, 2003 post, Why Bush is restraining Sharon, Belmont Club argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not the decisive theater in the wider war on terror.

The main theater of war is in the West. Islam is not strong; it's that the West is civilizationally weak -- perhaps at the lowest point in the last 1,000 years. The other main areas of conflict are the moneybags of Islamism Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states; it's technological powerhouses such as Pakistan and possibly France. If Islamism is discredited in the West and loses it's financial clout, then it will be fatally wounded. If not, then Israel will continue to be attacked. Palestinian Authority chief Abbas couldn't stop this war even if he wanted to.

... The obvious next moves are for the US to break down Egyptian and Lebanese support for Palestinian groups. By neutralizing Hezbollah; by reducing arms flowing to the Gaza enclave from Egypt. Perhaps it may even forment trouble in Lebanon itself. America is certainly preparing to take on the terrorists on the ground. The United States is retooling the Armed Forces and redeploying its bases to fight groups like Hezbollah and not another army. Donald Rumsfeld's appointment of retired ex-Special Forces Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker to be the next Chief of Staff of the Army is extraordinary. It indicates the lengths to which the entire national defense structure is being transformed to meet the needs of a new strategy.

Victor Davis Hanson later made the same point on June 13, 2003 in his NRO article An Indirect Approach?, subtitled: Peace in the Middle East will not be won on the West Bank. Here Hanson argues that:

If we continue to get tough with Syria and Iran, and if we stay the course in Iraq, we can turn generic terrorism in the Middle East into a sort of Potemkin existence — snarly, ugly, loud marchers, who when the cameras cut out skulk home in fear that either American arms or a suddenly hostile host government are waiting at the door. Even as bombers strap on their munitions and head for Israel, an entire avalanche of events, both military and cultural, is undermining their entire bankrupt ideology — whether it be pan-Arabism, theocracy, or international jihad.

The strategic balance is tipping ever so gradually away from the terrorists and toward the realists, who grasp that the end is coming for Hamas or Hezbollah, and for the safe houses of Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank from which they unleash their terror. Yasser Arafat is no longer welcome at the White House; he sees that some of his old cronies, such as Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, and Saddam Hussein, are no longer on the loose.

Sometimes, the Belmont Club's analysis isn't too shabby. Not too shabby at all.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

There's that word again

US Secretary of State Colin Powell promised to visit further retaliation on the Burmese dictators if they continue to resist democracy. According to Reuters:

Powell's comments, in a signed article published in the Asian Wall Street Journal on Thursday, were the latest expression of international outrage over the treatment of the pro-democracy activist, who is now in her 13th day of detention.

"The junta that oppresses democracy in Burma (Myanmar) must find that its actions will not be allowed to stand," he said in the commentary in which he called for financial measures against Myanmar's military rulers.

The US Senate voted nearly unanimously to shut down any and all trade with Burma, valued at $356 million in 2002, to impede attempts by the Burmese rulers to travel, freeze any assets within US jurisdiction and to lobby ASEAN to censure their newest member. In the past, whenever the Bush administration has said an action will not stand, it has been a prelude to a focused and brutal campaign to rescind it.

The Belmont Club earlier noted that the United States is redeploying away from Japan to new the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore into what Phil Carter calls "hub" and "lilypad" bases: staging areas for further action.

Whether the US will lean on Burma in the near future is another matter. It is in the middle of a massive transformation of the US military, as Phil Carter notes in another place. A huge debate is raging within the Bush administration over the size of the US Armed Forces, with Secretary Rumsfeld determined to recast it into a radically smaller, but more mobile organization, a policy which many uniformed officers are resisting on the grounds of a manpower shortage.

Count on us to let you down

The United Nations peacekeepers who were eaten by cannibals in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, had pleaded with their superiors to be evacuated -- in vain, of course. According to to a Knight Ridder correspondent:

BUNIA, Congo - For six days, two terrified United Nations military observers phoned their superiors - as many as four times a day - begging to be evacuated from their remote outpost in northeastern Congo.

They were receiving death threats, they said. They were alone and unarmed in Mongbwalu, a former gold-mining town ruled by the cannibalistic Lendu tribal militias. A U.N. helicopter from the town of Bunia could have retrieved them in 35 minutes.

But the United Nations, handcuffed by its own rules and bureaucracy, never sent a chopper. On May 18, 10 days after the two peacekeepers made their first distress call, the United Nations finally flew some armed peacekeepers to Mongbwalu.

They found the mutilated bodies of Maj. Safwat al Oran, 37, of Jordan, and Capt. Siddon Davis Banda, 29, of Malawi.

Why am I not surprised? Apparently U.N. rules required that the militia had to give permission to land a helicopter to evacuate their own men.

"Their stomachs were split open and their hearts and livers were missing. One man's brain was gone."

Maybe the "militia" the UN deferred to had something to do with the disappearance of their internal organs.

But never fear, Belgium's Criminal Court is coming to the rescue. "A high-powered U.N. peace mission arrived in Kinshasa yesterday and warned that brutal tribal fighting in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo was 'unacceptable,' with war criminals liable to face an international tribunal." War criminals? How about starting with the UN.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

War in the Shadows

The Washington Post is reporting that "attacks on American troops are growing in frequency and sophistication across central Iraq, a crescent of discontent and hostility where many Iraqis remain opposed to the U.S. occupation of their country". This area is sometimes referred to as the "Sunni Triangle" and is the heartland of the former Ba'ath regime.

"On Sunday night, a U.S. soldier was killed at a checkpoint near the Syrian border. The assailants first requested medical assistance for a passenger in their vehicle and when the soldiers approached, they fired handguns at them. U.S. troops returned fire, killing one and capturing another. At least one assailant fled in the vehicle, according to the U.S. Central Command. The soldier has not been identified."

According to the post 8 Americans and dozens of Iraqis have been killed in small skirmishes over the last two weeks. "They were probing us, seeing how we reacted. That's how we would have done it," Staff Sgt. Jaime Carrasco said. "They knew how to use their weapons."

But the US Army was never a devotee of the defensive. CENTCOM launched OPERATION PENINSULA STRIKE, centered around Balad, Iraq in an area about halfway to Tikrit on the road north from Baghdad, which on the map, appears to be marshy terrain of the kind that characterized the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The Americans, too, struck in two stages. They gathered intelligence on their targets and struck with "air assault teams, ground attack squads, raid teams, river patrol boats", capturing about 400 suspects and numerous weapon systems and ammunition. An intelligence assessment team is processing the captives. Interestingly, Operational Peninsula Strike was organized in coordination with Iraqi policemen, with no massive loss of operational surprise.

The interesting thing about Operational Peninsula Strike is that it was not directed at the obvious targets of a blind military machine such as those in the immediate neighborhood of the attacks on US forces. The US forces seemed to have a pretty clear idea of where to strike in what must have been an inaccessible and remote area.

The thing to watch now is tempo. A continuing US attack with increasing frequency means that they are exploiting the field intelligence effectively.

Mech Infantry in Iraq

The Strategy Page has published parts of two emails from 3rd ID soldiers who held highway intersections on the day the US began it's "Thunder Run" into downtown Baghdad. It conveys something of the tradecraft of a mech infantry soldier: the receipt of a mission under a tarp in a gutted building; the scrounging for units; the bravery of both friend and enemy. Here's an excerpt:

"I can't tell the story of this fight in an email. It will take me at least an Infantry Magazine article, maybe a series of articles. The enemy at CURLEY turned out to be fanatical Syrian Jihadists, determined to die. They attacked incessantly for 12-14 hours, firing small arms and RPGs from buildings, trenches, bunkers, and rubble along side the cloverleaf intersection. They "charged" the US positions (the only word that fits), in taxis, cars, trucks with heavy machine guns mounted, and even in motorcycles with recoilless rifles tied to the side cars (not a war story, I saw one of them that the battalion captured). They drove cars loaded with explosives at high speed towards the US positions, hoping to take American with them in death when they exploded. The mortar platoon occupied the southern part of the objective with two tubes aimed north and two aimed south. They fired simultaneous indirect fire missions south and north, while the gunners on the .50 caliber machine guns fired direct fire to defend their positions. The mortar men continued to fire missions even while under ground assault and indirect fire. They fired over 20 direct lay missions against buildings housing enemy forces and against "Technical Vehicles" firing against the position. They supported the forces on the two other objectives with nine DANGER CLOSE missions, especially after the supporting FA unit fired a mission that struck US positions and wounded two soldiers. The Bn FSO was so angry at the FA that he ceased calling them and used the mortars exclusively for over 12 hours."

The way heroes can be rewarded with imminent death is exemplified by the story of a US mortar platoon leader, who, looking for a better spot for his tubes, is caught in the open by two Iraqi T-72 tanks who pin him down with coax in a ditch. The two Iraqi tanks are momentarily distracted by the platoon sergeant, who drives a HMMWV into their field of vision to divert their aim. The Iraqi tanks destroy an NBC vehicle, then a Bradley driving unsuspecting past the intersection, when an M1A1 Abrams tank shows up ...

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Ridi Pagliaccio

It's official. You may now laugh. Even the Europeans can hardly keep a straight face. "This is the most cynical military briefing I've read in my entire life. Everybody is just laughing at it.", said one European military planner according to the Guardian. He was referring, of course, to the shambolic UN-EU mission to restore peace in the Congo and end the bloodshed that has cost millions of lives.

A brief patrol by the French troops yesterday made the mission's modest ambitions apparent. Four jeeps packed with infantrymen drove 200 metres through the town centre, accompanied by as many western journalists. For 20 minutes groups of children sang for the cameras, then the troops rolled back to their airport base.

CNN described the mission more tersely: "Outside of Bunia, the force has no mandate and no means to secure the country," Col. Dubois said." Not inside Bunia either. From the Guardian again.

There was no patrol on Saturday during a gun battle in central Bunia. "We are here to secure the airport for the arrival of the international force. It is not our mandate to intervene in fighting between armed groups, only in direct attacks on civilians," the colonel in command said.

The Belmont Club has repeatedly assessed the entire mission as a sham, based on the miniscule size of the force, its restrictive terms of reference, the 3-week duration of its mission, the obvious lack of logistical effort, the absence of credible support firepower and the reliance of the Europeans upon bases in Uganda, which is one of the neighboring countries fueling the civil war and the direct patron of the bloodthirsty Hema milita. Do you know what French jets and Cannibals have in common? They are both based in Uganda. Now you know why the European military planner was laughing.

Unfortunately the suffering Africans are convulsed by things other than laughter. The International Herald Tribune reports:

They had walked through the banana groves and up the empty red dirt roads. Among them was a mother of two, clutching a child at her breasts, a pregnant woman holding her belly, a girl in a tattered blue school uniform skirt.
By any measure, the war in this country is among the cruelest in the world, and these are the survivors of one of its cruelest weapons. They and countless others have been raped by soldiers spreading terror through the countryside. Of this group, only the 13-year-old girl, who screamed with all her might as her attacker grabbed and tore at her clothes, had been spared.

If you still have a sense of humor, go to the Vesti la Giubba page, where you may hear Puccini's famous aria sung by a selection of tenors.

Put on your costume and mask your face with powder.
The people pay and come here to laugh.
And if Harlequin steals Colombina from you,
laugh, Pagliaccio, and everyone will applaud!