Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bush Guilty of Observing Laws, Tradition

Maybe the media in general is absolutely unbiased (and maybe dogs will fly out of my butt), but I still enjoy the occasional flagrant Yahoo! news headline such as Bush's Campaign Travel Bankrolled by Taxpayers. Gasp! Was... was this done with our consent??

Do you mean the little check box on my 1040 ("check here if you wish to contribute to the Presdidential Campaign Fund" or some such) is actually SPENT for what it's allocated?

Yahoo! amuses because if there's a negative skew to be grafted on to an otherwise mundane news story, they will skew with reckless abandon. "Ritsch said the system is likely to remain for the foreseeable future — mostly because both Democrats and Republicans have benefited, leaving little will on either side to change it."

Rumsfeld's latest broadside.

I always enjoy Donald Rumsfeld's viewpoint on things. While reading it, I thought about the poll showing 51% of people did not think the war in Iraq was "part of" the war on terror. Would the same proportion think the war on Nazi Germany was not part of the war on Imperial Japan? If so, would they be any less inclined to see the job through to the end?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Least Worst Options

Joe Biden's Plan to Hold Iraq Together starts out by dividing it into three zones based on ethnic lines. The Center for American Progress' Strategic Redeployment, which they had foreseen implementing starting January 2006, would have called for the withdrawal of 80,000 troops by December of 2006 (in which case, by now we would be quite far along in the process of withdrawal by August 2006) and is looking increasingly antiquated given recent events in Lebanon and Tehran.

Strategic Redeployment has been criticized in the past for its cynical nature: U.S. forces are to be used to secure oil fields while Iraq is left to settle its sectarian and ethnic scores via civil war. The bulk of U.S. forces get "redeployed" home; the next largest contingent (14,000) goes to Afghanistan, and token forces are sent to East Africa and Southeast Asia. This proposal was a target-rich environment for criticism, but I won't belabor my objections other than to suggest it would have contributed to instability by removing the final check to Iranian territorial designs (the previous check was the Hussein regime, the current one is U.S. forces in combination with a fledgling Iraqi security force), would not have appreciably enhanced our capabilities in Afghanistan which appear more than adequate at this time, and probably would have been inadequate to influence events in the Horn of Africa.

I find portions of Biden & Gelb's plan with which I agree; where I think it fails is it does not adequately accommodate a foreseeable civil war widening into a regional conflict and the attendant refugee problems. Furthermore, although Biden & Gelb are trying to distinguish and differentiate their plan from current Bush policy, a lot of it is already implemented or manifesting spontaneously. For example, binding "the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue" is not exactly a novel idea, and Sunni Arabs have in many cases realized they are a minority in Iraq and need a strong central government to protect them from the majority Shia.

Over all of these deliberations looms the threat of Iran's designs on the region. Khamenei has been characterized, by Kenneth Pollack and others, as a doctrinaire Khomeinist; almost overcompensatingly so, given his earlier reputation of caution and indolence. Khomeini had articulated the goals of securing Najaf and Karbala as one set of goals (as these are Shia holy sites) and the elimination of the Great Satan and all the Little Satans. The questions that need to be answered are "when?" and "in what sequence?".

It is not much of a stretch to imagine the mullahs see the goal of securing Najaf and Karbala as something imminently possible and evidence exists that they are emplacing forces and capabilities as we speak, according to General John Abizaid. Heartened by their successful Hezbollah pawn gambit against the Israeli knight (my kid tells me Israel's not a bishop because "it doesn't move diagonally"), they are probably anticipating huge windfall profits from oil sales as the price skyrockets in reaction to the regional instability they foment. Tehran probably looks at Peak Oil theories and factors this into their long-term planning as well. One thing that seems to be a blind spot in their grand strategic designs is they have not factored in the unpredictability of civil wars, and may indeed experience some adverse blowback. Another blind spot is they must flawlessly pursue their ends in a way that continues to exploit their cagey understanding of domestic politics in Europe and the Anglosphere, without doing anything that alarms their appeaser fifth column allies on the left and in the press. They might not be able to sustain their current string of successes.

Biden & Gelb end, "Those who reject this plan out of hand must answer one simple question: What is your alternative?" In this challenge, please note that rejecting their plan "out of hand" would reject also a lot of current Bush policy, as there is considerable overlap. Unless criticizing an individual component of their plan constitutes rejection of the whole thing, I think Biden ends with a false choice.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Keep a cool head and get tough.

Tigerhawk has linked to this NY Times article and used it to launch a discussion regarding What Is to Be Done. I sketched out a few operational ideas in my previous post, and I have continued to think about it as the implications of UN Resolution 1701 have begun to sink in and the impossibility of its implementation have become apparent.

The overarching considerations are whether we capitulate, tread water, or fight.

A hardcore of the Kucinich left is likely to either overtly call for capitulation or recommend policies that very clearly lead to enormous losses of strategic capital, if they can be pinned down to making concrete recommendations at all. However, I do think smarter leftist pols in the U.S. are aware that the time to say "just fight competently" is past. Clearly the idea that we should capitulate to dhimmitude is abhorrent to me, so I will leave it to others to make the case.

The middle option of treading water has probably already been deployed: we can specifically refer to it as UN Resolution 1701. Because there are no Freeworld actors capable of pursuing any productive policies under the conditions of UNR 1701, the breathing space afforded to us is very limited, and I hereby speculate that the main impetus behind U.S. support for it cannot be the irrational idea that we thought it represented a true solution to the Hizbollah/Israel dispute. I suspect intelligence obtained from raiding hardened Hizbollah command and control centers forced this precipitous cease-fire. I hesitate to speculate further, but this information was probably Very Bad.

To continue to fight will require realistic bipartisan recognition of the current dire situation. We must soberly face the fact that we may have to temporarily surrender some civil rights, and that this will disproportionately affect muslims. Any such increase in the intrusiveness of Western governments cannot be implemented in a manner that makes it indistinguishable from Sharia law.

The above would serve as a prelude to serious efforts to harden domestic terror targets, as undoubtedly Islamists have pre-positioned assets within the U.S. These efforts would include sealing the borders. Now. In addition, any domestic terror cells currently being monitored should probably be rolled up if possible.

Simultaneously, we have to neutralize the operational capabilities of recognized hostiles without regard to national borders. These include Islamist assets in "Talibanistan", Iran, Syria, and East Africa. Where bodies of conventional armed forces are present, these must be destroyed. Likewise, we should contemplate seizing oil fields in southern Iran while destroying their capacity to place oil on the market. The resulting surge in the price of oil will not do the mullahs any good if they can't sell it.

In looking at the Iraq wars of 1991 and 2003, we see writ large the idea that half-measures in the present lead to much suffering in the future. The ascendancy of Iran after the ouster of the Saddam Hussein regime partially vindicates the George H. W. Bush administration's decision not to remove him at the close of Gulf War I. Even Dick Cheney promoted this decision until it became obvious that Saddam was neither contained nor containable.

Olmert's debacle has now removed any question from my mind about prospects for containing Iran's Twelvers and their Khomeinist agenda. Their perception is that they have received God's Own Mandate to pursue their irhab.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What to do now in Iraq.

Generals Peter Pace and John Abizaid testified last week in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and (excuse the passive voice) much hay was made. I seem to remember the partisan media focussing on a testy exchange between John McCain and General Pace on whether the situation could have been predicted.

It seems like the question Pace was answering was, "could you have predicted a Shiite force like Hezbollah getting into a war with Israel and destabilizing the situation in Baghdad with the Sadr and Badr militias?" and not, as the partisan media liked to imply, that the violence in Baghdad should have been pacified by now. Clearly, it is not just journalists who are questioning what to do now. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is calling for a revised intelligence estimate of Iraq, and this is never a bad idea.

So what, indeed, should be the role of U.S. forces at the present time? A lot of my speculation here assumes overt participation by Iran in a larger regional conflict which at this point to me seems inevitable. I would base strategy on the following:

1. Establish a "redoubt" in largely Kurd-controlled areas in the north of Iraq. This would discourage any contemplated Turkish adventurism as well as provide a base for U.S. operations in the Kurd-dominated areas of northern Iran. The Kurdish majority in northern Iraq has established a fairly stable civil infrastructure which needs to be protected, and the petroleum assets in that region are worth conserving for their benefit. Kurds have proven to be better allies than the Turks.

2. Realize the difficulty of protecting most of the urban centers of eastern Iraq against Iranian infiltration. This is a lesson Saddam learned in his war with Iran: most Iraqi cities are within spitting distance of the Iranian border, while most Iranian cities are deep in Iran's interior. In any Iranian invasion, these cities and the Shatt al-Arab are likely to fall quickly to a combination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard units and local Shiite militias. This allows Iran to establish a beachhead from which to threaten the center. al-Maliki is probably in the back pocket of Muqtada al-Sadr, who is currently experiencing resurgent popularity due to Khomeinist Shiite solidarity with their Hezbollah brethren. A temporary strategic withdrawal from the eastern border with Iran is probably prudent.

3. A strong presence within Baghdad must persist. It is necessary to protect the fledgling government apparatus during a turbulent time likely to see quite a bit of turnover in the next year. If Iran attacks overtly, al-Maliki is likely toast because he will see his buddies in the al-Sadr militia chewed up. al-Sistani needs to be protected because of his greater religious legitimacy and his standoffish posture vis a vis Iranian mullahs; it is al-Sistani's Shia who stand to profit in the ensuing power vacuum.

4. A critical strategic goal of U.S. policy should be to entice Iran into prematurely committing regular armed forces units into open warfare where they will likely be cut into ribbons by U.S. capabilities. Intelligence entities should prioritize the study of current Iranian tactical doctrine as revealed by the Hezbollah playbook, assuming the arming and training of Hezbollah reflects current thinking in military circles in Iran. Although Basiji human wave attacks are not likely to be employed by any sane Iranian general, certainly the esprit of these celebrated Khomeini-era formations permeates today's Iranian forces and might inspire some really dumb & exploitable moves.

Destruction of IRGC units in pitched battles can spare domestic Iranian regime critics who would form the nucleus of a post-war Iranian government. Invasion of Iran should not be something we are contemplating at this time. Rather, I advocate a destructive containment and attrition of the investment the mullahs have made in conventional materiel & manpower. This includes degradation of oil refinery capacity and pipelines, perhaps incorporating a multi-national Sunni force to take over petroleum assets in Sunni-dominated south Iran.

5. Syria needs to know in no uncertain terms that everyone knows they are Iran's bitch, and a massive "shock and awe" style campaign has to be in place and ready to go.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"America Can Expect a Resounding Slap and a Devastating Fist-Blow..."

...from the muslim world, according to Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.

In which case I vote the freeworld respond with a spinning reverse back kick and a sleeper hold.

Or perhaps the 5 Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.