Thursday, August 31, 2006

Word play and warfare

What's going on with the term "Islamic fascism"? It's been used by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and other intellectual NeoCons; I distinguish Hitchens from some NeoCons who seldom publish even when they hold professorships.

The AP:
President Bush in recent days has recast the global antiterrorism effort as a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzzword for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush used the term this month in talking about the arrest of terrorism suspects in Britain, and he spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wis. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House news briefings.


Conservative commentators have long talked about "Islamo-fascism," and Bush's phrase was a slightly toned-down variation on that theme.

Dennis Ross, a Mideast adviser to both the first Bush and Clinton administrations and now director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he would have chosen different words.

"The war on terror has always been a misnomer, because terrorism is an instrument, it's not an ideology," Ross said. "So I would always have preferred it to be called the 'war with radical Islam,' not with Islam but with 'radical Islam.' "
This has been advanced, by some pundits, as a rebranding of the war on terror. There is a little more going on than just that. One has to reflect on 30 years of tension to see what might be going on in the President's mind. Perhaps we may also view the Iranian hostage crisis as the Beer Hall Putsch of Islamo-fascism. That is not too outlandish, as Mark Bowden's latest book is subtitled: "The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam". defines fascism as, "a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism."

Whether there really are Islamo-fascists is not the point of this entry. There are clearly some in positions of leadership that buy into this assertion, and it centers on the idea of wilayat al-faqih, a concept practiced by Hezbollah and Ayatollahs in Iran.

Adam Shatz in a 2004 New York Review of Books article:
Hezbollah now has some 100,000 supporters, about half of whom are party members. When Nasrallah raises his voice, the Lebanese pay close attention to what he says, whether or not they like him. Bashar Assad, Syria's young leader and Hezbollah's other major sponsor, is said to revere him.[2] Although Nasrallah depends on Iranian arms and Syria's support for his military operations, he has achieved a significant degree of autonomy from both parties, which may complicate future efforts to disband it. Hezbollah, which adheres to the principle of wilayat al-faqih, or rule by the Islamic jurist, regards Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as its ultimate leader, and maintains close ties to Iran's leadership, especially to the hard-line clerics who helped organize the party in the early 1980s.[3] It was Khamenei who reportedly influenced Hezbollah's decision to maintain its armed wing rather than devote all its energies to Lebanese politics after Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. But Hezbollah has long ceased to be an Iranian-controlled militia. (The last remaining Revolutionary Guards left the Bekaa Valley in 1998.) Although Hezbollah is believed to coordinate foreign policy matters with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the Lebanese and Western experts I've talked to say it reaches most of its everyday decisions without consulting Iran. Moreover, they say, Khamenei has never overruled Nasrallah.
We can anticipate semi-states emerging in Iraq under the control of Sadr or SCIRI employing wilayat al-faqih as well. The insurgent strategy of providing medical, infrastructure and employment services could be viewed as a wilayat al-faqih dictatorship expanding its control. Perhaps that is or is not fascism.

With Iran pursuing a nuclear program, CNN, it is interesting to note that the "war on terror" has been rebranded to counter "Islamo-fascism". If there is one nation that defines Islamo-fascism, it is Iran. At least, that might be the opinion of some in the White House.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Some paragraphs to consider


Note the sources (my emphasis) in this Los Angeles Times story:
Despite an increase in violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in the last three days, U.S. officials say the early results of the Baghdad offensive seem encouraging.

The capital's homicide rate, which soared to a high of more than 1,800 killings in July, appears to have plummeted by more than half in recent weeks, the U.S. military says.

But the military's plan carries the same potential weakness as previous efforts: U.S. troops, backed by Iraqi allies, descend on an area in force, pacify it and move on, leaving peacekeeping duties to overwhelmed Iraqi police officers and soldiers.

In the past, the "we stand down, Iraqis step up" blueprint has failed because the Iraqis have proved unable to keep the peace, U.S. officials say. The Iraqi security services' inability to keep Iraqis from killing one another was what prompted the newly bolstered U.S. presence in Baghdad.
The Washington Post:
Authorities say it was not an isolated incident. In Baghdad these days, not even the hospitals are safe. In growing numbers, sick and wounded Sunnis have been abducted from public hospitals operated by Iraq's Shiite-run Health Ministry and later killed, according to patients, families of victims, doctors and government officials.

As a result, more and more Iraqis are avoiding hospitals, making it even harder to preserve life in a city where death is seemingly everywhere. Gunshot victims are now being treated by nurses in makeshift emergency rooms set up in homes. Women giving birth are smuggled out of Baghdad and into clinics in safer provinces.
The Guardian:
The explosion happened at 9.50am local time (0650 BST), almost two hours after the detonation of an explosives-rigged bicycle near an army recruiting centre in Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad. The Hilla attack killed at least 12 people and injured 28, police said.

A man posing as a potential army recruit planted the bicycle outside the recruiting centre early in the morning, police Lieutenant Osama Ahmed said. The man walked off as volunteers to sign up for the army gathered outside the building.

The Washington Times:
The internal recriminations have targeted both Mr. Olmert and top commanders of the Israel Defense Forces, long seen as a bulwark of a Jewish state surrounded by larger, hostile Arab neighbors.

"They've destroyed the best army in the world," said Assaf Davidi, a 28-year-old reservist who fought in the 34-day war. "I don't trust these people to change the mistakes that were made."
JERUSALEM (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday called Israel's air and sea blockade of Lebanon a "humiliation," while Israel said it won't end the embargo until peacekeeping forces on the border can prevent Hezbollah guerrillas from importing new weapons.
BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said Wednesday that he refused to have any direct contact with Israel and Lebanon would be the last Arab country to ever sign a peace deal with the Jewish state.

"Let it be clear, we are not seeking any agreement until there is just and comprehensive peace based on the Arab initiative," he said.

He was referring to a plan that came out of a 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut. It calls for Israel to return all territories it conquered in the 1967 Mideast war, the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem — all in exchange for peace and full normalization of Arab relations with Israel.

Israel has long sought a peace deal with Lebanon, but Beirut has hesitated as long as Israel's conflicts with the Palestinians and Syria remained unresolved.
Let's assume that Iran is 4 - 10 years away from a nuclear bomb. That should put more emphasis on the Mid East peace process. Isolating Iran from Europe, Russia, China, etc. is a smart idea. Isolating Iran from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, elements of Lebanon, Egypt, etc. (these powers would be so inclined) will require a substantial cool-down between Israel and the Palestinians.


The United States has issued a visa to former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, despite Washington's row with Tehran over its nuclear programme.

Mr Khatami will be one of the most senior Iranian figures to visit the US since diplomatic ties were cut in 1979, apart from officials on UN business.

Mr Khatami's visit is being described as private.

The US state department said there were no plans for him to meet government officials.

Mr Khatami is to give a speech at Washington's National Cathedral on 7 September on the role that Islam, Judaism and Christianity can play in shaping peace.

He will also attend a conference at the UN in New York on promoting dialogue.
The Boston Globe:
These Iranians, in large ways and small, want more democracy and pluralism in their country, and they have taken risks to change their society. They are the kind of people whom US officials say they want to support. Yet they all agree that the last thing they need is help from the United States.

``The best thing the Americans can do for democracy in Iran is not to support it," Baghi, the activist, said recently in his office, next to a stack of his politically risky published books -- ``The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran," ``Clerics and Power," and a study that criticizes the government on its own terms, using Islamic teachings to indict Iran's justice system and its arbitrary arrests and executions.

Receiving US aid -- whether cash or simply public statements of support -- could destroy democracy advocates' chances of building grass-roots credibility at home, say Baghi and many other Iranians critical of their government. They prefer to steer their own course, pushing for gradual change and navigating a middle ground between accommodation and conflict with the Muslim clerics who rule Iran.
Someone needs to ask George W. Bush the following question: Do you believe that democracy advocate in Iran have difficulty pursuing their agenda when the United States voices support for democracy in Iran?

He'll stumble through that one, more so than usual.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Treading water in Iraq

Gradual progress in Ramadi. Increased security in Baghdad, though it might be a temporary gain. Increased tensions between Sadr's movement and the government, which has eased today. Kurdish PKK terrorists attacking tourist locations in Turkey.


Stars and Stripes:
As U.S. and Iraqi army troops wage a renewed campaign to rid Ramadi of insurgents, fortified checkpoints like ECP-8 have become critical weapons in the monthslong battle. By securing major thoroughfares into and out of Ramadi, U.S. and Iraqi army commanders say they have been able to isolate insurgents within the city by cutting off or substantially reducing their supply of weapons, as well as their freedom of movement.

“This has been one of the single most detrimental moves we’ve made against the enemy,” said Lt. Col. Ronald Clark, commander of the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 1-506th — a unit of the 101st Airborne Division. “He can’t get fighters and supplies into the city. We’ve isolated him.”

The checkpoints, along with daily combat patrols, raids and other operations, have significantly reduced insurgent attacks in eastern Ramadi, which until recently had been one of the worst areas of the violent Sunni Arab city.
USA Today:
Stabilizing Ramadi is going to take time. MacFarland says that even if he had more troops, he would take a deliberate approach to driving insurgents out and wouldn't replicate the Fallujah offensive, which left much of that city in ruins. His troops are establishing combat outposts in the city in a classic counterinsurgency strategy of creating secure areas and expanding them slowly. The outposts are manned by U.S. and Iraqi forces and serve to protect neighborhoods and launch reconstruction projects. There are six such outposts in the city now; about four more are planned.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Calm returned to a southern city Tuesday after a deal between Shiite militiamen loyal to a powerful cleric and Iraqi government forces ended a fierce 12-hour street battle that killed 40 people.
Securing the capital

The Los Angeles Times (yesterday):
BAGHDAD — An ambitious military sweep appears to be dramatically reducing Baghdad's homicide rate, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday — even as violence nationwide killed at least 80 people, including six U.S. soldiers in and around the capital.
CNN (today):
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi police found 26 bodies Tuesday in different neighborhoods of Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.

Eleven bodies were discovered near a school in southwestern Baghdad's Turah neighborhood, the ministry said.

Six bodies were found dumped in the Um al-Maalif district, also in the southwestern part of the capital, the ministry said.

The men were blindfolded and had their hands tied behind their backs. Some showed signs of torture.
The Kurds

The Times of London:
Police hunting the group that has carried out a wave of bombings in Turkey believe they have foiled another attack, after they found plastic explosives and bomb-making equipment during a raid in the resort of Izmir.

Today's raid in the Aegean port city also led to the arrest of a suspected Kurdish rebel, who, it is claimed, had crossed into Turkey from northern Iraq in order to carry out bombings, the state-owned Anatolia news agency reported.

Police searching his home found 2.5 kg of plastic explosives, the report said.

A militant Kurdish group has claimed responsibility for two of the recent spate of attacks against tourists, which have left three dead and up to 50 injured. The group warned tourists not to come to Turkey. Last year Turkey had twenty one million tourists, which brought in some US$18 billion of revenue.

The worst blasts occurred in the resort of Antalya yesterday afternoon, where at least three people died when there was an explosion in a marketplace.

In the early hours ten Britons were among 20 tourists and local people injured in Marmaris, when the minibus they were on was blown up. Eight of the Britons are still being treated in hospital for injuries that include broken bones and burns. None is said to be in a critical condition.

"Turkey is not a safe country. Tourists should not come to Turkey," the Teyre Azadiye Kurdistan (TAK), also known as the Kurdish Liberation Hawks, warned.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fight for Baghdad, again

Robust troop depolyments can still make a difference, Los Angeles Times:
BAGHDAD — An ambitious military sweep appears to be dramatically reducing Baghdad's homicide rate, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday — even as violence nationwide killed at least 80 people, including six U.S. soldiers in and around the capital.

Last month, the Baghdad morgue received more than 1,800 bodies, a record high. This month, the morgue is on track to receive less than a quarter of that.
In order for this to be anything but a temporary reprieve, security operations need to be expanded and reinforced.

It's real wages, stupid

The New York Times:
That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”

Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer, however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with inflation, according to government data.
The Christian Science Monitor:
"Compared to other advanced economies, our market-driven model yields highly varied results regarding the living standards of our citizens," notes a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.


On Tuesday, the US Census Bureau is scheduled to release data indicating whether poverty last year increased for the fifth year in a row. The official US poverty rate in 2004 was 12.7 percent - that's 37 million Americans.

"Many would argue that it isn't how well off the affluent are in a society that matters most of all," the EPI study says, "but how the most vulnerable fare...."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bush and Lieberman agree on Iraq

This is quite ironic. Both have changed their tone, and they each are singing the same song.

The New York Times:
HARTFORD, Aug. 23 — When Senator Joseph I. Lieberman battled Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary earlier this month, he frequently tried to avoid speaking about the war in Iraq. And when he did discuss it, his remarks were typically limited to defending his steadfast support for the war against Mr. Lamont, who derided him as a cheerleader for Bush administration policies.

But since losing the primary, Mr. Lieberman has said that he allowed Mr. Lamont to distort his record. Now, as he builds his campaign as an independent candidate, Mr. Lieberman is speaking more forcefully and in starker detail about why he believes the United States must remain militarily engaged in Iraq.

And he is painting a dire picture of what will happen if American forces are withdrawn too quickly: civil war in Iraq, skyrocketing oil prices, an emboldened Iran and expanding Islamic terrorism.

In an interview with Don Imus on Wednesday, for instance, Mr. Lieberman said that setting a timeline for troop withdrawal — a position favored by Mr. Lamont and several other Democrats — would create a situation “infinitely worse.”

“It will be an all-out civil war,” Mr. Lieberman said. “The Iranians will rush in and control probably at least the southern part of Iraq. The terrorists will establish safe havens there from which they will attack other Arab countries and us and that’s worse than where we are now.”
The Washington Post:
Using such terms as "havoc" at Monday's news conference, Bush made no effort to suggest the situation in Iraq is improving. Instead, he argued: "If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself."

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice.

"He looks foolish and not credible if he says, 'We're making progress in Iraq,' " Gelpi said. "I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that's not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is 'Yes, it's bad, but it could be worse,' that really is a last-ditch argument."

Obama in 2008?

Senator Barack Obama is touring Africa on a highly anticipated tour. The Chicago Sun Times:
Lenai is a 27-year-old Kenyan medical student from Moi University School of Medicine in Eldoret in the western portion of the country. Lenai and I have a mutual friend and Lenai's dispatches to us vividly describe the escalating anticipation. He writes me of the excitement over the coming of "this great senator to Africa, Kenya included."

"Ya, it has been all over the news -- TVs and radios and even in the mouths of people in the street -- corridors, offices and shops.

"What is sooo amusing is what we see in the TV back at the Obama's father native land the folks are sooo excited.

"Some think it their own relative who became the U.S. president that is paying them a visit; some think it's a great politician who is coming to bail them from their problems.
I do not think Obama is, as of now, actively courting a nomination (either v.p. or president) for 2008. But, there is a tendancy for traveling senators to run in tumultuous times. The Wikipedia on Senator Kennedy:
During his three and a half years as a US Senator, Kennedy visited apartheid-ruled South Africa, helped to start a successful redevelopment project in poverty stricken Bedford-Stuyvesant in New York City, visited the Mississippi Delta as a member of the Senate committee reviewing the effectiveness of War on Poverty programs and, reversing his prior stance, called for a halt in further escalation of the Vietnam War.

Just give him more time, please

I mean that headline with overwhelming sarcasm.

The Chicago Tribune:
WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Wednesday reassured still-struggling victims of Hurricane Katrina that he has not forgotten them, but he warned that recovery will not be achieved by the first anniversary of the devastating storm.

"It's a time to remember that people suffered, and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said after meeting in the Oval Office with Rockey Vaccarella, who lost his home to Katrina. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild."
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
FORT WORTH, Texas - Dot McLeod's post-Katrina world is defined by the bare, white walls of a one-bedroom apartment in a city where she is a stranger.

McLeod, in her late 70s, is confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk since September, when the helicopter rescuing her from the hurricane's floodwaters sputtered and knocked her against a roof. Her New Orleans home destroyed, she was taken to Texas - and left here.

McLeod is lost - sad, lonely and homesick. She has no one to take her out, nor anywhere to go in this foreign place. In the last year, she has felt the sun on her face only about five times. She cannot give visitors directions to her building because she does not know where it is. She assumes the facility caters to senior citizens because she sees so many of them from her window.

"I've never seen anything but this room," McLeod said during a recent interview. "I would like to go home, but everybody says there's nothing to go home to."

McLeod is one of thousands of elderly evacuees whisked away from their southeast Louisiana homes in Katrina's wake and dumped in cities hundreds of miles away. Like so many others, McLeod owned her home but had no flood insurance, meaning she lost everything she knew and owned, and received a pittance in return.

In New Orleans, although she had no husband or children, she had a close-knit network of neighbors, a grocery store she could walk to, a paid-off property with low taxes. Now she has just one friend - a fellow New Orleanian who shares her tiny apartment - and she relies on Meals on Wheels, waiting nervously for the daily knock because the delivery man will take the food and leave if no one answers the door immediately. Her $650 monthly Social Security check, once more than enough to live on, is no longer sufficient.

"I didn't need anything else in New Orleans," she said. "It costs three times as much here."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We have a definition, so, now what?

George W. Bush has been relatively consistent and intelligible with his definition of what a civil war looks like. Yesterday was just the latest linguistic lesson. He's mentioned one point about the security forces remaining loyal to the government time and again. The transcript from yesterday's "presser",
You know, I hear a lot of talk about civil war. I'm concerned about that, of course, and I've talked to a lot of people about it. And what I've found from my talks are that the Iraqis want a unified country, and that the Iraqi leadership is determined to thwart the efforts of the extremists and the radicals and al Qaeda, and that the security forces remain united behind the government. And one thing is clear: The Iraqi people are showing incredible courage.
You could counter that the government of Iraq, perhaps with a by-the-people and for-the-people definition, has lost control of elements in its police force and elements in the Iraqi army. You could also counter Bush's definition like Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, quoting another policy wonk:
Two hours later, former ambassador Peter Galbraith presented a rather different view to the Middle East Institute in Dupont Circle. "There is a civil war, and it is a lot like Lebanon in the '70s and '80s," he declared. "The United States basically has a choice: Either we use our forces to stop the civil war, or we withdraw."


"You have a government that isn't a government, a nation that isn't a nation," said Galbraith, Clinton administration ambassador to Croatia. His answer: withdrawal.

"If we do what I recommend, there will be horrific sectarian cleansing in the mixed areas, particularly in Baghdad, and civil war," he said. "If we stay the course, there will be horrific sectarian cleansing in Baghdad, and civil war."
Galbraith may counter Bush by stating that the Iraqi government does not actually exist and cannot be considered in control. This would lead to an argument about definitions. What the majority of Iraqis want. Turn out in the election. Recruitment of security personnel. Et cetera, et cetera.

There is another set that plays in a gray area, calling this a low-grade civil war. Or, like the commander of CENTCOM, says that a civil war is possible... and sort of leaves that idea hanging with a somber and earnest expression. (Like he can see the historians playing the tape back in his own mind. For more on the Scarlet Pimpernel, read my previous post.)

A British general has echoed the definition of the Decider, though, AP:
WASHINGTON - The British deputy to the top U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday the country's sectarian conflict is not a full-blown civil war but could be described as a "civil war in miniature."

"In my judgment, we are not in a situation of civil war," British Royal Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Fry told reporters at the Pentagon in a video-teleconference from Baghdad. He added, "I know what a civil war looks like."

He said there is no mass migration out of Baghdad, where the sectarian violence is worst; the central government is functioning; and the country's security forces are answerable to the government.
That is a serviceable definition. The best way to go about arguing is to agree on a definition and then move your opponent with facts. The Iraqi security forces remain loyal. But, as Michael Gordon has warned in the New York Times Magazine:
Dogged efforts were being undercut by a dysfunctional Iraqi bureaucracy in Baghdad. The American advisers were able and extremely dedicated, and the Iraqi troops under their tutelage were making strides toward becoming an independent fighting element. But Iraq’s Ministry of Defense has been slow to issue promotions for the new soldiers and to distribute proper pay. A goodly number of the Iraqi soldiers have voted with their feet and gone AWOL — or left to join the Iraqi police, so they could live close to home.
We can easily assert that it would be senseless suicide for an Iraqi formation to attack the government, whatever that means, with the United States in the picture. However, those anti-government formations can torture the innocent population to affect ethnic cleansing.

With those assertions and the point raised by Gordon, we can see how precarious the situation is with George W. Bush's definition. That is the point at which the debate runs out of steam. We are either witnessing a civil war in Iraq, or we are not. If we are not, based on the definition advanced by the president we are very close to a civil war. Very, very close. Where the definitions converge with reality on the ground, and the reality is inching to mayhem, we can realize the debate is futile; it's either happening or about to happen.

The question remaining is: will the Decider decide to do anything about those sectarian formations, militias, and bureaucratic malaise? Will his decision match the difficulty of the task?

"We now have direct evidence"

Nothing on the war(s) today. Something completely different. The Washington Post:
Scientists said that the "bullet cluster," formed by a collision between an enormous cluster of galaxies more than 3 billion light-years away and a smaller galaxy cluster, demonstrated the existence of dark matter. In effect, the collision stripped the dark matter away from visible matter. Once stripped, dark matter was clearly identified by the strong gravitational pull that it exerted.

"We now have direct evidence" of dark matter, said Sean Carroll, a cosmologist in the physics department of the University of Chicago, who did not participate in the study. "There is no way to explain the observations without dark matter."

While the theoretical existence of dark matter has been broadly embraced for years -- and has now been further endorsed by some of the most prominent researchers and institutions in the field -- a strong countertheory has also grown, contending that the laws of gravity established by Newton and Einstein need modification. The group supporting this theory believes that a relatively limited tweaking of those laws, especially as they pertain to the massive nature of faraway galaxies, could explain the missing gravity better than could undetectable dark matter.
America will be judged by history not only for our efforts at preventing conflict and improving the quality of life around the world, but also for our science.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The tipped point?

a.) No troops.
b.) Stay the course.
c.) More troops.

The latter has been much discussed recently by a Blogger, a Senator, a General, and a Brookings intellectual.

Rick Moran is a fine gauge for intellectual GOP Bloggers. He wrote this weekend:
For as it stands now, we are at a psychological tipping point in Iraq where drastic measures are needed in order to turn the situation around and give the weak Iraqi government a chance to gain control. There are many hands raised against this government and as of right now, they are losing any semblance of legitimacy due to their powerlessness in the face of the massive violence that has been unleashed.
He calls for 50,000 more troops. That's a fanciful number, but his heart is in the right place. Certainly, 50,000 would augment the whack-a-mole antics in Anbar. However, there are now a number of substantial security problems throughout the country.

John McCain called for more troops on Meet the Press:
MR. GREGORY: The president has said repeatedly that he has a strategy to win, that if his commanders want more forces, they will get them. Should more troops be sent?

SEN. McCAIN: Well, I think it’s been well documented now that we didn’t have enough there from the beginning, that we allowed the looting, that we did not have control, particularly, of areas, such—in the Sunni Triangle, which led to us paying a very heavy price. We make mistakes in every war, and serious mistakes were made here. The question is, are we going to be able to bring the situation under control now? I still believe we can. I think part of it has to do with the Mahdi Army and Sadr. Sadr has got to be taken out of this equation and his militia has got to be addressed forcefully.

MR. GREGORY: But to do that, do you need more U.S. soldiers on the ground now?

SEN. McCAIN: I think so. I think so. We took troops from places like Ramadi, which are still not under control, to put them into Baghdad. We’ve had to send in additional troops as they are. All along, we have not had enough troops on the ground to control the situation. Many, many people knew that and it’s—we’re paying a very heavy price for it. But I want to emphasize that we cannot lose this. It will cause chaos in Iraq and in the region, and it’s—I still believe that we, we must prevail.
William Arkin doubts the sincerity of that plan:
This is why I said at the beginning that this is the perfect Washington issue.

Naughty Republicans and muscle-bound Democrats alike can issue the call for more soldiers and lament the war's course without criticizing the troops and without worrying that there call is actually going to be heeded.

Experts can quibble about the nature of the forces deployed, the counter insurgency "strategy" being pursued, and even the need for a draft were more troops decided upon.

Even anti-war activists and Bush bashers can pretend that THEY would have wanted more troops, as if somehow they would have wanted the war in the first place.

In the ways of Washington, we can replay decisions ad nauseam avoiding the basic question as to whether it was wise to attack Iraq in the first place and whether it was really needed.

We don't need more troops in Iraq, any more than we need to throw more of a military effort at the war against terrorism. The fact that McCain argues that we need more troops demonstrates that he is unqualified to be president.
But Arkin's argument is hardly razor sharp. He contends that additional troop calls throughout 2003 - 2006 were designed to sound strong-willed but were masking complaints about the administration. He may be correct that McCain is attempting this deployment jujitsu, but his evidence relies on the politicking of invasion plans and nothing more. I am certain that many who have called for more troops in the past few years were earnest about the request, in particular the battalion commanders who've raised the issue.

General Barry McCaffrey noted our limitations on the same episode of Meet the Press as McCain:
MR. GREGORY: General Barry McCaffrey, we’re doing this in a military way, in large part. Our troops are not trained to referee a civil war. From a military point of view, as you come up with strategies, how do you navigate this current reality in Iraq?

GEN. BARRY McCAFFREY: Well, first of all, I’m not sure I know. You know, we’ve got some terrific leadership on the ground. Khalilzad, the ambassador, is brilliant. George Casey’s a very effective commander. We’ve got 135,000 troops, a lot of power on the ground. Having said that, there’s 27 million people. Dr. Nasr, I think, accurately articulated the political problem we’re facing. It’s not going to be solved—the battle of Baghdad won’t be solved by the United States Army. We’ve had 22,000 killed and wounded, two-thirds of our brigades, the ones that aren’t deployed, in the United States Army National Guard now, are not ready to fight. So the surge capability to deal with this from a military perspective is not there.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think more troops are needed at this point?

GEN. McCAFFREY: I’m not sure it’s the right question. First of all, they’re not available. The National Guard brigades—you know, we just had Lieutenant General Blum testifying, we had the chief staff of the Army testifying. The Army is $23 billion short, our equipment’s coming apart, we’re drafting 42-year-old grandmothers to be privates in the Army. I shouldn’t have said draft, asking for volunteers. So I don’t think the combat power is there in the Army and the Marine Corps to solve this problem militarily. We are a safety valve, we’re a peacekeeping mechanism, but the Iraqi security forces are going to have to pull this one together.
Michael Gordon of the New York Times wrote the following in that daily's magazine:
For all this, Anbar has long been what the military calls an “economy of force” operation, which is a polite way of saying that troop requirements elsewhere in Iraq have led American commanders to employ fewer forces in the province than the situation warrants. As a consequence, counterinsurgency operations have taken on the quality of a whack-a-mole arcade game. Every time the Americans have massed force to put out one fire, they have created a vacuum elsewhere that the insurgents have rushed to fill. When the Marines gathered forces to clear Falluja in 2004, they drew troops from the Haditha area, where the insurgents promptly moved in and executed the defenseless local police near the town’s soccer field. The Marines returned in strength to Haditha and established several forward bases, including the one at Barwana, but then many of the troops were sent to the far west when commanders decided to clear Al Qaim, near the Syrian border. And the insurgents filtered back to Haditha.
Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack wrote in the Washington Post that Iraq is in a civil war and the United States must attempt to prevent a terrible catastrophe for the world (my emphasis):
That point is critical: Ending an all-out civil war typically requires overwhelming military power to nail down a political settlement. It took 30,000 British troops to bring the Irish civil war to an end, 45,000 Syrian troops to conclude the Lebanese civil war, 50,000 NATO troops to stop the Bosnian civil war, and 60,000 to do the job in Kosovo. Considering Iraq's much larger population, it probably would require 450,000 troops to quash an all-out civil war there. Such an effort would require a commitment of enormous military and economic resources, far in excess of what the United States has already put forth.
"Stay the course" will not work. Ken Mehlman's "adapting to win" is disdainful politicking to save 2006 for the GOP (perhaps at the expense of their national security credentials). 450,000 troops in Iraq? That's a draft. That's what George W. Bush has in front of him -- though he probably does not realize it. It's raised taxes and raised conscripts or it's terrible and prolonged bloodshed throughout a volatile and influential region.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday afternoon glance at conflicts


Los Angeles Times:
NAIROBI, Kenya — With the Darfur peace accord stalled and the U.S. preoccupied in the Middle East, western Sudan is slipping back into a level of violence not seen for two years, diplomats and analysts say.

A much-touted peace deal announced in May has only heightened hostilities by splintering rebel groups. And although Darfur has been the Bush administration's top priority in Africa, the point man on U.S. efforts to end the violence, Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, resigned in June, leaving those duties unfilled.

"The administration's game plan for Darfur remains a mystery," said J. Stephen Morrison, head of the Africa program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. "This issue is getting lost."

Times of London:
But the force's mandate has been heavily criticised by a former commander of UN blue berets in Bosnia, who warned that the peacekeepers would be powerless to stop a massacre if shooting broke out again, as their rules of engagement were so weak as to be a "recipe for disaster".
BBC News:
Israel says it would be "difficult if not inconceivable" to accept nations which do not recognise its right to exist as part of a UN force in Lebanon.

Israeli UN envoy Dan Gillerman was speaking after Indonesia and Malaysia, which do not recognise Israel, pledged troops for the UN deployment.
Hindsight is 20-20 note: Would have been nice to have this issue on recognition advanced in 2001 - 2006


The Guardian:
Turkey and Iran have dispatched tanks, artillery and thousands of troops to their frontiers with Iraq during the past few weeks in what appears to be a coordinated effort to disrupt the activities of Kurdish rebel bases.

Scores of Kurds have fled their homes in the northern frontier region after four days of shelling by the Iranian army. Local officials said Turkey had also fired a number of shells into Iraqi territory.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A great power in their own mind

I'd make a snide comment, if this was not such a serious matter.

This from the BBC News earlier today:
A survey for the newspaper La Croix found that seven French people out of ten supported the deployment of an international force. However only a small majority - 53% - were in favour of the French military getting involved.

"If it's for peace, I'd have no problem with France intervening," said Estenio, 45, an electrician in Paris.

"France has always been a great power - if she can offer something positive so as to stabilise the region, then that's good."
BBC News (now):
At special talks in New York, the UN's deputy chief will seek pledges for an initial 3,500-strong force, which the UN hopes to deploy within two weeks.

But France, which has agreed to lead the new force, has said it will send only 200 extra troops immediately.
The Washington Post:
UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 17 -- France has rebuffed U.N. pleas to make a major contribution to a peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon, setting back international efforts to send a credible military force to the region to police a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, according to U.N. and French officials.

French President Jacques Chirac instead committed Thursday to send a relatively small military engineering company of 200 soldiers to serve in a reinforced U.N. peacekeeping mission that is expected to grow to 15,000 strong and that will help Lebanon police a demilitarized zone in southern Lebanon. He also said that a force of 1,700 French troops and crew stationed in ships off the coast of Lebanon could be sent in to help the U.N. force during a crisis.

The French decision, which was first reported today in the Paris daily Le Monde, has thrown U.N. military planning into disarray on the eve of a major international meeting this afternoon of potential contributors to a U.N. force. It also seriously complicates U.N. efforts to get a vanguard force of peacekeepers from powerful European countries within the next two weeks.

The ruling on the Ruler

The NSA program has been struck down, CNN:
(CNN) -- A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the U.S. government's warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered it ended immediately.

In a 44-page memorandum and order, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, -- who is based in Detroit, Michigan --struck down the National Security Agency's program, which she said violates the rights to free speech and privacy.
CNN has the 44 page ruling.

The injunction order from the court house states:
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants, its agents, employees, representatives, and any other persons or entities in active concert or participation with Defendants, are permanently enjoined from directly or indirectly utilizing the Terrorist Surveillance Program (hereinafter “TSP”) in any way, including, but not limited to, conducting warrantless wiretaps of telephone and internet communications, in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act(hereinafter “FISA”) and Title III;

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND DECLARED that the TSP violates the Separation of Powers doctrine, the Administrative Procedures Act, the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the FISA and Title III;

My kingdom for a force

EDB of Anecdotes from a Banana Republic details issues with the present contenders for a UN force in Lebanon:
Will the international force to implement UN Resolution 11,798,701 materialize?

Here are some problems I foresee with the current pool of applicants for the new and improved "coalition of the willing":

Turkey: Lebanon is home to the largest Armenian diaspora community in the world. They don't want Turkish troops in their midst, and for good reason.
Potential for lasting peace: Bad. Armenians might take up arms. MORE
The Guardian:
The UN is to hold an emergency meeting today of 45 countries that have offered troops for a 13,000-strong Lebanon peacekeeping mission, to confirm contributions and speed up deployment.
Amid confusion over deployment, the Israeli army is threatening to stall the withdrawal of its forces from southern Lebanon until the UN force is in place. Dan Halutz, Israel's chief of staff, said yesterday his troops would stop withdrawing unless the Lebanese army began to deploy within days, and his troops could remain in southern Lebanon until a multinational force was deployed. He said on Tuesday, as Israeli troops began to withdraw, that they could be out in 10 days.

There have been conflicting opinions among potential contributors about the speed of the UN deployment, ranging from days to months. Hedi Annabi, assistant UN secretary general for peacekeeping, said yesterday the UN hoped an initial contingent of 3,500 could be deployed in 10-15 days.

The enemy's playbook

I doubt we can count on the administration to wage this campaign successfully. In fact, they neglect to account for the deeply felt anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiment in the Middle East.

The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon, hoping that by competing with Hezbollah for the public's favor it can undo the damage the war has inflicted on its image and goals for the Middle East.

Administration officials fear that unless they move quickly to demonstrate U.S. commitment, the Lebanese will turn more fully to the militant group, which has begun rolling out an ambitious reconstruction program that Washington believes is bankrolled by Iran.


A major rebuilding investment would put the United States in the position of subsidizing both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it. Such a proposal could meet with resistance from Congress, but administration officials said that the need for action was urgent.
Compare this to "Haj's" story in the London Times:
THE Hezbollah commander emerged from the shadows of a destroyed building with the calm confidence of a man in charge. “Haj” (pilgrim), as local people called him with respect, did not carry a gun and the only hints that he belonged to Lebanon’s most powerful military force were his trademark close-cropped beard, baseball cap and a two-way radio that crackled quietly on his belt.
As thousands of Lebanese army soldiers and foreign troops prepare to deploy under French command in the hills of southern Lebanon, people such as Haj and his fighters pose the greatest challenge to the success of the mission.
The administration deserves a little credit for (finally) realizing how Hezbollah has built their popularity. Of course this is too little, too late and too daft. Hezbollah has worked in this Shiite/Lebanese community from the ground-up. The administration is likely to attempt a top-down approach in this effort. They will peg an "ally" (unfortunate for him or her) and try to allocate funds without much on-the-ground knowledge.

Brian Humphreys, a Marine officer in OIF, wrote recently in the Washington Post:
The lessons should be clear. To engage in insurgency or counterinsurgency -- fancy terms for grass-roots politics by other means -- one must be willing and, most of all, able to work in the underbelly of local politics, as Hezbollah has done in Lebanon. It is the politics of getting people jobs, picking up trash and getting relatives out of jail. Engaging in this politics has the potential to do much more than merely ingratiate an armed force with a local population. It gives that force a mental map of local pressure points and the knowledge of how to press them -- benignly or otherwise -- to get desired results.
John Robb has written in his Global Guerillas blog:
There is an important cycle that inverts legitimacy at work here:
In order to fight a non-state enemy, other states hollowed out a state. Whether Hezbollah is at fault or not is a non-issue.

The non-state enemy proves (through 4GW) it is the only force capable of defending the people.

the non-state builds alliances with other non-states and states to gather essential support.

The non-state provides services (political goods) at a higher level of efficiency and value than the state (sys-admin).

In short, Hezbollah gains legitimacy at the expense of the state. Expect to see this cycle again and again from 4GW groups (in contrast, networked non-states like al Qaeda operate in a different way entirely -- although many conflate the two approaches).
We can view this as subverting the legitimacy of the Lebanese government by plying state-craft at a regionalized level. Or, we can call this the construction of a state in increasingly larger scope. This, it seems, would be one of the strategic goals of Nasrallah. The highest form of generalship is to attack your enemy's plans, not his or her army. The war on Hezbollah did not attack their plans. The United States efforts at construction will not undermine the grass roots effort of Hezbollah in the region.

At least he's a little polite about it

So, the latest from the Strategic Master, AP:
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — President Bush said critics of his Iraq policies are advocating a "cut and run" strategy that would draw terrorists to American soil.
"Leaving before we complete our mission would create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a country with huge oil reserves that the terrorist network would be willing to use to extract economic pain from those of us who believe in freedom," Bush said Wednesday.

"If we leave before the mission is complete, if we withdraw, the enemy will follow us home," he said.

Even though he spoke at a political event, Bush kept the criticism of his opponents gentle, and left partisan politics out of it. His critics are mostly Democrats who contend he has not outlined a plan for success in Iraq. They are increasingly supportive of a timetable for bringing troops home.

"There are some good people in our country who believe we should cut and run," the president said at a fundraiser for former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, who is carrying GOP hopes for an upset over Pennsylvania's Democratic governor, Ed Rendell. "They're not bad people when they say that. They're decent people. I just happen to believe they're wrong."
What exactly is the mission? (same event):
And the mission is to have a country, a free country that can sustain itself, and govern itself, and defend itself, and serve as an ally in the war on terror in the heart of the Middle East. That's the mission.
That has been the mission all along. We are not close to a stable, free, sutainable, defensible Iraq that is also an ally in the war on terror.

CENTCOM reports some gains, as we have valiant and dedicated military personnel:
The Iraqi and Coalition forces searched about 6,000 houses and buildings in the Ameriya neighborhood, said Jaleel. The local citizens requested the market area be secured first.

“We re-opened shops that had been closed and a neighborhood gas station,” he said.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander, Col. Robert Scurlock Jr., re-iterated Jaleel’s point, noting that people are returning to the streets.

“More than 50 percent of the shops have re-opened,” Jaleel said.

Jaleel and Scurlock see the market as a way to repair the neighborhood that was torn apart by violence.
But the situation continues to degrade, the New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 — The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.
The metrics of IEDs and bodycounts (civilian) continue to mount. These trends have not even been slowed, let alone reversed. Before "the mission" can be completed, these trends need to be undone.

If "the mission" is so vital and the present leadership cannot reverse metrics like these, then new leadership is necessary.

George W. Bush does not achieve his goals. He stumbles along and hopes that the latest mantra will work in the polls.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

If only he would meet with experts...

Then nothing would change, so it seems.

The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — President Bush told Middle East experts at a private meeting this week that a three-way division of Iraq would only worsen sectarian violence and was not an option for solving the country's problems, the analysts said Tuesday.

Rejecting a policy alternative that has been gaining support in the U.S. and abroad, Bush told the experts that dividing Iraq would be "like pouring oil on fire," said Eric M. Davis of Rutgers University, one of the experts who met with the president Monday over Texas brisket and iced tea at the Pentagon.


Reuel Marc Gerecht, a Mideast analyst at American Enterprise Institute, said Bush asserted that the partition idea was "not even a starter," and that he also made it clear that "as long as he's president, we're in Iraq."

Carole O'Leary, an American University research professor and Iraq expert, said Bush "was adamant that, despite any conspiracy theories out there in the Islamic world or anywhere else, the United States is not in there to break up the place."

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow elaborated later Tuesday.

"It may provide kind of a nice construct — break it apart, and then it won't be a problem," Snow said. "Iraqis look upon themselves … as Iraqis, as the descendants of a Mesopotamian civilization that has been around for a very long time. And they see themselves as a nationality, rather than unmeltable ethnic groups."
He neglected to mention the death squads.

The New York Times:
Those who attended a Monday lunch at the Pentagon that included the president’s war cabinet and several outside experts said Mr. Bush carefully avoided expressing a clear personal view of the new prime minister of Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

But in what participants described as a telling line of questioning, Mr. Bush did ask each of the academic experts for their assessment of the prime minister’s effectiveness.

“I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally — that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget,” said one person who attended the meeting. “The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success.”

Another person who attended the session said he interpreted Mr. Bush’s comments less as an expression of frustration than as uncertainty over the prospects of the new Iraqi government. “He said he really didn’t quite have a sense yet of how effective the government was,” said this person, who, like several who discussed the session, agreed to speak only anonymously because it was a private lunch.
Still trying to figure this one out, is he?

McClatchy Newspapers:
TIKRIT, Iraq - As security conditions continue to deteriorate in Iraq, many Iraqi politicians are challenging the optimistic forecasts of governments in Baghdad and Washington, with some worrying that the rosy views are preventing the creation of effective strategies against the escalating violence.

Their worst fear, one that some American soldiers share, is that top officials don't really understand what's happening. Those concerns seem to be supported by statistics that show Iraq's violence has increased steadily during the past three years.

"The American policy has failed both in terms of politics and security, but the big problem is that they will not confess or admit that," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament. "They are telling the American public that the situation in Iraq will be improved, they want to encourage positive public opinion (in the U.S.), but the Iraqi citizens are seeing something different. They know the real situation."
Stars and Stripes:
The woman said they had just moved to Ramadi from Baghdad.

“The situation is pretty bad in Baghdad, that’s why we moved here,” she said.

As troops under the command of Col. Sean MacFarland’s 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division wage a costly campaign to neutralize insurgents, soldiers in the western Ta’meem neighborhood are hoping to win the support of locals through a brand of policing that combines combat patrols and civilian outreach.

Unlike soldiers based in combat outposts within the city’s core, where almost daily skirmishes make public outreach all but impossible, soldiers with the Baumholder, Germany-based 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment have found greater opportunity.

The census patrols — created by the U.S. Marines — are intended to document every resident of a given home and gauge their attitude toward coalition troops, public services and security.
The AP:
"We're in a recruiting war with the insurgency," said Brig. Gen. Robert Neller, the deputy Marine commander in western Iraq.

U.S. commanders have said privately that a military solution to the insurgency in Anbar is impossible, and what's needed is a political deal between the Sunni Arabs and the other religious and ethnic communities.

"This country needs a political solution _ not a military solution," one government worker told Marines who stopped by his home in Haditha. "Are we going to stay in this situation where you shoot them, they shoot you? We are the victims."

A conflict unresolved

Let us not forget that George W. Bush refused to call for an immediate ceasefire, which would have saved a number of innocent lives, because he wanted Hezbollah to be disarmed and removed from influence. The opposite is much more likely. The militia will not disarm. It's early work with a building program is likely to boost its prestige. There are troubled times ahead.

Syrian analyst Sami Moubayed in the Asia Times Online:
In the broader sense, the Americans and the Israelis wanted several things out of the war - none of which, with the exception of sending the Lebanese Army to the south - has been achieved. They wanted to create a Sunni Arab coalition, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, to obstruct Shi'ite ambitions in the Arab world. Although both Saudi Arabia and Jordan at first showed readiness, they quickly became silent in fear of the wrath of their own streets, which are supportive of anyone fighting - and winning - a war against Israel.


The war means many things to different people. Despite all the face-saving being done by Olmert and Bush, it was a grand surprise to the Americans and the Israelis. And it is wrong to assume that the war is over only because a ceasefire has gone into effect.

War will break out once again if anybody tries to disarm Hezbollah by force, or if Israel launches any provocations against Hezbollah. This cannot be prevented by the Lebanese Army or by the multinational forces as long as Hezbollah remains armed. And Hezbollah will not disarm until the occupied Sheba Farms are returned to Lebanon.

Israel might also be tricking the Lebanese with the ceasefire. Olmert might be seeking time to retrain, rearm, replan and reinvade South Lebanon to achieve his original stated goal of annihilating Hezbollah. If he needs more urging, cover-up, arms or money, he could get it from the White House, which is just as determined to see an end to Hezbollah.

Naturally, Olmert would need an excuse to attack again, or else Israel would be accused of violating the ceasefire. But excuses are very easy to find in the Middle East. This scenario is not all that far-fetched: one can be sure that the guns have not been silenced permanently.
The Financial Times:
French officials on Tuesday insisted Paris would resist leading a bolstered international force in southern Lebanon without Lebanese government assurances that Hizbollah, the militant Shia group, would be disarmed.
The Los Angeles Times:
But questions remain as to whether the force would meet U.S. and Israeli interpretations of the U.N. cease-fire resolution approved last week. Though small numbers of U.N. troops already are in Lebanon, a beefed-up U.N. force of as many as 15,000 is not expected for as long as a year, Maj. Gen. Alain Pellegrini, the Frenchman who leads the current U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, told the French daily Le Monde.

U.N. officials in New York continued to haggle Tuesday over the mandate and operational rules of the international troops in southern Lebanon, including whether they would have the ability to detain or fire upon suspected Hezbollah fighters engaged in warfare or gunrunning.

Many of the nations considering contributing troops to the force have made their participation contingent upon the outcome of the debate. Some have said they prefer a monitoring role, while others seek more robust rules of engagement, said a U.N. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Washington Post:
Hasan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, had insisted that any disarmament of his militia -- even in the border area -- should be handled in longer-term discussions within the Lebanese government, according to government ministers. But the Lebanese army, backed by key political leaders, refused to send troops into the just-becalmed battle zone until Hezbollah's missiles, rockets and other weapons were taken north of the Litani River, the ministers said.
The Times of London:
"Even if the Lebanese Government had been crazy enough to try to force the army to do it, I think the army would have refused. A lot of its senior officers are loyal to President Emile Lahoud, the last leading ally of Syria to remain in office in Lebanon.
The building program

This sort of charity work, if you can call it that, will be increasingly influential as non-state entities engage in global insurgencies.

The Washington Post:
KHIAM, Lebanon, Aug. 15 -- In military-style black shirt and pants, Abu Shaker had a gait that was a little light for someone in combat boots. He smiled through his red-tinted beard, as returning residents waved and shouted greetings. And he pointed with authority, guiding a bulldozer plowing the streets of this Shiite Muslim town, blocked by refuse from a month-long barrage of air raids and shelling.

For 34 days, Abu Shaker was a Hezbollah fighter. By 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, he had taken charge as a relief worker.
The Christian Science Monitor:
"How do we get this help from Hizbullah?" asks one woman, referring to the promise by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah to repair and rebuild for owners of 15,000 destroyed homes.

"Where are you staying?" he replies in the manner of a seasoned bureaucrat. He says the family should fill out a claim form listing address, size of house, scale of damage, and furniture lost.

"You will get money in an envelope," reassures the black-turbaned cleric, who gave his name as Sayyed Nasri Nassar. "Don't worry, our people are coming to you."


Many non-Shiite Lebanese blame Hizbullah for recklessly bringing the current ruin on Lebanon, which officials estimated suffered $2.5 billion in damages. The government, of which Hizbullah is a part, will be responsible for repairing the widespread damage to infrastructure.

But Hizbullah's immediate promise to rebuild - along with widespread confidence here that the resistance won a victory over Israel - is tapping into fresh anger over the destruction, and winning more support for the "Party of God."
Mossad, and the West, miss this important trend that has been used by the likes of HAMAS in Palestine and Sadr in Iraq. The Washington Times:
Israel's storied foreign-intelligence service failed to fully understand the threat posed by Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, based on a view among many analysts that the guerrilla organization was an evolving political group, according to U.S. officials and private intelligence specialists.

The Mossad had intelligence about most Hezbollah weapons, including rockets fired into Israel and other hardware. But the service knew little about the military and intelligence side of Hezbollah, a diverse organization made up of Islamic terrorists, conventionally armed militia forces, a charity wing and a political movement.


The U.S. official said Mossad's lack of intelligence about Hezbollah dates back to 1998, when the terrorist group began a strategy of conducting clandestine attacks while also seeking public support through charitable work and joining the political process in Lebanon.

The bias regarding Hezbollah's evolving nature had an effect on the activities of Israeli spies and agents in the field, which contributed to misperceptions about the group, the officials said.

Robert Baer, a former CIA operations officer who is familiar with Mossad, said the Israeli intelligence agency failed to gather good intelligence on Hezbollah, in stark contrast to its very successful efforts against Palestinian terrorists.


Hezbollah operates its military and intelligence wings in utmost secrecy, and they are completely separate from the charitable and political wings, he said.

"Military-intelligence people do not talk to political leadership or rank-and-file people who do social work," he said.
Hezbollah's martial tactics

The Jamestown Foundation:
As the world waits to see if the UN-brokered ceasefire in Lebanon holds, the Israeli army will begin assessing its disappointing performance against Hezbollah guerrillas. Among the many aspects to be investigated is the vulnerability of Israel's powerful armored corps to small, hand-held, wire-guided anti-tank weapons. Indeed, Hezbollah's innovative use of anti-tank missiles was the cause of most Israeli casualties and has given the small but powerful weapons a new importance in battlefield tactics.


Current battlefield reports suggest that Hezbollah fighters are well-trained in aiming at the Merkava's most vulnerable points, resulting in as many as one-quarter of their missiles successfully piercing the armor (Yediot Aharonot, August 10). Hezbollah attacks on Merkava tanks during the November 2005 raid on the border town of Ghajar were videotaped and closely examined to find points where the armor was susceptible to missile attack. While some of their missiles have impressive ranges (up to three kilometers), the guerrillas prefer to fire from close range to maximize their chances of hitting weak points on the Merkava. Operating in two- or three-man teams, the insurgents typically try to gain the high ground in the hilly terrain before selecting targets, using well-concealed missile stockpiles that allow them to operate behind Israeli lines (Jerusalem Post, August 3).

Without artillery, Hezbollah has adapted its use of anti-tank missiles for mobile fire support against Israeli troops taking cover in buildings. There are numerous reports of such use, the most devastating being on August 9, when an anti-tank missile collapsed an entire building, claiming the lives of nine Israeli reservists (Y-net, August 10). Four soldiers from Israel's Egoz (an elite reconnaissance unit) were killed in a Bint Jbail house when it was struck by a Sagger missile (Haaretz, August 6). TOW missiles were used effectively in 2000 against IDF outposts in south Lebanon before the Israeli withdrawal. There are also recent instances of anti-tank weapons being used against Israeli infantry in the field, a costly means of warfare but one that meets two important Hezbollah criteria: the creation of Israeli casualties and the preservation of highly-outnumbered Hezbollah guerrillas who can fire the weapons from a relatively safe distance.
Evaluating the war in Israel

The AP:
The 34-day war against Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas, widely seen here as just, had united Israel's fractured society. Hezbollah was considered a growing threat after it had vastly expanded its arsenal of missiles in recent years.

But the unity crumbled after Israel's fabled army pulled out of south Lebanon without crushing Hezbollah or rescuing two soldiers whose July 12 capture by the guerillas during a raid in Israel triggered the fighting.

The war began just two months after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz, men with little military experience, took office. Surveys in two major Hebrew-language dailies on Wednesday showed low approval ratings for both.

A poll of 500 people by TNS-Teleseker showed support for Olmert sinking to 40% after soaring to 78% in the first two weeks of the offensive.
The Boston Globe:
Israeli analysts across the political spectrum branded the war against Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon ``an embarrassing defeat" for a ``semi-rookie government" that should have known the goals it set for itself were ``impossible to achieve."

Ha'aretz, one of Israel's leading daily newspapers, summed up the national mood by presenting readers with an online poll that asked: ``Who should resign?"
Israeli reservists appear to have influenced polling in Israel because they did not like their leadership's tactics. The Christian Science Monitor:
But calling home from the front to commission a poll, one analyst says, is an unprecedented example of the keen understanding of how influential public perceptions in wartime have become.

"The polls can create a climate of opinion," says Raphael Ventura, an expert at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem. "Polls can enhance the legitimacy of views that were considered unorthodox. When people believe that they are holding opinions outside the consensus, they hide these opinions. But if they see polls, they're more likely to express these opinions openly."

"We saw it in Vietnam and in Bosnia," he adds. "The more you had negative reports in the media, showing that mistakes are being made ... people begin to think maybe the war is not going so well," he says.

Though the poll was instigated by those at war, an army spokeswoman says that it was commissioned by private individuals, which includes off-duty reservists. "Any reserve officer is a private citizen," the officer says, "and can say whatever he wants to say - until he's in uniform again."
I guess that is getting within your superior's decision cycle.

Iraq: ever present in all things Mid East

I am monitoring reports of Katyusha rocket fire in Iraq (with Google News). The AP:
An Iraqi militant group Wednesday released a video showing a Katyusha rocket purportedly fired at the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in a gesture of solidarity with Shiite guerrillas in Lebanon.

The footage obtained by The Associated Press showed several masked men casually setting up a launcher in a parking lot containing a number of burned-out buses before firing the rocket, which streaked across the sky out of view.

The group, calling itself "Screaming the Truth," said the rocket was fired Sunday to demonstrate support for Hezbollah guerrillas who battled the Israeli military in Lebanon until a U.N. cease-fire ended 34 days of fighting Monday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Adapting to win?

The latest from the GOP is nothing but sheer spin. Spin in a frightening degree of ferocity. What RNC Chair Ken Mehlman said Sunday on Meet the Press was language replacing effective policy:
MR. MEHLMAN: Look, the fact is that our mission in the war in Iraq is critical. We agree on that; we agree it’s wrong to cut and run. But look, we’re not coming in and saying “Stay the course.” The choice in this election is not between “Stay the course” and “Cut and run,” it’s between “Win by adapting” and “Cut and run.”

Let me tell you what we’re doing. The fact is, before the successful Iraqi elections, the number of troops went up from 137,000 to 167,000. That’s adapting to win. Recently, the increased troops in Baghdad, adapting to win. We changed how the training of Iraqi forces occurred to involve more Iraqis.

That’s adapting to win.
The situation in Iraq is dire, and the remedy is not a squeaker in the 2006 elections. The remedy is a tough choice, an honest choice. Is this the central front of the war on terror? If so, what exactly does that mean?

The New York Times will run this on their front page tomorrow. These are cold, brutal numbers:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Aug. 15 — July appears to have been the deadliest month of the war for Iraqi civilians, according to figures from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, reinforcing criticism that the Baghdad security plan started in June by the new government has failed.

An average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July, according to the figures. The total number of civilian deaths that month, 3,438, is a 9 percent increase over the tally in June and nearly double the toll in January.

The rising numbers suggested that sectarian violence is spiraling out of control, and seemed to bolster an assertion many senior Iraqi officials and American military analysts have made in recent months: that the country is already embroiled in a civil war, not just slipping toward one, and that the American-led forces are caught between Sunni Arab guerrillas and Shiite militias.

The war of perception over the war

Some excerpts.

The Washington Post:
In an undecided war, perception becomes paramount, and the gaggles of fighters Monday, some with drawn faces, others with a look of contentment, walked like victors through a town that was gouged, cratered and pockmarked but, they said, still theirs.

"They couldn't enter," said Abu Abboud, wearing a jersey that read "Narkotic" and khaki military-style pants.
The Times of London:
Hezbollah officials had a parting gift for the Mehris and the many others leaving their temporary shelters in the capital. Young cadres scuttled among the refugees handing out freshly printed posters of their leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, instructing families to display them on their windscreens.

The slogan at the top, “The Divine Victory”, was written in English, French and Arabic, as Hezbollah officials realised this exodus would be filmed by the watching international media.

Mr Mehri did as he was told, loaded another eight relatives and friends into the open-sided truck and by 8.05am he was away, offering a victory salute through his window.

Government officials were astounded by the numbers daring to do the same.
When one reads Sun Tzu, one realizes that war is won before it is fought. Apparently, wars of perception are conducted in the same manner.

The Los Angeles Times:
Hezbollah's newfound clout has come at a staggering cost to Lebanon's infrastructure, economy and civilians, hundreds of whom died under the rubble of Israeli bombs. The fragile central government, which the U.S. administration strove to present as an example of democracy taking root in the Arab world, also has suffered from the month of fighting.

"The reality is, they have weakened the government significantly," said Charles Ayoub, editor of Ad Diyar newspaper. "What room do [officials] have to maneuver? If Nasrallah says he won't give up the weapons, what are they going to do?"
The Los Angeles Times:
That contrast was evident Monday, as President Bush sought to portray the United Nations deal as a success, calling his administration's efforts with Israel and Lebanon part of a "forward strategy of freedom in the broader Middle East."

But when asked how the resolution would weaken Hezbollah and cut it off from its sponsors in Iran and Syria, the president could make no assurances beyond a sense of optimism.

"Our hope is that this series of resolutions that gets passed gets after the root cause," he said after a meeting at the State Department with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"We want peace. We're not interested in process. What we want is results."
The Washington Post:
"In both these countries, Iran is backing armed groups in the hope of stopping democracy from taking hold," Bush said. "The message of this administration is clear. America will stay on the offensive against al-Qaeda. Iran must stop its support for terror, and the leaders of these armed groups must make a choice. If they want to participate in the political life of their countries, they must disarm."

Bush's comments came at the close of an Israeli military campaign aimed at ending Hezbollah attacks and crippling the radical Shiite militia. The campaign did not go as well as the United States and Israel had expected. Despite a devastating air assault and an intense ground campaign, Israel's military was unable to gain full control of the border area in southern Lebanon against elusive and well-fortified Hezbollah fighters. Also, some observers believe the conflict burnished the popularity of Hezbollah in Lebanon, even as it resulted in hundreds of civilian causalities and massive destruction of infrastructure across Lebanon.
The New York Times:
Even as they expressed optimism, White House officials said nonetheless that only time would tell whether the cease-fire would hold and whether Hezbollah would ultimately be disarmed. And a senior official, who agreed to speak candidly in return for anonymity, acknowledged the possibility that Hezbollah would build public support in southern Lebanon by flooding the area with rebuilding money, as it has vowed to do.
Bloomberg News:
Hezbollah's disarmament is ``part of a national dialogue that is taking place right now,'' Hussein Hajj Hassan, who represents Hezbollah in the Lebanese Parliament, said in a telephone interview today. Discussions are ``serious and positive,'' he said.

Lebanese soldiers won't disarm Hezbollah by force, Mohammad Chatah, an adviser to Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, said in an interview late yesterday in Beirut. ``The army is not going to go there to be part of a conflict or to be there to forcibly go against any group or anyone,'' he said. ``The idea is to have the army go there as the sole military authority.''
The Christian Science Monitor:
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in a televised statement Monday night, said his fighters had won a "strategic and historic victory" over Israel, and that it is the "wrong time" to discuss disarming.

"Who will defend Lebanon in case of a new Israeli offensive?" Mr. Nasrallah asked, adding that the Lebanese Army and new UN force were "incapable of protecting Lebanon."

It is "immoral, incorrect, and inappropriate" to discuss disarming Hizbullah publicly now, Nasrallah said. "It is wrong timing on the psychological and moral level, particularly before the cease-fire."

Nasrallah promised that from Tuesday morning, Hizbullah teams would assess and repair damage to homes as well as pay a year's rent and the cost of furniture to every owner of some 15,000 destroyed homes.
The BBC:
Mr Assad, speaking in Damascus a day after the UN-brokered ceasefire took effect, was giving his first speech on the crisis since it began more than a month ago.

He praised the "the glorious battle" he said had been waged by Hezbollah, and said peace in the Middle East was not possible with the Bush administration in power in Washington.

"This is an administration that adopts the principle of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace," he said. "Consequently, we don't expect peace soon or in the foreseeable future."
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Hezbollah has "hoisted the banner of victory" over Israel and toppled U.S.-led plans for the Middle East.

Hezbollah's main backers -- Iran and Syria -- struck nearly identical tones a day after a cease-fire took effect in Lebanon: heaping praise on the guerrillas as perceived victors for the Islamic world and claiming that Western influence in the region was dealt a serious blow.

"God's promises have come true," Ahmadinejad told a huge crowd in Arbadil in northwestern Iran. "On one side, it's corrupt powers of the criminal U.S. and Britain and the Zionists .... with modern bombs and planes. And on the other side is a group of pious youth relying on God."

Monday, August 14, 2006

So, who won?

Ehud Olmert on August 14th, as reported by CNN:
Earlier, Olmert said Israel's key immediate aims were achieved, but added that the conflict "did not start yesterday, nor will it finish in the foreseeable future. It's a long, hard, arduous, complex fight."
Ehud Olmert on July 18th, as reported by the Washington Times:
TEL AVIV -- Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spelled out Israel's terms for ending its six-day siege of Lebanon yesterday, demanding the return of two kidnapped soldiers, an end to rocket attacks on Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese army to keep Hezbollah away from the common border.
The strategy of the United States on July 20th, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — Although wary of multinational peacekeeping operations, the Bush administration is working with allies to find a way to insert a robust military force and a civilian international presence in Lebanon to strengthen the frail government and break the grip of Hezbollah, U.S. and foreign diplomats say.
No one can claim that Olmert's and Bush's initial war aims have been realized. But, our political leaders try to spin a victory, while the radical Islamists work the streets. Reports on CNN tonight state that Hezbollah will rebuild 15,000 homes in Lebanon.

Here were the goals of Bush/Olmert:

1.) Remove Hezbollah as a military and political force in Lebanon, either with the group's near-distruction or with their disavowal of violence.

2.) The return of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

3.) An end to the Hezbollah rocket threat.

4.) An international force bolstering the Lebanese army in the south of Lebanon.

Some analysis...

Payl Reynolds of the BBC:
If these structures (removal of Hezbollah from south of the Litani River and removal of Israeli forces altogether, extension of Lebanese government authority and army in the south, insertion of major international force), are successful, then Israel might claim a victory of sorts. Hezbollah would not have been crushed but it might have been contained.

But the potential for a prolonged and messy guerrilla war is huge and if that happens, Israel would have lost.
Robert Fisk of the Independent:
But the reality is quite different and will suffer no such self-delusion: the Israeli army, reeling under the Hizbollah's onslaught of the past 24 hours, is now facing the harshest guerrilla war in its history. And it is a war they may well lose.

In all, at least 39 - possibly 43 - Israeli soldiers have been killed in the past day as Hizbollah guerrillas, still launching missiles into Israel itself, have fought back against Israel's massive land invasion into Lebanon.
I have not seen these casualty figures in another source. This from the Jerusalem Post:
Nine soldiers were killed Sunday in the final day of fighting before the cease-fire took effect, the army said.
Those nine soldiers may have died so Olmert could claim a victory and keep his job.

The debate in Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post:
The prime minister declared that "IDF operations over the past month have hurt the murderous organization [Hizbullah] to a degree that is not yet known to the public. Its weapons, its long-range arsenal and the self-confidence of its fighters and leaders have been harmed." He added that "IDF soldiers won every battle."

Speaking of Hizbullah's leadership, Olmert emphasized that "they fled into hiding" as soon as fighting began.

"Let me be clear," he told the MKs. Hizbullah's leadership "won't be forgiven. We will hunt them down at every time and in every place, and we won't ask permission from anyone" to destroy them.

Responding to criticism over the war's end, Olmert admitted that "we didn't achieve every aim" but counseled "patience. This battle for the justice of Zionism won't end today, and not in the near future. A nation who wishes to defeat fundamentalist extremist terror needs nerves of steel," and "a people who returned to its land after 2,000 years has patience. Therefore," the prime minister assured, "we will win."

Olmert also admitted that "There were mistakes made [in managing the war]," and promised that "We will examine everything that needs examination." But, he said, "We won't sink into blame and guilt. We don't have that luxury. We must assure that next time - and there may be a next time - things will be done better."

Opposition leader MK Binyamin Netanyahu (Likud) told the Knesset plenum that "Unfortunately, there will be another round [in this war] because the government's just demands weren't met" by the cease-fire agreement that went into effect Monday morning.

"The [kidnapped] soldiers weren't returned home, the Hizbullah was not disarmed … Right now, we are [merely] in an interim period between wars," Netanyahu warned. "And there is no one who will prevent our enemies from rearmed and preparing for the next round."
Israel may have made a symbol, far more dangerous than a guerilla force of a few thousand fighters.

Al Jazeera: "Palestinians see Nasrallah as new hero"

The Washington Times:
Before the war, or even in its early days, this well-heeled audience would have paid Sheik Nasrallah scant attention. But after weeks of fighting, the leader has won over new supporters, far from his usual power base among Lebanon's poor and rural Shi'ite Muslims.

The development is especially troubling to Christians and Sunni Muslims who believe Hezbollah provoked an unnecessary and devastating war without the support of the government or the people.

Yet even among these communities, which have struggled to escape the political stranglehold of Hezbollah's close ally Syria, there is an undeniable admiration for the militia's monthlong stand against the Israeli Defense Forces.
The Washington Post:
Moreover, Hezbollah's military leadership carefully studied military history, including the Vietnam War, the Lebanese expert said, and set up a training program with help from Iranian intelligence and military officers with years of experience in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The training was matched to weapons that proved effective against Israeli tanks, he added, including the Merkava main battle tank with advanced armor plating.

Wire-guided and laser-guided antitank missiles were the most effective and deadly Hezbollah weapons, according to Israeli military officers and soldiers. A review of Israel Defense Forces records showed that the majority of Israeli combat deaths resulted from missile hits on armored vehicles -- or on buildings where Israeli soldiers set up observation posts or conducted searches.
George W. Bush has presented his analysis, CNN:
"Hezbollah suffered a defeat in this crisis," Bush said during a news conference at the State Department.

"There's going to be a new power in the south of Lebanon," he said, referring to the U.N. force that will assist the Lebanese army in taking control of the area.

"How can you claim victory when you were a state within a state in southern Lebanon, and now you're going to be replaced by an international force?" he said.
If that state within a state rebuilds houses and maintains its new popular support, there is hell to pay in the future.

A Marine officer in Saturday's Washington Post:
Now, watching the latest news dispatches from Lebanon, I find myself comparing our efforts to introduce a new order in Iraq with Hezbollah's success as an effective practitioner of the art of militarized grass-roots politics. Frankly, it's not a favorable comparison -- for us. Hezbollah's organizational resilience in the face of an all-out conventional assault shows the degree to which it has seamlessly combined the strategic objectives of its sponsors with a localized political and military program.

Using the grass-roots approach, Hezbollah has been able to convert the ignored and dispossessed Shiite underclass of southern Lebanon into a powerful lever in regional politics. It understands that the basic need in any human conflict, whether or not it involves physical violence, is to take care of one's political base before striking out at the opponent.

As many informed observers have pointed out, Hezbollah has engrafted itself to the aims and aspirations of the Lebanese Shiite community so completely that Israel cannot destroy it without also destroying the community, with all the attendant political and moral costs. It is the willingness of women, children and old men to support Hezbollah and its political program at the risk of their lives that gives the organization power far beyond its military means.
Those aforementioned four goals:

1.) Remove Hezbollah as a military and political force in Lebanon, either with the group's near-distruction or with their disavowal of violence.

Early indications are that Hezbollah remains a strong force, at least politically, in Lebanon. Hezbollah's strength is a combintation of military arms and civic works. They state that their arms will not cross the Litani river, but they are unlikely to disarm. Their civic works groups have plenty of houses to rebuild; houses that Israel destroyed.

2.) The return of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Sadly, they have been almost forgotten by Olmert.

3.) An end to the Hezbollah rocket threat.

Hezbollah's rocket threat was never that substantial. It had to be removed, but it could only harm small pockets of civilians. These rockets are unguided and limited in range. They are a valuable terror threat. There are other valuable terror threats that will remain in Hezbollah's arsenal.

4.) An international force bolstering the Lebanese army in the south of Lebanon.

The south of Lebanon will remain a Hezbollah political stronghold. The Lebanese army is a shell. That international force is untested.