Who Are We to Criticize? Well, Who Do We Have to Be?

[N.B.: For whatever reason WordPress doesn’t seem to have sent out subscriber emails when my post (“Unicorn Dreams Melting in the Crucible of Reality” – EoT – 2014-03-03) was published last night. Go figure; click the link if you missed it.]  Moving right along…

Eugene Robinson. He seems like a nice guy, or at least not malicious and hateful; naive and ignorant but true to his principles. I have some respect for that, as opposed to the party hacks like E.J.Dionne who employ whatever situational principles will support their side. Yesterday Eugene weighed in on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and says – we have a credibility problem (“In the Ukraine crisis, the U.S. has a credibility problem” – WaPo – 2014-03-03):

Is it just me, or does the rhetoric about the crisis in Ukraine sound as if all of Washington is suffering from amnesia? We’re supposed to be shocked — shocked! — that a great military power would cook up a pretext to invade a smaller, weaker nation? I’m sorry, but has everyone forgotten the unfortunate events in Iraq a few years ago?

No, Eugene, it’s not just you – it’s Liberals (and pinko Lefties, and conspiracy nuts). Liberals like you have indeed forgotten that the Senate Select Committee on Iraq Pre-War Intelligence found that the case for Iraqi WMDs was not fabricated. That was the bipartisan Congressional investigation which Liberals demanded – Demanded! – because they just knew that W had lied – Lied! – about Iraqi WMDs. Bush, Cheney, Feith, and the rest of those criminal neocons, all lying liars who tell lies! So they stamped their little feet and banged their spoons on their highchairs until they got the Congressional investigation they wanted.

Sort of. They got the bipartisan Congressional  investigation, all right, but the results were not to their liking. What the report said was that while some of the evidence was flawed, none of the evidence for WMDs was fabricated, and actually there was even more evidence which would have made an even stronger case but was withheld by the White House because they didn’t deem reliable enough. The intelligence agencies were, however, unanimous in their confidence that Iraq had WMDs (chemical, probably biological, and maybe nuclear), which is why the liaison to the White House of all of those agencies, CIA Director George Tenet, told POTUS W that the case for Iraqi WMDs was “a slam-dunk”. The intelligence agencies of our allies concurred; Germany even thought Iraq would get a nuclear weapon within five years.

As you might expect, this was not the conclusion Liberals were expecting or hoping for, so they demanded – Demanded! – an investigation into the intelligence agencies, because surely they had been pressured to cook up the “right” answers.  Surely Dick Cheney had paid an unofficial visit to Langley, put his arm around the shoulder of those quaking analysts, and told them just exactly what they were going to “find”, right?  They got their bipartisan Congressional investigation – see the Robb-Silberman report – and after all the intelligence analysts were interviewed, in private, with assurances of immunity, each and every one stood by their reports and denied categorically that anyone had influenced their conclusions in any way.  In fact, every bipartisan Congressional investigation has failed to deliver what the Liberals were really after – a basis for impeachment and trial for the “war criminals” of the Bush Administration – and despite that Liberals have always gone right back to accusing W and his cohort of evil neocons of cooking up a pretext to invade Iraq.  They openly maintain that fiction to this day, as above.

[…] the United States, frankly, has limited standing to insist on absolute respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states.

This straw-man set-up needs some work. The United States does not and never has insisted on an “absolute respect for the territorial integrity of sovereign states” – Robinson is just making this up.  It should be noted, however, that after overthrowing the bloody dictatorship of Hussein and his psychopathic sons in 2003 we turned Iraq into a self-governing constitutional republic, while simultaneously crushing the internal and external jihadists and Baathists who tried to keep Iraq in thrall.  Again, not exactly a good counterpoint to Russia and Crimea today.

Before Iraq there was Afghanistan, there was the Persian Gulf War, there was Panama, there was Grenada.

Yeah, Panama and Grenada, I’ll give him those, but the Persian Gulf War? You’ll recall that this was precipitated by Saddam Hussein outright invading and annexing Kuwait – and subsequently we smashed his military and then we handed Kuwait right back to the Kuwaiti emirates, so that flies in the face of his claim, yes?  For Robinson, it doesn’t matter; at this point he’s just rattling off U.S. wars that he opposed, because War, Man, y’know, it’s just Bad!  We’re Bad!  We warmongers, bad bad people are we.  All wars bad.  We’re bad.  So thanks for clarifying that, Eugene.

Come to think of it, Panama and Grenada were also handed back to their citizens, free and democratic. This is in sharp contrast to what Russia is doing, and did you notice that Robinson throws in Afghanistan? So, let me get this straight: Afghanistan hosted terrorists who attacked the United States, and so we changed their regime into a constitutional republic and went after those jihadists who opposed us – and Robinson is effectively saying this was bad, because we didn’t respect the territorial integrity of Afghanistan? What jackassery.

And even as we condemn Moscow for its outrageous aggression, we reserve the right to fire deadly missiles into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and who knows where else.

Robinson has a legitimate grievance here but it doesn’t apply to his thesis. I agree with him that there are problems with firing missiles into other states unless those states allow us to do so (as does, for example, Pakistan). However, in contrast to Russia/Crimea, we are not seizing territory or doing regime change, so this doesn’t really belong in Robinson’s opinion piece. Not this one, anyway.

The Obama administration has been clear in its condemnation of Putin’s operation. Critics who blame the Russian action on “weak” or “feckless” U.S. foreign policy are being either cynical or clueless.
It is meaningless to rattle sabers if the whole world knows you have no intention of using them. There is no credible military threat by the United States that could conceivably force Putin to surrender Crimea if he doesn’t want to. Russia is much diminished from the Soviet era but remains a superpower whose nuclear arsenal poses an existential threat to any adversary. There are only a few nations that cannot be coerced by, say, the sudden appearance on the horizon of a U.S. aircraft carrier group. Russia is one of them.

The accusations that POTUS Obama is weak and feckless are not predicated on his lack of a military response to the Russian invasion of Crimea. He is weak and feckless because he has not pursued economic pacts and undercut military ties to Eastern European countries (abandoning plans for missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic come to mind, by way of example).  In doing so he created a power vacuum, which is now being filled by the ruthless Russians.

I’d also add that POTUS Obama is an utter fool for pursuing arms treaties with and making unilateral preemptive concessions to Russia despite their having violated every major weapons treaty they’ve ever signed, as well as having repeatedly flown nuclear bombers into our Air Defense Identification zonesimulated an attack run on our missile defenses in Asia, and prowled around our East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico with attack submarines.   I’ll further add that POTUS Obama has pursued this despite Russia having been most helpful to Iran and Syria in waging wars against their own people.  I’ll further assert that the “weak” and “feckless” accusations are probably based more on Obama’s tendency to stay out of world political events in the hopes that they’ll resolve themselves without his having to say or do much of anything, and then when the problems get bigger he wades in cautiously and noncommittally, usually too late.  Much as he did with Iran in 2011/2, Syria 2011-present, and today in the Russia/Crimea invasion.

If the man had brains or balls, in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea, he’d be publicly and enthusiastically invite former Soviet Bloc countries into talks on free trade and military preparedness.  Countries like (what’s left of) Ukraine, (what’s left of) Georgia, Poland, Hungary, and Romania.

Message: “There’s a big bad bear in them thar woods; let’s partner up.”

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Forget 9/11? Fuhgeddaboudit, Pal.

[by Mr.Hengist]

Now, me, I’m not big on anniversaries, not even my own birthday. Just not caring, is all. When I was a kid I looked forward to my birthday, sure – presents! – but as I got older, for a variety of reasons, I grew out of it. There’s no day I set aside for celebration or remembrance of anything anymore, and that’s just me. I’m not against this kind of thing but it doesn’t resonate with me.

That’s why the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has come and gone these blogging years without comment from me, although 9/11 marked perhaps the darkest days in my life and set in motion changes in me which were, for me, profound. It’s in the days leading up to the 9/11 anniversary that people reflect on that day and how we move forward. E.J. Dionne Jr. has phoned it in with his September 7th, 2011 column, “Time to leave 9/11 behind”.

As the title promises, the first line delivers:

“After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind.”

It’s a familiar refrain, one I’ve read from Liberal pundits since, well, shortly after September 11, 2001. We shouldn’t use this as an excuse to make war, we’ve gone off-track, we need to understand that we were attacked because we’re hated, and with good reason, we need to make amends so the world will love us again and we’ll all live together in the world with harmony and respect for cultural diversity, and then unicorns will fart rainbows, blah blah blah, blah blah, blah.

Although the Liberal MSM never stopped airing the pictures and video of the planes hitting the towers (look, big explosion!), even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 they wouldn’t air the pictures or video of the jumpers. Those were the victims above the inferno in the towers who jumped to their certain death rather than stay and succumb to the smoke and flame. What hell that must have been for those office workers that the better option was to jump from the top floors of a skyscraper. Not a few, either; surviving rescue workers described having to be exceedingly cautious when entering or exiting the towers to avoid being crushed by a random person falling from the sky, and how unnerving it was to hear the bodies thumping on the sidewalk every couple of minutes. Why the media embargo? While not graphic, they were horrifying, and they angried up the blood. Americans were, by and large, ready to unleash our war machine, but already the imploring chorus of restraint was stirring from the anti-war left, who saw us as having gotten our just desserts – Blame America First.

It only took a half a year or so for the focus to shift, as the Lefties knew that this war business wasn’t going to treat them well. Modern Liberal Democrats are not the leaders you want in charge in a time of war, and they knew it, so on the whole they thought this 9/11 thing was taking domestic and foreign policy in all kinds of wrong directions. Like hamsters running the wheel for hours on end, they get tired and rest for a spell but soon enough they’re back at it. It’s their hobby horse and they’re not getting off it, because we can’t change policy until you people get over the hurt. So, like, it’s sad & all, but can’t you just leave it in the past? Besides which, you deserved it.

“As a nation we have looked back for too long. We learned lessons from the attacks, but so many of them were wrong. The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself.”

I’ll refrain from rebutting the arguments that Dionne neglects to make himself, but suffice it to say, he’s wrong, wrong, wrong. We learned valuable lessons from 9/11, and perhaps not well enough, and our response has left us stronger, not weaker. Hey, if Dionne won’t make the case against, I’m don’t have to make the case for.

“Reflections on the meaning of the horror and the years that followed are inevitably inflected by our own political or philosophical leanings. It’s a critique that no doubt applies to my thoughts as well. We see what we choose to see and use the event as we want to use it.”

I suppose it would be unfair to point out that Dionne, perhaps tellingly, focuses on how we choose to “use the event as we want to use it”, because in essence, I agree with this paragraph. Let’s just say, for now, that E.J. Dionne and I disagree on all the particulars.

“This does nothing to honor those who died and those who sacrificed to prevent even more suffering. In the future, the anniversary will best be reserved as a simple day of remembrance in which all of us humbly offer our respect for the anguish and the heroism of those individuals and their families.”
“But if we continue to place 9/11 at the center of our national consciousness, we will keep making the same mistakes. Our nation’s future depended on far more than the outcome of a vaguely defined “war on terrorism,” and it still does. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy. But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies.”

Long have the Liberal-Left fervently implored us not to take 9/11 so hard. Let me start hitting a couple of the specifics here:

First of all, it’s arguable whether we place 9/11 “at the center of our national consciousness”, but if that’s the case then it is so for reasons which are far beyond the ability of anyone to simply wish it away. 9/11 will gradually diminish in importance as time stretches the distance between the now and then, but what Dionne and his ilk have either never grasped or simply wanted to make not so, is that it was an event on the order of magnitude of Pearl Harbor. It is both tiresome and insulting to hear from Dionne et al that we should just get over it. Not happening, not anytime soon.

Then there’s the part where he acknowledges that “Al Qaeda is a dangerous enemy”, but “our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies”. I don’t think it’s necessary to belabor the obvious contradiction here, as these two ideas are mutually exclusive. What Dionne means – but apparently lacks the skill to put clearly – is that Al Qaeda will never succeed in reestablishing a caliphate. It’s either clumsiness or intentionally intimating that, in some sense, we are really threatened by Al Qaeda.

In the sense that Al Qaeda will never succeed in their mad fantasies of a worldwide caliphate, Dionne and I agree. I wouldn’t be entirely sure of their chances for a regional caliphate, nor would I take off the table the possibility of various other states in the being absorbed into the orbit of this yet-to-be established caliphate. At any rate, I wouldn’t want to establish odds, as I think they’re pretty long on even the most modest of their goals.

This is an entirely separate question from whether Al Qaeda is an ongoing threat. They are. A diminished, less capable threat, not to be underestimated, but pursued to the ends of the Earth and exterminated wherever they are, no matter how long it takes. Further, Al Qaeda is but one organization of many that are like-minded and equally dastardly. The point I’m driving at is that what Dionne wants is for us to go back to 9/10, and I’m here to tell you this a mad fantasy of Liberal-Leftists. They’ve probably got a better chance of realizing their fantasy than Al Qaeda does for realizing theirs.

“We asked for great sacrifice over the past decade from the very small portion of our population who wear the country’s uniform, particularly the men and women of the Army and the Marine Corps. We should honor them, too. And, yes, we should pay tribute to those in the intelligence services, the FBI and our police forces who have done such painstaking work to thwart another attack.”

I presume Dionne is preferentially giving shout-outs to the Army and Marine Corps based on casualty figures, but really, all of our armed service members have borne an extraordinary burden. One of the lessons we should have learned from the military engagements of the last decade is that our military is inarguably too small to do this without having to resort to extended tours of combat duty. Whether you support the war(s) or not, the presumption that we have the ability to fight such wars can no longer be taken at face value – or be relied upon as a part of our defense posture. If the possibility of going to war to defend, say, Taiwan or South Korea, is off the table because it would outstrip our capacity to effectively prosecute that third front, then that’s an excellent argument for augmenting the size of our armed forces because weakness invites attack. That lesson was, alas, not learned.

Still, it’s worth noting that Dionne doesn’t go the route of infantilizing our armed forces by talking about them as if they were children forced to go to war, or as bloodthirsty killbot murderers leaving a wake of devastation and suffering. I wish more antiwar folks were as decent as Dionne is here.

Hey, I wish for a lot of things.

“It was often said that terrorism could not be dealt with through “police work,” as if the difficult and unheralded labor involved was not grand or bold enough to satisfy our longing for clarity in what was largely a struggle in the shadows.”

Here Dionne constructs a straw man but doesn’t even bother to knock it down. Let me set it on fire by pointing out that one of the problems with using law enforcement to prosecute a war is that law enforcement is, by varying degrees, reactive rather than proactive. Without probable cause, how to apprehend suspects? How to obtain sufficient evidence to obtain the issuance of arrest warrants, and under what standard of law do we operate – ours, or the laws of a foreign country? To what degree to we constrain and expose our law officers by working with a foreign government in the investigation? By way of example, let me point out that when it was determined that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, the Bush Administration demanded he be turned over to us. The Taliban responded that, no, they would be doing no such thing, but they would consider extradition if we could present a case to an international court of law, and besides which, they had no idea where he was, although they would be happy to pass along any message we might wish to send him.

[Go back and read the rest of that last sentence now that you’ve stopped laughing at how the Taliban were demanding we persuade an international court of law.]

Further, law enforcement is subject to the legal constraints of a civil society rather than an effectively lawless badlands or an actual rootin’ tootin’ battlefield. In that kind of environment it is impractical to the point of being an impossibility to maintain the integrity of a chain of custody for physical evidence, and even the problematical nature of the reading of Miranda rights makes the notion of a legal battlespace, quite frankly, bizarre. Proverbially speaking, it’s bringing a knife to a gunfight, or in this case, an arrest warrant to a gunfight. OK, the FBI carries guns, but up against RPGs, AK-47s, IEDs and, well, you get the picture.

“Forgive me, but I find it hard to forget former president George W. Bush’s 2004 response to Sen. John Kerry’s comment that “the war on terror is less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering and law-enforcement operation.”
“Bush retorted: “I disagree — strongly disagree. . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States of America, and war is what they got.” What The Washington Post called “an era of endless war” is what we got, too.”
“Bush, of course, understood the importance of “intelligence gathering” and “law enforcement.” His administration presided over a great deal of both, and his supporters spoke, with justice, of his success in staving off further acts of terror. Yet he could not resist the temptation to turn on Kerry’s statement of the obvious. Thus was an event that initially united the nation used, over and over, to aggravate our political disharmony. This is also why we must put it behind us.”

What is obvious to Dionne in Kerry’s statement is left unstated, and it deserves to be fleshed out. I won’t do his work for him, but I will point out that intelligence gathering and law enforcement operations do not preclude warfighting as a means of confronting enemy conspirators and combatants. For a couple hundred years now, the U.S. has used all of these tools in the prosecution of war.

The disconnect between these two ideas – those of Kerry and W – is that W was responding to the unstated premise in Kerry’s statement: that we can use intelligence gathering and law enforcement to mitigate the threat of Al Qaeda without waging war.

The political disharmony Dionne laments is a direct result of the disagreement between these two ideological camps over this question. What’s more, that disagreement was fueled by the political calculus of Democrats who parlayed an issue of national security in order to get more political power, which is simply unconscionable.

I’m sure Liberals will take exception to that statement, but let me preempt their howls by asking this question: how else do you explain the promises of candidate Obama, which were very much in alignment with the spirit of anti-war Liberals, to the actions of POTUS Obama? From the continuance of warrantless wiretaps, to the dramatic expansion of drone airstrikes, and the extension of the Patriot Act, to the Libyan war, and so on, it seems obvious that POTUS Obama has fallen far short of the standards he set for himself. I’m not trying to use these reversals as a cudgel against POTUS Obama, but rather, to point out that, in reality, as POTUS Obama either knew or learned, our country is not well-served by prosecuting a war as if it were a matter solely for intelligence gathering and law enforcement.

While I’m at it, let me also point out how disingenuous the Left has been over these past years. Yeah, yeah, when W was in office, the Constitution was shredded, he thought himself a king, the republic was doomed, and America as we knew it was being destroyed by the evil Republicans, damn those soulless ghouls. The Left marched by the tens of thousands, they did, to stop the wars and take back America! When they did take back America, or at least the government – which, surprisingly, still existed, and still somehow allowed free elections – Democrats won all three branches of government and those very same policies were met with… muted grumbling. Only the far left still seems to be waving their pitchforks, but mainstream Liberals have given their guy a pass.

“In the flood of anniversary commentary, notice how often the term “the lost decade” has been invoked. We know now, as we should have known all along, that American strength always depends first on our strength at home — on a vibrant, innovative and sensibly regulated economy, on levelheaded fiscal policies, on the ability of our citizens to find useful work, on the justice of our social arrangements.”

I’ll defer to Dionne that “the lost decade” is a phrase used with some frequency in Liberal circles, but that phrase has no currency on the Right. At any rate, American strength is not dependent on the false choice Dionne presents. Our economy must be strong in order to have a strong national defense, and our national defense can only be strong if our economy is strong. We can’t have one without the other, but regardless of economic circumstances in our national defense we must wage war on those who wage war against us. It always pays to destroy our enemies, even though it costs us.

“This is not “isolationism.” It is a common sense that was pushed aside by the talk of “glory” and “honor,” […]”

… aaaand let me stop Dionne right here and call out this BS. Glory and honor were never used by the Bush Administration to justify warmaking; this is a shameless manufacturing of a lie to serve Liberal dissent. We did not go to war in Afghanistan or Iraq for glory, period. We did not go to war against Afghanistan or Iraq for honor, either. We did not go to war against Afghanistan or Iraq for treasure either, but I digress. Dionne would like to portray hawks and neocons as warmongers seeking glory and honor, but Dionne forgets that these are the facile accusations of the Liberal-Left, now so ingrained as to be taken as self-evident truths. Recall what I said above, about how accusations against their political opposition are first taken as a possibility, then as probably true, and from there a certainty.

“[…] by utopian schemes to transform the world by abruptly reordering the Middle East — and by our fears.”

Here Dionne is alluding to the neocon ambition of upsetting the apple carts of the undemocratic Middle East dictatorships and facilitating the emergence of representative republics. It’s a shame that POTUS Bush largely gave up on that ambition in his second term, but it’s somewhat encouraging to see the possibility of that dream coming to fruition in some parts of the Middle East today as a part of what’s being called the Arab Spring. You might think that current events would have Dionne thinking twice about calling such a scheme utopian, but, well, apparently not.

“While we worried that we would be destroyed by terrorists, we ignored the larger danger of weakening ourselves by forgetting what made us great.”

And what made us great? Glory? Honor? I’d like to address this statement but as it stands I can’t make heads or tails of it and I’m not about to flesh out his argument that isn’t made so that I can rebut it.

“We have no alternative from now on but to look forward and not back.”

We can do both, unless you can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Of course, Dionne has been arguing that we shouldn’t look back, not that we can’t, so this statement is simply empty rhetoric, and it’s just so very lame, but it does set up his final paragraph:

“This does not dishonor the fallen heroes, and Lincoln explained why at Gettysburg. “We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground,” he said. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.” The best we could do, Lincoln declared, was to commit ourselves to “a new birth of freedom.” This is still our calling.”

It’s nice that Dionne concluded his piece with a quote from that venerated Republican Lincoln, whom we all hold dear to our hearts, but the conclusion of his piece ends up right where it began, with Dionne lazily waving his arms, chanting, “Forget, forget, forget.”

So let me sum up my fisking with this:

9/11: Never Forget.

Afghanistan: They’ll Cut (a deal) and Run

[by Mr.Hengist]

The initial reports had the casualties at 80 dead and 120 wounded in Charsadda, Pakistan, on May 13, 2011. The attack was loosely targeted at a training center for Pakistani security forces. One bomb killed cadets and, notably, bystanders at a nearby market. The second bomb, by design, killed first responders tending the victims of the first bomb. In this how the Taliban expressed their sympathy and anger, in deeds fitting their words, at the U.S. having sent ObL to sleep with the fishes. In deeds, how like ObL and Al Qaeda; their aims and methods make for a well-suited match. It’s a timely and poignant reminder of why we unleashed our fury on them in the aftermath of 9/11, and a rebuke of our having let so many flee to safety. We should have done a better job of cutting off their escape routes and killed them in in far larger numbers.

POTUS Obama reluctantly fulfilled his campaign pledge by increasing our troop presence in Afghanistan by paltry numbers. Having done so, POTUS Obama is now once again looking for the exit. Instead of redoubling our efforts in response to Taliban atrocities, the Administration “has accelerated direct talks with the Taliban” and “U.S. officials say they hope [this] will enable President Obama to report progress toward a settlement of the Afghanistan war when he announces troop withdrawals in July.” Let’s hope the Taliban don’t cut a deal until at least the next round of U.S. elections so that we can replace these Democrats before they can run away.

Two Shots and a Splash

[by Mr.Hengist]

The news came late and I was already visiting the Land of Nod, during which all I could dream about was making stock. Vegetable & meat stock in my slow-cooker. All night long, dream after dream. I kept waking up and thinking, “Augh, another one – why can’t I have better dreams?” I’ve been planning on making that dream come true this weekend when I’ll use my slow-cooker for the first time to make vegetable/meat stock, and I’ve been sort-of looking forward to it, but spending a whole night dreaming about is kind of lame.

When I woke up and checked the news I learned that another dream had already come true. A desire, really, not a dream – an angry, blood-lust desire for death upon that POS ObL. I read the banner headline and, as is typical of me, I had no reaction but an unverbalized need to read more, to learn more, to put the headline into a context into which I could weigh its veracity. ObL dead, they say, but we know that many of Al Qaeda leadership have been declared killed many times, only to pop up alive again whack-a-mole style. The more I read the more certain I became that it was a believable claim, although I will admit that when I read that the body had been dumped at sea I had my first verbal thought, which was “How convenient.” I’m a skeptic by nature. I guess it just takes time to sink in when the news is big; further reflection elevated the probability of the truth status of this news to high. OK, look, I hadn’t had any coffee that early in the morning and, in retrospect, it probably would have helped things along. The news started to sink in when I got into the shower.

ObL is dead. Well, good.


Surprisingly, that’s all it’s amounted to for me, in terms of the emotional resonance it’s had on me. Not triumphalism, not jubilation, not even satisfaction. Pity, that; I’d hoped to get more mileage out of it. Granted, I’m not one for celebrations in general, but I’ve gotten more jollies out of finding a stray sawbuck on the sidewalk. I’m not sure why. I still feel anger and sadness at 9/11 when I think about the horror of that day, and I still feel the hot anger and bloodlust well up when I think about the jihadists and their evildoings. I don’t know and I’m not going to dwell on it because it’s not important. ObL is dead and that’s a good thing, even if that’s all there is to it for me.

Kudos to our combined intelligence and military which carried out the mission, with well-deserved accolades to follow. Surely the kill-team need never buy their own drinks again. Kudos to the Obama Administration for following through with the pursuit and having the cojones to execute when the opportunity was established. Really, you have to hand it to POTUS Obama: candidate Obama said he would go into Pakistan to get high-value targets, and, by Crom, he has. He’s long-since stepped up the missile attacks inside of Pakistan, and with this mission he’s ordered a boots-on-the-ground assassination of a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, highest value target. May the Cambodianization of Pakistan continue until we’ve reached a satisfactory outcome.

There’s snark and criticism to be had at the expense of the Obama Administration, yes, but it’s mostly persnickety. I will add the following thoughts:

– Assassination mission against ObL, not “kill or capture”: good. The potential for intelligence gleaned from interrogation has little promise in this case. Let’s face it: there’s nothing we could offer to coax it out, and this administration would probably not extract it by force. The fiasco of trying to apply the due process of a civil prosecution which we’ve already seen with the Gitmo detainees would go to 11 for ObL; better to avoid it altogether.

– Burial at sea: good. For exactly the reasons given for doing it, it’s good. Granted, my first impulse was far more excessive even than Glenn Beck’s (“wrapped in bacon”), so much so that I will not sully this blog with my dark and profane fantasies, but I’ve reconsidered the matter and the disposal of the corpse as it was done was the correct strategic decision, IMHO.

– The ever-changing details of the mission: sadly, it’s to be expected. I’ve come to the point where I note with a mental “Asterisk of Doubt” all information we get in the opening days of crisis. Even seemingly unmistakable chunks of a story can later turn out to be altogether wrong.

– Not releasing the ObL kill-photo: my loss. I’d like to add it to my collection, as a trophy. At any rate, the era of photographic “proof” has passed for this kind of thing, as everybody knows that, given enough time and a motivated forger with good photoshop chops, one can fake such a thing. It reminds me of a podcast to which I’d listened of an event at the Heritage Foundation, “The Role of Psychological Operations in Strategic Communications” in which one of the speakers describes talking to Afghan villagers after 9/11 and how they didn’t believe it happened, even after being shown video. Oh, they knew about airplanes, sure, because airplanes flew over the skies of Afghanistan, but skyscrapers? Why, everyone knows you can’t build a building that high! They were convinced it was some kind of Hollywood trickery. At any rate, there is an accounting to be made amongst the Leftists who oppose the release of the ObL death-photo yet clamored for the release of Abu Ghraib photos – another time, surely.

Not surprisingly, there’s a chorus from Liberals that the death of ObL means we should get out of Afghanistan. As if that was ever the point. Well, I’ll give the hippy-dippy peaceniks credit for consistency on this: when things go well, they see that as a reason we can finally leave, and when things don’t go well, they use that as an argument for why we should leave. They did that for Iraq just as they’re now doing it for Afghanistan; it’s sort-of an unfalsifiable assertion in that regard.

This is why it’s important for the Obama Administration to make it clear that our fight wasn’t just against Al Qaeda, but rather it is against the jihadists who seek to destroy the West and subjugate the world under Sharia Law. Sadly, of course, he won’t do any such thing, as neither he nor Democrats in general seem to believe any such thing.

At the very least there must be a dear price to be paid by Pakistan for their complicity and aid to Al Qaeda, and the jihidists who fight us and our Allies in Afghanistan and India and elsewhere. Perhaps Obama has the temerity to cut off aid; I suppose it possible he might more closely ally the U.S. with India. I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised – but not hopeful.

Glenn Greenwald Bites Into a Bitter Reality Sandwich

[by Mr.Hengist]

Glenn Greenwald put out a piece on January 18th, 2011 which must have been as difficult for him to write as it was amusing for me to read. With a title that, well, coming from Greenwald, makes one suspect we’re in for a massive treat of sarcastic jibes, “The vindication of Dick Cheney” is instead a diatribe lambasting the Obama Administration for continuing and even strengthening Bush Administration GWOT policies.

I have… comments.

“In the early months of Obama’s presidency, the American Right did to him what they do to every Democratic politician: they accused him of being soft on defense (specifically “soft on Terror”) and leaving the nation weak and vulnerable to attack.”

Well, yes, but historically, post-Kennedy Democrat Presidents have an abysmal track record on Defense. Democrats in general have a shameful history of cutting our Defense budget, undercutting our allies, making nice with our enemies, and belatedly authorizing only weak and ineffectual military actions when they do resort to force.

Besides which, Obama promised so many things that would hurt National Defense like cutting the Defense budget, pulling out of Iraq as fast as possible, killing the missile defense program, and so on, that it would be reasonable to conclude that, should he follow through, he would, well, hurt National Defense.

Only his promise to expand the war in Afghanistan seemed contrary to that, but we got fooled, didn’t we? If Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars” is to be believed, POTUS Obama had no intention of fulfilling that promise, but the Pentagon would not accommodate his wishes. The surge he authorized was about a third of what the Pentagon wanted, and the results speak for themselves.

“But that tactic quickly became untenable as everyone (other than his hardest-core followers) was forced to acknowledge that Obama was embracing and even expanding — rather than reversing — the core Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism.”

With the high degree of hyperbole so common to the Left, Greenwald ignores the many criticisms the Right has made of Obama’s GWOT policies. From the dismal slog in Afghanistan to the attempts to close Gitmo and try the detainees in U.S. courts, the record has been less than stellar. His overblown point is, nevertheless, well-taken: the Obama Administration has continued and/or strengthened many Bush-era GWOT policies.

“As a result, leading right-wing figures began lavishing Obama with praise — and claiming vindication — based on Obama’s switch from harsh critic of those policies (as a candidate) to their leading advocate (once in power).”

Again, note the over-the-top hyperbole, “lavishing Obama with praise.” I’d like to pause here for a moment to note that, if you think about it, across-the-aisle praise basically comes from one direction. When have you read of Democrats or Liberals giving straightforward praise to their political opposition for doing something good? I’m reminded of an article I read a few years ago – didn’t save the link, sorry – in which the author was talking about AIDS in Africa, and he actually did praise W for dramatically increasing U.S. expenditures in fighting it over there. It was tepid praise, but fairly straightforward, and so unusual that I found it a little surprising – you know, that it was there at all. Then, immediately after that praising of W, the author went on to list a half-dozen things that W had done which the Left just hated – you know: the Enron, the Iraq war, the tax cuts, the this, the that – completely non sequitur in an article on AIDS in Africa. It was there so that the author could both remind the readers of how much they should hate W, and to insulate the author from criticism for committing the Liberal faux pas of praising the Right. Remember the response when Bono praised W for this? So do I.

VPOTUS Cheney and other leading figures of the Right are now praising POTUS Obama. They will not be denounced, hounded, or even roundly criticized for it, either. The Right doesn’t have a problem when one their own praises the Left, when they finally get it right. It’s worth noting.

Well, anyway, Greenwald further states that POTUS Obama has been the “leading advocate” of Bush/Cheney GWOT policies. This is just absurd; most of the announcements of his continuation of Bush/Cheney GWOT policies have been made quietly and with little comment from the White House.

Greenwald fills much of the middle of the piece with a litany of woes, rife with the canon of Liberal attacks on those policies (illegal-this, power-grab-that), after which he gets to the red meat of the article.

“First, it creates the impression that Republicans were right all along in the Bush-era War on Terror debates and Democratic critics were wrong. The same theme is constantly sounded by conservatives who point out Obama’s continuation of these policies: that he criticized those policies as a candidate out of ignorance and partisan advantage, but once he became President, he realized they were right as a result of accessing the relevant classified information and needing to keep the country safe from the Terrorist threat.”

Why, yes, it certainly does leave that impression, doesn’t it? I didn’t need to quote all that, but it paring it down would diminish the gladdening of my heart. I’d also add that it adds merit to the warning of Right that Obama is a lightweight. So, was he pandering to Liberal fantasies or is he a lightweight who learned real-world realities only after having been sworn in? Probably both.

“Second, Obama has single-handedly eliminated virtually all mainstream debate over these War on Terror policies.”

Well, no, POTUS Obama has done no such thing, and I find it amusing that Greenwald would choose to credit him with this ability. No, Liberals shut down the debate, quenched the rage, and dialed down their hysteria to a quiet, occasional grumble. They did that because they’ve been fundamentally dishonest in these debates. Their double-standards are on full display as they grudgingly accept their Democrat POTUS doing what made them made them scream, shout, and stamp their little feet when the Republican POTUS did the same thing. They marched by the tens, hundreds of thousands back then. Now, not so much. Was it naked partisanship that made the difference, or are they just so easily manipulated that, absent their opinion-leaders telling them what to think, they don’t much care about these things anymore? The cognitive dissonance must be unbearable.

“Third, Obama’s embrace of these policies has completely rehabilitated the reputations and standing of the Bush officials responsible for them.
[…] But Obama’s impact in this area extends far beyond that. Dick Cheney is not only free of ignominy, but can run around claiming vindication from Obama’s actions because he’s right. The American Right constantly said during the Bush years that any President who knew what Bush knew and was faced with the duty of keeping the country safe would do the same thing. Obama has provided the best possible evidence imaginable to prove those claims true.”

That’s really shiny! So, Glenn, you’re going to reconsider your positions from the last ten years, then? You’ve been given “the best possible evidence imaginable to prove those claims true” – that pretty much demands from you, if you consider yourself to be a fair and objective person of reason, that you revisit both your facts and arguments and those of your political opposition. I’d suggest you start with the opposition since I’m doubtful you’ve given much time to them firsthand. The archives of National Review, Power Line, and Instapundit will be most illuminating, I’m sure.

On the other hand, maybe it’s still hard for me to tell where Greenwald’s genuine beliefs end and his proclivity to rant hyperbole begin. Hyperbole is a safe bet, so I’ll go with that.

“If Obama has indeed changed his mind over the last two years as a result of all the Secret Scary Things he’s seen as President, then I genuinely believe that he and the Democratic Party owe a heartfelt, public apology to Bush, Cheney and the GOP for all the harsh insults they spewed about them for years based on policies that they are now themselves aggressively continuing.”

If we ever get this – and I’m assuming only a witnessed and notarized statement signed by Obama in his own blood will suffice – then we’ll get to see whether Greenwald can own up to his own divisive dishonesty during the W years. At any rate, it’s good to see someone from the Left even float the idea that an apology might – just might – be in order.

In truth, my sincere hope has been that Liberals will revisit those policies and the debates of the last decade with fresh eyes and an open mind. There are policy issues of relevance to our present and future which should not be sacrificed on the altar of partisan political gain. I’m afraid this will fall to the next generation as they look back at history, decades late.

Failing that, I’d settle for a collective change in the collectivist mind. Perhaps Liberals will, having been given motive and permission to change their beliefs, will do so for partisan gain or to toe the new party line. In any case, I am glad they haven’t taken to the streets in protest – again – or made much of an issue at all about this. It would be ideologically and logically consistent of them to do so but, more importantly, it would be harmful to the country. Again.

Mr. Bacevich’s Time Machine

[by Mr.Hengist]

Noocyte linked to this Op-Ed in the WaPo by Dr. Andrew J. Bacevich of Boston University, and having read it I’ve decided it’s worth a good Fisking. Without further preamble, let’s have at it!

“The counterinsurgency campaign proposed in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s strategic assessment will prolong the war for an additional five or 10 years.”

McChrystal’s campaign will prosecute the war for an additional five or ten years. To say that it would prolong the war for that amount of time is to imply that it would lengthen the time the war will, or should be, prosecuted. Bacevich goes on to assert that his alternative of pursuing a Cold War strategy is better but he does not provide a timeframe he believes will be necessary to bring the war to a conclusion.

“Fortunately, there is an alternative to a global counterinsurgency campaign. Instead of fighting an endless hot war in a vain effort to eliminate the jihadist threat, the United States should wage a cold war to keep the threat at bay. Such a strategy worked before. It can work again.”

The Cold War lasted for forty-five years; there’s your new, improved timeframe. However, it would be inappropriate to compare the 5-10 year McCrystal plan to the Cold War, because the McChrystal strategy is theater-specific to his area of operations in the Middle East whereas the Cold war was an overarching global strategy.

Note further that the assertion that the Cold War strategy “can work again” is wholly unsupported by Bacevich throughout the piece. He does cite specific tactics and policies used during the Cold War as ones we should use in this war, but he does not actually compare and contrast the present war with the Cold War.

It strikes me as wholly implausible that the Cold War strategy will work against the Jihadists. For one thing, the Soviets were rational players who were afraid of being annihilated, and it kept them from acting in a suicidal manner. The most noteworthy element of the Jihadists is arguably their suicidal nature, so we can expect that the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine – the central core of Cold War strategy – will not be effective. Furthermore, since the Jihadists do not have a home country per se, and the despotic ruling classes of the countries from which they come are generally nominally or effectively anti-jihadist, any Western military strikes of whatever nature must be targeted and limited to the specific material and personnel assets of the Jihadists. By way of example, most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, but their monarchy and ruling class has a vested interest in destroying, containing, or, as is their preference, exporting the jihadi menace. After all, jihadists do not consider them to be the family Saud to be the rightful rulers of Arabia.

In contrast, we always knew where to hit the Red Menace.

I could go on, but having knocked out two central pillars of the Cold War strategy I see little point. These issues have been much discussed on the hawkish blogosphere since 2002; it’s a pity Bacevich seems ignorant of these problems but his advocacy of a return to Cold War strategy when dealing with Jihadists is undercut by his failure to address these shortcomings. I’m guessing that it’s because he can’t effectively address and mitigate these problems that he ignores them altogether.

“After years of exertions, $1 trillion expended and more than 5,000 American troops lost, U.S. forces have yet to win a decisive victory. The high-tech American way of war developed during the 1990s (once celebrated in phrases such as “shock and awe” and “speed kills”) stands thoroughly discredited.”

I suppose it’s fair enough to say that the U.S. hasn’t won a decisive victory in the GWOT. We can discard our successes in the wholesale slaughter of Jihadis in Afghanistan and Iraq in these past years of war, and the successes of our surgical strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere which have killed off more than a few Jihadist leaders and their minions. Nevertheless, Afghanistan is again in peril, and what might be called victory in Iraq is tenuous. Bear in mind, however, that Bacevichs’ criticism of the Bush GWOT Doctrine can as well be turned on the his advocacy of a Cold War strategy, which cost bazillions and lends itself to a state of détente rather than near- or medium-term victory in-theater. Moreover, the Cold War was punctuated by hot proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan – also costly in blood and treasure. By comparison, the GWOT looks cheap, and while it’s too soon to tell how fast it will work, I can’t think of any strategy which would better guarantee a prolongation of this war than to shift our resources and efforts to a defensive posture as Bacevich advocates.

At any rate, I’d like to go on to address what he says about “Shock and Awe”, a doctrine that first entered the public lexicon, and first implemented, during the opening of the Iraq war. “Shock and Awe” is a phrase much misunderstood by Liberals, often deliberately so. Basically, it refers to the use of superior information (self-awareness and intelligence on the enemy) in conjunction with precision advanced weaponry. We know where our forces are, we know where the enemy is, and we can strike the enemy with precision, and our advantage is that our enemies cannot do the same. To appreciate the magnitude of this change in U.S. warfighting is beyond the scope of this blogpost, but suffice it to say that this doctrine is the culmination of decades of technological advancements across the board, and it stands in stark contrast to the way major engagement war has been waged throughout time – which is why, of course, it’s called “Shock and Awe”. It’s what enabled us to largely drive off and defeat Al Queda and the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002, and crush the Iraqi armed forces and government in 2003, both in a matter of weeks (and indeed, Speed Kills: the American advance on Baghdad was the biggest and fastest advance in American history).

To describe the application of “Shock and Awe” as having been “thoroughly discredited” is, itself, a thoroughly self-discrediting statement by Bacevich and it reeks of the partisan scorn typical of the Liberal Left. “Shock and Awe” is all about defeating the enemy in a major military confrontation on the battlefield, but it does not address the issues of keeping the peace during an insurgency. Thankfully, Bacevich does not make such an assertion, he only implies it.

“Changing the way they live — where “they” are the people of the Islamic world — qualifies as mission impossible. The Long War is a losing proposition; it will break the bank and break the force.”

That’s true, so long as Democrats are in charge. War or no war, they’ll break the bank by spending far beyond our means, and borrowing ghastly sums in order to continue to do so, while simultaneously debasing the American Dollar by creating ghastly sums out of thin air to cover the difference between what they can borrow and what they spend.

Further, while they throw horrifyingly gargantuan sums of money on domestic programs and entitlements, the one thing we can be sure they’ll do is is to weaken our military defenses, as they have already done by killing the F-22 program, the Future Warrior program, degrading the missile defense programs and, soon, reducing our nuclear arsenals. So, yes, I’d have to agree: under Democrat leadership, we may well be unable to fight a regional war, and it may very well break our force.

These aren’t problems with the GWOT. These are problems of the Democrats’ making.

“Devising a new course requires accurately identifying the problem, which is not “terrorism” and, despite Washington’s current obsession with the place, is certainly not Afghanistan. The essential problem is a dispute about God’s relationship to politics.
“The proposition that the two occupy separate spheres finds particular favor among the democracies of the liberal, developed West. The proposition that God permeates politics finds particular favor in the Islamic world.
“This conviction, which is almost entirely ignored in McChrystal’s report, defines the essence of the way they live in Iraq, Afghanistan and a host of other countries throughout the Middle East.
“At its root, this is an argument about what it means to be modern. Power, no matter how imaginatively or ruthlessly wielded, cannot provide a solution. The opposing positions are irreconcilable.”

There’s some truth to this, but only some. The West does not look kindly upon theocracies. It’s a Freedom thing. Theocracies are inherently repressive. Moreover, it’s the ambition of these Jihadis to spread their rule in the name of their god over the whole of the Earth. We have a problem with that too. Religion is imbued in the governments of many nations in the Middle East, including – and notably – that of Israel. We don’t have a problem with that, per se. We have a problem with the repression that generally accompanies the heavy infestation of religion into government, and the aggressive expansionism that so often accompanies non-representative regimes.

This is not, however, a disagreement over “what it means to be modern.” If there’s one thing of which we can be sure, it’s that Jihadis have no interest whatsoever in being modern.

“In confronting this conflict, the goal of U.S. national security strategy ought to be limited but specific: to insulate Americans from the fallout. Rather than setting out to clear, hold and build thousands of tiny, primitive villages scattered across the Afghan countryside, such a strategy should emphasize three principles: decapitate, contain and compete. An approach based on these principles cannot guarantee perpetual peace. But it is likely to be more effective, affordable and sustainable than a strategy based on open-ended war.”

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to 9/10!

“Decapitation — targeting leaders for elimination — provides the means to suppress immediate threats to our safety. The violent jihadists who pose those threats are vicious but relatively few in number. They possess limited capabilities. Their aspirations of uniting the world’s Muslims into a new caliphate are akin to Sarah Palin’s or Dennis Kucinich’s presidential ambitions — unworthy of serious attention. They are rank fantasies.”

Killing Jihadist leadership is a very good thing, but it does nothing to stop the “self starters” – the ones who take it upon themselves to take action in this war and bring and woe to the kufir. By all means, we should continue to eliminate the Jihadist leadership wherever and whenever we can, but it’s not a solution, and it cannot entirely protect us from immediate threats to our security. Granted, Bacevich explicitly states that this Cold War redux strategy cannot “guarantee perpetual peace”, but that’s an irrationally high standard. What Bacevich is doing here is to grant that one small measure of the Bush Doctrine strategy has merit, but as we’ll see below, with one hand Bacevich grants, and with the other he lays the groundwork for taking it away.

It also does not address the Jihadists actions in other countries, particularly those of the Middle East and other Gap countries – which are, after all, their primary short-term targets. That’s the game plan, as described by the Jihadists themselves, most notably Osama bin Laden himself. First, the overthrow and conquest of a Middle Eastern Islamic country, followed by the re-establishment of the Caliphate, which will spread the rule of that Caliphate over the whole of the Middle East, and then on to rule over the rest of the world.

That’s the plan, anyway. Bacevich is correct: this is rank fantasy. For now. Twenty, fifty, or a hundred years from now might be a different story. To downplay that threat, given the nature of their ambitions and their proven capability, is also fantasy, and a foolish and dangerous fantasy at that. What Bacevich does not appear to understand is that the damage that will be done in their mad quest for world domination is reason enough to take them seriously enough to crush them rather than, as he appears to advocate, merely suppress or deflect them. Their intent, however ludicrous, poses an exceptionally potent danger, for even in failure they can hurt us greatly, as they already have. They may yet do worse, which is why we need to take this threat seriously and address it accordingly.

“Without effective leadership, the jihadists are nothing.”

Bacevich here demonstrates that he does not take this threat seriously. Again, these are the fantasies of the 9/10 thinker. Look, the world today is small and easily traversed. Trade and travel are global, ubiquitous, and very affordable. Distance is not nearly the deterrent to attack as once it was, and warfare, as we saw on 9/11 and similar instances both before and since, has become asymmetric. In late 2002, two guys, the Beltway shooters, put the D.C. area in a state of fear for many weeks as they killed a score of innocents. Two guys with no leadership and no external funding.

“Decapitation won’t eliminate the threat — Hamas and Hezbollah have survived the Israeli government’s targeted assassination campaign — but it can reduce it to manageable levels.”

Manageable until the hudna expires and the next war begins, which will be waged with better weapons and improved strategy. I don’t think the Israelis would describe their current situation one in which they have reduced the threat of Hamas or Hezbollah to a “manageable level.”

“A crucial caveat is that assassinations must be precise and accurate.”

… and the key to making profit on Wall Street is to buy low, and sell high.

“The incidental killing of noncombatants is immoral as well as politically counterproductive.”

… and, as I promised above, with this “crucial caveat” the other hand shall taketh away. Noncombatant casualties are inevitable in all wars, so Bacevich is effectively making an argument against all warmaking, even the targeted assassination component of his resurrected Cold War strategy, otherwise known as a component of the Bush GWOT Doctrine. Because it is inevitable that noncombatants will be killed in our warmaking we can see Bacevich has already provided himself, and his audience, with an out: after all, he said that leadership strikes were all well and good so long as they were accurate and precise. When the immoral and politically counterproductive noncombatant casualties of this strategy fail to be eliminated, Bacevich needs only to fall back on these caveats to withdraw support for targeted assassination and advocate that we cease and desist from this as well.

“The missiles launched from U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan have repeatedly demonstrated the wrong approach. The recent elimination of Saleh Ali Nabhan in Somalia — in a helicopter-borne raid by special operations forces — models the correct one.”

For a man like Bacevich, success is the correct approach. If, and inevitably, when, our Special Forces incur noncombatant casualties in the course of carrying out a strike, see prior crucial caveat for the excuses people like Bacevich will use to withdraw their support for this strategy. When you argue that noncombatant casualties are unacceptable and immoral, you’re arguing that war is unwageable.

It should further be noted that it’s this very attitude that puts noncombatants at risk. Our enemies have no such qualms and will routinely use noncombatants as human shields. Thus, they put noncombatants in harm’s way because people like Bacevich put such a high priority on protecting them. For the Jihadists facing American soldiers, there’s no better place to hide on the battlefield than behind the skirt of a local woman or her child. Were it not for our rules of engagement which prohibit endangering these innocents, the Jihadists would, inarguably, not do such things. So, thanks to you, Mr. Bacevich, and your intellectual fellow travelers: what ostensibly has been an effort to protect the innocent has had, here in reality, the foreseeable and inevitable result of putting more noncombatants at risk. Whether more have died as a result is a matter of speculation, but there’s a case to be made.

“Containment implies turning to the old Cold War playbook. When confronting the Soviet threat, the United States and its allies erected robust defenses, such as NATO, and cooperated in denying the communist bloc anything that could make Soviet computers faster, Soviet submarines quieter or Soviet missiles more accurate.
Containing the threat posed by jihad should follow a similar strategy. Robust defenses are key — not mechanized units patrolling the Iron Curtain, but well-funded government agencies securing borders, controlling access to airports and seaports, and ensuring the integrity of electronic networks that have become essential to our way of life.
“As during the Cold War, a strategy of containment should include comprehensive export controls and the monitoring of international financial transactions. Without money and access to weapons, the jihadist threat shrinks to insignificance: All that remains is hatred.”

The modus operandi of the Jihadist has been to procure local supplies to make weapons. It’s been that way for many years now. Moreover, I’m at a loss to fill in the blanks Bacevich leaves in terms of specifics. What countries would be subject to export controls, and how effective could they be in the age of global trade where massive commercial shipments traverse the world daily? What items would be prohibited? I’m tempted to speculate that such a list might include products known to be popular with our enemies such as cellphones and computers, but that would be effectively impossible, and as a matter of course I try never to fill in the holes in the arguments left by my political opposition. It’s one thing to apply lessons from the past to formulate similar, successful strategies as have been previously employed. What we’re seeing is that Bacevich, having recoiled from the messy business of war, is trying to persuade us that we should do that Cold War thing all over again – in every detail, sans the messy proxy warmaking stuff which he conveniently ignores – because, after all, we won that war, right?

“Finally, there is the matter of competition. Again, the Cold War offers an instructive analogy. During the long twilight struggle with the Soviets, competition centered on demonstrating scientific superiority (putting a man on the moon) and material superiority (providing cars, refrigerators and TVs for the masses). The West won.”

Jihadists do not compete. They wage war and conquer. They have nothing to offer the world in terms of prosperity or technology, and the world knows it – except, apparently, for Bacevich, who thinks that the rest of the world needs a demonstration to be convinced. After all, that’s how we tried to persuade the unaligned nations of the world not to enter the Soviet sphere of influence. As if the Jihadists have anything analogous to a sphere of influence.

Mr. Bacevich and I are clearly occupying different realities.

“Western political leaders declare with equal insistence that all must live in freedom, that term imbued with specific Western connotations.”

Well, no. We insist that they stop attacking us, our neighbors, our trading partners, their own people, and anyone else who disagrees with them. We offer the oppressed of the world the opportunity – not the guarantee – of freedom. That is to say, we’ve occasionally overthrown tyrannical regimes in order to give their subjugated victims the opportunity of freedom and self-determination and the prosperity that comes with open markets. We’re generous that way. Because we cannot free the whole world at once, the reality is that peaceful theocracies and monarchies and dictatorships are largely left alone by the West.

“The war we’re fighting can become plausible, sustainable and even morally defensible.
“It just has to go from hot to cold.”

And there you have it: In order to win this war we have to stop fighting it.

Mr. Zawahiri? Meet Ms. Miranda…

[by Mr.Hengist]

It’s long been one of the defining ways in which hawks and doves have differentiated their framing of the post-9/11 world, with hawks arguing that 9/11 was an act of war as opposed to a criminal act. The differentiation between the two is neither academic nor semantic as it goes the to the heart of the ensuing disagreements between the two camps on the strategies employed by the Bush Administration.

The notion that doves would have us advise captured terrorists that they are entitled to Miranda rights has long been derided by hawks, and rightfully so. Acts of war are not covered by the American criminal code of law. Nevertheless, in accordance with their fantasies, POTUS Obama has reportedly instructed the FBI to issue enemy combatants a reading of Miranda rights – which apparently includes the right to remain silent.

I suppose this will give a rhetorical boost to their argument that harsh interrogation of detainees in the GWOT are inappropriate, but this is only a policy change and neither adds to nor subtracts from the bodies of law governing these detainees. Parenthetically, it’s little wonder then that the Obama Administration thought it inconsequential to reveal our catalog of allowed interrogation techniques; Miranda gives these evildoers the option to simply opt out of talking.

At any rate, if the lawyer quoted in the Weekly Standard article is to be believed and these detainees may soon be prosecuted in United States courts of law, the logical extension of this policy change is to apply the U.S. laws regarding the sanctity of the chain of custody. Imagine a world in which U.S. Armed Forces are issued little plastic baggies into which they must drop and seal evidence. In a war zone. During a firefight. In the meantime, exploitation will have to wait, as these baggies are transferred to a stateside FBI crime lab or evidence room.

Does that sound insane? That’s what hawks thought about reading Miranda to terrorists, and yet here we are. In fact, only a couple of months ago POTUS Obama assured Steve Kroft and the American people on “60 Minutes” that Miranda for detainees was ridiculous. As Hugh Hewitt would say, every Obama promise has an expiration date.

Kumbaya, Charlie Wilson

[by Mr.Hengist]

Former Democrat Representative Charles Wilson (an Obama supporter and the subject of the engaging film, “Charlie Wilson’s War“) has penned an op-ed for the WaPo, “Charlie Wilson’s Peace”, and I’d like to take a stab at it.

Wilson warms up his refried Blame America First Kumbaya Liberalism by pointing out its relevancy to present day turmoil:

“Russia’s invasion of Georgia has led to a more serious foreign policy discussion in the presidential campaign. As tensions rise in the Caucasus and violence once again erupts in Afghanistan, we should recall the lessons we learned from our response to earlier Russian adventurism. We must recognize now, as we learned years ago, that a strong military alone is not enough to ensure our long-term national security.”

It’s a bad start to a bad piece as Wilson characterizes the 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan as “adventurism” and the August 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia as a rising in tensions. Yes, I’ll bet those adventurous Russians are making tensions rise in a lot of Georgians these days. As disappointing as it is to read this softpedaling of ruthless Russian aggression against their former slave-state, it’s downright puzzling to read that violence has “once again” erupted in Afghanistan. Since the U.S. toppled the Taliban and rooted out Al-Qaeda there has not been a year gone by in which there hasn’t been substantial violence perpetrated by those fiends; prior to that the Taliban were sporadically warring against such internal competitors as the Northern Alliance for control of the country.

Wilson then belches forth a refrain often heard from Democrats for the last few years, that military power alone is not sufficient to resolve our national security problems in the world. It’s an artfully crafted meme which implies that warfighting is the only one “recognized,” implemented, by the Bush Administration, one echoed by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and top Democrat leadership for the past couple of years. It’s a cartoonish characterization of Bush as the ham-fisted, club-wielding brute who thinks all problems are fixable with a whacking. Liberals use the Iraq war to illustrate the point – not withstanding the months-long diplomatic effort by the Bush Administration to disabuse them of this notion by exhausting the process of diplomacy in the run-up to war. Throughout the Summer, Fall, Winter, and into the Spring of 2003, POTUS Bush warned Iraq to abide by an array of modest-but-binding U.N. resolutions to verifiably abandon its WMD capabilities and development, to no avail. Wilson gives no indication as to whether he considers our war in Afghanistan as a further illustration of this meme, but neither does he account for the counterexamples, such as the peaceful resolution of the crisis when China accidentally downed an American EC-3 spyplane in April of 2001, the peaceful diplomatic negotiations pursued by the Bush administration in spite of North Korean threats and development of WMDs, the to-date peaceful diplomacy with Iran despite much the same, just to name a few. Even the Russian-Georgia crisis is being answered by Bush diplomatically, with humanitarian aid going to the Georgians as we’re strengthening the defenses of Russia’s potential victims, so it’s hard to understand why Wilson even brings it up at all.

Wilson then makes this remarkable statement:

“If we had done the right thing in Afghanistan then — following up our military support with the necessary investments in diplomacy and development assistance — we would have better secured our own country’s future, as well as peace and stability in the region. […] instead of intensifying our diplomatic and humanitarian efforts to help the Afghans meet their postwar challenges, we simply walked away — leaving a destroyed country that lacked roads, schools, and any plan or hope for rebuilding.”

Had only we fixed what the Russians broke, no doubt by now unicorns would be pooping rainbow gumdrops on scampering fluffy bunnies across the lands. We did do the right thing in Afghanistan; we provided arms and assistance to them so they could kill their Russian occupiers, and then we left them to govern their own affairs. It’s not our fault that they were incapable of self-governance. Furthermore, it is highly speculative to state that developmental assistance would have been successful and could just as easily be mischaracterized as further examples of American hegemony.

I must confess that I’m unclear on what he means here by “investments in diplomacy,” but I suspect is has something to do with some kind of wealth redistribution rather than forming grand legions of State Department diplomats. Of course, we are now providing developmental assistance to Afghanistan, but for people like Wilson, the observation that problems still exist is sufficient to warrant the conclusion that it is so because we haven’t done enough.

Wilson makes an jawdropping coupling at this point:

“[…] the Afghans, with our weapons, had done nothing less than help precipitate the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
“[…] The lesson here is about more than the good manners of reciprocating a favor.”

While the Afghan mujahideen did play a role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, Wilson is treading on thin ice in that the role of the mujahideen was marginal at best, but the concern I have is that his statement plays into the Al Queda retelling of this bit of history, in which they claim that their role was not only primary, but exclusive of any other. If we take his statement literally then, yes, they did nothing less than “help” – and nothing more, and it was of little consequence. The Soviet Union was bankrupt and facing both internal and external pressures, and had they never invaded Afghanistan the eventual collapse of that evil empire was not just inevitable but would have been little delayed.

What stuns me here is the statement that follows – that the mujahideen were somehow doing us a favor by fighting their Russian invaders. The reality is the inverse – it is the United States which did the Afghan people a favor, and no mistake. I would not argue that it was not in our best interests to aid their war – it was – but to characterize this as something that they did for us is gobsmackingly ahistorical if not outright revisionist, and Wilson knows better.

Wilson then doubles-down on his theme with this:

“It takes much more to make America safe than winning on the battlefield. Had we remained engaged in Afghanistan, investing in education, health and economic development, the world would be a very different place today.”

I would have accepted this as a matter of debatable speculation had Wilson made the case for it, but instead he states it as an unsupported fact. When we consider the many billions of dollars that we have been wasting in poverty-stricken third world hellholes over the past half-century, it’s hardly a given that all Afghanistan needed was for us to build their school system, build their healthcare system, build their industry – and presumably the infrastructure needed to support all this. From scratch, of course, as the Russians left little behind in their ignominious exit from that country.

Taking this one step further, Wilson goes on to say this:

“America is not immune to the problems of the very poorest countries. In today’s world, any person’s well-being — whether he or she is in Kandahar, Kigali or Kansas — is connected to the well-being of others. Yet, as we commit troops to the “war on terror,” America’s civilian institutions of diplomacy and development continue to be chronically undermanned and underfunded.”

There we have it – Wilson has now connected the stingy warmongering of the United States to the resultant “war on terror” (complete with snicker-quotes). In the aftermath of the atrocities of 9/11 America asked itself, “Why do they hate us?” The political Left had a ready-made answer in the form of chastisement: They hate us because we’ve been bad to them, and because they are poverty-stricken and without hope for a better future. I profoundly disagree with these assertions and although the issue of our alleged transgressions against our enemies is a topic for another day, if there were a positive correlation between poverty and terrorism, or even hatred of America, then we would expect that terrorists would predominantly have been created in places like Africa, China, India, and the multitude of third- and fourth-world countries around the globe where people subsist on a dollar a month – like Kenya, where Barack Obama’s brother is doing just that. Even then, it makes little sense that terrorists would target the West as opposed to their own kleptocratic rulers. See here, here, and here.

Wilson hawks up this goober because it tracks well with the Liberal/Left ideology of wealth distribution and the necessity of hobbling a vigorous American foreign policy in order to achieve their goals.

Wilson continues:

“We spend 1 percent of the federal budget on these critical elements of our foreign policy, compared with 22 percent on the military and weapons. While I have always believed in and fought for a strong defense, I know that we cannot rely on the military alone to keep us secure.”

The conclusion to which you are led is unstated but he’s drawn a dotted line for you: we should spend more on largess and less on defense. But don’t think he’s soft on defense! No sir. Yet Wilson lacks the courage to specify, even in general terms, what areas of defense should be cut, or how much he believes would be necessary to implement his vision of the United States as a sort of a Christmas morning Scrooge, tossing silver crowns down to the rest of the world that there may be a goose in every pot.

Wilson drives it home with this:

“[…] our future threats are likely to come from states that cannot meet the basic needs of their people. We can avoid the need to spend so much on our military — and put so many of our soldiers in harm’s way — simply by investing more in saving lives, creating stable societies and building economic opportunity.”

The best way to accomplish these goals is not to throw money at them, but to give them the opportunities of freedom by overthrowing those kleptocratic thugocracies and replacing them with free democratic republics run under the rule of law, and implementing of open market economies in those freed states so that they may be prosperous as well. In other words, what we’re doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Several times in the piece, as here, Wilson brings up the crisis in Georgia:

“This strategy won’t resolve the conflict in Georgia today, but it could help America prevent similar crises in the future.”

Quite frankly, I’m puzzled by these repeated references to Georgia in relation to his prescription for an American foreign policy. Russia is not, by any measure, a poverty-stricken country bereft of educational institutions, industry, healthcare, or infrastructure. Is there an implied, unspoken argument here, or has Wilson simply chucked this war into the “failure of American diplomacy bin” by default? It’s anyone’s guess. So let that be a lesson to us all: the next time an oppressive superpower collapses under the weight of its failed ideological fantasies and the shackled slaves under its domination break free, we should be sure to send their former oppressors lots of money. No worries, China – Charlie’s got ya covered!

Wilson start to wrap it up with this:

“This is not a partisan issue. From the Marshall Plan to the Peace Corps to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Americans of all political stripes have always joined together to build a better, safer world.”

Ah, yes, President Bush’s AIDS program, which could run up to $48 Billion American Dollars. This would be the same POTUS who, as Wilson told us at the top of the piece, hasn’t recognized that a strong military alone can’t ensure our national security. He seems to refute himself on this point, but I’d like to help him twist the knife in his own argument. Recall that this is the same POTUS Bush who sent a fleet of naval vessels to relieve the suffering and save the lives of the predominantly Muslim Indonesian earthquake victims in 2004 at a cost of hundreds of millions of American Dollars, a figure which dwarfed the contributions of every other nation.

Lastly, Wilson makes his parting fib:

“We cannot afford to aspire to anything less than defeating poverty, disease, ignorance and despair wherever they exist. It is a relatively small but incredibly effective investment that helps ensure our future national security and economic prosperity.”

Fixing our own crumbling domestic infrastructure would be a good start, I suppose, but for Liberals not content with the nationalization of our healthcare system we have his assurance that lifting the world up out of poverty will be cheap, and it’s much more effective than, y’know, actually killing our enemies.

Kumbaya to you and your fellow travelers, Charlie Wilson.

GWOT: So far, so good.

[by Mr.Hengist]

Greetings, Peoples. By way of introduction, I am the friend of which Noocyte speaks in his post, “MY PATH FROM PORT TO STARBOARD”, and Noocyte has kindly invited me to post to this blog, an invitation that I have accepted with Gusto! or maybe it was trepidation. Now that I think about it, it was probably mostly inebriation so we’ll have to see how it goes; at some point I might sober up.

My own political conversion from Liberal to, well, whatever I am now, started roundabout Early Spring of 2003. At some point I’d like to write about it, and my recollections of the Summer 2004 email conversation with Noocyte about which he wrote, but for now I thought I’d just metaphorically get my feet wet with something less daunting in scope (… like justifying the state of the Global War on Terror in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters. Yeah, that should be a cakewalk!).

I’ve been reading “Neocon Nation: Neoconservativism c.1776” by Robert Kagan (worldaffairsjournal.org) and it begins by setting the premise that critics of the Iraq war ignore the history of Saddam Husseins’ Iraq, particularly in relation to the United States. That seems true enough; in my travels around the swamplands of Leftopia, this history seems to begin around the start of the Bush 43 presidency, the period preceding it consisting of a prehistoric fuzzy-wuzzy time when the butcher Saddam was remote and contained. That’s understandable, given that the indignant and outraged denizens of Leftopia primarily occupy themselves with criticisms of Bush and Republicans as opposed to making a case for contextualized alternative policies or strategies when addressing a problem. That is to say, they seem to only infrequently offer the alternative, as in “This is what we should have done instead” rather than their usual complaint that “What Bush has done is wrong.” It got me to thinking about the chasm which separates hawks and doves, not just in matters of opinion but in matters of objective fact. There are a variety of criticisms from the Liberal/Left that I’d like to unpack, but in this post I’d like to share my observations which casually address some of their criticisms of the GWOT. Of course, various critics of the war have raised innumerable objections, the vast majority of which don’t stand up to scrutiny (and I’ll let that statement stand unsubstantiated for now, although I’d like to address it at some point in the future). Nevertheless, it seems to me that for these critics it’s as if the fact that the war has dragged on for years and years is in itself prima facie evidence that the conduct of the war has been flawed – as if we should have pacified Iraq and Afghanistan by now had it been done properly.

I disagree. These wars are taking as long as they have because the facts on the ground are changing. As the members of our Armed Forces say, from the top brass down to the boots on the ground, “The enemy has a vote” – which I’ve always found somewhat ironic in that the democracy we’ve been working and fighting for over there would be immediately and permanently undone should our enemies win. After the Taliban were routed in Afghanistan they fled in large numbers, but we did not block their escape and slaughter them. Later, after the astonishing rapidity with which our Armed Forces shattered the Iraqi Army, Republican Guard, and Fedayeen in Iraq, we again let our enemies dissolve and disperse rather than killing them outright. This left a great many enemy combatants alive to fight another day.

Certainly WWII would have taken a great deal longer had we acted similarly. Although the Liberal/Left complain about how this war is taking America longer than WWII, it goes without saying that they would never agree to a redress of their grievance with a reversion to the tactics that enabled us to do so in WWII. Google “Highway of Death” to see what I mean.

At any rate, while the ensuing insurgency has waxed and waned, only two events really threatened to spin the war out of our control. The first was when Sadr’s “Mahdi Army” confronted Coalition forces in a stand-up fight back in April 2004. I’ll confess that I was genuinely concerned at the time, not so much that we’d lose but that the cost of crushing them would be enormous, mostly for the Iraqi people, and that American public support might go wobbly. Bear in mind that in Iraq or Afghanistan, to this day, U.S. Armed Forces have never lost an engagement that involved twenty or more of our fighters; in every moderate-sized or larger stand-up fight that any of our enemies has undertaken against us, they always lose. While the Mahdi Army wasn’t destroyed, it did suffer horrific losses which forced Sadr to agree to a ceasefire. Problem deferred but not resolved; adequately, although not optimally.

The second was the al-Askari Mosque bombing (better known in CENTCOM as the “Samarra Mosque bombing”) in early 2006, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. This was a part of the Al Qaeda program to instigate Sunni/Shiite sectarian war in Iraq, and it was working. Although it took time for Al Qaeda to commit enough atrocities to incite the Shia, the Surge seems to have done its job in quelling the two sides.

In either case, what we’ve seen is, to put it in simple terms, war. It’s what happens when, after the outbreak of hostilities, neither side is either destroyed or willing to capitulate. Although Iraq’s Army was destroyed in the initial invasion to the point that what was left disintegrated, we did not bomb the country of Iraq back into the stone age. That’s pretty close to what we did in WWII, and the critics who point out that these conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking longer to pacify than larger theaters in WWII are seemingly oblivious to the contrasts between how these conflicts were waged. We’ve not mobilized our millions of citizens to fight on anything near to that scale; we’ve not bombed their population or industrial centers into dust as we did then.

Had we destroyed their ability to make war in the same way as we did in Japan and Germany during WWII then we would probably have achieved similar results. I’m always reticent about making such comparisons because, as it turns out, we can’t rerun history with different parameters, so although I won’t make any defense of the theory I do think it stands to reason. Bear in mind that Arab countries, having given tacit, if not explicit support to the Nazi’s during WWII, were duly subjugated in the end stage of that war, and I can’t think of a reason that it couldn’t be done again.

The point is that we did not do that again; we’ve been waging a more humane war which has been intended to convert these hostile countries run by thuggish despots and theocrats into representative republics, and in so doing set an example for the rest of the Middle East for what was possible, and how beneficial it would be for them to follow suit. Not that the WWII model of prosecuting war would have necessarily precluded our achieving these aims; our successes in transforming postwar Japan and Germany are testament to that. Furthermore, the zeal with which Liberal/Left critics frequently accuse America of war crimes demonstrates the difficulty of waging traditional war in the modern age of instant, global media attention.

For the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters, it’s been so far, so good. Not without flaws, but then, I’ve never expected that we would do it with zero-defects, as some critics seem to demand. The zero-defect war is an inherent contradiction; insofar as we know, it cannot be done.

If the Liberal/Left is going to demand that wars that aren’t perfect should be abandoned then that’s an argument which can be made against any war. That is to say, it’s an argument which can be used against waging any war at all – even a war which might otherwise be fully justified or necessary to the degree that we would all agree that it must be waged. If Liberals believe the war in Iraq should be derailed by such criticisms then in principle we would never be able to wage any wars, although we’d still be able to lose them.

[2008-04-21 Revised with minor edits for grammar & clarity.]