Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Millenium War

My dad handed me this article, which appeared in the Weekly Standard. It's by an Army reserve officer named Austin Bay, and raises some very good points, I think.

Bay discusses the term "End State," juxtaposing it with the newspeak term "exit strategy." The end state is the set of conditions that need to be true in order to declare victory. He says that talk of "exit strategy" is philosophically irresponsible, and that there are four acceptable end states in the "Millenium War" (he, like myself, despises the phrase "War on Terror," and not only because Bush pronounces "Terror" funny):

What are the acceptable End States in Iraq? In an essay he wrote for the Wall Street Journal in August, Iraq's interim prime minister Iyad Allawi identified three keys to success in Iraq: (1) security and the rule of law, (2) a prosperous economy, and (3) an "inclusive, collaborative" political system. To achieve it will take years of low-level warfare and continuing security assistance from the United States even after the New Iraq begins to manage its own domestic security. No administration of whatever political stripe should think otherwise.

Another acceptable End State would be what a friend called "a too strong, bulldog Iraq." Don't dismiss the notion out of hand. Here are the attributes: "New Iraq" decides to rearm for offensive capability--and the French or Russians sell it weapons. Angry at perceived Syrian, Iranian, or Saudi interference, a brave new Iraqi government turns to regional assertiveness as a way of solidifying domestic support. The United States could live with this End State, but it would seriously frustrate attempts to spur political evolution in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

A far less acceptable End State would be a "gentle" dictatorship in Iraq, an authoritarian regime that did not threaten the region but held Iraq together by force and smashed civil opposition in the name of domestic security. This would be an ideological defeat for the United States, the defeat salved if this New Iraq were an effective counterterror partner in the region. Early Coalition withdrawal, whatever the reason, would make this End State more likely.

The last acceptable End State, but one that further frustrates long-term American goals, is the oft-debated tripartite Iraq, with Kurdistan in the north, Shia-stan in the south, and Baath-istan in the Sunni Triangle and Al Anbar Province. This would be a dangerous mosaic, but for the sake of oil revenues the Baathists would have to police al Qaeda. Kurds and Shia areas would also destroy al Qaedaites.

If for no other reason, read the article for its remarkably good prose and vivid imagery. Personally, I think Bay has hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

VDH defends Rumsfeld... successfully

A little while back, on my tBlog site, I went on a drunken rant inspired by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s comments during a Q&A with deployed troops in Iraq – you know, the ones about going to war with the army you have, not the army you wish for.

Well, I did think that the specialist who asked the question about scavenging armor from Iraqi junkyards deserved a better answer, but in retrospect, Rumsfeld’s response was actually pretty accurate.

Victor Davis Hanson provides some historical context for our supposed unpreparedness in this article.

VDH also points out what should be painfully obvious: the fact that the United States’ campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been successful, that despite charges to the contrary, our troops are wearing armor for the first time in U.S. history, and that fully 95 percent of our wounded now survive – many of whom find themselves in the Medical Holding Company on Fort Knox.

I found this paragraph rather insightful, since many of the war’s – and the administration’s – critics often refuse to supply context for their allegations:

Out of the ashes of September 11, a workable war exegesis emerged because of students of war like Don Rumsfeld: Terrorists do not operate alone, but only through the aid of rogue states; Islamicists hate us for who we are, not the alleged grievances outlined in successive and always-metamorphosing loony fatwas; the temper of bin Laden's infomercials hinges only on how bad he is doing; and multilateralism is not necessarily moral, but often an amoral excuse either to do nothing or to do bad — ask the U.N. that watched Rwanda and the Balkans die or the dozens of profiteering nations who in concert robbed Iraq and enriched Saddam.

At any rate, I’ll apologize again for the dearth of posts. I’m at home, enjoying the holidays with the family for the first time in two years, so that’s been the priority. If anyone’s still stopping by to read this, thanks for sticking with me.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Victims of Mosul attack arrive in Germany

Just about every channel has been providing live feeds from Rammstein Air Base in Germany, showing wounded soldiers being carried on stretchers out of a C-141 transport and loaded onto buses in driving snow.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has linked to this article by The Belmont Club: The Lidless Eye. It's a pretty fantastic article by Wretchard, and it discusses the insurgency's ability to attack "off-limits" targets with what Wretchard calls "public relations impunity."

Which is exactly what happens on a daily basis. A buddy of mine at Fort Knox, who's spent the better part of the last four years in the Middle East (including multiple deployments to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq as part of 3rd COSCOM) told me that mortar attacks are frequent enough that soldiers who've been in the area for a while can immediately distinguish between the sound of an outgoing and an incoming round.

Last Christmas, he was at a field hospital with a bad fever, he said, and while he was lying in his cot, he could hear mortars hitting inside the perimeter, some not far from the walls of the tent he was in.

So when I hear insurgents described as Iraq's "minutemen" by certain people, I've got to agree with Wretchard:

The enemy chose the weakest point he could find to attack; exploited the known limitations of the American response; and understood that he was to all intents and purposes exempted from the condemnation attendant to attacking the wounded and medical personnel. The chaplain and the medical personnel knew this and did not mill around expecting the Geneva Convention to protect them from those who have never heard of it, except as it applies to their own convenience. They knew the true face of the enemy; a face which bore no resemblance to the heroic countenance often presented by the media to the world.

It'll be interesting to see which side history remembers the "war crimes" taking place on.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

TIME magazine names George W. Bush "Person of the Year"

Not a huge surprise.

"[E]ven those who may not have voted for him will acknowledge that this is one of the more influential presidents of the last 50 years," said managing editor Jim Kelly.

TIME also gave PowerLine the nod as the magazine's first-ever "Blog of the Year." Congrats to Hindrocket, The Big Trunk, and Deacon.


Michael Jackson determined to inspire more Michael Jackson jokes

People have been cracking jokes about Michael Jackson since I was in third grade. And now, since he’s set to go on trial early next year, facing child molestation charges, what does the former "King of Pop" do?

He throws a Christmas party for 200 kids at his "Neverland Ranch," that’s what.

What in God’s name could this guy be thinking? "Hmm, I really think people have been making fewer Michael Jackson jokes lately, so I need to throw some fuel on the fire"?

Maybe, "Since I’m being charged with child molestation, I should try to make a case for being completely and utterly insane?"

I’m lost on this one.


Monday, December 13, 2004

News today - who comes up with this?

I apologize for the distinct lack of activity here. The Army has really been getting me down lately, and I’ve been short on motivation for doing anything other than having a couple beers and going to sleep once I get home from work.

However, all is not lost, and I plan on getting back on the horse in short order. The trouble is, it’s tough to know where to start. It’s tough to know what issue to attack first when’s headlines for the day include a bombing in the Baghdad Green Zone (Eight are dead), an attack of the "Beckham Nativity" scene, and the latest on the Golden Globes.

What really baffles me is the order of precedence. I mean, following the lead story of Michael Leavitt taking the Secretary of Health and Human Services position (following his stint as EPA director), we’ve got eight stories slugged under the "More News" header. Of the eight, five are entertainment-related (including the two mentioned above) and one is about hybrids planned by GM/Daimler-Chrysler.

The two remaining are the suicide bombing in Baghdad and a piece on an Israeli helicopter attack on two suspected weapons plants in Gaza.

It really blows my mind to think that the question of "who’s going to get the Golden Globe" ranks nearly as high as "what’s going on in Iraq" in the minds of the newsmakers.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


I've been tooling around with a commentary for this week's Turret on the BALCO/Giambi/Bonds/steroids issue, and the word that Sen. John McCain has become involved has complicated matters significantly.

First off, it's clear that Major League Baseball needs to clean up its collective act. I'm trying to find where the resistance to stricter steroids-testing procedures by the Leagues are coming from, and apart from the rather obvious corner of players who use them, I can't understand why League big-shots are making things difficult.

It was an easy call to make that the Yankees would sack Jason Giambi after his BALCO testimony leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, but now what of Barry Bonds? Even if he can maintain the few years he has left in his career, his record-breakings will now be meaningless, even if he does eventually hit more home runs than anyone before.

But he'll never be Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron, because he cheated -- that much seems clear.

I don't think that it's McCain who needs to come sweeping in to the rescue though. Baseball shouldn't be federalized - it's a thing to itself, and we should be able to trust the Leagues, owners, and unions to keep it independent of government.

It's the same way with film. Government doesn't step in on the film industry because of the institution of the Motion Pictures Association of America, the film industry's self-governing agency. They make sure decency is protected (well, at least labelled), and the Fed stays out of the game.

Which is exactly what needs to happen with baseball. Critics will decry McCain, saying that it's unconstitutional for the government to demand urine or blood samples from private citizens without a court order, which is true. I'm no lawyer, but I can't think of a constitutional way to write a law that applies only to baseball players.

But the league owners and unions, if they want their sport to survive this fiasco, are perfectly capable of purging the system of steroids. Commissioner Bud Selig wants the majors to adopt the minor leagues' screening system, which would mean suspensions for first-time offenders. Players would be tested year-round, instead of just during the regular season.

Seems like that's the least they could do. Anything to prevent Federal intervention in baseball sounds like a good idea to me.


Monday, December 06, 2004

On second thought...

A couple stunned reactions to my last post led me to reread, rethink, and erase it. I realized that I didn't make the point I initially set out to make, and that really I was feeding off the anger I felt at the article by Jensen.

The point, which was lost in the shuffle, was that the fact that the U.S. has a financial interest in the Middle East generally and Iraq specifically does not invalidate the other reasons for the war. I've seen people from both the supporting and opposing sides of the war issue either brush the issue aside as "conspiracy theorist" or trump it up into an enormous "moral outrage," and it was those sentiments I was reacting to.

I don't have a lot of time at the moment, but I'll try to get into what I see as the "real issues" in an upcoming post. Thanks for reading, hope you weren't too awfully freaked out.


Friday, December 03, 2004

A compelling indictment of Annan

Wretchard has posted a good analysis of the predictable defense of Kofi Annan over at The Belmont Club.

Seems that the L.A. Times' James Traub thinks that criticism of Annan from conservatives is hypocritical given their defense of Donald Rumsfeld after the Abu Graib prison scandal.

But Wretchard notes that Annan's involvement in the oil-for-food scandal is a little different than the prison scandal going on during Rumsfeld's watch as SecDef:

[T]he Secretary General's failure "to sound the alarm over Iraqi swindling and for a slow and grudging reaction when the allegations first surfaced earlier this year" is not primarily about thievery and corruption, although it is about that: it was mainly about flouting international law; it was about subverting the will of the Security Council. It was about Kofi Annan becoming a law unto himself.

It's a good article, check it out.