Hans' News and Politics Blog

A Blog of Conservative News, Politics, and Foreign Affairs

Monday, October 31, 2005

I'm not going to comment on the whole silly Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson story, others have covered it much better and in-depth than I ever could, none better than JustOneMinute.

Are the rats leaving a sinking ship?

According to this NYTimes story there might be an exodus of high-ranking Syrian officials in progress.

During a United Nations investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri that threatens the power of President Bashar al-Assad, a first cousin who is one of the most powerful businessmen in Syria has left the country.

While it remains unclear why the president's cousin, Rami Makhluf, left - his allies say he is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, working on the expansion of his business empire - many people with close connections to the ruling Baath Party say his departure underscores the investigation's threat to the Assad family's grip on power.


Should the Security Council demand that the two be turned over for trial, President Assad would most probably have to resist or face turmoil in a system that is not governed by strong institutions, but instead by individuals, several experts said.

In this environment, Mr. Makhluf's departure has been seen as a sign that those at the core of the country's power structure recognize their vulnerability, and fear that a showdown with the Security Council could spell disaster for them.

"I think that this is the most important challenge facing Syria in its recent history," said Fayez Sara, a Syrian political analyst and writer. "And if the Syrian government or authorities do not handle the issue well, it can in fact lead to a crisis."

The Makhluf family is at the center of the power structure. It controls a business empire including a bank, the duty-free zones at the border and most of Syria's cellphone service. President Assad's mother is a Makhluf and her brother, Muhammad, is Rami Makhluf's father.

The Christian Science Monitor has several good stories on Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Last January, Baquba was symbol of everything going wrong in Iraq - and its neighborhood of Buhritz was a symbol for everything going wrong in Baquba.
This city just 50 miles north of Baghdad was crawling with Sunni Arab mortar teams, snipers, and bombmakers. They had made parts of the city their own, killing police when they found them and driving the rest into hiding. Their grip was so strong that only 60 percent of the region's polling places opened for Iraq's first post-Saddam election. In Buhritz, not a vote was cast; some polling sites were torched.

But today, US commanders are pointing to Baquba as a symbol of what might go right. Every polling place stayed open all day for the Oct. 15 referendum that approved Iraq's new constitution earlier this month. Violence was light, while voter turnout was high.

Read the rest.

Then there is this story that tells us about a new tactic deployed by US forces in Afghanistan to flush out the enemy:

Much is made about the high-tech gear that US soldiers carry: body armor, rapid-firing machine guns, night vision goggles. But the chief advantage of the US military - especially in a low-intensity conflict, pitted against a crudely trained force like the Taliban - is training and air power.

Taliban fighters, meanwhile, appear to gain courage from numbers, the ability to swarm a smaller enemy unit. A sense of safety in numbers, however, is often the Taliban's undoing if a US platoon can fix an enemy's position long enough for aircraft or other infantry units to arrive. This is the backbone of US military strategy in Zabul, and one reason why the Taliban have lost so many fighters this year.

"We've had a lot of success with textbook tactics, getting the smallest element engaged, and then using other assets to just pile on," says O'Neal. "The Taliban are more willing to engage with us when we have smaller numbers."

Read the rest.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

For a good round-up of military activity in Iraq read The Fourth Rail.

At least 6 Dead in 34 coordinated attacks by muslim extremists in southern Thailand.

At least six people have died in a wave of co-ordinated attacks in southern Thailand, which officials blamed on suspected Muslim militants.
The attackers took dozens of weapons from the homes of village chiefs and defence volunteers in the provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani.

Among the dead were two village chiefs and two militants, officials said.

Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in the south since 2004, in violence blamed on a separatist insurgency.

Democracy dies in Venezuela.

Apparently, Chavez has changed the election law to ensure perpetual governance by his party:

In a significant defeat for Venezuela’s democracy, a new voting system installed by the Chavista government, called ‘los morochas’, which disproportionately benefits Chavista incumbents, was affirmed by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, an appointed body stacked with Chavista loyalists. It is expected to raise Hugo Chavez’s representation in the Congress - where he already has a majority - to Kim Il Sung levels of popular ’support.’ The bell tolls for Venezuelan democracy with this ruling.

Iran watch:

Strategypage reports that Iran is trying to increase the islamic militia to over 1 million men.

The government will try to increase it's militia of Islamic conservative gunmen (the Basij) to over a million men, with the formation of 2,000 battalions. They may not be able to get that many volunteers, but it certainly shows the government is willing to fight to maintain power. The Islamic conservatives believe they have the moderates and reformers (who comprise, according to opinion and election polls, some 80 percent of the population) on the run. The Islamic conservatives are willing to fight to maintain control of the government, and their opponents, at least so far, are not.

Several Islamic radical factions are able to operate freely by the government. Some of these groups encourage, fund and arm Islamic conservative Shia Arab groups in southern Iraq. Others provide shelter for al Qaeda leaders looking for a place to hide. Still others support Islamic terror groups operating in and around Israel.

Is Iran boosting the militia in expectation of an attack or to keep their population in line?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Iran Watch

Two reports out today. First, Iran's new President calls for the destruction of Israel:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Wednesday that Israel is a "disgraceful blot" that should be "wiped off the map" — fiery words that Washington said underscores its concern over Iran's nuclear program.


Ahmadinejad also condemned Iran's neighbors which seek to break new ground in their relations with Israel. "Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury," state-run television quoted him as saying.


Referring to Palestinian suicide bomb attacks in Israel, Ahmadinejad said: "there is no doubt that the new wave in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot from the face of the Islamic world."

Next, a German monthly reports that Iran's government lets high-ranking Al Qaeda members operate freely within the capital.

Iran is permitting around 25 high-ranking al Qaeda members to roam free in the country's capital, including three sons of Osama bin Laden, a German monthly magazine reported on Wednesday.

Citing information from unnamed Western intelligence sources, the magazine Cicero said in a preview of an article appearing in its November edition that the individuals in question are from Egypt, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Europe.

They are living in houses belonging to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the report said.

"This is not incarceration or house arrest," a Western intelligence agent was quoted as saying. "They can move around as they please."

The three sons of Osama bin Laden in Iran are Saeed, Mohammad and Othman, Cicero reported. Another person enjoying the support of the Revolutionary Guards is al Qaeda spokesman Abu Ghaib, the report said.

Disturbing developments, but hardly surprising.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On the topic of the 2,000th death in Iraq from Faces from the Front:

They did not want their death to be used as a prop and they would make the same decision all over again. These young Lance Corporals and Non-Commissioned Officers volunteered to join the Marines, many with the intent of coming to Iraq. And while few would say they like war, they all recognize the necessity of it.

The Marines and soldiers who fight in Iraq are not numbers, but the media and certain groups are treating them as if they were. Number 2,000 was a national treasure, just as number 1,435 was and number 2,038 will be. For what is the value of a man who will fight a war for others who despise him?

But for those who are willing to take action, there would be no wall at all hold back evil and those men and women on the wall deserve more than a number.

Read the whole thing.

New Equadorean report implicates Venezuela in training rebels, according to the Miami Herald.

An Ecuadorean military intelligence report alleges that leftists from Ecuador and seven other Latin American nations received guerrilla training in Venezuela this year from backers of President Hugo Chávez.

The report does not link Chávez personally to the training in explosives, weapons and urban guerrilla tactics. But it notes that part of the training took place in two Caracas military bases, one used by the army reserves and another that houses the Defense Ministry.

And in a concluding section, it says that backers of the Venezuelan president, "with covert support from the government of Hugo Chávez . . . have strengthened incipient subversive movements."

Hugo Chavez' aggressive efforts at spreading the "Bolivarian Revolution" beyond his borders is one of the most underreported stories in the news today. Chavez has tried to undermine or coop governments througout Latin America ever since his rise to power in 1998.

France behind fake documents on Niger yellow cake?

The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.

The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".

His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.

Italian judicial officials confirmed yesterday that Mr Martino had previously been sought for questioning by Rome. Investigating magistrates in the city have opened an inquiry into claims he made previously in the international press that Italy's secret services had been behind the dissemination of false documents, to bolster the US case for war.

Media tipped off on Baghdad Hotel attack.

Apparently, the terrorists told several media outlets about the planned attack in order to ensure good media coverage.

A series of massive explosions hit Baghdad at sunset this evening. The explosions are now reported to have been two car bombs and, for good measure, a cement truck filled with explosives! They were detonated right in front of the Palestine Hotel where many in the media are housed. The AP and others were notified ahead of time so that they could focus their cameras on the event and record it for history.

Given the front row seats the media occupied for this latest terrorist extravaganza, the TV footage was on the air instantaneously. Anyone who witnessed the explosions seen on TV will have to admit the terrorists did put on quite a show.

What are the odds that the media informed the Iraqi or US security forces about the impending attack? Oh well, just another sacrifice that needed to be made for good ratings!

The terrorists did this obviously to create a perception of strength in the media. After the abysmal failure at disrupting the election they needed something spectacular to regain the confidence of the media.


From Reuters comes this hilarious attempt at drawing a moral equivalency between terrorists and the US:

This is not the first time the hotels have been targeted. In April 2003, the Palestine Hotel – a traditional way station for journalists and consultants – was hit by US tank fire. That incident resulted in the deaths of two journalists, one from news agency Reuters and the other from a Spanish television network.

Notably, on the same day, US troops also opened fire on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network's Baghdad office, killing television reporter Tariq Ayoub.

US military officials later apologised for both incidents, which they said were the result of erroneous intelligence regarding insurgent positions.

Some Baghdad-based reporters say that journalists are regularly subjected to intimidation by the authorities, who hope to suppress coverage of the war's less flattering aspects.

"Journalism in Iraq has been in crisis since the beginning of 2004," said one reporter who preferred anonymity. "The Iraqi government and US forces have put pressure on us because they're afraid of what we have been showing the world."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The American Friends Service Committee is planning to hold parties all across the US once the death toll reaches 2,000 in Iraq to exploit and dishonor the service members sacrifice. Quite disgusting, but on par with what we've come to expect of the "anti-war" left. Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

CENTCOM got a new report out. Highlights from it:

The Mosul city government and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are working together to renovate eight Mosul police stations.

Civil Affairs Teams Improve Yemen Girl’s School

The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa's naval construction team, United States Naval Mobil Construction Battalion 3, left to rebuild one well and construct two more in Ethiopia Oct. 13.

Coalition service members and medical personnel provided medical and dental assistance Sunday to Afghans in Khakeran, Zabol province. The village medical outreach visit, or VMO, treated 414 people; 242 men, 58 women, and 114 children. Dental teams treated 86 men, nine women and 24 children. They performed 43 tooth extractions.

They also have a comparison between the election in January and the one this month.

– Total attacks in Iraq – 299 attacks on 30 Jan 05 vs. 89 Attacks on 15 Oct. 05

– Total polling place attacks – 108 attacks in 30 Jan 05 vs. 19 Attacks on 15 Oct. 05

– Total number of Civilians killed – 30 Deaths on 30 Jan 05 vs. 3 Deaths on 15 Oct. 05

- Overall 34 deaths on 30 Jan, 10 deaths 15 Oct.

– Total number of suicide bombers – 7 on 30 Jan vs. 0 On 15 Oct. 05

UN doctored report on Hariri assassination.

This article indicates that the report on the Hariri assassination was modified, probably at the request of Kofi Annan, to refer specific mentioning of the leadership of Syria.

THE United Nations withheld some of the most damaging allegations against Syria in its report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese Prime Minister, it emerged yesterday.
The names of the brother of Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, and other members of his inner circle, were dropped from the report that was sent to the Security Council.

The confidential changes were revealed by an extraordinary computer gaffe because an electronic version distributed by UN officials on Thursday night allowed recipients to track editing changes.

The mistaken release of the unedited report added further support to the published conclusion that Syria was behind Mr Hariri’s assassination in a bomb blast on Valentine’s Day in Beirut. The murder of Mr Hariri touched off an international outcry and hastened Syria’s departure from Lebanon in April after a 29-year pervasive military presence.

Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, described the report’s findings as “deeply troubling”. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said: “It is an unpleasant story which the international community will take very seriously indeed.”

But the furore over the doctoring of the report threatened to overshadow its damaging findings. It raised questions about political interference by Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary- General, who had promised not to make any changes in the report.

One crucial change, apparently made after the report was submitted to the UN chief, removed the name of President al-Assad’s brother, Maher, his brother-in-law, Assef al-Shawkat, and other high-ranking Syrian officials.

The final, edited version quoted a witness as saying that the plot to kill Mr Hariri was hatched by unnamed “senior Lebanese and Syrian officials”. But the undoctored version named those officials as “Maher al-Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamal al-Sayyed”.

The deleted names represent the inner core of the Syrian regime. Maher al-Assad, President al-Assad’s younger brother, is a lieutenant-colonel and head of the Presidential Guard. He is known for his quick tem- per and six years ago was said to have shot his brother-in-law, General Assef Shawkat, in the stomach during an altercation.

It is no wonder that Syria is now suddenly more cooperative with the US on turning over high-ranking insurgency leaders.

Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, son of Saddam's half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, was arrested in a Baghdad apartment, several days after Syrian authorities forced him to return to Iraq, the officials told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Cairo. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to deal with the media.

One of the officials, who works as a coordinator between Iraqi authorities and U.S. military intelligence, described the purported financier as the most dangerous man in the urgency. The other official, who is a senior member of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, said the arrest was a serious blow to terrorist networks.

Both officials said Syrian authorities "pushed" Ibrahim into Iraq but did not hand him over to authorities.

The Syrians were aware of his whereabouts in Baghdad and informed U.S. authorities, who then passed the information to Iraq security forces who carried out a "fast, easy" raid on the fugitive's apartment, the Defense Ministry official said.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The polls closed in Iraq on the referendum for the Constitution. Overall, the vote went over smoothly, with higher turnout than the last election and very little accompanying violence. Another setback for Al Qaeda. However, in the German media the election was described in an almost comically negative way, highlighting the rather minimal violence and emphasizing a low Sunni turnout. Der Spiegel's portrayal of events is symptomatic for the pathetic media coverage of the German media. Der Spiegel seems to be wholly dedicated to discrediting the election in an effort to justify their own position on the war in Iraq.

UPDATE: Apparently their coverage was even too negative for their tastes and they've edited a few more positive comments into the story.

Two articles on the training of the Iraqi Security Forces, first from the Washington Times by General Robert Scales:

I traveled to Iraq this week with a group of military analysts. From my visit I concluded that the greatest change in the military balance over since last summer has been achieved by the Iraqis Security forces. Their story is only partially told by the recent spike in numbers of Iraqi army battalions from only a few a year ago to 117 today. But soldiers know that the effectiveness of a fighting force is better measured by intangibles such as courage, will to win, skill at arms, leadership, cohesion and allegiance to a higher cause. These are factors that media amateurs and Washington insiders have difficulty comprehending.

And next from the Wall Street Journal by General David Patraeus:

Thus was born the Multinational Security Transition Command in Iraq, or "min-sticky"--an awkward acronym even by military standards. One of Gen. Petraeus's frustrations is getting people to understand that things really have changed since then.

"Is Joe Biden convinced?" I ask, referring to the Delaware senator who spent the summer claiming that only a handful of Iraqi battalions were of any use. "You'll have to ask him," replies the general, launching into a survey of the state of play: "There are now nearly 120 army and police combat battalions [about 750 men each] that are 'in the fight.' And 'in the fight' by the transition readiness assessment means they are either Level One, Level Two or Level Three. Now certainly, roughly 80 of those are Level Three, which means 'fighting alongside.' In other words they're fighting literally side by side with our forces. They're not yet capable of independent operations on their own."

But "nearly 40 now are Level Two or better. . . . That's hugely significant because it's at Level Two, at the 'in the lead' category, that means they're doing independent operations. They're not fully independent though, and that's what Level One means. It means they need no Coalition assistance whatsoever."

He offers an example: "In one case, one of the units was reassessed from One to Two. It's doing the same mission, by the way, on Haifa Street in Baghdad. It's just a case of someone being asked, 'Are you sure they're really Level One?' and he said, 'Well maybe they do need a little help from the Coalition in logistics so I guess they properly should be Level Two.' The truth is they actually got a little bit better in that month or two since they were reassessed. . . . They own their own area of operations."

I can vouch for the general's assessment of the Haifa Street unit's performance, as well as that of the Iraqi forces now manning Baghdad's once-perilous airport road. I was there in June 2004, when one couldn't be sure if the few Iraqi forces visible were the real thing or impostors who might kidnap you and sell you to the highest bidder. Today smartly outfitted ISF are visible everywhere.

"People keep asking, 'When will Iraqi security forces take over from Coalition forces?' " says Gen. Petraeus. "Well, they've been doing it for months. . . . There was a ceremony a few months back when Coalition forces transferred security responsibilities to Iraqis in Najaf. The same thing happened just a few weeks ago in Karbala. Mostly recently, within the last week, four districts within Baghdad have been transitioned to Iraqi security force control and I think that's roughly 20% of Baghdad."

Read the whole thing and don't buy into the partisan sniping against the ISF and our efforts in Iraq.

Michael Yon is back in Iraq. He has without a doubt provided some of the best coverage of the war. Too bad he is virtually unknown outside the blogosphere. Yon illustrates why there is so little press coverage of Iraq from the ground:

People who wonder about the limited number of reporters on the ground in Iraq probably think it's the danger that keeps many away. This certainly is true for some. For others, the persuasive problems are more practical: the expenses can be severe. There's expense associated with planning and applying for the embed. There is specialized gear to be purchased: protective equipment alone can cost thousands of dollars per person, and even in peaceful times, the desert climate is still extremely hard on electronic equipment. Getting to the Middle East requires a long, expensive flight. And the Hilton that came so highly recommended also came with a high room rate: $590 for a room that would have been worth maybe $150 in Florida. There was nothing to drink in the room, but the front desk offered to send up two bottles of water for about $23. There was no internet cable in the room. For $590 per night, a guest shouldn't have to pay for water, or call for an internet cable. For that kind of money, there should be a helipad on the roof.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Election '08 - The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Currently I see McCain, Giuliani, Allen, and Romney as the four front-runners and thus I focused on them for now. Most of the others currently speculated as potential candidates have either taken themselves out of the race (Jeb Bush, Condi Rice) or I deem to have little chance (Hagel, Brownback) so that I'm not going to bother with trying to figure out their potential game plan. If the situation changes I will update this as necessary, of course.

It looks like we have two conservative candidates, Allen and Romney, and two moderates, McCain and Giuliani. The first battle will be within the factions to knock their top competitor out and solidify their faction behind them. Whomever succeeds in uniting his faction first, the right or the moderates, will ultimately clinch the nomination. You can expect a particularly bloody fight between Allen and Romney, as Allen will seek to portray Romney as a faux conservative and Romney attacks Allen as an inside-the-beltway out-of-touch politician.

I have a hard time seeing Giuliani and McCain attacking each other with the same ferocity, which in the end could doom their candidacies if they split the moderate vote between each other. Conversly, if the battle between Romney and Allen turns too bloody they both could lose votes to Giuliani and McCain, who will appear more presidential by comparison.

Election '08 - Mitt, the Massachusetts Mormon.

Can a Mormon from Massachusetts win the nomination for the GOP? What seems like an unlikely proposition at first has indeed become a possibility for '08. Ever since Romney decided to forsake seeking reelection as Governor of Massachusetts he has been reposition himself solidly on the conservative right. His ability to succeed to define himself as a movement conservative will most likely determine his potential for success.

Despite his handicap he brings certain strengths that could help him win the nomination. Being Governor of Massachusetts should help him in the first in the nation primary in neighboring New Hampshire, where he receives a lot of positive coverage without having to spend a dime due to the close proximity. He also enjoys high name recognition in the early primary state of Michigan, where his father George W. Romney was once Governor. Combine this dual home turf advantage with his charisma and record of competence as both Governor and as the former manager of the Salt Lake Olympics and you have a package that could be very successful, and even overcome the handicap of being a Mormon from Massachusetts.

Election '08 - Senator George Allen standard bearer of the Conservative Right?

Of all the potential candidates for the '08 race George Allen is the only one I've met in person so far - last December when he gave a speech at the John Locke Foundation. He is quite good at delivering stump speeches and has a very solidly conservative, even if not particularly impressive, resume. This former Governor from Virginia is probably the candidate your average GOP primary voter can feel the most comfortable with. He has consistently championed the conservative cause in Virginia and in the Senate and would probably not face any intense opposition from some wings of the party as Giuliani and McCain are likely to encounter. He doesn't poll well yet since his name is not yet widely known, but that will change as we approach the primaries.

I expect Allen to be the front-runner of the conservative right, which is of course the largest segment of GOP primary voters. If Allen can plant doubts into the minds of conservatives about Rudy Giuliani's suitability he could quickly lock up the base behind him. But until then he has quite a lot of leg work ahead of him to raise his public profile, not to mention his war chest.

He will also have to combat the perception of being a Senator in this out-of-touch august body. His candidacy could be doomed by the poor performance of Congress as a whole, and opponents attacking him as a beltway insider. Senator Allen has in part already tried to separate himself from that body by stressing his experience as Governor of Virginia over his role in the Senate.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Active Duty military relief force possibly to be created in aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon is mulling the creation of an active duty relief force:

The military's Northern Command is developing a proposal to organize a specially trained and equipped active-duty force that could respond quickly to assist relief efforts in the event of overwhelming natural disasters, like major hurricanes, floods or earthquakes.
The proposal, one of the first results from the military's study of shortcomings in the relief effort after Hurricane Katrina, could resolve significant stumbling blocks to the deployment of active-duty forces into a disaster area on American soil.
President Bush has urged Congress to consider laws allowing a greater role for the active-duty armed forces in disaster relief.
The force under consideration would keep hundreds of soldiers standing by on short notice to assist National Guard soldiers. The new unit could include military communications technicians, logistics specialists, doctors and nurses, engineers and even infantry.
The active-duty forces could rapidly fill the gap if state and local police officers, firefighters and local medical personnel were overwhelmed and unable to serve as the first line of relief, as happened during Hurricane Katrina.


Admiral Keating said a contingency force would be loosely modeled on existing rapid-response forces like the ready brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., which can deploy anywhere in the world in 18 hours, and others that stand ready to deal with domestic terrorist attacks.

If such a force were created it should fall under the control of the US Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operation Command (USACAPOC)at Fort Bragg and dispatched from there to wherever it is needed. We should not limit its use to the United States, this force could be of great utility in responding to natural disasters around the world.

Kashmir earthquake unexpected consequences?

According to German magazine Focus the last time Bin Laden was sighted last week ago he was in the very region hit by the earthquake. It might be that nature has done what our best efforts to date have not been able to accomplish and killed Bin Laden.

The Washington Times meanwhile speculates over the possible positive side effect relief efforts by the US could have:

In the South Asian tsunami that struck Dec. 26, diplomats said the media images of U.S. soldiers and sailors distributing aid to stricken areas gave a much-needed boost to America's image in the region. In heavily Muslim Indonesia, for example, just 15 percent of the population held a favorable view of U.S. foreign policy in 2003, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The numbers reflected in large part opposition to the war in Iraq and strong U.S. backing for Israel. But a Pew survey this year found that favorable views of the United States had more than doubled to 38 percent. About 79 percent of Indonesians polled said the U.S. response had improved their feelings toward America.
U.S. officials face a similar public diplomacy challenge in Pakistan. Just 23 percent of Pakistanis polled earlier this year had a favorable opinion of the United States, while 51 percent of Pakistanis said they would "have confidence" in bin Laden as a world leader.

We should intensify our relief efforts in Pakistan by sending a much larger military and humanitarian relief effort to the region. Not only would it boost our image in this region, our presents and accumulated goodwill could lead directly to developing intelligence sources necessary to capture or kill Bin Laden if he survived the earthquake

Monday, October 10, 2005

Wave of terror attacks at universities?

Last week there was a suicide bomber outside the Oklahoma University football stadium, by what appears to be a recent convert to islam that 9/11 "twentieth hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui frequented. Last Friday an explosive device was found at an UCLA appartment complex. Then today a suspicious chemical bottle was found by a Gergia Tech janitor, which subsequently exploded. Two similar devices were found on campus and detonated by Atlanta police.

Are we facing a new wave of terrorism at home? Are these three events completely unrelated and merely coincidental, or part of a more sinister plot? The media to date has been rather quit on this subject, though that might be about to change. Hat tip to Michelle Malkin, who has more details on this subject.

Update: Drudgereport is now linking to all three stories. It shouldn't be long until the MSM picks it up.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Election '08 - Can Giuliani win the nomination?

As unlike as it sounds, a New York City pro-choice candidate is leading the early GOP polls for the nomination. Giuliani is not only leading amongst Republicans in general, but also amongst movement conservatives in the blogosphere. How is that possible? People see in Giuliani a strong leader, the type that can lead the country through any difficulty. It is no surprise that Giuliani's poll numbers jumped 5 points after Katrina. His strong leadership skills trump ideology. For now.

As we get closer to the primaries ideology will start moving more to the forefront, then Giuliani could lose the advantage he currently enjoys. On taxes, law enforcement, and national security he can take strong positions, and he has his record as Mayor to back that up. He could also stake out a conservative position on immigration, by tying it to national security, without being accused of being racist (except, of course, the New York Times, which has in the past been quite silly with its denouncement of Giuliani. But then being bashed by the NYT is more like a badge of honor). Even though stalwart religious conservatives like Pat Robinson have already came out in support of a Giuliani campaign, social conservatives will likely attack some of Giuliani's more liberal activity as Mayor of NYC, as well as his pro-abortion stance.

To defend against attacks on liberal policies enacted in NYC and his pro-choice position Giuliani should defend it on federalist grounds. He should make clear that policies he enacted for NYC, were the correct ones for that city, and it doesn't mean he would do the same nationally. NYC is a unique city with an unique character that requires an unique approach to governing. He should turn any attack on his social policies into an attack on the very city of NY, defending it from undue criticism. While conservatives would be uneasy about the social positions of NYC, they can understand somebody patriotically defending his hometown. As long as Giuliani makes it clear that he doesn't intend to push a liberal social agenda he can hope to appease social conservatives.

A similar approach can be taken on abortion, where he should also turn it into an issue of federalism. He should continue to support his position on abortion, since a last-minute conversion would only erode his credibility and put him permanently on the defensive on this issue, but oppose the judicial imposition of abortion through the courts. He needs to take an against Roe vs. Wade, but pro-choice position, it is the only way he can maintain his electability within the GOP, and it wouldn't hurt him in the general election either.

Indeed, he could effectively attack the ludicrous position on abortion by the Democrats as anti-democratic and fanatical, while presenting himself as reasonable.

GOP social conservatives are particularly concerned about the type of judges that are appointed to the bench, as was made clear through the kerfuffle that broke out about the nomination of Harriet Miers this week. By arguing for federalism on social issues he can gain the support of social conservatives, or at least their acquiescence. They don't expect the courts to impose a conservative social agenda, for the most part they simply want the USSC to stop imposing a liberal social agenda against the will of the electorate.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Election '08 - What McCain will have to do to cinch the GOP nomination.

In order to obtain the Presidential nomination for the GOP McCain will have to overcome significant opposition within the party faithful. A difficult task - but not impossible. To begin with he has some things going for him:

1. High name ID: This means he won't have to spend much money to get himself established.
2. The support of the Press: Even in a GOP nomination this is worth the equivalent of a few million dollars of campaign funds.
3. It's his turn: The GOP has a tradition where previous runner-ups get the nod the next time around.
4. The GOP has open primaries in many States: This means that Democrats and Independents can cross over and vote for him.
5. He would easily beat Hillary: Most polls to date give McCain a big lead against Hillary in a potential match-up. For many amongst the GOP establishment that could be enough to support him.

But he has also some things working against him:

1. He isn't liked by the religious right: A formidable opposition that doomed his last effort.
2. His advised age: He would be 72 years old when first elected, two year older than Reagan was in 1981.
3. He often has gone against the party: Many members are suspicious of McCain's conservative credentials and are loath to support him.

So how would McCain win? He has to take several steps, some of which he has already started upon:

1. Promise to continue President Bush's legacy where it counts: McCain has been one of the strongest supporters of the President in the Global War On Terror. Indeed, McCain has more of a legacy of supporting an aggressive US foreign policy than the President himself and has been a more effective spokesman than President Bush.
2. Break with the President on issues where Bush has alienated conservatives: Attack the big-government conservatism of President Bush to bring back disillusioned small government conservatives. McCain has already taken a lead in pushing for budget cuts to pay for Katrina, he needs to become far more vocal in pushing for more reductions in spending.
3. Make peace with christian conservatives: McCain is pro-life and supports many of the same issues christian conservatives care about, even if he isn't outwardly as religious. He needs to point out these common values and engage the christian right early and often. He could also point out that he has more in common with them than the other front-runner Giuliani has.
4. Approach think-tank and blogger Republicans: While McCain is popular with the old media and frequently engages them in interviews, he has little to no contact with intellectual conservatives. He will have to win them over if he wants to win the nomination. He should snap up reform proposals from conservative think-tanks and conduct interviews with prominent conservative bloggers.

McCain's chances at obtaining the nomination are quite solid, particularly if movement conservatives grow increasingly frustrated with out-of-control spending by the current administration and congress.

Building Iraqi Security Forces
By HansMarc Hurd

Missteps prior to the war

Since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom there have been complaints about the lack of effective indigenous security forces in Iraq. Much of the criticism has been justified, but those in the media and politics who grumbled at the slow rate of improvement have either offered no solution to the problem or misidentified the disbanding of the Iraqi army as the cause of it.

Despite frequent reports to the contrary, there was indeed a plan for post-war stability in Iraq, the changing situation on the ground and some planning delays unfortunately doomed those efforts. The Pentagon had planned to train “Free Iraqi Forces” (FIF) in Hungary to enter Iraq alongside our troops during the invasion. However, delays in decision making and opposition from the State Department delayed the training of the FIF to the point than only about 500 were ready at the outbreak of war, instead of the several thousands initially envisioned. A second pillar in the US strategy was to induce the surrender of large portions of the Iraqi army and then reconstitute those forces after removing the politically suspect leadership. During the war we ended up with very few surrenders, contrary to prediction, since the Iraqi soldiers in large part simply deserted the army, discarded their uniforms, and went home, effectively disbanding the army. When Ambassador L. Paul Bremer declared the old Iraqi army disbanded he didn’t make a blunder as many talking heads at that time argued, he only formally recognized the reality on the ground. Prior to the war the Pentagon believed that the Iraqi police could be largely left intact and simply receive retraining, preferably by an International Police Task Force (IPTF) under the UN, as has often been the case in past conflicts. Here too there was a serious miscalculation based on poor information on the ground. The Iraqi police was an extension of the Ba’ath party and deserted along with the Iraqi army at the end of the war, fearing reprisals from the population for decades of abuse. The Iraqi police force enforced the dictates of the Saddam regime through force, intimidation, and bribery, and had little true police capability to begin with. As for the IPTF, it never materialized since the UN never provided substantive assistance after the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

These miscalculations left the US Military in a bind. Virtually the entire Iraqi security apparatus had ceased to exist and had to be rebuilt from scratch. This problem did not exist in the major post-war efforts in the past that served as a model for our planning in Iraq. Both Germany and Japan, even though they suffered severely from the ravages of war, had a professional police force that could be quickly reconstituted in order to reestablish order. To make matters worse, Saddam’s strongest loyalists from the Sunni tribal region, as well as foreign Jihadists, launched an insurgent campaign against our Army of Occupation within weeks of the collapse of the regime, forcing our military to shift resources into confronting this new threat and distracted further from building new security institutions for Iraq.

First attempts to train the Iraqis fail

To adapt to the situation on the ground the Pentagon quickly brought in civilian contractors to train the new Iraqi force, while our military forces focus on fighting the insurgency. However, these efforts are largely unsuccessful. The training is of inconsistent quality, and the Iraqi forces do not learn how to work with allied forces due to lack of experience working with the foreign military forces. The training is of short duration, it focuses in large part of retraining former members of the Iraqi military, who are believed to be already trained and only require a little refresher course. Alas, the regular Iraqi army was extremely poorly trained (if at all) during the last decade of Saddam’s reign due to a lack of faith in their loyalty. The limited training those troops had received was in no way sufficient for the task at hand. The first time those forces were faced with a challenge, as it occurred in March of 2004, most of the broke and fled the scene.

As poorly trained as the Iraqi soldiers were, their officers were even worse in many respects. Initially, we relied on recruiting former Iraqi officers to lead the new units, but their previous experiences created serious problems. Iraqi officers had a tendency not to delegate any authority to subordinates because they felt that would weaken their own position. To make matters worse, those officers also frequently refused to make any decisions, a habit bred into them during Saddam’s reign when a bad decision could quickly end an officer’s career and freedom, if not his life.

The police was in no better position. The training for the Iraqi police was just as truncated as that for the military, with the focus being on such simple tasks as traffic control and serving arrest warrants. The insurgents quickly realized that the lightly armed police was an easy target and focused much of their efforts on assaulting police stations and overwhelming the badly outgunned officers.

The Army adapts its approach to training

After the fiasco of the spring 2004 uprising by Moqtada Al Sadr the US moves away from relying on contractors and takes a more direct control of the training effort of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Future training of the ISF would be conducted by the US military and a systematic approach to assessing the capabilities of the trained battalions was put in place.

By the summer of 2004 when Sadr tried to rebel again the ISF responded far more effectively as it had just a few months earlier. The reason for this improvement was threefold. US trainers had identified which units were the most reliable and only used those that had achieved a somewhat higher level of proficiency. Those ISF units had better communications with the US military, and lastly, the ISF was employed within the limitations of their capabilities.

A novel approach was tried in Falluja as well; an Iraqi brigade of mostly former Saddam loyalists was formed to gain control of Falluja. That approach ended in dismal failure as much of the brigade deserted and joined the insurgency. The experience of the Fallujah brigade should serve as a warning to those who argued that the disbanding of the old Iraqi army was a mistake. If it had been possible to retain the old army at the end of the war we could have expected large formations to desert at critical times and even join the insurgency. The dissolution of the old Iraqi army was probably the best outcome in this situation.

A new, old way of doing things

By the fall of 2004 several ISF units had reached a level of proficiency that allowed them to engage in support functions in assaults on urban centers such as Samarah and Fallujah. However, there were still serious shortfalls within the ISF, particularly in leadership. It takes the US Army approximately 17 years to train a battalion commander, yet in Iraq we were hoping to accomplish the same task in a matter of months, a near hopeless endeavor.

To adjust to the lack of leadership in the ISF we started to embed a larger pool of advisors directly into the Iraqi units in February of 2005 to provide much of that missing leadership. Prior to this change we used military advisors sparingly, and mainly at higher echelons. Now, we embedded about 1,500 soldiers directly into the Iraqi units, to provide the leadership and experience to make the ISF effective. In this we adopted a policy that had long been en vogue in the Marine Corps, which they had employed during their various expeditions into Central America during the 1930s and put into writing in the Small Wars Manual of 1940. Over six decades after the Marine Corps had already written the book on how to train indigenous forces the Army had relearned that lesson.

The Iraqi police started faring better as well. Improved training in heavy weapons and reinforced police HQs heralded a dramatic shift. As late as October 2004 police stations were attacked and overrun on an almost daily basis. After mid-November the insurgents failed 14 times in a row to penetrate police security. By late January they all but gave up attacking police stations directly.

The way forward

As of the summer of 2005 there are over 100 battalions in the ISF, only a handful of which are capable to operate independently of US assistance. However, about a third of the force is able to function with the help of embedded advisors, giving us a significant Iraqi military presence. The first Iraqi brigade has assumed operation control of a relatively peaceful sector in eastern Iraq. By the end of the year large parts of Baghdad are expected to be under the control of ISF, at which time we can either increase the number of US maneuver brigades in the most hostile regions of Iraq if necessary, or start to withdraw several brigades and reduce our footprint to a in the long term more sustainable pace.

The training of the Iraqi military has been focused more on small unit scale SWAT style tactics to clear buildings and Mounted Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) instead of emphasizing the traditional maneuver warfare of larger formations. In addition, applying simple police procedures such as evidence gathering will become increasingly necessary. Those arrested for insurgent activity need to have a paper trail attached to them so that they can later be prosecuted for crimes, instead of the “catch and release” system often employed in the past. The police force needs to be trained to engage in more complex criminal investigations, to attain the level of professionalism necessary to win the confidence of the public.

The US has to be deeply involved in that training for at least several years, in order to ensure the building of an efficient law enforcement and defense infrastructure. In the long run the DoD needs to reorganize the military to address the lack of capacity in nation building.

Nation building’s past misperceptions

Since Vietnam the concept of “nation building” has, unjustifiably, received somewhat of a bad name. In Vietnam General Westmoreland ignored the advice of the commander of the USMC to embed US forces into the countryside to slowly build up the infrastructure of South Vietnam. Gen Westmoreland considered that approach as taking too long and sought a decisive engagement for a rapid victory. That approach was a failure which ended up prolonging the war. We pushed aside the Vietnamese and took control of the war and the responsibility for the security of the South Vietnamese people, something we could never accomplish. Only after Westmoreland’s departure did we start to correct the earlier mistakes through a program of “Vietnamization” of the war. The program was a success, resulting in a clear defeat of the North Vietnamese forces and the pacification of most of the south by 1972, which allowed us to withdraw our forces by 1973 after reaching a peace deal with North Vietnam. Unfortunately, a hostile Congress cut off all aid to South Vietnam in 1975, dooming the country to the better equipped NV. A fatalistic misperception started to take root within the military and the general US society that the victory of the North was assured from the start and our efforts in the South always doomed as too complex and unrealistic.

In 1990 we adopted the “Powell doctrine”, based largely on the experience in Vietnam, where we would limit our military objectives to easily and quickly achievable goals. This doctrine seemed very successful during the first Gulf War, when the conflict was brought quickly to conclusion. However, its limited goals ended up achieving only limited success, leaving an antagonistic regime in place in Iraq.

Only two years later this doctrine was violated in Somalia, when an ever changing
Mission came to be known as “mission creep”. After nearly a score of soldiers laid dead in Mogadishu we beat a hasty retreat, while the Army became even more fervent advocates of the Powell doctrine due to that failure. Nation building was considered a bad fit for the Pentagon, something that will usually end up in disaster and should be avoided as an improper mission for the military. The truth was that there never was a serious effort of nation building in Somalia. The Army only deployed its singular active duty Civil Affairs battalion since it didn’t want to call up the reserves. No plan was ever developed to reconstruct the nation of Somalia; instead we punted the job to the UN, which immediately dropped the ball. Somalia failed not because nation building doesn’t work; it failed because we never tried it. Thus, we walked away with precisely the wrong conclusion.

Our experiences in the Balkans lend us to become dependent on international institutions to provide the nation building component to our military operations. However, this dependency became our Achilles heel in Iraq when such support wasn’t forthcoming. We had also glossed over the failure of international institutions to achieve lasting success in most instances. Somalia and Haiti were clear failures, Bosnia and Kosovo showed little improvement even after years of engagement.

The way into the future

To adapt to this changed environment the Pentagon needs to place a much larger emphasis on post-war reconstruction. The DoD cannot try to outsource this critical component of future warfighting to agencies not under its control. The experiences of the post-cold war era have shown us that virtually all our future engagements will require some post-war reconstruction commitment by the US military.

The US Army should greatly expand its Civil Affairs forces, both in number and in mission role. A three-star Civil Affairs Command (CACOM) should be established, with four regionally aligned reserve CA Divisions as well as one active duty CA Division.

The Divisions should each include

2 CA brigades, with 4 CA battalions, similar to the current organization. These brigades would essentially be unchanged from our current CA brigades.

1 basic combat training brigade with 3 or 4 battalions, which would conduct the basic infantry training of foreign forces. These brigades would imbue new recruits with basic infantry skill.

1 advanced combat brigade including a basic leadership battalion to train NCOs, 1, advanced leadership battalion to train officers, and 1 combat support battalion to train the basic support personnel needed to operate infantry units.

1 combat advisory brigade with 3 or 4 battalions of infantry advisors to be embedded in trained units. These troops would provide the necessary leadership for host nation forces to operate until their leadership acquires the necessary training and experience to assume the burden of leadership themselves.

1 law enforcement brigade with 2 police training battalions, 1 CID battalion, and 1 JAG battalion. The police training battalions run police academies to train new recruits in basic skills, while the CID battalion trains detectives to conduct investigations. The JAG battalion trains judges and lawyers in the proper conduct of court rooms.

1 police advisory brigade with 3 or 4 battalions of MPs to be embedded in trained police units. These MPs would be placed into police departments to provide the leadership these units need to operate efficiently until such time as they attain sufficient experience to conduct independent operations.

1 civil reconstruction engineer brigade. This brigade would be able to conduct a range of infrastructure improvement projects and demining missions, as well as conduct training in host nations.

The Army CACOM would fall under a four-star joint Civil Military Command (CMCOM). This unit would include some of the new Naval Infantry battalions being formed by the Navy along with some Seabee units, and brown water training units. CA elements from the USMC and appropriate units from the Air Force would be assigned as well. During war time element from the Coast Guard and even some State Dep’t assets such as USAID would fall under its control.

Only a complete rethinking of the way we conduct reconstruction operations will ensure that we can avoid some of the pitfalls previously encountered, and given the central role ‘failed states’ play in harboring threats to the United States such operations will only become more likely in the future.

Recommended reading:
Small Wars Manual USMC 1940
The Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot
The Pentagons New Map by Thomas P.M. Barnett

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