Pharsalia

If Kronicaly Bad Speling and excessive use of italiks bothers you, prepare to be bothered.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bad ideas in the Terror War

One of the problems with war is that you are usually obliged to form ranks with nations or idealogies that are incompatible with your own. We fought WW2 allied to a butcher every bit as heinous as Hitler who was actively sowing our government and society with spies and propagandists. We spent the next 50 years trying to correct the repurcussions.

Many serious thinkers have come to the conclusion that unless moderate Islam comes out full tilt against violence and extremism, the war cannot be won no matter what we do. That may be true. The problem is that 'moderate' Arabs tend to two groups: fascists such as the Sauds and Mubareks, and communist trans-nationalists.

This article (via Andrew Sullivan guest blogger Judith Apter Klinghoffer) gives us an insight into the price the 'moderates' are essentially demanding.

For example, in February 2005, a group of reformists submitted to the U.N. a request that it establish an international court to judge Muslim clerics who incite to violence and bloodshed. The request was examined by the U.N. legal counsel and distributed to the U.N. Security Council.


Cloaked in the veil of reasonableness is a pretty scary precident. This is a suggestion, currently under consideration, to establish a supernational court whos soul purpose is to monitor (and assumedly punish) speech. Now Muslim hate speech is certainly something we need to address, but to anyone who knows anything about the UN its pretty obvious that the real violence inciting hate will be the last thing they concentrate on. There is zero doubt in my mind that just like the International Criminal Court, this court will quickly morph into typical 'get America' mode.

First of all there is no way this court will be confined to Muslim hate speech. That simply runs counter to every politically correct leaning of the transnationalists that infest the UN. They would elect Saddam Hussein the next UN Secretary before encoding (or even recognizing) the fact one cultures extremism is more deadly than another. No. This will be an open ended pervue that will ecompass anything the unelected court considers Hate Speech.

At the end of the day, what does this mean? There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that such a Court would look to circumvent our American 1st Amendment rights (doubtlessly aided by extremist American judges looking to conform to International Law over the Constitutional protections they are sworn to uphold) and try to bring down those they really consider threats: Evangelical Christians, Jews and other Israel supporters, and certainly neocons and other hawks.

Congressman Tancredo would be a perfect target for a court like this. Undoubtedly while claiming to be 'even handed', the transnationalists will spend the resources of this court to silence those who are actually fighting the War on Terror politically. Have no doubt about it, this is a trojan horse.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bombs in London Again

Reports are sketchy, but apparently only the detonaters have gone off. A bus and 3 metro stops again. The question is, were these real bombs badly designed, or dummy bombs as is being floated at the moment. If the latter, why? In military parlance, the word that comes to mind is Demonstration. I hope the emergency crews have their eyes open. I suppose its possible that the bomb maker was either inept or had a change of heart. Very strange, whatever the case.
It is often said that God favors fools, drunks, and Americans. I hope some of that luck has rubbed off on our cousins, the Londoners, today.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Candy Wars II

One of the inevitable aspects of war is action and reaction. As one side innovates the other side innovates in response, less they collapse altogether. Nothing focuses the mind quite like the imminent prospect of death and defeat. Last month I wrote of the powerful impact individual acts of kindness and generosity by American soldiers was having on the Iraqi people, particularly the children. Tens of thousands of next generation Iraqis will have the fuzzy memory of a giant smiling American handing them candy bars, shoes, or coloring books. That good will is a deadly danger for the long term viability of the jihadi movement.

True to form, Al Qaeda has adapted to the Candy War in the most horrifying way possible. Yesterday, jihadis in a poor neighborhood in Baghdad set off a carbomb to attract an American patrol, and more importantly to attract the children that flock to bomb scenes looking for treats. A suicide bomber driving an SUV packed with explosives waited until several dozen children were gathered around, pressed on the accelerator, and detonating his lethal cargo in the midst of the Iraqi children.

At least two dozen were killed instantly. Many more maimed. One American soldier was killed. There are no words in elvish, entish, or the tongues of men to describe such infamy.

The intent is clear. The terrorists seek to divide the coalition forces from the Iraqi people. Americans are making inroads to Iraqi adults through kindness to their children, and the way to stop that is to make Iraqis fear for their childrens lives. There is a definite sick logic to it.

There is a famous scene in Apocalypse Now where Kurtz recalls the following:

We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms...

And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger.


Some have proported that this is a true story, passed on from military advisors to Copola. Whatever the case may be, Kurtz was wrong. True soldiers risk death for causes, and therein lies their strength. A warrior who begins to prey on the innocent while avoiding the strong is quickly unmanned. Aside from the literal sadists, Nazis manning concentration camps took to alcoholism and suicide almost to a man. A warrior reduced to atrocity will lose his ability to act, which is precisely why insurgents attempt to goad occupiers into brutality.

In this, Al Qaeda has failed miserably, and in so doing completely lost their path. Instead of provoking Americans, AQ has succeeding in provoking Iraqis against them, while causing Americans to pity Iraqis, the opposite of their intent. Drugging up some Morrocan and having him drive into a preschool is not a sign of moral clarity and mental strength. It is a sign of impotence and confusion of purpose.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The White House Press Corp Loses it

What liberal media? This one. The press basically flipped out and ambushed Scott McClellan yesterday. Michael Goodwin makes the case that they have openly taken sides. I'd say he's right. In a week where London has been bombed and a critical Supreme Court decision looms, the press spends basically an entire press conference grilling the spokesman about what is probably not even a crime, and quite possibly not even ethically wrong in any way. Sickening. There is a strong chance that everyone in that room knew that Valarie Plame worked for the CIA before the Novak story broke, it was the worst kept secret in Washington. The press corp has abandoned even the semblance of objectivity and openly declared war on the White House.

So what should Bush do? Give press credentials to bloggers. The White House is under no obligation to keep being harrassed by the same dinosaur relics of an age gone by. Believe me, no-one (even in Manhattan) is waiting to see what brilliant query the shrill and senile Helen Thomas is about to produce. Lets get some new blood in there that is going to start asking the important questions. How about Mickey Kaus or Andrew Sullivan? Austin Bay? David Corn? Drudge? All of those guys have (or should have) the credentials and the respect to do the job. We need some fresh blood in the press room, and to hell with the snobs who would rail against it. The press has a serious job and an important responsibility during war, and this fundamentally silly and biased corp is not cutting it.

Monday, July 11, 2005

This is too rich

The ever mercurial Andrew Sullivan writes on the virtues of stoicism. Soon to follow: Bill O'Reilly on the importance of humility, Chris Matthews on civil discourse, and Ann Coulter on the evils of hyperbole.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Bad Qaeda Mistake

Bombing London was a disasterously stupid move for our Al Qaeda enemies. The Brits are now in this up to their ears, and for their own reasons.

Andrew Sullivan posts this email from a British reader:


Londoners (Brits) will fight back. That is obvious. Always have always will. One thing I've got to disagree with you on is that there will be a push for policy change but not for the reason Galloway and others suggest. Brits will demand that we hand over the calm south to Iraqis and move troops (in particular SAS) to Afghanistan. There are some people in the mountains that we need to settle a score with.

This may well be true. It will cause us some problems in Iraq, but it will cause some major Al Qaeda problems everywhere else on the globe. The Brits dont play around. Its been grimly humerous to hear all the criticism of American tactics in places like Guantanimo, when such tactics are a joke compared to what the British and French intelligence agencies resort to when necessary.
I think the main thing that is going to happen is that the Brits are going to step out of the second fiddle role and start running things their way. That is bad news for AQ in Afghanistand and Pakistan, the SAS is the best special forces formation in the world and the English are liable to have all kinds of historic ties and connections in the region. If the Americans are worried about Pakistani soveriegnty, I doubt the British will have such compunction at this point. American objections arent going to slow down the SAS if and when they are let off the leash.

Things are a bit shaky in Afghanistan right now. The Taliban seem to have gotten used to American doctrine and may be resurgent. Several thousand angry Brits rolling in country is not going to help their outlook. We have very different ways of doing things, and a change of pace is a good way of keeping the enemy off balance, perhaps toppling him once and for all.
London Bombing

My heart and prayers are with the British people. As things develop i will have something to add, but for now that is all there is to say.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Supreme Court Follies

The impending retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor has launched the obligatory beltway tizzy fit. Both sides are lining up their soldiers, and it looks like big guns are being brought to bear. Bush has enlisted the ever popular former senator Fred Thompson to shepherd his pick through the confirmation. The White House certainly already knows who their selection is, and anybody who respects the machinations of Karl Rove doesnt doubt that his end game will have be well vetted and brilliant.

Drudge is reporting that Senate Judicial Committee member Chuck Schumer was overheard on his cell phone claiming that a fillibuster was inevitable, no matter the candidate:

“It's not about an individual judge… It's about how it affects the overall makeup of the court.”

The chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee was overheard on a long cellphone conversation with an unknown political ally, and the DRUDGE REPORT was there!

Schumer proudly declared: “We are contemplating how we are going to go to war over this.”

So much for Bush bringing the parties together if only he'd appoint a moderate! The Democrats are obviously plotting their usual instant opposition even before a name is announced. This is going to bite the Dems in the rear, they still havent realized how utterly predictable they are, and how Rove uses that to play them like a violin. This 'admission' by Schumer is something less than a smoking gun, but it does make the Gang of 14 Democrats look like flat out liars and cheaters.

This is like watching a boxer get lured into a knockout punch. I dont think that the Democrats know or care that if they are perceived as having forged the last deal in total bad faith, they are going down hard to the mat plus the President will get his choice in justices. Schumer and the rest have done something Bush and the party leadership could never do, rope the moderate and renegade republicans back into the fold with a nasty taste in their mouths. Instead of divide and conquer the Democrats are initiating a full frontal assault they cant win.

Bush's run of inexplicably stupid opponents continues.



Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Landmines have killed thousands of Iraqis

Not just any landmines, American landmines. How you ask? By sitting harmlessly in their arsenals gathering dust.

It has become increasingly clear that suicide bombing is public enemy number one for the Iraqi people. Thousands have been killed and more maimed, and it is acknowledged that foriegn jihadis constitute the vast bulk of these attacks. Most come from Saudi Arabia or Syria, meaning they must have crossed the border at some point.

Sealing even the Syrian border alone is a massive undertaking. It is hundreds of miles long along inhospital terrain. At best we have been able to patrol the border and squeeze off some of the choke points. We have had more luck at attacking the infastructure of safe houses and the ratlines leading to the heart of Iraq, but even that has done little to slow the flow of bombers.

What we need to do is make a real effort to seal the border in a serious way. Short of charging our entire Iraq force with the job, there is no way to do that without a force multiplier. That is where land mines come in. Mines have gotten a really bad rap in recent years, and had become the celeb cause de jure for a while. In some sense this was deserved, typical landmines dont have an expiration date and tend to blow people up years after a conflict ends.

American mines are different, they are built to shut themselves off after a certain length of time. Landmines have persisted throughout modern history for a very simple reason, they work. Extremely well. Creating a no-mans land in a swath of the border, clearly marked with signs and barbed wire is our best hope of closing down the jihadi-railroad. Just the sight of a minefield is enough to turn back most of the enemy, and those stupid enough to try to push through wont be a problem for long.

The cost cannot be ignored, of course. Without a doubt, some innocents will wander foolishly past the barbed wire, past the multitide of warning signs, and blow themselves up. That is unfortunate. But consider the cost jihadis bring to innocents now. Is it not wise to trade a handful of lives to landmines in exchange for thousands killed by foriegn bombers? Not a nice choice, but in war they rarely are.

I dont think this is likely to happen, whatever safe guards are emplaced. Landmines have gained too bad of a rap lately, and no matter how many lives they can save the row their deployment would cause would make Guantanamo look like a minor disagreement of opinion. Aside from SUVs, landmines probably have the mantle of the most evil objects on the planet.

It's too bad. They could save a lot of lives. Which means their nondeployment is costing a lot of lives.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8

So you ask me, how was the much anticipated Live 8? Excellent question. But despite giving up 10 hours of my Saturday to check it out, I still have no idea. Little tip to the idiot MTV producers who patched together the vapid, ADD laced abortion that was this broadcast... show the music at least a glimmer of respect. Pink Floyd reunites and I get Comfortably Numb cut off, and even that talked over by some idiot VJs busy telling us how monumental this reunion is? I know its monumental, thats why you have to shut up! And Floyd was the only band that got any kind of air time.
That being said, what bits and peices of music that did manage to somehow sneak into the broadcast between clueless hosts pretend they have a clue what they are trying to accomplish with the event and interviews with even more clueless bands... was good! Even inspired. Look, I get it, the music is the lure, the movement is what counts. I'm happy to listen to Bobby Geldof, or Bono, or anybody with two thoughts to rub together. But if the choice is insipid VJ X fawning over Mariah Carey for her opinion on global poverty (and her outfit), and seeing an actual, well, perfomance... i'll take the music thank very much. Even if it is antithetical to all MTV stands for these days. Youd think with an 11 hour broadcast featuring world class bands in half a dozen cities around the world, a little music might make its way in. Particular when it became brutally clear that the VJ hosts had exhausted their knowledge of the issues well within the first 2 minutes of the broadcast. Personally i'd rather hear Cold Play tune their guitars for 10 minutes rather than Vanessa parrot some garbled demands to G8 for the 1000th time.
Well, maybe in another 20 years when we've dumped another trillion into the African thugacracies coffers and the next concert is scheduled someone who actually appreciates music will be running the telecast.

Friday, July 01, 2005

On Bad Ideas

One of the consequences of Bush's refusal to debate policy details in Iraq is that bad ideas are brought into the public square with dangerous regularity. They can be effectively shot down, as the timetable meme was, but after a while such a strategy simply makes the White House look negative and inflexible. The mantra 'this is a bad idea, stay the course' should be replaced with 'this is a bad idea, here's why, and here is what we are going to do instead'.

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings institute is a serious man with serious ideas about Iraq and the War on Terror. His Op-ed "Five Ways to Win Back Iraq " in todays New York Times, however, is chocked full of bad and potentially disasterous ideas.

"Think safety first A main point of counterinsurgency operations is that ensuring the safety of the people and giving them an economic and political incentive to oppose the insurgency is more important than fighting the insurgents themselves."

"We should instead be building safe zones in cities and rural areas, and guarding communications and transportation sites, to allow Iraq's political and economic life to revive."


While it is true to a point that safeguarding civilian reconstruction is a critical component to beating the insurgents, it is a deadly dangerous idea to go defensive at this time. Pollack is a big one for learning historical lessons, but apparently he has forgotten the lessons of Fallujah. When you let the enemy sit back in safe zones and attack you on his schedule, you are going to eventually find yourself in deep trouble.

Pollack shouldnt cherry pick his truisms for how to defeat an insurgency. One of the anti-insurgency commandments is 'thou shalt not allow your enemy a sanctuary'.

Achieving these goals will require more than the 155,000 troops in the country, and it is time for the Bush administration to bite the bullet, whether by deploying additional standing forces, calling up reserves, or spurring recruitment by increasing pay and benefits

This is another bad idea. Two years ago, it would have been wise to bring significantly more troops to Iraq, but that train has sailed. Bringing more troops into Iraq will incite the very people Pollack earlier claimed were vital to victory. As I have blogged about before it is critical that we demonstrate to the Iraqis that we are not interested in staying in Iraq indefinately. Bringing in more troops will send the opposite signal, and quite possibly start to chaff the Shiia which would will put us in true danger of defeat. We need to be speaking of metrics by which the security and liberty of Iraq can be confirmed, and hence we can draw down troops. Pollack's suggestion promises the exact opposite result.

In the shorter term, however, we can put a big dent in the insurgency by reaching out to Sunni tribal leaders and paying them protection money.

In the remainder of the article, Pollack makes suggestions for ideas we are either currently already doing (joint foot patrols with Iraqi army units, read a milblog Ken) or strategies that have been tried and discarded, in this case paying off the local Poobahs. Again, nice idea in theory, in practice Iraqi Shieks dont stay bought. Millions have been spent bribing tribal leaders, sometimes it shows results but much more often the Shieks take the money and plead innocence and ignorance when the EIDs go off in their towns. Human beings respond to fear and greed. Fear of being blown to bits by a foriegn lunatic or rival Iraqi will always outweigh whatever bribe we drop on them. Pollack should know that.

Ideas are good things, and even bad ones add to the dialog. But when they arent effectively countered they tend to take on lives of their own. The stakes are just too high to allow seemingly prudent tactics that history has shown to be dangerously counterproductive to have any possibility of catching fire.