24 April 2007

Iraq. Again.

I'm baffled by events lately. Senator Harry Reid is, not to put too fine a point on it, a liar. He lies for personal political gain, and he lies in the face of established reality.

Castle Argghhh! has an excellent discussion of Reid's drivel.


Sen. Reid: "General Petraeus has said the ultimate solution in Iraq is a political one, not a military one." (Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Remarks On Iraq , Washington , DC, 4/23/07)

· Of the President's FY 2007 supplemental request, the Senate cut $243 million in critical programs that would help the Iraqis meet important political and economic benchmarks. The Senate added $120 million to the President's request, of which $70 million is for refugees and internally displaced persons and $50 million is for a specific USAID program, leaving a net cut from the President's request of $243 million.

· The $243 million in net Senate cuts included:

Ø $70 million to build the governing capacity of local governments.

Ø $50 million to help the Iraqis draft and implement key legislative and legal reforms.

Ø $50 million to support rule of law programs so Iraqis can better govern themselves.

Ø $43 million to promote democracy and civil society efforts.

Ø $40 million to build the governing capacity of the national government.

Ø $10 million for private sector development.

Ø $100 million to support our diplomatic mission and civilian presence, including $41 million for supporting the doubling the PRTs.

· President Bush: "We fully recognize that there has to be political progress and economic progress, along with military progress, in order for that government to succeed." (President George W. Bush, Remarks, East Grand Rapids , MI , 4/20/07)

In other words, Reid votes to cut funding, and then criticizes Bush for not spending more money in the areas that Reid cut funding for.

No wonder he thinks we're losing. He's so confused that he can't think in a logical manner. He says that car bombs are evidence that we are losing! What a stupid bastard. Car bombs are the weapon of terminal losers.

Let me say this again.

Car bombs are the weapon of losers.

Wars are fought to control something. It may be expressed in territory, resources, or population centers. Wars are fought for the accomplishment of a positive goal. Car bombs don't accomplish control of anything. Blowing up crowds of civilians accomplishes nothing positive. It does attempt to create a climate of fear. Creating a climate of fear in an attempt to weaken the legitimacy of the popularly elected government is a negative goal. In other words, the terrorists are trying to keep their existence in the forefront of the news and the minds of the Iraqi people. Because otherwise, they are afraid they will disappear into irrelevancy. They are desperate to avoid losing. They are a weapon of desperation, a weapon of people too afraid to challenge either the Coalition or Iraqi forces for control of geography or population. It sucks, sure. But it is a survivable suck. Hitler dropped more bombs over a longer period of time on England, and all it did was piss the English off. The English firebombed German population centers, and all it did was piss the Germans off.

Terror bombing, be it aerial or ground-based accomplishes nothing. Bombing which destroys key infrastructure and eliminates enemy military forces is a useful adjunct to more decisive military operations, but bombing by itself is high-explosive masturbation.

OpinionJournal dissects this in more depth. They start with a discussion of the war in Algeria in the 1950s, which was probably one of the first times an army in the field defeated their enemy, then was outright betrayed by homeland politicians. Vietnam was another--Tet having destroyed the NLF and the 1972 Easter Offensive having broken the back of the PAVN, the Congress proceeded to cut off the funds and military support that would have allowed the ARVN to continue to defeat the PAVN.

How did that work, and how does it relate to Reid's assinine pronouncements and Baghdad?

As recently as two years ago, Galula's book was virtually unknown in Pentagon circles. Today it has become the bible of American counterinsurgency thinkers like Gen. Petraeus, whose field manual (known as FM 3-24) it largely informs. Its masterful approach to breaking, isolating and then uprooting a terrorist insurgency is the core of our revised near-term strategy for Iraq, a strategy based, in Gen. Petraeus's words, on the principle that "you're not going to kill your way out of an insurgency."

The current surge of 21,500 troops in Baghdad is a textbook example of Galula's lessons in action. First, as in the northern city of Mosul in 2003-04, where he used a similar grid system, Gen. Petraeus aims to turn things around in the single most vital "pink" zone--namely, Baghdad and its environs, within whose 50-mile radius 80% of the violence in Iraq takes place. Critics have already charged that our recent successes in suppressing the militias in this area signify only a temporary respite. But Gen. Petraeus, like his predecessor Galula, understands that in counterinsurgency warfare, temporary respites are all there is. The goal is to make those respites last longer and longer, until eventually they become permanent. As he has said, "The idea is to end each day with fewer enemies than when it started." Anything more ambitious leads to overreaching, disenchantment, and ultimately failure.

The Baghdad surge also illustrates the second of Galula's lessons. "Increasing the number of stakeholders is crucial to success," writes Gen. Petraeus, again self-consciously following both Galula's model and his own prior experience. In the northern district of Kabylia, for example, Gen. Petraeus had his men operating schools for 1,400 children, including girls, offering free medical support, and helping with building projects and road construction. One of his proudest accomplishments was the help given by troops of the 101st Airborne in rebuilding and opening Mosul University.

Gen. Petraeus's field manual states: "Some of the best weapons do not shoot." They come instead in the form of meetings held with local leaders, wells drilled, streets repaired, soccer leagues organized. In the current surge, one of his stated goals is to get American soldiers out of Baghdad's Green Zone to meet, eat with and even live with Iraqi families. Such "cultural awareness," to quote Gen. Petraeus again, "is a force multiplier." Political victories won street by street and neighborhood by neighborhood do not so much destroy the insurgency--it cannot be destroyed in any traditional sense--as replace it, forcing the bond between insurgent and citizen to give way to a new bond between citizen and government.

Finally, in an application of Galula's third lesson, Gen. Petraeus's men in northern Iraq trained more than 20,000 Iraqi police who even now continue to patrol the border between Iraq and Turkey. It was, in fact, Gen. Petraeus's success in organizing and staffing a reliable Iraqi security force that convinced his superiors to put him in charge of training the new Iraqi army and to make him commander of American ground forces this year. Now his experience is being put to the test on a broader scale as we attempt, in his words, to "build institutions, not just units"--a process as vital to American success in Iraq as it was to French success in Algeria 50 years ago.

Of course, Mr. Reid and his purile compatriots on the Hill have no interest in the intricacies of counter-insurgency warfare. They aren't intelligent enough to understand it, and they simply don't have a worldview capable of assimilating the basic concepts.

And God Forbid some general should come to the Hill to explain it for them.

A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at first acknowledged Tuesday that the Pentagon's request to have Petraeus give a House briefing had been denied due to "scheduling conflicts" next week. Later on Tuesday, Pelosi's office contacted Roll Call stating that the Speaker was now working to set up a session...
"It's puzzling that for the first time that Gen. Petraeus is in the country since he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate that the House has declined an offer to talk to him. We would hope that they would reconsider," the official said before Pelosi reversed course Tuesday and agreed to set up a House-wide meeting with Petraeus next Thursday.
From the Weekly Standard.

How dare General Petraeus get in the way of their political grandstanding! He might even have facts! And we know facts aren't nearly as important as emoting about how the war is lost.

Finally, I leave with one comment I saw on Xavier Thoughts.

23 April 2007

Linkage Post, VT, PRC, and otherwise.

So, I'm on a buddy's internet connection and I really don't have time to post a massive screed. The last one was done over about three days on the laptop and cut and pasted on. :)

Here's a couple highlights:

Folks who have stuff I missed re: VT Shootings.

TCS Daily debunks the pernicious and stupid nonsense about America's Gun Culture causing violence. It's palpable bullshit. Violent people cause violence. Outlaw guns, and only gang members, yakuza, and other lowlifes will have guns. Or, like the Scots and the other serfs in the 'booze and blades' culture of the United Kingdom, resolve interpersonal conflicts with knives.

The American Thinker asks us to ponder whether the culture of academia contributed to Cho's shooting. I don't know whether Cho was screwed up in the head before he got there. Apparently he was deeply disconnected from God, others, and even himself, the quintessential
example of what the Fathers speak of when they write of a man taken prisoner by his own Passions and sin. But I can't imagine that the situation was improved by teachers steeped in Marxist theory or by Lisa Norris's drivel. I love how liberals preach hatred and then pretend to be surprised when someone carries it out.

For those not following the argument: When communists, post-modernists, and other ideologies spread hatred, that has nothing to do with violence carried out by post-modernist nillhists. On the other hand, Conservatives who use insufficiently inclusive language can thereby be PROVEN, PROVEN I TELL YOU!!!! to support lynching black people and beating homosexuals to death.

Of course, we know who we are supposed to blame: George Bush! Surprised? Don't be. In the pantheon of the American Left, he has replaced Satan as the source of all evil. God alone knows what the hell the Democratic Party and their lunatic fringe is going to obsess about after he leaves office. But here's the explanation.

As usual, VDH cuts to the heart of the matter with no need for my input.

As promised in the post, here's a bit about Taiwan's latest war games and the assumptions made. Personally, I'm not so sure about this thing. I mean, one flipping carrier in the face of the air force of the ROC is not going to do much, just like I don't really believe PRC has enough amphibious lift assests to conduct an assault landing on Taiwan. But YMMV.

I've got somestuff to write about Iraq, but that comes later.

20 April 2007

Virginia Tech Shootings, my first, last, and only post on the subject

There has been a lot of electrons expended on the subject of the shootings at Virginia Tech on the 16th. I’ve got a few things to point out. Hopefully I’ll avoid a little of the hysteria.

First, let me up front say that the shootings were clearly the act of a highly disturbed mind. There were a plethora of warning signals, to be sure. The individual was a creepy, strange loner whose writings were so disturbing to his creative writing professor (who probably has read some really freaky stuff in her time) that he was recommended to the school shrink. Lots of text has been written on this kid´s alleged warning signs.

There have been some who have said that the school officials should have seen this coming and done something about our shooter before he became a shooter. That’s stupid and a typical trick of attempting to fix blame on the closest Deep Pocket (as a public school, that’s the Virginia Taxpayer who will pay the costs). Professors are paid to teach classes, not act as shrinks, substitute parents, cops, or anything else. Face it, there are a lot of disturbed kids at any given college campus, and an almost non-existent fraction kill anyone (other than themselves) much less 30+ classmates.

Where the school did screw up is in the area of the gap between the discovery of two corpses with gunshot wounds in a co-ed dorm and the 50+ shootings in the classroom building. In defense of the school, it was apparently a domestic disturbance (based on the information available at 0730) and those don’t typically turn into mass, indiscriminate shootings. Thousands of people get killed in domestic disturbances each year, and a negligible percentage of those killers go on to kill anyone else, much less lots of others.

There is, to be fair, no method of reliably alerting the entire campus to the existence of a shooter on campus. This isn’t an elementary school where the principal can get on the Public Address system and talk to everyone in the building. The only method I can think of would be to have announced it on all local radio and TV stations (on no notice, that’s a lot easier said than done) as well as having a campus-wide loudspeaker system. Second, precisely what would they have said? Remember, there were two dead and no one really knew WHY. All they knew was that the two were killed in a dorm. Some have said the administration should have cancelled classes—which would have guaranteed that if the killer was after a list of folks, he would have known to look for them in their dorm rooms. It’s easy to say that since we know NOW that the shooter decided to go into a classroom building and shoot everyone he came across, that would have been his plan from the beginning. Without more information, the administration had no good plan that couldn’t have been defeated by a smart, capable shooter. And if the shooter is a student at a first-rate institution like VPI, he’s probably not an idiot.

There is a lot of talk from foreigners and home-grown hoplophobic fools trying to pin this crime on America’s “gun culture” and the relative ease of acquiring firearms in this country.
First, the guy was South Korean. Granted that he was a resident of the US and had been for years. I’m unclear on how long ago it was that he moved to the US. But if we are going to blame “gun culture” then we have to admit that this fellow wasn’t fully integrated into American culture to begin with. Second, I have to question whether or not the United States has a “gun culture” at all. As near as I can tell, we have several variations thereof, running the gamut from ethnic urban criminal gun culture to Texan. Emphasis varies in each category—and it is undemonstrated that this individual was raised in any of them. Mass media-wise, there is a demonstrable hostility to firearm ownership shown by media and governmental elites—to include many “police chiefs” (read: politicians who supervise police departments).

Second, if the United State’s gun culture is to blame, how do we explain this sort of event in Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, or Germany? In Japan there was a mass school stabbing with 8 deaths perpetrated with a kitchen knife because it is that difficult to get a gun in Japan.

Further, how do we explain school killings like the massacre perpetrated in 1927 with bombs?

Third, the issue is not the weapon. The issue is a personality so damaged that he could kill two people—apparently on impulse. Then he spent two hours working the details of how to execute a plan to murder more--something he had been planning for a long time based on the information sent to the media, and secured the chains and ammunition necessary to execute it. Then, over the next thirty minutes he slaughtered 30 people, shot 20 more he likely expected to die. I suggest that the issue is the person. You can use what ever word your theology permits. I point to sin—or evil, to use another Politically Incorrect term. This man was so badly disconnected from his fellow human beings that he was mentally capable of going through this sequence. The focus on the weapon he used is a red herring. Had he not had a gun, he would have run amok with a baseball bat, or a knife, or a pitchfork, or a fire ax, etc, etc, etc. People who are incapable of seeing sin (because their epistemological views do not include that term) MUST focus on the weapon. Without seeing the sin, there is nothing to make this comprehensible.

Blaming the pistol is a bit of superstitious animism. It’s pre-scientific, pre-logical, and pre-Christian. There are no motivating spirits inhabiting weapons by their very nature. While any person is free by both Natural Law and the Constitution to hold what ever pagan beliefs they choose and hold them as they please, I am not interested in their hypocritical sermonizing nor do I believe that their theology should have anything to do with what I do with my body. And believe me; my self-defense is all about what I do with my body.

The animism shows up in the stupidity of the arguments of this crowd and their opposites on the pro-gun side. I’m even-handed here. Animism is not restricted to the gun controllers. The pro-gunners tend to frame their arguments fairly similarly. “If only someone in that building had a handgun.” The counter to that is “giving guns to everyone will lead to disaster.” The former is imprecisely phrased, the latter is a strawman. Let us examine them in detail.

The majority of the killings appear to have been (based on media reports) committed with a 9mm pistol. Most of these weapons have a 15 round magazine, plus or minus a few. That means he ran through at least four magazines of ammunition to generate 50+ casualties. Given the high number of fatalities and the generally pathetic quality of the 9mm round, it is highly likely (in my mind) that he hit with at least twice that many rounds. Let’s suggest that he hit with 50% of his shots, which is generous. That’s 200 rounds, fired over the space of something like a half an hour. That is 14 magazines. 13 times, he dropped a magazine and inserted a new one. There is no evidence to suggest that he was an experienced shooter, so I doubt he practiced quick-changing magazines. There were 13 times an aggressive person with nothing but his bare hands could have taken away that pistol and fed it to the little freak muzzle-first.

In the course of a half an hour, there were, logically speaking, numerous opportunities for a person to blindside the shooter, attack him with a knife or blunt object, and take the weapon away from him. An untrained person moving through a building alone with a single semi-automatic handgun of dubious stopping power is not God Almighty. Yet he seems to have had things pretty much to himself. Some students apparently complied with his demands to kneel on the floor so he could shoot them in a methodical fashion. The only known examples of heroism consisted in bracing doors so others could escape. While I understand that a gentleman of advanced years isn’t going to leap into hand to hand with a student, there were plenty of physically fit young males in the building capable of fighting back. No one did. A handgun would NOT have helped the situation because it would not provide what was most necessary, which was a mind capable of grasping the situation and acting with decisive violence.

A handgun is a tool. As such, it is only as good as the user. A stapler does not staple paper together. A hammer does not drive nails. And a chainsaw neither cuts down trees nor dismembers stunt doubles. These things are tools, and allow a human being to do these things. A handgun without a mind being it is a paperweight.

I submit that there were, statistically speaking, almost certainly Conceal Carry holders in the building who, in deference to a stupid policy, left their firearms at home. What they also left at home was their testicular fortitude, and ability to assess the situation from a tactical situation and act based on what they had rather than what they wish they had. They became slaves of the gun-fetishist mindset and turned their backs on the thousands of years our ancestors have been killing both food and threats without firearms.

The pro-gun lobby often forgets, when arguing for greater gun ownership and firearm education and so forth that having a gun is tertiary. Knowing how to use a gun is secondary. Having a (forgive my Army-ism here) a warrior ethos is primary. If you aren’t willing and psychologically able to use that handgun in defense of your life or another’s life, don’t spend the money on it. And a warrior will use whatever comes to his hands. We are not our tools. Our tools are not us.

You are not your fucking khakis, as they say in Fight Club.

What the pro-gun lobby means to say (but forgets to explicate when arguing at the bumper-sticker level) is that handgun ownership, combined with training, allows those psychologically capable of doing so to protect the rest of you. Not all folks with the right mindset are professional Soldiers or Law Enforcement Officers, and no Soldier or LEO is on-duty 24/7. Concealed carry allows the easiest method of controlled violence to be deployed immediately when a situation calls for it. That may be simply to show the weapon to the aggressor and let him know that he needs to find somewhere else to be. It all depends on the situation.

As for the argument that giving handguns to everyone will lead to disaster, the argument is simply fallacious because it assumes that anyone (excepting loons, and the pro-gun crowd has them) is arguing that everyone should have guns. Most people should not carry guns. See above argument—if you are not willing or able to use a gun to kill without hesitation should the situation call for it, you should not carry a gun. All that will accomplish is to get the gun taken away and used on you. However, those with a CHL are a self-selected bunch on a couple levels. They decided to go through the hassle of the paperwork and classes to get a CHL. They presumably care enough about it to learn at least the basics. They may not have the ability to use a weapon. But you never know until you’ve been in a situation where killing a fellow human being was the legal and moral thing to do.

Granted, I have argued in the past that anyone who can’t commit violence in the first person should not have the right to use their franchise to send me to commit violence at a great remove, and hence should not be permitted to vote. But that’s an argument for another day, and I don’t really believe that intellectually. It’s just a gut feeling.

The issue I have with the formula (no weapons, period) adopted by the school is not that it makes it "impossible" to defend yourself against an attacker. The issue is that a firearm is a magnificent tool, supremely suited to allowing those who are small, weak, or otherwise less physically capable to defend themselves from larger or stronger persons. It is a huge advantage, and handing that advantage to the attacker while withholding it from the defender is immoral.

But this was not the single point of failure. There were failures aplenty in that building. No good, objective analysis of the situation will ever be carried out. First, there were no good objective observers, second all analysis will be slanted for political purposes. Finally, it would be considered speaking poorly of the dead, who will aquire the roseate "hero" glow after a week or three. There were a few genuine heros, but most were not. They were victims, sheep slaughtered by a wolf. But that´s one of the diseases of American society, the inability to differentiate between heros and victims. No wonder we have too many of the latter and not enough of the former.

05 April 2007

Nancy and the headscarf

OK, so the Blogosphere is outraged, just outraged that Nancy Pelosi would wear a headscarf (incorrectly identified as a 'veil' in some of the more hysterical stories) in Syria.

Just kowtowing to those outdated Islamist notions of a woman's place, blahblahblah. . .

No headscarf in the marketplace.

No headscarf at the airport.

No headscarf while meeting dignitaries.

Just one headscarf photograph, which I'm sure you are all familiar with. It's headlining half the damn stories on the internet.

Turns out, unsurprisingly, that the headscarf was worn while touring an 8th century mosque.

Which Nancy Pelosi visited as a Catholic (I decline to speculate on how good a Catholic she is) interested in venerating the Head of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist. Good Christian saint, whose head has unfortunately been snagged by Muslims as well.

I'm an Orthodox Christian. I totally understand the idea of a woman covering her head in a place of worship while dealing with religious conservatives. There's a monastery where my wife wears a headscarf, and no visitors are permitted who don't have one. What's the difference?

Oh, yeah, it's not something to make political hay over.

Whether you agree with Nancy's motives and agenda for this visit to Syria or not, bash her or laud her for those. Not for a single act of respect to a place that was a holy site when your Western European ancestors could barely manage stone buildings--and the best of those built with pieces stolen from classical Mediterranean churches. Nor for choosing to visit this site to venerate a relic held in high regard by both Christians and Muslims.

04 April 2007

IBM did what?

IBM offered to donate 45 million bucks worth of translator stuff.

Now, you could look at this and say, "Well, there are two competing vendors whose stuff is under trial. This is just IBM's way of getting their foot in the door."

You could also look at this and say, "Damn, $45 million out the door, no strings attached? That's unheard of."

Apparently, the DoD isn't even sure if this is legal. Hopefully, it is. Automatic translators aren't a fix, but they are better than nothing. And further, it would lay the groundwork for future translators for other weird parts of the world we get deployed to. I mean seriously, you can beat on the Army for not having enough Arabic linguists, because a high percentage of the world population of crazy assholes speak Arabic, but when you consider that we are deployed to nearly 200 countries world-wide, how many languages can we realistically keep current skills in?

Anyway, good for IBM. I hope this results in a usable product getting down to the troop level. I doubt this will end up in IBM cornering the market on military translating machines, and it's not that big a market anyway. :)

On the subject of cool things, there's something indefinably British about this blog that is being used to coordinate protests outside the Iranian Embassy.

A little self-congratulatory bullshit

I've been Noticed lately. . .

In a lot of places.

The Thunder Run links to me occasionally.

A couple of my better posts have seen daylight on Veteran-American Voices, the Consul-at-Arms, and once, I even got quoted on Argghhh! and let me tell you, that had me buzzing for hours.

So it happened a few days ago that I received a link to this post wherein the Gray Dog declared me a "Thinking Blogger".

He should see my Livejournal, and he'd revoke it. Hehe.

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote. (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).
What he says about me:

This is a very intelligent, edgy and brash BLOG written by a current active duty soldier “Just a Decurion” with contributions by his military spouse, “A soldier’s Girl.” There is plenty of raw, in your face reality here, mixed with a great deal of history and excellently linked references that support the articles. You may not always agree, but it will make you think.

Edgy and brash. I like Edgy and Brash. That's going to be my new line up there under The Marching Camp. :) Anyway, my five linkages do have one problem. The first person I would nominate has already been nominated, Rurik of Veteran-American Voices. I was totally flattered to find that this gentleman had thought of me as his first choice and it would be cheating to tag him after the above-linked post. So, in no particular order:

1. Tigerhawk. If I'm jonesing for a topic to scribble on about, Tigerhawk has one. He also provides the links that go with his commentary in a fashion which inspired my tendency to attempt to cite source. I may not agree with him, but he'll provide both a worthwhile opinion and the start of citations to allow me to research it better.

2. Grim's Hall. I'm sort of cheating, as Rurik nominated him too. But in my own defense, Gray Dog didn't nominate him so I don't consider him completely off-limits. He addresses topics both familiar to me and unfamiliar, and I rarely come away from a post without a feeling that I have learned a little bit at least.

3. Siggie, Carl, and Alfred. He's a little odd, very flippant sometimes, and occasionally pontificates a bit much for my taste. But he's got a lot of good stuff to say, especially if you sit down and think about it beyond the obvious.

I have more nominees in this vein, but it would be presumptuous of me to nominate the likes of Bill Whittle or Victor Davis Hanson. And nominating my Beloved wife's LJ would open me to accusations of nepotism. So I'll pick a couple different nominees.

4. Sophia's Wisdom? is kind of my Sanity Check blog. When I get too wrapped around the axle about politics or international affairs, Sophia reminds me what's really important in life: Your kids, your spouse, your God, and not much more.

5. Ali Eteraz. Oftentimes strange and surreal. He also has Eteraz.org which is a Muslim reformist site. But this is his personal website, and for that reason it is important to me. You see, the War on Terror has only a few possible endgames. One of them is surrender and destruction of the West. Another is the sterilization of the majority of the Middle East by nuclear fire. Ali represents a hope for a way that doesn't require either. He reminds me that the Other is not a faceless entity, but a mass of human beings. Besides, you can't help but love a Muslim who identifies with Drizzt Do'Urden more strongly than he ever did with Mohammed.

Nancy and Bashar

OK, let's make one thing clear.

I don't particularly like Bashar Assad.

I really don't like his 'associates' in the Hizbollah.

I'm not sure visiting him for a photo opportunity is a Good Idea [tm].

But let's imagine this is the Ideal World, wherein the petty partisan bickering could be set aside in favor of advancing American interests in the world.

Imagine, if you will, Nancy Pelosi wearing a Good Cop hat. Imagine her taking dear old Bashar aside and saying, "Look, George is a lunatic. He wants to turn the Air Force loose on you and make what Bill did to Serbia look like a walk in the park. I'm your friend. I understand that you have legitimate security concerns in the region. But you have to give me something. You have to get your buddies to turn loose those Israeli soldiers and you have to crack down on those rogue elements within your government which might be supplying weapons and cash to the insurgents in Iraq. You have to give a little to get a little. Otherwise, there's no controlling George."

It could happen. And if it did, we'd never know until long after Bashar was out of power, and Nancy retired to write her memoirs.

On the other hand, I just am not that optimistic.

03 April 2007

Iran, Hooah, Good God Y'all, What is it good for?

Absolutely nothin' . . .

Iran is out of their ever-lovin' tiny rabid minds.

I'mafrootloop, the all-around wuuuunderful guy who runs that ramshackle little country is in what we Astute Observers of international affairs like to call "One hell of a pickle."

The UN dropped a new Sanctions resolution on them.

This doesn't mean much in and of itself, but what I find interesting are the comments from the Russian ambassador afterwards.

VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said he had voted in favour of the resolution, which had been the result of protracted negotiation and complicated tradeoffs. He was happy to note that the resolution was more balanced and coherent than the initial text. The constraints introduced by the resolution were aimed at eliminating IAEA’s concerns, and were in no way aimed at punishing Iran. The context of resolution 1747 was unambiguous, in that it left open the door to negotiation. Of key significance was the provision that, if Iran suspended all of its enrichment activities, the resolution’s measures would also be suspended.

The resolution’s measures were also imposed in accordance with Article 41 of the United Nations Charter and precluded the possibility of the use of force, he said. Any further steps would also be exclusively peaceful ones. A solution could only be achieved through diplomatic efforts. Also, the resolution did not alter the provisions of paragraph 15 of resolution 1737. In other words, the activity authorized by the Council in the area of trade could continue.

Noting that he fully supported the statement by the ministers of the group of six, he said it was clear that much would depend on Iran’s actions. He hoped the Government would take into account the Council’s unanimous adoption of the resolution, analyse the positive content of the group’s statement and chose to cooperate with IAEA on the basis of dialogue and mutual respect on any other outstanding issues. Such an approach would make it possible for the Council to put unresolved problems behind it, and create a situation in which Iran, as it developed a peaceful nuclear programme, would be viewed as any other party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Now, you or I would view that as a pretty bland statement. But you must remember that we are talking the language of diplomats, and that the Russian Ambassador had just voted against his nation's erstwhile. . . 'ally' implies mutual cooperation and I think that's a bit much. But the relations between Iran and Russia had been extremely friendly for a while now. That's the next best thing to a public insult that would be offered in the halls of the UN.

What I read is, "Thanks for paying cash for the reactor parts, but if you don't stop picking a fight with the Americans and the IAEA, we aren't going to stick our necks out to protect you."

Meanwhile, the drama with the British sailors enters another week, and I still don't know what crack I'manutjob was smoking to let things get this far. At least they have decided not to hold show trials. One theory is that the Iranians think they could be swapped for the Irbil Five.

Personally, I'm not sure of that theory. The Iranians have been losing ground in Iran since al-Sadr decided to flee Iraq and the Mahdi Militia has been largely suppressed. While it still exists, it no longer controls territory and neighborhoods. The so-called 'Irbil Five' are merely the best known Iranian agents who have been killed or captured--and good luck actually tracking those numbers down. Conducting a high-risk operation in order to secure the release of those five sounds stupid on the face of it. And make no mistake, this was a stupidly high-risk operation. If Tony Blair had found his Inner Winston Churchill (or Margret Thatcher) Iran could have found itself staring down the spectre of combined US/UK retaliation raids trashing the IRGC naval assets such as happened during the 1980s (linked to in previous posting on this topic). That's something to keep in mind--this was extremely dangerous to the Iranian government, which already has a lot of irons in the fire. Iran is fighting a proxy war in Lebanon, another in Iraq, there are a number of US carriers parked within striking distance of their southern coast, and the Iranian military cannot effectively prevent naval or air attacks on their homeland. There's even a rumor that the Israelis are killing Iranian nuclear scientists.

Using British sailors for a hostage swap hasn't even been suggested by the Iranian government yet. Personally, I feel that avenue should be pursued by the British government from a different angle--to wit, that the British government should scoop up a dozen or so Iranians (diplomats or whatever), accuse them of spying for the Iranian government, and offer to trade them for the sailors. But then again, I'm an asshole.

Mario Loyola is convinced that the United States is preparing for air strikes against Iran over the whole nuclear program thing. He thinks the mullahs grabbed the sailors to protect against this contingency, which they see coming as a direct result of their effective repudiation of the NPT. I personally am unconvinced of this theory. For one thing, the Iranians can't be that stupid. It just doesn't make sense, and I am not sure that the mullahs actually want to provoke a war which would endanger their rule of Iran.

They thrive on crisis, which allows them to effectively silence domestic dissent. A war like the one with Iran, with lots of heroic martyrs to eulogize and and no real danger that the Iraqi military would ever do anything to push through the trench lines and end the war was fine with them.

But a war with America? A war where we would be dropping bombs on ministry buildings in Tehran? That didn't work out so well for Milosevic, not because the bombing destroyed his government, but because his people were sick of being bombed and being international pariahs.

That is one reason why the United States Navy has not had any sailors kidnapped by the Iranian government. Another is that the United States Navy still has an ethos of 'roaring in and sinking everything in sight' which the Royal Navy does not.

Tigerhawk gives some interesting speculations on the seizure. With him, I can agree that the stated issue, that of British sailors in alleged Iranian water, is obviously a smokescreen. I tend to agree that in as much as it does make any sense, then the seizure was quite possibly an attempt to derail any chance of compromise in the near term and possibly longer. The IRGC is not, do remember, a military organization. It is fundamentally a paramilitary force of religious fanatics and terrorists who don't really understand how a real military operates. It is, to me, telling that the IRGC naval corps, not the Iranian Navy, was engaging in this adventurism. They think like terrorists and thugs, and act accordingly. It probably didn't occur to the IRGC folks who authorized the operation what sort of hell the USN/USAF/RN/RAF could drop on their heads because they operate with a terrorist's fixed belief in the restraint of his enemy. Terrorists believe their enemies will use restraint, or they could not operate. We do, thanks to a legacy of basic fundamental decency, operate with restraint. Whether we should do so is not a topic for this essay.

But whether I'mapottedplant was in on the planning stages or not, the Iranian government has run with the ball the IRGC has handed them. Not sure what their objectives are at this point. I'm also a bit unsure as to what we really ought to do about it at this moment as well. What I'd be amused to see would be an op to go get those guys back, with some cooperation between Delta and SAS. I'd also like to see the SAS take the (public) lead on this. It would do the relationship between the US and UK some good for some Limeys to take the lead on shooting bad guys and taking their own guys home. It also wouldn't hurt the British position in the world for them to demonstrate that even if they are a has-been power, you don't kidnap their sailors.