Postmodern classic?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More on the 'Surge' and 'COIN'

My 'dashboard'- the tabs on Mozilla- is getting full, so it must be time to post.

COIN- The field of Counterinsurgency (COIN) is becoming well-debated. New experts and notables are emerging. Ralph Peters writes a quick column on the Joint Army-USMC COIN Field Manual that is being distributed at the moment, with it's updates based on the experience of the last few years. An important omission noted by Peters is the role of the media in Information Operations, a topic expertly covered by the Belmont Club's Richard Fernandez, from Australia. Another notable Australian coming to the fore is counter-terrorism expert David Kilcullen, whose articles have graced the numerous forums and publishings to which I subscribe, covering this very topic. An impressive fellow.

Surge- The debate in Washington over the 'Surge' is getting heated. People need to wake up and realize there is no substitute for patience and resolve; no 'silver bullet' for the Iraq problem (or even X-51 kinetic cruise missile). Reuel Marc Gerecht in the NYT notes very clearly the underlying problems of aggressive operations in the Shia community. We do want to take out Sadr, but the timing has to be right. Jed Babbin, former SecDef and a reliable voice of military advocacy, articulates the major problems of the 'Surge'. As readers know, I'm quite lukewarm over this whole 'Surge' thing- but doing something is better than nothing. I wouldn't go so far as to call it the 'latest bad idea for Iraq' as Fred Kaplan does in a recent piece for Slate, but it's clearly a reactionary plan rather than a long-term solution. It's a good thing the Service Chiefs are standing up for this, because a mindless surge without a comprehensive review of existing policy would be counterproductive, especially due to the temporary nature of it's execution. Once again, I'll recommend the 'Westhawk solution'.

Politics at large- The illegal immigration debate continues, here is a classic economic argument showing the effects of cheap labor on the domestic economy, even if the rhetoric is a little heated. It's one of the important considerations when looking at the overall effects of people coming into the US. On politics there is an interesting dynamic between Pelosi and Hillary these days, in light of the developing positioning for the 2008 elections. Another demonstration that the 24-hour election cycle is with us to stay. Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe notes that we hold Iran's rhetoric to a different standard than the UN does to say... Bikindi of Rwanda. Mary Eberstadt writes a long article, not an easy read but very interesting, on the role of scapegoats and victims in the American consciousness that affect the news cycle and our political perceptions. From my perspective, it's just another example of how the role of the American underdog has been undermined by the idea and centrality of the victim that plays such a central role in social debate these days.

Humor- Yesterday I linked to David Zucker as his return to the political debate is graced with his version of the Iraq Study group. Youtube has had some great ones, stumbled across these MadTV excerpts- their version of English-speaking Al Jazeera is great ('Death to America'), and they have another funny one of Iraqi protesters worth seeing. But whatever you do, in preparation for the Holiday season, the Onion has a guide for 'Responsible Holiday Drinking'.

Happy Holidays to all- have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Military 'Plan for Iraq'

A few things going on. Some are debating over Powell's remarks from Sunday, and I think that's notable as well- although you won't find this individual gushing over the former Secretary of State's credentials and experience, in fact I am quite prepared to view them in a much less positive light. The Washington Post has had some good articles recently highlighting the military opposition to radical changes in Iraq policy.

But the most important over the past few days has been this article on TCS Daily about plans for Iraq. I've been trying to write something like this the past few weeks but this is much better than I've been able to manage. It is the cornerstone of military efficiency with clear end goals, realistic calculations and reserved ambitions. I have been reading his blog, Westhawk, for quite some time, and I would recommend it highly.

What are the chances that something this concise and easily implemented could be considered in our current government? Hmmmm....

UPDATE: The Zucker Youtube contribution. If you gotta say it, humor is best.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Iran, the ISG, updates

Not a lot going on these days, enjoying the Holiday season for a little while. Sorry I haven't written anything recently, but there's really not much to report for me anyhow. Just my occasional rants on politics and international relations, haha... nothing new.

The Iraq Studies Group report has proven to be a complete farce. Where to begin? The focus on Israel as the way to peace in Iraq? Asking Iran and Syria for help? Just a brief perusal of this report illuminates everything that is wrong with the career diplomat field exemplified by men like Baker, willing to settle for mediocrity. Some abstract concept of 'we should all get along' if we just don't upset anyone's self esteem crap. It makes one a little more skeptical when we hear of Baker's financial ties to Saudi Arabian consulting companies, his son's employment as an agent representing Saudi interests in America. Not to mention his own participation in the creation of this current wave of ethnic and sectarian violence- it was his advice as Secretary of State for Bush 1 after the first Gulf War to not interfere with Saddam stamping out the Kurds and Shia with chemical weapons after Bush exhorted them to rise up. How do you think that would make you feel about Americans if your people had tried to change things but were totally abandoned by calculating politicians like Baker? With that context we should be happy they listen to us at all. Respect is earned by blood and effort- such as we are undergoing now- not by the highminded 'dictat' that make up the bulk of this man's work. Despite the problems we face today, there would be many more if we rapidly withdrew. The centrality of Israel to Middle Eastern peace is a red flag to those who discuss the influence of 'Arabists' in the State Department. Don't get me wrong, Israel plays a big role in the region- as a crutch for those who would maintain the Muslim victim mentality. We have enough of that in this country, do we really want to make that our foreign policy?

Another example of why consensus building is the tools of the weak- a good leader must be able to make decisive actions in the face of opposition, yet be able to back it up. Well, W has done some of that- it's easy to talk about what he hasn't done or has yet to do, but he's at least out there doing it. The Keane/Kagan program could be positive as well, although I favor the military plan which has been hinted in it's portrayal that more troops are not necessary, but a change in focus is. But decisiveness in action and a cohesive political justification is more important- I'll rehash my favorite Patton quote that 'a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow'. Because everyone is watching, and we all know that Iran is next if the situation doesn't change soon. The Middle East is no bed of roses and we must have a plan, as the Washington Post clearly expresses. New generals coming in, or more accurately 'back', to Iraq are well versed in this problem, such as LTG Odierno. There's an interesting debate at Blackfive about the military options of attacking Iran I've dabbled in. I think we have time to focus on Iraq before that opens up, but if it gets down to it and we have to go in- so be it. Like I said there, my conclusion is based on the negative assumption that: as bad as things are now, they could be a whole lot worse (especially if a bunch of nukes were involved).

Ah well. In other areas, economic negotiations in China are continuing like usual- characterized by an almost complete ineffectiveness. Rumsfeld is finally stepping out of the way- I liked the guy, but it was time to go, and he left office with his characteristic articulation in identifying the problems of the day (the interview is definitely worth reading). Less comforting is the idea of ongoing investigations in the next Congress. But hey- it's their bag baby. Even though I would've voted Allen were I in Virginia, I think watching Webb make people squirm on both sides of the aisle alone will make it worth watching.

Life never fails to be interesting. Should have some time to train in the meantime. Happy Holidays to all!