Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Good Week that Ends a Bad Year

For the first time in what feels like ages there is finally some good news for the forces of good in the world. Yes, each of these four events requires follow up and will produce ample cause to worry in the future. Nevertheless, we’ve been moving backwards for so long (since April 2004 I’d say) that it feels like a major cause of celebration just to see us going in the right direction again, regardless of how limited that shift may in fact be. Sort of like the United States after Antietam and Guadalcanal, or the British after El Alamein and Mafeking (throw a rare one in for you). The four pieces of news are:

Saddam’s execution. This finally closes a dark chapter in Iraqi, Arab, and world history. No longer can the Sunnis hope and the Shiites/Kurds fear that the Democrats will reinstall Saddam "to make Iraq a better place to live". This has an unknown level of practicality since we have no idea if or how the Iraqi people will react to the releasing of Saddam's ever present grip on their lives. Nonetheless it is a moral victory that will at least remind the other brutal tyrants of the region that it can happen to them (even though we’ve given them every reason not to fear it).

Somalia. The
Ethiopian military has thoroughly defeated the Islamic Courts Union in only a week’s time (I do declare they deserve a fourth cheer). Ethiopia has reminded us what a professional military can do to Islamist rabble militias when it is fully unleashed. Hopefully Washington and Jerusalem were watching and took notes. Whichever rotten government takes hold in Somalia next now knows not to work with the Islamists, unless they desire the same fate. Ethiopia has also placed itself in a postion to heavily influence the next government in the right direction since it owes its existence to Ethiopia. If Ethiopia takes advantage of this they can further teach the US and Israel the art of power politics we've forgotten.

Iran. According to The Wall Street Journal, Washington is beginning a campaign to push for tough non-UN economic sanctions on Iran. This follows the UN imposing a series of wrist slapping sanctions on Iran itself. I’m not sure why this new sanctions push would be any more successful than the last ones, but Washington is doing something for a change even if it is pathetically tiny. I shutter to think that I would consider this good news, but the Iran crises is being managed so badly by Washington that I’ll take what I can get these days.

Japan. This news story states that Japan recently researched the steps needed to develop nuclear weapons. If true this would mean Japan is finally throwing off the last vestiges of post-World War II de-normalization. A normal Japan is one of the most, if not the most, important requirements for a stable free world in the 21st Century (old post about it). The sooner they become “normal” the better, and from the looks of it we may not have long to wait. If confirmed and followed up on this would qualify as the best news of the year, but being unconfirmed it'll have to go at the bottom of the best news of the last week of 2006, one of its few good weeks.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Lesson from History: Everyone Hates a Winner (unless they need him)

Early on in my independent study of history I noticed a trend in global power politics that I thought would be of concern for America’s future. What seemed to happen time and time again was that when a single nation would emerge indisputably victorious from a great conflict, most of the enemy and neutral nations would turn on this power while allies would remain neutral at the commencement of the next great conflict. Though it was only 1995 and we were in the middle of the halcyon days of the mid 90’s this indicated trouble ahead for America when she would inevitably be called back to fight (sorry, at the time I didn’t know what email was much less have a blog so I can’t reference this).

This trend is most notable in the wars of the European balance of power era starting around 1700. Prior to that, and in the first decades of the 19th and 20th Centuries, there was a single power in Europe so great that all the wars were focused on restraining this power (Spain first, then France, and lastly Germany). These wars (e.g. Nine Years War then War of the Spanish Succession, Wars of the various Coalitions, and World War I and II) were mostly repeats of the last war as far as alliances go.

With the War of the Spanish Succession and the introduction of a rough balance of power in Europe this changed. The war itself was fought by Britain, Holland, Austria, and various German and Italian states against France and Spain. This is the first war which left no one dominating power against which the rest of Europe could align. It was also the first war that left only a single true victor. When the war ended in 1714, Austria gained Spain’s possessions in Italy and the Mediterranean while the other belligerents received nothing for their trouble. This laid the groundwork for the resentment which would build and engulf Austria in 26 years.

Except for France, who fought a war against Austria in the 1730's, the other European powers waited like vultures for the day when Maria Theresa succeeded her father to the Hapsburg throne in Vienna. That day finally came in 1740 and they didn’t waste any time in taking advantage of the opportunity to grab some land. France, Bavaria, Saxony, Poland, and most importantly Prussia started the War of the Austrian Succession with dreams of partitioning the Austrian Empire. Only Britain, worried as always about maintaining the European balance of power supported Austria. However, Britain did so only with subsidies, colonial action, and threats. In the end, after 8 costly years of war, again only one power would see any gain. This time it was Prussia and its upstart king Frederick II who added the rich Austrian province of Silesia to his realm.

Frederick the Great was no fool and understood his fait after being the sole victor in 1748. As he expected, by 1756 Austria had formed an alliance with France, Russia, Poland, and the Holy Roman Empire. As before these powers planned to partition the rising Prussian state amongst themselves. Also like before Britain (along with Hannover) was Prussia’s sole ally after the Diplomatic Revolution. This time though they did field an army of British and German soldiers who fought against France in western Germany. Following the new tradition, there was a single winner after the Seven Years War, Great Britain. While all of the other belligerents gained nothing for their efforts, Britain annexed much of the French overseas empire following the war.

The lopsided British victory of 1763 was the straw that broke the camels back for most of Europe. Perfidious Albion hiding on her island behind the Royal Navy had always avoided the deprivations of war. The other Maritime states of Europe especially bided their time. Their moment came a scant 12 years later when the American Revolution broke out and threatened Britain’s grip on her most productive colony. Though it was understandable that France and to a lesser extent Spain would take such an opportunity, even the Dutch who had been protected by Britain for a century joined in. Prussia, the country that owed Britain the most and could do the most to draw off French resources, indirectly supported the colonists. Most of the rest of Europe would join the League of Armed Neutrality which limited Britain’s ability to fight in the colonies via economic means. Except for the loss of the American colonies, Britain would actually win against every belligerent and further expand her empire.

This is the last of the balance of power wars since shortly after the American Revolution came the French Revolution and a 23 year series of wars to restrain France. The mid 19th Century “diplomatic wars” do not fit as well within this framework since they were much more limited. To an extent it could be said that though every power except France benefited in 1815, Russia was one of the biggest benefactors. When she tried to gain further territory, the British, French, Sardinians, and Turks fought to prevent it in the Crimean War of 1854-56. After Prussia’s string of three triumphal victories over Hannover, Austria, and France Bismarck knew Europe would focus on Germany and it of course did. Again though, Germany quickly grew so great in power that it was no longer balance of power but stopping a country with the power to dominate Europe by itself. This required 2 world wars and the intervention of the United States to accomplish.

World War II ended with 5 countries claiming victory and major gains for two of them. This developed into a 50 year balance of power conflict that of course ended in 1990. At the conclusion of the Cold War there was but one victor, the United States. Russia was humiliated and driven back to the borders she held in the 1600’s. Japan and Europe both fell into the economic doldrums and saw their non-military based diplomacy shorn of its value. China gained little from the end of the Cold War. A Russian adversary and American ally flipped to an American adversary and Russian ally. It doesn’t take much brainpower to realize which was the better deal. Smaller countries all over the world lost the economic life support they had grown accustomed to during the Cold War Superpower courtship. Only America saw her position in the world irrefutably improved.

This I believed would be the core of the resentment for which we would have to watch out in the coming years (that is today). We have seen it manifest itself in many ways over the years. The obvious desire by Europe and others that the Euro destroy the dollar based trading system and they hope damage the US economy. The growing efforts by countries like China, Russia, France, Iran, and Brazil to replace our influence in their regions with their own. The UN and other transnational groups (like Kyoto) renewed attempts to redistribute our diplomatic, economic, and military power in the hopes of leveling the playing field for weaker countries. I think also that this has also shown itself in the difficulties we are having rousing the world to face down Islamic extremism. Except for our Anglo brethren and Japan, most of our allies today are those who need us to protect them from Russia, China, or the Islamists. This is much like Britain needed Austria and then Prussia to help fight France regardless of their sole victory.

The resentment in these challenges is palpable. As mentioned in a previous post, most people who oppose us only seem upset that we aren’t doing what they want or helping them directly. We could be spending a hundred billion dollars a year in Mexico Mexicans gripe, implementing the US economy devastating Kyoto Protocols Europeans grumble, overthrowing the Ayatollahs Iranians complain, lining the pockets of Kofi Annan and other UN staffers and friends the UN protests, or building fire stations in New York Democrats charge, etc. Nevertheless, the clear goal of all this is to drop us down a peg and allow others to divide up our power and influence. It is nothing new or exceptional and should not be surprising. It is however dishonorable, distressing, and for many countries counterproductive. Such is human nature, as it has always been, and as it will always be. Though we should hope for better out of humanity, we cannot expect and plan for anything else.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Three Cheers for Ethiopia

According to this and other reports, Ethiopia is taking on a much bigger role in the current Somali civil war. This is excellent news that shows at least some people in the world take the threat of Islamic extremism seriously and are ready to contest its expansion. All of Somalia falling to the Islamic Courts Union would obviously be very bad. Al Qaeda has had a long relationship with Somalia and the last thing the world needs is a Talibanesque failed state controlling shipping through the Red Sea (and thereby the Suez Canal). Just as Afghanistan served as a safe haven for terrorists operating throughout the world, so too would Somalia.

While we apparently aren't willing to act to prevent such a scenario from developing, it is heartening to see that one country is. Ethiopia may be very poor and of limited capabilities but it has had a long history of dealing with expansionist Muslims. As a Christian state since the 4th Century and the only one in the region for 1,000 years, it was frequently at war with the Muslims who surround it. As one of the countries to be sold out prior to World War II, the Ethiopians also know all too well how far Western democracies will go to get a few more years of “peace”. They know who the first target will be after a radical Islamist Somalia radicalizes other Muslims in the region. They also know what the West will be willing to do to keep those radical Muslims away from us for a few more years.

As with the Israelis in Lebanon, when the Ethiopian soldiers go forth to fight the ICU, they are fighting our fight also. We will benefit greatly if Ethiopia can halt the spread of the Islamic radicals in the Horn of Africa. As such I can only hope that we are giving Ethiopia our full support in this endeavor. We don’t need to contribute large numbers of soldiers but only maybe a few hundred of the Special Forces soldiers stationed in Djibouti. That and a billion dollars in aid/weapons would be enough to help Ethiopia defeat the ICU. Of course Europe should help also, but seeing as they haven’t sent the promised aid and combat capable soldiers to Afghanistan I wouldn’t expect any support from that corner. Especially not when European politicians realize they can score political points with Muslim voters by opposing Ethiopia.

Again I can only really, really hope that we are doing something to support Ethiopia. If we are going to win this war in the long-term, we need to get other countries in the world who are directly threatened by Islamic extremists to start taking action against it. So far most are willing to let the US largely bear the cost of the enterprise. As the country that is the least directly threatened long-term by Islamic extremism (by which I mean we, unlike even Europe, don’t face the risk of Sharia law here if we don’t win), this inequitable distribution of cost is becoming harder and harder to sell to the American people. Ethiopia has shown they will take up the burden; we need to make it as easy for them as possible. The last thing I would hope is that Ethiopia will prosecute its campaign with much more vigor than the either us or the Israelis have so far shown.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Opportunities Present Themselves in Iran

On December 15th there were municipal elections in Iran in which Ahmadinejad and his allies lost heavily. How Ahmadinejad responds to this defeat will be very important to us and the world. There’s basically three ways he could go, he could moderate in response to the electoral slap in the face, pretend it never happened, or realize he needs to move faster before he himself is tossed out. Of course, no one except Ahmadinejad (and maybe not even him) knows which way he is inclined towards. As such we should definitely be watching the country a lot more closely and prepare to pounce at the most opportune time. No, by the way, I don’t think we will by any stretch but anyways.

The first option for Ahmedinejad in response to the election is to tone down his rhetoric and reverse some policies. This is the traditional route in Western democracies. Bill Clinton and George W Bush have both done it after their respective losses in Congressional elections. Although the article linked to above mentions this as a likely outcome, I don’t think it is. Iran is not in any way shape or form a Western democracy. Ahmadinejad is in no way shape or form a Western democratic style leader. To a demagogue, the rejection of the people only doubles the desire the press on by any means necessary. If the people require a few more eggs must be broken to get to the omelet, then so be it.

I seriously doubt Ahmadinejad is reading up on Burke and Locke right now. Nevertheless, any opening by the Iranian government could allow real deals to be made with Teheran. That is deals that will ultimately undermine the theocracy like allowing trade unions, or a freer press, or the right to protest. The Ayatollahs would be very unlikely to agree, but it would resonate with the Iranian people who have just felt a little empowered by Ahmadinejad stepping back in the face of their votes. Even though the current government in Washington would never press for such deals doesn’t mean we couldn’t or shouldn’t.

Another option that Ahmadinejad could choose is to simply ignore the election results. In this case he’ll simply go on as before regardless of what the Iranian people wish. Nothing much would change if he did so except the growing anger of an already angry populace. This would continue the current muddle that we currently find ourselves. Unlike the other options where Iran makes our decision for us, in this situation we would have an Iranian government just repressive enough to prevent any peaceful subversion, an Iranian people not quite angry enough to take matters into their own hands, and an Iranian government not quite crazy enough for most Westerners to accept the need to take more forceful action against it.

The ultimate problem this poses for policy makers is that any course of action would preclude the other open possibilities. Military or economic action would likely eliminate the subversion option, the subversion option requires no military or economic action, etc. This leaves us simultaneously with the greatest number of options and least amount of will to choose one. Eventually, Ahmadinejad’s time would near an end which would move us to option 3 later rather than sooner.

The third route Ahmadinejad could take in light of the election results would be to accelerate his efforts. When you add to the picture that the Ayatollahs are trying to move up the next presidential election (Dec. 10 story) to get rid of Ahmadinejad as soon as possible, I think this one is entirely plausible though not the most likely. Assuming he actually believes it, he is on a quest to hasten the return of the 12th Imam. The Ayatollahs rule only until the 12th Imam returns, so who are they to stop his return by throwing out Ahmadinejad? While it is no means certain that Ahmadinejad would win a show down with the Ayatollahs, that doesn’t mean he knows that. Even if he does know that he can’t win it doesn’t mean he would simply stand down. It reminds me of a Biblical verse about the devil’s last days on earth before the end times,

“But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with wrath, because he knows that his time is short."

Ahmadinejad could vent his wrath internally or externally. On the internal side he could attempt a coup and/or start a civil war. While his power base may not be as powerful on paper as the Ayataollahs, he could still make it bloody. Should the army stay neutral, the Pasdaran split, and the Basij support Ahmadinejad he would even have a good chance of winning. Should only the Basij support him he would still be in good shape despite its lack of training and weapons. He would have at least 1 million gunmen controlling the countryside against half a million or so not well trained or equipped regular soldiers. This would open too many opportunities to count for us. Especially if the army goes neutral we could support it and the people against both Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs. Or we could support the Ayatollahs in exchange for them giving up political power (but keeping their lives and wealth). If all else fails we could let the two sides exhaust each other and then put pressure on the victor to change. Should he start an external war then we can destroy the theocracy with it being clear to the Iranians that we didn’t start or ask for the war. Again this may even come later, when it becomes clear he won’t win the next election (his last one being because turnout was low overall but very high amongst his Basij supporters). Either way, If Ahmadinejad truly wants, as he claims, his “Allahdammerung”, then we’ll eventually have no choice but to give it to him.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Russia Continues to Win with 19th Century Tactics

Due to the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (greatest game ever in my expert opinion) this will be a shorter post. According to the Monday Wall Street Journal it appears that Russia is using free trade as a weapon in their quest for global power and influence. They are doing this despite the fact that it flies in the face of everything the State Department believes about geopolitics. Oh well, not like it’s the only thing the internationalists at State are getting wrong.

This case in particular involves meat exports to Russia. Russia has banned meat imports from Europe on the pretext that the EU cannot protect against unsafe meat from Romania and Bulgaria. Russia is allowing meat imports from certain countries (Germany and Denmark so far) who Russia says will break EU policy and protect Russia from the scourge that is Romanian pork. However, since the countries that Russia is allowing to export meat are “friends of Russia”, and agriculture is a major sore spot in Europe, many suspect Russia is simply playing divide and conquer amongst the Euro states. Those EU members who do not want their precious agricultural sector hurt will have to tow the Russian line or see their agricultural exports go to another member who will.

Russia has also used energy exports as a weapon in international affairs. Most notably they did so by shutting off exports to punish Europe and the Ukraine for the defeat of the pro-Russian faction in the Ukrainian national elections. They have used the price of natural gas to punish former Soviet republics who want to leave Russia’s sphere-of-influence. The Poles are being punished for their anti-Moscow positions by having a new pipeline built along a more expensive route through the Baltic instead of overland through Poland.

I'm not even going to delve into Russia’s theft of foreign investments in Russian energy projects, the Kremlin’s assassination campaign against critics, and Moscow’s open support for anti-Western regimes. The Russians are advancing their interests in the world, punching well above their weight, and playing us as fools (and bravo to the Russians on all accounts). They are, as one State Department official said, “acting like it’s the 19th Century”. Of course such behavior is practiced by all countries towards non-normal (or rogue) nations, but part of the concept of the new-age globalized world is that such behavior is extinct amongst normal countries. We’re all supposed to trade freely, get rich together, and live happily ever after. As the above shows not all normal countries agree. Russia by her 21st Century behavior and Europe by their 21st Century acquiescence are showing that “19th Century” geopolitics are still around. One day we’ll also realize this, hopefully before the Beijing-Moscow Axis has won the current round of the Great Game.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

More Brilliance from the Foreign Policy Realists, Just Sell-Out the Jews

This is too rich. In exchange for no longer supporting terrorists killing innocent civilians for the purpose of sending Iraq into chaos, Syria and the foreign policy “realists” want Israel to give up the Golan Heights. But what does Israel having the Golan Heights have to do with Syria helping Sunnis and Shiites kill each other in Iraq? Nothing of course. It’s just a real world power grab, the very kind liberals claim is extinct. It’s also one that liberals who supposedly oppose such behavior wish to reward and thereby encourage. So to stop the Arabs from killing each other, we just need to hand over the Jews. Well, I guess that would stop the intra-Arab killing, at least until all the Jews are dead. Yet again, as Menachem Begin would say, “Goyim kill Goyim and they come to hang the Jew”.

You’ve got to hand it to Syria and Iran, they are playing the so-called “sole superpower” like the weak willed fools we seem so intent on being. We could of course overthrow both governments in a matter of days. Unlike Iraq though, we wouldn’t be there to protect the former oppressors from the tender mercies of the people they for so long oppressed and they know this as well as we do. However, due to our idiotic actions over the last 3 years they no longer fear it. The summer of 2003 was our chance to hand down marching orders to the petty-dictators of the region. Instead, at the behest of the UN, Europe, and the State Department, we swore off anymore invasions. Through 2004 we still had to chance to use less forceful means (subversion, economic warfare, etc.) to convinve them to behave. Instead we chose to let the Euro-3 willfully swallow Iran's lies for us. Iran and Syria quickly realized their nightmare world was not coming to pass and so changed their tune. The result is the veritable “dictators gone wild” we are now seeing. Whereas in 2002 the dictators at least knew an invasion was a possibility, we’ve now convinced them it isn’t. So with the cat going back to sleep and refusing to wake up for anything, the mice are out to play, with suicide bombers, I.E.D.’s, ballistic missiles, and nuclear weapons. Now we are left with the options of paying them off until they again go too far and we must have a big war (the realist way), or start another smaller war.

I can’t for the life of me think of another moment in history when a country so powerful has behaved in such a pathetic way. At least Rome was gripped by civil war, and the British were exhausted from two world wars when they gave up their power and influence. Power abhors a vacuum, if we continue to refuse to exercise it, someone else not of our choosing or with our interests will. We can try to hide from the world all we want, but as the French and British found out in 1914 and 1939, and we discovered in 1917, 1941, 1950, and 2001, the world has a way of finding us whether we want it to or not. Only this time, with the other side fast becoming nuclear armed, we either won’t be able to reverse it like we did before, or the casualties fighting a pipsqueak nation like Iran will rival that of fighting Germany and Japan (the third, maybe second, and fifth greatest powers of their day). I’ve said it before and will say many times more, the world will keep on turning no matter how much we wish it to stop.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What if the Chief Doesn't Have Any Capable Indians?

Kofi Annan gave his final speech to the UN at long last. In it he exhorts the United States to provide global leadership while being multilateralist. This begs a couple questions. Who's to blame when someone tries to lead when or where no one can follow? Further, when has the United States done anything by itself? I’ll deal with both in turn.

I frequently discuss our need to adapt to the changing world power structure and the increasing inability of our old allies to follow us anymore (it’s mentioned in about ¼ of my posts). Simply put, with shrinking populations, stagnant economies, massive budget liabilities, and growing unassimilated Muslim populations, Continental Europe won’t be following us anywhere anymore. They also haven’t lived up to agreements on issues with which they could help. Continental Europe isn’t even meeting its Kyoto pollution reduction requirements, and that’s its pet project. This is who we are supposed to rely on to follow us and lose export opportunities to Iran in the process? I'm obviously excluding the British here, being Anglo they are much more trustworthy and willing to help, but Eurosclerosis is spreading even on the Blessed Isle (thanks to Gordon Brown, Britain has surpassed even Germany's tax load). Asia offers more promising allies for the future but they are as yet undeveloped. Japan is the best prospect but she still has a way to go to recover from post-war de-normalization (though they have started). Australia is fast becoming our new, if diminutive, Britain. The Aussies may not have as much power but since power not used is effectively power that doesn't exist, Australia will be more important in the coming decades. India is our best chance for a powerful ally in the long-term, but they have yet to decide where they want to go in the world, and have some more economic development to go before they can start helping other peoples’ problems.

Even if the number of followers is somewhat limited, has the United States been non-multilateral? I know this comes down to semantics. Unilateral means by yourself but many take it to mean without some much higher number of allies or occasionally without UN approval. Nevertheless, when exactly have we been unilateral? Despite having a cease-fire with Saddam that he was not respecting (a casus belli), we still went through UN purgatory and got 2 resolutions prior to the 2003 invasion. We had the support of 30 some odd countries (including most of Europe), the UN, and NATO (minus France) on Iraq. On Iran we have gone through the UN, the IAEA, and the Euro-3 for some 3 years to get something done. We are now building up alliances with Arab countries to deal with Iran. With North Korea we have insisted on having the North's neighbors involved in the talks to do something about its nuclear program. To try to resolve the Palestinian issue we have worked with the Quartet. After Syria overreached in Lebanon 2 years ago we worked with France and the UN to help Lebanon form a new government. We’ve refused to do anything about Darfur, choosing instead to work with the same UN that did nothing during Rawanda and Bosnia. The list goes on and on. Given this, I think what many of the “multilateralists” mean is America isn’t doing what they want.

Essentially, what is happening here is responsibility shifting. For example, why can’t Europe do something about the slaughter in Darfur? That’d be hard and risk European oil contracts in the process. Thus the Europeans can console themselves because America isn’t doing anything either and they are the world leader so it’s not so bad. Of course, should we try to do something, Continental Europe will refuse to help on account that it isn’t multilateral, ignoring that it isn’t multilateral precisely because they refuse to help. Everyone can then go home happy, except the people of Darfur. This refusal to take responsibility is also a cause of the UN's ineffectiveness as I've written before,
"despite what the United Nations thinks of itself, international organizations are nothing in and of themselves. All such organizations are a conglomeration of different nations who have different interests and different abilities. Regardless of its structure, no international organization can do more than its most powerful members are willing or capable of doing, and no such organization can command more authority than its most powerful members are willing to give it. Simply adding more unwilling nations or establishing rules they supposedly must “obey” does not change this fact."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Learning Nothing and Forgetting Nothing, the Realist Foreign Policy Comes to Iraq

James Baker, co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, has, along with his group, called for negotiating with the Iranians over Iraq. The idea is that either the Iranians will talk and stop supporting the violence in Iraq, or they won’t show or stop supporting the chaos in Iraq and we will show the world that Iran is the problem. This is a standard argument made by the diplomacy always crowd. I’ve heard it too many times to count since I began paying attention to world politics a dozen years. It is tried time and time again despite one simple reality, it almost never works and offers the rogue nation the opportunity to constrain the power who initiated it.

The basic problem with this policy is that it assumes many things that are usually not true. Firstly it assumes that the offending country is interested in meeting and compromising on an issue. It next assumes that whatever countries are meant to be impressed by this display will actually be impressed and offer support after the offending nation rejects or refuses the advance. Essentially this means that these countries are willing and able to do something but are not doing anything merely because the offending nation has not been offered the chance to resolve the dispute diplomatically (the fact that the offending nation has not itself tried diplomacy doesn’t matter of course). Lastly it assumes that even should the offending nation show up and agree to stop its behavior for some carrots, that it will actually stop its behavior as it promises.

Due to its history of failure and its inaccurate understanding of the current situation we can fully expect such a policy to fail every bit as miserably today with Iran as it has in the past. Each of the above assumptions is wildly off in today’s standoff with Iran:

Iran wants a stable Iraq like the rest of us

This is only correct if you allow for Iran’s different definition of a “stable Iraq”. Sure they want it stable, under the Ayatollahs as a totalitarian Shiite government like Iran’s. This is obviously not what most of the world considers a “stable Iraq”. Iran is also damaging our geopolitical position and making it much more difficult for us to do anything about their nuclear program because of the continued violence. The violence is ensuring that no American government will initiate another preemptive war anytime soon. Thus it is in Iran’s long-term interests to see that things are as bad as possible as long as possible in Iraq to make sure this opinion reigns in the US for as long as possible. Why then would Iran help us form a stable Iraq that is in our interests and not their’s?

Europe, Russia, and China will finally accept the need to do something about Iran

Not likely. These powers do not support our efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program and restoration of the Achaemenid Empire because they have no ability to do so and would lose too much in the process. Russia and China support Iran as part of their campaign to multi-polarize the world. Iran is working miracles for them in this regard so they are not going to support us no matter what. Europe will be no more capable of doing anything to stop Iran tomorrow as they are today. Except for the British (who aren’t in a position to help anyways), they have no projectable military power and won’t support sanctions since it would cost them business contracts with Iran. Iran imports almost $6 billion worth of goods from Germany, $3 billion from Italy, and $2.5 billion from France. None of those countries has seen much economic growth in the last 15 years, and none are willing to take an economic hit for us or the world. Europe further knows that if Iran does become a major threat, they can beg us to rescue them, and we’ll ride to their rescue as we have for the last 100 years. We are after all building missile defense sites to protect Europe from Iranian missiles free of charge in Poland.

Iran will accept a good offer and stop supporting the violence in Iraq

The first half of that statement is almost certainly true. If we offer Iran tribute to stop being bad they’d be idiots not to accept it. That doesn’t mean they will stop supporting violence. If we make a deal with them and they continue supporting the violence, then what? We have a deal with them Europe, China, and Russia will intone; we cannot risk wrecking the deal over such a trifle thing as Iran not living up to its end of the bargain. Rather than add impetus to the effort to stop Iran, all we will have done is pay off the Iranian government, give it credibility amongst the Iranian people, and further hamper any effort to head off the major storm coming down the road.

Even though a clear understanding of the situation and the interests of the powers involved would indicate the deal will not work and will only hurt us, there is also history to add to the argument against it. The Munich agreement would of course be the most glaring and devastating example of this. Hitler accepts a deal, doesn’t live up to it and everyone looks the other way. Israel has had countless similar deals with the Palestinians. Most notable was the Camp David Accords of 2000. Israel offered the Palestinians almost everything they want. Arafat not only walked away but soon after started the second intifada. Initially the diplomacy always crowd argued this was great for Israel since the Palestinians had shown that they were the true obstacles to peace. Despite this, world support for Israel lasted only as long as Israel did nothing about the suicide bombers attacking her civilians (that is to say a very short time indeed). I’m not even going to go through the 17 times we tried this with Saddam, including not once but twice prior to the 2003 invasion. Most relevant of all, what happened to world support for punishing Iran when it didn’t stop enriching uranium on August 31st? The idea was Iran would stop enriching or else. If they didn’t the world would supposedly see that Iran was the problem and support efforts to stop their nuclear program. Well, Iran didn’t stop and what was the world’s reaction?

Russia- said no to sanctions or any action; but they did regret Iran’s actions.
Europe- demanded…. more talks since 8 years is obviously to short a time to rush to impose visa sanctions on Iran’s leaders.
UN- nothing, not even a statement since it was the ambassador from Ghana’s last day, and as he told reporters, “give me a break.”

Why anyone believes the world’s reaction will be any different this time round is beyond me. Whether Iran simply refuses to talk or takes our tribute and continues supporting violence in Iraq, the result will be the same. Unless we accept, and accept soon, that Iraq does not exist in a vacuum, that our titular allies have neither the will nor the capability to do anything, and that Iran, Russia, and China have no interest in seeing us succeed in forming a stable mostly free/democratic Iraq, we will lose in Iraq and the price for us and the world will be incalculable. The realists’ motto appears to be, “Pounds for the cure tomorrow, not an ounce for prevention today”. However, guessing by last month's elections, it is how the American people want it, so it is how the world will get it.

I'd add liberal foreign policy in the title, but for liberals to have a foreign policy that learns nothing and forgets nothing, they'd, well, first have to have a foreign policy (and no, blaming America and Israel for everything, worshipping the UN, and extolling the virtues of oppressive anti-American Third World despots doesn't count as a foreign policy).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Foreseeable Unforeseen in Lebanon

What a shocking and unexpected turn of events in Lebanon. Riding high on their “victory” over the invincible Israelis, Hezbollah and its masters in Iran and Syria are now pushing a coup of sorts against the current anti-Tehran/Damascus government. I know, I know, who could have possibly anticipated this. Israel, America, Europe, and the UN all seemed to think that Hezbollah would be so grateful for Israel not destroying them that they would happily focus on their supposed charities and making the trains run on time in Beirut and stop their Iran backed campaign to kill Jews while spreading Shia extremism. It was clearly impossible to predict that a violent terrorist organization supported by a country seeking to make the world safe for the 12th Imam would follow-up a victory over the “Little Satan” by seeking a victory over what they consider the puppet government of the “Great Satan”.

Of course it was painfully obvious last summer that this would be the result of Israel not completing her mission in southern Lebanon. Also so apparent a kindergartner could have figured it out was that Hezbollah would receive lots of cash from Tehran after the fighting and would be helping the southern Lebanese before the bureaucrats at the US State Department and the UN had even signed the forms to schedule the meeting to arrange the conference to discuss sending aid. I’m not even going to start on how insane it was to think that a UN force supporting the Lebanese army was going to stop Hezbollah(4th paragraph) from rearming or operating in southern Lebanon. That no one in the foreign ministries of the West understood this is a sad testament to our inability in the West to understand the people and events that are making the world of our future.

To say that this is why Israel shouldn’t have fought Hezbollah to begin with is also terribly inaccurate. The only thing that boosts ones image more than a bloody victory is a bloodless one (think if France and Britain had fought over but ultimately acquiesced to Hitler’s Anschluss and re-occupying the Rheinland, sure Hitler’s stature would have been boosted but would the German people and army been as accepting of the Munich, Prague, Memel, and Polish Corridor gambles?). At least Lebanon is now aware of what Hezbollah brings to their future. Had Israel not fought, Hezbollah would have come off looking much more powerful (so powerful even the Israelis fear them) and it would have appeared that Hezbollah can deliver victories for Lebanon that the US backed government cannot. The reasoning in Lebanon would have been, why spark a civil war when Israel won’t do anything. Now they at least know if they don’t start a civil war to stop Hezbollah, the Israelis will return. Further, Hezbollah and Iran cannot simply be negotiated out of bellicosity by the Israelis. They want Israel exterminated and are willing to fight to achieve it. Whether Israel and the West like it or not, they will get their fight eventually. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, we can choose war or dishonor, if we choose dishonor we will get both. It’s well past time that we in the West wake up to this reality.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Time to Dust Off War Plan Green

Note: War Plan Green was part of a series of color-coded war plans drawn up by the US military between the World Wars. Green dealt with intervention in Mexico.

Without much media attention, Mexico continues its slide into chaos. Every now and then there will be a story about it, such as yesterday in the Washington Post. It reports that the number of violent deaths in Mexico continues to rise. Although media coverage of this is new, as witnessed by the US travel advisory to Mexico, the violence and chaos are not. With journalists being killed, large cities increasingly ungovernable, gangland shootouts that include RPG’s and machine guns, public officials beheaded, a weak divided government trying to act humanely (this story covers a lot of it), you’d think this would be a story the media would love, but I guess not having the US military to blame is a deal breaker for the media.

At first glance this chaos seems odd. Mexico is a large resource rich nation, with a good level of population growth, Western cultural heritage, and direct access to 1/3 of the world’s economy. The problem is that Mexico has taken almost all of the worst aspects of Western culture, socialism, racism, and xenophobia. Socialism makes it difficult to create wealth and jobs in Mexico. There may be bountiful resources in Mexico but when the government alone owns them they are not efficiently exploited. The xenophobia in Mexico is primarily focused towards the North (though still expect to be greeted by machetes, clubs, and almost no legal rights if you’re from south of Mexico). The xenophobia primarily works with socialism to keep Mexico’s economy inefficient and undercapitalized by keeping out American investors. Better to leave the countries wealth to the whites of Mexico than have the gringos of El Norte “steal it” the people are told and believe. Thus, xenophobia also assists in maintaining Mexico’s terribly racist quasi-apartheid system. Most of the wealth and power in Mexico is concentrated in its white minority that consists of only about 10% of the population. The average income in Mexico is $6,500, for the top 10% it's $24,100, for the bottom 10% $1,040 (from the CIA World Factbook). Essentially 10% live like Western Europeans, 80% like Eastern Europeans, and 10% like Chinese. This places Mexico in the top 10% of most inequitably distributed income countries.

These are the seeds of the current growing chaos in Mexico. To be stable and flourish, Mexico needs to end all three practices, yet the three main parties are focused on only ending socialism (PAN), only ending racism (PRD), or actually reinforcing the old ways (PRI). A growing population can be a blessing if a country has a free market system that can absorb and utilize the extra workers. Since Mexico does not have this, the only safety valve has been to export around 400-500,000 people a year to the hated north. However, even our ability to absorb and utilize this horde is being stressed near, if not past, the breaking point. Add to the witches brew oil and drug cartels and Mexico’s problems only grow. With the oil, the Mexicans can copy the country destroying policies of Hugo Chavez, while the drugs open a route to a Columbia style drug war. In short, don’t expect the chaos to abate anytime in the near future.

This is where War Plan Green comes into play; the Pentagon needs to thoroughly update it. We must make sure we always have enough brigades, even if they are mostly National Guard, ready to move south if the violence becomes severe enough to spill over the border, create a humanitarian crises in northern Mexico, or threaten Mexico’s vital oil exports. We need to have a clear idea of how far we will go, such as only form a security zone in northern Mexico or go all the way to Mexico City, intervene in the chaos or let it rage south of our zone, get involved in the political situation or leave it for the Mexicans to sort out. We further need to plan nationally and encourage affected companies to have their own plans for the economic collapse that unbridled chaos will cause. One of the unfortunate side effects of free trade and globalization is that they have linked the health of our economy to weak unstable economies like Mexico’s (we definitely need more such plans but I doubt any serious ones exist). Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia, and Argentina are societal meltdowns that we can largely watch from afar, not so with Mexico. Its size, proximity, and enormous √©migr√© population in the US means the chaos there will inevitably spread here.

It would be nice if we could support them now more peacefully. However, since anti-Americanism was used to define Mexican identity long before even Canada existed, it is next to impossible for us to help in any overt and effective manner. We agreed to a free trade deal with Mexico, and we have taken their surplus population for 30 years running, we've provided an example, there’s not much more we can do to help. This could develop into a very serious problem right in our backyard in the near future so we should at least be prepared. I only hope the President hasn’t allowed his unabashed love of anything from south of the border to cloud his judgment on this issue.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Injured Blogger Update

I apologize for being quiet longer than expected. My hand ended up being injured much worse than hoped (almost lost a finger), which means I’m not able to type well yet. As a side note, rehab, though necessary, sucks. So, you know, don’t go cutting tendons, nerves, and major blood vessels unless you have to. Also, preferably don't do it when so many interesting and bloggable things are happening (and wow did I support Rummy at the wrong time, oh well regardless of what Bush thinks I still like Rumsfeld and think he was a great Sec. of Defense).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Injured Blogger Notice

Since I badly cut my left hand (to the point of requiring surgery) I won’t be blogging much except occasional (very) short posts. I’ll be back blogging whenever the severed tendon heals enough (hopefully not more than 2 or 3 weeks). Thanks as always for the interest, take care.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam & The Gallows, A Perfect Match

The upcoming executions of Saddam Hussein and his assorted henchmen are a truly historic moment. Provided they aren’t stopped by some freak judicial intervention, they will represent a rare moment in history in which a monster ruler has received justice in this life. All too often these human beasts get away with their crimes and depravity. Only a few have met their maker through worldly justice; for every Vlad the Impaler, Adolf Eichmann, or Benito Mussolini who do, there are countless men like Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Ivan the Terrible, and Jimmy Carter (note: Simpsons humor) who do not.

Thanks to the skill, dedication, and hard work of the Coalition Forces and Iraqis who want a better future, Saddam will soon be listed with Vlad and not Ivan in the history books. This is not to argue that the price was worth it, or that we should have invaded, or anything like that. It is only to say that it is good to see justice being served to one of the worst dictators of a century that had all too many. Wherever one stands on the Iraq War, pro all the way, con all the way, for it before you were against it, this should be something that we can agree on. Once Saddam is in God’s court, we can get back to squabbling over Iraq.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Case for Rumsfeld

There is a debate (the favorable posts are too old and aren't online anymore, in short several contributors like Rumsfeld, con, con) at the National Review over the efficacy of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. I personally admire Rumsfeld very much as can be seen below. This post, Rumsfeld vs. the McClellan Democrats, from a month or so ago explains some of the reasons I like him. The following post is much older and explains why I think, contrary to some conservatives, that the current war makes transformation more imperative not less. Also, yes Rumsfeld wanted to eliminate two divisions prior to 9/11. Even under the first Bush budget, better though it was, the Army was simply not funded to a level required for 10 fully operational divisions. While the Defense Secretary must advocate for more, he also must plan based in reality (the Navy can have a plan for 33 carriers, it still isn't happening). Converting to an entirely light army would have been a mistake, and one I opposed at the time, but no one is perfect. Even so, it wouldn't have been too serious to this point, and it may have even been beneficial given the wars we fought. More light infantry would have been useful in Iraq in the first year and it was all we used in Afghanistan and elsewhere anyways. Nevertheless, it wasn't a good idea and Rumsfeld has dropped it. Anyways, on to the old post...

The 40,000 Soldier Question

Since 9/11 we have heard liberals frequently claim we need to add 40,000 more soldiers to the Army. It is treated by the left as a panacea for everything that ails the Army (whether true or not). Meanwhile, in the background Rumsfeld's transformation of the Army continues plodding along. Should we have added 40,000 soldiers? Or was allowing Rumsfeld's work to continue the better call? (It should be noted when discussing the reform of the Army that it is extremely difficult to find complete information on all aspects of it. I assume in cases where no information is available that it is staying similar to the current Army.)

First off, why reform at all? The reason is we still have a military which is essentially the little brother of the Cold War military. That military was designed to send dozens of divisions to fight the Soviet Union on the plains of Germany. Our current military is designed to send 3-6 divisions to fight regional wars against lesser states; Cold War planning in miniature. Further, the basic combat unit is still the division. This despite divisions almost never deploying for combat as they are organized in peacetime. The heavy battalions of the Army are still organized for the mass tank confrontation with the Soviet Union. Compared to the 18-24 armor battalions we had guarding the few dozen miles of the Fulda Gap in Germany during the Cold War we had 4 armor battalions sweeping the several hundred miles of desert in the invasion of Iraq. It no longer makes sense to have all tank battalions, as the ad hoc usage of mixed mechanized infantry (hereafter called mech) and armor task forces in Iraq shows. Lastly, the overall mix of troops we need has changed. In the past we needed lots of armor and artillery, now we need more infantry and military police.

Rumsfeld's reforms largely takes these issues that are being worked through on an ad hoc basis during combat operations and makes them permanent. On the issue of divisions, they are being made "modular". This means the brigades in the divisions can be easily switched around to suit the needs of the current mission. All of the support assets that used to be loaned from the division when it came time to deploy are now permanently part of the brigade. The heavy battalions are being changed from 3 mech or 3 armor companies to a mix of 2 mech and 2 armor companies. Many artillery and air defense battalions are being replaced with more useful military police and cavalry battalions. The net effect of these reforms is to increase the number of combat and close combat soldiers in the Army without increasing the overall number of soldiers. Basically, it is making the Army more efficient. The pre-Rumsfeld Army had approximately 59,000 combat and 61,000 near combat soldiers, or about 12.5% in each category. (note: my definition of combat soldiers is soldiers in infantry, armor, cavalry, and special forces units; close combat soldiers are those in artillery, air defense, engineer, and military police units. It does not conform to the Army's MOS classification system, nor do I include artillery as a combat unit.) Once Rumsfeld's transformation is completed with 48 new brigades, there will be 75,000 combat and 64,000 near combat soldiers. This would represent about 15.5% and 13.5% of the Army. While the overall number of combat soldiers per brigade would drop from 3,370 to 2,700, the total number of brigades that could be sustainably deployed would increase from 14 to 20. This means that the number of Army combat/near combat soldiers that could be deployed somewhere like Iraq would increase from 47,000 to 54,000 (the number of combat soldiers would see a much greater increase from 21,500 to 27,500).

The problem with only adding 40,000 soldiers is that it would just be adding more soldiers to the old Cold War Army. It would do nothing to solve various problems such as deployability, tactical rigidity, or exceptionally low share of combat soldiers of the old system. It is also more expensive than transformation while being less effective. Simply adding 40,000 soldiers to the Army would add 5,000 combat and 5,000 close combat soldiers. This compared to the net gains of 16,000 and 3,000 respectively with transformation. However, it would require an increase in the Army budget of nearly $6 billion a year plus many more billions upfront for the new equipment and buildings. Transformation costs a few hundred million for the more expensive training of the extra combat soldiers and such. While I support much more money for the Army, what matters is that Congress will not fund the extra $6 billion on a sustained basis. Congress has always cut funding quicker than troop levels.

The question would then arise, why not do both? Besides the fact that it is difficult enough just expanding the Army much less transforming it at the same time, the main reason is that the Pentagon as a whole does not want to reform to begin with. Armies have historically had major issues with reform and change. As great as our Army is, it is still an army. It has all the institutional problems that afflict all armies and nothing will ever change that. That said there are two things that spur change and reform in an army, defeat and fighting a war with limited means. To successfully change an army you must know how to operate within these constraints. Rumsfeld knows much better than most how to work within the Pentagon.

Examples of the first case include the German army after World War I and the French army after the Seven Years War. However, this situation will not force reform through today in the US Army so is not relevant. The second case can apply today and is what we are doing. When armies are provided with everything they ask for to fight a war, they will simply fight it the way they have always fought. The best (or worst if you like) example of this is World War I. Initially every army was given everything it could ask for, all the men, guns, and supplies they wanted. The result was the generals fought on like they always had. They did not attempt any reforms since they were constantly receiving new soldiers and supplies to try again. It was not until 1916 when her manpower reserves began to run low that Germany started to think about different, quicker ways to fight. England followed suit after Lloyd George refused to send more conscripts to France in the wake of the Paschendale Offensive. By early 1918 the Germans had developed the organization and tactics that allowed for infantry exploitations while the British had begun figuring out tank exploitations. It was the requirement to fight a war without all the resources they wanted that forced these armies to develop their new ideas. Sadly, that is how armies have always worked, and always will.

This is what we are doing today. The Army is having to figure out how to provide more combat troops to deal post-conflict occupations without simply recruiting extra soldiers. In the process it is possible to get through other reforms to deal with the outdated Cold War structure of our Army. The overall effect on Iraq is limited since as evidenced in my
prior post I think we are at the point where adding more soldiers becomes counter-productive. However, it would be nice to either have more combat soldiers with the same number of soldiers overall, or the same number of combat soldiers with fewer soldiers overall. It is also good (though not necessary, we are at war) to lower the strain on the National Guard. Iraq is also a great opportunity for reform because while it is limiting opposition to transformation, we are not at major risk by reforming before adding more soldiers. By comparison, had the British military been slow to change in 1918, the decision to stop sending new soldiers could have easily cost them the war when the Germans unleashed their new tactics in March 1918.

Once transformation is complete we could add 40,000 soldiers and get even more combat soldiers. But until the Army reforms are completed, it is better to hold off lest it cause the generals to begin seriously opposing transformation because of their new found leverage. Since in addition to fixing many of the current structural problems in the Army, transformation will also provide more combat soldiers at much less cost it is the better bet anyways for alleviating any troop level or deployment related issues the Army has. Afterwards, if Congress would continue funding the new soldiers and not force the Army to reduce its important procurement and training budgets then it is a good idea to add more soldiers. I never have and never will oppose troop increases or increased funding for the Army in general, only when there is good reason to. The need to reform the Army is just such a reason.

US Army OrBat
US Army Budget
Numbers of soldiers is arrived at by using the above OrBat with the TO&E in the latest version of the Steel Panthers computer game.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Et Tu, Britannia?

Ever since the end of the Cold War, it was obvious that due to the massive reductions in defense spending by NATO members few could operate along side us anymore. This progression can be seen in the three main conflicts since the end of the Cold War. In the Persian Gulf War of 1991, most of NATO was capable of at least sending a squadron of aircraft. By 1999’s Kosovo War most of NATO was no longer capable of operating with us but instead spent the war hanging back and stretching while we did the heavy lifting. In 2003, most of NATO’s militaries had become so out of shape that they were not even able to hang back and stretch while showing the flag.

The one exception to this decline was thought to be Great Britain. Even as old Europe fell by the wayside, we, including myself, thought at least our kinfolk in Britain could still work with us. The last two years in Iraq and Afghanistan has seriously called this assumption into question. This is in no part due to the bravery and professionalism of the British soldier, which is as high as it has always been. Unfortunately, the British government has not funded the British military as much as their soldiers’ dedication and skill merits. This is beginning to cause serious problems as the British military, like ours, needs to purchase the expensive equipment required for counter insurgency operations and to replace the aged Cold War stockpile that is being rapidly burned through in Iraq.

The British are in an especially bad situation regarding counter-insurgency equipment. 15 years of moderate under funding has left the British military a very capable conventional force (as witnessed in Kosovo and Iraq) but without enough modern COIN equipment for even a medium scale operation. We at least had the hundreds of helicopters, UAV’s, counter-battery radar, fast quiet armored vehicles (Strykers), precision weapons, etc. that are the stuff of counter-insurgency. We have had to buy far more than planned, but it wasn’t too expensive. The British would have to buy most of it new which simply hasn’t happened. Since the British government is evidently uninterested in providing more defense funding (billions for health care, not a penny for defense seems to be the reigning philosophy), they should have at least reworked their current questionable spending plans.

EU Referendum Blog has been following the failure of the British government to properly allocate defense monies for some time. Unlike us, Britain is no longer responsible for global security and can safely focus more on either conventional or COIN aspects of their military. I would argue that since the British will mostly be engaged in COIN that they should focus on that capability. However, London’s spending plans indicate an almost entire focus on conventional war even while their soldiers have been fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan for 4 years now. Even then, to save money, the conventional weapons Britain is buying would be of very limited use in an actual war. EU Referendum has an exchange with the Minister of State for Defense over this very issue. For example, the British government is overpaying roughly $4 billion (compared to the excellent and combat proven US Aegis Destroyer) for Type 45 destroyers that have most of their functionality removed. That’s not to say anything about the army’s $20+ billion FRES armored vehicle program that won’t be useful for either conventional or COIN operations, or the Eurofighter, or countless other smaller pointless and/or overpriced programs.

While what little money the British military has is blown on largely useless programs whose only real purpose is to get Britain promoted to the European grown-ups table from the Euro-kiddie table to which France has relegated her, the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan go without. This is becoming a problem for us and is growing worse every month. Without the proper equipment, the British Army has been mostly confined to their barracks, only patrolling in heavily armed convoys. This post from EU Referendum is their latest about the problems in Iraq. Lacking proper vehicles, British soldiers are easy targets on patrol. Lacking proper equipment, British soldiers are easy targets in their barracks. The only options are to stand in place and die, or retreat. When the British retreat, the militias fill in the void as happened in Amarah recently. We now have a situation developing where southern Iraq is being overrun with militias. I would not find it surprising if southern Iraq is more violent than the notorious Sunni Triangle soon (don’t hear much about Anbar anymore, for a reason).

One thing British leadership at all levels can be criticized for was the smug arrogance they took into Iraq and Afghanistan. The general attitude was that the British, unlike those well meaning but clueless Americans, understand “hearts and minds”. The British have been at this for centuries, they know how the game is played. They didn’t wear helmets, ride around in heavily armored vehicles, and do everything to kill any insurgent or terrorist they came across like we foolishly did. What the British forgot though was that they used to be able to operate like that because of the way they dealt with troublemakers. Back in the days of Empire, the British strapped insurgents to cannons, buried British soldiers under a tomb of native skulls, put executed Muslims in coffins with pigs, almost annihilated the Zulu people for Isandlwana, placed the entire Boer population into concentration camps (akin to refuggee camps today) for years, etc. The natives knew the price of misbehavior and so needed little extra encouragement to behave. This allowed the British to easily maintain order with a modicum of sparingly funded military forces. I am not saying the British should do this today, but they should realize that neither can they conduct operations in the laid back manner like they did before.

Though it isn’t easy or cheap and we will never get credit for it, we are learning how to fight a counter insurgency in the most humane way possible. Hopefully, the British will follow suit. If they do not then I don’t think we have any other choice but to not include the British in anymore operations. I always thought it was a mistake relying on NATO so much to help out in Afghanistan. Most NATO militaries have wasted away to such a point that they are little more than glorified crossing guards that shouldn’t be expected to do more than direct traffic in Kabul. As it happened, some, like Norway, requested just that recently (combat forces being used for combat, my goodness, someone get the smelling salts before I feint). The problems in southern Afghanistan are also revealing the hollowness of most NATO forces.

The British are a great people, who produce superb soldiers, and have an excellent history (if we are only half as successful as the British were during their time at the top, the world can count itself very lucky). Despite a smaller stature they still have ability to be a major force for good in the world. We have been good and loyal allies to each other for a century now. Though we are fast approaching such a crossroads, I still pray it never comes to pass that we can no longer say "Non Angli, sed Amici".

I should add that when referring to NATO militaries or forces I do not mean the individual soldiers an officers but the orgranization itself. Like British soldiers, NATO soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are excellent warriors. The Canadian, Spanish, Bulgarian, Polish, etc. soldiers give their best and have on most occasions held their ground while giving far far better than they got. However, with some notable exceptions (Special Forces and the 3rd PPLI Battalion for example), they simply do not receive anything like the funding, equipment, or training they need to conduct sustained offensive operations. They are also mostly bereft of the moral support from back home needed to sustain the casualties necessary to complete their missions.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

What Price Peace? The Air Force Component

I can't seem to figure out captions, so that's a pair of F-22's to the left and a single F-35 below to the right.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, one of my major concerns about a Democratic victory in the November Elections is that they will cut new weapons programs to free up money for domestic spending. This attitude can be seen in this report by the Council on Foreign Relations. The general thrust of the report is that the military doesn’t need all the new expensive weapons in development, especially with the current wars ongoing. Yet this concept of mortgaging our future military power to make the present situation cheaper would be a grave mistake if carried out.

One of the major focuses of the report, and the Democrats, is Air Force fighter procurement. Probably the most glaring error in this report is that it claims US fighters are superior to anything around the world for the foreseeable future (something Democrats have also claimed). That is flat out wrong. This site has the results of the British Defense Evaluation and Research Agency study (near bottom of page) about the combat effectiveness of current and next generation fighters. As can be seen, no current US fighter, with the possible exception of the Navy’s Super Hornet, is a match for the Russian Su-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, or French Rafale. The article also notes that the Chinese J-10 (Pakistani F-10) regularly outperforms Su-35’s in training so that fighter may also be added to the list. Thus, far from our fighters being superior for the next decade or two, current and potential opponents like China, Russia, the countries Russia supplies weapons to (Venezuela, Iran, Syria, any other anti-American country with cash), Pakistan, and France either have or have access to better fighter planes than we do. While true that none of these countries approaches the US Air Force in training or experience, it does not mean that will remain the case forever. Even without the training to challenge the USAF directly, such advanced fighters would cause major problems for a US military dependant on total control of the air simply by being an X factor, or if you prefer an air force in being (that is, rather than doing things like supporting ground troops some American fighters will have to be on constant watch for them, missions must always take their presence into account, etc. depleting force strength).

Something that also has to be considered (the report does mention it near the end) is that the Air Force must contend not only with enemy fighters but also with enemy surface to air missiles. As SAM’s, radars, and communication equipment become more capable and widely utilized, we need to have something other than 20 $2 billion B-2’s and 36 well past their prime F-117’s that can reasonably operate against them. This isn’t a major problem if our enemy either gives us the time we need to pick apart their air defenses (Iraq 91) or doesn’t have a serious air defense (Iraq 03). However, seeing as the only occasions of that occurring involved the same stupendously stupid Saddam, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to rely on it. A war with China, North Korea, Iran, or any number of countries would not afford us either of those luxuries. The F-22 would especially fill this need as it is extremely stealthy, fast, maneuverable, and has a 2,000 lb bomb load. This makes the F-22 capable of performing, amongst its many other missions, the F-117’s vital mission. The F-22 would thus be doubly useful in the initial phase of a war as an air defense suppressor/ground attack (admittedly limited in this respect), and an air superiority fighter still capable of intercepting enemy aircraft (this is an Air Force story on the F-22's effectiveness, biased of course though still useful). Except in ground attack where it is 7 times more capable, the F-35 is not as stealthy, capable, or as expensive as the F-22. It is still useful since it’s far superior and not too much more expensive than the 25 year old F-16. It would also be more survivable in a weak but still operational air defense environment and versus the more advanced fighters now in service around the world. These would both limit the employment of the F-16 and raise their losses. It should go without saying that if our air support is limited or attritted, our ground forces will also suffer more casualties and a tougher war.

One of the biggest complaints is that no matter how effective these aircraft are at their missions, do we actually need them to perform those missions? It doesn’t take much thinking to realize that the F-22 would be of almost no use in Afghanistan or after the first day in Iraq. By this argument though, we hardly need an Air Force at all. A half dozen B-1’s and B-52’s plus several dozen A-10/F-16/F-18's are all that is needed in each country. Since that’s all we need for brushfire wars, then why should we keep around 500 F-15’s, 700 F-18, 900 F-16, 270 A-10, and 180 bombers? The reason should be obvious, the Air Force has more jobs than simply supporting counter-insurgency operations. The military in general needs to be prepared for both COIN and conventional wars, not only one or the other. If we make the opposite mistake we made during the Cold War, and only prepare for COIN wars then we will pay dearly for it in a future conventional war. If we get caught off guard and unprepared by a war with China, we will be lucky to keep the number of killed below 600 per week much less per year as in Iraq. While conventional wars are rarer and deterable, they are not deterred by throwing up 30 year old fighters against a nation(s) rapidly arming with the latest fighters and missiles. That is simply a recipe for miscalculation, the mother of great power wars.

So on to another complaint, though the F-22 and F-35 would be an extremely effective pair, are they worth the great expense? The heart of this question is whether the F-15 and F-16 are still capable enough to do the job at much lower cost. The advantages versus SAM’s and in supporting ground troops is hard to quantify beyond saying the F-22/F-35 would be more capable than current aircraft (venerable A-10 excepted). The F-35 isn’t as much in debate since its total cost per plane of $115 million is not that great. The bigger debate is over the F-22 and its $340 million per plane price tag quoted by critics. The first thing to realize is that of the $340 million, $150 million represents development cost that we have mostly already paid. Moreover, it is unfair to attribute all of that cost to the F-22 since its R&D spending has helped lower the development cost for the F-35 and various UAV’s. A further $50 million (based on the $137 million construction cost) is the cost of setting up the production line that has mostly been paid as well. This $200 million of the price tag is essentially fixed and is therefore dependant on the number of aircraft purchased and would drop to $100 million if 360 F-22’s were purchased instead of 180. It would also be lower if the Congress would approve the FB-22. This would be a fighter-bomber based on the F-22 with somewhat inferior air-to-air capabilities replaced with a far superior 7,500 lb payload and range.

Whatever the price, how does the F-22 stack up against its rivals? The aforementioned DERA fighter study indicates how it would in a straight up fight. Although US fighters will likely never be in a straight up fight, it does still provide a good indication of their relative performance. The following table has the kill ratios vs the F-22 of various current aircraft from the DERA study, the purchase price of each aircraft from amongst others, and then their total price per kill and vs the F-22. (note: the F-35 was not including in the DERA study, I just used the roughly 3:1 capability difference between the F-15 and F-16 as guideline)

It thus becomes evident that far from being the most expensive aircraft for conventional conflict, the F-22 is one of the cheapest. Further, it should be noted that in addition to dollars, losing almost 13 F-15’s compared with 1 F-22 means 12 more lost pilots.

I am certainly not arguing for the defunding of the current wars or COIN preparations in favor of conventional war programs like the F-22 and F-35. The cost of these two programs is $8.1 billion this year. We are completely capable of funding them, current operations, and future COIN programs at the same time. If one or the other is not receiving enough then we need to increase the defense budget, not eliminate any of the programs. If necessary, this is one of the rare situations where it is better to under fund each somewhat than it is to fund 2 completely and 1 not at all. We have to be able to conduct brushfire wars or else the chaos in much of the world will spread and eventually possibly threaten the civilized word. But we also must not make the same mistake the British made twice and focus solely on “imperial policing”, thereby simultaneously raising the odds of a great war and its length and severity. Around an extra $150 billion a year to guard against each outcome is a small price to pay given the cost of ignoring them (e.g., WWII would cost us something like $30 trillion today). If the Republicans do not fully understand that now, they at least will when it becomes unavoidable. The modern Democrats never have or will.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Newsflash!! Elections decided by votes not by pre-election random polls, Democrats perplexed, Republicans respond: Duh

Trolling through political chat rooms, talking with liberals at school/work, or reading the Opinion Journal (third story), it becomes apparent that the left is yet again calling the election in their favor 3-4 weeks out (in some cases in a major way, 40 House and 7 Senate pickups!! update: now some saying 60 House and 8 Senate, if it keeps growing like this the Dems will be up to 232 House and, I think, 14 Senate by the election). I know, I know, they claim they are going to win every election years in advance, but it’s not until a few weeks out that they really really believe it. This causes the post-election meltdowns that we see every two years. This time is a little different in that lefties are beginning to talk more openly about civil disturbances if they don’t win this election. I don’t think it will actually materialize to any great extent, but violence does begin with talk. Also, it’s what leftist are doing elsewhere as can be seen in Mexico.

They believe they should win every election since the media produced countless polls showing the Democrats winning, and since they know the American people agree with them (why they don't know anyone at their San Fransico latte club who votes Republican). Therefore, the only answer for their loss must be that the Republicans stole the election and their victory. The fact that, as I’ve known since kindergarten, elections are not decided until Election Day still hasn’t been learned by some on the left. It also only took me one election (2000) to learn to not fall for the inevitability trap. Like most Republicans I thought Bush was a shoe in. Then Election Day came, and despite the fact that it was still a Bush victory, I learned to never again take victory for granted. It would be nice if the left would learn this and other electoral lessons like sometimes you lose, no amount of random sampling will ever be able to reliably predict a vote, and its not a dirty political trick for Republicans to tell the people what Democrats believe (Heaven knows the Democrats and the media won’t do it).

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why I Oppose the "Cut Off the Nose to Spite the Face" Republicans 2: Illegal Immigrant Amnesty

This follows my last post about why I will vote Republican (even for Republican moderates like DeWine and Pryce) this election despite not being entirely enthralled with the Party’s performance. The last post covered defense spending and this one will cover illegal immigration. The reality is that just as the Democrats can do lasting damage to our country and the world by not providing the military with a sufficient budget, they can also cause permanent damage with illegal immigration. It's, of course, not 100% certain that this will happen, but it is devestating and likely enough to be very concerned.

Within the government, the only check on the liberal-Bush illegal immigrant amnesty plan was the House Republican caucus. The notion that amnesty will not move forward despite the elimination of this sole check is lunacy. The prospect of another “immigration reform” bill is very real and worrisome following a Democrat win in November. Again, the Republicans are not perfect on the issue but they are far far better than the Democrats. So much so that I really do not understand why some Conservatives who say this is their number one issue are so willing to throw out the Republicans and see their worst nightmare happen.

The basic premise behind this is that a Democrat House/Congress will not “accomplish” much over the next 2 years beside raising the minimum wage and limiting defense spending. Similarly, President Bush will also be unable to get anything done in his last two years. About the only major issue that both the Democrats and the President agree is illegal immigrant amnesty. Is there any doubt that if they don’t instantly recognize this that they will by the end of the session? They both will have the desire, interest, and power to see that an amnesty happens; what more do they need?

The Democrats in particular will like the results of an amnesty. True the natives may not like it so much, but as the Republicans who think it’s a good idea to cut off the Republican nose to spite the Republican face plan to show, all that will happen is they won’t vote so as to teach the country a lesson. As far as the Democrats are concerned it’s win-win. The Democrats understand that native demographics are working against them. Birth rates in blue states are at European level deathbed levels compared with reasonable rates in the red states. Simply put, basing your political power on DINK’s, single women, Episcopalians (along with other so called Christians) and homosexuals is not a recipe for long term success. The Democrats need new blood and the 10-15 million illegals are just what the doctor ordered in their eyes.

This would be nothing surprising for a leftwing party. Leftists are the same the world over so it is instructive to see how other leftwing parties are dealing with similar situations. In the Low Countries the socialists reacted to the increasingly rightwing voting habits of the natives by allowing immigrants to vote. The effect was to allow them to hold onto power in the recent elections that they would have lost without the immigrant votes. The downside for the country is that the Muslims are demanding Islamic government policies. But the Leftists keep their power a little longer and that’s all they care about.

Fortunately we have not allowed our immigration problem to get as out of hand as Europe’s, but a similar policy could still lock in a permanent Democrat majority. The country is, at best for conservatives, broken about 53-47 (right-left). In total votes all it would take to swing that is around 7 million. I think the Dems will be able to manage that at some point out of the 10-15 million illegals to which they granted citizenship and welfare. Even should the natives revolt at such a policy, the best we can expect is we will get a small conservative majority. It won’t take long for enough new illegals to arrive, and cut off the nose to spite the face Republicans not voting, for the Dems to eventually become a permanent majority. While this won’t move our politics in an Islamist manner as is happening in Belgium and Holland, it will move it in a Latin Socialist manner.

Admittedly, it will be a constant fight to prevent this outcome. Big business, a faction of the Republican Party, and the entire Democrat Party are too in bed with illegal immigration to make amnesty go away. All it will take to see one occurs is for Democrats and/or the pro-illegal faction of the Republican Party to control the Presidency, House, and Senate. Right now the pro-illegal Republicans control the Presidency and the Senate. Republicans who oppose an amnesty will simply turn over the only one of the three opposed to an amnesty to the pro-amnesty Democrats by not voting. This will cause the issue, and by extension the country, that these Republicans care so much about to be permanently lost. Quite a price to pay for a temper tantrum.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Why I Oppose the "Burn the Village to Save It" Republicans 1: Defense Spending

Like most conservatives, I have more than a few gripes with the Republican Congress. However, I refuse to join those conservatives who think that the best way to save the Republican village is to burn it down for several reasons (they are more commonly known as cut-and-run conservatives). Everyone is, or should be, aware of the Democrat’s plans with taxes, spending, regulation, illegal immigrant amnesty, etc. Those certainly motivate me to do my part in keeping them out of power (the last one much more than the other three) but there is another major reason that hasn’t been discussed, what Pelosi-Reid et al will do to the defense budget.

Even now we are not spending what we should on the military during peacetime much less during war. Peacetime base military spending should be around 4.5% of GDP or about $630 billion in 2007. Next year we will only spend $440 billion or 3.1%. This would be one of my complaints about the Republicans. Given how important military spending is to me (it’s one of my top issues) I should stay home to teach the Republicans and America a lesson according to the burn-the-village-to-save-it Republicans. I will not since doing so will cause the penny-wise pound-foolish Democrats to gain the spending power over the military which is far worse than a repeat of the last Congress.

This is a dangerous possibility as the bills come due from the Clinton procurement holiday of the 90’s at the same time procurement costs escalate rapidly to purchase the new advanced weapons our military needs to stay on top. These expenses can be seen from the future estimated spending in the
2007 defense budget. (in billions of 2007 $)

2007- 84,197
2008- 97,688
2009- 104,148
2010- 104,870
2011- 108,167

In all likelihood this will not be enough to properly equip our military but it is most definitely better than allowing the Democrats to have any influence over the nation’s purse strings. Also, the Republicans have shown that when it becomes more obvious that it isn't enough, they will increase the spending to compensate.

We can be certain that the Democrats will not for two reasons; first it’s what they’ve done in the past, and second their planned policies will leave them no choice. The only two times that the American people were foolish enough to give the modern Democrats control of the government was in 1977-1980 and 1993-1994. In 1993-1994 the Democrats slashed the procurement budget a whopping 24% to only half its 1990 level. The defense budget would go on to shrink every year under Clinton until the Republicans realized the damage being done and began to trade some domestic spending for increased military spending in 1998-2000. No the Republicans weren’t perfect but they sure did a better job than Clinton or the Dems at ensuring our military had proper funding. That was during peacetime, surely the Dems wouldn’t do that during a conflict? From 1977-1980 they did. During four years of power by the Watergate Democrats the military budget increased a mere 1% (I’m excluding 1981 even though it should be included because if I recall Reagan forced through extra spending for the year and if not then Carter no doubt only allowed higher spending to head off Reagan, not because he wanted to). Again, only the Republicans caused military spending to remain at least near proper levels.

It is not only the Democrats’ past that points to their future, but also the Democrats themselves. The Democrats' raise taxes, raise domestic spending, and pay as you go budgeting will prevent the above procurement increases and may even require reductions. This is all the more so since the Democrats have said they oppose many new weapons programs (again as they have in the past). The primary target would most likely be the F-22 Raptor program. We have already paid for about half of this $62 billion program. The rest will be paid out over the next 6-10 years for production of the fighter barring any unfortunate elections. Some Democrats have called for the purchase of F-15’s instead of the F-22. Now the F-15 is a great fighter, but it is over 30 years old. The Europeans and Russians have more advanced fighters that they are selling to anyone with the money to buy them. We cannot allow a situation where Venezuela has better fighters than we do. Our Navy needs to increase its number of warships to counter the growth of navies around the world. Even the modest increase asked for by the Navy will cost an extra $20 billion over the next 5 years. However, some of the
biggest supporters of this are in close elections and would be replaced by far less interested Democrats. It also goes without saying that the roughly $9 billion a year National Missile Defense budget would not remain at such levels. These are only three programs, but they total nearly $20 billion a year. When the Dems find out that their tax increases aren’t enough to support their new domestic spending (which will happen almost immediately), it won’t be long before they cast an eye towards these programs.

It is true that President Bush would at least be in office for the next 2 years so the Democrats won’t be completely free to take an axe to the military budget as they would like. The damage they could do is bad enough though. Since the Republicans are spending the bare minimum as it is, any reduction resulting from budget negotiations would severly compromise our military's future. Military procurement programs require years of stable funding. They cannot simply be turned on and off like a light switch. It is very expensive to restart a program after it has been cancelled or downsized. As such it will cost us dearly to correct the Democrats defense spending and program cuts. If the Democrats do not cut new programs then they will have to cut procurement for new equipment to replace equipment worn out or lost in Afghanistan and Iraq. Either way our military will not receive the amount of funding it needs to deal with the present and the future. We will also lose the time that these weapons could have been available to our soldiers. Even if Republicans do retake Congress and restore funding, if trouble flairs over Taiwan in 2010 our soldiers will desperately miss, and be killed by the absence of, the F-22’s, NMD, and more capable warships Democrats refused to fund 3 years earlier.

As can be seen by a short read of history, military underfunding can be a direct cause of war. World War I was started because the Germans believed they could defeat Britain, France, and Russia at the same time. Part of this was because the British only spent about 2.25% of their economy on defense, compared with 3-6% in Europe. Had the British, like the Germans, spent 4% on defense then the Germans would likely not have calculated that they could knock off France before Britain was prepared for war. It is a similar story in 1939 when the British again badly underfunded their military while the Germans spent like crazy in preparation for the coming war. Admittedly, the left-wing British government did increase military spending in 1938 but to their dismay, military spending takes time to translate into actual ships, planes, weapons, and soldiers. As I’ve written before the British certainly had the capacity to stop Hitler had they not been so parsimonious with defense spending in the 1930’s (yes they had good reasons to not be gun-ho but given the price of their mistake we don’t have an excuse to copy them). Lastly, it was not a coincidence that the biggest period of post World War II Soviet expansionism occurred during Carter’s military spending freeze. The great game of global power politics continues unabated whether we like it or not. The more margin that our weaker military leaves other powers, the more likely they are to take advantage of it to our detriment.

Despite the Republicans not spending to the level I think necessary on defense, they are at least spending more than the Democrats would. I also trust the Republicans to not force the military to choose between the present and future when the cost of the procurement holiday comes up against the cost of new weapon programs. The Democrats have shown by their past and their present statements that they are not trustworthy on military spending. The British paid the price twice for undercutting military spending, we paid the price in the 1980’s to defeat the rejuvenated Soviet Union, and we will soon pay the price for the “peace dividend” of the 1990’s. We cannot allow ourselves to make that mistake again. Even though Republicans are not perfect on the issue, they are good, and I will not help the perfect become the enemy of the good by helping to elect a party who is terrible on one of the most important issues to myself and my country.