Saturday, July 29, 2006

An addendum to the previous post about "Unexpected Hezbollah resistance"

I’ve been hesitant for several reasons to write about any tactical level mistakes the Israelis may have made in their ill-fated Lebanon operation. The main reason is that it is obviously very difficult to know how many units of what type are involved, much less also what unit they are and any sub units they may have attached. It is even less certain where or how those units were used. We also do not know whether the army or the defense minister determined the makeup of the forces involved. Despite this, it is an important aspect of the issue so I figure I may as well write based on what I have been able to glean from news stories. I may be completely wrong, or I may be right and you may have read it here first (probably not).

This story from the Jerusalem Post indicates that the brigade size force in southern Lebanon consisted of 2 armored battalions with infantry battalions in support. Another story from the Jerusalem Post states that the 51st Battalion of the Golani Brigade (infantry) was involved so that would seem to be the non-paratrooper infantry support mentioned in the other story. The paratrooper battalion mentioned in this wiki article and in the Jpost story was most likely supporting the armor battalions since the Merkava tank that they are equipped with is also an APC. The 12th Battalion of the Golani Brigade appears to have been rotated in to replace the 51st which was pulled out. Based on this information and common military organization, my guess would be that the operation consisted of 2 armor battalions, 1 paratrooper battalion, 1 infantry battalion, 1 recon company, 1 special forces company, along with some combat engineer support. It’s hard to say whether this is both brigades, or if the second brigade was in Israel since the Israelis seem to have rotated troops every few days. I would assume that the second brigade was in Israel while the other is in Lebanon since 8 battalions should have been enough for the operation. This would be a pretty standard armor force so wouldn’t strike me as surprising in general.

While in general this is a balanced armored force it is not balanced for its mission. It must not only fight to secure 3 large villages (or small towns) but also hold around 10 miles of frontage. In addition to that it must fight an unknown number of Hezbollah fighters in difficult terrain. I’ve heard estimates of 200-300 fighters in Bint Jbail and 100-200 in Maroun a-Ras, with no info on the numbers in the third village or in the hills in the area. The head of the IDF said in a news conference on Fox that they estimate that at the low end 200 Hezbollah have been killed (in line with my estimate of 200-300 in the previous post). If that is the case, combined with the continuing fighting there must have been around 1,500 to 2,000 fighters, including reinforcements, in the area. Given the defensive preparations, the terrain, the quality and size of the enemy force, and the area involved it was a tall order to expect a single (or even two) armor brigades to achieve anything permanent.

An added difficulty for the Israelis is that their battalions are small compared the American battalions. (Note: I used the computer game WinSPMBT to obtain the TO&E's for the various units described below.) An Israeli force as outlined above would consist of just 66 tanks, 44 IFV/APC’s, 580 infantry, and around 1,400 combat soldiers total. A similar U.S. Army force would have 93 tanks, 73 IFV/APC’s, 720 infantry, and about 1,800 combat soldiers. A U.S. Marine Corps force would be even larger (they use some of the largest battalions in the world) with 140 tanks, 43 IFV/APC’s, 1,030 infantry, and 2,400 combat soldiers. These 4 small Israeli battalions were ordered to clear three villages with at least 300 fighters (more likely twice that number) while also fighting upwards of 1,000 fighters in the hills around the villages. By comparison, in 2004 we deployed 11 larger battalion equivalents (5 1/3 Marine, 2 2/3 armor, 2 LAR, and 1 mech inf), with greater fire and intelligence support, to solely root out the approximately 2,500 insurgent/terrorist fighters in Fallujah. Our attack force had 112 tanks, 200 IFV/APC’s, and 3,300 infantry. When we required 3,300 infantry to clear out 2,500 fighters, it is silly to think the Israelis could defeat 300-600 fighters plus hold off around 1,000 around the villages with only 580 infantry. Also of interest is the infantry:tank ratios. The Israelis are using a very low ratio of 8.8 infantry per tank. That is fine for maneuver warfare on the Damascus plain but not to attack villages in the hills. Attacking in an urban environment at Fallujah we used a ratio of 29.5 infantry per tank.

As the second JPost story indicates, the Israelis were attacking Bint Jbail with its minimum 200 defenders with only 2 companies of infantry or about 180 soldiers. Due to their small size they had to attack from the same side of the town. When things went bad they had to rush in 2 other infantry companies from wherever they were (Maroun a-Ras or guarding against Hezbollah attacks from the hills?) denuding the tanks on the perimeter line of their infantry support and/or stalling the attacks on the other villages. In 1982 the Israelis sent an entire armored division through the same area even though it wasn’t the main focal point of either the PLO or the Syrian defenses. A similar sized force would be required to take the villages in a few days time (10 battalions total, 2 for Bint Jbail, 1 each for the other 2 villages, 3 or 4 for the perimeter line, and the rest in reserve).

This is not to say the Israelis have not had an effect in hurting Hezbollah. They have definitely caused a good number of casualties. However, victory is not just decided by kill ratios. Olmert’s ignominious withdrawal is a victory for the Hezbollah. Although Hezbollah will claim it as a major victory that they won, it was handed to them by Olmert. The Israelis have more than enough military power to secure 3 villages in southern Lebanon held by less than 2,000 defenders. They have enough to easily secure the southern third of Lebanon if they wanted to. That they do not use it, or use it efficiently, is not the fault of the Israeli soldiers or possibly their commanders, but of Prime Minister Olmert. Again, we don't know exactly what was used, or how, so I could be wrong, this is just my best informed guess.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Random thoughts on the Mideast crisis 2 -- Unexpected Hezbollah resistance?

A few thoughts on the “difficulties” Israel is having according to media reports. The IDF is of course denying that the level of resistance is unexpected. However, clearly the fighting has been very tough, much tougher at least than most people outside of the IDF expected. The question is, why has it taken the IDF over a week now to secure two small towns in Lebanon when they made it to Beirut in 4 days in 1982? There are, I think, 3 reasons for this. First, as many reporters have recently discovered, Hezbollah is not your typical Arab fighting force. Second, this is the early stages of the conflict when, as is usually the case, counters to the enemy’s new tactics must be developed. Lastly, and probably most importantly, this is small operation that is limiting Israel’s capabilities while enhancing Hezbollah’s. The fact that despite all of these advantages Hezbollah is taking a beating simply shows how much more capable the Israeli soldier is.

The Arabs are almost in a class of their own when it comes to military ineffectiveness. I believe it was Moshe Dayan who when asked how other countries could replicate Israel’s stunning military prowess replied simply, “Fight Arabs.” The primary problem in Arab armies is a lack of professionalism and competence in their junior commissioned and non-commissioned officers, the backbone of any military force. Hezbollah's advantage is that it has not been trained by Arabs like the PLO, but by Iranians. While Iranians are not the greatest soldiers in the world, they are far superior to the Arabs. During the Iran-Iraq war, despite being completely outclassed by the Iraqis in firepower and maneuver capability, the Iranians time and time again defeated the Iraqis on the battlefield with simplistic yet effective tactics. The added dimension of Persian professionalism is enough to make Hezbollah a much more capable force than any other (with the possible exception of the British trained Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948 and 1967) that the Israelis have faced. Again, not the S.S. style supermen the press is making them out to be, but still a tougher opponent than just about any Arab army the Israelis have faced before.

In the early stages of any conflict it is often the case that many mistakes are made. Israel is no stranger to this reality. In 1973, Israeli armor raced forward immediately after the Egyptians attacked to fight like it was 1967 when most of the battles in the Sinai resembled naval battles with columns of tanks duking it out at long range. The Israelis didn’t understand the effect that the large quantities of the Soviet AT-3 “Sagger” anti-tank missiles the Egyptians had purchased in between the wars would have. The unsupported Israeli tanks drove into ambushes all along the front. In 2 days the Israelis lost 200 out of 300 tanks in the Sinai. By day 3 or 4 the Israelis figured out how to counter the Egyptian anti-tank teams and were able in a matter of weeks to relatively easily throw the Egyptians back across the Suez Canal. In 1982 the Israelis sent 4 large columns into Lebanon. They planned for a quick operation with the PLO or Syrians guarding the roads and passes. Instead they were instantly ambushed by infantry and even tanks positioned on the hills over the roads. The Syrians had fought for a year in Lebanon without ever figuring out how to deal with this tactic. The Israelis took about a day to realize they would have to advance slowly with infantry teams in the hills shadowing the armor columns.

In both cases the Israelis initially took heavy losses but quickly devised countermeasures that negated the effectiveness of these tactics. It is the same today. The Israeli offensive is so far about a week old, though only the last 3 or 4 days have seen operations of any size. It is not surprising then that the Israelis would have lost several tanks and a dozen or so soldiers to Hezbollah’s new tactics. By now though, the Israelis should have developed new tactics of their own to counter Hezbollah’s. It’s too early to say it’s a trend, but we can already see some changes in the casualty totals. On the
26th the IDF lost 8 soldiers to Hezbollah’s roughly 20 dead in the town of Bint Jbail while on the 28th the Israelis suffered no dead in a battle in Bint Jbail that saw 26 Hezbollah killed. This is why I expected the Israelis to invade initially with a brigade size force (around 2,000-3,000 soldiers) for a few days to discover Hezbollah’s new tricks.

Unfortunately, Hezbollah being a more formidable opponent and the nature of early fighting in a new war are not the only cause of Israel’s apparent troubles. Israel’s superb officer corps seems to be fixing any problems with their tactics. However, they can’t do anything about bad operational and strategic decisions from higher up. While the current IDF offensive is definitely causing significant casualties to Hezbollah (so far at least 200-300 dead and 2-3 times that wounded) it is not doing it quickly or effectively enough. The problem is that the Israelis have pushed a single brigade into a roughly 2 X 4 mile rectangle of southern Lebanon. This leaves no room for the operational maneuver at which Israel excels. The Israelis soldiers are being forced into frontal assaults on prepared Hezbollah positions. Hezbollah is also undoubtedly reinforcing their positions around this rectangle with fighters from other parts of southern Lebanon. In effect the Israelis are fighting Hezbollah with the type frontal attritional strategy that the Arabs or Soviets would use. It will work given enough time and given morale that won’t break under the higher than necessary casualties. The problem for Olmert is that Israel doesn’t have enough time and the best armies tend to crack under such a strategy no matter how successful it is (for example, at the Battle of Verdun the German army succeeded in its mission, killing more French than they lost, but good soldiers don’t like being used in such a manner and it lead to the fall of Falkenheyn as head of the German army). The Israeli ground
commanders are calling for a bigger offensive that will necessarily include maneuver rather than a continuation of the current attritional strategy.

These are the main reasons I think Israel is experiencing higher than anticipated casualties. This casualty bump will in time, if not already, decline. Over time, as Hezbollah’s core cadres are eliminated and the Israelis push past their prepared defensives, their effectiveness will drop. Hezbollah’s new tactics have probably already lost their effect as the far more capable Israelis find ways to defeat them. The last part is up to Olmert. He can continue the strategy of trading 1 Israeli for x number of Hezbollah, expand the offensive as the army wants to so as to get it over with quicker and at a better kill ratio, or he can pull back the ground forces and return to the casualty free (for the Israelis and Hezbollah) air campaign. At any rate, given the Olmert’s decisions and the nature of war, the casualties and tough fighting in southern Lebanon is nothing surprising.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Random thoughts on the Mideast crisis 1 -- Elections matter

We are again seeing both in Israel and here that elections do have consequences. Any conservatives or Republicans who are wary of voting for their party this November should be aware of this. In Israel they had a choice last March between Ehud Olmert and Benyamin Netanyahu. Ehud Olmert won promising to disengage from the Arabs. Thanks to that policy the Israelis are more engaged than ever with the Arabs. As was entirely anticipated, unilaterally withdrawing from the Gaza strip, after doing the same in Lebanon, and then drawing up plans to withdraw from Judea/Samaria simply emboldened Israel’s Arab enemies. After his policy blew up so quickly, Olmert reacted as a typical leftist leader, he played tougher than thou art.

As with other leftwing leaders though, Olmert is discovering you have to do more than act tough to win. The recent news that the Israeli cabinet refused to expand the operation, if true, is the latest evidence that the center-left government in Israel either doesn’t understand what it is doing or that it is consciously passing up a golden opportunity. I doubt Netanyahu would have botched the response this badly (I should mention that I’ve been a Bibi fan since 96). Netanyahu has shown again and again that he understands the situation Israel is facing better than the Labor Party. He was rightly suspicious of the Oslo Accords and then led the charge against the misguided Gaza withdrawals. He also seems in his TV interviews to have a clear understanding of what is going on vis-à-vis Iran and Syria. Unlike John Kerry, I’m not saying that had Netanyahu won there would have been no trouble, just that he would have handled it better.

Our Democrats are in the same strategic rut as Olmert. While their former presidential candidate is running around bragging about his omnipotence (well, at least he claims to be omnipotent enough that he can cut the Gordian Knot that is Mideast peace while at the same preventing mega hurricanes from hitting us, although he's apparently not omnipotent enough to win an election), they bicker over whether their motto should be “strong and smart” or “tough and smart” despite not being any of those things. They walk out on the first Iraqi Prime Minister because he is just an American puppet, then they walk out on this Iraqi Prime Minister because he isn’t an American puppet. Is that the kind of leadership we want in America during these times of change? Do we as conservatives, Republicans, and Americans really want to saddle our nation with an immature and petulant Democrat Congress who will ensure that our country pays any price and bears any burden to see that President Bush is humiliated? If it is worth it to punish the Republican Party for whatever sins it has committed then just understand the price our nation and the world will pay for such a decision. Israel is discovering the effect elections have, let’s not repeat their mistake

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

For Israel's Lebanon operation it's not the end of the beginning but the beginning of the end

As I have been saying since the beginning of the Israeli crises with Hezbollah, time is everything. I understand the Israeli leadership wants to take its time so as to limit the number of casualties on both sides. However, as this news story from Fox news shows, they are fast running out of time. Even though we are staunch allies of Israel, we cannot hold the entire world at bay forever. Prime Minister Olmert doesn’t seem to understand this.

In today’s 24/7 media coverage it is necessary to act, as the U.S. military likes to say, inside your enemies decision cycle. In any conflict between a free peoples and terrorists the media is going to be with the enemy of the free peoples. From Iraq, to Afghanistan, to defensive measures in the U.S., the media is relentlessly and needlessly negative. For Israel this means that the negative media coverage will steadily lower support for her around the world and increase calls by foreign leaders for an end to the violence. We saw this effect most notably in Europe where an even worse press than that in the US combined with latent anti-Semitism to cause European governments to call for an end of Israel’s operation in less than a week. What’s worse is an invasion now will be seen as destroying any hopes for diplomacy causing even more outraged press reports and international pressure on us. The Israelis are also one misplaced air strike killing dozens (or even hundreds) of civilians away from a media explosion that will quickly doom its operations in Lebanon. It was foolish for the Israeli government to believe that we could give them as long as they could possibly desire to deal with Hezbollah.

Regarding Lebanon in particular, it was clear from watching the news that early on the news channels were not sure how to report what was happening. Initial news reports were largely favorable to Israel as she had been attacked with no reason by a terrorist organization. It was about a week before the reporters who had nothing else to do in Israel learned about Operation “Peace for the Galilee” and its convenient link to that favorite historical event for the left, Vietnam. As with Iraq, the story then became about wily supermen terrorists confounding the plodding Israeli Defense Forces at every turn. In addition, the media has begun casting Israel and Hezbollah as
equal in blame. Leaders of free nations have to understand that they must act within the decision cycle of the puerile adversarial press. Just as the press figured out its angle to the Israel-Hezbollah fight, the Israelis should have had the invasion going to give the press something else to figure out. You have to give the press so much to talk about that reporters cannot just sit back and figure out the most negative light to cast on the issue.

Now if I may engage in a bit of armchair prime ministering for a moment. I’m not saying Israel should have rushed into Lebanon on day 1. Obviously, the military would not have been prepared for a major operation so soon. I had expected the Israelis to begin sending in battalion and then brigade size formations around day 3 or 4 (like the current operation of 2 armor battalions plus some infantry). They would gain a better knowledge of Hezbollah’s locations and any new ambush tactics so as not to repeat a mistake from 1982 when four large columns blitzed into Lebanon and were instantly and unexpectedly ambushed from the hills. I thought by day 7 (when media attitudes not surprisingly began to turn against Israel) the full invasion would have begun.

It took the IDF only 4 days to reach Beirut in 1982 despite the unexpected enemy tactics and difficulties with the terrain. I know the fighting is and will be tough, but part of the current problem is that with only one operational thrust the Hezbollah fighters can gather around it. The Israelis are not taking advantage of their far superior capability at operational maneuver to present multiple shifting thrusts that Hezbollah cannot keep up with. You also need multiple thrusts so that less pressed ones can attack the flanks and rear of Hezbollah concentrations that are resisting other thrusts (I know its hilly to mountainous in Lebanon but the tactics are still possible especially with airmobile infantry).

Granted I don’t know how many ugdot (sort of small divisions with no fixed organization) are in Northern Israel (I’ve heard 3 along with 1 reserve) but it seems as though a similar amount of time would be reasonable to secure Lebanon (except Tyre maybe) up to the Litani River and Marjayoun. From that position Olmert could be looking today at negotiations or a possible second jump to the Awali River and into the Bekaa Valley. Meanwhile the reserve ugdah could be going house to house and mosque to mosque searching for Hezbollah’s weapons in the south. It would make the insertion of an international force much easier as Hezbollah will have been cleared from the south, and Israel can hold withdrawing a bargaining chip in the negotiations with Lebanon.

Whatever the Israelis decided in this situation, they would have held the initiative throughout. At worst, Hezbollah would have been badly bloodied and in no position to cause trouble again for a while. The Israelis could then hold the possibility of repeating this over the heads of the Lebanese to encourage them to stop Hezbollah this time. Whatever happened, it would be better than what were looking at now, a bruised but triumphant Hezbollah, an international force that will do nothing, and a Hezbollah that will quickly be ready for another thrashing of the Jew. Time is everything in these matters. With apparently 10-14 days left there is still time to achieve this, though again with much more media and international outcry. I began wondering on day 3 if Olmert knew what he was doing (his decisions in Gaza were already making me think he didn’t) and nothing since then has indicated that he does. However, I don’t know everything that is going on and he could be pursuing an entirely different strategy as outlined by the editor (I don’t know how to link to a certain time or post on his website, its 0230 July 23). The idea was that all Olmert is trying to do is punish Lebanon as an example to the Arab world and get an international force inserted to keep Hezbollah away from the border. If that is his strategy than he is even more foolish than I thought and shows that not only Arabs can miss opportunities.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Arabs once again rush to waste an opportunity

The Prime Minister and Defense Minister of Lebanon are now both on record saying that their nation will resist any Israeli incursion (I couldn't find a link for the Prime Minister though his speech was shown on Fox News). Just by saying that they are doing a great disservice to their country whether or not they actually intend to follow through with their statements. I should first say that no one expects them to welcome an Israeli invasion with open arms. They certainly should say they oppose the Israeli invasion, say it is wrong, call for a U.N. cease fire, and say other such inanities for public consumption. The problem with their statements is that it locks them into the suicidal position of either challenging the Israelis directly or looking fatally weak to the Lebanese people.

The Israeli counterstrike against Hezbollah is not just a golden opportunity for Israel to destroy a major threat and Iranian/Syrian proxy, but it is also an opportunity for Lebanon to rid herself of the last foreign occupiers on her soil. It is true that Lebanon cannot deal with Hezbollah alone. The Lebanese military is capable of little more than running border checkpoints. That means for Hezbollah to be eliminated as a power in Lebanon someone else is going to have to do it for Lebanon. Syria won’t since they support Hezbollah. No international force will since dismantling Hezbollah requires a level of casualties and effort that none of the few countries capable of doing it will deem worth paying. The only country willing and able to do the job is Israel. She is doing it. It is in Lebanon’s best interest that she successfully finishes it.

The best course of action for Lebanon’s future would have been to say the absolute minimum an angry public demands while meeting with the Israelis secretly to plan for the post-Hezbollah south. Of course, we don’t know if they are meeting with the Israelis secretly. Though I would guess they are not since their statements are very strong and leave little room for backing down later. If they continue on their current path they are setting up Lebanon for a prolonged period of suffering. Until the Tehran-Damascus Axis is dealt with, Hezbollah will simply reconstitute at some point in the future. If Lebanon does not work with Israel to plan for what happens after Hezbollah is crushed, they will easily reoccupy their old positions in southern Lebanon. We will be right back where we are today only with the terror axis possibly nuclear armed. Should Hezbollah attempt any sort of WMD attack on Israel there is little doubt their response will be nuclear. Our time is running out to deal with terror axis before such nightmare scenarios are possible. So long as Hezbollah is in southern Lebanon, the Lebanese are an almost certain recipient of an Israeli retaliatory nuclear strike. It is in Lebanon’s best interest to do everything they can to preclude such a possibility, including working with the Israelis.

Aside from Hezbollah, there are other reasons for the Lebanese leadership to not behave rashly in this situation. The operation to destroy Hezbollah necessarily requires the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure. However, there has to be a Lebanese government after this to rebuild the country with the almost guaranteed American assistance. How will the country be rebuilt if the army, assuming it’s as suicidal as Hezbollah, is annihilated by the Israelis? The country will most assuredly fall into chaos in such an event. On the other hand, who will disburse the aid when the country is gripped by chaos because her leaders didn’t stand up to Israel as they promised? Just as Lebanon’s future requires Hezbollah to be eliminated, it also requires the current government to survive. If they were rational men they would be doing everything possible to achieve the first while not threatening the second.

There are also rather glaring problems with their statements. Why were they not as vigilant about seeing to it that Hezbollah and Iran stop infringing on Lebanon’s territory? If they had shown any interest in protecting Lebanon’s sovereignty in that case they wouldn’t be in the situation they are in today. They expect Israel to be concerned about the safety of the Lebanese people but they are not concerned about Hezbollah’s attacks into Israel. They are willing to commit their army to battle against the Israelis (again whether the army will do so is open to question) and yet they will not send it into a slightly less suicidal fight against Hezbollah. They will not risk chaos in their country to deal with Hezbollah when it’s only killing Israelis, but they will risk chaos to fight the Israelis when they finally do something about Hezbollah. They played a dangerous game with Israel and have come up short. Rather than try to make the best they can of the situation they have chosen to raise the stakes. Although sad, I suppose it shouldn’t be unexpected. As we have seen first-hand with the Palestinians, the Iraqis, and now with the Lebanese, it is true what they say, Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The leftist view of terrorism, heads they win, tails we lose

The view of many (mainly lefties) in the western world that terrorists cannot be defeated is an odd one and if true means we are in for one sad future. The reasoning, as can be seen here or by watching cable news, is that if a terrorist organization is attacked, its popularity soars along with its recruits making it even stronger than before. In other words, heads the terrorists win. Meanwhile, they freely crash planes into buildings, launch rockets, kidnap soldiers, send suicide bombers to cafes and all we can do is smile apparently. In all seriousness, what can be done then? Sit back and take the attacks, negotiate and give them Gaza or southern Lebanon in return for peace? As history shows, by doing nothing we allow the terrorist organizations to grow in strength as they show the disaffected masses in their own country that while they may not be able to provide jobs or clean water (just like their governments) they can at least lick the hated powerful countries (unlike their governments). Sure we can bribe them for a time. In exchange for Gaza I think Hamas waited a day or so before launching rockets into Israel. So tails we lose.

If this world view is correct then we may as well get used to the world as the terrorists desire it since nothing we can do will defeat them. Fight them they grow stronger, appease them they grow stronger, ignore them they grow stronger. My only question then is, why not fight them? Why wait around for them to become so strong (by say storing 12,000 or more rockets) or even nuclear armed in the future? In the terrorist worldview our only role is to die. Since according to the left nothing we do can stop them, might we may as well go out standing on our feet like this Italian hero rather than curled up sobbing and begging next to our grave? Of course I am fervently opposed to the lefty world view, I’m just pointing out that even if it is correct I’d still rather we fight the terrorists.

There is also a good exchange in the comments section that I think expands fairly well on the idea behind this post.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's time for Operation "Peace for Haifa"

As these various news stories (AP, Reuters, and AP) indicate, time is running out for Olmert to do something about Hezbollah. In addition the negative nannies are in full force arguing Hezbollah can’t be destroyed so there is no purpose trying (see here and here). Though this is largely mistaken and is based on bad history regarding the 1982 "Peace for Galilee" operation, that's a topic for another post. The relevant point here is that this attitude will also eventually weigh on Israeli opinion. As I’ve written before (here and here), Israel stopping without dealing with Hezbollah would be a major disaster for Israel and the world. There is method behind Israel’s apparent madness with the bombing campaign but only if it is preliminary to a ground campaign. Otherwise, Israel will come out doubly worse with the Lebanese people since not only did Israelis cause such destruction, they didn’t even take care of Hezbollah.

The military historian in me understands the purpose of the bombing campaign and giving it a little time before invading. It is a classic interdiction campaign to prep the battlefield for a ground attack. It is not a strategic bombing campaign as the various analysts in the AP story claim (the differences are subtle since both campaigns largely target the same assets, but strategic campaigns target assets outside of the operational theatre, of course in Lebanon the entire country is the theatre of operation, and targets more things like factories and civilians that Israel hasn’t been hitting). Israel’s bombing campaign is directed at degrading Hezbollah’s ability to move men and supplies around while picking off what men and material present themselves as targets of opportunity. This requires things like destroying the roads, bridges, power plants, airports, and seaports. During it the Israelis can also attain a better picture of Hezbollah’s dispositions and defenses. By itself this will have little effect on Hezbollah long-term. Its primary purpose is to exhaust the supplies and stamina of the Hezbollah fighters while discovering and then freezing them in their defensive positions (as best as possible, it isn’t perfect of course). When the Israeli ground attack comes it will then be against slightly fewer gunmen who are more tired, lower on supplies, and in better known positions that can be destroyed in detail. Without a ground invasion the Hezbollah gunmen will eventually rest, resupply, make good their losses and be able to move about, negating the entire campaign. A good interdiction campaign takes time; the pre-D-Day interdiction campaign lasted for many months for example. The problem is that time is the very resource Israel is short on.

Military operations are not conducted in a vacuum. The political situation is critical and the political window for Israel to invade southern Lebanon is rapidly closing. Soon the international calls for the United States to restrain Israel will become too strong for Bush to resist. Combined with rising opposition in Israel, Olmert will increasingly find it difficult to deal with Hezbollah. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to commit military forces in situations that are less than auspicious. In the end when compared with options of calling off the offensive now or ending it later after causing more damage and anger in Lebanon, invading before the military may be ready is the least bad option. It should be noted that it's not obvious if the Israeli government has a clear idea of what it is doing. While the campaign appears to be a typical interdiction campaign to prepare for a ground invasion, it could also just be the outgrowth of a hit back and look tough policy that Olmert has lost control of. Olmert’s Kadima government is essentially left-wing and such poorly thought out strategic policies are common amongst left-wing leaders (think Bill find-me-an-aspirin-factory-and-empty-tents-to-bomb Clinton and Lyndon find-me-jungle-to-carpet-bomb Johnson). It should also be remembered that the Israeli government includes the Jimmy Carter of Israeli politics, Shimon Peres. Of course I am not saying Israel will invade Lebanon; I am just saying they need to and time is rapidly running out do it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

“No one who believes he has anything to gain from war will be deterred by fear” - Hermocrates of Syracuse

Hermocrates’ words are very important to remember as we consider what to do about Iran. The cable news networks are frequented by various former ambassadors, foreign policy “analysts”, and Mideast “experts” who call for cease fires, agreed frameworks, conferences, anything and everything to keep the jaw-jaw going and prevent war-war. The first thing to consider is that as even the ancient Greeks understood, when one nation (or leader as the case may be) wants a war, they (he) will get a war whether we like it or not.

The next thing to consider is what would Iran gain from a war with America and Israel? The answer is, of course, many things. The Islamic regime is intensely unpopular in Iran. Unlike many of the TV commentators, I don’t think it’s possible to know which way the Persian people will go in the event of a war. There are good arguments both ways, but Ahmadinejad probably believes they will come back to the regime in the event of a war. The first half of this
article is a good summation of Ahmadinejad’s basic strategic beliefs. They boil down to Iran will reshape the Middle East into a new Islamic Achaemenid Empire, and either America will run away and accept this, or America will be fought and forced to accept it. Whatever happens in this world view, America will be laid low by Ahmadinejad the Great. War brings Ahmadinejad stability at home, empire abroad, and eternal glory. Who would let a trifle thing like war dissuade them?

Even when not including the messianic mission Ahmadinejad may believe he is on, there is more than enough to gain from war in his eyes to cause him to be unswayed by fear of what America may do. No amount of bluster or talks will stop Ahmadinejad from his appointed task. American threats are worth as much to him as Iranian promises are to us. He wants a war; nothing will keep him from getting it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel's Caudine Forks moment

One of the main ideas of this blog is that the results of current decisions can be mostly known by comparing them to similar decisions and results from the past. If that is the case then what result can a decision by the Israeli government to halt its Lebanon operation have? There is one main historical example, Samnia’s decision at the Caudine Forks, and the example of Napoleon’s exile to Elba and the Versailles Treaty that back it up.

The Caudine Forks is a defile in the Central Italian section of the Apennine Mountains. In 321 BC, during the Second Samnite War between Rome and Samnia, the Samnites laid an ambush at the Caudine Forks. The Roman army marched into the defile only to find its exit barricaded. When they returned to the entrance they found it blocked by the Samnite army. At this point the Samnite leader didn’t know what to do so he contacted his father who told him to make peace with the Romans and let them go home unharmed. He didn’t find this satisfactory so he again asked his father what he should do. This time his father said to kill all the Romans. This was a bit unexpected given the first piece of advice and was also unacceptable. He summoned his father who explained that if he let the Romans go home in peace he would have made a friend in Rome and they wouldn’t have to fight again. If he killed all the Romans he would destroy Roman power so they wouldn’t have to fight again. The son chose the middle way, he disarmed and humiliated the Romans and sent them home. Angry and still with their strength, the Romans resumed the war 5 years later. They would ultimately destroy the Samnite peoples after a third war. The lesson was that trying to get the best of both worlds usually causes you to end up with the worst.

The next two examples reinforce the reality that the middle way is almost always the worse way. After defeating Napoleon in the 1813 campaign in Germany, the Coalition had a choice to make: destroy Bonapartism to its core, or leave it in charge of ante-bellum France. They tried the latter option but Napoleon thought it was ruse and refused to respond. That meant the only other option was to either kill or exile Bonaparte and to disband his army. The Coalition chose instead to give Napoleon the Italian Isle of Elba to rule and reduced but maintained his army while they created a humiliating peace treaty for France. Not surprisingly, the French and Napoleon were left angry and with a still formidable army waiting for its Emperor to lead it again. After victory in a nearly disastrous Waterloo campaign the Coalition did get it right the second time. Bonaparte was exiled to St. Helena in the South Atlantic, the army was disbanded, and France occupied. The end of World War I is also an example of this tendency to go halfway. After the German army surrendered to what it expected would be decent terms that reflected the situation on the battlefield, the Allies chose to instead pull a fast one on the Germans. They imposed a humiliating treaty that was in no way reflective of events on the ground and yet still left the mightiest nation in Europe the mightiest nation in Europe. All it did was leave German smarting for revenge and with the means to attain it.

Now were at a situation where the Israeli government is deciding whether to call off its offensive in Lebanon and accept a cease fire with Hezbollah. The Israelis have trapped Hezbollah. It made an incredibly stupid move and opened the door to Israel annihilating it. One difference in this case is there is no generous peace offer option with Hezbollah. If Hezbollah were surrounded at the Caudine Forks and the Samnites let them go home, that would only reinforce in Hezbollah’s eyes that Samnia is weak and needs to be destroyed. At any rate, any such possibilty is in the past now. Israel’s two decisions now are 1) go all the way and continue the offensive no matter how angry the Lebanese people get and destroy Hezbollah, 2) choose the middle way and stop it now after getting the Lebanese people angry and leave Hezbollah with the strength to come after Israel again, this time with the support of the Lebanese people. Whatever choice Olmert makes, the Lebanese people and Hezbollah are going to be angry at Israel (well double so in Hezbollah’s case if that’s possible). The difference is whether Olmert will leave the Lebanese people and Hezbollah the capacity to achieve their revenge. History shows time and time again that leaders mostly choose the middle way so it would not surprise me if Olmert does now. However, history also shows what will happen if he does.

Monday, July 17, 2006

No, No, No, No, No, No, ...

I need to stop banging my head on a wall long enough to write a post. This news story from the AP is, short of Israelis calling off their Lebanon offensive, the worst possible thing that could happen. Why on earth would Israel possibly consider letting Hezbollah survive? So they can get back to planning more attacks, receiving more and longer range rockets from Iran and Syria, and waiting for the most opportune time to hit Israel again (like after the Labor Party of Perez and Barak is in charge)? Oh of course, the Lebanese Army will have to deploy to the border according to the deal. I hope Olmert is planning on giving them free lawn chairs and lemonade so they can at least be comfortable while they watch Hezbollah launch rockets into Israel because that’s all they will be able to do.

If Israel calls off her offensive without destroying Hezbollah, there will be no stopping them in Lebanon. They would have taken on the mighty Israeli Defense Forces and won; a feat no one else in the world can lay claim to. What are the odds a typical Lebanese soldier will be willing to take on Hezbollah after that? What will happen to Hezbollah’s popularity in Lebanon after they defeat Israel (which is what not destroying Hezbollah will be)? How much higher will it go above that after Hezbollah rushes money and workers around to rebuild the destruction Israel is causing? We have seen how much more trouble Hamas is now that it’s the government of Gaza and not just a faction. How can Olmert expect that Hezbollah, after it rides its popularity and show of strength to dominance in Lebanon, will not become every bit as bigger a problem as Hamas has? This time the Israelis can deal with only Hezbollah, next time they will have to deal with all of Lebanon.

This is also very bad as regards the democracies’ ability to deal with foreign threats. Hezbollah isn’t even a possible future threat; they are a threat here and now to Israel. If Israel, the toughest of all the democracies, quits this quickly after a raid into her own territory kills 8 soldiers with 2 kidnapped, after one of her missile corvettes is hit by a missile, after hundreds of rockets rain down on her civilians, then this portends very bad things for the free world. The Jews are the canary in the mine shaft, and the canary is not is not predicting very good things for us right now. From history I know why free societies are like this, but still, why do we have to keep waiting for problems to require millions or tens of millions of deaths before we will deal with them? Aren't we smarter than that? I really hope this is just a deception campaign so the ground invasion gains some level of surprise, but just in case it isn't I'm going back to banging my head on a wall.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tehrano Delenda Est

Iran’s nuclear program is by far the greatest immediate threat to the world today. However, some people don’t seem to understand the magnitude of the threat and need a reminder of what the world is facing. It is an existential threat to Israel that cannot be ignored, a lesser but still massive threat to the United States, and a threat to the world economy due to the possibility of the Mideast simply disappearing one day.

The threat to Israel is obviously the greatest. A single nuclear bomb would wipe out most of the tiny country. The Israelis are also only a couple minute flight time from Iran. This would cause an extremely compressed timeframe for Israel to determine whether the missile is aimed at them, armed with a nuclear warhead, and necessitates a retaliatory nuclear strike. While the Israelis do have missile defense systems in place, they would leave precious little time to make a decision if they miss and would likely not impact the decision only the numbers killed. Israel would be placed one twitch on a hair trigger away from bringing down the entire Middle East. Given this it is obvious why Israel does not want Iran to have nukes. (Note: arguing Israel should give up her nukes is a non-starter, namely because they aren’t going to since they need those nukes to protect themselves from their enormous Arab neighbors).

The threat to us is more limited simply do to our size and distance from Iran. I would also expect Iran to go after Israel at the first opportunity before being ready to hit us. Even if Iran could not hit us and didn’t attack Israel they would still pose a major problem for us. Iran would become much more open about supporting terrorists and assisting them in attacks against us. It took 3,000 killed to get a Republican President to invade Afghanistan so a nuclear armed Iran would be largely safe from reprisals for such activity. We would be quickly forced out of Iraq and Afghanistan and most likely the rest of the Mideast and Central Asia. The way will have been shown for every other petty dictator to challenge the United States. Start a nuclear program (with Iranian help undoubtedly) and we will grovel until you have a bomb and pay tribute after you do. Our freedom of action in the world would be over along with what peace and stability we’ve been able to maintain.

The world economy as we know it would be unable to handle the risks a nuclear armed Iran involves. The world needs access to a stable source of oil. Part of the problem with the recent run up in oil prices is the need to factor in the risks of Iran’s 3 million barrels per day being taken off the market for up to a year along with several million Gulf barrels being taken off for a few months. Now every time there is a terrorists attack, oil prices jump $10 or so. What would happen if every time there is a terrorist attack, oil prices would have to factor in the risk of the entire Mideast’s oil production being permanently lost? Even worse, what would happen to oil prices after the entire Mideast’s oil production was permanently lost? There would also be disruptions to world trade as the U.S. Navy would not be able to protect the Straits of Malacca from a nuclear Burma, or the Red Sea from a nuclear Egypt, or the Panama Canal from a nuclear Venezuela, etc. Simply put, it would be extremely difficult for the world economy to function in such an environment.

There are people who believe that Iran only wants nukes to act as a deterrent to Israel and is therefore no real threat. The Israelis are not buying that line and for good reason. They have a much keener sense of history than most. They remember when the Nazis said they were going to kill all the Jews. Sure enough the Nazis tried to kill them all. Then they arrived in the Promised Land to the Arabs promising to drive them back into the sea. Shockingly, the Arabs tried to drive them into the sea. Now the Persians are threatening to wipe them off the map, and saying the loss of Iran is worth the loss of Israel. Due to history, the Israelis are not surprisingly trying to keep that capability out of Ahmadinejad’s hands. We cannot allow the quote about Hitler’s rise to be rewritten as “first they nuked the Jews and I didn’t stand up because I wasn’t a Jew…” We can’t keep making little Israel do our dirty work for us.

Some argue that since we let Israel have nukes we must let Iran have nukes; otherwise we would be the worst kind of person according to a liberal, a hypocrite. There is also the argument that we caused Iran to go nuclear by invading Iraq so this is our punishment for Bush’s sins. Both of these are completely unconstructive arguments. Iran having nukes is not a game, it’s not funny, it’s not something to cheer on as the Bushitler gets his comeuppance, and it’s not something to manipulate for partisan advantage. Millions of people’s lives are at stake, they are worth more than an extra person with a D next to their name in the Senate. While oil prices would go higher with an attack on Iran, if we let them develop their nuclear program we will face even greater price spikes on a regular and possibly permanent basis in the future. The only way to ensure none of these nightmarish futures come to pass is to do everything possible to keep Iran from having nuclear weapons. There is no other way, whatever the price Tehrano delenda est.

(Yes I was lazy this weekend and didn't get links to anyone making the idiotic arguments I referenced. However, if you would like to see someone make them just go into any Yahoo political chat room at any time.)

Thanks to AddeRabbi for the link and nice comments.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Damascus-Tehran Axis loses the initiative

Iran and Syria have been quite active of late. The last two weeks have seen terror attacks, cities rocketed, missiles launched, soldiers kidnapped, and threats of fire and brimstone to any who give them so much as a wry look. However, things aren’t quite as bad as they seem. As can be expected from dictators, they’ve focused entirely on the weakness the democratic would is showing and are ignoring our considerably strength and their own considerable weakness. As such they have grossly overplayed their hand and given us the initiative. Whether we use it to our advantage or surrender it again like in 2003 is up to us.

The world’s current crop of dictators miscalculating like this is entirely historical. The most well known example of this is of course Nazi Germany prior to World War II. Hitler’s moves to scrap the Versailles Treaty, re-militarize the Rhineland, annex Austria, the Sudetenland, and Bohemia & Moravia were all gross overextensions that occurred due to the perception of weakness in France and Britain. Any one of them could have easily cost Hitler everything had France and/or Britain called him on a bluff. He would have lost any war at that time as the country and military were manifestly not prepared for to fight at that time. Even had he backed down without a war it would have destroyed the aura of invincibility that a dictator requires to remain in power. As everyone knows, the Allies didn’t call his bluff until it was too late.

An example of this tendency where the bluff was called is the world wide advances by the Soviet Union following the fall of Saigon. The Soviets not unsurprisingly sensed weakness in America after we abandoned an ally and for some unfathomable reason elected Jimmy Carter President. The Soviets expanded their influence into host of countries and regions, Ethiopia, Somalia, Lusiphone Africa, Central America, the Philippines, and Afghanistan. They established major naval bases at Camranh Bay in Vietnam and Beriberi in Somalia which, properly used, would have greatly complicated matters for the U.S. Navy. Jimmy Carter and his foreign policy team suffered from the notion that America was in terminal decline, the Communists could never be defeated, and that it was better to just let the Soviets expand than to try to stop them. Ronald Reagan was under no such illusion and fully understood that the Soviets had overreached. They had apparently come to believe Carter’s world view of a weak America and strong U.S.S.R. It was not long before Reagan disabused them of such beliefs. By the end of the 1980’s, the Soviets broke under the strain of trying to match America’s arms buildup while supporting their old Communist satellite regimes, and their new ones in Central America, Africa, and Afghanistan against America’s counter-pressure. The Soviets were forced to abandon the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, their bases in Grenada, Beriberi, and Camranh Bay, their puppet government in Kabul, their Eastern European satellites and lastly the Soviet Union. As a dictatorship, they couldn't survive the weakness we forced them to display by standing up to them.

We are facing the same situation today with Iran and Syria. The weakness and hesitation we have shown since the summer of 2003 is driving their present actions. Since that time our one good move has been to run Syria out of Lebanon following their assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister. Otherwise, we have done nothing of substance regarding Iran and Syria’s support of Iraqi insurgents and terrorists, Iran’s clear desire for a nuclear bomb, Iran and Syria’s support of Hezbollah and Hamas, etc. The Iranians have badly misstepped by having Hezbollah attack Israel at this time. Its not exactly apparent at the moment what the Iranians were hoping to gain by Hezbollah attacking Israel. Whatever it is (trying to distract Israel so they don't hit Iran's nuclear program would be my best guess), since Israel isn't responding in the typical meek manner of a Western democracy it is backfiring on Iran and Syria. It has given the Israelis a golden opportunity to deal with Hezbollah and remove that annoyance from their strategic calculations. Without the Syrians in Lebanon the Israelis can destroy Hezbollah without worry of regional war. It’ll take at most a matter of weeks and a major problem for Israel can be rectified. With the destruction of Hezbollah, Lebanon will finally be cleared and the Lebanese can start rebuilding their country (if they choose to). Syria and Iran will both take an enormous prestige hit for not being able to save their terrorist proxy in Lebanon from Israel. This can be used to our advantage to put pressure on the regimes themselves hopefully bringing them down peacefully. As with Hitler both dictators have large factions within their countries who are not quite as interested in risking all by challenging America and Israel. Or failing that we can use it to spark a war after the Hamas/Hezbollah threat is eliminated. It is better to have it when they are not prepared for one and before they have nukes. Or we can continue out current policy of "Please sir, I'd like some more" responses to Iran's provocations. Meanwhile, the opportunity we have within our grasp will slip away.

However we respond, we must remember that we are running out of time to deal with the Iranians before they are nuclear armed. Our present options are to do nothing (what were doing at the moment), fight a war only after they’ve gone “too far” and we must, or fight an early war before they have nukes. The first option will lead to a certain future of nuclear protected Iranian terrorism and oil price extortion with the possibility of a nuclear exchange wiping out the Middle East (to people worried about what effect any action we take will have on oil prices I ask, what do you think oil prices will be after Israel exercises her “Samson Option” and nukes the entire Mideast?). The second option will lead to an unbelievably destructive war with an almost definite nuclear exchange. The third option will lead to a war and higher oil prices but with next to no possibility of a nuclear exchange. So to recap, the outcomes of our choices include 1) nuclear exchange, 2) nuclear exchange, 3) no nuclear exchange. As bad as option 3 is, it’s the best of the lot. The choice is ours, will we allow Ahmadinejad to run a replay of Hitler’s Germany, become a modern day nuclear armed Barbary Pirate, or will we break him like we did Andropov’s Russia? Just because Ahmadinejad seems to believe the John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, et al world view of a weak money-obsessed America cowed by the bluster of a petty dictator and a few cents extra for a gallon of gas doesn’t mean its any truer than when Jimmy Carter was serving the same kool-aid in the 70’s. We didn't drink it then, we shouldn't today.

Friday, July 14, 2006

It takes one to Tango

The events of the last week highlight the fact that it only takes one side to have a war. Some in the democratic world (you can guess who) would disagree with that concept. They like to think that if we just don’t fight back, there will be no war. Or, as they would put it, if we refuse to contribute to the “cycle of violence” there will be no cycle and therefore no violence (according to this view the Arabs, Pakistanis, and other Muslims are not smart enough to act; they can only mindlessly react). However, the bus bombings in India and the terrorist raids on Israel are the latest example of what happens when one side believes it is at war and the other does not.

Israel thought that by withdrawing its settlers and army from Gaza and building a wall it could keep the Palestinians from attacking Israelis. The idea was the Israelis don’t want a war so if they just separate from the Palestinians and don’t fight them, there won’t be a war. The problem is the Palestinians don’t agree with that proposition. Hamas wants Israel out of Israel, not just out of the Gaza strip. Not surprisingly they continued to fight Israel after the pullback. Far from destroying the terrorists’ legitimacy amongst the population, the terrorists were elected to run the Gaza government after the pullout. In addition to giving them control of the government, the Israeli pullout also gave the terrorists the time, freedom, and safety they needed to prepare spectacular attacks on Israel. They are also able to build more, bigger, and better rockets to launch into Israel. It seems that only now the Israelis are beginning to realize that since the Palestinians are spoiling for a fight there will be attacks on Israel regardless of Israel’s actions (well to clarify, the right always realized that, the middle is coming to realize it, and the left will never realize it). The situation with Hezbollah and Lebanon is a little different but close enough. Replace Hamas with Hezbollah and Gaza with Lebanon and you’ve corrected most of the differences.

India is similarly rediscovering that the terrorists will kill them whether the Indians are actively fighting them or not. Their predicament is very similar to Israel’s with Lebanon only on a far larger and nuclear scale. The train bombings occurred despite India’s recent rapprochement with Pakistan (opening rail links, border crossing, cricket games and such). Ties were largely severed following the attack on the Indian Parliament back in December 2001 by 5 Pakistani terrorists. Whether it is the Pakistani government, the military, or the Inter-Services Intelligence that is working with anti-Indian terror groups, these attacks are aided by someone in Pakistan. Whoever it is, they are doing this after a period during which the Indians have attacked Pakistan’s Parliament exactly 0 times, and never blew up any rush hour trains in Karachi.

Whichever way the Israelis and Indians decide to respond, the simple reality is that even choosing to do nothing will not end the violence. Thus far doing nothing has resulted in 14 Israeli soldiers being killed inside their own country in a single week (like 700 American soldiers being killed in a week by Mexican drug gangs along the southern border) and unprecedented numbers of rockets being launched ever deeper into Israel proper. In India doing nothing didn’t stop over 200 innocent civilians from being murdered while traveling home during rush hour. These are just two of the many countries finding themselves being attacked by Islamic radicals trying to enforce Islam’s “Brezhnev Doctrine”, once Dar es-Islam, always Dar es-Islam. They will face attacks until they either submit to Islamic rule, or forcefully persuade the terrorists’ Muslim supporters to stop supporting such attacks.

There are so many examples of this argument and its results just in the 20th Century that it would be impossible to list them all. Some of the bigger ones are France and Britain believing that Hitler could be talked out of his war, and Jimmy Carter thinking that detente would lead to a more peaceful U.S.S.R. The most related is our own “Phony War” with the terrorists during the 1990’s. Some, like myself, thought that 9/11 showed once and for all that being nice and pretending you’re not at war with someone who is at war with you does not work. You can pretend the terrorists are being, in Clinton’s Secretary of Defense’s words, “not sufficiently provocative enough”, and one morning you wake up to a couple of your nation's biggest and most iconic buildings being reduced to rubble. We can only hope the Israelis and Indians will learn from our mistake and not let this violence continue unanswered until a catastrophe of that scale hits them.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Rising Sun rises again

One benefit of North Korea’s reckless behavior is that it's causing the Japanese to finally wake up to the real world. Their GDP, population, wealth, and potential defense spending make them, in my estimation, the second most powerful nation in the world. However, power and influence not used are power and influence that do not exist. Fully rousing the Japanese so they begin to exercise their power is one of the most critical things for ensuring the peace and stability of the future.

The Japanese were shocked when the North Koreans launched a missile over them in 1998. They were even more shocked to learn that they had no ability to defend against it. Since that time the Japanese have been a major partner in our National Missile Defense program. After President Bush came along in 2001, they accelerated their efforts to become a normal country. Most notably, they made their largest and furthest post-World War II deployment when they sent soldiers to Iraq. Whatever the public opinion polls said Japanese thought of that deployment, they re-elected Prime Minister Koizumi in an enormous landslide in September 2005.

Since Koizumi’s resounding re-election the Japanese have begun to throw off the last limitations of the post-World War II settlement. They re-organizing their defense forces and strengthening the relevant portions within their current budget limit. The ground self-defense force is being converted from a static Cold War defense force to a capable, smaller, deployable force for the 21st Century. The air self-defense force is continuing its purchases of F-15’s and the Japanese developed F-2’s (a sort of super F-16). The maritime self-defense force is expanding from 10 very modern destroyers/frigates every bit as excellent as America’s to 20. Despite concern throughout Asia, the Japanese are also planning to build 2 light carriers in the next few years (preliminary to full size carriers one hopes). To top it all off, they are seriously considering promoting their military to a full cabinet ministry and getting rid of the silly “defense force” names.

On the diplomatic front, the Japanese have been attempting to see a reformed U.N. where they would at least have a permanent non-veto seat on the Security Council. I consider one of the great problems of the U.N. that Japan, with the world’s second biggest economy, and India, with the second largest population, have to wait their turn for a Security Council seat like Belgium, Bhutan, and Burundi. Whatever the end result, the fact is that the Japanese are making the effort to do it. The Japanese have also been in the lead demanding strong U.N. action on North Korea. They have not stood down in the face of strong Chinese pressure over the Senkaku Islands and the East China Sea natural gas deposits, nor Korean pressure over Takeshima Island. They have further stood firm over demands for yet more apologies for World War II.

The latest example of the growing self-confidence in Japan is the statement that Japan is considering whether a pre-emptive strike against North Korea is allowed. Like America, the Japanese are realizing that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. However, as they consider whether they are legally allowed to attack North Korea they will soon learn that they do not have the means to attack North Korea even if they wanted to. This will be an interesting next step in Japan’s progression to normal country status; will they re-arm with offensive weapons? I hope they do and also hope they increase their military spending from under 1% of GDP (~$45 billion)to 2.5-3.5% ($125-175 billion). To do those things reliably they need to change Article 9 of their constitution which is just what they are doing. With Article 9 gone, the Japanese will be back on the international stage.

Far from turning away from such rhetoric and ideas, the Japanese people are warming to the main proponent of the new Japan, Shinzo Abe. (As a side note, Abe has been my favorite choice to succeed Koizumi since Koizumi announced he will step down, this only causes me to like him more.) I also noticed, while reading about the World War II super battleship IJN Yamato, that a movie about the exploits of the vessel was made in 2005 in Japan and that a museum about it opened the same year (from the pictures it looks relatively busy). As bad as the Japanese behaved in World War II, they can still take pride in their war-time achievements like the IJN Yamato. It’s interesting to see that, along with Yasukuni visits, the Japanese are at last getting over the war-guilt that has inhibited their nation since World War II. They also seem, unlike the Europeans, to understand that just because they behaved badly at times in the past doesn’t give anyone the right to push them around today. This is key because the exercise of power requires a firm moral and cultural basis. Again, no matter how much power you have, if you don't use it it's meaningless.

The Japanese appear to be culturally, diplomatically, and militarily preparing to re-enter the international geopolitical fray. As we lose our old allies in Europe because of the collapse of their morale and power, we could certainly use a reinvigorated Japan as our friend. I’ve already written about Japan’s value to us here. The North Koreans are simply silencing Japanese doubters of their country's new direction and causing them to redouble their efforts. The better Japan is able to help with real world problems, the better it is for both us and the world.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Whether in a League or United, it's the Nations that matter

I apologize in advance for the length of this post

Most people should be at least familiar with the events that led to the demise of the League of Nations in the 1930’s. As a refresher, the League failed to stop the Japanese from occupying Manchuria in 1931 then invading China in 1937, the Italians from absorbing Abyssinia in 1935, Franco’s Nationalists from rebelling and seizing control in Spain in 1936, and the Germans from forming their Groess Deutschland in 1939. There are two common explanations for why the League proved unable to stop these aggressions. The first theory says that the League had no real enforcement powers. Since the League could not pass any binding agreements, the aggressors need not stop and no one need stop them. The second theory (the one I learned in grade school) is that isolationist Republicans killed U.S. participation in the League and without the U.S. it was unable to properly function.

Both of these theories miss one important factor, that 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.

In the League’s case, its most powerful members were clearly France and Britain. Despite post-war protestations of impotence, they were more than capable of dealing the rise of the dictators had they wanted to. At the end of 1930’s the British and French economies were in the neighborhood of $55 billion, Japan’s was around $6 billion, Italy’s $10 billion, and Germany’s $30 billion (Britain, France, and Italy saw little growth during the decade while the German and Japanese economies roughly doubled). So from an economic standpoint, France and Britain were twice as big as the three dictatorships in 1930 and still around 20% bigger just before the war. Further, the French and British were largely self-sufficient in raw materials due to their large empires. The few resources they didn’t possess, like Turkish chrome, they could easily purchase with their large currency and gold reserves.

In 1930, the year before the Manchurian Incident, The Japanese spent about $380 million on defense. The French and British spent a combined $1,750 million on their militaries. In 1934, the year before the Abyssinian Crises, the Italians spent $730 million on defense. The French and British spent around $2,430 million that year. Though the Germans surpassed the British and French military spending totals in 1935, it must be remembered that Germany was rearming from a terribly weak position. In 1932 the German military had 7 weak divisions, 6 small and 6 large cruisers, no heavy artillery, no tanks, no aircraft, and no submarines. Even by 1936 this had merely expanded to 36 weak divisions, the same navy, little heavy artillery, a few tiny tanks, a handful of aircraft, and a smattering of experimental submarines. The British and French at both times had some 90 active and reserve divisions available for Europe, all fully equipped with heavy artillery, thousands of modern tanks, and with thousands of aircraft to support them. Either navy could sortie a dozen squadrons as powerful as the entire Germany navy. Even as late as the Fall of France in June 1940, the Allies fielded 116 divisions vs. 148 German divisions (though many were recently raised infantry divisions of poor quality), more and better tanks (2,700 vs. 2,400 of which half were no match for the allied tanks), and a far greater force of 14,000 artillery pieces vs. 7,400 for the Germans. The only advantage at that point for the Germans was the superiority of the Luftwaffe with its 5,400 planes matched against 3,100 Allied aircraft.

Another area of weakness for the dictators that France and Britain were perfectly capable of exploiting was their isolation. All three were by themselves in their areas of conflict. Germany was alone in Central Europe, Italy alone in the Mediterranean, and Japan the most isolated of them in East Asia. They were further isolated in time, with Japan acting 3 years before Italy who acted 3 years before Germany. Until 1939 it was possible to deal with each of these nations separately and primarily with naval forces. Each was heavily dependant on imports of raw materials to keep their economies humming. None of them was capable of resisting the might of the Royal Navy much less the combined might of the Royal and French Navies. This was not unknown to the British military. The Royal Navy told the civilian government after World War II has started that in its estimation it was preferable that Italy stay neutral, but should she enter the war it was better she do so as a German ally.

Clearly then, at no time were the allies limited by economic, military, or strategic factors. Ergo, the League was not limited by any of those factors. What limited the British and French, and thus the League, was the moral factor. The French and British did not have the stomach for another war less than 20 years after the First World War. This was a time when appeasement had a positive connotation. It meant you were smart and negotiated with the dictators, giving a little to prevent another bloody war. During the 1930’s the French were living through the “hollow class” years when conscription fell due to the loss births during World War I. Though it didn’t seriously inhibit French military power, it was an all too living reminder of the price of war. The British, meanwhile, were all-consumed with the mundane administration and protection of empire. Risking a naval and colonial war in Africa and East Asia, no matter how much the odds favored the British, was out of the question.

These are all valid reasons to avoid war and they answer the question of why the League didn’t do much of anything to stop the dictators. Its greatest powers, though they had the capability, were simply exhausted and didn’t have the will to do anything. Since an international organization’s only power to enforce its authority is by the use of its members’ power, no nation had to respect its requests. The inclusion of a disarmed, isolationist, and even more unwilling United States would not have magically made the League any more capable of handling these problems. A dictator does not abide by a document simply because of how many signatures are on it; rather he does so because of how many warships, soldiers, and bombs that will visit him if he doesn’t. Had Britain and France been willing to act, they could have used the League as a sort of cover body and thereby made it a legitimate force to be reckoned with in international affairs. It was because they were unwilling to act, and not because of the League’s structure or make up, that the League was incapable of dealing with the problems of the 1930’s and eventually ended its disbandment.

The United Nations pretends to be better, but it is little different. Though it is technically organized on a more permanent and legal basis, its authority also only runs as far as its members are willing to enforce it. For much of its history the U.N. was merely a stage for Cold War posturing between America and Russia. Because of our respective vetoes, neither side had to worry about the U.N. doing anything against its interests. The only times the U.N.’s will has been enforced were in 1950 with the Korean War when we took advantage of a short Soviet boycott to essentially have the U.N. rubber stamp our decision to save South Korea (at the time China’s veto was wielded by Taiwan), in 1991 when Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was something that clearly threatened the interests of all five permanent Security Council members, and in 2003 when the United States and Britain dragged the U.N. kicking and screaming behind us as we enforced the Security Council’s many Iraq resolutions. At no time has the U.N. ever acted on its own nor has it at any time fixed a problem without it being A) in the interest of a major power, and B) not in the interest of any major power to prevent.

The life of the United Nations has only been prolonged by its usefulness to both sides in the Cold War, the vetoes allowing the major powers to see that their interests are never actively threatened by the U.N., and the need for something to fill some of the functions of this organization. However, as we are seeing today its ability to do anything is severely limited for all the same reasons that the League was. On Iraq, Iran, and North Korea the United Nations can come to no consensus. Only with Iraq did we try to force the organization to live up to its purpose and I seriously doubt we will ever go through that again. With Iran and North Korea there is no great demand in the West for more wars to deal with those problems. When combined with the desire of two of the veto powers to see both those countries continue acting as a thorn in the side of the West it means there is no chance of the U.N. resolving either problem on its own. The only reason either nation has to listen to the demands of the United Nations is because America and Europe will use their power to make them listen. Since we are not likely to start a war with North Korea and since Iran is led by the left and media in the West to believe that we won’t go to war, there is no chance of either abiding by any agreements; despite the U.N. letterhead. We are the only country in the world with the power to act, so long as we go through the U.N. and trust it to do what’s best for the world we will not be able to.

The belief of some Americans (primarily on the left) that the U.N. can alone solve the world’s problems is also problematic. Should the American people ever agree and give such people political power, it will be similar to the 1930’s with the left in Britain and France believing in an international organization whose only power is there own, and in signed documents with dictators who have no desire and no need to observe them. After all, they will say Ahmedinejad is a man we can deal with. In 2010, should Hilary Clinton hold in her hand a piece of paper with his signature on it for the world to see, we will have peace for our time and we can finally all go home and get a nice quiet sleep.
Only leftists and fools won't realize what will await us in the morning.

All facts and figures are from Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and J.F.C. Fuller's A Military History of the Western World: Volume III, both excellent books.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Typically impeccable media coverage

This is just one small example of the news media showing off its limited faculties. There is a report from a Japanese newspaper that North Korea aimed its ill-fated missile at Hawaii. Aside from the wider implications of that decision, the question arises, why would North Korea target Hawaii? After noting real reasons like North Korea wanting to show up the United States by landing a missile next to its main Pacific naval base, this Reuters story goes on to say,

“An alternative explanation might be that a missile could accidentally hit land if fired towards Alaska”

Really!!?? So this reporter is completely unaware that there are thousands of miles of empty ocean between Alaska and Hawaii where the missile wouldn't "accidentally" hit anything (assuming it could make it past the Sea of Japan of course)? That should be instantly obvious to anyone, especially a college educated reporter. Or is this the only map reporters have seen? The other problem with that statement is the tone it sets. It takes an extremely hostile action by the North Koreans and changes it to the North Koreans doing us a favor. It’s as if we should thank them for doing us a solid by targeting small Hawaii and not big Alaska. This is complete idiocy. At least a map can be purchased, common sense cannot.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

An U.N.-fit organization

Even a cursory reading of this blog will show that I am not a fan of the United Nations to say the least. The U.N. has so many flaws that it would take several posts just to deal with each of the major ones. However, the symptoms of these defects are clearly on display today. There are two major problems confronting the world, Iran and North Korea. Yet the U.N. has thus far proved incapable of handling either of them. On North Korea, the U.N. can’t even decide what level of condemnation to register much less actually do anything. As regards Iran, the U.N. can’t determine whether there is even a problem to begin with. The only reason there isn’t a third major problem confronting the world today is because the United States, after too long a delay, finally went outside the U.N. to deal with Iraq. Each problem has had two common obstructers at the U.N., Russia and China. We need to wake up to the fact that the U.N. is no longer useful (if it ever was) for keeping the world safe and stable, and that Russia and China are using the U.N. as cover for their global mischief aimed at creating as much trouble for us as possible. If we continue allowing the Russians and Chinese to cause problems without any consequences (in fact they are rewarded) and then allow them to hide behind the U.N., we are going to eventually lose our position in the world. The days of being able to tie one hand behind our back just to make it fair to the rest of the world are over (see here). We need to start adjusting to it.

North Korea - The perils of history forgotten

To make the best decisions on how to approach current problems it is important to have a clear understanding of history and how it applies to a present situation. A fundamental flaw with virtually all left-wing philosophies, ideas, policies, etc. is their lack of any historical rooting. This is no where on better display today than as regards North Korea and the current tantrum it’s throwing for attention (of course it is also on display in ways numerous and sundry all about us). A look at even recent history will show that the Clinton Administration’s policies towards North Korea were a total failure. All they did was take a dying regime developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and give it the time, food, and energy it needed to stay afloat until it could finish its task. The sole “success” was to get North Korea to put cameras on their fuel rods containing plutonium until they were ready to process them. Longer-term history of course shows that rewarding tyrants always yields greater problems down the road. Child psychology will also show that rewarding bad behavior shockingly causes a child to misbehave even more. Yet liberals insist on doing it every time (except, for example, when they overreact and bomb an aspirin factory to show how tough we are).

Despite the unambiguous failure of her policy, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is running around telling everyone that the policies of the 90’s worked while President Bush’s have not. Though true that Bush has not had any spectacular successes on the North Korea front, his policies are at least a little more grounded in the reality of the situation (that there isn’t much we can do, and that it is not primarily our problem, there are others for whom it is a much bigger problem who should be the ones at the forefront of solving it) and in the knowledge that Clinton’s policies backfired. Since the end of the Cold War we have had a problem or deal with North Korea in 1992, 1994 (almost led to war), 1998 (missile launched over Japan), 2000, 2002, and now 2006 (the exceptions were 1996 when North Korea’s puppet master China decided to cause a crises over Taiwan instead, and 2004 when little Kim feared he was the next little punk to get sent to detention). Short of regime change or collapse there is nothing that will change this pattern. All we can do is avoid giving North Korea anything for its misbehavior and encourage the collapse scenario before change becomes necessary. Any other outcome will require the East Asians to act much more than they have shown themselves willing or capable of doing.

It is true the North Koreans may become more vocal and throw louder tantrums, but as anyone who has watched “Super Nanny” or “Nanny 911” knows, this is to be expected when little brats no longer get their way and are expected to behave. As it is, the situation in North Korea has become progressively worse. The regime, since we ended aid, has so few resources that it is forced to allow the army to rot away, an exceptionally dangerous move. They have also been forced to behave in a manner that is angering even their colonial master. The last thing we need to do is to put the regime back on life support so it has the time and resources it needs to perfect its nuclear tipped Amerika-missile. This is certainly not ideal as Kim could start a war and use his nukes if his regime collapses, but that is the situation we are in due to the Clinton Administration’s failures. I am not saying this policy will avoid a war with North Korea, but given the present situation, it will maneuver it into happening at a more advantageous time for us. Thanks to Albright and her crowd, “advantageous” is now only Seoul being nuked. The only other option is to get used to forever paying our Danegeld to the pipsqueak of Pyongyang and every other wannabe tin pot despot out there who copies him. This is what happens when smarter-than-everyone-else liberals make policy, history is forgotten (well, never learned) and is thus repeated.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

N Korea launches, world dithers, what else is new

It appears North Korea went ahead with its missile launch on the fourth. This should not be at all surprising to anyone (the fact the oversized bottle rocket only lasted 40 seconds should also not be surprising). There is nothing serious that we or the rest of the world are willing to do to stop Mr. Kim so he has nothing to lose (see here). Oh of course we all “protest” and issue dire warnings. We solemnly intone that the most isolated nation on Earth has "further isolated" itself. A U.N. emergency meeting is called. Meaningless sanctions are threatened. Even more meaningless papers are signed and mailed to Pyongyang. The world stands together in outrage except that any action beyond threats and declarations is blocked by Russia and China. No one complains about their unilateral disregard for the will of the world. Then we will act super surprised that after all our huffing and puffing, little Kim’s house hasn’t come tumbling down. Those who understand the real value of the U.N. will continue improving their position while those who pretend the U.N. has any purpose beyond soothing Europe's hurt feelings over their loss of power in the world will continue to lose. So sadly predictable.

A glimpse of our future?

There was a very close presidential election in Mexico last Tuesday. What is particularly noticeable is the reaction of the Mexican left to their narrow loss. A Reuters story starts,

“Mexico's left, still smarting from a 1988 presidential vote it says was stolen from it, simmered with anger on Monday as its dreams of power were frustrated by another contested election.”

Goodness, still smarting from 1988!!! Please American Democrats, for the sake of everyone, but mostly for yourselves, get over Bush v. Gore by 2020.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Glorious Fourth of July

No American should let today pass without saying Happy Birthday to our great country. We should also remember the heroes who have sacrificed their lives for us and be glad that such men were are still born in the United States. We must enjoy today before getting back to the tough dreary task of combating the rot that would see our soldiers sacrificed in vain and an end to the expansion of our beliefs and freedoms around the world (as explained here).

Monday, July 03, 2006

The "Butterfly Effect" in Wars Past and Present

The ongoing revelations by the U.S. media about the various secret programs being used to prosecute the war on terror are defended by the media (and much of the left) with the unbelievable claim that since terrorists already know we are using secret methods to track them, it makes no difference for the media to report about them. Apparently your common terrorist thug is smart enough to figure it out but not the average American. This is, of course, utter nonsense as I express here. In that post I mention the macro effect that the press revealing information has had in the past, during the Franco-Prussian War. There is also a micro effect that can quite impact the macro situation. This is more commonly known as the “Butterfly Effect” (or, if you prefer, Chaos Theory). Even should these programs not catch many terrorists, or stop many plots (as some have suggested), they can have singular successes that can affect the entire war.

In the late 19th Century, the Russians were preparing for a war with Great Britain. To attack British commerce, the Russians developed a very expensive commerce raider, the IRN Rurik. However, she would never get a chance to prey on the British merchant marine as she was in the Pacific when war broke out with Japan. Due to the powerful Imperial Japanese Navy, the Rurik would only have one minor success in commerce raiding. In August of 1904 she managed to sink a single Japanese transport vessel before being driven off by the convoy’s escorts. The Rurik would only survive another week before she was sunk by a Japanese squadron. Her career would seem to have been an utter waste of Russian resources as she only sank a single cheap Japanese transport. Yet, had the Russians leadership been more capable, this sinking was probably their greatest opportunity to win the war.

The Japanese knew they were racing against time in any conflict with Russia. The Russian Army was some 4 times bigger than Japan’s and the Imperial Russian Navy was twice as powerful. Japan’s advantage was that she could concentrate all of her power against Russia in Manchuria while the Russians only had small divided forces in the Far East. If the war lasted too long however, the Russians could transport vast numbers of soldiers to Manchuria and send their powerful Baltic fleet to the Yellow Sea ending any hope of a Japanese victory. The Japanese had to capture Port Arthur as quickly as possible and destroy the Russian military forces there while also holding off the Russian army in Manchuria and Vladivostok squadron. After that, they could concentrate their entire army and naval forces and (hopefully) defeat whatever forces the Russians had sent to reinforce the Far East, ending the war in a victory for Japan.

The key to this strategy was the investment of Port Arthur. If it took too long then the dreaded Russian reinforcements would arrive. To defeat the Russian fortifications, and sink the warships at anchor in the harbor, the Japanese needed their battalion of heavy artillery, 18 11" artillery pieces. They planned for the guns to arrive in early August so they could begin the end stage of the Port Arthur operation. However, the convoy carrying the artillery ran into that unlucky Russian raider on its lucky day in early August. Unfortunately, the single transport lost was the one carrying the only heavy artillery in Japan. As a result, the Japanese were forced into a series of exceptionally bloody infantry assaults on Port Arthur that only resulted in the loss of 60,000 soldiers. It was not until October that Japan was able to replace the lost heavy artillery and begin the siege in earnest. By the end of December the Russian fleet was mostly at the bottom of the harbor and the soldiers could take no more. The garrison surrendered and the Japanese were able to concentrate just in time for the decisive Battle of Mukden (the army from Port Arthur arrived just before the battle).

Ultimately, the Japanese were still to win the war despite the one lucky success of the Rurik. Even so, the Rurik did greatly change the path of the war. The three month delay in ending the Siege of Port Arthur gave the Russians a chance to destroy an outnumbered Japanese army covering them in central Manchuria. Alternately, they could have left an army to cover the Japanese covering army, and moved a third army to strike the Japanese army at Port Arthur in the rear, destroying it. They could then combine their entire force in Manchuria and destroy the remaining Japanese army. Even doing nothing as they did, it forced the Japanese to fight the decisive battle with a smaller force (due to the extra 60,000 casualties at Port Arthur) and during the Manchurian winter. This made Mukden a much closer affair (that the Russians could have easily won) than had it been fought 3 months earlier. The fate of nations, empires, and millions of soldiers and sailors turned on one unlucky ship having one lucky sortie, which produced one lucky sighting, which yielded one lucky shot.

In the modern context this means that any possible success of any one of these anti-terror programs could have a major impact in the current war on terror. A terror program that tracked banking transactions overseas could have one success that catches a single transfer by a suspected terror financier to a suspected terrorist in Pakistan, who upon being picked up had time-sensitive info on the location of a local terrorist bigwig who is arrested with all his information including a scheduled meeting the next day with a major terrorist that leads to his capture and the unveiling of hundreds of plots and lower level terrorist operatives. Who knows how major an impact this could have on the wider war? There are of course a million other ways these programs could cause major effects. Abu Sabaya was tracked in the Philippines for 3 years before the chance discovery that he frequently ordered pizza from a certain pizza shop led to his death and the destruction of his particularly violent faction. Such effects are especially important in an intelligence war where the enemy is extremely hard to find. Though the odds of these major events happening are small, they become exponentially smaller the more of these programs our media foolishly reveal. It may be decades before we learn just how many died and how long the struggle was extended for the Pulitzer Prizes of certain journalists.