Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rumsfeld Vs. The McClellan Democrats

I should start by saying that I’m a huge Rumsfeld fan. Have been ever since I read the Wall Street Journal editorial back in 2000 calling for his appointment and discussing his prior distinguished Pentagon stint (for example, as Defense Secretary under Ford he almost single-handily saved the cruise missile from arms limitation talks; that alone should earn him a statue in Washington). Of course I don’t agree with all of his policies, but even if I disagreed with most of them, his expert management of the children in the press corps alone is more than worth his tenure. We are seeing in recent days another reason why I’ve always been a Rummy fan. He has an ability of pointing out simple facts that while not directed at the left causes the lefties to reveal their true colors.
Rumsfeld has again laid bare the hollowness of the Dems strategy on the war. Rumsfeld calling our enemy “Fascists”, something most average Americans would not contest, and drawing parallels with others in history who chose to ignore the threat fascists pose has left the Dems with three options:

  1. Agree our enemies are fascists, but say it’s not that big a deal and thereby play to their type as weak on national security,
  2. Agree and propose a vigorous policy to defeat these fascists and thus lose their nutroots and any hope of electoral victory this election,
  3. Decry such remarks against the good patriotic freedom loving wannabe American Revolutionary (pick one or more based on the war) Soviet, N. Korean, N. Vietnamese, Iraqi, Iranian, terrorist, (enemy in the next conflict) people we are wrongly fighting thus making the Dems look not only weak but also insane (this is the option they seem to be choosing, I guess so they are at least in good company with their base).

As the Dems realize they put their collective foot in their mouth again, they are beginning to lash out at Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Rove and all those simpletons who keep tricking them into saying stupid things. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid decided to respond with what liberals consider history, take their current policy preference, slap “history shows” in front of it, and presto; much easier than spending hours upon hours reading and understanding history you must agree. He brought up that favorite of lefty charges, that Rumsfeld had ignored “military experts when he rushed to war without enough troops” (the full press release is here). Only this time, Rumsfeld is alleged to have ignored history as well.

First off, the reason why this assertion is so ridiculous is that you cannot say history always shows you should always send more soldiers. Even a cursory study of history would reveal that this is dependant on the situation. So what the argument should be is history shows more soldiers were needed for reasons x, y, and z, which compares with historical outcomes a, b, and c. The second thing to note is that there are “military experts” who would advise against any chosen course of action. It is simply impossible to do something that does not contravene a “military expert” selected by your political opponents. My views on this charge are a bit light because I link to posts I wrote before about them that are far far more detailed.

The claim that Rumsfeld did not send as many soldiers as were needed is highly questionable at best. I know this is the core liberal claim against the policy in Iraq as they think it allows them to sound tough while also opposing the President’s policy. Yes, they do have generals on their side, although it must be noted that their two highest profile generals, Clark and Shinseki, ended their careers in ignominy (both had been prepped for it during the Clinton years, although in Shinseki’s case they had to wait until Bush was in office to execute it, no it had nothing to do with Iraq). I wrote a post, "Echoes of the Sicilian Expedition" about that telling historical analogy that shows why I think sending 300,000 soldiers would have caused many more problems for us than it solved (it’s a long post, too long to copy here but well worth a read I would say). Essentially, we needed enough soldiers to keep the Sunni revanchists from winning while we established a Shiite-Kurdish security force without sending so many soldiers that we caused the majority of Iraqis to believe that, as lefties in the West told them, we were there to colonize their country and steal their oil.

Added to this is the simple fact that the logistical situation in the region precluded invading with more than 80,000 soldiers that would build to 150,000 over 6-7 months. True it would have been better had Saudi Arabia and especially Turkey gone along, but that wasn’t Rumsfeld’s job. That was Powell’s job and he botched it horribly (some, including me, would add willingly). Granted, the Democrats apparently think Okinawa makes a suitable base of operations for the Persian Gulf, so I can understand why they don’t realize this but I’m discussing reality here. Also, there is the simple fact that our military is of a certain size and can only support so many soldiers on continuous deployment. The Dems will say aha, we support 40,000 extra soldiers. As I wrote in another post,"The 40,000 soldier question", that is not the best way to go and is opposed by the generals for several good reasons (i.e. the “military experts” the civilian leadership is supposed to obey, although that may only be when they support the Dems so maybe it’s ok to ignore them here; lefties?). Basically, our main problem is that we do not have enough combat soldiers and the ones we have are in the wrong fields (artillery instead of recon or military police and even Air Force bomb loader instead of Air Force light infantry). Correcting that should be the priority.

The Democrat position on these topics is just a modern updated version of the original Democrat war policy, the “McClellan Doctrine” of 1861. What the McClellan Doctrine calls for is massive overwhelming firepower to fight any enemy. The problem is that it requires such a preponderance of firepower that in practice it is impossible to ever achieve it. As Lincoln commented about McClellan (not an exact quote), I gave him 200,000 men and he asks for 500,000, if I gave him that he would ask for 1 million, if I gave him that he would ask for 2 million. It wasn’t until McClellan was sidelined that decisive, though non-overwhelming, force was utilized to accomplish something. What Lincoln and Rumsfeld understand that the McClellan Democrats then and now do not is that an army has to be used in a non-perfect situation because a perfect situation will never occur.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Yet another in the seemingly endless series of lessons on the importance of deterrence

According to Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, had he known that the Israelis would respond as forcefully as they did to the kidnapping of their soldiers, he would never have ordered it. Even though Olmert never ordered the killing blow, the possibility was always there. This is not only a reminder that non-Westerners are not the military masterminds and adept students of Sun Tzu that lefties imagine them to be, but also of the value of deterrence.

The cause of deterrence is simply the belief that any action against another nation will result in so massive a retaliation (yes, that means disproportionate retaliation) that it is not worth it to take the initial action, in this case kidnapping or killing a dozen Israeli soldiers. What we saw with Hezbollah was the effect of years of lefty weakness in Israel. This was supposed to inspire a willingness to compromise in the terrorists but as we saw (and as the right predicted) has only whipped up a willingness to push the envelope against Israel.

We can only hope that Hezbollah has learned its lesson this time. However, since it is still alive, in all likelihood all it has learned is the need for bigger rockets next time. More critically is the lesson that the other nations in the region have taken. Whatever the deterrence effect Israel may have had on terrorists, it hasn’t had any on the nations of the region. Iran now feels free to attack Romanian and Azerbaijani oil platforms, Syria is openly declaring hatred for Israel and the need to conquer the Golan, Egypt is establishing ties with Iran for the first time and some are pushing for an end to the peace treaty with Israel, and Turkey is continuing her move away from the “Phantom Alliance” and secularism and towards Islamism.

I know lefties hate acting tough, much less actually being tough, but in the real world it’s a lot cheaper and better for everyone to make 100 nations fear you will go to war than to have to go to war with even one nation. One would think that with history, even recent history like Iraq, showing the value of deterrence and making your enemy believe that you will go to war this would be obvious to everyone. Sadly, it isn’t and sadly we, like Israel, will pay the price for it again and again in the future.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Europe backtracks and backstabs, what a surprise

Well I didn't expect to be away for almost 2 weeks, but finals are finally over, yipee.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that both France and Germany have quickly backtracked on their promises to send soldiers to Lebanon. Aside from their inability to deploy many troops overseas, this simply continues the trend of the Continental Europeans ignoring their international commitments. It also isn’t surprising that the French would yet again backstab their Western allies for their own geopolitical benefit by promising to send troops and lead the force to get a ceasefire signed and then saying they won't be doing that. I have no idea why the Bush Administration continues to trust the Europeans in general and the French in particular to keep their word.

The main reason for this quixotic behavior by the Europeans is the rapid collapse of the military power of a continent that fielded ten million soldiers and held the fate of the world in its grasp just a generation ago. As the saying goes, when the only tool in your toolbox is a pen, every problem starts looking like a document to sign. What the Europeans will do when they so underfund their militaries that they can’t even afford pens anymore I don’t know. The only ability that the Europeans have to shape world events then is by using diplomacy to hobble the United States when it suits their interests or to get the U.S. to clean up Europe’s messes that are threatening them as in the Balkans. Since we won’t make our “allies” pay a price for such behavior there is no reason for them to not engage in it.

For example, the Europeans are almost single handily ensuring Iran will have nuclear missiles by their endless demand for more talks and then yet more talks. Why should they do that when Berlin, Paris, and Brussels are in range but not Washington? Simple, they are currently reaping the benefits of trading Iranian blood and suffering for European oil and profits just as they were doing with Saddam’s Iraq. From their perspective there is no reason to risk that cozy relationship because of the chance that Iran will go nuclear. If Iran does acquire nuclear missiles, the United States has spent hundreds of billions of ballistic missile defenses so Europe will be protected for free anyways. Indeed the European calculation is proving to be correct, they profit by making a huge overseas mess for us and we pay to protect them from it by installing interceptor missiles in Eastern Europe.

Back to the latest example of Euro-weaseling. That the French would change in a day from 3-4 thousand soldiers to 1,600-2,000 and the Germans from sending soldiers to sending a few naval vessels should have been expected given the few soldiers they have available for deployment. I wrote about both several months ago in regards to the silly lefty belief that France and German would have sent a division each to Iraq had Bush asked pretty please with a cherry on top (France is here, and Germany here). Simply put, the French have only a few thousand soldiers available for deployment who must be kept in reserve given their international interests while the Germans are essentially maxed out by their deployments in the Balkans and Afghanistan (although they could scrounge up a few hundreds if needed). I didn’t write about Italy but they do have a few thousand soldiers to deploy so 3,000 shouldn’t be too difficult to manage.

France’s appalling behavior at the U.N. is the norm for them sadly. They hoodwink us in by appearing interested in a real ceasefire and even going along with it. Then they change the deal but promise to send a large contingent of peacekeepers and to lead the force. The United States and Israelis go along with it (though Olmert hardly needed any encouragement to give up) since at least a strong European force will be in place to stop Hezbollah from returning. Then the day after the French and Germans announce they won’t be sending the soldiers they promised. Sounds a lot like the French game plan at the U.N. circa 2002, they get the U.S. to go through the purgatory that is the U.N with promises of being serious and then after the U.S. can’t wait any longer for a resolution they announce they will veto it.

This isn’t the first time Europe and especially France has broken their own international commitments. This is hardly an exhaustive list and is in no particular order: France and Germany continue ignoring the Euro rules on budget deficits that they themselves wrote, Europe is no where close to meeting its Kyoto Protocol requirements (they should be around 8 not 8.5, their pollution has been rising since the benefits from closing British coal power plants and East German factories ended in the mid 90’s), the reconstruction aid promised after the war in Afghanistan didn't arrive (no we didn't send as much as we could because we believed the Europeans when they said they would send the aid), their international Galileo satellite program is falling apart since no one will provide the funding they promised, the emissions trading system is breaking down as countries ignore it, the French especially break many defense contracts in a manner that benefits French industry. We need to accept that this is the sort of behavior that we will see from Europe in general and France in particular. It will only get worse as their global power and influence continues to recede and their Muslim populations grow ever larger and more violent. The only responsible and good nations left are us, Japan, and the Anglo powers (although Canada can be a bit wobbly on the responsible part when under the Liberals). If the world is to have any chance we must focus our efforts with these countries.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Some suggested reading

Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post has written an editorial (here) that excellently spells out what is at stake in Israel’s war against Hezbollah and why it is important to the free world that Israel wins. I would recommend regularly reading her editorials anyways as she is one of the smartest and insightful people in Israel (or the rest of the world for that matter).

Meanwhile over at the National Review there is a copy an article (here) that does a great job explaining the inevitability of war with Iran.

Both are concepts that I’ve been writing about for the last month (I know I should have written about them earlier, but my blog hasn’t even been around for 3 months yet). Nevertheless, since both of these writers are paid for their work their articles are both much longer than mine so they are both good reading.

It's almost about time

I guess this is good news, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert has only taken 9 or so days to move from possibly maybe ordering an offensive for some point in the future to ordering an offensive for some point in the future. It took him around 14 days to reach that first point so he at least deserves good marks for improvement. His behavior reminds me of Grant’s comment at the Siege of Chattanooga that General Rosecrans was acting like a duck smacked on the head (too bad Olmert doesn’t have a superior who could replace him). We can only hope that this offensive, if it does happen, is handled in a much better manner than the previous month was. I also hope he hasn’t exhausted U.S. support with his idiotic and drawn out campaign. Of course, if we weren’t going to support Israel however they dealt with Hezbollah President Bush should have been “encouraging” Olmert to either invade sooner or stop sooner. Anyways, what’s done is done. It’s just a shame we can't have more faith that Olmert will finish what must be done.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Democrats go the Full Lamonty

The primary defeat of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman to Ned Lamont is bigger I think than just the usual Republican angst/jubilation over the Democrats continuing their long slide into complete irrelevance on foreign policy in general and national security in particular. Lieberman broached the bigger issue that I think is at play in his concession speech last night. The problem is not so much that the anti-war left is taking over the party, it’s that the anti-civility (or angry) left is taking over.

The reason I don’t think it’s much of a problem that the anti-war left is taking over is because where the anti-war left does have an influence, they have already turned those Democrats who were not for a vigorous War on Terror from the start. Lieberman and Clinton are the only deep blue state Senators who have bucked it. Lieberman paid the price yesterday and Clinton will in the 2008 presidential primaries. However, where the angry left doesn’t have as much influence the Democrats are more able to behave somewhat responsibly and should largely continue doing so. It is somewhat silly for Republicans to claim that Lieberman losing is the end of the old Truman or Scoop Jackson Democrats. Lieberman is not the only Democrat, for example, to have supported the war in Iraq, supported it’s funding, and supports it to this day. These Democrats are no where near a majority of the Democratic Party but neither is Lieberman the last of them. Longer term this is also beneficial for the Republicans since the more the angry left shows its true colors the more independents are likely to vote against the Democrats and the more likely Republicans are to turn out to vote.

Rather, the major problem is that we are seeing civility in Washington disappear. The angry left is a movement that sees its political opponents as evil criminals and has no inhibition against saying it. A perfect example of this was on display last night during Hannity & Colmes’ coverage of the primary results. Hannity is the conservative of the duo and would thus be disliked by anyone of the liberal persuasion. Colmes was at the headquarters of Ned Lamont when one of Lamont’s supporters in the background held up a sign that read “Hannity sucks ass”. Why on earth would anyone do something like that on national TV? I very much disagree with Colmes on virtually everything but I would never say anything like that about him, especially not on national TV where everyone could see what an out of control idiot I was being. Lieberman mentioned this in his concession speech when he said,

“I expect that my opponent will continue to do in the general election what he has done in the primary, partisan polarizing instead of talking about how we can solve people's problems, insults instead of ideas… I'll never hesitate to work with members of the other party if it helps to achieve solutions to build better life for people of Connecticut. I will always do what I believe is right for my state and country regardless of what the political consequences may be.”

The main focus of most, including the nutroots themselves, may be the anti-war part but I think the overarching issue is that Lieberman played nice with Republicans even if he voted as an almost perfect liberal. You can see that in the complaints that are made about Lieberman saying adultery is wrong (imagine that) during the Monica scandal and the infamous “Judas kiss” from Bush.

Again, I do not think this outcome is necessary bad for the Republicans. Lamont represents everything that is wrong with the Democrat Party today. Karl Rove will no doubt take full advantage of yet another such perfect example come November. However, having one party so debase itself in such a way is not good for the country in any respect. If the said party wins then the country will be run by people fully capable of coming up with Bushitler and "Hannity sucks ass" but bereft of any real ideas or common sense. If they do not win (as is more likely) then the country will be run by a party that isn’t challenged and is thus not as ideologically prepared for running the country as it could be.

What we are seeing then is the end of the days when at least some Democrats didn’t think the answer to Republican electoral success is lawsuits, the reply to any compromise from the Republicans is to take it and then immediately decry the evil heartless Republicans and demand more, who do not believe that every funeral, tragedy, hearing is a political event to be exploited, and who love their country more than they hate their political opponents.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It's The Olmert & Peretz Show!! Tonite's episode: Who's in Beirut?

Well I intended to write a latest news oriented post about Israel. Then I find out there is no latest news except for the continuing Abbott and Costello routine of the Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Peretz. Apparently, 1 week after I first heard about the plan to push to the Litani, Costello has approved one but Abbott hasn’t ordered it into action yet. Thinking about it, I guess that explains the indecision within the Israeli government. I would guess that Olmert and Peretz are in an infinite "Who's on first" loop:

Olmert: Defense Minister Peretz, we have to get rid of the terror leaders in our region. Tell me where they are and their names.
Peretz: All right. But you know, strange as it may seem, they give terrorist leaders nowadays very peculiar names in the Israeli Defense Ministry.
Olmert: Funny names?
Peretz: Nicknames, pet names. Now, in our region Who's in Beirut, What's in Damascus, I Don't Know is in Tehran ---
Olmert: That's what I want to find out; I want you to tell me the names of the terrorist leaders in our region.
Peretz: I'm telling you: Who's in Beirut, What's in Damascus, I Don't Know is in Tehran.
Olmert: You know their names?
Peretz: Yes.
Olmert: Well, then, who's in Beirut?
Peretz: Yes.
Olmert: I mean the terrorist leader in Beirut’s name.
Peretz: Who.
Olmert: The terrorist leader in Beirut.
Peretz: Who is in Beirut.
Olmert: Well what are you askin' me for?
Peretz: I'm not asking you---I'm telling you: Who is in Beirut.
Olmert: I'm asking you---who's in Beirut?
Peretz: That's the man's name!
Olmert: That's who's name?
Peretz: Yes.
Olmert: Well go ahead and tell me.
Peretz: Who.
Olmert: The guy in Beirut.
Peretz: Who.
Olmert: The terror leader in Beirut!
Peretz: Who is in Beirut!
Olmert: Is there a terror leader in Beirut?
Peretz: Certainly!
Olmert: Then who's leading the terrorists in Beirut?
Peretz: Absolutely!
Olmert: When you try to bomb the terror mastermind in Beirut, who gets the bombs?
Peretz: Every one of them! And why not, the man's entitled to them.
Olmert: Who is?
Peretz: Yes.
Olmert: So who gets the bombs?
Peretz: Why shouldn't he? Sometimes his underlings get them.
Olmert: Who's underlings?
Peretz: Yes. After all, the man deserves it.
Olmert: Who does?
Peretz: Absolutely.
Olmert: All I'm trying to find out is what's the Islamo-fascist’s name in Beirut.
Peretz: Oh, no, no, What is in Damascus.
Olmert: I'm not asking you who's in Damascus.
Peretz: Who's in Beirut.
Olmert: That's what I'm trying to find out!
Peretz: Well, don't change the terror leaders around!
Olmert: I'm not changing nobody!
Peretz: Now, take it easy.
Olmert: What's the guy's name in Beirut?
Peretz: What's the guy's name in Damascus.
Olmert: I'm not askin' ya who's in Damascus.
Peretz: Who's in Beirut.
Olmert: I don't know.
Peretz: He's in Tehran. We're not talking about him.
Olmert: How did I get in Tehran?
Peretz: You mentioned his name.
Olmert: If I mentioned the Tehran terrorist leader's name, who did I say is in Tehran?
Peretz: No, Who's in Beirut.
Olmert: Stay outta Beirut, will ya?!
Peretz: Well, what do you want me to do?
Olmert: Now what's the guy's name in Tehran?
Peretz: What's in Damascus.
Olmert: I'm not asking ya who's in Damascus.
Peretz: Who's in Beirut.
Olmert: I don't know.
Peretz: He's in Tehran.
Olmert: There I go, back in Tehran again.
Peretz: Well, I can't change their names.
Olmert: Will you please stay in Tehran?
Peretz: Please. Now what is it you want to know?
Olmert: What is the fellow's name in Tehran.
Peretz: What is the fellow's name in Damascus.
Olmert: I'm not askin' ya who's in Damascus!
Peretz: Who's in Beirut.
Olmert: I don't know.
Peretz & Olmert: Tehran!

Almost four weeks later and they still can't agree on who's in Beirut. Funny on the little screen, tragic in real life.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

In the real world, perception matters as much as reality

Note: I'm a parttimer so I'm not exactly sure of how such things are handled in the blog world or if they matter, I left out a couple things in the original post and added them in two places thanks to the persons credited. I was also linked to by the people, thanks to both for that, who pointed out the ommissions so I know I don't have many visitors but they're something to check out.

One of the major problems with Olmert’s slow-mo strategy against Hezbollah is that it is putting what's left of (thanks Yaakov) Israel’s hard earned aura of invincibility at risk. I know that since leftists don’t believe that such emotions are supposed to impact national decision making, Olmert probably doesn’t think it’s an issue. The problem is not that his policy is causing the IDF to be defeated in battle at the hands of Hezbollah but that it is creating that perception for the vast majority of the world that doesn’t understand military affairs.

We are beginning to see more and more stories like this one about Hezbollah stopping the vaunted Israeli something (in this case tanks). The cable news is also beginning to report everything from the angle of the plucky underdog Hezbollah running circles around the plodding Israelis. Even Fox has sunk to those levels with host John Gibson saying something to the effect that Hezbollah has gutted the IDF. The only thing the non-military minded media would understand as an Israeli success is if a) the Israelis made it to the Litani River or b) the Israelis finished the fighting sooner. I have heard the incompetent union boss Israeli Defense Minister say on each of the last two days that the IDF will drive to the Litani. Yet, except for a report of an Israeli commando raid on Tyre, still no action.

This all masks what has been a fairly successful fight against Hezbollah by the Israelis and one that on strictly military terms is going very badly for Hezbollah. Yes, Hezbollah is not your standard Arab military force. It’s essentially a modern day equivalent of the post-World War II Jordanian Arab Legion. It is a smallish long term professional force trained, equipped, and led by a foreign backer. Despite all the advantages that Hezbollah enjoys, good training, high morale, good weapons, excellent defensive terrain to defend, 6 years to prepare defenses and to learn the lay of the land, using civilians as shields to restrict the actions of the humane Israelis (thanks Joe Settler), new tactics that the Israelis must adapt to, and a politically hobbled IDF offensive, Hezbollah is still taking casualties at between a 5 and 10 to 1 ratio. That is hardly better than Syria’s 8:1 ratio in 1982 fighting in the same area and far worse than the Arab Legion who gave as good as they got (and maybe even better) in 1948. The military problem for Hezbollah is that it is not your standard Arab militia force like those seen in the Palestinian areas and in Iraq. Those forces simply take a young man, give him a rifle and send him off to be killed. Losses do not affect them. Losses do affect a professional long term force. When Hezbollah loses say 7 fighters to one Israeli it is losing hard to replace fighters who took years to train and prepare. It is also a far greater portion of their fighting force. Meanwhile Israel loses a small share of its army and the rest gain combat experience that will benefit them and Israel for decades to come.

If the Israelis are doing fairly well in even their constrained environment, then why are they perceived to be losing? Simply put, because they aren’t advancing and they aren’t finishing the job quickly. There can be good reasons for a slow-mo approach, mainly it tends to limit casualties and fatigue within the military. The problem here is not just that Israel doesn’t have the time for this (the U.S. and France have agreed to a ceasefire resolution) but also because it causes this perception that no matter how successful Israel is in this village or that village, they are losing. This is extremely dangerous for a small country that depends on her “invincible” military for defense.

Having your enemies believe you are invincible can be one of the most important aspects in a battle. Prussia in the 18th Century was a relatively small power. Even so she was considered one of the major powers of Europe because of her excellent conscript army. Combined with the exceptional leadership of Frederick the Great the army would turn Prussia from a great power in name only into a real one. It would build such a reputation that all of Europe feared facing the Prussian army. Even Napoleon was scared to fight it in 1806. Following its crushing defeat by Napoleon, no one feared the Prussians as much anymore. This led to the humiliation by Austria at Olmutz in 1850. It took much reform and 2 spectacular victories to earn Prussia her reputation back. As for Napoleon, one of the interesting things about the success of his Grand Armee was how many times Napoleon and the army messed up and were saved simply because their enemy believed it was a clever trap and didn’t take advantage of it. After Wagram in 1809 his opponents began to realize that he was just a man who could be defeated and Napoleon’s successes began to decline. Within in the Grand Armee a further mystique built up around the “Old Guard”. They were Napoleon’s finest soldiers and had never been defeated in battle. The cause of the rout of the French army at Waterloo was when the Old Guard wasn’t defeated but simply wavered. The rest of the army saw the “invincible” Old Guard waver and panicked into a headlong rout. You can also see this dynamic in the Union generals who began to greatly fear General Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War. One general who didn’t fear Lee was Grant, and after their first encounter at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, Grant had to convince his frightened generals to pursue Lee by tell them something like “you behave as though General Lee can somersault his entire army over our heads and into our rear”. Once Lee ran into a general who wasn’t afraid of him or his army, his success also declined.

Israel is in a similar situation today. The Israelis probably could not hold back a continual effort by the Arabs to defeat her. Even Frederick the Great’s Prussia could last only 7 years before fate saved them. One important aspect of Israel’s survival is inculcating the notion that she can never be defeated. This caused the Jordanians to give up their war with Israel around 1970. The Egyptians were somewhat done with their bloodlust prior to 1973. 1956 and 1967 had already convinced them of Israel’s superiority. What caused them to try one more time against Israel was Israel’s poor showing in the War of Attrition. If Israel allows her perceived invincibility to disappear because Olmert either doesn’t know what to do or is trying to limit casualties then it will simply set herself up for major problems down the road. Egypt and Jordan probably won’t return to the fight, but Ahmadinejad is watching from afar. Like a predator, he is hovering, waiting for the Israelis to appear wounded. He would obviously love nothing more than to bring down the Jewish state. Meanwhile, Olmert is having the IDF do their best wounded animal impression. This is not a good combination. Can Israel survive a conventional war with Syria, a massive guerrilla war in Lebanon, a major uprising in the Palestinian areas, all supported by Iran? Probably, but still no reason to make it a possibility by appearing to lose.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A hodgepodge of random Mideast thoughts

Well I'm back from my college forced "vacation". I thought a break from thinking about Olmert's lack of thinking would do me some good but it hasn't. This isn't as heavy as my posts normally are, but I haven't seen much news in the last few days so I'll need to ease back into the news cycle.

First off, I still have no idea what Olmert’s plan is. I know, I never did, but I at least understood what was happening. However, like the editor (2:30 Aug 3rd), I am also now having a hard time simply understanding what it is the Israeli leadership is doing anymore (that’s not just because I’ve been relatively out of the loop this last week). Olmert’s rhetoric seems to be more and more divorced from reality on the ground. At least with Bint Jbail there was some semblance between what the Olmert government was saying was happening and what was happening. I think it was last week that the Israelis began discussing pushing to the Litani River. The IDF has at least 9 active and 3 reserve brigades (likely several more of each) or 30-50,000 soldiers in northern Israel. A week would have been more than enough time to push the 10-18 miles to the Litani River for a force of that size. Yet at the moment it appears they are staging Bint Jbail style assaults in 3 or 4 locations. says these operations involve only 10,000 troops from 8 brigades. Initially, given Olmert’s rhetoric, I thought these were the advance guards of the 4 columns that would finally advance to the Litani. One week later, they still seem to be rotating small groups of troops in and out for shallow thrusts into Lebanon. I understand the Israelis need to clear out the towns and arms caches, but that is no reason not to send 2 or 3 active divisions to the Litani while 2 or 3 reserve divisions conduct the clearing operations in the rear. The problem doesn’t appear to be Hezbollah resistance. The Israelis are giving much better than they are receiving (19 to 3 yesterday according to and Hezbollah has far fewer fighters than Israel. The only thing I can think is that Olmert still doesn't understand he is running out of time and thinks he has as long as he needs to do this as casualty free as possible. If it isn’t Olmert then I have no idea what the problem is.

As if the quite extensive list needed any more entries, Prime Minister Olmert has again shown that he lacks any strategic sense. He actually claimed last week that the fighting in Gaza and Lebanon adds impetus to the West Bank pullout plan. Apparently the problems following the Gaza and Lebanon withdrawals aren’t enough for him. At the most basic, any such pullout would leave Jerusalem under the shadow of Palestinian rockets. The wall Olmert wants to hide behind only stops suicide bombers, not rockets. The only possible argument I have heard in favor of this idea was by NPR correspondent Mara Liasson on Special Report with Brit Hume, who stated that it was a good idea since the world would stand by Israel if she were attacked from the Palestinian areas. Just like with Gaza and Lebanon the world will initially be sympathetic until Israel tries to defend herself. I know the left considers the world’s sympathy to be sacrosanct, but in the real world it has little value. After all, Czechoslovakia had plenty of sympathy in 1939 and 1968 and that sure did a lot of good. He must really believe the leftwing motto, “fool me 7 times, shame on you, fool me 8 or more times shame on me”. I hope the Israelis can vote him out soon since they don’t have 8 times to wait for Olmert and the left to wake up to reality.

This news story summarizes the draft UN resolution for a cease fire in Lebanon that is circulating. What fantasy world do diplomats live in that they think this has any chance of solving the problem? Every single part of the resolution is impossible to implement in any real way. The first part demands an immediate cessation of hostilities. Uh huh. The only reason Hezbollah will quit is if it's losing and if it is losing the Israelis shouldn't let them quit. I know after that for a starter there’s little reason to continue looking at the rest of the faux demands but let’s continue. In exchange for this cease fire, Hezbollah will disarm as per UN resolution 1559. So Hezbollah will be given the chance to ignore 2 UN resolutions. Ah well, they’re still a lightweight in that category as far as Saddam Hussein was concerned. At this rate it’ll only take 12 years and 15 more UN resolutions before Hezbollah is disarmed. Anyways, back to fantasy land, Hezbollah will also return the 2 kidnapped Israeli soldiers and Israel will release some Hezbollah prisoners. In other words, Hezbollah will get what it wanted all along. To enforce all of this, a robust international force will enter southern Lebanon and will keep the peace along with the Lebanese army. Never mind that no one wants to or has troops to send to Lebanon. Never mind that the Lebanese army is completely incapable of doing anything and that at least 1/3 of the army would support Hezbollah given the chance. Never mind that this would require the Israelis to finish clearing out Hezbollah south of the Litani before this phantom force could arrive; something that won’t happen if Israel is stopped now. To top it off, they actually believe this cease-fire would hold.

There you have it, a lot has happened in the Mideast last week. The IDF was allowed to modestly step up operations but is still being hobbled by poor and indecisive leadership. Prime Minster Olmert continues to provide that poor and indecisive leadership. Lastly, the diplomats and internationalists continue drafting unworkable plans based on some alternate reality. So as much as has happened, far less has changed.