Thursday, October 04, 2007
There have been frequent Democrat smears of our troops (reminscent of Genghis Khan, same as Gulag torturers, terrorists terrorizing the Iraqi people, etc.) for which they have been unapologetic. When last month a liberal group called General Petreus "General Betray US" half the Democrat's in the Senate couldn't even bring themselves to condemn it. This is not to even mention the Democrat's problems with substantive support for the troops (such as supporting more money for their needs and not using defense budget bills as political pawns). Now though, we hear paeans from various Democrats about the anti-war soldier and they rush to the defense of soldiers who disagree with the war (or so they would have us believe). I suppose it's a start since there is at least one kind of soldier the Democrats have decided to support, now what about the rest of our soldiers? When will the Democrats decide to support them?
Now for my own opinion of anti-war soldiers. So long as they don't use their views to affect the morale of their unit I support them as much and believe they are as patriotic as the rest of our military. They are the true representation of the "patriotic dissent" liberals blather about to try excuse their lack of patriotism. Opposing a war is perfectly fine and patriotic, seeking to bring about your country's defeat is not. As such anti-war soldiers deserve all the respect and support that pro-war soldiers do. I know they have, do, and always will get it from me and I've never heard them not get it from Rush.
As for anti-war politicians, such as the Democrats and a few Republicans, "patriotic dissent" is also not trying to sabotage your country's foreign policy in a time of war. The patriotic thing to do would be to voice opposition to the war but actively seek to help bring it to a victorious conclusion. That would include doing things like voicing support for our soldiers, not using every setback for political gain, voting for a bigger defense budget to increase combat pay, equipment procurement, number of soldiers, and so forth to ensure that our military has everything it needs to win the war. Politicians who disagree with the war could then use their maturity in dealing with our nation's interests to have a civil debate about how our foreign policy should be conducted. They could possibly persuade the country that their ideas are better without serious acrimony since they have shown they will always put America's interest first. Last but not least, they would give our soldiers the comfort of knowing they will not be defeated in Washington and deny the enemy the comfort of thinking what they can't win on the battlefield can be won in Washington.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Well the media is giddy since Obama is showing the country he's tough, grrr, he's tough. Unfortunately for us and the world, the kind of toughness Obama is displaying is precisely the kind of poorly thought out toughness for which liberals are famous. The reasons why invading Pakistan is a bad idea are as numerous as they are sundry. To name a few that come immediately to mind (although apparently not to Obama's mind after several days), Pakistan is to some degree an ally, has a population of 170 million, has nuclear weapons that could easily fall into terrorist hands, is mountainous, borders a major important country (India), it’d be difficult to support large operations there, would block our access to Afghanistan, etc. etc.
Why then when it should be so quickly evident that this a foolish idea that could quickly make Iraq look like a minor operation would Obama even discuss doing it? Well during last year’s fighting between Hezbollah and Israel I mentioned the lashing out to look tough mentality of the left,
“It's not obvious that 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).”
I suppose if he is elected president we’ll have to add Barack find-me-a-madrassa-to-smart-bomb Obama to that list of Democrat luminaries.
Obama wanting to invade a perhaps not active enough ally while feting our active enemies basically sums up everything that is wrong with the majority of the Democratic Party’s foreign policy views. While pretty much all Democrats are in favor of appeasing our enemies in Tehran, Damascus, Caracas, and Pyongyang, I know not all Democrats would support invading Pakistan. However, whether they want to “get tough” with Israel and Saudi Arabia, cut business ties with the UAE and India, or anger important allies Japan and Turkey with demands of apologies for past behavior they are still in favor of treating our allies worse than they would treat our enemies.
I suppose with a Democrat Party that doesn’t understand if you punish work and reward sloth you get more of the latter and less of the former it’s too much to expect Democrats to understand that punishing allies and rewarding enemies doesn't increase the former or reduce the latter.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
The first compares the economic dislocation of mass low-skill illegal immigration to the Latifundia of ancient Rome which were instrumental in destroying the Roman Republic's economy.
The second compares the social upheavel mass low-skill illegal immigration to the social upheavel caused by the mass importation of barbarian foederati to the late Roman Empire.
The third and last one deals with my ideas for dealing with illegal immigration. Some of it is standard fare, secure the border and attrit, but some of it is new I think (I can't be certain of course) such as a plan to fly captured illegals to southern Mexico instead of bussing them to the other side of the border and an idea for every increasing terms at a detention center (1 month second time, 2 months third time, etc.).
Even though the Senate ended the President's dreams of being "El Grande Gringo" this is still an important issue of course. Although we are in no where near as bad a position as ancient Rome on this issue I think history, and common sense, shows it could potentially cause major crises down the road.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Part of the reason for this extra post is also that I wanted to give a shout out to Netanyahu. He was one of the first world leaders I became aware of and liked when I was in middle school back in 1995. I think he has served his country extremely well as Prime Minister then and more recently as Finance Minister (where he was called "Thatcherite", all I need to know to like him). With Israel facing potentially the greatest crises in her recent history, and with the US/UK essentially rudderless and apparently unwilling to do anything, I can only hope that for Israel's sake there are elections soon and the Israeli people elect Netanyahu with a sizable margin of victory. If we again leave it to the Jews to deal with our problems they will need a firm, competent, resolute Prime Minister at the helm.
The political problems in Israel are a far more extreme version of the problems besetting the Western world in general. Israel’s case is more extreme since the threat of militant Islam is most acutely felt there and the ineptness of the current prime minister is hard to match. Even though the rest of the West doesn’t stand to lose as much as Israel should militant Islam emerge triumphant, we will still lose plenty. That alone isn’t much to fear since Islam, nor anyone else for that matter, has the slightest hope of defeating a confident responsibly led West. The worrisome aspect of this is that the West seems to be generating a string of actual and potential leaders who are utterly, almost farcically, unsuited to lead. Olmert in Israel may be the most egregious example of this but he is not alone. Canada has Paul Martin, France Dominique de Villipan, Britain Gordon Brown, Germany Gerhardt Schroeder, Italy Romano Prodi, Australia Mark Latham and we in America had John Kerry with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama waiting in the wings. All of these people share several traits, they are from the far left, consider every problem through domestic political lenses, prefer sweet talk to substantive action, seem to have little understanding of history, national honor, power politics, or shifting global power balances, and view leading their country as another stop on their journey of self fulfillment not as a solemn duty contingent on what’s best for their country (hence the difficulty of getting rid of them as can be seen with Olmert).
Many would compare this current crop of left-wing leaders to the group who led Western democracies in the 1930’s. I think that is unfair to Chamberlain and Daladier. Unlike today’s wannabe appeasers, they at least understood what they were doing, what the potential consequences of their actions were, and why despite that they still considered it worth the risk. They also did wake up to the threat posed by Hitler prior to the war (though it was too late for a democracy to get itself on a war footing in time). Today’s appeasers seem to not know any of those things. It’s also unclear if they will ever wake up seeing as not even the destruction of two of our largest skyscrapers was enough to rouse them. Say what you will about Chamberlain but I’m pretty sure had Hitler bombed Big Ben and St. Paul’s he would have at the very least stopped the appeasement policy. As the adage goes, the first appeasement was a tragedy, this second appeasement, should it happen, would be a farce.
Of course there are good-great leaders still around. I’d obvious list Netanyahu as one but there are several others both in the West and outside of it. I always intended to a series of posts entitled “Jarod’s Leaders” detailing why I like them. Just to list them in no order, they are John Howard of Australia, Alvaro Uribe of Columbia, Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe of Japan, Vladimir Putin of Russia (probably my favorite), Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, and Jose Aznar of Spain. The most important thing that separates these leaders from the leftist group listed before is that under them their nations have prospered both internally and externally.
So in summation the key points of this is that contrary to what these leftist leaders believe history never ends, the world will keep turning, and success is never final. We in the West need to elect leaders who understand that we can either choose the arduous road of maintaining our peace, prosperity, and security or we will be forced down the terrible road of fighting to hold onto what prosperity and security we can. Otherwise we may learn all too well that while Rome wasn’t built in a day, she did fall in a day.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
The last month or so has really driven home the major shifts underway in the global balance of power that we would be wise to get in front of. Simply put we are seeing global power move, fairly quickly, from the western side of the World Island (Europe) to the eastern half (China, Japan, Russia, and India). Despite this we are still wedded to the institutions and alliances of the old Euro-centric world. This is a very new world for anyone who has lived in the last half millennium so of course it will take some getting used to, but we can’t take too much time.
Of the several European states, only two try to aspire to great powerdom and an active role in international affairs, France and the UK. There are other potentially active European states, most notably Germany and Italy, but Spain, the Netherlands, and Poland also to lesser extents but none comes close to the UK or France. France and Britain are perhaps now more equal in power than at any time in their history. Both have just over 60 million people, economies of a bit over $2 trillion, roughly 200,000 soldiers with around $55 billion in military spending, nuclear forces of about 200 warheads, permanent UN Security Council seats, etc. However, both have been in the news of late having to come to grips with the fact that they aren’t great powers anymore.
First up are the French. The AP has a story about the melancholic funk the French are in as they approach their upcoming election. As anyone who has paid attention to France or the French for the last 200 years knows, they’ve always thought they were still the land of Napoleon, a giant on the international stage who bows to no one (except perfidious Albion but they’re perfidious after all, oh and the Germans but I’m not sure how Frenchies rationalize that one). Apparently they are just now realizing that isn’t the case anymore. While this is understandably depressing for the French, it is always better to be realistic about your actual power and capabilities. The story says some of the causes of the gloomy atmosphere in France are:
1) Large national debt and deficit limiting fiscal options and causing future problems.
2) Average economic growth of only 1.5%, well below Britain, China, America, and below even slow-growth Germany (not mentioned but that would also mean France’s per capita income growth is 1.1% which is even further below Britain, America, and Germany’s PCI growth).
3) Stubbornly high unemployment rate of 8.7% with youth unemployment over 20%.
4) Ethnic riots by the large and growing underclass of immigrants that France neither wants nor can get rid of.
French people have begun leaving in ever larger numbers as a result of these problems. According to a Times story, 2.2 million French have left so far, the rate has increased 40% in the last decade, and is dominated by young educated people with no intention of returning.
Aside from the pride of having the world’s fastest train (wow, am I ashamed of my slower train America), the one point of influence France has had that the French people are proud of is opposing the invasion of Iraq. Yet even that is hollow, the invasion still happened despite French opposition. Indeed if the French goal was to stop the invasion, and not to simply cause as many problems for the US as possible, their opposition was counter-productive. All it did was convince Saddam that his French buddies would prevent the invasion in the UN so he need not comply with UN/US demands thus causing the invasion. This highlights why the French coming to terms with their loss of power will be good. With Iraq the French were presented with three options, 1) stay out of it, 2) join the US, or 3) oppose the US consequences be damned. A great power cannot stay out of the major international issue of its day and still be considered a great power so 1 was out. Joining the US would have necessarily required being second fiddle to the US and losing potential allies who may have problems with the US which is something France as a fiercely independent and proud great power could never countenance. That left France with option 3, opposition for the sake of opposition regardless of its effect on others. Until we finally end, or start ignoring, the old Euro-centric global institutions like the UN we are giving France the ability to cause problems out of all proportion to their global power which makes option 3 very enticing to a power that hasn’t accepted its true place in the world. Since we show no signs of doing either of those things, it will be just as good if the French wake up and understand they aren’t a great power and don’t need to be sticking their noses in everything (I’m assuming actually working with the US will still be a bridge too far for them).
Britain is an altogether different case than France. Whereas France has the will of a superpower with the resources of a middle power, Britain has been more realistic about her position. Britain has been faced with the same three options as France and chose option 2, using her power in convergence with America’s. However, it’s becoming more questionable if the British have the will to keep up with the US anymore. The recent hostage crisis showcased a British military, government, and people not psychologically up to the challenges of even a second fiddle middle power. In addition to the hostage crisis, the British have also retreated before the Taliban in southern Afghanistan and the militia/terrorists in southern Iraq. EU Referendum Blog covers all this in far more detail than I ever could so I’ll defer to them and just summarize it here. The main problem is that the British government is not properly funding its military while sending it on missions the military doesn’t want and its people don’t support. There’s not much that can be done about the people but that’s not as important, leaders are called leaders for a reason after all. The other two military related issued could be corrected with the proper will. The funding shortfalls are perhaps the easier of the two, an extra $5-10 billion a year would suffice. That’s roughly what gets spent on national health care every week or two and pales in comparison to the amount Gordon Brown has showered on health care, education, and social programs in recent years (to no effect but anyways). Seeing as it’s easier and more popular to continue dropping money into the black holes of health care and education I wouldn’t expect military spending to increase significantly anytime soon. The other option would be to have the British military prioritize its current resources better. The Royal Air Force and Navy seem to be stuck in 1989, desiring expensive new toys that would be great at battling the Soviet Union but serve little purpose today. The British Army on the other hand wants expensive hi-tech peacekeeping vehicles that would only be useful where there was no fighting to begin with. I wrote about this problem in more detail before here (again though primarily with links to EU Referendum). The British will always have a welcome place by our side if they are willing to do their part, but it isn’t a major problem if they don’t since they can’t contribute much (and will be able to contribute even less as the years go by) and they haven’t had a policy of rank oppositionalism of the French.
The rest of Europe is dealing with the same declining power and influence that Britain and France are although it’s somewhat masked since the rest of Europe doesn’t have the same history of international influence. The reason is simple enough, Europe has had an extremely low birth rate for over 30 years. With ever shrinking numbers of young people to enter the work force and serve in the military both European economic and military power are diminishing. Though the effects are only recently beginning to show the process itself is easy to recognize and is something I’ve written about frequently. The rapid drop off in births can be seen by looking at the number of males aged 18-49 in 1991 and 2006 (from CIA World Factbook 1992 and 2007). I use the number of males simply because it’s easy to find but also it has a more direct impact on military power but also on economic output to some extent. The trend is revealed by looking at the average number of men at each age and how many are being born each year, it’s not sophisticated but it works. The following table shows how the biggest Western European nations compare to the US in those categories (males in millions, Births in thousands):
From the other side of the World Island comes this story about the new space race amongst Asian powers and America. This shows that national pride still means something to some countries and that Asian nations now have the resources to use for unnecessary pride pursuits. Combined with the rapidly growing military budgets of China, Russia, and India along with their acquisition of the newest and most advanced weapons systems and their vying for influence around the globe and it becomes apparent where the future of great power politics rests (I wrote about China and Russia here). The game is a bit muted at the moment since the Asians nations are still getting their feet wet. Nevertheless, in the coming years and decades China, Japan, India, and Russia will all matter more to us and the world than Germany, France, Britain, and Italy. Unless we start taking more steps to adapt to this new world we’ll quickly find our self on the wrong side of the equation.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I’m sure glad I’m not English at the moment given the Iran hostage humiliation. John Derbyshire, resident ex-Englishman and Sinologist over at the National Review, is taking the incident quite hard. One of his latest comments on the rotten state of England is,
“I've told this story before, so I hope I'll be forgiven for telling it again. My Mum, Esther Alice Knowles (1912-98), eleventh child of a pick'n'shovel coal miner, in one of the last conversations I had with her, said: "I know I'm dying, but I don't mind. At least I knew England when she was England."
I discounted that at the time. Old people always grumble about the state of the world. Now I understand it, though. I even feel a bit the same way myself. I caught the tail-end of that old England—that bumptious, arrogant, self-confident old England, the England of complicated games, snobbery, irony, repression, and stoicism, the England of suet puddings, drafty houses, coal smoke and bad teeth, the England of throat-catching poetry and gardens and tweeds, the England that civilized the whole world and gave an example of adult behavior—the English Gentleman—that was admired from Peking (I can testify) to Peru.
It's all gone now, "dead as mutton," as English people used to say. Now there is nothing there but a flock of whimpering Eloi, giggling over their gadgets, whining for their handouts, crying for their Mummies, playing at soldiering for reasons they can no longer understand, from lingering habit. Lower the corpse down slowly, shovel in the earth. England is dead.”
I hate to think of a day when I say the same about my country, especially since unlike Englishmen I have no other country to call home. Nevertheless, despite being American the hostage crisis and the end of England as a proud great nation does hit me hard. It’s like Scipio Aemilianus crying as he watched Carthage destroyed since he knew one day his Rome would suffer a similar fate. As I watch England laid low and humiliated by a pipsqueak third rate power while her people cheer the avoidance of anything difficult I can see that the same fate will eventually befall America. Regardless, whatever happens to my country I do have the consolation of knowing that on my deathbed I will be able to say, “At least I knew America when she was America.”
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Without further ado, it would appear the British sailors and marines are still hostages. This one crisis sums up so much of what’s wrong with the world today. Iran makes an armed attack against the military of a sovereign nation in the territorial waters of another nation and no one, not even the British, care about the violation of diplomatic standards (written about here). If we are not going to require countries live by the rules of civil intercourse, excepting times of war of course, then why should Iran restrict itself by following them? The British resort to diplomacy with a country that doesn’t respect diplomatic norms not because it’s the best choice but because the weak and unsupported British armed forces lack the ability to provide any other options. Once again we are seeing the ineffectiveness of our European allies in international affairs due to their unwillingness to invest the requisite resources to maintain credible military forces (and the British are atthe top of the heap even).
The Ayatollahs only understand force and without the threat of it hanging over their head they have no need to release the Britons until they get what they want from Blair. At the very least they want Britain humiliated. I know many modern post-history lefties think such emotional aspects of international relations no longer matter but they do which is why the Ayatollahs desire it. I do hope Blair holds firm despite a large portion of his countrymen being perfectly willing to trade humiliation for the servicemen. I also hope that Bush is in close consultation with Blair and is willing to help our ally with other options if need be. Diplomacy didn’t get the US hostages freed until President Reagan arrived with a clear willingness to use force to free them if necessary. If it requires the threat/application of American force then so be it, Britain has been a loyal ally and deserves such support.
I also haven’t notice more outrage over the treatment of the British servicemen, the woman in particular. Admittedly, I haven’t been able to follow the news too closely with school and all so I may have just missed it, but does no one else care that they are video taping them and forcing her to wear a headscarf? This behavior is especially egregious in this case since these were combatants who were actually following the laws of war and were illegally captured. Then again as the former Navy commander during the Falkland Wars commented, the hostage aspect of this mess, and probably the entire crisis, could have been avoided if British soldiers were allowed to use their weapons. The Iranians tried this game against American soldiers and only got a few dead Iranians for their trouble (they should have gotten more dead Iranians if you ask me but that’s another post).
Lastly though, Iain Murray over at the National Review notes “Blair has made me ashamed to be British this week. My only consolation is perhaps it will make the British people realize how utterly useless the U.N. is.” Only about 7% of Britons seem to agree with him on the first part. On the second, hehe, fat chance. Oh, and what are US Democrats doing at this moment? Well Speaker Pelosi is giving aid and support to the Syrians and powerful Representative Waxman is berating Sec. Rice over Joe Wilson’s trip to the Niger 5 years ago. Good to see Democrats have their priorities straight.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Much of the recent news centers on our old friend Russia. Vladimir Putin has most expertly returned Russia to the great power game. Signs of Russia’s return have been around for some time and is something I’ve written about frequently (about last year's military budget increase and general mischief, potentially driving the Iran crises, using hard ball tactics with Europe). Prior examples include supporting Iran’s nuclear defiance of the international community, slowly taking control of Europe through controlling its energy supplies, assassinating dissidents and nosey journalists, feeding China’s drive to the south (i.e. away from Siberia), and the general growth in Russia’s economy. The more recent examples include bellicose statements, a revision of Russia’s national security doctrine, and massive increases in military spending. Along with Russia, China is also making noises with her growing economy and even faster growing military budget.
The current bout of bellicosity began with Putin’s bizarre anti-America rant at the Munich conference of defense ministers. It was followed up with a Russian general threatening Poland and the Czech Republic over American anti-missile sites in those countries. Now the Russians have written this new aggressive attitude into their defense doctrine. The Russian Security Council has said the reason for this revision is that, “Armed forces are still being used as an important instrument in maintaining political and economic interests of states, and Russia cannot ignore these factors in developing its military doctrine." In effect, while criticizing the United States for using military force to protect her interests Russia is declaring the use of military force to protect Russia’s interests a necessity. This more active approach will apparently supplement Russia’s more passive-aggressive policies, such as arming Iran and Syria, to cause as many problems for the current great power(s). There is again nothing surprising or bad about this. It’s the way the world works, Russia is a revisionist power with a small sphere of influence so if she can gain a piece of our or others' sphere by causing chaos and problems around the world it’s a net gain.
Russia’s doctrines and statements would mean little if they were not backed up by a growing economy that supported a growing defense budget. Russia is not disappointing on either account. Since Putin ascended to power at the end of 1999, Russia’s economy has grown 23% a year in dollar terms, 7.5% in Purchasing Power Parity, and 11.5% in my own system of accounting for currency adjustment*. Even though it did come off a fairly low base this impressive growth has given Russia the first stable economy that can support a vigorous military in 20 years. As a result, Russia’s official military spending has grown even faster, over 28% a year in dollar terms to $32.4 billion (bottom of the story) and 13.5% in my system referenced above. When adding in the much larger non-official defense spending it means Russia has clearly surpassed Britain, France, and Japan’s $40-50 billion defense budgets and is firmly in third place globally. This is despite the fact that Russia’s economy is only 1/2 the size of Britain and France’s and 1/4 the size of Japan’s. The extra hundreds of billions will be put to good use forming a hi-tech modern Russian military over the coming decade that will be on hand to carry out Russia’s new doctrine of using military force when and necessary to further her interests around the globe.
The Chinese have been somewhat more circumspect as regards their public rhetoric and they haven’t yet formally switched over to a more aggressive posture. They are much more of a actions speak louder than words type nation so this isn’t surprising. Like the Russians they are also taking hostile actions, reorganizing their military into a more professional expeditionary force, and increasing their defense budget by leaps and bounds. Even more so than Russia, China’s economy and ability to support her military has advanced very quickly.
China has been taking ever more non-friendly actions over the years. In the last year alone they tested an anti-satellite missile that created a dangerous debris field for everyone’s satellites, had a submarine shadow a US carrier in international waters, and violated the territory of Japan with planes, ships, and subs in increasing numbers. Not the friendliest of actions but then being friendly to us or anyone isn’t China’s job. China’s army is reorganizing from a large conscript infantry based territorial defense force into a smaller professional mechanized offensive force. At the moment only a handful of units have been converted (3 corps with 12 brigades so far, though I can’t find the link for that). The navy is growing a bit slower at the moment as learning to build and man ships takes a bit of time, but China is doing just that and is preparing for a powerful blue-water fleet in the future. The air force is likewise switching from a poorly trained, obsolete, short range, light air defense force into a better trained, modern, long range, multi-role force. To make this transition to a force capable of projecting Chinese power and influence possible requires vast sums of money. And vast sums of money is what Beijing is providing the Chinese military forces. The latest year will see another double digit increase (17.8%) in official defense spending to $45 billion. As with Russia, the real figure is 2-3 times as high and is by far and away the second largest defense budget in the world. Due to China’s act first explain later policy we’ll realize the impact of this only after they make a move.
Individually, the power of China and Russia is still somewhat limited even though it is growing fast. However, they have reached a point where combined they have the power to resist US power in the world. Over just the last 7 years the economy of Russia and China has risen from 17% of the US’ to almost 30%. Their combined official military spending has reached $77 billion, 15% of the US, this year from $21 billion, 6.5%, in 2001 with the real figures again being 2-3 times higher. They are the new (well, new-old) powers on the international scene and will seek an international order that recognizes their place. We will, along with countries more threatened by Russia and China, attempt to maintain the current system. With their continued rapid economic growth, massive military spending increases, and reorganization of their militaries the Chinese and Russians will have the ability to force a world more amenable to their interests. The result is that the future will be as filled with conflict as the past (the last century exempted most likely). Especially should Democrats continue to gain at the national level and US power, influence, and military spending retrench in the coming years they may prove quite successful.
*I can't quite figure out how to put math symbols like sigma on here but the system is fairly simple, I just multiply the current year's exchange rate by 8, the prior year by 7, etc. and divide the result by 36 to get the adjusted exchange rate. It works fairly well by ironing out the massive gyrations in exchange rates and producing a more realistic dollar GDP value for most countries that still accounts for variations in currency values.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
However, whatever its end result this does bring up another issue, the importance of voting by party and not by candidate these days. The problem is that no one candidate will have a major effect on party policy. The major impact they will have is to increase the power of the very liberal or conservative elements of the Democrat and Republican parties respectively. Due to gerrymandering both parties have around 110-140 safe seats that are ideologically at the extreme of the party. They will usually make up the majority of their party, but more importantly they will occupy almost all of their party’s leadership positions. This will more often than not lead to the current situation where the voters elected a pro-military Congress but by also putting the Democrats in the majority they essentially put the anti-military far left of the Democrat Party in charge.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Monday, February 26, 2007
The first part of the show was an interview with Amir Taheri, an Iranian columnist. They discuss whether diplomacy is even possible with the current Iranian regime. Taheri, like me, does not believe it is. He bases his belief on the revolutionary nature of the Iranian regime that he says makes it implacable and unable to compromise like prior revolutionary states. I’ve written before (here and somewhat here) on why I think it is ludicrous to expect any diplomatic solution with Iran. Even though it is always an important element, I don’t focus as much on the human side of Iranian policy. Instead I base my view on a simple power politic calculation that is undoubtedly understood in Teheran. That calculation is that there is at this time nothing to be gained for the Iranian regime by compromising. In the language of the left, rejecting the white option of diplomacy means only the black option of war. Why the left insists on viewing the world in such black and white terms I don’t know, but there are a range of gray options from aggressive diplomacy to undeclared war between diplomacy and war. Taheri touches on this because anyone who says that we can’t negotiate with Iran is immediately tagged by the left as a warmonger,
This list of actions is a good start and entirely in line with the process of effecting regime change without a war. I would argue in addition that we should encourage Iran to become an ethno nation-state with the slogan “Persia for the Persians”. This would be simply a replay of the Reagan strategy for subverting the Soviet Union. Iran and the USSR are very similar in many regards. Both had/have global ambitions, both had/have terrible economies and had/have to rely on weakness in the West to allow their victories, both of their populations were/are only 51-53% of the core ethnicity but had/have 20-25% of their minorities of the same ethnic stock as the core, both were/are heavily dependant on oil exports. Against the Soviets our subversion campaigned consisted of economic action by collapsing the price of oil, the USSR’s primary export, engaging in an arms race that ruined the weak Soviet economy, fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan through proxies (though I’d say with hindsight we went a bit too far in that regard), destabilizing the Soviet hold on their empire in Eastern Europe, being as ready as possible to defeat the USSR in a war, and ultimately encouraging the subject peoples of the Soviet Union to demand better treatment that led to the formation of a smaller “Russia for the Russians”. A similar strategy today would involve Taheri’s ideas above along with economic sanctions, fighting the Iranians in Iraq, destabilizing their hold on the Levant, being as ready as possible for an all out war, and perhaps encouraging the subject peoples in Iran to demand better treatment or independence. Of course the Mullahs could decide, unlike the Soviets, to drag the whole country down with them. If they do it is their decision, not ours, and the Iranian people will see it as such. If, contrary to all expectations, they do decide to deal and compromise then we will be able to do so from a position of strength and be able to demand a cessation of terrorism, the nuke program, Iran’s ambitions in the Middle East, more freedom for the Iranian people, and so forth in return for normalized relations.
Gigot: And so the implications of that for U.S. policy have to be regime change? Is that your argument?
Taheri: Yes, it has to be a policy aimed at helping Iran to really become an ordinary nation-state and stopping the revolution. This doesn't mean, of course, invading Iran. Because as soon as you say that you can't talk to these Iran, people think that I am preaching an invasion and full-scale war. No. This is--the important thing is to realize that you cannot make a deal with this regime, because even if its leaders wanted to make a deal, they can't. They are--their DNA would not allow it. They are programmed not to make a compromise. Therefore, the long-term or midterm policy should be regime change. This could be achieved by supporting the Iranian opposition inside the country, by trying to reduce the price of oil, by helping the new emerging regional alliance against Khamenei's regime. There are lots of things one could do. And this is a very weak regime fundamentally. It has lost its revolutionary legitimacy inside Iran. It is trying to gain a new legitimacy, and it is really in a vulnerable position.
On the issue of a war with Iran, the left and media is not content to just say its either talks or war, they also say there is only one type of war possible, one like the Iraq War in 2003. Apparently, our only options to fight Iran are to mass half a million soldiers on Iran’s border and occupy the entire country. The Washington Post had an article (I thought by Anne Applebaum, but I can’t seem to find it) detailing all the reasons why we can’t invade and occupy all of Iran. Yes, they are 100% true. Without a major mobilization and massive increase in military spending, we do not have the capability to occupy a mountainous nation of 70 million competent people. That does not mean that is our only possible strategy. We never had the manpower to contemplate occupying all of the Soviet Union, and vice versa, but that didn’t stop war plans and preparations on both sides. The British and French had nowhere near the capacity to occupy the Russian Empire in 1854, they didn't let that stop them from fighting against Russian expansion into the Balkans. Lastly, the Prussians didn’t have the capability to occupy and enforce regime change on either Austria or France in 1866 and 1870 but they still formulated a war plan that achieved their aims without occupying either of those countries. What then would a US war with Iran look like? Something like the Kosovo War mixed with the Crimean War. The Kosovo War relied entirely on bombing Serbia until the leadership had had enough and overthrew Milosevic. The Crimean War involved a blockade of Russia, attacks on a few key ports, and the occupation of the Crimea Peninsula (to damage Russia’s position in the Black Sea area), and support for the Ottoman forces fighting the Russians in modern day Romania. A war with Iran would most likely consist of a powerful air campaign that would destroy Iranian infrastructure at a methodical pace, a full blockade of Iran with the seizure of key ports like Bandar Abbas, an invasion of oil producing and flat Khuzestan province, the destruction of any Iranian forces that attempt to attack outside of Iran, and possibly support for Kurdish, Baluchi, and other rebels fighting the Ayatollahs. The war would then continue until either the leadership overthrows Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs, the current leadership agrees to our demands, or Iran is weakened to such a degree that the campaign could be suspended.
The main point I’m trying to make here is that if diplomacy is rejected it does not automatically mean war, and if war does occur there are other ways of fighting it that do not include the unlikely or impossible. The left and the media will try to make it a case of if not A then B, and B is impossible so therefore it must be A. However, the world does not exist in such diametric tones. The Ayatollahs may see the world that way, but we can far more effectively advance peace, prosperity, and America’s interests by understanding that it is not.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
This isn't the completed post yet, due to a schoolwork surge (engineering projects are fun) and the overall difficulty of preparing this post (maps, tables, old news stories and such), I've written 14 of 16 reasons so far. The rest will of course be added as they're completed.
All maps are courtesy of the CIA so I don't think there's any issue using them. I also realize that my additions are crudely drawn at best.
The second part of my series on Iraq is about the reasons we should have toppled Saddam. I haven't written much about Iraq simply because most of the arguments over it are essentially over ancient news. Like it or not it happened, the important thing is what to do now. However, since a lot people seem to have either forgotten or never knew that there were many valid reasons for invading Iraq I figured I'd add them into an Iraq series. This is generally from reasons I developed prior to 2000 and fleshed out for chat room debate, if it can be called "debate", prior to 2003. Anyways, onto the matter at hand, I should note that I don’t agree with all of Bush’s stated reasons for invading Iraq so there are differences on key reasons (I’d also add spare me the flurry of comments over WMD’s but I don’t get a flurry in the best of times so knock yourself out). I of course have no idea what convinced President Bush to order the invasion so I’m not saying we invaded for any of the following reasons (though I know a few played a role). I’m also not saying that the goals of any of these reasons were necessarily met; several of them will show up in the next post about what we should learn from mistakes in Iraq. . I have them listed by overall rationale, direct, indirect, long-term, and non-Iraq specific and in no particular order therein.
Direct Reasons to Invade
The UN needed to decide whether it was going to play a useful role in the world.
This argument did appear a few times in Bush’s speeches. The UN has thus far been failing to live up to the hopes and dreams some have placed in it to prevent mass slaughter around the world. For good reason, it is no more than the sum of its member states and when none of them wish to do anything, the sum of their action is nothing. This had been learned over the years and most tinpot dictators had long since learned that they could ignore the UN if it suited them to. Saddam was far and away the most egregious example of this. Threatening and if necessary using force was a way to see if the problem was just none of the member states wanting to act or if it went much deeper into the very structure of the UN. It seemed to me that the value of the UN was learned when it did nothing to stop the slaughter in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, and Chechnya, but since it could be argued those cases were only because no one wished to act (indeed the US is regularly criticized for not acting in most of those cases) we needed one more go of it. If the UN refused to go along with one of its member states finally handling the most recalcitrant dictator, when would it go along?
Saddam was breaking out of his box and becoming the hero who defeated America.
One of the popular mantras of the Clinton years was that we had Saddam safely in cage. The sanctions were working and would be in place be forever I guess. Neither was true. As we found out, as anyone who cared to know before the war could have, the sanctions were deeply subverted by Saddam with the aid of permanent members of the Security Council. They were well on their way to falling apart and allowing Saddam free access again to the supplies and equipment he needed for his military and NBC forces. Attempts to reverse this by Bush in 2001 through tougher/smarter sanctions ran into UN and regional intransigence. We would later find out that a major reason was that the Oil-for-Food scandal reached to the highest levels of governments and the UN. Had we allowed the sanctions to collapse, as they would have, while Saddam was in power it would not have been seen as anything but what it was, a defeat for the United States. Where Saddam would have gone from there is impossible to say, but with Iraq's oil wealth and victories over the hated Persian and Crusader under his belt it would have been entirely up to him and almost certainly against our interests. Initiative when loss is very difficult to regain.
We needed to remove a potential terrorist & WMD threat.
The second threat is obviously the one that got the most attention in the run up to the invasion. The main threat from the WMD wasn’t in any that would have been piled up prior to the invasion as they would have mostly degraded. The primary problem was the knowledge and equipment that could be put to later use; hence the term “pre-emptive war” (as in before the threat manifests itself). I know it’s some consider it axiomatic that “secular” Saddam would never ally with Islamic extremists, but that was the same attitude that caused the French and British to prepare for war with Hitler believing that Stalin would be at the least be confrontational towards Germany. We also found out in 2004 that after 9/11 Russian President Putin informed Bush that Russian intelligence believed Saddam was planning attacks against the US with Islamic terrorists. Given the disintegration of the UN’s sanctions, and with it the last check of any sort on Saddam’s activities, he was simply too dangerous to leave in power. While I didn’t know about the Russian info prior to 2004 I did know enough to realize it was a possibility, one that especially after 9/11 had to be avoided at all costs.
This one is sort of self-evident so there isn’t too much for me to add to it. Clearly amongst modern dictators, Saddam had one of the larger butcher’s bill. Not the largest to be sure, but he had still oppressed and killed enough Iraqis to justify his removal on that count alone in my opinion. A victim of mass murder doesn't only count if they're European (even then only because Americans decided to do something).
Indirect Reasons to Invade
Occupying Iraq placed us in a better position to deal with Iran and Syria.
Although Saddam supported terrorists somewhat more than the anti-war crowd would let on, he was by no means the biggest sponsor. Iran is far and away the biggest state sponsor of terror in the world as a whole with Syria predominating among anti-Israel terrorists. Iraq isn’t officially in league with Iran and Syria but it does have one valuable trait, it is between both and was the only country adjacent to each that was not in some way aligned with us in 2002. Syria especially benefited from Saddam as it was a key smuggling route for him which provided Damascus with precious hard currency. By occupying Iraq we placed ourselves in a position to more easily and forcibly attack or destabilize both Iran and Syria increasing our leverage over them to effect peaceful resolutions. Without Iraq our avenues of attack with Iran were limited to the ocean and small thrusts from the north and east, and with Syria from the sea (since using Israel would have been a diplomatic nightmare). Another major benefit was that Iraq is next to some of the most restive minorities in each country. The Kurds of each country are next to their brethren in Iraq as are the Arabs of Iran. Given the natural permeability of any long border we would be excellently placed to support each. The Iranians could be exceptionally hard pressed as the Iranian Arabs mostly inhabit Khuzestan province, home of Iran’s oil fields. While they didn’t prove much help to Saddam in the 80’s, it’s not hard to blame them. Not only did Saddam prove utterly incapable of even taking the province when his soldiers outnumbered the Iranians 10:1, but they were then quickly ejected by inferior Iranian forces. That and it’s hard to see how trading the Ayatollahs for Saddam was something worth fighting for. Should the Iranians and Syrians try to destabilize Iraq we could then destabilize them and trade stability for stability. As with Italy in World War II, Iraq would allow us to hit the soft underbelly of the Tehran-Damascus Axis when and where we chose to. This one was something of a risk since Iran and Syria could just as easily do the same to us in Iraq should we prove, as we have, unwilling to actually follow through with this option. Risky though it was, fortune favors the bold.
This map shows the situation with Iran and Syria. Blue borders are where we had them surrounded in 2002, red borders are those countries' borders with Iraq that as can be seen completed the encirclement. Yellow dotted areas are Kurdish and maroon dotted is most of Khuzestan province, the area with Iran's Arabs and oil. The maps this is based can be found here for the Kurds and here for Iran.
It would upset the Sunni-Shiite balance of power in the Mideast and place us at its fulcrum. The balance of Shiites and Sunnis in the Arab part of Southwest Asia is greatly in favor of the Sunnis. Of the nearly 120 million people, 84.3 million are Sunni and around 27 million Shiite. This changes markedly when Iran is added to the picture. With Iran the Sunnis only slightly outnumber the Shiites, 89.6 million to 88.5 million. This specter greatly scares the Arabs as the Persians have always proven so much more capable such that when Saddam, with the most powerful military ever fielded by an Arab nation, attacked an extraordinarily weak Iran the result was a draw. The one thing holding back the Sunni nightmare scenario was Sunni control of Iraq, the second biggest Shiite country. With Saddam in Iraq, countries ruled by Sunnis were marginally larger than those controlled by Shiites. Further, the Levant, while technically Shiite controlled (Alawis are only like Shiites in that they are heterodox, but they claim to be Shiite) it’s Sunni majority and was detached from Iran and surrounded by Sunnis. By replacing Saddam with a Shiite government we greatly altered the overall Sunni-Shiite balance. Now Shiite ruled nations hold an almost 2-1 population advantage over Sunni ruled ones. The Shiite Arabs of Iraq, on the whole, hate the Persians as much as the Sunni Arabs. We could then be the guarantor of the Shiite Arab country and if they didn’t go along then we could threaten to leave them to the Ayatollahs or the Sunnis who would put themselves back in power with the help of their coreligionists in other countries. Meanwhile, as the Sunni Arabs gaze nervously at the new Shiite crescent to the north they must also worry about their own large Shiite minorities. The Sunnis could then be presented with three options, rely on the Turks who they hate almost as much as the Persians and who want nothing to do with Arabs anymore, rely on poor, far away, and Israel checked Egypt for support, or help us deal with the Sunni Iraqis so that Iraq did not become a full blown member of the Shiite crescent. If they chose, as they did, to not help us work with Iraqi Sunnis but rather to aid the Sunni revanchists then we could threaten to leave Iraq to Iran and be done with the region. Essentially, we would be able to make the first side to be uncooperative the loser. Of course, like before, this would have required at the least our appearing to be willing to follow through with the threat. Russian President Putin is making a move to become this very fulcrum. To which I must once again say bravo, he has yet again shown himself to be quite expert at improving Russia’s place in the world regardless of its effect on other nations. If only we could get him to teach American foreign policy makers how the world works.
This table is compiled from population data in the CIA World Factbook. The key thing to note is the radical shift in the share of population under Sunni governments versus Shiite governments following the Iraq war. Before it a slight majority were under Sunni governments but today the Shiites hold a 5:3 advantage. It's even more dramatic excluding Iran, the Sunni advantage in just the Arab part of Southwestern Asia fell from just under 4.2:1 to under 1.4:1. (Iraq should be 33% Sunni, due to the difficulty of switching out pics in the middle of posts in Blogger I'm leaving the incorrect one with this correction)
See if the Arabs proved as ready for democracy as they and liberals before 2002 claimed.
Back before 2002 there was two main trains of thought over Middle East democracy. The foreign policy realists, who had largely dominated US foreign policy to that point, claimed that Arabs couldn’t handle democracy. It either leads to chaos or the election of Islamic fundamentalists. The foreign policy liberals argued that Arabs could handle democracy if we would stop supporting dictators and help them achieve it. Around 2002 those two schools of thought largely merged as a greater threat arose, the “neo-conservative” (still haven’t really heard that defined, they seemed more neo-liberal to me, but whatever). Contrary to the “you can’t spread democracy at the point of a gun”, it has been spread that way before, in Germany, Japan, Italy, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, Panama, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It has also failed before, most notably on numerous occasions in Haiti, but also Cuba, Mexico, and other Central American States. Each has differences with Iraq of course, Germany, Italy, and Japan were devastated to a degree we would never imagine doing in Iraq and were functioning nations prior to WWII, Panama, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are small countries, and the Philippines and Dominican Republic are islands with little prospect of foreign meddling. Even so, the Philippines in particular was close to what Iraq would be like. We had to deploy a huge army for the time (initially 120,000 but falling to 80,000) for 8 years to suppress 2 separate insurgencies (like OMG that’s 2.3 WWII’s, how did we ever manage). The Filipino Insurrection lasted 4 years and involved fighting mostly on the northern and central islands against Christian Filipinos. As that was suppressed, another insurrection by fanatical Muslims in the south who used suprise suicide attacks took a further 4 years to suppress (the Moro War). A low grade insurgency continued for another 7 years in the south. It was several more years before the Filipinos were ready to run the country, we stayed longer than necessary due to the Japanese threat, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it will take many a year to fully establish an Iraqi democracy. That is should it prove viable. If it doesn’t, and if the Arabs simply use the opportunity to kill kill kill and bring in Islamic extremists then the issue is settled in the realists favor. We will then need to move to the long term Syngman Rhee/Chiang Kai-shek/Pinochet form of economic/political development. We should change our policy to finding nicer free market strongmen who can keep the baser instincts of their populations under control as they take 50 years developing their countries and steadily introducing more freedoms. I don’t think it’s quite to the point of throwing in the towel on Arab democracy, but it’s getting close. Whatever the Arabs choose, we needed to see for certain what it was before we ultimately choose. Nicer though those strongmen were, we still shouldn’t relegate hundreds of millions of people to living under them for decades unless we have to.
Take the fight to the terrorists’ home front.
This has been dubbed the “flypaper strategy” and has appeared in many of Bush’s speeches. The goal is to draw the terrorists into a combat zone where justice can be dealt out far more swiftly and effectively than if we wait for them to come here where lawyers can protect them. It undoubtedly would create more terrorists (just like the German army of WWII grew larger until the last months of the war) but it would result in most being killed. Soldiers would sadly be killed also, but the critics who focus on casualties get it backwards, the purpose of a soldier is to fight and if necessary die so civilians back home don’t (certainly something that I and many of the guys I met in the army understood when we volunteered). The other thing it did was force the terrorists to react to the American victory in the heart of the caliphate much quicker than they would have liked. This led to the bombings in Saudi Arabia that got the Saudis to finally shut down terrorist organizations in their country though still not international funding apparently. Similarly, the attacks in Jordan that culminated in the dreadful bombing of the wedding party in Amman showed the Arabs what the terrorists were capable of. Jordan also became even more committed to fighting terrorism, though they were already very committed for an Arab country. Inside Iraq the terrorists, if not the run of the mill insurgents or militias, are deeply unpopular. As I recall the most popular Iraqi TV show simply has captured terrorists being interrogated and humiliated on their way to an inevitable execution. It is true that Iraq opened the possibility of a greater threat migrating to certain countries in the Arab world and Europe. Again, this could have been another useful tool to pry cooperation from them. We were going to invade Iraq with or without them, if Iraq generates a flood of terrorists because it fell apart, most of the terrorists would head back to their own countries or to Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid, or Rome (well for some that is their home country) whether those countries helped or not. Given that they might as well help and lower the odds of that result. As the others, this is assuming we would seriously make that case.
Long-Term Reasons to Invade
By spreading democracy to Iraq we would help it spread throughout the Middle East.
This is another of the reasons that can be found in many of Bush’s speeches. Helping Iraq develop a democratic government would serve two purposes in the wider goal of spreading democracy throughout the Middle East. It would firstly be a clear example to Arabs and other Muslims that they could indeed manage a democracy. Clearly, this is tied to the reason above about seeing if Arabs could handle democracy. If the Iraqis failed the test then obviously it wouldn’t be much of an enticement. The second effect this would have is to put our money where our mouth is and show the various dictators and indigenous voices for democracy that we will support democracy now. This one isn’t as tied to the success or failure of the Iraqis as the very attempt is what matters. The ultimate strategic goal would be to use Iraq to encourage the indigenous spread of democracy in other nations as the people demand it and the petty tyrants fear ending up at the end of a noose like Saddam. It would be a sort of reverse domino effect. Bush has made much of the draining the swamp aspect of this argument, the idea that until the Middle East has freedom and liberty it will continue to produce terrorists. This would primarily target next door Iran and Syria. Iran in particular would prove susceptible to such democratic undermining since it is run by extraordinarily unpopular theocrats and has one of the most pro-America populations in the world (New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman noted on one of his documentaries that American college students in Europe were subjected to constant anti-Americanism until they visited Iran). Another strategic advantage to the United States and other democracies is the same one that spreading democracy had to Athens in ancient Greece. Similar governments tend to be much friendlier with other than with different government types. This can be seen in our alliances with Europe, Australia, Turkey, Japan, Taiwan, S Korea, etc versus China’s ease of maneuvering with countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Saddam’s Iraq, Cambodia, Burma, and so on. Especially as we see an undemocratic Sparta and Thebes (China and Russia) rise to challenge the free world it is in our interests to flip as many dictatorships to democracies as possible. Since it is much easier for China or Russia to shore up a dictatorship than for us to change it to a democracy and since short of a World War II scale effort we are not going to be able to take the kind of direct role that we did in Iraq with many other countries we had to move quickly if we were to have any impact before China and Russia got into the game. This would require a great deal of follow through however. By its very nature it would hit the more moderate dictators who were friendly with us along with impinging on the interests of great powers like Russia. It’s easy to say we will help if people rise up, but it’s much harder to actually support them when they do.
It would give us the Kurdish card.
The Kurdish card is the ability to create or threaten to create an independent Kurdish state. This is a particular case of the next reason for invading Iraq but it’s the biggest one since it affects most of the major players in the Mideast since a free Kurdistan is greatly feared by Turk, Arab, and Persian alike. The majority of Kurdistan is in Turkey where around 14 million of the 25 million Kurds live. Iran and Iraq each have over 4 million Kurds and Syria has the remaining million or so. Iraq only has about 1/6 of the Kurds but it is in the center of their homeland and is also the most economically viable due to the Kirkuk and Mosul oil fields. It’s also the one we have the most influence over. With direct control over the future of Iraq we would be in a position to utilize this card as negotiating tool with Iran, Syria, and if need be with an increasingly Islamist Turkey. This would be similar to the Polish question of the late 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe. The Russia, Austria, and Prussia had divided Poland between during the 3 Partitions and had unwittingly created a serious weakness for themselves that Napoleon would later exploit. By invading Iraq and helping the Kurds we would give ourselves enormous leverage over the other peoples of the Mideast. They could be presented with a choice of either cooperate or see an extremely capable, pro-America, stable, prosperous Kurdish state arise in the heart of the Middle East. This would be a long-term policy since it would obviously undermine any attempt at Iraqi democracy and assumes a high degree of uncooperative behavior from the Sunni Arabs, Persians, and Turks. It goes to show though that even should things turn out worse than expected after the invasion, it would open other options that still make it worthwhile.
Map of the Kurdish lands.
A possible revolutionary redrawing of the Mideast could occur.
In line with the prior reason, this one is a long-term plan that would primarily be used should the direct and indirect benefits of invading fail to materialize. It seems that most people view the Middle East as a monolithic bloc of Sunni Arabs with a few Jews in Israel. This is no doubt how the Sunni Arabs themselves wish the Middle East to be viewed. However it is very divided both by ethnicity and religion. A previous reason focused primarily on the power struggle between the two largest religions in the area while the previous one dealt solely with the Kurdish minority. This diversity in the Mideast makes it extremely susceptible to the ancient tactic of divide and conquer which has been used frequently in the region. The following graphs show the divided nature of the region.
The most recent such division was the reorganization of the former Ottoman provinces by the French and British after World War I. That worked for its day but many of the problems in the Middle East today stem from the refusal to realign the region to suit today’s situation and interests and not the interest of two defunct empires a century ago. One example of this is Lebanon. The area that is now Lebanon was generally combined with Syria until the 19th Century. Initially Beirut was broken off to be its own duchy. It was expanded under pressure from Europeans in the late 19th Century to include the Christian central Lebanon region after increased oppression of the Christians by Ottoman authorities. When the Levant passed to France following World War I, they expanded the duchy of Beirut to what we know as Lebanon today so it would include as many Muslims as possible while keeping the pro-French Christian population in the majority. That was all well in good in the early 20th Century but no longer serves any purpose but causing chaos in Lebanon today as the Christians are no longer a majority and no longer have the French Empire backing them. Invading Iraq would allow for the encouragement and support for indigenous nationalist movements to gain independence from the current powers in the region. This would be similar to the redrawing of Eastern Europe following World War I after dissolution of the German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires (similar since the mistake of the Kingdom of the Southern Slavs shouldn’t be repeated). A primary benefit of such a redrawing is that it would mainly impact the key problem country in the region, the current decrepit form of the Persian Empire, Iran. One delicate area here is the pro-America views of the Persian people. Hopefully we would be able to encourage a sentiment of “Persia for the Persians” amongst them (which I was surprised to find was generally well taken by many of the Persians with whom I chat). If not then we should still go through since it would help with many of the problems in the region. Iraq would be the largest part of the western half of the division and is the easier of the two. The eastern half draws in Pakistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan and is an entirely different order of magnitude as a result. This map shows what a possible new Middle East could look like. Red denotes the western division while blue represents an eastern division. A- Shiite Arab State. B- Kurdistan. C- Greater Azerbaijan. D- Sunni Arab State (or seperate Greater Syria, Jordan, and Anbar). E- Beirut city-state. 1- Greater Turkmenistan. 2- Hazarastan. 3- Baluchistan.
Since invading Iraq is the key the western division I won’t go into the eastern one. The Azeri, Kurd, and Shiite Arab parts of Iran could be broken off and combined with their compatriots across the border. Lebanon could be reduced to its 19th Century Christian majority Beirut duchy status with the Muslims either returned to Syria sans Kurds or combined with a Greater Sunni Arab state. The change this would cause in the populations of the various Mideast nations is roughly estimated on the following table.
The effect this would have is to create more stable nations with clear ethnic/religious majorities. It would also cause America to be seen as the granter and guarantor of the newly independent nation-states in much the same way that France created a ring of pro-France states in the Balkans following World War I. This would have obvious benefits to the US although it would also require us to defend the new nations from any revisionist moves by the Persians, Turks, and Sunni Arabs along with possibly Pakistan (a much thornier issue). I am not to say that this would be the end of changing borders. Nothing is ever final.
A developed Iraqi oil industry would break Saudi control of global oil prices.
Ahhh, oil, the black gold that we supposedly invaded Iraq to steal according to the international left. Not quite the reason to invade, but there is an oil-related reason for the invasion. The Saudis are well known to essentially control the price of oil since they are not only the largest exporter of oil, but they also have by far the largest reserve production capacity and the ability to cut millions of barrels of oil production almost overnight. Obviously they aren’t the only factor in oil prices, but they are the only controllable factor (i.e. global economic growth, the weather, international conflict are difficult to impossible to influence by a single government). This causes far more power and influence to accrue to the Saudis that makes it difficult for any country to stand up to them. To counter Saudi influence we would need a country with similar production and capabilities as the Saudis. Looking around the globe there are not many countries capable of doing so. The Saudis can produce between 10 and 11 million barrels of oil per day. The other two major oil producers, Russia and America, produce about 9 and 8 million bpd respectively. However, both America and Russia cannot greatly influence oil prices as both have little reserve capacity, do not produce oil based on political decisions, and have little ability to lower production. Other smaller producers such as Canada, Kazakhstan, and Iran that with significant investments could produce far more oil than they do each have problems that would keep them from matching the Saudis. Canada is free market, Kazakhstan lacks reliable access to global markets, and Iran would first require regime change. The only country that has the ability to match Saudi Arabia in oil production and that could counter-manipulate the oil market is Iraq. Iraq at one point had the capacity to produce 6 million bpd and could probably exceed that with investment in the future. Like Iran though, that wasn’t possible without regime change. Saddam had shown that he was not trustworthy when it comes to managing tens of billions of dollars of oil production each year. We would also need a more pro-America government since Saddam would not likely manipulate the oil market to our favor anyways. There is nothing wrong with the global superpower making war with the interest of stabilizing a key global commodity. As the general guarantor of the global economy it is in the interest of everyone for us to stop the wild oscillations in oil prices. The British had the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in their day and we would do better to have an American-Iraqi Oil Company today (much fairer AIOC of course).
Non-Iraq Reasons to Invade Iraq
We need nation building experience.
It’s been a long time since the United States successfully helped rebuild a nation. Since World War II we largely ignored the nation building game until the 90’s. Through out the 90’s we had a series of largely botched exercises in nation building. We tried in Somalia until a few soldiers were killed and we ran away with our tail between our legs. We intervened in Bosnia after hundred of thousands were killed, but unless success is lowered to mean that 11 years after maintaining a military force equal to 1% of the countries population to simply separate the warring parties into their own de facto countries we haven’t been successful there. Kosovo is an even worse example than Bosnia. 8 years after attacking Serbia to protect the terrorist KLA, all we have to show is a non-functioning country that is only marginally peaceful since we’ve allowed the Albanians to drive out most of the Serb population. East Timor is the smaller example, less than a million people live there, but even it has decayed into little more than a broken protectorate of a UN that as with the KLA is only capable of protecting the troublemakers not the country or the people. This is all not to even mention the Congo, which lacks direct US participation and as a result is fairing even worse than the Balkan efforts. The UN internationalist way of nation building has been tried and found greatly wanting. If billions around the world who are born into non-functioning tyrannical countries are to have any chance of a better future we will have to figure out how to do nation building. Like the other reasons in this category, this is not a reason to invade Iraq per se as much as it is something that invading Iraq allowed. Iraq is not a particularly large country with less than 27 million people. The average size of the 192 countries of the world is around 33 million. However, Iraq is far larger than any of the other rebuilding efforts except the half-hearted Congo one. As such Iraq is large enough to be a serious exercise that can teach useful lessons and is small enough to minimize the cost of the operation and mistakes. These mistakes are bound to occur, why it is so shocking to the left and some on the right that they do is beyond me. Last I checked no one walked without first falling. Conversely, Iraq would reveal whether the America and the world have the stomach for real nation building. If not then it would allow us to change our foreign policy to compensate. The Romans and British also had a moment when they switched over from wars of expansion (nation building in our case) to punitive wars. Iraq would show whether we need to plan future wars in the Iraq mold with a full occupation and reconstruction or more in the mold of the Kosovo War, air and missile assault to destroy the power of the country. With whatever lesson learned from Iraq we would be better able to adjust our future policies to be inline with our capabilities and national will.
The military needs an occasional war to combat test new tactics and weapons.
This seems cold-hearted but stems from the desire to ultimately save soldiers lives while also advancing America’s interests as best as possible. Military affairs involve such morbid calculations. Soldiers are going to die, nothing will ever change that. All that can be done is to minimize the deaths while still achieving the objectives. For example, the Dieppe raid of 1942 was certain to fail and produce an extremely high casualty rate. Yet it was willingly launched since the Allies had to learn how to launch amphibious landings in Europe. Better to sacrifice 6,000 soldiers today to prevent the 180,000 landing at Normandy from being destroyed tomorrow along with allowing the war to be won. The Prussians were so successful in 1870 not only because they were fighting the French but because they had just fought and learned from the smaller war with Austria in 1866. The Prussians were so successful against the Austrians because they had just fought and learned from the war with Denmark in 1864. The 25,000 Prussian casualties in the 1860’s helped prevent even more casualties in the much larger Franco-Prussian War and ensured that Germany’s interest were advanced to the utmost. The German military, from 1740-1790 and 1860-1945 the finest military machine in history, had a saying that one short war was worth 10 years of peace-time training. Like all great powers we have the same requirement today. Military weapons and the tactics they require change frequently. If we were caught in a major war, say with Iran, N Korea, or China and used our weapons incorrectly the price in lives would quickly dwarf the 2,700 or so combat deaths in Iraq thus far. It would also potentially cause irrevocable damage to America’s interests. As with nation building, this isn’t to say Iraq was the only option but it was an option (the only one besides North Korea we had a casus belli against). Also like with nation building, Iraq had the benefit of being large enough to teach real lessons but not so large as to cause enormous casualties and cost overall and for mistakes that would undoubtedly happen. One mistake nations tend to make is to learn too much from small wars which often teach lessons contradictory to the needs of larger wars. The British were alone in 1914 among Western Europeans in expecting their cavalry arm to play a major role in the war. They believed that because cavalry had played a major role in the Second Anglo-Boer War. They didn’t seem to realize that cavalry was only effective because of the open flat veldt of South Africa and the fact the Boers generally fought with under 1,000 men per mile of frontage. In cluttered northern Europe against 5,000 men per mile such tactics led to the slaughter of the British cavalry that happened at the Somme in 1916. Along with not teaching false lessons, Iraq was small enough to limit the damage from mistakes. Against far more capable Iranians for example, the unarmored Humvee mishap would probably have led to the loss of at least 4-6 times as many soldiers as it did in Iraq. Since Iraq caused a critical short fall in munitions of almost all types in 2004, it is unlikely that we would have been able to meet the demands of a far larger war like Iran or China. Our military has been able to perfect and figure out how best to employ the new weapons developed during the 90’s and have been able to come up with new previously unthought-of weapons and tactics. We also now have a generation of combat experienced officers and NCO’s, the most valuable trait for any military. When we inevitably have to fight again against a far more powerful enemy, our military will be fully prepared. In addition to advancing the interests and safety of their country, the sacrifice of our soldiers today will help advance the interests and safety of their country tomorrow while lowering the sacrifice required of their brothers in arms. Our soldiers will always be called on to sacrifice for the good of our country. The only way to stop it is to abandon the second part which I, and many Americans, would never support and which is only temporary. Thus it is incumbent upon us to do everything we can to limit the amount of sacrifice for which we call on them. Along with a larger military budget (5% of GDP plus war appropriations, or about $800 billion this year) I think periodic medium wars is the best way history will sadly show.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
I don't think any sober analysis would argue Iraq is shaping out well geopolitically for the United States. However, this has little to do with Iraq itself. The biggest issue with Bush’s strategy in Iraq isn’t necessarily the Iraq part, which has generally been ok, but the policies regarding the larger conflict of which Iraq is merely one part. Put another way, the problem is that Washington seems to have lost sight of the global forest for the Iraqi tree. I don’t mean this in the manner of “ignoring Afghanistan” as some have charged or ignoring China or Venezuela but rather in ignoring (or not understanding) the ways Iraq has changed the global order and allowing those changes to drift out of our favor. If this tendency isn’t arrested it will make a real victory extremely difficult to achieve in Iraq and what victory we do manage would likely be either fleeting or Pyrrhic. We still have the chance to use the wider struggle Iraq has initiated to improve our geopolitical position if we can keep the Democrats from forcing a precipitous retreat and if Washington will start engaging the wider conflict. It should be noted however, that this isn’t a new American tendency. We have done it before in much greater wars and the reasons are all the same.
Recently, President Bush at very long last has been making some changes to Iraq policies that do take a tougher position inside Iraq while marginally recognizing the global nature of the conflict. Though sort of little and somewhat late, they are still welcome changes. US soldiers are finally being allowed to go after Iranian and Syrian meddlers in Iraq. Rules of engagements seem to have been loosened and more aggressive patrols launched. Shiite militias will apparently be targeted along with the usual Sunni suspects. The addition of 5 combat brigades at least seems to indicate our intention to finish the job. It’s not an extremely large or lengthy deployment so I’m not sure what its practical impact will be, but changing perception is in itself something important. Through all this we seem to be telling the Iraqis that if they follow Arab tradition and take another opportunity to miss the opportunity we are presenting them that it will be the last time they do that. Again, whatever the limitations, whatever the unnecessary delay, it is good to see these changes in Iraq. That doesn't mean they are enough though. Max Boot, author of The Savage Wars of Peace about America's small wars, has a good piece in the LA Times about some changes Bush should make in Iraq. I'd say some like the security issue and moving soldiers out into the population are sort of being addressed but could use more. Some, such as appointing a clear American leader for everything in Iraq and doing a census and handing out ID cards, would be better late than never. Others however are simply too late like imposing martial law and keeping suspected insurgents looked up despite a lack of evidence.
However, because these changes primarily deal with the situation inside Iraq, they are not dealing with the main supporters of the chaos in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Islamic terrorists. Bereft of support from these three sources the Sunni revanchists would have run out of the required money, weapons, supporters, and fear for a terror/insurgent campaign. This would have happened prior to the Shiites growing so tired of the continued Sunni sponsored violence that they launched their revenge terror campaign that is fueling the current violence. Minus the support of Iran the Shiites would have far less capable of doing so even had they decided to. As good as it is to let our soldier kill those trying to kill them, the reality is that killing individual ants after they cross the Iranian or Syrian borders is not the best way to deal with the problem. The only way to deal with it effectively is to go for the ant queen in Teheran. This doesn’t mean starting a war, but rather clear and painful action (economic mostly) that is linked to Iran and Syria continuing to support chaos in Iraq. If that doesn’t stop them then we could show as much respect for the Iranian and Syrian border as the show for the Iraqi border and launch small scale raids on terror camps and facilities in those countries. If those countries choose to escalate from there that’s their decision, though we would have to be prepared for that escalation. Lastly, though I don’t think we have the resolve, we could counter-destabilize Iran and Syria both. Syria is run by a very unpopular heretical minority, the Alawis. Iran is only 50% Persian with the rest largely disgruntled Azeris, Baluchis, Turkmen, Arabs, Kurds, etc. If we made Tabriz as unsafe for Persians as the Iranians have made Basra for the British we could potentially trade security for security or at least make Iran pay a price for its activities.
This international conflict doesn’t just impact Iraq inside Iraq, it also does so outside of the country. Caroline Glick, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post, has an excellent article about Bush’s pointless general retreat from pretty much all aspects of the global conflict outside of Iraq. I would recommend reading it since the few points I’ll mention are also mentioned by her along with many others. Iraq is the central front of this conflict, but the other fronts can have a major influence on it. This is primarily because the willingness of these three actors to confront us in Iraq is driven by our retreats elsewhere. Since the more trouble Iraq is for us the more we retreat elsewhere, we’ve given Iran and Syria a massive incentive to cause as much trouble in Iraq as possible. All the more since until recently we haven’t even been fighting them in Iraq, much less in their own countries (which we still aren’t doing). As we continue to retreat in Lebanon, in the Palestinian areas, in Libya, in Uzbekistan, now in Somalia these are all to one extent or another falling to the Iran-Syria-Islamic terrorist axis. Rather than strengthen our hand in Iraq, these retreats will make our job all the more difficult as Iranian resolve strengthens and the perception of American weakness grows stronger. The sad thing is that it is only perception, we have the power to deal with these problems if only we would accept that we are in conflict with something beyond the nebulous “terror”. Somalia especially we did a great job by sub-contracting the invasion to Ethiopia (who showed so much tenacity that some conservatives jokingly suggest licensing Iraq to them also) but supporting it with intelligence, aid, and some air power. Now for some unfathomable reason we are joining with Europe, the UN, and the Arab League in demanding the Islamic Courts Union be brought back to share power. The result is that while Bush is coming around to what has been needed in Iraq for years now, we could still easily see the stable Iraq we form end up as little more than an Iranian puppet. Even should Iraq not fall to Iran we would probably be left looking at the price of Bush’s unnecessary retreats elsewhere along with a costlier than need be Iraq occupation and like Pyrrhus considering his retreat from Sicily to win 2 costly victories against Rome wonder what kind of victory we had achieved.
As mentioned above, this isn’t the first time that we’ve lost sight of the bigger picture and real goals during a war. The worst example of this tendency has to be the way in which FDR, General Marshal, and General Eisenhower conducted the European campaign of World War II. Liberating all of France and smashing up as much of Germany as possible were allowed to override winning the war as quickly as possible and in a manner that didn’t plunge the world into another global conflict. The British, as long-time masters of managing an empire and fighting wars, understood this and were from late 1944 were in conflict with the US leadership over the wars conduct. JFC Fuller’s Military History of the Western World covers this in its last chapters. By the end of August 1944, the German army had largely been destroyed in both France and Italy. What was left in France, 11 small divisions, faced 38 larger Allied divisions while in Italy the Germans were racing for their last line of defense, the Gothic Line in the north. Prior to this 3 decisions were made which kept Germany from losing the war before the end of 1944. The first was the decision to liberate Paris before the German army west of the Seine had been destroyed. Due to the diversion of 3 American divisions to Paris, the Germans after a furious battle were able to break the encircling Allied divisions at Falaise and get enough troops out to continue the fight east of the Seine. The second decision was to withdraw 10 divisions from the Mediterranean to invade southern France so as to liberate the entire country. 6 of these divisions were pulled from Italy which kept General Alexander from breaking through the Gothic Line and pushing into the Po valley and possibly southern Germany in late 1944. The last decision was the one to advance on a broad front through France instead of blitzing through weak German defenses into either the Ruhr as per Montgomery’s plan or the Saar as Patton would have liked. Although I’d cut the US leadership some slack on the last one, they knew the Allied forces were not anywhere near as capable of the Germans at operational maneuver and didn’t want to get sucked into the kind of bloody maelstroms the Soviets kept walking into (such as 3rd Kharkov). At any rate, the desire to liberate France and to placate the Soviets (who didn’t want us occupying Germany before they did) we prolonged the war until 1945. Since we didn’t make it to the borders of Eastern Europe before the Soviets we, as the British warned us, consigned that region the Soviet domination and the world to the Cold War.
The reasons for these decisions are pretty much the same as today. The biggest problem is that due to our sheltered history we have a hard time accepting wars that are fought to benefit ourselves. Wars are to be fought to destroy evil and only to destroy evil. During World War II we therefore had trouble thinking like the British and planning for how the war would leave a world that benefited us. We could only think in terms of totally eradicating Nazism, no matter how long it took and no matter how much more favorable the peace was to another power. Today we can understand fighting terrorism and getting WMD out of the hands of a madman, but Iraq is increasingly about America’s position in the world and that is much harder to sell as worth the fighting. Dovetailing with the last problem, we also tend to trust that other countries are like us and have good intentions leading us to have unrealistic expectations. During World War II it was our unbelievable faith in the Soviets. We believed they were our true friends and saw no reason to try to win the war before they gobbled up too much. We apparently never questioned whether the Soviets would use their gains to start another war. Today it is the even more unbelievable faith that the State Department in particular has in Iran and Syria. This can be seen in the constant recommendations from the Iraq Survey Group and others that we talk to Iran since Iran has no interest in a chaotic Iraq. This is said despite the obvious fact that Iran has a lot to gain from a chaotic Iraq (as mentioned above and as Mark Steyn writes about). Another major problem is the constant electoral cycle in which our politicians exist. JFC Fuller notes that one of the reasons FDR ruled out focusing on Italy and driving into Austria and Slovenia was the upcoming presidential election. He had been warned by advisors that the American people were fixated on France, if things didn’t go as well as expected in France and it was discovered that he had allowed divisions to be diverted to invade “the Balkans” he would likely face a difficult re-election campaign. President Bush likewise faced major pressures in 2004 when insurgency was in its growth stage to not allow US casualties to rise to high lest it become a campaign issue. As such the April attacks into Fallujah and the killing of al-Sadr were called off. While Fallujah was taken care of after the election, al-Sadr becomes a greater problem with each passing day. FDR’s reluctance to be seen expanding the war and attacking on multiple fronts is also reflected today by the outcry that has already occurred over the idea of attacking other countries in the progress of fighting Iran and Syria.
These are the real problem’s I see today with Bush’s Iraq policy and could be summed up with the slogan “Iraq has nothing to do with Iraq”. This is of course exaggerated but it gets to the heart of the matter. Yes there are powerful forces and sentiments in this country against fully prosecuting the war on all levels, but that doesn’t absolve the President for taking us to a war he apparently didn’t intend to fully wage. We are playing a much bigger game in Iraq than just knocking off Saddam and replacing him with a democracy. Iran and Syria have risen to our challenge and are fighting back to markedly improve their position in the world at our expense. As victory everywhere else cannot make up for defeat on the main front, we do need to win in Iraq also, which at long last Bush is making moves inside Iraq in that direction. However, due to the influence the other fronts have on Iraq, unless the Bush Administration soon comes to grip with the wider war, who we are fighting, why we and they are fighting, what we are trying to accomplish beyond Iraq, and does what needs to be done regardless of internal pressures, we are likely to end up with an international situation, that while better than if we let the Democrats call it quits and retreat from Iraq, is still less than desirable and not worthy of the sacrifice of our soldiers or our great nation.