Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Post of the Year.

I wish every day of every year could be spent like today; short of taking a cast or two in a stream teeming with native brook trout, the last day of 2006 was perfect.

My children woke me up at 7:30 a.m., and I promptly sent the boys out the front door to get the Sunday paper; my wife brought me a cup of coffee while I read the front sections of the Observer; afterward I ate breakfast with my family, goofed around a bit on the internet, and then accompanied everyone outside to rake pine needles and play.

My wife is much better (more diligent, in any case) at raking than I am, so my four year old son, Mitchie, and I went down to the stream in our back yard to look for crayfish. We saw a small green anole lizard, racoon tracks, and a wild cat, but alas no aquatic life.

We came back inside, and while my daughter napped and my wife shopped I left some comments on other people's blogs, and wrote a post of my own here. Thanks to the power of the wireless network, I was able to do all of this in front of the television with my sons, watching Return of the Jedi for the 100th time.

Now the children are in bed (though not asleep, for I can hear the boys' chatter slowly raising up to a dull roar), and I am enjoying a cup of mint tea, made from leaves off a mint plant on my back porch that has thus far survived the light frosts we've had this winter.

The day is ending well, and hopefully it bodes well for tomorrow, a new day, and a new year.

It marks the milestone for Wilsonizer, too; one year ago this afternoon I began this little blog, with just a bit of motivation and a spare electron or two to get it started. I tapered off posting a bit when my work duties became busier, but I nonetheless kept this place open. For those of you who visit from time to time, please keep doing so, and I promise to keep trying to have relevant interesting and even occasionally funny things to say on this little blog.

Happy New Year everyone, and good night.

Unwarranted Pessimism at The American Conservative

William S. Lind unleashed a pessimistic assessment and "worst case" scenario in his recent article in the American Conservative, entitled "How to Lose and Army":

What does the Democrats’ victory mean for the war in Iraq? Regrettably, not what it should, namely an immediate American withdrawal from a hopelessly lost enterprise [emph added].

Lind goes on to ponder how an escalation in the standoff between Iran and the West could lead to the utter destruction of the American Army:

The U.S. Armed Forces are technically well-trained, lavishly resourced Second-Generation militaries. They are today being fought and beaten by Fourth-Generation opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They can also be defeated by Third-Generation opponents who can react faster than America’s process-ridden, PowerPoint-enslaved military headquarters. They can be defeated by superior strategy, by trick, by surprise, and by preemption. Unbeatable militaries are like unsinkable ships: they are unsinkable until something sinks them.

If the U.S. were to lose the army it has in Iraq to Iraqi militias, Iranian regular forces, or a combination of both, cutting our one line of supply and then encircling us, the world would change. It would be our Adrianople, our Rocroi, our Stalingrad. American power and prestige would never recover.

I take exception to many of Lind's points, especially his harsh judgment of Iraq being "a hopelessly lost enterprise".

The greatest danger to American military capability is not the physical destruction of its Army in the streets, alleys, and deserts of Iraq, but instead a total loss of collective national will here at home, to the point where the United States will not authorize or even consider the use of the military element of national power, even when its necessity is all but total certitude.

Remember, if you will, that even two decades after the Vietnam war, the Congressional resolution authorizing use of force to expel Iraq from Kuwait was a close, along party line vote. This at a time when an important regional ally had been attacked, and major reserves of oil were at stake. The world is too dangerous to return to the times where America is unwilling to act when its interests are at stake.

While an attack from Iran is certainly a threat to be reckoned with, there is little doubt that the military and various agencies are collectively monitoring Iran at this point. There are already critical links between the Iranians and various Shiite militias running amok in Iraq. So it is unlikely that a surprise attack on par with the Egyptians crossing the Suez in 1973 would happen in Iraq. Especially the complexities involved in a combined attack of Shiite militias and Iranian general purpose forces.

While Iran is certainly capable of a conventional offensive causing hundreds of casualties, it would not be able to sustain this attack over an extended period of time before its own lines of communications were severed, it was politically isolated, and before the other regional players (Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, et al) complicated things further by intervention in one manner or another. It is doubtful that Iran could alert and mobilize its forces, sever the American lines of communication, and reach all march objectives before reaching a culminating point, and despair.

Hypothesizing on the operational destruction of our forces deployed in the Middle East is little more than an ill-conceived thought experiment; placing operational arrogance and confidence aside (and keeping any military enthusiast from smirking at the thought of the Iranians launching a major offensive and seeing their theocracy crumble in the wake of the operational destruction of THEIR military), our forces are dispersed across thousands of miles, oceans, and countries in the region; while Lind identifies this as a weakness in terms of the US Army's ability to mass, it is also an advantage. There is no single base or formation that can be targeted with a conventional attack to decisively cripple American power in the region.

Lind's assessment of the US military is ill-informed and inaccurate as well. The Army units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are the best trained, best equipped, most combat-seasoned forces this country has seen in decades. They are not "losing" on the battlefields of the two theaters; tactically, the hostile forces in both of those countries, whether insurgents, militias, terrorists, or criminals, are not a match for this military; it is rather in the realm of the political, the cultural, and in the information sphere that we are in peril of being vanquished.

And Mr. Lind is truly reaching for the low hanging fruit to characterize the military as a conservative, uber-hierarchical organization, beholden to the decisions emanating from oversized staffs serving aloof generals ( ". . . defeated by Third-Generation opponents who can react faster than America’s process-ridden, PowerPoint-enslaved military headquarters"). Lind himself paradoxically admits that the forces deployed in theater are operating in a dispersed manner, which requires exceptional leadership, initiative, and capabilities at the company, battalion, and brigade level; the officer who can throw a Powerpoint presentation together in no time is likely to be able to fire numerous weapons systems, call for close air support, treat a casualty, or shape decisions made while attending a shura, and all to good effect.

Lind's assessment of the Army's strategic vulnerability to a conventional Iranian attack is thus overly pessimistic, bordering on the sensational. Other than a Tet-like event, which would have effects in the political and informational spheres, no Middle Eastern country is capable of an attack of this magnitude, much less living to tell the tale.

Also, Lind's description of the United States' relationship with Israel (She Who Must Be Obeyed) is the contemptible tripe that one expects from a CAIR spokesperson, or from an illogical university radical perhaps, but NOT from a supposed conservative thinker. It is not worthy of further comment.

There is room for constructive, informed debate on what the next steps for the U.S. should be in the Middle East, but Mr. Lind's pessimistic diatribe provides marginal utility to those who must decide what comes next, and is a disservice to those who will be in the field, executing whatever policy is decided upon.

Post Script. I came across Lind's article from a post over at The Elephant Bar; this post actually evolved from my response to a post over there.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The U.S. Military and the Blogosphere

Another title for this post could be “Where are CENTCOM’s Blogs?”

Many in the armed services have firmly esconced themselves in the blogosphere, as evidenced by the numerous military blogs one can find in a Google search. Yet the military establishment overall remains largely aloof to the relevance of blogs as a critical component of the infosphere. Thus far, there are relatively few articles in professional military journals on the blogosphere and the military’s role in this new, emerging environment. The majority of published work generally deals with matters relating to blogs’ impact on operational security matters.

An exception to this is a monograph published in 2006 by James Kinniburgh and Dorothy Denning entitled “Blogs and Military Information Strategy”. The authors recognize and document the role of blogs in information operations through examples in Iraq and the War on Terror. The paper also discusses metrics to measure the effectiveness of blogs as a communications/information medium.

“Blogs and Military Information Strategy” is noncommittal towards the overall utility of blogs, however. The paper discusses at length the sifting through “threat blogs” to gain intelligence on an adversary, and spends less than a page examining the implications of blogging as an activity in its own right.

Like the Kinniburgh/Denning paper, the weakness of most military analyses of the blogosphere is the traditional view of information as a commodity to be protected, and a view of blogs as unguarded or unauthorized gates into one’s camp; those in uniform fail to see blogs, bloggers, the readership, and all of the linkages therein as an entirely new complex, adaptive system. As such, military organizations have a negligible presence in the blogosphere, and are at a disadvantage when compared to some sophisticated adversaries.

More importantly, without blogs, the military can only interact, inform, and shape understanding of their operations in a limited manner, through traditional media and press releases. The military has no control over the traditional media either, and thus must rely the various entities comprising it to synthesize and transmit their message; they therefore have no direct way to shape the transmitted message of what their forces are seeing, observing or achieving. The lack of a presence in the blogosphere therefore is a self-imposed limit on the military’s ability to impact the collective narrative that shapes the public’s, our allies, and adversaries’ perceptions. As time goes on, and the number of blogs and people relying on them for information and communicate grow geometrically, the United States military is at an ever-increasing disadvantage.

While blogs realistically are not the key to overall victory or defeat in war, the military’s aloofness and nonexistent presence in the blogosphere certainly does not bode well for achieving its objectives in current and future operations. Likewise, commanders lacking familiarity or access to this medium have no way to counter the information and narratives being shaped by adversaries.

What should the military do, then? Many things, actually. All of the actions should start now, and be executed over a short term and intermediate term horizon.

In the near term, the military needs to expedite its understanding of blogs and blogging. The public affairs sections of commands down to the Brigade combat team level should be required to assist their commanders at maintaining a presence in this medium (ie a blog!), and use it to shape perceptions and understanding of their operations, the environment they are working in, and the Service members themselves. The Combatant Commands (ie USCENTCOM) should have a well-developed information operations strategy which includes how to establish, employ, and synchronize blogs in a given theater of operations.

More needs to be done over time, however, to ensure that the military's personnel better understand the new medium and are more capable of having an effect within it. At intermediate and senior level service schools (ie the Command and General staff Colleges, War Colleges, et al) officers should receive robust instruction on information operations that includes the blogosphere and blogging. Specialty schools like the Advanced Military Studies Programs (SAMS), Naval Post-Graduate School, and the Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict (SOLIC) program should be directed to produce monographs and theses on the subject as well. Between the graduate level research and actual experiences in the field, the military can then develop standing doctrine for operations within the blogosphere.

Hopefully these actions are set in motion sooner than later. The American military possesses the human and material capital to develop and maintain a serious capability in the blogosphere, impacting the understanding of the American public, the nation’s adversaries, and literally everyone in between. And yet, while the nation can project the lethality of an airborne brigade combat team anywhere in the world within eighteen hours, it has yet to deploy a single Soldier into the blogosphere.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Finders, Thinkers, and Linkers

The Belmont club has a terrific post examining the importance of the new communications frontiers entitled "The Blogosphere at War". It is one of the more insightful posts on the relevance and meaning of what we have come to call the blogosphere. In his analysis, blogger Wretchard categorically organizes bloggers into groups of "Finders, Linkers, and Thinkers", and discusses some of the apparent laws of this new communications medium:

The blogosphere will turn its energies with equal ferocity to every side. Populated as it is by people from all walks of the ideological spectrum, the blogosphere itself has no inherent political bias. Bloggers with Left wing, Right Wing, Arab, Israeli, European and American, religious and atheistic viewpoints will be simultaneously scrutinizing every scrap of information that raises its head above the Event Horizon. The blogosphere is no one's friend. But it will be unkindest to the side which relies the most on cant and propaganda to spread its message. . . The political side which tells the most lies and falsehoods is likely to suffer more at its hands than one which hews more closely to the observable truth.

I would reinforce Belmont's post by suggesting the blogosphere has many of the characteristics of a complex adaptive system, in that the finders, thinkers, linkers, and readers collectively exhibit "
complex behaviors that emerge as a result of often nonlinear spatio-temporal interactions among a large number of component systems at different levels of organization". As such, we can expect the system's behaviors to continue evolving, affecting the way we understand and impact the world around us.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Weighing in on Ethiopia/Somalia

Update 2: Somali Troops and their Ethiopian Allies have retaken the capital:

Triumphant Somali government forces and their Ethiopian allies marched into Mogadishu on Thursday after Islamist rivals abandoned the war-scarred city they held for six months. . ."We have been defeated. I have removed my uniform. Most of my comrades have also changed into civilian clothes," one former SICC fighter told Reuters. "Most of our leaders have fled."

Update: There is talk of taking Mogadishu
without a fight.

Dramatic events unfolding in the current Ethiopia/Islamic Courts Union conflict.

Hugh Hewitt has a great post with links and analysis here.

The Afghanistan Study Group?

When will the time come to reassess the strategy in Afghanistan a la the (much maligned) ISG report?
Hopefully sooner than later.

The level of violence has surged in recent times, and despite all our efforts, Afghanistan's ability to viably administer its territory has scarcely changed since its democratically-elected government was formed.

Other than its robust poppy crops, Afghanistan's economic development has also been dismal. No corporations planning to build massive factories to employ tens of thousands of Afghanis are on the horizon, either.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has effectively ceded control of its border region to the Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists. These insidious groups now have an effective safe haven in which to train, recruit and recover from successful operations across the border (and maybe across the globe).

Why wait until poll numbers are in the toilet for Operation Enduring Freedom to assess where we are in terms of our efforts, and the best way forward to achieve our goals?

Hopefully, organizations and institutions are doing it right now, quietly, lest James Baker and Lee Hamilton get shoved down their throats.

Just a thought.

The Soldiers who "Get It" in Iraq

I came across this PDF file last week when I wrote my entry about the Army's new counterinsurgency manual. A young Army Captain, Travis Patriquin, came to understand the nature of the insurgency he was fighting in Anbar province. To get there, he had to understand not only the insurgents, but the people, the culture, and Iraqi society as well.

As simplistic as the stick figures look, CPT Patriquin did an amazing job of simplifying and incredibly complex problem. While operating at the tactical level, the young officer was able to shed light on where the strategies employed in Iraq may have gotten off track; he further offers a winning way forward for everyone involved (except the terrorists, but that's all right according toCapt Patriquin, "because Terrorists suck").

This young Army officer, executing American policy on the front line, illuminates what success can look like in Iraq. Hopefully, the Generals and senior State Department officials are doing more of the same kind of thinking.

POST SCRIPT: Sadly, CPT Patriquin was killed in Iraq this month; hopefully his insightful presentation inspires many who follow after him to achieve success in this endeavor.

Choosing Victory = A Good Start

I read through the American Enterprise
Institute's take on achieving the United States' (and most of the Iraqi population's) goals in Iraq. It's entitled Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq: Phase I Report (get it here).

The report I saw was a
pdf'd PowerPoint presentation, about 56 slides in all. Choosing Victory addresses resolving problems currently besetting the US-led coalition and the Iraqi population in two phases. During Phase I (the focus of this report), it proposes to increase the number of Brigade Combat Teams (the lowest common denominator when it comes to boots on the ground) from 15 to 24, which includes an increase of up to 7 additional brigades in Baghdad. The buildup would be accomplished by extending the current and future tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months, and accelerating the planned deployments of Brigade Combat Teams into theater.

These additional units would be used to clear terrain of insurgents, and then maintain security after the area is cleared with partnered Iraqi security force units. The report differentiates this course of action from previous operations by doubling the number of U.S. forces in Baghdad, along with maintaining a presence even after areas are secure (surged U.S. forces left shortly after completing operations in past efforts).

Choosing Victory
ties critical infrastructure repair (sewer water, electricity, and trash removal services) to military operations as a critical part of the plan. "Every clearing operation should be accompanied by a set, fully funded reconstruction package"; additional Commanders
Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds will be allocated to unit commanders to use at their discretion as well. The report goes on to say that additional reconstruction efforts would be allocated towards "significant improvement of the quality of life" of areas that are cooperative towards the Coalition and against insurgents/militias.

According to the report, Phase II of the AEI's plan will be released at some point in January 2007; it will propose efforts to enhance the training of security forces, expand the rule of law, and a way ahead for the development of permanent, viable government institutions.

Choosing Victory effectively argues the case for accepting nothing less than success in Iraq. It also thoroughly discounts many of the recommendations found in the Baker Hamilton report as well. There are several areas where the report is lacking, though, and these shortcomings illuminate several of the weaknesses in the effectiveness of our own government institutions and departments as we deal with a post Cold War security environment.

The AEI's report is fairly thorough in dealing with the deployment of military units and the effects of phasing those deployments over time to increase the buildup of power; however, Choosing Victory failed to address an increase in any Special Operations Forces (SOF) in its operational plan. SOF would play a critical part in enhancing the success of any templated surge of forces. On the combat side, the intelligence collecting and populace and ability to identify conduct rapid operations against critical enemy command and control nodes and enablers would play a key role in rapidly degrading the scale and scope of the insurgency. SOF's inherent ability to interface with the populace and indigenous units will also be a key enabler for success as well.

Any templated surge of conventional forces should end with an increase of Special Operations Forces (specifically Army Special Forces) to reinforce the success achieved by conventional units. Special Forces units can continue to enhance the capability and build the professionalism of Iraqi security forces units, and possess robust combat capabilities themselves.

Finally, a surge tied to reconstruction efforts will require a robust Civil Affairs force to
ensure projects are carried out in the right places at the right time. Any report dealing with an increased military presence in Iraq must address a requisite increase in SOF for both during and after the surge. Special Operations Forces are a strategic asset and limited in numbers, and the fact that Choosing Victory did not address their allocation and use in its military-centric plan is a serious flaw.

The military-centric theme of this Choosing Victory is itself the report's critical shortcoming. Any serious policy change or strategy shift must be accompanied by a nested, synchronized effort by the various agencies and departments of the United States government. The State Department needs to have a detailed, executable plan thoroughly tied in with the military deployment, so that combat operations, reconstruction efforts, and work toward creating Iraqi institutions is not a haphazard affair but instead actually moves efforts in Iraq closer to a successful end.

AEI purports to deal with these things in the upcoming Phase II report, but in all actuality there is no true phase I or II; while the report rightly cites re-establishing security as critical, the building of national Iraqi institutions, repair of infrastructure, economic development, and training of Iraqi security forces are endeavors that will be ongoing before, during and after security operations. Failing to detail them up front is a major shortcoming.

Finally, the report does not truly address the importance of strategic themes and messages that will be a key part of any surge of our forces and efforts in Iraq. There are many audiences out there that the United States must speak to, loud and clear. The government must be prepared to address the Iraqi population as additional forces surge into Iraq, as well as Iraqi government and leadership. There must be a concerted effort in the Muslim world and the international stage to increase the world's support for Iraq in its fight for stability. The U.S. has to counter the highly effective messages from Al Qaeda and the various insurgent groups within Iraq as well. Finally, it is imperative that the U.S. government addresses any renewed efforts directly with the American people. A change of this magnitude carries a significant cost. More boots on the ground will almost cetainly lead to a surge in casualties in the short term. It will place increased hardships on deployed Soldiers, and will likely increase the short term operating costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The government must convince the American people that this is a fight that is neccessary to their long term security, that the new plan is viable and well thought out, and that it is worthy of the efforts and sacrifice of our military.

Despite the above criticisms, this report is by far more detailed and starkly different alternative to the now much-maligned Baker Hamilton report. Along with the forthcoming Phase II report, Choosing Victory provides food for thought for the President, the military and the rest of us, as everyone contemplates what to do next in Iraq.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone!

No More blogging for Wilsonizer this fine Christmas Eve! The children are tucked, and some last minute wrapping is in order before the morning comes. The Sangria pitcher is freshly charged as well!

Merry Christmas to you, dear readers, and good tidings to all.

Bob W.

The Wilsonizer

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Iraq Strategies, Part III

This article states that the Administration is considering massive economic and infrastructure repair efforts synched with the proposed troop surge in Iraq:

At the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are insisting on reconstruction funds as part of a package of political and economic measures to accompany the armed forces. They fear the extra troops will be wasted and more lives lost if Bush relies purely on the military to pacify Iraq, according to sources close to General Peter Schoomaker, the Army Chief of Staff.

The article goes on to state that the focus beyond purely military efforts is based on a report from the American Enterprise Institute entitled Choosing Victory: the Path for Success in Iraq. The PDF is here.

I confess that I haven't read the report yet (I found out about it mere moments ago), but I will, and then I will post something on it tomorrow.

This is the type of intellectual effort required to give policymakers options beyond the meek, lowest common denominator realpolitik of the Baker Hamilton Report.

More to follow, I'm sure. Read it before I do if you are staying up late tonight (or are sitting in another time zone, where bed time is hours away!) and beat me to the punch!!

The Sandy Berger File

Check out Pajamas Media for the latest implication of the Sandy Berger Report.

Roger L. Simon blogs about why it caused him a sleepless night.

Doug Ross conducts a thought experiment where it is Condi who hid the files, and guesstimates the media's rabid response. Interesting, to say the least.

Zooming in on ISG recommendation # 44

While the Iraq Study Group Report has largely been dismissed out of hand by all comers, there are a few gems in it, if one digs deep enough.

Something interesting and illuminating to the public at large is recommendation #44:

The most highly qualified U.S. officers and military personnel should be assigned to the imbedded teams [ of units working closely with and advising/training Iraqi military units] and American Teams should be present with Iraqi units down to the company level. The U.S. military should establish suitable career-enhancing incentives for these officers and personnel (emph. added).

This recommendation exposes a fact those outside of the blue/green machines may find surprising. While military service outwardly seems like an egalitarian venture, inside there are some much more equal than others; for officers specifically, there are those who are on “the fast track” meaning they are competitive for command and promotion to increasingly higher rank, and there are those who are not. In the Army, the former comprises less than 20% of the force, a select few, indeed.

I confess that, having not served in Iraq, I am ignorant of the quality and hard work of the current embedded tactical trainers and advisors. But I believe it is highly unlikely that those deemed to be on the fast track (ie ladies and gents competitive for battalion and brigade commands) comprise the majority of leadership of these teams. Instead, I would posit that many are reservists, individual augmentees, and the like. This is an assumption on my part, but I bet I am right on the money.

This begs the question “Why are the people who are pegged to be the future leaders of the Army not deeply involved in what is no less than the schwerpunkt of our efforts in Iraq?” For the Army’s part, the service has a hard template for what an officer does on a successful career track, and it takes nothing short of an act of congress to change it. It actually took the Goldwater-Nichols act in the late 1980s to change the Army’s mindset on serving in joint (multi-service) billets as something beneficial to career progression.

Serving as an advisor, whether during wartime or not, is not yet something deemed as career-enhancing in the United States Army. Thus, there is no great stampede of the ambitious, hungry set rushing for assignments as embedded tactical trainers. Military culture is conservative, dug in deep, and changing it is always an uphill, controversial endeavor (remember the brouhaha when General Shinseki mandated the Black Beret?)

Andrew Krepinevich, in The Army and Vietnam, did a statistical analysis of the relationship between career progression and advisory duty; he found that as the war progressed, it was much more beneficial for officers to serve in conventional billets than to serve in the graveyard of advisory duties. Hopefully, it is not too late to ensure we are putting our best foot forward in Iraq when it comes to building that fragile state’s security apparatus.

Post Script: By no means am I denigrating the selfless service of those currently risking their skins on the line in Iraq (or Afghanistan, for that matter); rather, I want to detemine two things: Are the future leaders of the Army and other services involved in the endeavors most critical to our success in Iraq, and if not, why?

Diverse Takes on the Al Qaeda/Dem Message

HERE are some alternate takes on the Al Qaeda message to the Democrats from across the Web:

  • Ace of Spades predicts the MSM will bury this story. deep.
  • It is noted here at, though.
  • Wizbang chimes in that other factors cost Republicans the 2006 Mid Terms.
  • Jihadi Du Jour compares Zawahri to Ms. Hilton (?!?!?)
  • Dail Kos's commentary on this story has disappeared.
  • Pirate's cove, like many others on the right, say "told ya so" (more or less).
  • Nothing on Zawahri's message to Dems at Britney Spears' site, surprisingly. The whole no panties debacle apparently has thrown her of her game!!!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Giant Squid on the Loose!

A group of very happy researchers caught one, and have some first ever live video of a kraken in action. Check it out!

Case Collapse: Nifong's Office Drops the Rape Charge

DA Mike Nifong in Durham dropped the rape charges against the three Duke Lacrosse team members.

Other charges remain however (for now).
The President of Duke University is urging Nifong to excuse himself from the case.

And who wants to bet THIS website won't be around much longer?

Al Qaeda and the Democrats

UPDATE: Link to the ABC News story was added to original post!

ABCNEWS.Com is reporting Al Qaeda is telling the American Democratic Party that "credit for the defeat of congressional Republicans belongs to the terrorists":
you [Democrats} aren't the ones who won the midterm elections, nor are the Republicans the ones who lost. Rather, the Mujahideen -- the Muslim Ummah's vanguard in Afghanistan and Iraq -- are the ones who won, and the American forces and their Crusader allies are the ones who lost," Zawahri said, according to a full transcript obtained by ABC News. . . if you don't refrain from the foolish American policy of backing Israel, occupying the lands of Islam and stealing the treasures of the Muslims, then await the same fate," [Zawahiri] said.
Much will be made of this by the press, pundits, bloggers, and the Republicans, no doubt. On the surface, one could argue that Zawahiri is playing into Republican talking points of the Democrats being weak on Terror, and winning the mid term elections specifically because of said weakness.

However, this message actually shows a lack of sophistication on the part of Zawahiri and his ilk when it comes to communicating with the West, especially America. While boasting of manipulating an American election through force and fear may play well on the Arab Street, it will make it more difficult for any politician (especially a Democrat) to stake a position that has the faintest conciliatory scent upon it when it comes to tactics in the War on Terror.

Statements like this latest Al Qaeda message compel the parties to seek common ground against a bold, palpably evil enemy, something I would guess Al Qaeda would rather forgo.
Some readers will find something more insidious in Zawahiri's message, a plan within a plan within a plan perhaps, but the world (and Al Qaeda) is not that complex. Zawahiri may understand what makes people tick and know how to scare them, but he does not yet understand American society and our culture.

Hopefully, the good Doctor and his closest friends will be cold and in the earth before they learn to transmit anything more than fear at America and the West.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

U.K. Bracing for Terror Attack???

According to this article, Britain is on high alert this holiday season:

It will be a miracle if there isn't a terror attack over the holidays in London," a senior American law enforcement official tells British police have been quietly carrying out a series of key arrests as they continue to track at least six active "plots" tied to what they call "al Qaeda of England. . . officials say the plots are all connected and track back to al Qaeda commanders in Pakistan who have been recruiting and training British citizens of Pakistan descent.

Scary stuff for British police and intelligence services to be worrying about over the Christmas weekend. Good Hunting, mates.

Post Script. Does this mean that British Government will cease and desist calling off the War on Terror??

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

There are Jobs that Americans Just Won't Do

But it looks like working in a meat packing plant isn't one of them.

CPT Jamil Hussein, the Iraqi Tom Joad?

I can’t find my old copy of Grapes of Wrath, but I recall Tom Joad’s climactic monologue as he left his family in the wake of a killing. When he farewells his mother, perhaps for the last time, Tom Joad symbolizes a persevering American spirit in times of great hardship. He is Everyman.

Is the mysterious “Captain Jamil Hussein” a man much in the same vein as Joad? If so, perhaps Jamil delivered a monologue to his beloved AP counterparts, as he departed to witness more dramatic events to corroborate the tone and content of their stories (and subsequently vanished), that went something like this:

'I'll be everywhere - wherever you look. 'Wherever there's a saddening turn of events worthy of reporting above the fold, I will be there to provide a quote. Whenever there’s a rumor of Sunnis being lit aflame by Shiite death squads, I’ll be there to corroborate it. If I can think of something disheartening that will cause your readers to lose spirit, I will tell you. If you need someone to embellish, I will be there. Especially on a slow news day. You don’t even have to leave the Green Zone, or your office in New York for that matter, because I will be there to check the facts for you. I’ll be there, see?

So yes, perhaps Joad and Jamil are two peas in a pod. Ultimately, it may be proven that both served the same purpose: to advance rich, elegantly crafted fiction.

My apologies to the late, great John Steinbeck, and Henry Fonda as well.

Post Script: Maybe Jamil Hussein is more like Greg Packer than Tom Joad???

Changes in Command

Looks like some
major shifts in General Officers coming. Serendipitous timing it would seem, as there is great clamor for a course correction, and new blood inevitably helps with that.

By the way, my money's on
this guy taking over in either Iraq or USCENTCOM.

News for the Season's Silly Tidings

Interesting, strange, outrageous, and perfect "news" for this time of year:
  • Rights for sentient machines are discussed seriously (and no one who appears to have memorized the script to all Star Trek Episodes is present!)
  • A Sasquatch is spotted only 5 days ago in Saskatchewan.
Who says we live in a boring world???

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hot Off the Presses: The Reed-Levin Amendment

The Democrats introduced an Amendment in Congress today entailing how to deal with Iraq; again not a truly rigorous analysis of what needs to be done on the ground or or how to do it.

Luckily, Senator Harry Reid expanded on his party's position today at Huffington Post to clarify what the amendment's all about, and to assure the American people that their Government is unified during a time of War, when boots are on the ground and much is at stake!

The Study Group Report, and A Follow Up Report

I finished the Iraq Study Group Report last night, and read a follow up to it prepared by the International Crisis Group titled After Baker Hamilton: What to Do Next in Iraq, which was released today. Both reports urge the creation of an “International Support Group” to work out a consensual solution to the myriad of problems facing Iraq and the region; both reports also stress the inclusion of Iran and Syria as key to the success of international efforts to achieve stability. The Crisis Group’s report goes even further than Baker – Hamilton by urging the inclusion of all home-grown Iraqi insurgent Groups, and the de facto marginalization of the current elected Iraqi government in the negotiations.

The inclusion of Iran and Syria in overt negotiations over the region’s fate is likely untenable to the current administration, and for many good reasons. However, both reports, while stressing the long term benefits to these regimes of a stable Iraq, nonetheless point out that it is unlikely that either will act in a manner that is even marginally perceived to be in the West’s interest. The U.S. is strategically fixed in Iraq for the time being, with little to no leverage to employ against Damascus or Tehran. All the better for these capitals; Iran and Syria can bide their time, let America’s national will atrophy, and then act from a position of strength when it suits them. Good luck in getting either country to send diplomats to a conference on Iraq chaired or even attended by the U.S.

Neither report provides recommendations for actions that could enable the U.S. to achieve its initial stated goal of a pluralistic democratic Iraq, so hopefully the Pentagon’s analysis will provide an alternative viewpoint that stimulates debate among key policymakers and the public in general.

Read both reports, so you stay “in the know”. And here’s to hoping that the Pentagon or some other think tank provides intellectually rigorous analysis that offers a path to achieving long term objectives in the region.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report has been on the streets for several days, and the hype has died down considerably. Meanwhile, another document has just been released from the government printing office, though to considerably less fanfare.

Army Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency, was released on December 15th, 2006.

This is not an updated version of an old manual, but instead a new manual altogether. Prior to its release as a doctrinal product of both the Army and Marine Corps two days ago, counterinsurgency was little more than an afterthought in a manual called Stability Operations. In Stability, counterinsurgency shared the same or less space with subjects like disaster response and humanitarian assistance. Counterinsurgency doctrine withered on the vine after the American experience in Vietnam.

Why so long with no doctrine on this important military task, one might ask (especially when, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the developing world seemed to shatter into hundreds of little seething armed camps)? A light-hearted answer, that might not be too far from the mark, is that the generals may have thought if they did not prepare (ie train, equip and educate) their forces for a counterinsurgency, perhaps they would never have to fight one. I jest of course, but sometimes I wonder. . .

In any case, the manual is out. No doubt it is full of lessons from the fertile fields of Iraq and Afghanistan. I plan to print and read it over the next several days (although, admittedly, I am behind a bit in my professional reading; the Iraq Study Group Report is collecting dust on my night stand). Interesting to note is the intellectual tone of the manual’s introduction:

The military forces that successfully defeat insurgencies are usually those able to overcome their institutional inclination to wage conventional war against insurgents. They learn how to practice COIN [counterinsurgency] and apply that knowledge. . . in COIN, the side that learns faster and adapts more rapidly—the better learning organization—usually wins. Counterinsurgencies have been called learning competitions. Thus, this publication identifies “Learn and Adapt” as a modern COIN imperative for U.S. forces.

Well said, if not too timely.

No doubt the excellent book by Professor John Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife influenced this manual. Soup is a great book, and it aptly discusses the problems first-rate militaries have waging war against insurgents.

Further reading for those interested in counterinsurgency should definitely include Counterinsurgency: Theory and Practice, a classic work on the subject by David Galula.

Post Script. Counterterrorism Blog gives a bit more background on the manual (including links to the pdf) here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

. . . . in the Saddle Again!

Yes, I am back! Actually, I never left, I just lost interest in blogging for a bit, but alas, the Wilsonizer is rising to the occasion during a time of great tumult. Much has changed since the sunny days of May, when last I blogged on these august pages. The Iraqi Study Group Report is out there. I am going to download, bind and read it tomorrow, and start commenting soon afterward. Most of the blogosphere is summarily underwhelmed with its contents thus far, though (even the folks over at kos).

Back in May the makeup of congress was substantially different than it will be next month as well. At least voters in my old home state sent this guy the right message!

So yes, things have changed. Some things have stayed the same, however.

And the Wilsonizer is getting back up to speed to turn this into a first rate blog once again.

Keep reading!