Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Support Our Troops

Over at The Huffington Post, Bill Maher asks "If we all do 'support the troops', how come there has not been a demonstration, a march on Washington to DEMAND that they get the armor they've (needed) for so long?"

It's like this, Bill. If we march on Washington and demand the troops get the armor they've needed for so long, we'll send a signal to the insurgent terrorists that they're winning because we're not supporting the policies of our leaders who haven't gotten our troops the armor they've needed for so long.

This would motivate the insurgents to commit more acts of terror against our troops, who are still vulnerable to terror attacks because they still don't have the armor they've needed for so long.

Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Myers, and the rest of our leaders who haven't given the troops the armor they've needed for so long would rightly accuse us of "costing lives" of unarmored troops who died in terrorist attacks that we incited by demanding the troops get the armor they've needed for so long. Our actions would be labeled as irresponsible, unpatriotic, and downright treasonous.

That would ruin the morale of our troops, depressing them to such an extent that they wouldn't bother to use what armor they do have, which would make them even more vulnerable to terror attacks whether they have the armor they've needed for so long or not.

So you see, Bill, the best thing we can all do to support the troops is to do nothing at all to support them.


Dubya quote of the day:

"I don't worry about anything here in Washington D.C."

What, him worry?


Monday, May 30, 2005

The Counterproductive War to End Counterproductive Wars

In a Memorial Day blog post, Arianna Huffington wrote:

"For a long time now I’ve written about the need to put an end to the failed drug war -- a $40 billion dollar a year debacle that has...siphoned resources from the war on terror."

Helping to end the counterproductive war on drugs by making it unaffordable would give the war on terror a tangible accomplishment. Next problem: what sort of counterproductive war will we have to start to end the war on terror, and how much will it have to cost?


Sunday, May 29, 2005

A Different Colored Sky

As we remember those who died in service to our country this Memorial Day weekend, let's take a look at what our nation's leadership is up to in running the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).

A Sunday Washington Post article reveals that three and a half years after the 9-11 attacks, the Bush administration has, for the first time, launched an internal review of its anti-terror strategy.

Why the delay? Key administration counterterrorism jobs have been vacant for months. "We're five months into the next term," says former counterterrorism official Roger W. Cressy. "You end up losing valuable time."

"There's been a vacuum of leadership," says another former counterterrorism official. "No one knows who's running this on a day-to-day basis."

The Bush administration now wants to "broaden" its approach to defeating terrorism, turning away from its former "decapitation strategy" that focused on rolling up senior al Qaeda leaders. By this point, according to some experts, al Qaeda is no longer an effective organization, but has evolved into an "amorphous global jihad movement."

"What we really want now is a strategic approach to defeat violent extremism," a senior spokesman said. "GWOT is catchy, but there may be a better way to describe it."

I have no idea what catchy new acronym they'll come up with (Leverage Over Violent Extremism?), but you can bet your bottom tax dollar that high priced think tanks will be working overtime on the project once they come back from the weekend holiday.


Not everyone is convinced that we have rolled up the sidewalk on al Qaeda. A panel consisting of Fred Thompson, Lee Hamilton, and others expressed grave concerns about al Qaeda's intentions on Meet the Press.

When asked if he was convinced al Qaeda was "single minded" about obtaining nuclear weapons, head of the 9-11 Commission and former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean said, "I don't think there's any question about it...they have been doing everything they can to acquire the means of both the methods and the materials in order to (ignite a nuclear device in) an American city." Governor Kean also characterized America's borders and ports as "extremely porous," and said "we have not got a machine yet that will really detect nuclear materials properly as it comes across."

There's no telling how much we've spent so far on Homeland Security. You certainly won't find a comprehensive figure at the Department of Homeland Security web site. But a swag of $100 billion is probably low.


And on Sunday's Face the Nation:

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Richard Myers admitted that May was a brutal month in the Iraq operation, but optimistically claimed that "the trend lines are up."

When asked if more troops should have been committed to the Iraq excursion, Myers said, "Personally, I don't think so." Myers made the standard argument that more troops might simply have provided more targets for the insurgents.

He skipped over the reality that if the U.S. hadn't sent troops into Iraq on fuzzy pretexts, not only wouldn't there be any targets, there wouldn't be any insurgents.

Myers also said that the military has gone to "extraordinary lengths to treat people humanely and uphold the Geneva Conventions."

General Myers is not known to have failed a random military drug test lately. But he's not known to have taken one lately either.


Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Late Edition: "U.S. troops will be in Iraq for the foreseeable future."


In summary:

--44 months after 9-11, the Bush administration realizes it needs a new strategy in the Globar War on Terror, but the best thing it's come up with so far is to decide to give the war a new name.

--Al Qaeda is determined to sneak a nuclear weapon into the United States, and there's next to nothing we can do about it.

--Our senior military officer lives on a planet with a different colored sky.

This isn't a quagmire. It's a Technicolor nightmare. Our leadership has no strategy and no grasp of reality. Everything we do or don't do, say or don't say, plays directly into the radical Islamists' game plan.

Come next Memorial Day weekend, and for many Memorial Day weekends to come, we'll lament the passing of still more dedicated service men and women who fell fighting whatever we wind up calling this leaderless, rudderless war.


Friday, May 27, 2005

The War to Prevent All Wars

On this morning's Imus program, Senator Orrin Hatch (R Utah) justified the Iraq invasion by saying that U.S. troops are fighting in the Middle East in order to prevent World War III. Senator Hatch is losing track of his world wars--which is an easy thing to do these days.

Some military scholars think of the War on Terror as World War III. Others say World War III was the Cold War and the War on Terror is World War IV.

So viewed one way, Hatch is saying this war is an attempt to prevent itself. Viewed another, we're fighting this war to prevent the previous one.

Senator Hatch, a staunch supporter of the war in Iraq, never served in the military.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

39,999 Iraqi Troops on the Wall...

BBC News and other sources report that over 40,000 Iraqi troops will deploy in Baghdad to hunt down insurgent forces.

Iraq Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi says the force--composed of troops from the Defense and Interior Ministries--will be split into seven areas of operations. The security measures will be more strict than any seen before, Mister Dulaimi warns, and will be the first phase in a crackdown that will eventually cover all of Iraq.

This comes at a time when senior U.S. military officials have admitted unsatisfactory progress in training Iraqi troops, predicted a much longer U.S. involvement in Iraq, and even confessed to the possibility that the Iraq effort could fail.

I sincerely hope this Iraqi troop deployment is not a premature move designed to quell panic over the Iraq situation. If so, it could prove disastrous to the new government in that country, and to American efforts to stabilize the region.

Deploying 40,000 troops could simply provide insurgents with 40,000 new vulnerable targets and 'crackdown" security measures could inflame the passions of Iraqi civilians against their own government. That might well catapult the insurgency to previously unseen levels of activity, further inflame anti-U.S. sentiments throughout the Middle East, and lead to increased U.S. military presence in that region.

I hope this is not the case. The last thing I want to see is more American troops thrown into the quagmire created by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perl, Kristol, and the rest of the neo-conservative chicken hawks.

I pray the Iraqi troop deployment is an overwhelming success, and all of our troops can come home.

What They Do and What They Say, Part II

Today's Bob Herbert column hits the nail on the head regarding ultimate culpability for the War on Terror prison abuses. Referring to report from Physicians for Human Rights that examined the use of psychological torture by Americans against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Cuba, Herbert writes:

"People have been murdered, tortured, rendered to foreign countries to be tortured at a distance, sexually violated, imprisoned without trial or in some cases simply made to 'disappear' in an all-American version of a practice previously associated with brutal Latin American dictatorships. All of this has been done, of course, in the name of freedom.

"This insidious and deeply inhumane practice was not the work of a few bad apples...the abuses flowed inexorably from policies promulgated at the highest levels of government."

High-level government officials, Herbert notes, who embrace a "culture of life."


And while several junior enlisted and officer personnel have faced courts martial over prison abuses, the highest-ranking government official to receive censure is Janice Karpinski, who was demoted one pay-grade, from brigadier general to colonel.


Don't Miss Big Sister!

Ann Coulter will be on Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show tonight, arguing against liberal bias in federally funded public broadcasting. Her argument will no doubt be the standard right wing rant--PBS and NPR should either eliminate the bias or stop accepting federal funds.

Ann won't point out that while the government funds public radio and television to the tune of $387 million, it wants to spend well over ten times that amount--as much as 48% of the proposed $2.5 trillion proposed federal budget--on the military and "defense" related items in 2006.

I'm a lot more concerned with what the government's doing with our military than I am over whether or not PBS and NPR are "biased."

Ann Coulter's the perfect mouthpiece for the radical right. She goes to show just how far a pretty gal can ride on a sixth grade sense of humor and a broomstick.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Beat Goes On

"I really, truly believe that we are as close as we have ever been to peace."

-- Laura Bush, May 20, 2005

"I think (the terrorists are) being defeated, and that's why they continue to fight."

-- George W. Bush, May 23, 2005

"U.S. deaths mount in Iraq: 14 killed in past three days; May is on track to become one of deadliest months in the past year."

-- The Virginian-Pilot, May 25, 2005

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."

-- Mark Twain, late nineteenth century

Insurgents have killed 54 U.S. troops so far this month, The Pilot reports. More than 620 people, including 58 American troops, have been killed since Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari established his new government on April 28. Insurgent attacks presently average 70 per day. In light of increasing sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites, Iraq appears to be turning into two battlefields--insurgents fighting the U.S. military and religious sects fighting each other.

These insurgent dummies need to start listening to Laura and Dubya. How long before they realize they're losing and give up? (The insurgents, I mean.)

Countless Bush administration supporters have explained our difficulties in combating terrorism by claiming this is a "new kind of war," but there's nothing about this war that the Greek general and historian Thucydides didn't describe in 400 B.C.--and none of it was "new" then, either.

In coming weeks, I'll outline historic case studies--from Hellenic times to the present day--that illustrate how wars are similar regardless of technologies and cultures, and how war itself is a proven failure as a tool of national power.

Hope you can stop by, read, and comment.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Pigs in Space

A May 24th New York Times article was critical of the U.S. Air Force's desire to put offensive and defensive weapons in space. Among other things, it said, "What the Air Force has in mind is shrouded in secrecy and euphemisms."

Murky, obscure jargon is a standard feature of military rhetoric. That's how the Pentagon keeps the public fearful of "emerging threats" and from figuring out just what the military is up to: making false justifications for grabbing an ever increasing piece of the national budget.

No service is better at this sort of thing than the United States Air Force. Since its creation as a separate branch after World War II, the Air Force has tried to convince anyone who will listen that aerospace power makes all other forms of military power obsolete. Their critics point out that decades of tangible evidence indicate otherwise.

Air Force counter-arguments usually state that aerospace power failed to be solely decisive in any given conflict because we didn't use it the right way, or we didn't use enough of it, or that it didn't work because the big old Army and Navy meanies in charge didn't want it to work.

Now, relegated to irrelevance in the Global War on Terror, the Air Force argues that aerospace power will work if we just put it up a little higher. This is typical of the arms race we're creating with ourselves; the false promise of "military transformation" that says flying tanks, swimming airplanes, eighteen-wheeled ships, and tire irons hurled down from space will accomplish our national aims in ways that previous weapon systems have failed to do.

What the transformation vision ignores is that all forms of military power--aerospace and otherwise--are becoming obsolete as tools of national power. Economy, information, and diplomacy have eclipsed them. The rest of the world has caught on to this reality. Within twelve months, according to Janes Military Industry, America will spend as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.

In theory, the bi-lateral arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was the thing that forced the Evil Empire to collapse under its own weight. Today, it appears the U.S. is bound and determined to implode on itself by engaging in a unilateral arms escalation, spending itself into the dirt while rest of the world sits on the sidelines and chortles.


Monday, May 23, 2005

What They Do and What They Say

From the BBC and other sources:

The U.S. military says it will "aggressively" investigate how the photos of Saddam Hussein's underpants got in the newspapers. Military and legal experts say the pictures may breach Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of prisoners of war.

Interesting how the American military gets all concerned about Geneva Convention rules when a former head of state is involved.

President Bush said he did not think the photos would encourage insurgents in Iraq.

"I don't think a photo inspires murderers. I think they're inspired by an ideology that's so barbaric and backwards that it's hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think."

No doubt it's equally difficult for many in the Muslim world to comprehend how Mister Bush thinks--how, given the backdrop of U.S. abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Afghanistan, Bush can accuse another culture of being "barbaric." This is especially puzzling when Newsweek and others have revealed that the dismissal of Geneva Conventions in the War on Terrorism was approved by Mister Bush himself.

They key to understanding the Bush administration's hypocrisy is its adherence to the concept of "moral equivalence." The moral equivalence argument goes that you can't equate Bush atrocities and anyone else's atrocities because everyone else's atrocities are far worse than Bush's.

This is the exact equivalent of your teenage son saying, "Johnny shoplifted a hundred-dollar catchers mitt. I just stole a three-dollar baseball. Why am I in trouble?"

It's sad that so many Americans who wouldn't take this kind of thing from their kids will tolerate it from their national leaders.


The other sides of their mouths

Funny how the Bushies blamed Newsweek for the violence in Afghanistan, but don't think the Hussein picture will stimulate any violence in the Muslim world. Could that have something to do with the fact that the Hussein picture ran in newspapers owned by Bush supporter Rupert Murdoch?


Hap-hap-hap-hap-hap-hap happy talk...

In the post-blame game joint press conference with Presidents Bush and Karzai, it was hard to say who topped who in the delusional rhetoric department.

Bush complemented Karzai for "showing the countries next to you what's possible."

What would that be, Mister Bush? See, you too can become an out-of-control narco-state?

Karzai said that the Afghan people appreciated the American people. I guess that accounts for all the pro-America pep rallies we've seen in Afghanistan lately.

My favorite remark was President Bush's answer to a question regarding progress against the terrorists:

"I think they're being defeated," he said, "and that's why they continue to fight."

So if they stop fighting, that means they've won?


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jumpin' Judicial Jive...

To recap the fuzzy figures on the federal judge nomination fury:

Democrats have been claiming for some time that they have allowed confirmation of 95% of Bush II's judicial nominees.

When The New York Times ran a chart on May 18 showing that Bush II had a 53% nominee confirmation rate for federal appeals court seats, the lowest percentage for all appellate nominees going back to Truman, the right wing echo chamber went ape snot, howling like hyenas about the lies, half truths, and distortions from the left as confessed to by a liberal media source.

But the Times chart left some questions. How did they calculate their numbers, and how could the Dems have cooked a number so out of sync with what their theoretical ally, The Times, reported?

For starters, the right cherry picked the Times' numbers. While their numbers show that Bush II's appellate confirmation rate is 53% compared to Clinton's 59%, they also showed that the Bush II district court rate was 87% versus Clinton's 81% and concluded that the two president's averages were "roughly on par." But The Times didn't publish overall averages, and didn't provide raw figures that would allow average observers to calculate them for themselves.

I searched extensively through the web for a concise, comprehensive data table for government, mainstream media, or blogosphere sources of that data, came up with nothing, and asked readers for assistance. A friend sent me two links that answered some questions but created many more.

The first was a Washington Post article from December 2004 that states:

"Republicans say that Democrats have abused the filibuster by blocking 10 of the president's 229 judicial nominees in his first term."

This would substantiate the Dems' 95% acceptance claim (the exact percentage is closer to 96). I guessed at first that judges not confirmed by means other than filibuster would account for the discrepancy between the Dems' claim and the Times' numbers.

But another link from my friend made me guess again. From an interview with National Public Radio's congressional correspondent Brian Naylor and its Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving:

"The president's nominees to the district court level of the federal system have not been blocked. The conflict has come at the next level, the appeals court level, which is the intermediary step between trial courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. President Bush has had 57 nominees for the U.S. Court of Appeals. Five never received hearings. Of the 52 who did, 42 have been confirmed, but 10 were blocked by Democrats' use of the filibuster to prevent a floor vote. Three of these nominees subsequently withdrew from consideration, but seven others have returned for renomination in the current Congress."

According to the Times' numbers, 13% of the district court nominees were not confirmed, so the NPR guys must have meant they fell out by means other than filibuster, or The New York Times is out to lunch, or the NPR guys are out to lunch, or The New York Times and NPR are both out to lunch (which won't be the first time that happened).

At the appellate level, if 42 of 57 appeals court nominees were confirmed, the confirmation rate is 73.7%, not the 53% that NYT reported. Even if we count the seven judges who were filibustered but nominated again twice, we get 42 of 64, or 65%.

In any case, the left has once again blown an opportunity to get its act together and decisively refute the right, which is further out to lunch than The New York Times and NPR combined. Those characters manufacture numbers out of thin air and their followers wash them down with the latest batch of grape Kool Aid.

The shame of all this is that in the "land of the free" and during "the information age," average citizens can't cut through the smoke screens to find accurate, coherent, comprehensive data that should be the coinage of national debate.

We truly live in Orwellian times.


Pass the Buck and Another Pitcher of Kool Aid

Business as usual in our Global War on Terror...

From The New York Times and other sources:

U.S. Embassy officials in Afghanistan sent an internal memorandum to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on the status of Afghan heroin production. The memo states that the program to curtail Afghanistan's heroin trade is failing in part because President Hamid Karzai "has been unwilling to assert strong leadership."

The memo also identifies Great Britain as "substantially responsible" for failure to eradicate significant acreage of poppy plants. British officials select the sites where eradication teams work, but the U.S. Embassy says the Brits are not sending these teams to the main growing areas and won't revise their targets.

A British Foreign Office spokeswoman says, "We don't believe we are picking the wrong targets."

Jawed Ludin, spokesman for President Karzai, blames the problem on foreign donors who didn't follow through on promises to help Afghan farmers ship to other crops and develop alternate sources of income.

U.S State Department officials blame the problem on bad weather, logistical problems, and political resistance.

State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher says "President Karzai is a strong partner and we have faith in him."

Boucher also denies that there's a problem. "We are succeeding in our overall effort" to address Afghanistan's drug problem, he says.

In an interview Sunday with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition," Karzai blamed the problem on the U.S. and Britian.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Fuzzy Math on Judicial Nominees

Bo-bo-bo-bo, my friends, I'm speaking to you live with half my head stuck up my fundament, and I've got to tell you, these obstructionist liberals and the way they've treated George W. Bush's judicial nominees, bo-bo-bo-bo, thump-thump, even the left-wing loonies at the New York Times admit that Bush has the lowest nomination acceptance rate of any president in recent history...

The Times report all the right wing pundits are quoting does, in fact, show that Bush's 53% success rate with appeals court nominees is the lowest of any president going back to Truman. What they aren't telling their loyal audience is that the cherry picked statistic is misleading, and most of their audience won't bother (or won't be able) to think through the brainwash.

To begin with, appellate nominees count for a small fraction of total federal judges nominated by a president. Back of the envelope algebra tells you that if 10 were blocked and 53% were approved, the total number nominated was 21. That's a tiny sample when you're comparing percentage figures, especially when you consider that Clinton's success rate with appellate nominees (the second lowest going back to Truman) was only 59%. So we're talking about less than a handful of appellate judges' difference between Clinton and Bush II.

More significantly, the Times article also reveals that Bush leads Clinton in district court nomination success 87% to 81%. Since the lower district courts outnumber the higher appellate circuits by almost nine to one, it's fairly easy to arrive at agreement with the Times' conclusion that "The current president's batting average is roughly on par with Mr. Clinton's."

The conservative echo chamber isn't bouncing that reality around the airwaves, the print media, or the blogosphere. It also isn't reporting that the Times figures show that 50 Bush court nominees have been confirmed per year, in contrast to Clinton's track record of 45 annually, or that Bush's numeric success rate is second among post-Eisenhower presidents only to Carter's.

So the conservative rant over Bush's nomination confirmation rate is a gas balloon.

But there's gas on the other side of the aisle too.

Ted Kennedy and the rest of the Democratic Party have some 'splainin' to do about their claim that they've approved 95% of Bush's nominees. Though you can't see any of the background numbers in the Times' statistics*, even a mathematically challenged English major like me can tell that 53% of appellate judge nominees plus 87% of circuit judges can't add up to much more than 85% of total nominees.

A number of things might explain this discrepancy. The Dems' bean counters might have dismissed district court candidates who withdrew their names from nomination because of illness, family issues, closet skeletons, or what have you. Times may have counted judges that haven't come up before committee yet, and the Dems may not have. And we can't tell for sure when the Dems and the Times took their statistical snapshots. If Times did its numbers on Wednesday and four district judges got approved on Thursday, the Dems' number might be more accurate and up to date.

So the whole issue on Bush's nomination success rate is really a wash. It's just a shame that the Democrats aren't better organized, and can't get their story straight before they open their mouths and crush their heels into their pee-pees.

At the end of the day, I can tolerate the rhetorical stink from the left on this issue, but I wouldn't risk lighting a match in a closed room with the right.

* I searched high and low at government and mainstream media sites for raw data on nominee confirmations and couldn't find the information anywhere. If anyone knows of a reliable source on this information, I'd love to hear about it. I find it a sad sign of our information culture when an issue like this generates so much sound and fury, but a reasonably skilled researcher can't find the basic data that should be readily available for accurately framing the debate.

Fuzzier and Fuzzier:

A friend just sent this link to a Washington Post article from December 2004 that states:

"Republicans say that Democrats have abused the filibuster by blocking 10 of the president's 229 judicial nominees in his first term."

This would substantiate the Dems' 95% acceptance claim (the exact percentage is 95.633188...). I'd guess that judges not confirmed by means other than filibuster would account for the discrepancy between the Dems' claim and NYT's numbers.

It's clear we're getting jived from both sides of this issue. And, as I said before, it's a shame we can't get a straightforward presentation of the raw data to decide who's jiving us the least.


Kool Aid Mom on Goodwill Tour...

First Lady Laura Bush is on a solo goodwill tour of the Middle East. A WASHINGTON POST article quotes her as saying "I really, truly believe that we are as close as we have ever been to peace."

I'd really, truly like to believe that too, but the overwhelming burden of evidence indicates we've seldom been further from peace. There's virtue in positive thinking, but calling bull crap chocolate ice cream doesn't make it cold. And really, truly believing something doesn't make it real or true.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Good Intentions and Roads to Hell

In response to my statement that Saddam Hussein "managed to keep Iraq under control, which is a hell of a lot more than George W. Bush can say for himself," r. scott kinzie wrote:

"I imagine the Bush administration could keep better control too if they resorted to the tactics Saddam used to maintain control. When you say 'at least' he kept control, aren't you forgetting how he did it?"

Your point is well taken, r. scott, and merits further discussion.

Saddam Hussein was a despicable tyrant, and in no way do I condone the iron-fisted manner in which he ruled his country. But at the end of the day, I think it's fair to say that America has done more physical damage to Iraq than Hussein ever did.




Have I made that message clear enough? Our troops are doing the best job they can, given the situation they're facing. And they're doing a lot of great things for the Iraqi people that aren't making the news. But the sad truth is that under Saddam, you could drive from downtown Baghdad to the airport without your car getting bombed. (Yeah, under Hussein, an innocent Iraqi might get pulled over by authorities and taken off to some prison to be tortured and interrogated. But hey, that happens now too, doesn't it?)

Our troops did not create the situation they're in. The architects of their quagmire were William Kristol, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Kagan, Dan Quayle, Bill Bennet, Jeb Bush, Dick Armitage, Steve Forbes, and the rest of the members of the neo-conservative think tank known as the Project For a New American Century that began pushing for military action to change the regime in Iraq in the nineties during the Clinton administration.

(An aside: one has to wonder what kind of self-respecting "think tank" would take on Dan Quayle as a member. Quayle must have been the "tank.")

These characters so resolutely believed in their group think hegemonic ideology that they refused to listen to wiser, cooler-headed experts (like Colin Powell) who told them that war--especially "optional" war that involves invasion and occupation of another country--produces unintended, unpredictable, and unfavorable consequences.

And our troops, and the Iraqi people, and the American taxpayers are paying the consequences for the blind hubris of our national leaders.

Another aside: lest anyone think I'm some kind of way left leaning liberal, I’m not. I recently turned fifty, and the first Democrat I ever voted for was John Kerry. I didn't like him all that much at the time, and I still don't.

Lesser evils, you know?


A little song, a little dance...

...Saddam in his underpants.

I couldn’t care less about whether or not Saddam's rights were violated, but he's not the one who should feel embarrassed. He managed to keep Iraq under control, which is a hell of a lot more than George W. Bush can say for himself.

This from Paul Krugman in today's NEW YORK TIMES:

"And as far as I can tell, nobody in a position of power is thinking about how we'll deal with the consequences if China actually gives in to U.S. demands, and lets the yuan rise."

As far as I can tell, nobody currently in a position of power in this country has thought about the consequences of anything. This business of blaming China for our economic woes is a slick piece of Rovian demonizing. Yes, much of our proplem is caused by the fact that China owns so much of our national debt. But the Chinese aren't the ones who created the debt. The ones who created the debt are the irresponsible White House and the rubber stamp Congress.

W? H? A? T?

From Al Kamen of the WASHINGTON POST we learn that some people are skeptical of the State Department's ability to improve America's image in the Arab world. Colonel William A. Eddy, former U.S. chief of mission in Saudi Arabia, thinks any print and broadcast program run by the State department is doomed to fail. As Kamen explains, "The audiences (will) assume that U.S.-run media simply reflect U.S. policy to the various governments in the region." Colonel Eddy thinks the job should be run by the Pentagon psy-war folks.

Can you imagine a grown person with diplomatic experience actually believing that people will trust the Pentagon more than the State Department? This Colonel Eddy character needs to cut back on the Kool-Aid.


How many more people, do you suppose, will get compared to Hitler while this administration is in the White House? First Hussein was Hitler, then George W. Bush was Hitler, then the Democrats were all Hitler. What do these guys do, take turns?


Hey, have you heard? There's a new book out now that suggests maybe Frank Sinatra had mob ties. Who'd of thunk it?


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Iraq, Girls, Klingons, and More...

John F. Burns and Eric Schmidt of the NEW YORK TIMES reported today that generals in Iraq view the situation as grim. The training of Iraqi forces isn't going well. One senior officer suggested that American involvement in Iraq "could last many years." Another said of the Iraq operation, "I think this could still fail."

But fear not: the American Government is taking dramatic steps to correct the situation.

Speaking to the International Republican Institute, President Bush called for patience in assessing the situation in Iraq, and calmed audience fears by stating that the American Revolution was followed by "years of chaos," and that America's original articles of confederation "failed miserably" (NYT). Whew! Thanks Mister President. That's a load off my mind.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate and House armed services committees approved a bill that will ban women from combat (CNN). Looks like Congress finally figured out it was those darn girls who screwed up the deal in Iraq. What were we thinking, invading Iraq with a dumb old bunch of girls? Never mind that, though. Now we'll show those pesky insurgents a thing or two!

In another vital strategic move, the Air Force has asked President Bush for permission to put offensive and defensive weapons in outer space (NYT). This is a brilliant maneuver for two reasons:

1) It keeps our armaments in a safe place where the terrorists can't get at them.

2) It sends a clear message of deterrence to the Klingons, the Romulans, and the rest of the Axis of Intergalactic Evil.

And on the economic front:

Gao Huiqing, a senior economist at the State Information Center, a top government think-tank in Beijing, states that "China is unlikely to back down" to demands from the Bush administration that it break the yuan's decade long tie to the dollar (REUTERS). In a preemptive retaliatory move, President Bush has imposed quotas on American imports of certain Chinese textiles.

So you can stop worrying your pretty little head over the U.S. trade deficit, can't you?


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

All the T-bills in China

This based on a piece from Edmund L. Andrews of the NEW YORK TIMES:

"WASHINGTON, May 17 - The Bush administration warned China on Tuesday that its currency policies were distorting world trade, and it brandished the threat of retaliation against the country's exports if Chinese leaders did not change course in the next year," Andrews writes.

The policy the Bushies object to is China's fixed exchange rate between the yuan and the dollar, a practice China established in 1994 when the U.S. dollar was strong. Nobody had any heartburn over it until recently.

"China's 10-year-long pegged currency may have contributed to stability in the past," says Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, "but that is no longer the case today as China has grown to be a more significant participant in global trade and financial flows."

The problem is that as the yuan devalues with the dollar, Chinese goods become more and more affordable in the United States and the rest of the world--something the Bush administration might have considered when it raised the ceiling on the national debt and caused the dollar to tank.

The administration is threatening to impose trade sanctions on China if it doesn't change its monetary policy, but one has to wonder how America would fare in a war of economics against China.

America's trade deficit with China hit $124.9 billion in 2004, and China now holds more than $600 billion in U.S. Treasury securities, making it our biggest creditor. The U.S. national debt is approaching $7.8 trillion, which represents over 70% of our gross domestic product. We pay roughly $380 billion annually in debt interest alone. (We don't actually pay the interest. Under the Bush mill, we just go that much further into debt every year.)

In a May 17 Reuters article, Richard Duncan, author of THE DOLLAR CRISIS, states that tariffs imposed on China won't reduce the trade deficit because other low-wage countries will simply under cut the Chinese.

Duncan also warns that protectionism on America's part could cause a global recession.*

But that won't stop the administration from pushing for tariffs if that's what their buddies in the big U.S. corporations want. And if there's a global recession, so what? Fortress Bush will just blame it on the Chinese, the French, the Germans, the Clintons, the mainstream media, and whatever other scapegoats happen to be handy at the time.

*Geert De Clercq, "U.S. trade gap threatens global crisis," REUTERS, May 17, 2005 (May 18, 2005).

War and Peace and NEWSWEEK

"People have lost their lives. Our image abroad has been damaged," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

"It's outrageous, I think it's accessory to murder," said retired Army Colonel David Hunt, Fox News military analyst.

"My goodness, why does it take so long for someone to come back with and have the actual facts?" said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "Well, it takes a long time to be truthful."

No, they weren't talking about the cooked intelligence on Iraq that supported the Bush administration's rush to war. They were talking about the NEWSWEEK story on the Kuran that allegedly got flushed down the toilet in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Shame on NEWSWEEK for setting itself up like this. (Or did they get set up? When it comes to the Bush administration, no conspiracy theory is entirely implausible.)

The worst fallout from this affair is that the most irresponsible, unaccountable White House in my lifetime has once again found a scapegoat to blame for its own actions.

Never mind that the Koran story is most likely true. Even if it's not, other atrocities were committed at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere, and never mind that the policies that spawned these scandals came from the summit of Bush World.

But these are Rove-wellian times. The guilty parties are not the ones who committed the crime. They're the ones who reported it.

The White House has demanded that NEWSWEEK explain how it got the Kuran story wrong. NEWSWEEK editor Mark Whitaker has done a credible job of doing so, and did it in a timely manner (see link).

No word yet on when the White House will explain how it got its Iraq weapons of mass destruction and al Qaeda connection story wrong.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Krugman: Staying What Course?

In his May 16 NEW YORK TIMES column, Paul Krugman makes several very important statements. Perhaps the most resonant is this:

"...the Iraq war has...demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?"

Krugman also points out in his piece that according to JANE'S DEFENSE INDUSTRY, America will spend as much on defense next year as THE REST OF THE WORLD COMBINED.

How much more do you reckon we need to spend on defense before a tinhorn like Kim Jong Il fears us?

How much more do we need to spend before we can secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?



NEWSWEEK's gaffe gave the next generation of neo-cons material for their "official" history of the War on Terrorism.

From The Holy Book of Rove:

In the mid-nineties, NEWSWEEK formed the Project for a New American Century that formulated a policy of U.S. global dominance based on an American invasion of Iraq.

Once in power, NEWSWEEK failed to pick up on the intelligence that warned of the 9-11 attacks. Subsequent to 9-11, NEWSWEEK cooked the intelligence on Iraq that erroneously linked that country to 9-11 and falsely verified its active weapons of mass destruction program.

NEWSWEEK ignored the advice of senior military advisers who warned that more troops would be needed to curb a post-hostilities insurgency, and denied that a major insurgency was in progress when it was clear that one already was.

NEWSWEEK was singularly responsible for the lack of sufficient body and vehicle armor in the Iraq war, and for the pathetically slow response in supplying it once the shortfall was identified.

NEWSWEEK wrote the Justice Department memorandums that led to the prisoner abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and led to the practice of "extraordinary rendition."

Exhibiting shameless hubris throughout its tenure, NEWSWEEK claimed that it never made a mistake because God was telling it what to do.

Monday, May 16, 2005

I'm Going to Count to Three...

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley hit the pundit shows last Sunday to talk about the North Korea situation.

"We've seen some evidence that says that they may be preparing for a nuclear test," he said, speaking of U.S. intelligence reports. Why we should give more credence to these reports than the reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, he didn't say.

But should the reports be true, and North Korea conducts a nuclear test, "Action would have to be taken," Hadley said. But he declined to say what that action might be.

And what steps have we taken to prevent such a test?

"We have talked to our allies about that," Hadley said. He didn't explain why we haven't talked to North Korea about it.

One of the allies we have talked to is China, our biggest, bestest buddy in the Axis of Evil. But China has shown little interest in pressuring North Korea, now one of its significant trading partners, into curbing its nuclear weapons program. (Assuming it really has one.)

Nonetheless, Hadley played down the differences between China and the U.S. on the North Korean issue. "We're comfortable that we are all on the same page," he said.

Hadley must have been referring to the page that says America's nuclear non-proliferation policy is a total bust.


Sunday, May 15, 2005


From Steven R. Weisman and John F. Burns of the NEW YORK TIMES:

"The Bush administration, struggling to cope with a recent intensification of insurgent violence in Iraq, has received signals from some radical Sunni Arab leaders that they would abandon fighting if the new Shiite majority government gave Sunnis a significant voice in the country's political evolution, administration officials said this week."

What to do? Would ceding these Sunni Arab leaders' wishes amount to negotiating with terrorists? It would certainly send a clear signal that political aims can be achieved through terrorism.

The problem: which is the worse choice; giving them their way or telling them to pack sand?


Friday, May 13, 2005

Blacker and Blacker

This from Walter Pincus of the WASHINGTON POST: it seems that seven months before the Iraq invasion, the head of British foreign intelligence reported to Prime Minister Tony Blair that President Bush wanted to topple Saddam Hussein by military action and that Washington intelligence was "being fixed around the policy."

Gasp! Say it ain't so!


In Other Black Friday News...

Afghani protests over desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo have spread into Pakistan (Associated Press). According to NEWSWEEK, interrogators at the Cuba prison placed copies of the Koran in bathrooms, and "flushed a holy book down the toilet."

Secretary of State Condi Rice told a Senate subcommittee "Disrespect for the holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be tolerated by the United States. Our military authorities are investigating these allegations fully. If they are proven true, we will take appropriate action."

Since there's likely no existing evidence that Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, or any general officer ever specifically authorized flushing a copy of the Koran down the toilet, expect to see another private go down the toilet over this one.


Black Friday

The Pentagon's base closing list came out today. If it passes through the President and Congress, it will have an economic impact on nearly every state in the Union.

The Pentagon claims these closings will save $50 billion over the next 20 years (MSNBC). That's chump change when you consider that the Pentagon is asking ten times that figure to support the military in 2006 alone.

Leave it to Rumsfeld's Pentagon to boast that it's cutting back on spending when it's actually spending more.

But I guess you have to spend money to save money, huh?


Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Revolt on Bolton

The Senate Committee on Foreign Policy has sent John Bolton's nomination as Ambassador to the United Nations to the Senate floor with "no recommendation." That was a good idea. Endorsing Bolton for the UN post would be like endorsing Cardinal Bernard Law for Archbishop of Global Roman Catholic Preschool Daycare.

Odds are, given the neo-conservative headlock on the Republican Party, that Bolton will pass a Senate floor vote. But the dramatic, bi-partisan committee opposition to his appointment was political capital well spent. If Bolton proves an embarrassment in the UN, opponents to the Bush administration will be able to say, "We told you so."

Maybe Bolton will do a great job in the UN. But that's kind of like expecting a pedophile priest put back in a parish environment not to molest children any more.

Go figure the odds.


No News is Good News

Multiple news sources reported today that the Army will order a recruiting "stand down" on May 20. The stand down comes in response to complaints about over-aggressive tactics used by Army recruiters. Having missed its recruiting targets since February of this year, the Army wants its recruiters to reverse the trend. "Nobody will deny it's a high pressure job," said Army spokesman Colonel Joseph Curtin.

According to Mark Mazzetti of the LOS ANGELES TIMES, "The Army has added hundreds of recruiters and spent millions of dollars on new advertising campaigns to counter the 'Iraq effect'--the violent news out of Iraq turning off potential recruits from joining the military."

In related news, John F. Burns of the NEW YORK TIMES reports that insurgent attacks on Wednesday in northern and central Iraq killed 79 and wounded at least 120 more.

Also on Wednesday, according to NYT's Carlotta Gall, four protesters were killed and more than 60 were injured during anti-American demonstrations in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in the media:

The organization Human Rights Watch asserts that as many as 200 people have been rendered to Egypt since 9-11. (David Johnston, NYT. An important aside: rendition, as a counter-terrorism practice, began in the mid 1990s.)

It seems our intelligence agencies disagree on just what North Korea is up to. From NYT's David E. Sanger: "...ambiguity pervades what various intelligence officials have been saying in recent days as they describe their views on broad questions like the intentions and capabilities of Kim Jong Il, North Korea's leader, and narrower questions like whether, in fact, the North Koreans have built a reviewing stand so that their leaders can feel the ground shake if a test happens."

John Bolton, scheduled for a nomination vote today, has told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a policy maker should maintain the right to "state his own reading of the intelligence" even when it differs from that of intelligence agencies. (Douglas Jehl, NYT.)

Back to the recruiting issue: the Army has announced a new ad campaign aimed at parents who may be advising their children not to join the military.

Now what would cause a parent to do a thing like that?


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The State of the Union's Security

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seeks to "transform" America's defense structure while he still has the watch. He'll have a heck of a time transforming it into anything more effective than what it transformed itself into after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Here's where we more or less stand today.

With no other major maritime force to contend with in the post-Soviet era, the Navy and Marines staked out a domain in the littoral seas, from which they can project air and ground power ashore. The Air Force, having wasted its combat capital on a tiny fleet of costly but relatively worthless F-22 fighters and B-2 bombers, is now relegated to hauling the Army to wherever it needs to go to do whatever it needs to do when it gets there. The poor Army is so confused it doesn't know which way to point its gun barrel. Plans to transform it have changed faster than the reasons we invaded Iraq. The senior service's top brass was so intransigent to the "shove from above" to remake the Army into a hybrid of the Marine Corps and the Navy SEALs that Secretary Rumsfeld had to reach into the retired ranks to find a chief of staff who would play ball. Long time Rumsfeld crony Peter J. Shoomaker is a Special Forces legend, which makes him the perfect guy to figure out what the Army should do with its armor, artillery, and infantry.

In all, today's military is a complete cluster bomb. We have a navy that's a coast guard with an army and an air force, an air force that's an airline, and an army that's a snake eater with an identity crisis on his hands.

As to our new and improved intelligence structure, well, the definitive comment on that subject regarding internal fallacies has already been made. But in fairness, our "intelligence" is a whipping boy or a golden boy, depending on what we need it to be today. It's "faulty" when things go wrong, but it's "darn good" enough when we need a reason to do something we couldn't otherwise justify.

Our Department of Homeland Security is the most farcical thing this country has seen since The Marx Brothers, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our most sophisticated domestic law enforcement agency, can't figure out how to work with computers.

We have a commander in chief who became a fighter pilot to avoid becoming a soldier. We have a vice president who dodged becoming a soldier by spending a dog's life in college. We have a Secretary of Defense who was once a naval officer and who now wants to act like an army general. Our new intelligence chief is a career diplomat and our new head of Homeland Security is a former federal appellate judge. And these are the people asking us to spend more money to "transform" national defense.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather sink my security dollars into a bunker in my back yard. Do you think they'd give me a tax credit for that?


Mission Unaccomplished

The National Counterterrorism Council's A CHRONOLOGY OF SIGNIFICANT INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM FOR 2004 is on the streets, and it's an ugly duckling.

According to Susan B. Glasser of THE WASHINGTON POST, top aides from the State Department and NCTC admitted to Congress that the increase in terrorist incidents in '04 constituted a "dramatic uptick." Yet, according to NCTC's terrorism report, "Year to year changes in the number of attacks may not be the best measure of international effectiveness in preventing attacks..."

If the number of attacks isn't the best measure of our ability to prevent them, one wonders what a better measure of our ability to prevent them might be. You can bet a paycheck that if the number of attacks were down significantly, that metric would be touted as "proof" that the Global War on Terrorism was a smashing success.

We may not be "losing" this war. But three and a half years and hundreds of billions of dollars after the 9-11-01, we're not "winning" it either.


Military-Industrial Complexity

In 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about "the disastrous rise of misplaced power" that our military-industrial complex would spawn, but we can trace the incestuous relationship between the military and private enterprise back to at least the 19th century. Prussian Chief of Staff Helmuth von Moltke (the elder), who used the transportation revolution of his era to transform the Prussian Army and win the German Wars of Reunification, had significant stock holdings in the Prussian railway system.

In 21st century America, we've honed this type of bedfellowing to a fine art. You can't count the hands of everybody who is knocking off a piece of the defense dollar because everybody's hands are in somebody else's pockets. Generals involved in system and doctrine development during their active duty careers retire and go to work for the companies who are developing the very same systems and doctrines. The colonels, majors, and sergeant majors who used to work for the generals retire as well and go back to work for their old bosses on the outside. The retired guys work hand-in-purse on project development with their still on active duty counterparts who are, themselves, looking to retire soon and go back to work doing the same thing they've been doing.

The retired guys take their pet projects to their active duty buddies who insert them into so-called "battle experiments" then rig the games to ensure said pet projects emerge victorious. Everyone publishes after-action reports that hail the projects as having passed "objective" and "empirical" scrutiny. Contracts are drawn up, production lines open, and the military-industrial caisson goes rolling along.

In 19th century Prussia, they called this sort of thing "die Korruption." In 21st century America we call it "business as usual."

The military-industrial complex has achieved what Ike described as "unwarranted influence" over "the councils of government." Regional economies and political careers are wholly dependent on it, as are the empirical aims of "war hawk" leaders. Few are naïve enough to believe that the U.S. can survive and thrive without a credible, capable defense establishment. But America today looks entirely too much like 19th century Prussia--a country that's a life support system for its military.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Invasion of the Transformers

Jeff's PROCEEDINGS satire on military transformation, posted at Military.com.

The Empire Strikes Out

America stands in danger of becoming a one-trick superpower. We may already be one. By pursuing a predominantly warfare-centric approach to foreign policy, we're treading on dangerous ground.

Since the early twentieth century, American wars have proven an increasingly ineffective means of achieving our national goals. Granted, some of these wars were unavoidable. Some of them produced good things. Some were even noble. But all of them brought unintended and undesirable results.

Termination of World War I--the war to end all wars--laid the groundwork for World War II. "The Good War" led to the decades long Cold War and the third world wars that accompanied it. We fought North Korea to a tie fifty years ago. Today, this backwater nation that can't feed its own people in wintertime still gives us security fits. America's recent presidential election illustrated that the national psyche still suffers from the aftershocks of Vietnam.

Like our other modern wars, the Global War on Terrorism has produced good things, most notably the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. But few people would care to call the GWOT an overwhelming success. Whatever brand of new math the National Counter-Terrorism Center is using to calculate the incidence of terrorist acts, it's clear that terrorism is in the rise. According to Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss, Iraq has become the world center for terrorist recruiting and training. Afghanistan, once the "crown jewel" in the War on Terrorism, has surpassed Columbia as the leading exporter of narcotics, and hence a prime potential source of terrorist funding.

If that's winning the War on Terror, I'm glad we're not losing it.

But the worst news to come out of this war is the looming obsolescence of military force. The "best trained, best equipped" military in history did not defend America against the 9-11 attacks, nor did it deter them. This same military has been bogged down for two years by a rag tag collection of insurgents who fight with hand held and improvised weapons. It is over-extended in Iraq to such an extent that even chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Meyers, admits the military's potential inability to prevent further conflict--including surprise attack--is "trending toward significant." (Pentagon-speak for "things are getting worse.")


U.S. military spending has increased 40% since 9-11, and that's not counting the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. President George W. Bush has asked Americans to fork out $500 billion on defense in 2006, not including expenditures for Homeland Defense, Intelligence, and other hidden costs. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld says, "These increases are needed. And, America can afford them."

But one has to wonder why America needs to spend another half billion or so on a military that doesn't defend the homeland and is so-so at best when it comes to achieving our goals overseas.

Part of this price tag, according to Secretary Rumsfeld, is to fund "military transformation," an abstract program that incorporates murky concepts like "network-centric warfare" and "shock and awe." Transformation promises a technological breakthrough that will provide peace and prosperity through advanced ways and means of warfare. But as West Point military historian Fredrick Kagan notes, "Neither network-centric warfare nor 'shock and awe' provides a reliable recipe for translating the destruction of an enemy's ability to continue to fight into the accomplishment of the political objectives of the conflict." And of the "target set" mentality of the transformation movement, Kagan says, "...the American public should expect to see in the future many more wars in which U.S. armed forces triumph but the American political vision fails."

And as even the most casual student of Clausewitz knows, wars that do not achieve political objectives are merely "organized but senseless violence."

In economically trying times, how much can America afford to spend on senseless violence?


Noted political scientist Samuel Huntington devised the DIME model, which defined the tools of national power as diplomacy, information, military, and economy. Huntington identified economy as the most important national asset, and economically, America is locked in a thousand yard stare down a gun barrel.

The European Union's gross domestic product has caught up with ours, and China's is growing at an eye-watering rate. Combined, their economies are half again larger than ours, and they aren't bleeding a half trillion dollars a year on defense. The once almighty U.S. dollar struggles to keep pace with the once laughable Euro. Our trade deficit gap continues to widen, our national debt continues to grow like a beanstalk, and the price of oil continues to spurt through the roof. Shares in General Motors and Ford have been relegated to "junk" status.

America's information environment is downright Orwellian (Rove-wellian, in pop culture terms). You can't believe a word that comes from the collective mouth of our intelligence communities, and the most trusted anchorperson in our news media is John Stewart of Comedy Central's THE DAILY SHOW.

And our diplomacy? Our diplomacy consists of telling everybody to pack sand. Not exactly "diplomatic," is it?


Empires come, empires go. Some land softly, some crash into the back pages of somebody else's history books. Almost without exception, empires that ended badly failed to realize that the military power that established them was not sufficient, in itself, to sustain them.

America's days as a global hegemon are numbered. We can continue to pursue our fist-first approach to shaping the rest of the world in our image and collapse under the weight of our own hubris, or...

We can clean up our act and become the "shining city on the hill" that the rest of the world will aspire to emulate.


Jeff Huber is a retired U.S. naval officer. His articles on military and foreign policy affairs have appeared in PROCEEDINGS, THE NAVY, MILITARY.COM, and other periodicals.