Saturday, September 30, 2006

War ala Rove

The Rovewellian brainwash we're hearing in support of our failed wars is positive proof that the pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword. The Bush administration continues to use the written and spoken word to garner support for military actions in a conflict that our generals admit has no military solution.

Remember back when the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) became the Struggle Against Violent Extremism for about five minutes?

In the summer of 2005, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to rename America's fight against al Qaeda to more accurately describe the nature of the conflict. General Richard Meyers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." The solution, according to Meyers, was "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military,"

But young Mister Bush wasn't having none of that "struggle" talk. He didn't want to be no "struggle-time" president. No. You see, people don't rally round no president in times of struggle. "Times of struggle" is something Beatles and hippies write songs about. There's nothing especial about a struggle. People struggle every day, even when things are all peaceful like. Just putting food on the table is a struggle for a lot of folks. Mister Bush knows all about that. When he was growing up, some of his parents' servants' children actually wore hand me down clothes.

And it's hard work coming up with "struggle propaganda."

Pavlov's Dogs of War

What's more, it's hard to sell the disaster in Iraq if you call it the central front in the struggle on violent extremism, and if you start giving people the idea that the solution can't be achieved by the military, they might start asking "Then what the hell is our military doing in Iraq?" They might also start asking why they're spending $ 2 billion per week on a "war" that isn't a solution to the "struggle."

If you have a struggle, you're struggling against "adversaries" or "competitors." Adversaries and competitors, while challenging, aren't very scary. No, to get everybody good and scared and rallied around the president, you need to have "enemies," and in order to have enemies, you need to have a "war."

And enemies in wartime are pretty easy to come by. Heck, you don't even have to say exactly who the enemies are. In fact, it's better if you stay vague on the subject. That's why you talk about an "axis of evil," which is good and scary. Everybody's scared of evil, except for evil worshipers, which is what makes them so scary--they're part of the axis!

Some folks say you can't have a "war on terrorism" because you can't wage war against a tactic. That's nonsense. We've been waging a war against a tactic for over five years, and there's no end in sight.

You see, the advantage to having a war against isms and evildoers is that there's no end of isms and evildoers. If you accidentally happen to defeat one evil-ism, you can always find another one to keep the war going. And if you conduct the war in a way that every "success" creates more evildoers and isms, well shoot, you're in like a frat boy unsnapping a bra.

If people start complaining about how much all your foreign wars are starting to cost, all you have to tell them is that if "we" withdraw, "they" will follow us home, and the beauty part is that you don't even need to explain who "they" are. "They" are everybody who hates us, who hate our way of life. And if you've spread around enough "hate talk" in the course of conducting your war on hateful evil and alienated all your allies, well then, everybody who hates us is everybody but "us."

Which means "they" would need one heck of a big navy and air force in order to follow us "here." They don't have a navy or air force that big, and they can't build one. There's a chance "our" folks might figure that out eventually, which is why it's so important to keep "us" so afraid of what "they" can't do so that "we" can't think straight enough to figure out "they" can't do it.

What do we do about those war critics among "us" who are actually one of "them?" "We" craft propaganda that accuses "them" of listening to "their" propaganda instead of listening to "ours."

And who are "we?" We're everybody who doesn't hate America, which is everyone who rallies behind the president in the conduct of his war against "them." And since every one of "us" who doesn't rally around "him" is one of "them," that gives "him" all the excuse he needs to take away those cherished "freedoms" he's defending so he can keep "them" from taking away our cherished freedoms away from "us."

And why should any of "us" complain about that? After all, "we" have but one habeas corpus to give for "our" country.

So let's all get behind young Mister Bush and his cockamamie War on Evil. After all, he's a "decider", not a "divider," even if he is a "multiplier" of "them."

Remember, you're with us or against us.

Who are "you?"


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

National Intelligence Estimate: The Enemy Metastasizes

There really is no separating foreign policy from domestic politics, especially in an election year. That the GOP and the Democrats are both trying to make political hay over the recently released "declassified" version of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorism should come as no surprise to anyone. Unfortunately, all the he said/she said jabber we're hearing about what the NIE says or doesn't say masks some vital flaws in the nature of the war we're presently fighting against an "ism."

Centers of Gravity and Principles of Warfare

In my military mind, the worst news in the declassified Intelligence Estimate comes toward the bottom of the first page.
We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse. New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.

In asymmetrical warfare, the "underdog" adversary force doesn't need a coherent strategy or a structured chain of command. Such things are, in fact, a vulnerability to the adversary. "Shared purpose" and "dispersed" actors are a critical strength in this kind of conflict, and make it far more difficult for a conventional military force to achieve victory over its dispersed opponent.

Today's U.S. military was designed to defeat adversaries through principles of "maneuver" warfare, which allows it to quickly win in battle by applying superior weapons, communications, mobility and command and control doctrine against the enemy's center of gravity.

Coined by the Prussian general and philosopher Carl von Clausewitz, "center of gravity" is a term that dominates almost all of contemporary thinking on warfare and the design and planning of modern military operations. Lamentably though, you'd be hard pressed to find any two military "experts" who agree on just what a center of gravity is. Some doctrinal ideologues will say that there can only be one center of gravity. Others--generally rabid air power advocates--will define a center of gravity as anything that can be bombed or shot down. That leads to operational schemes in which everything is a center of gravity, and as is the case with priorities, when everything is a center of gravity, nothing really is. Thus it is that the "shock and awe" we heard so much about in the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom led to little more than sticker shock and "aw shucks."

For now, I won't try to resolve all these differences in warfare philosophy, but think I can draw an illustration of the concept of centers of gravity, and of the difference between "maneuver" and "attrition" style warfare that, as applied to our war on terror, can pretty much be universally understood.

I recently suggested, in a snarky sort of way, that the best thing we could do to defeat the "them" would be to lure them into fighting us "over here." In order to do that in militarily significant numbers, "they" would have to build an enormous fleet and air force to transport themselves across the ocean. By doing so they would form themselves into an operational center of gravity that we could handily defeat in short order with minimal collateral damage through the superior maneuver capabilities of our naval and air forces.

But by staying "over there" and dispersing themselves, therefore denying us an operational center of gravity with its inherent weaknesses and vulnerabilities to exploit, "they" make a decisive, maneuver option unavailable to us. (They also save themselves the expense and logistic and training headaches of building a navy and air force.)

That throws us into the "attrition warfare" mode. "Attrition" is a linear form of warfare in which neither side has a maneuver advantage. Attrition wars, like the U.S. Civil War and World War I, last a long time, exact great costs on both sides, and produce unsatisfactory conclusions--if, in fact, they every really end at all. (A very good argument says that World War I, World War II and the Cold War were part and parcel of the same war. And can anyone who looks at a red state/blue state map of contemporary America really think that today, more than a century after Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, the Civil War is truly over?)

By "fighting them over there" with military force, we're not taking the "offensive" as young Mister Bush tells us we are. We're ceding the initiative to our adversaries by maneuvering into a position where they can attrite our operational center of gravity at their leisure. Subsequently, as the NIE asserts, the more we fight them over there, the more dispersed and numerous they become, and the more impossible they become to attrite.

And the more moronic our "stay the course" Iraq strategy becomes. We're not taking the fight to the enemy. We're handing it to them on a silver platter.

Whoever "they" are.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

National Intelligence Estimate: This is the "Good News?"

Cross posted at My Left Wing.

If you haven't yet read the "Declassified Key Judgments of the National Intelligence Estimate 'Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,'" I highly recommend that you do so here.

I'm not certain what young Mister Bush's people were thinking when they decided to release this. It sure doesn't contain much in the way of that "good news" the administration tells us we're not hearing enough of.

This sentence from the NIE was quoted the other day by a pro-war former intelligence officer as an example of "progress" in the war on terror:
We assess that the global jihadist movement is decentralized, lacks a coherent global strategy, and is becoming more diffuse.

That sounds encouraging until you read the rest of the paragraph.
New jihadist networks and cells, with anti-American agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge. The confluence of shared purpose and dispersed actors will make it harder to find and undermine jihadist groups.

We've let the cats out of the corral and they're spreading and multiplying. Rounding them all back up won't be "harder." It will be impossible.

Here's the controversial "cause celebre" paragraph:
The Iraq conflict has become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry
on the fight.

This has been interpreted to mean that if the U.S. forces leave Iraq, it will inspire jihadists to fight even harder, but it says nothing of the sort. In fact, nothing in the released portions of the NIE addresses the impact that U.S. "success" might or might not have on global terrorism, or ventures an opinion of what "success" might consist of.

Moreover, a later passage, supposedly addressing "vulnerabilities" of the jihadist movement, actually suggests that our presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East actually energizes radical movements.
Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists' radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens.

"Dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts" is a double-negative way of saying that jihadism depends on the U.S. continuing its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and (through proxy) Lebanon.

Given the dominant influence of the "jihadists' radical ideology," one has to question just how "limited" its appeal is. "Respected voices of moderation" haven't emerged in the last five years, and "criticism of violent tactics" against Muslim citizens certainly hasn't kept the violent attacks from taking place.

Everyone will have a slightly different interpretation of the released portions of the NIE, but if I were to summarize them in one sentence, that sentence would be: "The best thing we can do is stand back and hope they can sort things out for themselves."


Speaking of "becoming more diffuse…"

Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times reports that "The radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has lost control of portions of his Mahdi Army militia that are splintering off into freelance death squads and criminal gangs, a senior coalition intelligence official said Wednesday."

When radical leaders lose control of their radical followers, every cage in the zoo has been opened. U.S. troops in Iraq are increasingly becoming trapped in a Hobbesian menagerie, and the denizens aren't friendly. From a September 27 AP report by Barry Schweid:
About six in 10 Iraqis say they approve of attacks on U.S.-led forces, and slightly more than that want their government to ask U.S. troops to leave within a year, a poll finds.

I guess the "good news" here is that four in 10 Iraqis don't approve of attacks of U.S.-led forces.

This poll, taken in early September for the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, also found that almost four in five Iraqis think U.S. forces in Iraq provoke more violence than they prevent.

Another poll, conducted by the U.S. State Department, found that two thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad want an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

There is no fixing this mess. The kind of "resolve" we will display by "staying the course" is the kind of resolve it takes to run your head over with a tractor. And the only "political will" involved in continuing our self-destructive course in Iraq is the will of our political leaders to hide the egg on their faces.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Still Smoking Crack About Iraq

"If we withdraw before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here.''

-- Attributed to General John Abizaid of U.S. Central Command, which encompasses the theaters of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan

How will they get here, General? That's a long way to swim.

If Abizaid really said that, or worse yet, if he really thinks it, it's little wonder we're losing two wars in his area of responsibility. That kind of talking and thinking comes from somewhere below the waist.

"They" don't have an air force or a navy that can bring them here. Nobody else does either. There is, in fact, no state or non-state entity that can bring significant conventional military force to bear on the continental United States.

Moreover, if "they" did have an air force and a navy and tried to use it to invade us, they'd be doing us a favor. Our Navy and Air Force could sink them and shoot them down before they got halfway across the ocean.

And if we take this ludicrous scenario just a bit further, it would actually make sense to "withdraw" and sucker them into trying to invade us. We could mop them up in the course of fine Navy day.

There is, of course, a problem with this operational scheme. If we withdrew, they would probably be smart enough not to squander their navy and air force in a doomed effort to invade and occupy a country halfway across the world.

Which would make them a darn sight smarter than Abizaid or anybody else in charge of this woebegone war on terror.

Handling the Truth

"Fighting them over here" will look the same whether we're "fighting them over there" or not. Terror cells will dribble in through the cracks in our ports and borders and the ones already here will stay asleep until someone orders them to go operational. No amount of U.S. military action overseas can stop that from happening.

We hear much from the Bush administration and its reverb machine about how if we pull out of Iraq, all sorts of bad things will happen in the Middle East. Iraq will collapse into civil war. The central government will implode. The violence will spread throughout the region…region…region…

But those things are already happening. Our military presence isn't doing anything to stop it, and our military absence won't do anything to make it worse.

Last October I wrote an article for the ePluribus Media Journal titled "Top 10 Bad Reasons for Staying the Course in Iraq
(and One Good One)." At the time, I thought the one "good" reason to stick around was that we owed something to the Iraqis for having screwed their country up so badly. Now, almost a year later, I'm convinced we've fulfilled our debt to the Iraqi people. Internally, they're cross threading themselves up their own countersinks, and we should feel no further moral obligation to try to unscrew them.

And there's no need to protect Iraq from external threats. After watching America's "best-trained, best-equipped, best-funded" military go bow down in a sand dune, none of Iraq's neighbors are going to invade it. As an old bathroom joke goes, they wouldn’t touch "that thing" with rubber gloves on.

If we withdraw, "they" won't follow us home, and the rest of "them" won't swarm in to fill the vacuum we leave.

And Speaking of "Crack"

Justifying his foreign policy at a televised news conference on Tuesday, young Mister Bush said, "We're on the offense." Yeah. And with every play we make we fumble or throw an interception.

The only real reason for "staying the course" in Iraq is to save Mister Bush's face, and trying to preserve this American president's pride and dignity is a losing proposition. Every time he opens his mouth in front of a camera, he gives the world another peek up his other end.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Related articles:

Staying the Course

Invasion of the Transformers

Pavlov's Dogs of War

Taking an "operational pause."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Clausewitz, Sun Tzu and Generalissimo George

No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.

-- Carl von Clausewitz.

What a profound pity it is that the mightiest nation in the world has proven the wisdom of the masters of the art of war by ignoring them.

Five years into our Global War on Terror--or whatever we're calling it today--the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) tells us that our experiment in Iraq has energized Islamic fundamentalism and made the global terrorism situation worse, and that the Bush administration needs to come up with a new strategy. Five years is a heck of a long time to figure out that your strategy isn't working.

We’re not even sure what we want to achieve, much less how to achieve it.

He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened

--Sun Tzu

David S. Cloud of the New York Times reports that the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division is preparing for its third tour of duty in Iraq, and it will take some doing to bring the division up to combat speed.

Cloud writes: "Col. Tom James, who commands the division’s Second Brigade, acknowledged that his unit’s equipment levels had fallen so low that it now had no tanks or other armored vehicles to use in training and that his soldiers were rated as largely untrained in attack and defense." Cloud also says that the Second Brigade presently has "…only half of the roughly 3,500 soldiers it is supposed to have."

Army Chief of Staff General Pete Schoomaker, a long time crony of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, has finally told his boss that he needs an extra $28 billion in the 2008 budget to keep the caissons rolling along. That would bring the Army's total share of the defense budget to $138 billion.

In 2005, the United States spent an estimated $518 billion on defense. According to Jane's Defense Weekly, America now spends as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.

How big will American's defense budget get? And to what purpose?

Tactics teaches the use of armed forces in the engagement; strategy, the use of engagements for the object of the war.


Through development of superior weapons, technology, and methods, the U.S. military has become all but unbeatable at tactical warfare--the level of war at which combat occurs. However, as we have seen in American wars since the Korean conflict, superior firepower and tactics do not guarantee accomplishment of strategic and political aims. Sadly, as the latest NIE illustrates, the brave and skilled efforts of our men and women in uniform have exacerbated the terrorism they were deployed to eliminate. What's worse, Iraq and Afghanistan teeter on the brink of becoming failed states, and China and Russia have positioned themselves to grab control of the global energy market through their client state Iran.

If that's "progress" in the war on terror, Fleer bubble gum is a cure for tooth decay.

Join hands with your allies.

--Sun Tzu

The Bush administration set such outrageous preconditions for negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program that the EU3 and Russia have decided to join hands and hold talks with Iran without us.

Maybe we should learn to wipe the sneeze off our hands before we extend them to our "friends."

No leader should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no leader should fight a battle simply out of pique. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being…

--Sun Tzu

When you start out your reign by calling your adversaries an "axis of evil," as young Mister Bush did, you can't be surprised when your adversaries give you back what you gave them. It shouldn't have shocked anyone when President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela called Mister Bush "the devil" at last week's UN summit.

There's little question that much of Mister Bush's rhetoric and his militaristic adventures are part of a manhood-measurment contest. That sort of thing is laughable when practiced by schoolboys, but it's to be condemned when engaged in by the head of state of the world's mightiest nation.

There's a good chance that the Bush demonizing by Chavez, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other world leaders will goad Mister Bush into launching yet another asinine war, this time with Iran. If that happens, there's an even better chance that's what Chavez, Ahmadinejad, and the rest of them had in mind--double-dog-daring the adolescent Emperor into doing something incredibly stupid (again), something that will do another Humpty Dumpty number on his empire.

Birth or training must provide us with a certain strength of body and soul.

-- Clausewitz

Commander in Chief George W. Bush, born to wealth, privilege and power and now 60 years old, has never been held accountable for his actions and never had to pass a test he couldn't cheat on. If you think there was ever any possibility that the son of George H.W. Bush could have washed out of Harvard, Yale, or Air Force flight school, think again.

No amount of weight lifting, bike riding or brush clearing can produce enough muscle to make up for an undeveloped spine.

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.

--Sun Tzu

Two words: body armor.

To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting._

--Sun Tzu

The battle in the Middle East is not about weapons of mass destruction or terrorism. It's about control of the balance of the world's energy supply, the real coin of power in the next world order. America, under control of the neoconservatives, has attempted to win that battle through military force, and is not winning. China, through a patient, deep strategy of forming alliances and allowing its adversary to spend itself into the sand with counterproductive military adventures, is on the cusp of winning the "energy war" without firing a single shot.

It looks like somebody is heeding Sun Tzu. Unfortunately for America, it's not the Bush administration.

The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand..

--Sun Tzu

Retiring Army Major General Mark E. Scheid recently told the Newport News Daily Press that during the run up to the Iraq invasion, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened to "fire the next person" who talked about the need for a postwar plan.

The moral elements…are among the most important in war.


Cooking intelligence…. Torture… Extraordinary rendition… Abrogation of international treaties… Usurpation of the United States Constitution… Halliburton…

It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.

--Sun Tzu

Bush. Cheney. Rumsfeld. Wolfowitz. Perle. Feith. Libby. Kristol. Bauer. Bolton. Gary Schmidt. Eliot Abrams. Midge Decter. Steve Forbes. Paula Dobriansky. Francis Fukuyama. Fred C. Ikle. Dan Quayle. Zalmay Khalilzad. Donald Kagan. Robert Kagan. Fred Kagan. Eliot Cohen. James Woolsey. Bill Bennett. Jeb (Little Brother) Bush. Charles Krauthammer. Jeane Kirkpatrick. Eliot Jacobs. Frank Gaffney. Ellen Bork. Dan Goure. And more. Many, many more members of the Project for a New American Century who pushed America into a failed war and who don't have a decade's worth of military service or a nanosecond of combat experience among them.

When I was a kid, these were the kinds of punks who stirred up trouble by saying "Let's you and him fight."

The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

--Sun Tzu

Subsequent to success in battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration and its echo chamberlains speak of "staying the course" to achieve "total victory," but they cannot define what victory might consist of.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

--Sun Tzu

I'll do Sun Tzu one better on this score. In the contemporary American conflict, I think it's equally if not more important to know whom the "enemy" really is, and to vote it out of power.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Related articles:

The PNAC Paper Trail

Wars and Empires

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Iran's Star Rising in the Next World Order (Part III)

(Parts I and II examined the underling motivations of neoconservative foreign policy on Iran. Part III discusses why U.S. military action against Iran would be the end of the "world order" as we know it.)

From the First World Order to the Next

A pretty old but not half bad joke goes that when Adam woke up in the Garden of Eden and saw Eve for the first time he said, "Stand back. I don't know how big this thing's going to get."

I have no inside knowledge of what the contingency plan for the great big air strike against Iran looks like, but I have a fair idea of how these things work, and I'm pretty certain that any operation against Iran will be mighty big and hard as a diamond cutter to execute properly.

Given the predictable negative diplomatic and economic consequences of a major air operation against Iran based on fuzzy pretexts, the potential pay-off has to be huge. As I wrote in earlier segments of this series, the real objective of any major operation against Iran won't be to deny their ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. It will be to eliminate Iran's potential to develop a nuclear energy program. In order to do that, Don Rumsfeld's boys will have to be able to take out everything they can find or get at related to Iran's nuclear technology program, and make sure it stays out for a long time.

That's got to involve a lot of targets, and in any major air operation is the total target set has to go well beyond the primary objectives. If you want to bomb a lot of stuff, you have to bomb a lot of other stuff so you can a) get at the stuff you really want to bomb and b) live to bomb another day.

Also consider that any air operation against Iran will also involve U.S. naval forces--aircraft carriers and surface combatant cruise missile shooters--so we'll have capital ships in harm's way. Any master attack plan worth its salt will also have to include Iranian ports and the ships in them, coastal missile batteries, facilities that fuel and supply those ships and coastal batteries, and so on and so on and so on. I have read that the master attack plan contains 1,500 targets. I don't know how accurate that number is, but would not be surprised if the size of the actual target set is quite a bit larger.

The bottom line is that in order to give a penny's worth of damage to Iran's nuclear industry we'll have to put a ton's worth of hurt on them.

And we won't come out of such a conflict unscratched. Even if only one or two combatant ships suffer significant battle damage--which is a conservative prediction--that will be the first time the mighty U.S. Navy has suffered a casualty in conventional, toe-to-toe combat since World War II.

The Writing on the Wall

A seldom mentioned aspect of the current Middle East situation is that like the Vietnam conflict, it's a proxy war between the United States and its adversaries China and Russia. And as in Vietnam, China and Russia are sitting on the sidelines while America grinds itself down militarily. By committing itself to operations in a third theater of war in the Middle East, the Bush administration would be once again playing into America's foreign adversaries' strategy.

No matter how much an extensive air strike operation might destroy, Iran will still have its oil, and China will still be more than happy to buy it, and Russia will be tickled pink to reap part of the profits by helping Iran rebuild its nuclear energy program and other infrastructure.

The UN Security Council was never likely to go along with sanctions against Iran, and Bush's appointment of John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the UN pretty much guaranteed they won't impose any. Similarly, the Bush administration's insistence that Iran stop its uranium enrichment as a precondition to direct talks ensured that direct talks wouldn't take place.

How are the other players dealing with this impasse? They're blowing off the United States.

If foreign news sources are correct, the EU3 and Russia have agreed to begin talks without U.S. involvement. That should get your attention, because it means America's last allies have jumped to the other side.

The U.S. will not get Iraq or Afghanistan under control--at least not any time soon. Regardless of how combat operations against Iran might go, the big winners will be China, Russia, and yes, Iran.

The ancient Chinese general and philosopher Sun Tzu said, "Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory."

The Dick Cheney neoconservatives who shaped the Bush administration's foreign policy are desperately looking for a victory to justify the defeats from their previous fights. Unfortunately, they don't think like Sun Tzu, so they still believe they can "win" by starting another ill-advised war, and they are unable to understand that they have already lost.

The prize in the next world order is control of global energy. That's what the Iraq invasion was really about. If there were a single enlightened, influential voice in or around the administration, it would tell young Mister Bush to reverse course immediately, and take steps to supplant China and Russia as Iran's energy partner (which is what Bush should have been doing all along).

Unfortunately for America, the influential policy shapers are the likes of Cheney, John Bolton, Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer, and the only thing they have in common with great Asian strategists like Sun Tzu is a fear of losing face. My fear is that if they manage to manipulate America into another act of military lunacy, our country will have squandered its gains of the last century before this one is a decade old.

The neoconservatives seem hell bent for Naugahyde to ensure that the United States goes out not with a whimper, but with a very big, very loud bang. My advice to young Americans who want to succeed in the next world order?

Learn Mandarin and Farsi.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Iran's Star Rising in the Next World Order (Part II)

Cross posted at the front page of My Left Wing.

(Part I examined the underlying motives of the push for war with Iran. Part II discusses how the run up to a possible Iranian confrontation parallels what we saw with Iraq and examines how, if at all, we can arrive at a better conclusion than we did last time.)

Plan A

Plan A for Iran looks remarkably like Plan A for Iraq. As Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story reported on August 18, Cheney has formed an "Iranian Directorate" comprised of fellow neoconservative ideologues to shake and bake the intelligence on Iran similarly to the way his Office of Special Plans manufactured Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities.

As in the run up to Iraq, much of the mainstream media is cooperating in the pre-war propaganda operation. In its September 25 issue, TIME Magazine ran two articles that were reminiscent of its cooperation with Cheney's office to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson's assertion that the administration's claim of a Hussein-Nigeria uranium connection was a hoax.

But TIME is not alone--much of the rest of the so-called "liberal media" has jumped on the Iran bandwagon. MSNBC is one of the worst offenders. Wednesday, September 21st, the cable news network devoted the entire morning to trotting out neoconservative mouthpieces like Mary Matalin and Anderson Williams and let them recite the entire menu of the administration's talking points.

It's Hard to Stop a Train

Seymore Hersh of The New Yorker revealed in April 2006 that despite its "publicly advocating diplomacy," the Bush administration had "…increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack."

In July, Hersh reported that high level uniformed officials at the Pentagon had a "problem" with young Mister Bush's Iran policy.
Inside the Pentagon, senior commanders have increasingly challenged the President’s plans, according to active-duty and retired officers and officials. The generals and admirals have told the Administration that the bombing campaign will probably not succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear program. They have also warned that an attack could lead to serious economic, political, and military consequences for the United States.

Hersh's sources also said that military and intelligence experts are concerned that there's no tangible proof that Iran is lying when it says it doesn't seek to develop nuclear weapons.
A crucial issue in the military’s dissent, the officers said, is the fact that American and European intelligence agencies have not found specific evidence of clandestine activities or hidden facilities; the war planners are not sure what to hit…

…“There is a war about the war going on inside the building,” a Pentagon consultant said. “If we go, we have to find something.”

Hersh also quoted a former four-star general, seemingly embarrassed by the retired general and flag officer community's reticence to speak out against the Iraq invasion before the fact, as saying, "The system is starting to sense the end of the road, and they don’t want to be condemned by history. They want to be able to say, ‘We stood up.’ ”

At this, point, lamentably, it appears that the senior leadership in the Pentagon has decided to take a seat.

Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight, Fight, Fight!

America's intelligence agencies and Dick Cheney's handmaidens in the Iranian Directorate probably aren't going to find any proof of Iran's intentions to develop nuclear weapons because there probably isn't anything to find. That's probably why Ahmadinejad looks so smug and confident when he tells the world that Iran has nothing to hide.

And that's probably because whatever Iran's nuclear intentions are, they have nothing to hide yet. As one high ranking active duty general told Hersh, “The question we face is, when does innocent infrastructure evolve into something nefarious?”

That's unknowable. It's entirely possible that if Iran ever develops nuclear weapons, we won't find out about it until they tell us--that's pretty much how the North Korea situation played out. So it's likely that if we do strike Iran, it will be based on a worst-case guess, and that's going to be tough to justify to the rest of the world.

The consequences of striking Iran without tangible justification would be devastating. Depending on how a strike operation goes, we could take a lot of battle damage, which would harm our strategic military credibility even further that it is subsequent to our failed experiment in Iraq. What's more, such a move would profoundly diminish our economic and diplomatic clout.

In a nutshell, the goal of Realpolitik or "realistic foreign policy" is to strengthen your alliances, divide your enemies, and convince everybody else to stay out of the way. The Bush administration's pursuit of the neoconservative ideological policies has united our adversaries, pushed formerly non-aligned states into our adversaries' camp, and convinced former allies like the western European states to take a largely neutral position.

If we pull the trigger in Iran we'll shoot off another of our few remaining toes, and we won't have a friend left in the world but Israel. The senior military types who have been pushing back at the idea of attacking Iran understand this better than their civilian bosses, and that's a sad comment on contemporary America.

Our military is politically savvy and our politicians are militaristic.

Unfortunately, as Alexandrovna noted in a September 21 article, it looks like the military types have decided to be good soldiers and march to their civilian boss's orders.
The Pentagon's top brass has moved into second-stage contingency planning for a potential military strike on Iran, one senior intelligence official familiar with the plans tells RAW STORY…

…"The JCS has accepted the inevitable," the intelligence official said, "and is engaged in serious contingency planning to deal with the worst case scenarios that the intelligence community has been painting."

The military might conceivably block an ill advised war with Iran through a "passive coup" of mass resignations and requests for retirement. For such a revolt to work, the four-stars would have lead the charge, but if Alexandrovna's source is correct, it appears the four-stars have decided, once again, to roll over for their civilian masters.

That isn't too surprising. They didn't become four-stars by telling Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld "no."

And if shove comes to biff, Congress can't really block Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld from whacking Iran either, because the War Powers Resolution of 1973 essentially gives a President authority to commit forces to combat for 90 days without interference.

In Part III: how big could this thing get?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Related Articles:

The Walrus and the Carpenter and Iran

Krazy Like a Krauthammer

Who Can Stop a War with Iran?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Iran's Star Rising in the Next World Order (Part I)

Cross posted at the front page of My Left Wing.

Venezuala's President Hugo Chavez is wrong about one thing. George W. Bush is not the devil. Dick Cheney is.

But Chavez has been right about darn near everything else, including whose side to take in the next world order.

The "new" world order began about the time the Berlin Wall fell and America became a benevolent global hegemon. The "next" world order started at the approximate moment U.S. psychological operations troops staged the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad and America turned into a barbecue republic.

The singular phenomenon that kick-started the next world order was the failure of the best-trained, best-equipped armed force in history to restore order to a country it had invaded. The neoconservatives who had taken over the U.S. government had based its aggressive foreign policy on the efficacy of military might, and the quagmire in Iraq proved that military might was no longer an effective tool of national power.

That was a green light for the counter-U.S. coalition of global, balance and emerging powers to gel. At the recent UN summit, we saw an unmasking of the energy alliance between China, Russia, Venezuela and Iran. China is the big bopper in this strategic dope deal, but the lynchpin is Iran as personified by its rising star Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While President Chavez's speech before the UN General Assembly was largely boorish, President Ahmadinejad's remarks to that body were nothing short of brilliant. In eloquent, measured fashion he admonished the rest of the world to join him in telling the United States of America to pound sand up its canyon, and the rest of the world subtly but perceptibly smiled and nodded "yes."

What's It All About, Dickie?

The neoconservative policy on Iraq, as formulated by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), was never about weapons of mass destruction or terrorism or Saddam Hussein. It was about controlling the world energy market by establishing a permanent military base of operations in the heart of the oil rich Middle East.

The Iran situation is similar. We don't know for sure if Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons at some point in the future, but that really isn't the concern. Charter PNAC member and de facto U.S. Emperor Dick Cheney couldn't give a quail's last chirp about a couple more a-bombs in the world. All the attention the administration and its echo chamberlains are focusing on weapons is for the purpose of keeping the proles scared and voting Republican. It also distracts the proles from seeing what Cheney's actual motives are.

Cheney's real problem is that he broke his promise to his big oil buddies by letting his pal Don Rumsfeld spray the Iraq situation into the fan. That gave China and its partners the opening they needed to crack the western world's control of the energy market. If Iran, with help from Russia and China, can develop a mature, independent nuclear energy industry, and if those three countries, along with Venezuela, can take over the energy sources for Asia, eastern Europe, the Middle East and South America, British Petroleum and Mobil Exxon will start going the way of Ford and General Motors.

Cheney doesn't want to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities to keep it from having nuclear weapons. Cheney wants to keep Iran from having a nuclear energy industry.

Fail Safe Diplomacy

I can't tell if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a Dubya-class simpleton, if she's being used as a fall girl by Cheney, or a combination of the two. But I do know that her attempts at "diplomacy" are designed to guarantee war, and suspect that much of the rest of the world knows that too.

Her cease-fire flip-flops in the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict were transparent stratagems. She stiff-armed a cease-fire agreement to give the Israeli Defense Force time to accomplish its military objectives; then she pushed for a cease-fire when it became apparent that the Israelis were tactically and strategically getting their cans kicked.

And by setting unreasonable conditions for direct negotiations between the U.S. and Iran, she all but ensured that negotiations can't take place. Telling a nation it can have a nuclear energy program as long as it doesn't enrich its own uranium is a bit like saying "you can have an automobile industry but you have to make your cars in our country and you have to let us make them for you." Moreover, she's demanding that Iran give up its "inalienable right" to develop peaceful nuclear technology guaranteed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The Rovewellians have taken to calling Ahmadinejad "crazy," but if he's crazy, he's crazy like a fox. The only thing that could convince me he's crazy like a crazy would be if he caved on the Bush administration's demands that he give up his uranium enrichment capability.

Cheney and John Bolton and Doug Feith and the rest of the crazy neocon braintrust know Ahmadinejad won't back down. In fact, they're counting on it. That will give them the justification to say, "We tried diplomacy and it didn't work," and proceed with plan A.

Which will be crazy like a warren of March Hares.

In Part II: global replacing "Q" with "N."


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


Related articles:

The Next World Order Series

In an Arms Race with Ourselves

Wars and Empires

Smoke, Mirrors and War Powers

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Who Can Stop a War with Iran?

I'm afraid you're not going to like the answer. The only folks in our government who can decide not to go to war are the same folks who can decide to start one. And there's no longer a functioning fourth estate that can check their power. As with the run up to Iraq, the neocons have the media in their pocket.


Wednesday morning, I listened to Mary Matlin on Imus rattle off the Bush administration talking points on Iran. Imus didn't mention that Matlin had been a member of Dick Cheney's White House Iraq Group that helped sell Operation Iraqi Fumble to the public.

Shortly after Imus, MSNBC brought on commentator Armstrong Williams, who rattled off the Bush administration talking points in Iran. MSNBC's pretty talking head didn't mention that Armstrong Williams is the guy who secretly took money from the Department of Education to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind initiative.

Not long after that, MSNBC's Nora Neocon interviewed Suzy Somebody from the State Department. While Susie Somebody rattled off the Bush administration talking points on Iran, the picture shifted between Susie Somebody and her Colgate smile and a tape of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad giving his speech of September 19th to the UN. But MSNBC didn't interrupt Susie Somebody's from State's sound bites to air anything Ahmadinejad actually said. Instead, they ran a banner below his image that read "Axis of Evil Leader Speaks."

There's no question--the mainstream media is once again letting itself be co-opted into selling yet another useless, unjustified and counterproductive war to the American people.

And yet…

At happy hour later in the day, I sat in a corner and listened to a crowd of good old boys rattle off the same old right wing talking points I've been listening to good old boys rattle off since I was a kid in the 60s. And what was the biggest topic of this broken record conversation? How the "liberal media" was making everything sound worse than it is, how we're not hearing "enough good news" from Iraq, glub, glub, glub, glub, glub.


The Rovewellian right has so completely corrupted the information environment that it's next to impossible to know what to believe any more. It's useless to try to trace all the ways in which they've done it--they've been working at it since they first started blaming Walter Cronkite for losing the war in Vietnam.

The Big Brother Broadcast--the coordinated electronic media circus that encompasses talk radio and Fox News--has a lot of big money behind it and is here to stay. The rest of the big media, by and large commercial enterprises, are struggling to recapture audience share by giving bandwidth to the voices from talk radio, Fox News, the conservative print outlets, and neoconservative think tankers.

Another shocker (for me) from MSNBC on Wednesday:

It was one of those all too familiar left/right lip locks in the middle of what is supposed to be a "news" segment: Ricky Right and Larry Left going back and forth on whether it was okay for the IRS to be threatening to revoke a church's tax exempt status because the church's pastor had condemned the war in Iraq during a sermon. That, Ricky argued, consisted of political speech.

I won't grace the discussion with a summary of it, but I'll tell you what didn't come up the whole time. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Catholic bishops actively campaigned against John Kerry for his stance on abortion legislation and the IRS didn't say boo about it. That should have been Larry Left's first talking point, but he never once brought it up. You have to wonder if MSNBC hasn't taken to Fox News's practice of hunting up the dumbest liberals on the planet to participate in these fair and balanced "debates." After all, the rabid right doesn’t tune in to see a real discussion of the issues. They want to see the liberal get his sissified rump whipped.

The information deck is so stacked in favor of convincing the pubic to support a war with Iran that there's very little chance of beating the house. There is no Walter Cronkite. The only folks who can keep us from pulling the trigger are Dick Cheney and his gunslingers.

And whom do you think can keep the Cheney gang in check? Congress? Guess again.

You can bet rials to donuts that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales already has the ducks in line for another executive preemptive deterrence war. In fact, those ducks were lined up well before young Mister Bush took office.

The War Powers Resolution of 1973 essentially gives the President a free hand to commit forces to combat for 90 days before Congress can step in and stop him.

The War Powers Resolution was designed to check presidential ability to conduct prolonged conflicts without permission from Congress. Ironically, in our present context, it gives Mister Bush permission to unleash the dogs on Iran without so much as a by-your-leave from anybody.

Conceivably, Congress could call an emergency session and repeal the War Powers Resolution. But they won't. And even if they did, 'Berto would write a legal opinion that says the repeal meant there were no longer any restrictions on Bush's authority to use military force whatsoever.

So at the end of the day, the decision on Iran rests in the "moral clarity" of one Richard B. Cheney, and we already know which way his compass points.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Another day in the Wide World of George W. Bush:

During his surprise visit to Iraq last December, young Mister Bush told Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Malaki "Iraq's future is in your hands."

Today, Edward Wong of the New York Times tells us that "Senior Iraqi and American officials are beginning to question whether Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has the political muscle and decisiveness to hold Iraq together as it hovers on the edge of a full civil war."

They're just now beginning to question that?

Malaki came on tough in his early days in office, promising to crack down on insurgents while also offering a unification deal with them, part of which offered amnesty to insurgents whose only offense was to oppose U.S. occupation forces. That's worked out great. Baghdad is more of a zoo than ever before and the situation in Anbar province, now under control of al Qaeda, is irretrievable.

And what is the U.S. military doing to help shore up Malaki's government? According to Wong, "American generals are spending money on quick reconstruction projects like trash pickup as the military goes through troubled neighborhoods of Baghdad."

Picking up trash in Baghdad. Funny, I don't recall reading that anywhere in last November's National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. You have to wonder how thing would have gone if they started picking up the trash three years ago.

I like how Wong describes Iraq as hovering on the edge of a "full civil war." How should we describe the civil war Iraq is in now--half full or half empty?


Mary Matalin, Cheney pal and former member of the White House Iraq Group, was on Imus this morning, doing her Bush cheerleader thing. She admonished Imus not to accuse her, as he does so often, of "drinking the Kool Aid." I've got news for Imus and everybody else. Matalin's not drinking the Kool Aid. She's just pouring it.

Speaking of Kool Aid pitchers:

Armstrong Williams, the commentator who took $241,000 from the Department of Education to promote Bush's No Child Left Behind program on the air graced the MSNBC studios this morning and delivered a diatribe against Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Williams compared the present Iran situation with the Cuban Missile Crisis. I don't know if Williams was alive then, but I was. The Soviets had actual nuclear missiles actually positioned in Cuba and they were actually pointed at the United States. That was a crisis. The situation with Iran is not.

A far more critical situation facing us today is that known government propagandists like Mary Matalin and Armstrong Williams appear on national television and get paid for it.

Even more critical is that some Americans not only still drink the Kool Aid, they still like how it tastes.


BarbinMD writes a scathing deconstruction of the speech Mister Bush gave at the UN yesterday. I won't revisit territory Barb has already covered, but this excerpt from Bush's speech caught my eye.
Extremists in your midst spread propaganda claiming that the West is engaged in a war against Islam. This propaganda is false…

Mister Bush accusing anybody else of conducting propaganda would be ironic if irony weren't so dead. If irony were with us today, it might say, "Hm, the U.S. and is at war in Afghanistan, which is and Islamic country. And it's at war in Iraq, which is an Islamic country. And it backed Israel in a war in Lebanon, which is an Islamic country. And it's making boo noise about going to war with Iran, which is an Islamic country.

"So which part of 'engaged in a war against Islam' is 'false,' Mister Bush?"

There's a simple reason why the "extremists'" propaganda is so much more effective than Mister Bush's. Their propaganda focuses on things that are obviously true. Mister Bush's propaganda comes from somewhere below his waist, and you can smell it half a world away.

President Bush really should agree to sit down with President Ahmadinejad. I'm sure they'd get along--they have so much in common. They're both smug, they're both cocky and they both say stupid things in public. In fact, the only difference I can see between the two of them is that, as far as we know, President Ahmadinejad hasn't lied to us yet.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Time to Boycott TIME

TIME Magazine and I have an arrangement. TIME doesn't pay me to write and I don't pay to read TIME. It's for that reason I haven't seen all of "What Would War with Iran Look Like" from the September 25 edition--they've hidden it behind a subscribers only link.

But from the fair use portions of the article that Steven D has posted at Booman Tribune, it looks like the same kind of drum beating TIME did for the Bush administration during the run up to the invasion of Iraq. And it follows a tried and true formula for preparing a nation to go to war.

Everybody got riled up over the news that the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) ordered "fresh eyes" to look at "long-standing U.S. plans to blockade two Iranian oil ports on the Persian Gulf." That's as shocking to me as hearing that the Chief of Naval Operations is in charge of the Navy. Discussions at the UN about imposing sanctions on Iran have been in the news for months. I'd be appalled if the Navy wasn't revising its plans for a blockade of Iran's oil ports. That's the kind of thing military planners do.

Nonetheless, such sanctioned revelations send a number of signals to two main audiences. They send saber rattle noises to the adversary's leadership, function as a psychological operation against the adversary populations, and in some cases, they are part of a deception operation. But the other target audience, perhaps the most important one, is the signal sender's own public. In this case, news of a possible blockade is designed at first to send a shock through the American public--hey, it looks like we're going to war again. But over time, America will become desensitized to the idea of conducting yet another conflict while also coming under the spell of rhetoric that defines the coming war as "inevitable."

Pre-war propaganda also creates the illusion that when war comes, it will be despite the best efforts on "our side" to have avoided it. Such has been the case with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's so-called attempts at diplomacy. "…the Bush team, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has done more diplomatic spadework on Iran than on any other project in its 51/2 years in office," TIME writes. "For more than 18 months, Rice has kept the Administration's hard-line faction at bay while leading a coalition that includes four other members of the U.N. Security Council and is trying to force Tehran to halt its suspicious nuclear ambitions."

This is utter bunk. Rice's attempts at diplomacy are designed to fail. By making Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment--a right guaranteed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty--a precondition to engaging in talks, the U.S. has all but guaranteed that talks will not take place.

And when talks don't take place, "…at some point the U.S. and its allies may have to confront the ultimate choice."

What allies? Our British lapdog won't even play along if we pull the trigger this time. And why will the U.S. have to confront the ultimate choice? According to TIME:
The Bush Administration has said it won't tolerate Iran having a nuclear weapon. Once it does, the regime will have the capacity to carry out Ahmadinejad's threats to eliminate Israel. And in practical terms, the U.S. would have to consider military action long before Iran had an actual bomb. In military circles, there is a debate about where--and when--to draw that line. U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte told TIME in April that Iran is five years away from having a nuclear weapon. But some nonproliferation experts worry about a different moment: when Iran is able to enrich enough uranium to fuel a bomb--a point that comes well before engineers actually assemble a nuclear device. Many believe that is when a country becomes a nuclear power. That red line, experts say, could be just a year away.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has consistently denied that he wants nuclear weapons, and he's certainly never said he would use them on Israel. To do so would be the end of his country. In practical terms, there's no reason for the U.S. to consider military action before--if ever--Iran has an actual bomb. If they were to develop one in violation of the NPT, much less even use one, we would have more than sufficient justification to bring the full power of America's conventional and nuclear arsenal against them.

And just who are these "experts" TIME reports saying the "red line could be just a year away?" John Bolton and his neoconservative pals?

Another key facet of pre-war propaganda is an information campaign that paints the adversary's leader as a lunatic. TIME cooperates in this effort in the September 25 issue in an interview with Ahmadinejad titled "A Date with a Dangerous Mind." (You can read all of that article here. I've linked to the printer friendly version, so hopefully TIME won't get any advertising revenue if you read it.)

Well, TIME calls it an "interview." Nearly half the article, written by Scott McLeod, is an essay that quotes past remarks by Ahmadinejad out of context and describes him as "slippery," a "natural politician," and "gifted in the art of spin and misdirection." During the interview, McLeod says Ahmadinejad was "serious, smiling and cocky--evidence of a self-assurance that borders on arrogance."

Heck, it sounds to me like Ahmadinejad and young Mister Bush would get along like peas in a pod if Bush would agree to a sit down.

I've said this before but it bears repeating: the Bush administration isn't worried about Iran having a handful of nuclear weapons. It's worried that Iran, China and Russia will form an energy coalition that will take the market away from Dick and Dubya's big oil pals.

We can't say for sure what Ahmadinejad's game is. But we can tell what game TIME and the Bush administration are playing because we've seen them play it before.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Monday, September 18, 2006

White Rabbits, Red Queens and Neocons

Like many, for years I've likened the neoconservative Bush administration to the Big Brother government of George Orwell's 1984. Lately, however, the denizens of Neocon Land remind me more of the works of Lewis Carroll.

A 19th century author, mathematician and logician, Carroll is best remembered for his wonderful novels Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. His last major work was The Hunting of the Snark. Carroll's particular brand of "snarkiness" consisted of portraying absurd characters whose behavior and speech were patently illogical and contradictory.

Here are a few of my favorite absurdities ground out by the Bush Mill over the past week.

Another Bag of Krauthammers

Columnist Charles Krauthammer, darling of the neoconservative and Zionist intelligentsia, wrote a piece for the Washington Post that outlined the gruesome consequences of conducting air strikes against Iran.

Iran would close the Straits of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world's oil passes. Oil prices could climb to $150 per barrel, causing a global recession. The U.S. Navy would suffer significant casualties trying to re-open the Straits and America would be even more diplomatically isolated that it is now (if such a thing is possible.)

But guess what? Krauthammer says that's preferable to the consequences of "doing nothing."

That's the very same illogic he used to help convince America to invade Iraq. Between bombing Iran and doing nothing exists a broad spectrum of options, all of which would produce superior results to the two options Krauthammer frames. And even if there weren't a broad range of option, doing nothing is usually better than doing something stupid.

In a worst-case scenario, Iran might have a handful of big Cahunas in five to 10 years. We deterred the Soviet Union from using its robust nuclear arsenal for a half century. We can deter Iran forever.

Compare that worst-case scenario with Krauthammer's preferred version of things: the mighty U.S. navy limps its way out of the Gulf after a duke-em-out with a third rate nation's coast guard and everybody starts riding horses to work.

Still Smoking Crack About Iraq

Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post was among mainstream media reporters who filed stories on a classified intelligence report that gives a grim prediction on Iraq's Sunni populated Anbar province. Local governments have collapsed, the area is under control of al Qaeda, and the U.S. military is unable to bring the area under control because of insufficient troop levels.

Marine Major General Richard C. Zilmer, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, said he agreed with the report, calling it "frank and candid." But then he said, no, he has plenty of troops to complete his mission.

The problem is that his mission isn't to bring Anbar province under control. His mission is to train Iraqi police to bring the province under control. These would be the same Iraqi police who are said to be infiltrated throughout by Shiite militiamen and criminals. Yeah, they'll get things under control, all right.

According to the New York Times, tribal leaders in Anbar have now agreed to join forces to fight al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists in their region. A senior al Qaeda leader has swron to "kill tribal leaders who are helping the Americans."

What's General Zilmer's overall assessment of the situation? "I think we're winning this war."

Kink Kong versus Kongress

In November 2005, after the discovery that the CIA was running secret prisons in Europe, young Mister Bush told the world that "We do not torture."

Now he's pressuring Congress to pass legislation to make the torture he's been conducting legal, and that will grant amnesty to everyone who's been doing his torturing for him.

He also wants Congress to re-write international treaties that will, among other things, allow him to try so-called "enemy combatants" by military tribunals that are prohibited by international treaties.

How does he justify this desire? Well, shoot, the combatants were conducting war in violation of, uh, international treaties.

So… Who's got to face military tribunals again?

The Other Gorgeous George

Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia has been among the most loyal of Mister Bush's liegemen, backing nearly every initiative the administration has pushed. Sunday, during a debate with Democratic challenge Jim Webb on Meet the Press, Allen described himself as "rebellious" and "anti-establishment."

Yeah. He really said that. On national television. And I think he was being dead serious.

Talk about March Hare madness.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Krazy Like a Krauthammer

God bless the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Thanks to our guaranteed freedom of speech, and columnists like Charles Krauthammer who aggressively practice it, we all have an insider's view of just how insane the brain trust of the neoconservative right really is.

We know not to take the likes of Limbaugh, O'Reilley and Coulter too seriously. Their function is to keep the knuckle dragging crowd entertained with round-the-clock, schoolyard-level insult humor. But Krauthammer's different. A Pulitzer Prize winner and an influential member of Project for the New American Century (PNAC) who helped convince young Mister Bush to invade Iraq after the 9/11 attacks "…even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack," Krauthammer is a darling of the neocon intelligentsia.

Now, Krauthammer is a leading voice in the call to bomb Iran even though there's no evidence to contradict its consistent claims that it has no intention of seeking nuclear weapons. And Krauthammer admits that such a preemptive, unprovoked strike would produce consequences even more dire than the invasion of Iraq.

In his September 15th Washington Post column, he wrote that a strike on Iran will likely "…send oil prices overnight to $100 or even to $150 a barrel. That will cause a worldwide recession." Iran will close the straights of Hormuz, "through which 40 percent of the world's exports flow every day." Krauthammer cautions that, "The U.S. Navy will be forced to break the blockade. We will succeed, but at considerable cost."

As to how a strike on Iran will affect the situation in Iraq, he says, "Iran will activate its proxies in Iraq, most notably, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army… Iran could order the Mahdi Army and its other agents within the police and armed forces to take up arms against the institutions of the central government itself, threatening the very anchor of the new Iraq. Many Mahdi will die, but they live to die. Many Iraqis and coalition soldiers are likely to die as well."

I agree with Krauthammer up to that point, but here's where he turns myopic: "There will be massive criticism of America from around the world. Much of it is to be discounted."

Discounted? Oh please, Chuckie. The Iraq fiasco you helped create has already made America quite arguably the most isolated super power in world history. A strike on Iran based on no more proof of its nuclear weapons intentions other than the rants of your neo-pals like Dick Cheney and John Bolton would set America's influence on global affairs back a century or more. Even our British yap dog won't want to play with us. Even if we throw it a big old box of beef-flavored Nylabones .

Where Krauthammer's Wheels Come Off

Here's where Krauthammer reveals the fundamental flaw in the neoconservative rhetoric:
These are the costs. There is no denying them. However, equally undeniable is the cost of doing nothing.

In propaganda terms, this is often called a "limited choices fallacy." It's also called "binary thinking," a malignant practice that reduces the entire spectrum of possibilities into terms black and white absolutes. It's a common practice of ideological regime propagandists who practice a form of mass hypnosis over large populations. And Krauthammer's as good at this sort of thing as anybody. He should be. He has an MD degree in psychiatry.

We have a wide range of options with Iran, all of which are superior to Krauthammer's "their version of Armageddon" versus "our version of Armageddon" model. Here's the one I suggested last week in The Walrus, the Carpenter and Iran:
If the neoconservatives took a sane, realistic approach to foreign policy…they'd be sitting at the table in bi-lateral talks with Iran right now saying, "Hey look…"

"We appreciate what you hope to accomplish [by becoming the source of nuclear energy for the Muslim world], and we know you need help from a big guy to accomplish it. Tell you what. You don't want any of that Chernobyl and China-boy crap. Ditch those Commie losers. You want the good stuff, and you can only get it from us--at least, in the quantities you need. So if you agree that we can look at every damn thing you're doing with nuclear power, then by golly, we'll help you become the biggest thing in your part of the world since Alexander the Great.

"However, comma, if you ever cross us up by trying to develop nuclear weapons under our nose, or try to use them on Israel or anybody else, we'll smoke your sorry rear ends like an El Producto and turn your sand lot of a country into the world's biggest solar panel."

I don't claim that my approach is the penultimate strategy for Iran, but it's a sight saner than the one that Krauthammer and his neocon cronies propose. Those characters have White Rabbit, Red Queen, March Hare and Mad Hatter genetics in them.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.


Related articles by Jeff Huber:

Wars and Empires

In an Arms Race with Ourselves

The Next World Order

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Walrus and the Carpenter and Iran

Perhaps the most lamentable aspect of the Bush administration has been the opportunity cost of its misdirected, fist-first foreign policy. Bush and his Machiavellians blew the chance to unite the world behind America after the 9/11 attacks. Now, thanks to the Lewis Carroll class insanity of Dick Cheney, John Bolton and their flock of neoconservative clams, the United States is fumbling away a golden opportunity to turn Iran into a valuable ally.

Much is being made of Dafna Linzer's article in yesterday's Washington Post titled "U.N. Inspectors Dispute Iran Report By House Panel." The report came from the House Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Bush liegeman Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan). According to Linzer, it "chastised the CIA and other agencies for not providing evidence to back assertions that Iran is building nuclear weapons."

The House Intelligence Committee report was written by a single author, a staffer named Fredrick Fleitz. Linzer describes Fleitz as having "a hard line position on Iran." That's not at all surprising considering that Fleitz is a former assistant to John Bolton, who is now the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and who played a key role in establishing the Bush administration's policy of rejecting direct talks with Iran.

It's obvious by now to anyone who isn't a card-carrying member of the autistic political right that Cheney and his chamberlains are trying to pull the same kind of intelligence bake sale on Iran that they pulled on Iraq. The neocon cabal's assertion that it somehow knows more about Iran's nuclear intentions than the CIA and the other U.S. intelligence agencies would be laughable if not for the fact that the Cheney-bots have already displayed an uncanny talent for selling air conditioners to Eskimos.

We don't know what Iran's real nuclear program intentions are. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei insist that their country has no interest in developing nuclear weapons. Dick Cheney and John Bolton insist that pursuit of weapons is the whole point of Iran's nuclear program. As far as we know, Ahmadinejad and Khamenei haven't lied to us yet, which is a megaton more than we can say for Cheney and Bolton.

Nonetheless, we would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran out of hand. But we'd be even more foolish not to see through the sleight of hand the big oilmen in and around the Bush administration are pulling to take our attention away from the real stakes in this game of Realpolitik.

Iran may benefit to some extent by possessing nuclear weapons, but owning a handful of big cahunas won't achieve their political aims. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, but it isn't a regional superpower and never will be. Iranian leadership understands that nuclear energy is the new coin of the global realm, and that if Iran can develop an independent, robust nuclear energy industry by the time the oil bubble bursts, it will be the king of the Middle East region for a long, long, long, long time. It may, if the cards fall right, even become an economic peer of the United States, the European Union, and China.

Reality Politics

The term "Realpolitik" was coined by 19th century German writer and politician Ludwig August von Rochau. In a nutshell, Realpolitik is a foreign policy model in which states maintain a realistic balance of power that allows them to pursue their individual national goals while maintaining a relatively peaceful world environment. At the other end of the foreign affairs spectrum is a philosophy often referred to as "ideology" (and sometimes called "fundamentalism" or even "fanaticism"). The ideology approach has historically led to militaristic nationalism and self-defeating use of armed conflict to pursue strategic aims (Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo).

Realistic states thrive by attracting allies, isolating their enemies, and convincing everyone else to stand out of the way. Historically, ideology driven states have alienated allies, united their enemies, and made enemies of states that would otherwise have been happy to play a wallflower role.

American neoconservatism as practiced by the Bush administration is clearly a worst-case variation on the ideologue model. We've lost all our allies, united our enemies, and no one has to be convinced to step aside while we augur ourselves into oblivion. The rest of the world has sniffed the coffee, and it's wide-awake enough to see how oafishly America has squandered its hard earned status as sole superpower. The Unites States spends as much or more on armed force as rest of the world combined, yet our pathetic misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq have illustrate for all to see that military power is no longer an effective tool of foreign policy.

Iran's leadership at present practices a blend of the two political policy styles. It exploits fundamentalism as a means of consolidating domestic and regional support, and it pursues a realistic approach by playing larger powers against each other to its own advantage. Right now, Iran is forming a strategic energy partnership with Russia and China that threatens to elbow the U.S. out of the Middle East altogether.

If the neoconservatives took a sane, realistic approach to foreign policy, they'd be elbowing Russia and China out of the picture. They'd be sitting at the table in bi-lateral talks with Iran right now saying, "Hey look…"

"We appreciate what you hope to accomplish, and we know you need help from a big guy to accomplish it. Tell you what. You don't want any of that Chernobyl and China-boy crap. Ditch those Commie losers. You want the good stuff, and you can only get it from us--at least, in the quantities you need. So if you agree that we can look at every damn thing you're doing with nuclear power, then by golly, we'll help you become the biggest thing in your part of the world since Alexander the Great.

"However, comma, if you ever cross us up by trying to develop nuclear weapons under our nose, or try to use them on Israel or anybody else, we'll smoke your sorry rear ends like an El Producto and turn your sand lot of a country into the world's biggest solar panel."

That would be the sane, realistic and safe approach to take. Unfortunately, the yahooligans who run this country are neither sane nor realistic, and they sure as hell aren't safe.

In fact, the greatest dangers America faces are the hatters and hares in charge of it.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Y.G.T.B.F.S.M., General Zilman

The expression "Y.G.T.B.F.S.M" is fairly popular in military jargon. If you don't know what it stands for now, I expect that you will by the time you finish this article. The "official" responses to a pessimistic intelligence report on the situation in Iraq's Anbar province recall another favored military saying that translates into polite company language as "baffle them with bull feathers."

On September 11, 2006 Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post filed a story titled "Marine calls situation in Anbar province dire: U.S. military can do little to secure region in western Iraq." The intelligence report was written by Colonel Pete Devlin, who according to Ricks has the reputation of being "…one of the Marine Corps' best intelligence officers, with a tendency to be careful and straightforward." Ricks writes:
The "very pessimistic" statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. "I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report.

According to Ricks's sources--and trust me, Ricks, a twenty plus year veteran of the Pentagon beat, has reliable sources. He doesn't cite disgruntled buck privates who don't like the chow in the mess hall--things in Anbar are grim indeed.
Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said [an] Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Ricks's sources also describe the Devlin report as saying the Anbar situation is due to lack of sufficient numbers of U.S. and Iraqi troops, that military operations are facing a stalemate, local governments have collapsed, and the central government has almost no presence.

Bring on the Spin Clowns

Not surprisingly, not everybody in Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Defense agrees with Devlin's findings. "Lawlessness is a way of life there," one DOD official told Ricks. The official also said that the Devlin report is "one conclusion about one area. The conclusion on al Anbar doesn't translate into a perspective on the entire country."

That's a bit too much like saying that if the Symbionese Liberation Army had taken control of California, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona in the 1970s, it wouldn't have translated into a perspective on the United States.

White House mouthpiece and former Fox News on-camera personality Tony Snow told the White House press corps on September 12 that "Earlier today, General Zilmer, who outranks the Colonel, but is aware of the report, said that, 'Recent media reports fail to accurately capture the entirety and complexity of the current situation in the al Anbar province. The classified assessment which has been referred to in these reports was intended to focus on the causes of the insurgency. It was not intended to address the positive effects coalition and Iraqi forces have.'"

Positive effects of coalition and Iraqi forces? Al Qaeda has taken over a region that comprises 30 percent of Iraq's landmass, local governments in Anbar have collapsed, the situation there is lost and beyond repair, and there are positive aspects that haven't been reported?

Y.G.T.B.F.S.M., Snowplow.

Zilmer Meets Heller

The General Zilmer whom Snow spoke of is Marine Major General Richard C. Zilmer, the two-star U.S. commander in western Iraq. In a telephone conversation with Ricks and other reporters, Zilmer said that he agrees with Colonel Devlin's analysis of the Anbar situation. "I have seen that report and I do concur with that [intelligence] assessment." Zilmer also said that he found Devlin's report to be "frank and candid."

But then he pulled a farcical about face reminiscent of characters like General Beedle and Coronal Kathkart in Joseph Heller's immortal anti-war novel Catch-22.

"I think we're winning this war," he told reporters. "We're certainly accomplishing our mission." And he also said that he doesn't think he needs any more troops to accomplish his mission in Anbar.

But his mission, if you pull the string a little further, isn't to get Anbar province under control. His mission is to train Iraqi police forces so they can get the Anbar province under control. How on earth the U.S. trained Iraqi police--who have proven so hapless, corrupt and counterproductive in Baghdad--can do in Anbar what U.S. troops haven't been able to accomplish for three years is beyond any sane military analyst's imagination. If Zilman considers training unreliable Iraqi police forces "winning the war," I'd hate to see what his idea of "screwing the pooch in the front yard" looks like.

Zilman also told reporters that "I have never heard any discussion about the war being lost before this weekend.''

Y.G.T.B.F.S.M., General! The entire world has been talking about the possibility of America "losing" in Iraq for at least two years, and you're just now hearing about it? What sand dune have you been hiding your headquarters under all this time? How long have you had your helmet buried up your trench?


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.

Review of FIASCO by Thomas E. Ricks

My review of Tom's definitive book on the Iraq fiasco, up at ePluribus Media Journal.

I liked it. I really liked it a lot.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Honor the Dead, Support My War

I'm listening this morning to Bo Dietl on the Imus program as he prattles his support for young Mister Bush's misdirected, oafish war on terror. Sometime I think Imus letting Dietl on the airwaves is a good thing--it reminds us that people like Dietl still exist in this country, and how they think.

Let me rephrase that. People like Dietl don't think. They have opinions, opinions that have been programmed into them by generations of ultra-conservative propaganda. And they've been indoctrinated in a unique sort of discourse. When critics deconstruct their Simple Simon talking points, they respond with invective, much of which they learned from the lowest common denominators in the right wing noise machine. These venom vendors--the Limbaughs, the Coulters, the O'Reilleys--have trained their loyal followers to reason with their genitals and talk out their fundaments.

Do not fear these people. And don't try to censor them. Let them expose their own malicious idiocy to the light of day, and whenever possible, refute them, not with their own methods, but with logic and good sense. Don't abandon your principles just because the fear and hatred merchants have abandoned theirs (if, in fact, they ever had any in the first place).


Despite his promise not to politicize the occasion, young Mister Bush used the fifth anniversary of 9/11 as a bully pulpit opportunity to reconstitute support for his woebegone war in Iraq. Are there any surprises there? When has Mister Bush ever kept a promise? Well, I guess he has kept one. He's promised to keep America embroiled in a counterproductive, costly war in Iraq, but that's a promise I'd just as soon see him break.

Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times reports today on the Hobbesian quagmire in Iraq's Anbar province. According to Gordon, a Marine Corps intelligence report says that "The political and security situation in western Iraq is grim and will continue to deteriorate unless the region receives a major infusion of aid and a division is sent to reinforce the American troops operating there." However, "Since the intelligence assessment was prepared in August, however, no reinforcements have been sent. To the contrary, the strain on the American troops in Anbar has increased. An American Stryker unit, which was under the overall Marine command, has been sent from Rawa to Baghdad to help with the operation there. Also, military police who had been earmarked for training the Iraq police in Anbar have also been sent to Baghdad."

"Wishful thinking" is probably the kindest term we can apply to the strategy in Iraq. Yet Mister Bush continues to exhort America to stay the course and pursue a "total victory" that he cannot describe of a war that he seems bound and determined not to win.

In political science terms, the price paid so far for the Iraq debacle is "sunk cost." We cannot bring back our dead, or completely heal the brave American service members maimed physically or mentally in this misguided conflict. The only reasonable strategy on the table is Jack Murtha's proposal to redeploy to the periphery of the Gulf region. And yet, what is Murtha's reward for attempting to inject a note of sanity into American grand strategy? He's called a coward, a defeatist and worse.

And that's the brush with which the Big Brother Broadcast is attempting to paint everyone who objects to the administrations hapless conduct of the war on terror. The Bo Dietls of this world would have us think that if the war in Iraq "fails," it will because the limp wrested sissies in the mainstream media and the political left didn't have the stomach for a fight.

But the truth is, as Murtha has stated many times, the longer we allow ourselves to be ground into powder in Iraq in a civil war/insurgency that no longer really concerns us, the more we weaken ourselves and the more we strengthen adversaries and competitors like China, Russia, Iran and, yes, Osama bin Laden.

And the best way for Americans to aid in weakening their country further is by continuing to support a bad war started bad reasons by bad men who ran it badly. At the end of the day, the only real reason to back continued U.S. presence is to save the face of one George W. Bush, and that's not a face worth saving.

George W. Bush is not America.


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.