Thursday, May 31, 2007

Podhoretz Begs Bush to Bomb Iran

Leading neoconservative Norman Podhoretz wants George W. Bush to bomb Iran. In a May 30 Wall Street Journal, he writes "I hope and pray that President Bush will do it."

Podhoretz sees the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as "theaters that have been opened up in the early stages of a protracted global struggle," and sees Iran as another front in what he describes as "World War IV." And to throw in the standard dose of fear factor to support his arguments, he compares today's Iran to Nazi Germany in 1938.

A Hatful of Hitlers

We had one Hitler in the 20th century. In this century, to hear the likes of Podhoretz tell it, we've already had three of them. Osama bin Laden became the new Hitler after 9/11. Saddam Hussein took the Hitler mantle during the propaganda campaign that led to the Iraq invasion. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad turned into Hitler right about the time the Bush administration figured that, oops, we've hosed up this Iraq thing, time to start making Americans afraid of somebody else.

The anti-Semitic angle aside, what makes Hitler such a convenient boogey man to compare Middle East bad guys too is the 1938 Munich Agreement, which gave the Sudetenland to Germany to satisfy Hitler's desire for Lebensraum (living space). Many credit this appeasement as having emboldened Hitler to invade Poland and France a year later. Podhoretz and others argue that if we appease rather than attack Iran, we'll embolden that country to undertake further aggressive actions.

This Germany/Iran analogy is bunker mentality bunk for several reasons.

First, Ahmadinejad doesn’t hold the kind of absolute power that Hitler had in Nazi Germany. Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i holds the real power in Iran, and unlike Hitler, he has a track record of behaving like a rational actor.

Next, the balance of military power today looks nothing like it did in 1938. Then, Hitler had the most modern and mobile military in Europe. Having invested its military capital in a static defense system of fortifications--the Maginot Line--France was incapable of running Hitler out of the Sudetenland, and Britain's only realistic way to access the continent was to come through France. The only way France or Britain could engage Hitler on the continent was for Hitler to invade France, and we all know how things went for France and Britain when he finally did.

Today, the U.S. spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined. Even though it has a pesky coastal navy, Iran's military is a comparative flyspeck. It cannot project power much beyond its borders or the Persian Gulf, and if it ever came down to a no-holds barred showdown between them and us, they would lose large. It is ludicrous to characterize a sole superpower's decision to talk to a minor power rather than to attack it as "appeasement."


Iran has consistently claimed that it has no ambitions to produce nuclear weapons, and despite concerted efforts by Dick Cheney and others, no one has been able to prove Iran's claim to be false. But if Iran gets itself a fistful of nukes, Podhoretz says, the Mutually Assured Destruction deterrence of the Cold War won't work. To back up this assertion, he quotes noted Islamic world expert Bernard Lewis:
MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the cold war. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic [like Ahmadinejad]. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that [Iran's leaders] do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again. In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights.

I won't pretend to have Lewis's background and experience when it comes to understanding the Islamic mind, but it sounds like Lewis is losing his, and I'm not alone in coming to that conclusion. Of Lewis's 2002 book What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, Juan Cole wrote: "How a profoundly learned and highly respected historian, whose career spans some sixty years, could produce such a hodgepodge of muddled thinking, inaccurate assertions and one-sided punditry is a profound mystery."

For Iran to use nukes, either directly or through a proxy terrorist group wouldn’t be a case of mutually assured destruction. It would be self-assured destruction. Iran couldn't possibly do as much damage to the U.S. or its allies as the U.S. and its allies could do to Iran. I question Lewis's assertion that Iran's leaders "do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers," but I completely reject the notion that Iran would risk a successful nuclear attack or New York or Chicago at the price of losing all of its people, all of its cities, all of its industries and all of its culture.


Podhoretz describes Iran as the "main center of the Islamofascist ideology against which we have been fighting since 9/11." He also says that Iran is "the main sponsor of the terrorism that is Islamofascism's weapon of choice."

The neoconservative propaganda campaign to subliminally connect Iran with 9/11 is fairly new, and is no more substantiated than earlier claims of a connection between Iraq and 9/11. Calling Iran the "main sponsor of terrorism" conveniently ignores the fact that most of the 9/11 attackers were Sunni Arabs from Saudi Arabia, not Shiite Persians from Iran. It also stiff-arms the reality that al Qaeda, supposedly the biggest bad guys in our war on terror, are still comfy-cozy in their feathered nests in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Podhoretz also says that Ahmadinejad "wishes to dominate the greater Middle East, and thereby to control the oilfields of the region and the flow of oil out of it through the Persian Gulf."

Well, Ahmadinejad may wish to control the Middle East, but making that wish come true will take a heck of a lot more than blowing out candles on his birthday cake. The notion that the non-head of a Persian Shiite state can "dominate" the largely Arab Sunni Middle East defies the laws of probability. Liberal Buddhist Dennis Kucinich has a better chance of becoming president of the United States.

Iran is most certainly an emerging regional power that we must learn to deal with, but not in the way Podhoretz wants us to. The best move we could make would be to become Iran's big energy partner, elbowing China and Russia out of the picture.

But that would require real diplomacy, which means it won't happen on Bush's watch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Iraq: Go Big, Go Long, Go Fish

Mr. Bush got his way on the war funding bill--sort of. He won a "victory" when Congress passed the bill stripped of the timeline restrictions contained in an earlier version. But his victory over the budget didn't give him a victory in Iraq. It's unlikely that the "surge" strategy will give him a victory in Iraq either. Bush and his inner circle seem to have realized this, finally.

Having largely dismissed the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) in favor of the escalation strategy proposed by neoconservative "military theorist" Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, Bush now appears to be backpedaling. At a Rose Garden press conference on 24 May, Mr. Bush indicated that he might be amenable to yet another change in strategy. On several occasions, he noted that he now likes the recommendations of the ISG. Why the reversal? Is Mr. Bush changing the story to reflect "conditions on the ground," or is he buying time until he can make conditions on the ground fit the story?

The Never Ending Story

Bush's victory over the war-funding bill was, in fact, only a partial one. The popular opinion lately is that the Democrats caved. They didn't really. The bill does have a deadline--September 30, 2007. That's when the present war appropriation ends. It's also when General David Petraeus, U.S. commander in Iraq, is scheduled to give Congress a briefing on the progress of the "surge" plan.

As things look now, Petraeus won't have anything to show Congress come September except the spit shine on his heinie. Barring divine intervention, which hasn't been abundant in this war to date, all Petraeus will be able to say is yeah, well, things look better on the ground in some places but worse in others, and the Iraqi Parliament has made progress in some areas but the political situation still basically, uh, sucks.

A May 29 Los Angeles Times story stated that U.S. military leaders in Iraq doubt whether the political goals Mr. Bush laid out when he announced the troop buildup earlier this year will be met by the end of summer. Even Frederick Kagan, the American Enterprise Institute neoconservative who proposed the buildup, says the military will have few political accomplishments to report by September.Some advisers to Petraeus say it was never realistic to expect the Iraqi government to agree on its most divisive issues by then. And security in Baghdad is still a distant goal.

So advisers are putting together a collection of "smaller achievements" they consider to be signs of progress that Petraeus can use to convince Congress that the surge has been a success even though it failed to accomplish its primary goals.

Mission accomplished again!

The Program and the Players

On 26 May, the New York Times and other news sources announced that the administration is developing contingency plans for reducing U.S. forces in Iraq by as much as half in 2008. While the reports are probably true, they may not mean a whole lot. I'm confident planning is also being done to sustain troop levels at their present levels for as long as possible. Lt. General Ray Odierno, the number two commander in Iraq, says any withdrawal of troops was not advisable until December "at a minimum." Odierno, who has lobbied for extending the troop increase, notes that units are in place or available to extend the "surge" into April of next year.

Within the administration, Cheney and his side men may argue that merely starting a troop drawdown will embolden al-Qaeda and militia groups that have recently gone underground. Odeirno and Petraeus seem to prefer sticking with the escalation. CNN reports that Petraeus was not involved in the troop reduction discussions. It's tough to say where Secretary of Defense Bob Gates stands. He was a member of the IGS for a time, but he almost had to know, when he took the SecDef job, that Bush was going to stiff arm the IGS recommendations.

Rumors of power realignments within the administration abound. One hears that Cheney continues to fall out of favor, and that Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have informally allied to oppose him. But every time Cheney seems to have retired to an undisclosed country club he reemerges, nasty and snarly as ever.

Whispered leaks suggest that a segment of the active duty flag officer community have tacitly threatened to turn in their walking papers if the White House doesn't start listening to them and ignoring think tank neocons like Fred Kagan. But these are just whispers.

Mr. Bush himself gives the appearance of flip-flopping on Iraq. For years he stuck by Donald Rumsfeld's insistence that no more troops were needed in Iraq, and on the eve of the November election, indicate that Rummy would stay on the job throughout the remainder of the Bush term. When the election results became official, Rummy was out, the ISG recommendations were shelved, and Kagan's troop escalation was in. Now, amid concerns expressed by congressional Republicans that the Iraq war could devastate the GOP come November 2008, Bush gives indications that he's leaning back toward the ISG's policy and strategy tenets--tenets like engaging diplomatically with Iraq's neighbors and focusing U.S. troop efforts on training Iraqi troops that Kagan said "will fail."

One theory says that Mr. Bush intends to stall for as much time as he can to ensure that the Iraq war isn't "lost" on his watch, and intends to let the next guy clean up the mess. Another theory posits that Mr. Bush has promised Republican legislators and presidential hopefuls that by hook or by crook, he'll ensure that the Iraq issue is off the table come election time. We can't really know what will happen until it happens, and even then we'll have reason to wonder what really happened.

Even the people in charge of making things happen won't really know what happened because, as the past four years have clearly illustrated, they never really knew what they were doing. And as recent developments indicate, they still don't.

The Wolf Who Cried "Media"

Paul Wolfowitz, a leading architect of our war in Iraq, is blaming his departure from the World Bank on the standard neoconservative scapegoat--the media.

In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Wolfowitz denied that his decision to leave was caused by a lack of support of the bank's employees. From the Associated Press:
"I think it tells us more about the media than about the bank and I'll leave it at that," he told the British Broadcasting Corp. "People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend."

Wolfowitz said that he was pleased the bank's board accepted that he had acted ethically, and in good faith in his handling of a generous compensation package for his girlfriend and bank employee Shaha Riza in 2005.

The bank's board accepted that he had acted ethically? That's an interesting conclusion. On May 17, ABC News reported that "An internal panel tasked with investigating the lucrative pay and promotion package Wolfowitz arranged in 2005 for girlfriend Shaha Riza found him guilty of breaking bank rules."

The New York Times said that the board's decision to accept Wolfowitz's claim that his mistakes were made in good faith and " what he believed were the best interests of the institution" followed four days after the investigative committee found he had broken his contract by breaking ethical and governing rules.

Somewhere between the internal panel's investigation and the statement by the bank's board, a lot of legs must have been broken (Dick Cheney was, as you might guess, pulling strings for Wolfowitz from behind an undisclosed curtain) . From the Times:
By all accounts, the terms of Mr. Wolfowitz’s exoneration left a bitter taste with most of the 24 board members, who represent major donor countries, as well as clusters of smaller donor and recipient countries. Most had wanted to adopt the findings of the special board committee that determined he had acted unethically on the matter of Ms. Riza.


It's entirely possible that Wolfowitz honestly believes he did nothing wrong, and that the media really are to blame for his demise at the World Bank. He may have genuinely believed in the myth that Iraqi could use its oil to "finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." or that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda could not have executed the 9/11 attacks without help from Saddam Hussein, or the dozens of other delusional positions he has espoused off and on over the past several years.

I find it particularly revolting that in December 2002 he said of the looming Iraq invasion that, “I do know, emphatically, that it's not a war for oil,” when asked in June 2003 why nuclear power North Korea was being treated differently than Iraq, Wolfowitz said, "The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."

And of course there's the Wolfowitz admission from May 2003 that when it came to justifying the Iraq invasion, the Bush administration "settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."

That "the one reason everyone could agree on" turned out to be a false one likely had little effect on Wolfowitz's conscience. Heck by the time anyone thought to question the fuzzy pretexts of Wolfie's war, "People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend."

Fuzzy Pretexts

Wolfowitz told the World Bank's investigative committee that he really didn't have a choice but to give his girlfriend a raise. See, Ms. Riza had been a World Bank employee for eight years when Wolfie was named bank president in 2005. Riza was also a vocal women's rights advocate. There's not a darn thing wrong with that, of course, unless you use as an excuse to commit extortion.

When Wolfie came to the bank, the bank's ethics committee determined that Riza needed to leave in order to avoid a conflict of interest. Riza agreed to accept an "external assignment" to the U.S. State Department, even though through some unexplained stratagem, she stayed on the World Bank payroll. And through yet another unexplained bit of maneuvering, her income jumped from $133,000 to $193,590 in just two years. As a State Department employee on the World Bank payroll, Riza was making more that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made before taxes.

Why would Wolfie go so far out of his way to help out his girlfriend? He was trying to keep Riza from filing a lawsuit against the World Bank. "The irony of my working to ensure women's participation and rights through the work of the World Bank and [was] stripped of my own rights by this same institution," Riza wrote in a statement to the bank's investigating panel. "I was ready to pursue legal remedies. & I only acquiesced to signing the agreement so as not to cause turmoil at the bank."

According to the investigating panel, Wolfie tried to hide Riza's "deal" from the bank's top legal and ethics officials. (For a more detailed description of these events, see "World Bank's Former Top Lawyer Says Wolfowitz Spurned His Legal Advice" at

As part of his exit deal, Wolfie managed to wrangle himself an extra year's salary before he leaves at the end of June. Something just under 400 grand, no big deal to a guy like Wolfie, really. He's got plenty of ill-gotten loot stashed away, and come July, barring any other job offer, he'll join his pal John Bolton as a six-figure compensated senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Bolton and Wolfowitz, there's a pair, huh? If there is a God, those two will see a lot of each other in the afterlife. And they'll no doubt spend eternity blaming their sins on the media.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Memorial Day

PILE the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo,
Shovel them under and let me work--
I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:
What place is this?
Where are we now?

I am the grass.
Let me work.

-- Carl Sandburg

In my 21 years as a naval flight officer, I never knew anyone who died in combat.

A classmate from Aviation Officer Candidate School was in the right seat of a P-3 Orion when the guy in the left seat flew the plane into a mountain in the Philippines.

On the first day of my first cruise on the USS Ranger, a young enlisted guy got blown off the flight deck by jet blast from an A-7 Corsair preparing to taxi to the catapult. We never found the young enlisted guy, but months later, while we were in port at Subic Bay, divers working over the side on the hull found pieces of his flight deck cranial helmet wedged into the hub of one of the ship's propellers.

Later that cruise, we had an engineering main space fire that took all day to put out. Six of the ship's engineers managed to flee the conflagration in their workspace through the escape trunk, but they neglected to don the emergency breathing devices available to them at several places along their egress route. By the time they made it to the safety of the hangar bay, they had inhaled so much smoke that their red blood cells could no longer bond with oxygen molecules. The docs laid them in stretchers on one of the aircraft elevators, where they peacefully suffocated under a clear Pacific Ocean sky.

During my first Mediterranean Sea cruise, an S-3 Viking shot off the catapult, went nose down, and flew to the bottom of the ocean. We never found the S-3 or its three crewmembers. Not long after that, an H-3 helicopter returning from shore simply disappeared over deep water halfway back to the ship. We never found those guys either.

Later on that cruise, an F/A-18 Hornet pilot flying a training mission in Oman turned left when he should have turned right, and crashed into the wall of Star Wars Canyon. We couldn't find enough of him to send home to his parents.

On my second Mediterranean cruise, we saw combat action in both Kosovo and Iraq. I think we flew over 3,000 combat sorties with no casualties to air or ground crew. After all the shooting and bombing were over, some machinist's mate on one of our destroyers was doing a routing maintenance job when the piece of power equipment he was working with flew apart, and part of it flew through his head. Circumstances led me to share a helicopter ride from the fleet into Bahrain with this young sailor. I was in a passenger seat, wearing a flight suit. He was in the back of the plane, wearing a body bag.

Later that deployment, as we were returning home, a young sailor was killed in a bizarre accident involving a test fire of one of our ship's anti-aircraft batteries. I was in the ship's dimly lit combat direction center, looking at radar displays, when I heard over a headset that one of our flight deck observers had been cut in half by a piece of the wire used to tow the airborne target.

A young lieutenant commander did a bang up job in a ground billet for me on that cruise while going through a messy divorce. He fell into a good relationship with another officer during that tour, and he was thrilled when he got orders to return to flight duty. He positively beamed when he spoke at the farewell luncheon we threw for him.

The next I heard of him was almost a year later, after I had retired. An e-mail from a shipmate said that the young lieutenant commander had disappeared, along with his airplane and the rest of its crew, in the vicinity of Puerto Rico during a naval exercise. Never found: no lieutenant commander, no airplane, no fellow crewmembers. Somebody in the old crowd let his girlfriend know what had happened. I was glad it didn't have to be me.

When it comes to direct experience with fallen comrades, I got off pretty easy. Great wartime leaders like Dwight Eisenhower and Chester Nimitz lost millions of men and women under their commands--sometimes tens of thousands in a single day. One war story says that after one of the big island battles of World War II, Nimitz was so distraught over the number of Marine casualties that he briefly considered resigning and turning control of the entire Pacific war effort over to Douglas McArthur.

Over the past two weeks, I've read a lot of op-ed pieces on the meaning of Memorial Day. Many of these editorials pretend to decry using the holiday as a platform for political speech, but are, in fact, flimsy pretexts for supporting Mr. Bush's war in Iraq and attacking people who are opposed to it. Simply put, these kinds of diatribes are not about sacrifice--they're about glorifying wars, past, present and future. They're political speech flimsily disguised as non-political speech.

To hell with all that. My Memorial Day is about the thoughts I've already shared with you, and in three quotes from Dwight Eisenhower I'd also like to leave you with.
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

I think that people want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

John Bolton: I am not a Neocon

So you thought we were shed of John Bolton? Think again.

Last Thursday, the former (and never confirmed) U.S Ambassador to the United Nations was wreaking havoc in London. In an interview with John Humphrys, host of the BBC's flagship radio show Today, Bolton boiled over like an unwatched tea kettle.

When Humphrys asked if the Bush administration was "busted flush" after Iraq, Bolton shot back, "You're absolutely wrong ... The people who express the point of view that you just expressed I think were largely anti-American beforehand anyway."

Humphrys, defending himself, said he was impartial but was just playing devil's advocate, saying, "Maybe they don't do it like that in the United States."

"I know. You're a superior Brit," Bolton said.

Humphrys asked if Bolton is World Bank chairman Paul Wolfowitz was "about to go" due to the scandal involving Wolfowitz giving his girlfriend a raise. "I see you're a gravedigger too," Bolton answered.

But perhaps Bolton's most outrageous moment came when he denied being a neoconservative. "I'm not a neocon, number one, but number two, I don't think the neocon adventure is over."

No. The neocon adventure isn't over as long as the likes of John Bolton are running loose.

Neo-con Jobs

For Bolton at this late stage in the neoconservative reign to deny that he was ever one himself is a sublime act of denial. His signature appeared on the Project for the New American Century's January 1998 that urged President Clinton to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Bolton also signed the May '98 PNAC letter to Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott that called for use of military force to oust Hussein. These days, having been shoved out of his U.N. Ambassador spot, Bolton is hanging his hat as a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the neoconservative think tank that was the parent organization to the PNAC.

According to the U.K. Telegraph, Bolton also "still has close links to the Bush administration," which goes a way in explaining what he was doing in Britain last week. Bolton told the Telegraph "that the European Union had to 'get more serious' about Iran and recognise that its diplomatic attempts to halt Iran's enrichment programme had failed."

Bolton said that Iran has "clearly mastered the enrichment technology now...they're not stopping, they're making progress and our time is limited." Bolton, a close ally of fellow AEI and PNAC member Dick Cheney, said the next step with Iran should be sanctions "with pain," followed by attempts to overthrow Iran's theocratic regime and eventually military strikes to destroy the country's nuclear facilities.

Bolton's remarks coincided with reports that the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency has determined that Iran is now capable of producing energy grade uranium. They also came shortly before an ABC News story that revealed Mr. Bush has signed a "nonlethal presidential finding" that authorizes a CIA operation that reportedly includes a coordinated propaganda and disinformation campaign along with manipulation of Iran's currency and international monetary transactions.

And speaking of propaganda and disinformation campaigns: on Tuesday, May 22, Simon Tisdall of the U.K. Guardian filed a story titled "Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq."
Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering U.S. Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

"Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."

This report, supported by claims of anonymous "U.S. officials," echoed similar claims made by similarly anonymous officials in January and February of 2007, claims that the mainstream media eventually dismissed as being unsubstantiated.

Interestingly enough, none of the U.S. mainstream news outlets picked up on the May 22 Guardian story, but within hours of its appearance on the web, the story had been reproduced or linked to by right wing media sources like Free Republic, Fox News, National Review Online and Drudge Report.

All this is coming out on the advent of ambassador level talks between the U.S. and Iran in Baghdad scheduled for May 28. Supposedly, these talks will only address the security situation in Iraq, and will not touch on Iran's nuclear program. It's difficult to imagine, though, that the diplomats involved will be able to cooperate on the Iraq issue in the context of the ongoing friction over the nuclear issue. Also keep in mind that while the Bush administration continues to refer to Iran's ambition to acquire nuclear weapons, Iran has long insisted that it only wants to develop an independent nuclear energy industry, an "inalienable right" guaranteed by the U.N. Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, a treaty signed and ratified by the United States.

During his tenure at the State Department and as Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton was to diplomacy what cheese is to healthy bowel functions. The last Congress finally flushed him out of the system, thanks largely to Lincoln Chaffee (R-Rhode Island) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

So what in the wide world of political arts and sciences was he doing in England, talking up the Cheney-centric neoconservative agenda? He has no portfolio or credentials. He almost certainly didn't make his trip to England on his own dime. Odds are that AEI floated the junket. AEI is a not-for-profit organization. That means AEI doesn't pay taxes on contributions given to it, and AEI contributors get tax breaks on money they contribute to AEI. That leaves AEI with all kinds of extra money to send people like John Bolton England to promote their private agendas and those of their contributors. Who picks up the difference in tax revenues? Peons like you and me, none of whom directly or indirectly (through the appointment/confirmation process) elected anybody at AEI shape or promote foreign policies that we clearly told our elected officials in November that we disagree with.

And who do you reckon made the call to send Bolton to England? I couldn't say for sure, but I'd bet you a happy hour cocktail that his initials stand for "Dick Cheney."

Related article: Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush's Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush" by Steven C. Clemons of The Washington Note.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dick Cheney: Visions of Mushroom Clouds

Dick Cheney is still up to his old tricks. Two Sundays ago, in an interview with Bob Schieffer, old Last Throes said:
The fact is that the threat to the United States now of a 9/11 occurring with a group of terrorists armed not with airline tickets and box cutters, but with a nuclear weapon in the middle of one of our own cities, is the greatest threat we face. It's a very real threat. It's something that we have to worry about and defeat every single day.

This rhetoric hearkens back to the boo noise administration hawks made during the run up to the Iraq invasion when then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." The mushroom cloud trick is as much of a canard now as it was then, and most Americans have caught on to it. But the administration's propaganda target isn't "most" Americans. The inheritors of the Party of Abraham Lincoln don't aim to fool all of he people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time. They just want to fool enough of the people enough of the time to keep Congress from blocking their agenda.

The Target Audience

At the bottom tier of the target audience is that segment of the non-cognizant right that can barely read a phone bill or write a check. One such citizen recently wrote this comment in reply to one of my columns that criticized the "surge" strategy (reproduced here verbatim.)
If you cant see that this war was success then you wont see that the stragety is working. These idiots cant see past their hatred of Bush. It was good thing we got Hussein out when we did. Its a good thing that AQ is fight in Iraq instead of in Florida. Majority of these people think Global Warming is more of a threat than Terrorism. Political Correctness will hender any other operation that takes place.

Another group in the target range is the military family. The noise machine tells these folks that Americans against the Iraq war who are not part of a military family don't understand the sacrifices service members are making. Indeed, the Rovewellians assert, most Americans who don't have a loved one directly involved in the war aren't even aware that there's a war going on. Yes, that's a fabulous claim considering that most American voters just kicked the Republicans out of control of Congress over the Iraq war, but hey, Bush administration propaganda has never been a fact-based enterprise.

We also have a contingent of reasonably well-educated professionals--lawyers, doctors, etc.--who through political and cultural upbringing are predisposed to support any and all policies framed as "conservative" positions.

Then there's that segment of the Christian right that sees our war in Iraq as part of a righteous, latter-day Crusade against the Muslim world.

We also have a peculiar cadre of military veterans--as personified by the American Legion--for whom blind allegiance to a Republican wartime commander in chief equates to "patriotism."

Again, this audience demographic won't win the Congress back in '08, nor is it sufficient to keep the Democratic majority from continuing to press for control of the Iraq policy. But from the administration's perspective, it may be sufficiently representative of the electorate to prevent a total abandonment of the White House by congressional Republicans, an abandonment that might negate Mr. Bush's veto powers.

Taking the Message Overseas to Bring it Home

In theory, the U.S. government isn't supposed to direct covert propaganda directly at the American public through U.S. media sources. But that doesn't keep the Bush administration from pouring its brainwash into the American psyche through the back door.

On Tuesday, May 22, Simon Tisdall of the U.K. Guardian filed a story titled
"Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq."
Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

"Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."

This is precisely that "sanctioned leak" style of propaganda on Iran's activities in Iraq that the U.S. mainstream media debunked back in February of this year. But, what the heck, if the administration can recycle its fabrications through the foreign press, the domestic Big Brother Broadcast will be perfectly happy to echo it.

By 7 PM eastern time, the Guardian story had been republished or linked to at Free Republic, Fox News, National Review Online and Drudge Report and other right wing web sites.

Based on what I read in the comments page at Free Republic, the non-cognizant tier of the target audience took this story in hook, line and sinker. ABC News reported Tuesday that Mr. Bush has authorized a new "covert action against Iran" that includes a coordinated campaign of propaganda and disinformation. Based on the Guardian story, it looks like the campaign is well underway.

As the struggle for control of the Iraq policy continues between Mr. Bush and Congress, expect to hear more lulus from Dick Cheney and other administration mouthpieces, but look for the tall tales to come to us via the foreign media.


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

Monday, May 21, 2007

Iraq: Fred Kagan and the "Krazies"

In a May 6 New York Times article, noted neoconservative and chief architect of the Iraq escalation strategy Fred Kagan said that lack of a "Plan B" is no reason to criticize the surge. He argues that, in fact, "there is no Plan B because there cannot be one." There can be no Plan B, he further states, because "The strategy now underway in Iraq… will change the situation in Iraq significantly, whether or not it succeeds in its aims."

Whether the surge succeeds, fails or fall somewhere in between, there's no need to plan ahead to the next step because it's too soon to tell what that next step might need to be. We can't predict now what things will look like in the fall, when U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus is scheduled to report on the surge progress to Congress. So there's no sense revisiting alternate plans proposed in late 2006--they'll be irrelevant in 2007. Kagan tells us we especially don't want to revert to that darn old Iraq Study Group (ISG) proposal. It won't make any sense at all come this fall, according to Kagan.

But then, when it comes to not making sense, Fred Kagan is in a league of his own.

In January 2007, when he published Producing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, Kagan stated that "Other courses of action have been proposed. All will fail." He especially condemned the idea of increasing imbedded trainers for Iraqi forces and engaging in diplomatic talks with Iraq's neighbors, and pretty much everything else the Iraq Study Group (ISG) proposed.

On Sunday, Kagan hit the political chat show circuit to bolster support for his escalation strategy, which was interesting timing.

We Got Your Plan B Right Here, Mister

On Monday, Washington Post writer Michael Abramowitz reported that the recommendations of the ISG, once all but summarily dismissed by the administration, are being looked at again by both the White House and congressional Republicans. Lawmakers from both parties plan to introduce legislation soon that will make the ISG's 79 recommendations official U.S. policy. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) says the ISG's recommendations are "gaining more support in the Congress because the situation in Iraq is not going as well as we had hoped."

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), one of the bill's sponsors, says, "My sense among Republican Senators is we know very well that the current course is not a sustainable course over a longer period of time. If we drift into September, [the president] may not be able to find a bipartisan basis to support a long-term limited interest in Iraq."

Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the ISG, says that Washington officials "don't know what to do… They don't have a framework. They are looking. They are searching. Something has to follow the surge [of U.S. troops to Iraq]--they are interested in our proposals as a framework for policy."

Put another way, "they" desperately need a Plan B to pull out of their sleeves when Petraeus comes to them in September with nothing in his hand but his hat.

But the truth be told, they need more than a Plan B. It may well be that come September, the ISG's recommended diplomatic, economic and rebuilding measures will be overcome by events on the ground, especially if the surge increases the scope of violence throughout Iraq, and U.S. troops find themselves in the middle of a Hobbesian cross-fire for which even deluded ideologues like Fred Kagan can't suggest a "victorious" solution. Plan C will look very much like the "redeployment option" that Representative Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) proposed in the fall of 2005. (Come fall of 2008, the administration won't credit Murtha for this idea. They'll call it a "containment strategy," and hope nobody remembers that's what we called the strategy we conducted for the decade between Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.)

Unfortunately, Plan C may not be enough to cover the likely contingencies. If we let Kagan and the rest of the neoconservative cabal push us down Plan A far enough and long enough, we'll need a Plan D like the one that William Lind described at in March 2007.
America now has an army…of more than 140,000, deep in Persia (which effectively includes Shiite Iraq, despite the ethnic difference). We are propping up a shaky local regime in a civil war. Our local allies are of dubious loyalty, and the surrounding population is not friendly. Our lines of communication, supply and retreat all run south, to Kuwait, through Shiite militia country. They then extend on through the Persian Gulf, which is called that for a reason. If those lines are cut, many of our troops have only one way out…up through Kurdish country and [Turkey] to the coast.

Lind outlines two plausible catastrophe scenarios, either or both of which could dictate such a dire retreat strategy. In the first, Shia militias would target and disrupt our vulnerable supply lines between Baghdad and Kuwait. In the second, Iran, probably in response to a U.S. attack, would shut down the Persian Gulf. As Lind says, "Both of these threats are sufficiently real," and the old military virtue of prudence suggests that plans should be made to react to such contingencies.

Neocon Carne

There's not an ounce of meat in Fred Kagan's strategies or in his arguments. I spent enough time as a tactical and operational planner during my military career to know that anybody who says, "All other plans but mine will fail" and "we must stick with my plan whether it works or not, and not make plans for what to do if it doesn't work" should be shown to the front gate. That Kagan spent 10 years as a professor of military history at West Point makes me shudder at the damage he may have done to the long-term intellectual integrity of the Army officer corps. That some our most senior policy makers still listen to him is a leading symptom of the critical level our national insanity has reached.

That GOP legislators appear to be standing up to Mr. Bush and his neocon inner circle may be a harbinger of more rational policies and strategies ahead. But it's no guarantee that Congress can put what one active duty four-star military officer allegedly referred to as "the crazies" back in their box.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Two Words: Body Armor

“I’ve told many family I’ve met with, ‘We’re doing everything we possibly can to protect your loved ones.’”

--George W. Bush, December 2004

Body armor is back in the news. Again. Imagine that. Like so many of the Bush administration's follies, failings and felonies, the body armor story is one that submerges for months or years but that, over time, consistently manages to break the surface.

In July of 2004, Christian Lowe of the Army Times reported that the Marine Corps had issued nearly 10,000 armor vests that government experts had urged the Corps to reject. Lowe wrote that in all, the Corps had accepted 19 "Interceptor" vests from Point Blank Body Armor Inc. that had failed government tests. The Marine Corps eventually recalled 5,000 of the issued vests, but only under pressure of imminent publication of an eight-month investigation on the story by the Marine Corps Times.

That the Point Blank armor was inferior or defective shouldn't have come as a surprise to government inspectors. In September 2005, Trevor Aaronson of Broward-Palm Beach New Times revealed that the New York Police Department had rejected 900 of 1,000 Point Blank vests as a result of tests conducted by the New York Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau, tests that were conducted clear back in April of 2002.

An aside: In 2004, David H. Brooks, chairman of DHB Industries which owns Point Blank Inc., earned $70 million, plus $187 million in company stock sales. In 2005, the Southern States Police Benevolent Association (SSPBA) filed a class action lawsuit against Point Blank in April of 2005, claiming that Point Blank knew it was selling defective body armor.

In early 2006, DefenseWatch released a secret Marine Corps report that said 80 percent of the 401 Marines killed in Iraq between April 2004 and June 2005 might have been saved if the Point Blank Interceptor body armor they were wearing was more effective.

Exit the Dragon

By 2004, a newer generation of body armor was gaining the respect of military and law enforcement experts. Dragon Skin, produced by Pinnacle Armor Inc., was thought by many to be far superior to Point Blank's Interceptor vest, and soldiers and Marines bound for combat zones began to acquire their own Dragon Skin vests (in some instances, service members' families and friends contributed money to buy the newer style body armor).

In March 2006, the Army banned the use of privately bought armor. Col. Thomas Spoehr, director of materiel for the Army, said at the time that, "We're very concerned that people are spending their hard-earned money on something that doesn't provide the level of protection that the Army requires people to wear. So they're, frankly, wasting their money on substandard stuff."

The Army's ban specifically addressed Pinnacle's Dragon Skin, stating "the Army has been unable to determine the veracity" of claims that Dragon Skin was superior to the Interceptor armor.

Enter the Media

On May 18, 2007, the NBC News Investigative Unit broke a story that indicated the Army has not been quite been telling the truth. NBC quoted Brigadier General Mark Brown, who oversees the Army's body armor program, as saying, “The body armor that we issue to our soldiers today [the Point Blank Interceptor vest] is the best in the world. Bar none. It’s proven by live-fire testing, and it’s proven in combat.”

NBC also interviewed the man who designed the Interceptor over a decade ago, retired Marine Colonel Jim Magee. When asked what he considered to be the best body armor available today, Magee replied, "Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down. It's better than the Interceptor. It is state of the art. In some cases, it’s two steps ahead of anything I’ve ever seen."

NBC also noted that Magee has no financial interest in Dragon Skin.

Brigadier General Brown disagreed with Magee's assessment, and told NBC's Lisa Myers that the Army conducted its own tests of Dragon Skin in 2006. He said that "Thirteen of 48 shots that were taken at Dragon Skin were penetrating, full penetrating shots," and that the Dragon Skin had "failed miserably." Those tests, Brown suggested, led the Army to issue a "safety of usage" message, warning soldiers and commanders that use of Dragon Skin could cause.

Funny thing, though. The tests Brown described were conducted in May 2006, months after the Army banned Dragon Skin in March of that year. When confronted by this fact by Myers, Brown responded, "Lisa, I’m--I’m not aware of that… I don’t know that it had not been tested at that time. I wasn’t here."

Hammana, hammana, hammana…

Not All There

Nevan Rupert says the Army's timing wasn't coincidental. A mechanical engineer and ballistics expert, he had spent seven years evaluating Dragon Skin for the Army at the time the May 2006 tests were conducted. He did not attend those tests, he told NBC's Myers, because the Army ordered him not to. "They didn't want you there?" Myers asked him.

"They didn't want a lot of people there," Rupert said.

Rupert told Myers that since Dragon Skin had not been developed by the Army, some officials viewed as a threat of funding for the Interceptor armor and other Army acquisition programs.

The Army fired Rupert in February 2007. Rupert had spent over 33 years as a civilian employee with the Weapons & Materials Research Directorate at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Rupert says he was dismissed for his support of the Dragon Skin armor.

Geese and Ganders

Thought the Dragon Skin ban supposedly applied to everyone in the Army, but in reality, it doesn't appear to apply to three-star generals and their staffs. Sources and documents obtained by NBC revealed that former ground commander in Iraq Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli and his staff had something of a penchant for the state-of-the-art body armor.

In response, a "Pentagon spokesman" said that Chiarelli “had no knowledge that Dragon Skin was prohibited.” Seriously. The ground commander in Iraq didn't know the Army had banned the use of Dragon Skin by his ground troops?

The spokesman also allowed as how Chiarelli knew his bodyguards ordered and received concealed body armor, he “didn't know the armor was Dragon Skin.”

Given Chiarelli's apparent ignorance of Army directives and what was going on in his own staff, it's little wonder the situation on the ground went to hell in a howitzer during his stewardship of it.

As part of its investigation, NBC conducted an independent side-by-side test of Dragon Skin and the Interceptor. Dragon Skin was a clear winner. Retired four-star Army Gen. Wayne Downing, an NBC military analyst, observed the tests and said, “What we saw today, Lisa, and again it’s a limited number of trials, Dragon Skin was significantly better.”

Shortly after NBC ran its report on Nightly News Senators Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and Jim Webb (D-Virginia) called on Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker to initiate a Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation to reassess the body armor systems currently being issued to military personnel.

That's a nice gesture on the part of the Senators, I suppose. Four years into Iraq, five years into Afghanistan, we might get a GAO investigation of the body armor fiasco. How long will it take for the GAO to determine the Dragon Skin body armor is better? Then, how long will it take for Congress to approve the money necessary to buy new body armor for all the troops? After that, how long will it take Pinnacle Inc. to make enough Dragon Skin jackets to meet the order?

It may be that the best we can hope for is that by the time the troops get state-of-the-art body armor, they won't need it any more.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The War Czar Friedman

Ray Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, says Iraqi officials are now showing a "sense of urgency" about making progress on political measures. But, uh, he warns that we shouldn't expect any dramatic gains before the end of the summer.

The end of the summer is, of course, in September, which also happens to be the month in which Central Command chief General David Petraeus is supposed to tell Congress whether or not the so-called "surge" strategy is working. Problem: the only measure by which the surge can be judged is dramatic gains in the political process, which Ambassador Crocker tells we won't see by September. But Crocker warns that it won't be fair to conclude the new strategy has failed come September. Which means all this talk of evaluation things in September is a total crock of livestock digestion.

Limping to the Finish Line

Well, now, before the November elections, Mr. Bush told us he expected Donald Rumsfeld to stay in place as Secretary of Defense through the end of Mr. Bush's term. When we voted young Mr. Bush's sycophants in Congress out of power, Rumsfeld caught the train to Palookaville, and Bush unveiled his new and improved Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. Gates, we later found out, had already been interviewed for the SecDef job when Bush was telling us Rumsfeld would stick around for the duration.

For nearly four years, prior to the door colliding with Rummy's bum on his way out, we heard from the Bush camp that additional troops in Iraq weren't needed because commanders on the ground said they weren't necessary, and as Mr. Bush always maintained, it was important for him, as commander in chief, to listen to the commanders on the ground. With Rummy gone, the commanders on the ground Bush had been listening to--Generals John Abizaid and George Casey--got the bum's rush too, and Bush replaced he whole caboodle with a bunch that said more troops in Iraq was the way to go.

The administration sold the "surge" plan on the basis that it was the idea of new U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus, the "brilliant" officer who had supervised production of the Army's new field manual on counterinsurgency. The administration then argued that having confirmed Petraeus's appoint to the top job in Iraq, Congress couldn't then turn around and pass legislation that blocked Petraeus from giving his surge plan time to succeed. Except the surge plan--more accurately described as the "escalation strategy"--wasn't the brainchild of Petraeus. No, the escalation scheme sprang from the minds of Frederick Kagan and retired general Jack Keane, prominent members of the American Enterprise Institute and luminaries in constellation of neoconservatives who got us into this Iraq fiasco in the first place.

The injection of Petraeus and the surge bought the administration six more months of "past bedtime" time, but as Ambassador Crocker's remarks indicate, six months won't be enough to accomplish whatever was supposed to be accomplished. Time has run out months before its time.

Little wonder then that as we hear that yet another timeline/benchmark can't be met, we get another smoke and mirror show about the new "War Czar."

Czar Wars

Lieutenant General Douglas E. Lute will take on the newly created job of "War Czar," a position turned down by at least five retired four-stars. Lute will work under National Security Adviser Steven Hadley, and supposedly will report directly to the president on coordination matters involving cabinet secretaries and four star commanders in Central Command, Iraq and Afghanistan. No one seems certain how having a three-star riding roughshod on his military and civilian superiors is supposed to work out. Lute's clout, in theory, will come from his access to Mr. Bush, but that's a heck of a way to run an organization. What's Lute supposed to do? Tell the likes of Condi Rice or Central Command chief Admiral William Fallon, "Do what I tell you or I'll snitch to the old man?"

Yeah. That'll go over like a lead zeppelin.

It's hard to say what Lute's real function will be. He may be the conduit for Bush to transmit his wishes to the commanders and secretaries. He may also be the designated messenger who gives Mr. Bush an earful of what the commanders and secretaries have to say. Whatever the case, he's unlikely to be successful. The commanders and secretaries already know Mr. Bush won't issue detailed directives (he doesn't do detail) and that he won't listen to anything he doesn't want to hear. Whatever messages Lute transmits in either direction are destined to fall on deaf ears.

Lute's real function is twofold. First, he will provide another layer of distance from the Bush inner circle and its profound failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Second, he is the down payment on the next "Friedman unit." A "Friedman" refers to multiple iterations by New York Times of the sentiment that in "the next six months we're going to find out…whether a decent outcome is possible" in the Iraq war.

General Petraeus's Friedman runs out in September of this year. If things world out right for the Bush administration, Lute's "War Czar" Friedman will stretch the Iraq escalation strategy out to March of 2008. At that point, we may see a "Diplomacy Dominatrix" appointed to carry Bush through Friedman and a fraction left before the November elections.

And lamentably, it may be January of 2009 before we get a "Peace Pope" who can pull us out of Iraq and figure out a way to salvage something out of the situation in Afghanistan.


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

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Long Live the War Czar

Hey, boy, our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan are over now. We have a war czar, ladies and gentlemen. Happy days are here again.

Lieutenant General Douglas E. Lute, active duty Army, has agreed to take a job that at least five retired four-stars declined. Presently serving as chief operations officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Lute will move ahead of many seniors as he assumes authority to deal directly with cabinet secretaries and top military commanders.

Why Lute? "General Lute is a tremendously accomplished military leader who understands war and government and knows how to get things done," Mr. Bush said. One has to wonder: if Lute understands war and government and knows how to get things done, what's he still doing in the Bush administration?

According to National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, Lute had been skeptical of he "surge" strategy, arguing that additional troops in Iraq would do little good unless matched by equal diplomatic and economic efforts. "He had the same skepticism a lot of us had," Hadley said. Interesting. That remark leads one to believe that Hadley was skeptical about the surge plan, and to wonder how the plan got adopted if he National Security Adviser was so skeptical about it.

One might also suspect that Hadley's skepticism was the reason he was so eager to establish a war czar. Coordinating the efforts of cabinet secretaries and military commanders in time of war is supposed to be the National Security Adviser's job. By pawning that job off on a three-star general, Hadley rids himself of a giant headache.

John Sheehan, one of the retired generals who turned down the war czar post, said of Lute, "I wish the guy luck. He's got his work cut out for him."

Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies is even more sanguine about Lutes' prospects for success. "The most serious problem everyone has in any coordinated approach to Iraq is that the problems are beyond his control -- including relations between the White House and Congress," Cordesman said. "He is also a coordinator who works for a White House that has no long-term plan or strategy."

Jon Soltz of the antiwar has an even more cynical view of the war czar post. "This proves the president is throwing in the towel when it comes to directing the military, and is giving up his constitutional role," he said. "The troops are now depending on Lt. Gen. Lute to do something the president wouldn't -- listen to commanders who are telling him we need more diplomacy, not escalation."

Lute's wariness of the troop escalation in Iraq is not an opinion he arrived at recently. In a January 2006 interview, he told PBS's Charlie Rose that the military wanted to see "a smaller, lighter, less prominent U.S. force structure in Iraq." The smaller footprint, Lute explained, would lessen the perception of "occupation" and prevent a "dependency syndrome," a belief by the Iraqis that U.S. forces would do everything necessary to provide security and prevent the need for local forces to stand up.

Did Lute really believe that back in January 2006? More importantly, does he believe that now? If he does, he's just signed on to support a strategy he's opposed to.

It may be, though, that Lute is part of a movement within the military to wrest control of the war strategy away from the think tank neoconservatives. The escalation plan, after all, did not come from U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus or from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. It came from Frederick Kagan and retired general Jack Keane, prominent members of the American Enterprise Institute. Are we witnessing an ever so subtle "revolt of the generals?"

Gareth Porter of suggests that perhaps we are.

When Admiral William Fallon was nominated to head Central Command, many wondered why a naval aviator had been chosen to lead a unified command in which two land wars were taking place. Some observers (including me) surmised that a naval aviator like Fallon was the perfect choice to oversee an air and maritime campaign against Iran. But Porter paints a very different picture.
Adm. William Fallon, then President George W. Bush's nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM, according to sources with access to his thinking.

Porter cites an anonymous source who met privately with Fallon during his confirmation process who quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch." Fallon told the source that he was not alone. "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box," Fallon reportedly said.

Porter also suggests that it was Fallon's influence that reversed the Bush administration's policy of not engaging in direct talks with Iran about the security situation in Iraq--a policy generally thought to have been championed by Dick Cheney. Cheney, presumably, is among those who Fallon referred to as "the crazies," and "several of us" most likely refers to a key group of four-star officers who, like Fallon, are trying to reform policy from within the establishment.

In that light, Lute's appointment as war czar makes a certain amount of sense. As a three-star, he certainly can't ride roughshod over four-star commanders and cabinet secretaries. But he can carry his superiors' mail to the White House, and make it clear to young Mr. Bush--in a way that Steven Hadley can't--that the grown ups are sick of the neocon nonsense.

Granted, we're trying to read tealeaves here, but it's been relatively clear that military and foreign policy experts (including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff) have been opposed to the escalation strategy --and Bush foreign policies in general--for some time.

And it's looking more and more like the key shakers and movers are sending a signal to the White House--we've already written our resignation and retirement letters. You either stop listening to the "crazies" and start listening to us or we'll all click on the "print" button.


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

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hapless in Iraq

The U.S. State and Defense Departments are at loggerheads over Iraq. Again. Still. This time, they're going toe-to-toe over how to revive the Iraqi economy. The Pentagon wants to reopen Iraq's old state run businesses. State says that would be antithetical to free-market reforms.

One senior official says, "There has been a surprising degree of venom and hostility" between the two cabinet departments over the issue. Things have gotten so bad that Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Paul Brinkley has stopped working with the U.S. Embassy in Iraq altogether, and has set up his office in another part of the Green Zone.

"We tend to not deal with them very often," Brinkley said dismissively of embassy officials. "We have our own mission, and we do our own thing." Unlike those fuddy duddy embassy types, Brinkley sees a bright commercial future for Baghdad. He expects several factories to open this summer, and envisions Wal-Mart and other U.S. retailers selling made-in-Baghdad leather jackets, shoes, carpets, and pin-stripe suits.

Those Poor Kids at the Embassy

Most embassy employees, however, seem to have more on their minds than free-market reforms. McClatchey story reports that they're getting mad as hell over security measures in the Green Zone where recent mortar and rocket attacks recently killed six people, including two U.S. citizens. Most employees still sleep in trailers that one described as "tin cans." The trailers' sides are surrounded by sandbags, but the roofs are unprotected. The U.S. government won't harden the roofs, one employee says, because of the cost involved. One might think Defense Undersecretary Brinkley might look into hiring an Iraqi state-run business to armor those trailer roofs, but nah. He has his own mission; he does his own thing.

Another employee says it's "criminally negligent" not to reduce the size of the embassy staff, but "They're not going to send us home because it's going to be another admission of failure."

The embassy employees the McClatchy story cited spoke under condition of anonymity because they'd been ordered not to talk about security concerns with reporters.

Those Poor Soldiers

Four more U.S. soldiers were killed in attacks around Baghdad on Monday. The three soldiers kidnapped by some outfit the military claims is connected to al-Qaeda are still missing, and 4,000 other soldiers have been diverted from whatever they were supposed to be doing to look for their missing comrades.

Starting Monday, U.S. military personnel in Iraq and elsewhere overseas will lose their access to web sites like You Tube and MySpace on Department of Defense computers and networks. They can, of course, access these sites through their own computers and networks, but how many soldiers in Iraq do you reckon have their own computers and networks?

Poor Choice of Diplomats

Dick Cheney is back from his whirlwind Diplomatic tour of the Middle East. He says he found that Iraqi political leaders have a "greater sense of urgency," probably means they don't. He also suggested that Iraq's Parliament not take two months off over the summer, which means they probably will.

On the surface, it's difficult to see the point of Mr. Cheney's Middle East visits, but a pattern seems to be emerging. It looks like every time Condi Rice goes over there, Cheney comes in behind to make sure she didn't accidentally accomplish anything positive.

His visit to an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf to announce that America will not allow Iran to dominate the Middle East seemed perfectly timed to throw a damper on the upcoming ambassador level talks between the U.S. and Iran in Baghdad about curbing the sectarian violence in Iraq.

Cheney and his neoconservative pals don't like the idea of talking to Iran. Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute "I think it's foolish to believe that Iran sees its interests as compatible with American interests in Iraq."

Hopefully, State Department will manage to keep Cheney and the neoconservatives from meddling in the Iran negotiations. U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker has been in the Foreign Service since 1971 and shows few symptoms of being an ideologue soul mate of Cheney's. That's a lot more that you can say for Crocker's predecessor, Zalmay Khalilzad, who along with Cheney was a charter member of the now infamous Project for the New American Century PNAC. Jim Lobe of Electronic Iraq says that George W. Bush gave the thumbs up for direct U.S.-Iran talks 18 months ago, while Khalilzad was still Ambassador to Iraq. Funny how those talks didn't come about until after Khalilzad was out of the picture.

It would be nice to think that at long last the neocons are losing their influence on Bush foreign policy. Keep in mind, though, that the escalation strategy was crafted by Frederick Kagan and Jack Keane, two conspicuous members of the American Enterprise Institute and long time cronies of PNAC founder William Kristol.

For now, let's hope the U.S. State and Defense departments can maintain a cease fire between themselves in the Green Zone long enough for the U.S.-Iran talks to take place.


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

Monday, May 14, 2007

How to Lose Two Wars Without Really Trying

Last week, Afghanistan's upper house of Parliament recommended that the government begin peace talks with the Taliban and that foreign forces in the country cease all offensive operations. As written, the bill is unlikely to pass, but the fact that it's been proposed at all tells you how far south things have gone in what was once the "crown jewel" in our so-called war on terror.

Why would Afghanistan's Parliament bite the hand that created it? Civilian deaths, of course.

Hearts, Minds and Other Body Parts

Carlotta Gall and David E. Sanger of the New York Times report that "Scores of civilian deaths over the past months from heavy American and allied reliance on air strikes to battle Taliban insurgents are threatening popular support for the Afghan government and creating severe strains within the NATO alliance."

Many "collateral damage" deaths are the result of an over reliance on airpower to compensate for lack of ground troops in theater. As one senior NATO official said, “Without air, we’d need hundreds of thousands of troops.”

Is this starting to sound like another war we happen to be fighting right now? It should. And so should this. According to Gall and Sanger, American officials also "contend that the key to reducing casualties is training more Afghan soldiers and police officers."

Like Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Afghan President Hamid Karzai attempted to institute an amnesty program to contain the threats to his government. In Karzai's case, the program targeted the Taliban, and showed some signs of success until Afghanistan's ballooning drug trade helped the Taliban ranks to swell.

In Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces, supposedly working together, actually operate under separate chains of command. In Afghanistan, NATO is supposedly in charge, but U.S. special forces and counterterrorism units operate separately from the NATO command, and U.S. and NATO commanders have never fully agreed on a strategy for fighting the war. This too is reminiscent of the situation in Iraq, where the coalition strategy has changed as often as the reasons we supposedly invaded the country in the first place.

As in Iraq, we're looking for military fixes to problems in Afghanistan that require political solutions. We're seen as occupiers in both countries, we can't control the borders of either country and the overwhelming sentiment in both countries is that the sooner we leave, the better. After years of nation building (four in Iraq, five in Afghanistan), nobody seriously considers either country to have a "sovereign" government. Victory is not in sight in either country; there's not even a recognizable concept of what "victory" might be.

How did the country that saved humanity in two world wars and a global cold war put itself in such a mess?

Strategies and Tragedies

The "terrorists"--whoever exactly they are--do not have a navy or an air force, or anything that by modern standards resembles a proper army. Potential state adversaries who do have formal military forces (Iran, for instance) wouldn't stand a chance against us in a no-holds-barred conventional war. The U.S. now spends as much or more on defense as rest of the world combined, yet our military might does not effectively defend our shores (9/11) or achieve our national aims overseas (Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.).

A popular adage says that America consistently plans to fight the last war. It's more accurate to say that America consistently plans to fight the last world war. Thanks largely to what Dwight Eisenhower referred to as the "unwarranted influence" of the military industrial complex, America spent over a half century developing an armed force designed to fight a high tech analogue of World War II. Arguably, building and maintaining such a force deterred such a war from breaking out. Unfortunately, in the process of suppressing another full-scale global conflict, our force became woefully inadequate to fight and win the sorts of wars we presently find ourselves engaged in.

Force structure, however, isn't the primary problem. After all, even though Afghanistan and Iraq wound up seeming quite similar, they were initially two very different kinds of wars. Afghanistan was a war fought against mostly guerilla style forces, Iraq began as a conventional war against an organized army. Moreover, both campaigns were initially quite successful. That they both deteriorated into cat stampedes reflects a lack of imagination and poor understanding of the basic tenets of warfare on the part of U.S. military leadership. Entirely too many officers today are so fascinated with tactics and technology that they do not understand the connection between success in combat and achieving a war's political aims.

More importantly, however, U.S. political leaders need to learn that warfare is losing its efficacy as a tool of national power. When you've already beaten everybody up once, and you've become as strong as everybody else combined, what's the use of beating everybody up again? Yes, it's always good to have a "big stick" to back your diplomatic, economic and other "soft" power measures, but you can't just rub a cheese grater across somebody's face every time you don't get your way.

That's not behaving like a sole superpower. It's acting like one of the Three Stooges.


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

Friday, May 11, 2007

Iraq on its Tuffet

On Tuesday, 11 House Republicans met in the White House with Mr. Bush, Secretary of State Conti Rice, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and Assistant Chief of Staff Karl Rove to talk about Iraq. According to NBC's Tim Russert, one of the Congress members called the meeting the “most unvarnished conversation they’ve ever had with the president."

Considering that there's no record of anyone ever having an unvarnished conversation with young Mr. Bush, calling this one the "most unvarnished" conversation doesn't seem to say much at first blush, but another Congressman at the gathering in the White House solarium characterized the hour and fifteen minute meeting as “remarkable for the bluntness and no-holds-barred honesty in the message delivered by all these Republican congressmen.”

One Congressman told Mr. Bush, “My district is prepared for defeat. We need candor, we need honesty, Mr. President.” The Congressman went on to say, "The word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There is no longer any credibility. It has to come from General Petraeus.”

I'd say the jury is still out when it comes to Petraeus's credibility, but the Congressman is spot on about the White House. It has no credibility whatsoever, on Iraq or any other subject.

One of the Congressmen asked Bush, “How can our sons and daughters spill their blood while the Iraqi government goes on vacation?”

Bush answered “The vice president is over there to tell them, do not go on vacation.”

Oh, that's right. Cheney was out of town, barnstorming the Middle East. May that's why the Republican congressional delegation chose Tuesday to visit the White House and read Bush the riot act.

Last Throes

made an "unannounced" visit to Baghdad on Wednesday. The surprise aspect of the stop didn't stop somebody from setting off an explosion that rattled windows of the U.S. Embassy, where Cheney conferred with Iraqi military and political officials. I bet those Iraqi officials just love it when Dick stops by unannounced, and they have to sit in the same room with him, and talk to him.

At a news conference roughly an hour after the explosion, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he and Cheney discussed "practical steps" to improve security and domestic issues. Cheney and al-Maliki admitted there have been problems in reducing the violence in Iraq, but their governments will keep working together to find a solution.

One of those solutions might be for Parliament not to take two months off this summer. Aides said that Cheney made a "renewed request" to that effect. Interesting choice of words, "request." One would have preferred to hear that Cheney "demanded" they not take two months off, but Cheney doesn't have a whole lot going for him in the way of leverage. "Don't take two months off or else…" Or else what, Dick? Or else you'll yank your troops out of here? That's a heck of an ultimatum, considering withdrawal of U.S. troops is precisely what much of a significant number ofIraqi lawmakers want us to do.


Fewer than 48 hours after 11 of his party's members of Congress told him he no longer has any credibility regarding the Iraq war, Mr. Bush hit the airways in an attempt to convince the public of the success of his new "way forward." His real message was aimed at the congressional Democrats: "fund the troops and don't put any conditions on me."

He also accused Democrats of being more interested in the 2008 elections than in ending the war in Iraq. That's remarkable, considering that he told his little GOP Congress buddies on Tuesday that, "I don’t want to pass this off to another president. I don’t want to pass this off, particularly, to a Democratic president.”

No, Mr. Bush isn't worried about the 2008 elections at all. Nor are congressional Republicans. It's all those darn Democrats, that's all they care about: elections, elections, elections.

Oh, well. Mr. Bush is good at playing both sides of he fence without getting called on it. It's amusing to note that as Bush castigates the Democrats for trying to force timelines and benchmarks on they Iraqi government, those factors are doing more to get the Iraqi government off its tuffet than anything Mr. Bush and his party tried while it held a majority in Congress.


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

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Exclusive Interview: Fired U.S Attorney David Iglesias

On May 4th, prominent AttorneyGate figure David Iglesias granted me an exclusive interview for My Left Wing. Mr. Iglesias was generous with his time and candid in his views. Some highlights from the discussion:

On the clause in the Patriot Act that gave Attorney General Gonzales authority to replace U.S. Attorneys with interim successors who would not have to face confirmation by the Senate:

DI: Now regarding the Patriot Act, it’s great anti-terrorism legislation. DOJ has made lots of legitimate anti-terrorism investigations and prosecutions as a result of the Patriot Act; but it was never intended to be a vehicle to get around Senate confirmation. It was never intended to be a crony full-employment act, which it was in the case of Bud Cummings district in Arkansas, when Karl Rove put Tim Griffin in, his aide, using his provision in the Patriot Act, which was snuck in last year.

The Patriot Act should never be used to subvert or skirt Senate confirmation, and I believe that the provision was put in to allow all of us that were forced to resign to have people come in quickly and not ever face a confirmation for the next two years. That simply is wrong, its illegal and I’m glad that Congress repealed it, and the President has not vetoed that.

On the reason AttorneyGate has drawn so much heat on Gonzales compared to the torture memos, dismissal of the Geneva Convention and the NSA domestic surveillance affair:

DI: Why did this get Gonzales in the firestorm, and why didn’t the other ones? I think probably because the Patriot Act provision that allowed him to make these indefinite interim appointments was perceived as a slap in the face at the Senate; whereas the other sections really did not, those are more issues to, you know, debate over, but it did not intentionally subvert the Senate’s constitutional role in oversight; whereas this provision in the Patriot Act that was put in, and then all the subsequent misstatements and half-truths that were coming out of the [administration], and in all the statements, half-truths and untruths by McNulty and Gonzales, I think there was a real affront. The Senate said, “Wait a minute, we have a legitimate role here in providing oversight and this current leadership is trying to get around there, or they are not being straight with us.”

On the "political" role of U.S. Attorneys

DI: Two Harvard Law Professors posted something on the Internet about a week ago; I think it was Professor Fried stated “Look, U.S. Attorneys are like Federal Judges, they get their jobs through the political process, but once they’re in office they have to stay out of politics. They are required to stay out of politics.”

And that’s consistent. John Ashcroft former A.G. told me in his office when I was being interviewed somewhere in 2001, he said, “David if you become U.S. Attorney you have to leave politics outside. It cannot be part of your decision as U.S. Attorney.” I said, “Yes sir.”

I mean, I understood that, it is consistent with what I was advised by former U.S. Attorneys here in New Mexico, from both parties, and that’s just a given. So you know, I didn’t think that, I mean I knew you could be fired for getting involved in political matters as a U.S. attorney, but I never thought I would be fired for not getting involved in Partisan political activities…

… U.S. Attorneys have significant powers, we’re the only Federal Officials that can take away your liberty, take away your property and take away your life, completely legally. We never want a political, partisan ideology being factored in.

On Kyle Sampson and Monica Goodling, the Justice Department aides Gonzales put in charge of hiring and firing of U.S. Attorneys:

DI: I think Sampson had prosecuted one case. I’m not aware about Monica even prosecuting any cases. But they were fundamentally unqualified to sit in judgment over the U.S. Attorneys. Plain and simple, they didn’t understand what we did. They should have never been in those positions.

They were good for staff members maybe…doing political things, but when it comes to sitting in the position of responsibility over U.S. Attorneys, they should have never been there.

On the state of the Republican Party:

DI: I ran for State Attorney General in 1998 as a Republican. You know, I believe in most of the ideas and the platform, but I’ll tell you this as a result of this scandal, I’m deeply disillusioned with my party and the party’s lost its moral compass. It doesn’t practice what it preaches…

…One of the major reasons the voters gave last fall was, for returning the House and Senate back to the Democrats was corruption, corruption matters perpetrated by Republicans for the most part. You know, you had Duke Cunningham there in San Diego, you had Bob Ney in Ohio, you had Foley in Florida and now it appears there are more Republican members of Congress under investigation. When a party has that number of its own members that are either convicted or under investigation, it tells me that the party’s morally bankrupt.

Read the entire interview at My Left Wing.


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

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Iraq: Being the Target

Monday night, during a FOX News interview with Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, right-wing pundit Dick Morris made one of the most insane pro-Iraq war statements I've heard to date (transcript courtesy of Think Progress). His statement was so chockfull o' nuts that we need to analyze it in two parts. First:
I think that withdrawal from Iraq--it obviously gives al Qaeda a huge victory. Huge victory. On the other hand, if we stay in Iraq, it gives them the opportunity to kill more Americans, which they really like.

Gee, Dick. Do you think that if their goal is to kill Americans, giving them a convenient opportunity might in fact be handing them a huge victory? And would a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq not then defeat them by depriving them from their objective?

Based on the second part of his statement, Morris apparently thinks his arguments make perfect sense.
One of the things, though, that I think the antiwar crowd has not considered is that, if we’re putting the Americans right within their arms’ reach, they don’t have to come to Wall Street to kill Americans. They don’t have to knock down the trade center. They can do it around the corner, and convenience is a big factor when you’re a terrorist.

It's good strategy to make killing Americans convenient? They won't bother to come to America to kill Americans if they can kill the ones next door?

Let's get something straight here. The "fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them over here" and "they will follow us here" mantras are a bucket of horse-processed oats. "They" can't follow us here in significant numbers. They can't hide themselves in our troops' luggage. They don't have a navy or air force that can haul them across the ocean, and it's too far for them to swim or jump. They might manage to dribble across our borders in small numbers the way the 9/11 hijackers did, but nothing we're doing in Iraq is keeping that from happening. That sort of thing is a Homeland Security problem, not a military one.

No, Mr. Morris. By staying in Iraq, we're playing into "their" game plan, and it's neoconservative echo chamberlains like you who help ensure that we continue to do so.

Ceding the Initiative

Bush supporters laud the administration's policies and strategies because they keep us on the "offensive." But they don't understand--or don't want the public to understand--that "offense" is not the prime principle of successful warfare operations. A far more vital tenet of war is "initiative." The side that maintains the initiative dictates the time, place and nature of engagement on terms favorable to itself. This is the principle that makes for all successful guerilla warfare. The weaker force only engages the stronger one under circumstances in which the weaker force can inflict damage while suffering very little.

Put another way, the stronger force is manipulated into making a target of itself. And I'm afraid that's what we're continuing to do in Iraq. From Ann Scott Tyson of the Washington Post:
Nearly three months after the U.S. military launched a new strategy to safeguard Baghdad's population by pushing American and Iraqi forces deeper into the city's neighborhoods, defending their small outposts is increasingly requiring heavy bulwarks reminiscent of the fortresslike bases that the U.S. troops left behind.

To guard against bombs, mortar fire and other threats, U.S. commanders are adding fortifications to the outposts, setting them farther back from traffic and arming them with antitank weapons capable of stopping suicide bombers driving armored vehicles. U.S. troops maintain the advantage of living in the neighborhoods they are asked to protect, but the need to safeguard themselves from attack means more walls between them and civilians.

There's the rub. If living in the neighborhoods is so dangerous as to make living behind walls within the neighborhoods necessary, are the troops actually accomplishing a mission, or they simply putting themselves in harm's way so they can protect themselves? If they're living behind walls, they're not out in the neighborhoods winning hearts and minds, and if they're living behind walls to protect themselves, they're not really protecting the neighborhoods.

If they're not winning hearts or protecting the neighborhoods, by placing themselves in the neighborhoods they are, as Dick Morris says, putting themselves within "arms reach" of the bad guys.

The Post's Tyson reports that morale among the soldiers at the outposts is mixed. Some (mostly junior officers) said they accepted the risks to live closer to the Iraqi people. Others complained of a complete lack of purpose. One senior NCO said, "What do you want us to accomplish over here? We aren't hearing any end state. We aren't hearing it from the president, from the defense secretary. We're working hard and the politicians are arguing. They don't have bullets flying over their heads. They aren't on the front lines, and their buddies aren't dying."

"It's almost like the Vietnam War," a specialist said. "We don't know where we're going. I want to be here for a reason, not just a show of force."

And if you haven't caught on to this yet, "show of force" is a military euphemism for "mill about smartly and make a target of your self."


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

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Stepping Back from Iraq

Support for Mr. Bush's woebegone war in Iraq is falling like Saddam Hussein's statue. Even Bush administration stalwarts like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) are beginning to wobble in the mid-leg region.

On one hand, Boehner doesn't like the idea of placing timeline or benchmark restrictions on the Democrat's $124 billion emergency war funding appropriation. "We don't even have all of the 30,000 additional troops in Iraq yet, so we're supporting the president," Boehner says. "We want this [surge] plan to have a chance of succeeding.''

But Boehner's hedging his bets. "By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B?''

Plan B

In March 2007, a group of governors met with Mr. Bush and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace and asked about the backup Iraq strategy. What if the so-called "surge" plan didn't work? "I'm a Marine," Pace told them, "and Marines don't talk about failure. They talk about victory."

As Governor Phil Bredesen (D-Tenn.) recalled the discussion, "Plan B was to make Plan A work."

There's a very good reason why no one in the Bush constellation wants to talk about Plan B. Plan B would look very much like the "redeployment" plan that Representative John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) proposed in November 2005.

Of Murtha's proposals, Boehner has said, "While American troops are fighting radical Islamic terrorists thousands of miles away, it is unthinkable that the United States Congress would move to discredit their mission, cut off their reinforcements and deny them the resources they need to succeed and return home safely."

Boehner has also characterized proposed Democratic withdrawal timelines as "surrender dates."

And yet now, Boehner is asking what Plan B might be. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois said Boehner's concern "has less to do with the troops coming home, and has everything to do with his fear that House Republicans will be sent home.''

Methinks Mr. Boehner is trying to develop a taste for crow pie.

The 25 Percent Solution

In March 2007, Senator Gordon Smith (R-Oregon), once a steadfast supporter of Mr. Bush's Iraq policies, said he could no longer support "tactics that don't equal victory." He also said that General David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, confided that the troop surge only has a one in four chance of succeeding.

Senator Gordon R. Smith (R-Oregon) said, "Many of my Republican colleagues have been promised they will get a straight story on the surge by September. I won't be the only Republican, or one of two Republicans, demanding a change in our disposition of troops in Iraq at that point. That is very clear to me."

As Jonathan Weisman and Thomas E. Ricks of the Washington Post report, even the most optimistic military officials doubt whether Baghdad will be peaceful by September, but they hope to be able to determine long term trends. (No, I 'm not certain what "long term trends" is supposed to mean. We already have four years worth of trends, and they don't look good.)

Theoretically, though, it shouldn't much matter how things look in September. If September is the deadline, troops should start redeploying. If the surge is working, we don't need to maintain present troop levels. If Petraeus says we need to maintain present troop levels, that means the surge isn't working, in which case it's time to move on to Plan B, which as we discussed earlier will be some sort of redeployment.

Unless, of course, the administration decides on a Plan C that involves further escalation. That sounds a little nutty, perhaps, but I wouldn't rule anything out. Plan C would almost certainly strip Mr. Bush of his remaining support among congressional Republicans who won't want to let their jobs and their party go down with the ship.

My biggest concern is that we avoid the need for a Plan D, a nightmare scenario that William Lind described in March 2007 at
America now has an army…of more than 140,000, deep in Persia (which effectively includes Shiite Iraq, despite the ethnic difference). We are propping up a shaky local regime in a civil war. Our local allies are of dubious loyalty, and the surrounding population is not friendly. Our lines of communication, supply and retreat all run south, to Kuwait, through Shiite militia country. They then extend on through the Persian Gulf, which is called that for a reason. If those lines are cut, many of our troops have only one way out…up through Kurdish country and [Turkey] to the coast [of the Mediterranean].

Lind's scenario would be a not at all unlikely sequel to a U.S. attack on Iran. One would think that even the Dick Cheney neocons still in and around the administration understand that, but like I said, don't count anything out.

Ultimately, the timeline debate in Washington was aptly described by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Illinois):
There were always two debates in the debate over timelines to end the war. George W. Bush is hellbent on January 20, 2009, when he walks out of the door, leaving a box stamped "Iraq" for the next president. The Republicans are hellbent on not going through the next election with Iraq tied to their ankles.

Fortunately, I think it's safe to say that the Republicans don't want to face the next election with Iran tied around their necks, either.


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