Sunday, August 03, 2008

Terror Error

You probably already knew this, but sometimes it's nice to get affirmation that yeah, you were right. A recently released study by the non-partisan Rand Corporation titled How Terrorist Groups End shows that young Mr. Bush's anti-terror strategy hasn't significantly undermined al Qaeda's capabilities.

As news goes, that's hardly shock or awe, is it?

The study asserts something else you already knew: the Bush administration made a mistake in using the phrase "war on terror," as it erroniously suggests that a solution to terrorism is to be found on a battlefield. "Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors," write the report's authors, Seth Jones and Martin Libicki. "In most cases, military force isn't the best instrument," says Jones, the chief writer and a terrorism expert. In Muslim countries, the report says, there should be a "light U.S. military footprint or none at all." The report states that al Qaeda is "strong and competent," and that it has adapted and reorganized over time, "making it a more dangerous enemy."

The Rand report only contains one clinker, but it's a big one. Its conclusion that Bush's strategy hasn't undermined al Qaeda suggests a faulty assumption: that Bush's strategy was intended to undermine al Qaeda. The Bush strategy, in fact, had nothing to do with al Qaeda—or terrorism—whatsoever.

Surrender, Dorothy

As Jim Lobe pointed out in his July 29 column "Neo-Cons Make Their War Aims in Iraq Clearer," the most illustrative aspect of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki's insistance on a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable has been the neoconservative cabal's reaction to it, which has been reminiscent of the collision between the Wicked Witch of the West and a bucket of water. Lobe regales us with analysis of comical ha-ma-nas from the Wall Street Journal, Max Boot, and Freddie and Kim Kagan, but it was Charles Krauthammer's spit take that exposed the hegemons' full agenda.

Neocon anointed presidential candidate John McCain, Krauthammer asserts, would consolidate America's victory in Iraq by forming a permanent occupation agreement with Maliki's government that would "provide the U.S. with the infrastructure and freedom of action to project American power regionally, as do U.S. forces in Germany, Japan and South Korea."

Their Beautiful Ugliness

Krauthammer's version of a McCain presidency mirrors the vision outlined in the September 2000 neoconservative manifesto Rebuilding America's Defenses. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification," the neocons argued, "the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

A larger, permanent military footprint in the geographic center of the Middle East would create a "worldwide archipelago," rounding out the global fortress established after World War II and during the Cold War. (It has all but escaped notice, by the way, that America has maintained its robust force presence in Europe and Asia throughout the current wars in Southwest Asia. This explains in no small part why an extended deployment of around 150,000 troops has "stretched to the breaking point" a force with an end strength of over two million.)

The neocons knew America would be hesitant to back their scheme "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event–like a new Pearl Harbor." The 9/11 attacks gave them the fuzzy pretext they were looking for, but the Iraq invasion was not about terrorism, nor is the neoconservatives' current gambit to insert another pliant accomplice in the oval office who is happy to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for "a hundred years," "a thousand years," or "a million years."

What a World, What a World

The neoconservative movement grew out of the Cold War. It's little wonder, then, that they're attempting to create Cold War II in the Middle East.

It's likely true that, as the Bush administration insists, no nation poses a greater challenge to us than Iran. That, however, only goes to illustrate how few challenges—at least military ones—we actually face. Iran's military budget is less than one percent the size of ours. The Bush administration's assertions that Iran seeks nuclear weapons and is arming militants in Iraq have been disproven time and again. Iran's conventional forces hardly pose the kind of threat to its Gulf region neighbors the administration would like you to think they do. Its army has never operated more than a few miles from its border, and that was during an eight-year stalemate against the Iraqi army we twice cut through like hot butter. Iran's navy would sink of natural causes before it could engage anyone beyond the Persian Gulf or its coastal waters in the Caspian Sea and Gulf of Oman, and its air force's wings were clipped when we stopped selling them spare parts for their top-of-the-line fighter jets. Moreover, Iran's exterior geographic position and mountainous terrain make it next to useless as a base of operations from which to dominate the Middle East militarily (that's one of the main reasons we invaded Iraq and not Iran).

In all, the greatest threat Iran poses is a president who says a lot of stupid, incendiary things in public, and who are we to throw stones on that score?

Yet Iran plays an important role in the Bush administration's Korea model. The neocons can justify a significant military presence in an Iraq that's analogous to South Korea and faces a constant threat from an Iran that equates to North Korea and is backed by a China that is, in fact, the actual China.

But as we have discussed, Iran is what former Central Command chief William Fallon "ants" to be "crushed" when the time comes. And despite the neocon mantra that says China is emerging as a peer military competitor, it's really just a paper dragon. As head of U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Tim Keating says, "the Chinese are behind us. Unmistakably, they know it. In their words—I'm quoting some of them—they're 25 years behind us." Neocons also make lots of scare noise about how China has made double digit increases in defense spending since 1989, but it still spends 10 percent or less on defense than we do.

So while the neocon stratagem seeks to maintain large troop presence in Iraq and preserve exorbitant defense expenditures that account for more than half the federal budget, it has nothing to do with waging war on terror, and nothing to do with waging war against another country either.

It has to do with whether they can fool enough of the people enough of the time a third time around, and unless somebody drops a house on them, they just might get away with it.

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Russ Wellen's interview with Jeff at The Huffington Post and Scholars and Rogues.


  1. when I read what the likes of Krauthammer write, my head in turns wants to spin around (which it thankfully can't), or for sanity's sake starts exploring other, someHOW logical explanations for the gall and idiocy; the neocons are reincarnated red coats. Someone get us a hypnotist, or two.
    Well, I prided myself on being the first to comment having gotten up before the kids woke up..alas..breakfast duty's waiting..have a good Sunday


  2. You have a good Sunday too, Ingrid. Yeah, Krauthammer: the thinking man's Cal Thomas. ;-)

  3. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Can you comment on what China is spending its military budget on?
    The little I recall seeing about that issue gives me the feeling that perhaps they may be getting more "bang for their bucks" than our space cadet leaning military.
    Your thoughts?

  4. Jeg,

    I'll look up specifics for a near future column, but keep in mind that a tens of billions budgdet doesn't buy a whole lot of modern hardware.


  5. Jeg,

    Here's a slightly better answer to your question; from the NPR article I used in this column:

    "The evidence of China's military modernization is ample: double-digit increases for military spending since 1989; the rapid expansion of China's cruise and ballistic missile force and the deployment of hundreds of missiles along China's coast across from Taiwan; the rapid expansion of China's submarine force and the modernization of the missiles those submarines carry; and last year, China's destruction of one of its own satellites by a land-based missile, announcing China's unexpected capability in anti-satellite warfare."

    This is mainly Battle of the Taiwan Strait stuff, which is precisely the war we'd expect to fight with them.

    The comment about "unexpected capability in anti-satellite warfare" is a red herring and some other things besides. If you have the wherewithal to put a satellite in orbit, you have the wherewithal to shoot it down.

  6. Commander,

    If one looks closely enough, one can see the "neo-con topic of the day" as written in group think by Krauthammer, Kristol, Brooks, et al. Last week the topic was the "presumptous" and "uppity" presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party. Carried by the editorial pages of all the major daily papers.

    As you always do, since I've been reading you, you pique my curiousity. Most often you send me to google, or somewhere else, to do some more reading and learning.

    Your recent posting about Eisenhower did just that. My question, (in my mind) was why, as a Republican, do not the Republicans talk more about this war hero, and successful president? Then I ran across these famous Ike quotes:

    "Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion."

    And this one: " I like to belive that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way, and let them have it."

    And, this particular favorite: "The problem in defense is how far you can go without desroying from within what you are trying to defend from without."

    One last one: "No one should ever sit in this office - over 70 years old, and that I know."

    No, wait - one more: "In most communities it is illegal to cry "fire" in a crowded assembly. Should it not be considered serious international misconduct to manufacture a general war scare in an effort to achieve local political aims."

    I'm still likin' Ike.

    David Petreaus is no Eisenhower. For sure. George Bush - don't get me started. Robert Gates -- just may have spent too much time as Chancellor of the "War College on the Brazos" and it affected his sense of historical perspective. I doubt they teach anything about presidents -- further back than Bush 41.

    What I'm thinking now, as far as "endless war" goes. Iraq or Afghanistan --- pick your poison.
    Neither has any appeal whatsoever.

  7. Anonymous12:34 PM

    Thanks for the reply(s). I look forward to that near future post. I hope you'll address the equipment supplied to the front line grunts.
    My compliments to elderlady for her Ike quotes. I've never understood why they haven't been universally remembered and widely used today.

  8. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Just read your interview at Scholars and Rogues. My compliments!

    To P&S readers:
    Use the link and treat your self to more of Commander Jeff's thoughts at Scholars and Rogues. All quality stuff!

  9. EL,

    No Petraeus is no Ike. Ike, for one thing, actually won a war. Petraeus is, as I have said before, more of a neo-MacArthur. (MacA also, by the way, has a pretty good quote about the futility of war, but then, like I mentioned, he never actually won one.)


    Glad you liked the interview.

  10. Well, guess what? I watched football last night. Turned off the tv, and dog and I called it a day. This morning I read my local paper, and find out Hurricane Eduaord (sp) is heading my way. To be here tomorrow.

    Commander, when Bush declared a "War on Terror" I went to my simple Webster's and looked up the word "terror." i.e. "fear."

    We were scared half out of our wits, for months, for years, so that the idiots in charge could declare a war against "fear"?

    That most people in this country think (according to our punditry) that offshore drilling is going to solve the gasoline problem, and bring down prices -- tells me, that unfortunately nobody is going to "drop a house on them" and they probably will continue to get away with it.

    Calling it a "war" justifies all the money spent, on all the new killing toys.

    I was out early, got more water. Got dog some food. Picked up a another bottle of wine, and some peanut butter. Still have books.

    Let it rain.

    Ya'll stay safe, and cool.

  11. I used to prefer a cool chard with PB. What's your choice?

  12. With peanut butter, my choice is coffee. (That's breakfast.)

    With a book, a cool white.

  13. When the American public hears the military is stretched to the breaking point, I'm sure it's got them scratching their heads. Iraq is all it takes?

    It either doesn't occur to them or they don't understand that "America has maintained its robust force presence in Europe and Asia throughout the current wars in Southwest Asia." Thanks for reminding us, Commander.

  14. Thats' it. I've got to stop reading your blog. Too much Google.

    There isn't a country in the world that we have been in, since 1898, that we haven't stayed in.

    Spanish American War - 1898. Cuba, still there. The Phillipines - still there. Guam - still there. Puerto Rico - still there.

    WWII ended in 1944-45. Europe - still there. Japan/Asia - still there.

    Korea - still there.

    Viet Nam - still there.

    Kuwait - still there.

    Somolia - back there.

    We have the largest oil company private security force in the world.

    The list is endless.

    Iraq - wanna stay forever.

    Iran - can't wait to get there.

    I expect we are - militarily - stretched to the breaking point.

    1898 For Gosh sakes. And, we still have permanent bases.

    What b.s. that we are not the world's police force, and that we don't do nation building.

    Yesterday, we had a mild little "hurricane - ette" and there was a lot of rain, no wind to speak of. Never lost power.

    Today, we have remnants. Thunder storms. Lightening. I expect the power to go any time now.

    That may be a blessing. No way to google.
    (Don't they teach any of this stuff in schools these days?)

  15. Stretched to the breaking point? Pshaw. We have not yet begun to mobilize!

  16. "the non-partisan Rand Corporation" What? When, non-partisan? Any blogger with a Google connection could have said as much for free years ago.

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