Thursday, August 28, 2008

Spinners and Losers in the Brave New World Order

Sorry to open with a Jeff Huber-ism, but this is another one that can't be repeated often enough: if the Bush administration put as much effort into winning its wars at it puts into spinning its wars, it wouldn't have to spin them. A story titled "Taliban Gain New Foothold in Afghan City" in the August 26 New York Times illustrates how much our cockamamie conflict with Islamofablulism is about perception and how little of it has to do with reality.

Reporter Carlotta Gall tells the tale of a spectacular June prison break staged by the Taliban in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Elements of the militant group exploded a fuel truck to free 900 prisoners—350 of them Taliban members—from a detention facility in the Afghanistan's second largest city. Gall characterized this extraordinary setback for U.S. and NATO forces not as a major tactical defeat or a profound exploitation of the inadequate security apparatus in Afghanistan, but as a "spectacular propaganda coup" for the Taliban.

That's a bit like calling Hitler's invasion of Russia a "public relations campaign."

Let There Be Victory

All of young Mr. Bush's wars have been exercises in information maneuver. The administration sold its fuzzy case for the invasion of Iraq though tacit cooperation of so-called liberal media outlets like the New York Times. To this day, the ubiquitous unnamed military and administration "officials" broadcast war propaganda in the guise of objective truth through the compliant news media that allow them to speak anonymously due to the sensitivity of the fact that they are proxies for or are themselves Dick Cheney.

It is understandable to a point that an administration possessing more power in one political pail than the world has ever witnessed would believe that it creates reality. Perception and reality are indeed connected to the extent that ideas prompt actions, and actions can alter the physical universe to a lesser or greater extent depending on the amount and type of force exerted. When a regime begins to act as though it can make something true simply by saying it is so, it begins to get us in trouble. So it is that five years and change after the staging of a statue being toppled in Baghdad and a "mission accomplished" ceremony on a warship and countless corners turned and last throes thrown, we're now told that we can't leave Iraq because we're so close to winning—depending, of course, on what your definition of "winning" is.

Winning in Iraq, for the Bush mill neocons, was always about establishing a permanent robust military presence in the center of the oil rich Middle East from which America—or rather America's neocon oligarchy—could throw its weight around the region. Now Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki says we have to leave. Administration bull feather merchants have tried to deny he really means that—Maliki was misinterpreted, or drunk, or he was trying to impress some hooker he met online, or what have you—but Maliki keeps saying it, so it sounds like he really, really does mean it, and his Shiite rival Muqtada al Sadr really means it too, as does Grand Ayatolla Ali al Sistani. The Sunnis, well, if they don't like it, they can go fish in a sand dune. Whether the administration can talk its way out of this crack remains to be seen,

Kill the Messenger

Another redundant but apropos Jeff Huber-ism: the biggest lie—among a vast field of strong contenders—in the American military ethos is that we lost the Vietnam War on the home front. We lost the Vietnam War in Vietnam. Walter Cronkite didn't lose it for us. Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara and Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and William Westmoreland lost it for us. Nonetheless, scapegoating the media for our wartime failures remains a popular pastime among the right wing war mongery.

Throughout our woebegone war on terror, the administration has castigated the press for not telling enough "good news," as if building schools and handing out Hershey bars were the proper measure by which to gauge our military and diplomatic effectiveness.

When the Abu Ghraib story broke, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others didn't so much decry the actions of a few "bad apples" as much as they harped on the fact that someone had the temerity to take pictures of prisoner abuse and leak them to the press. The sin was not in the deed, but in the reporting of it.

Rumsfeld was one of the leading administration echo chamberlains to complain at length on the Sunday morning lap dance shows that public opinion was turning against the war because people were seeing so many violent images on television. But think about it: how many violent images of the Iraq war have you actually seen? Do you recall seeing any blood, or any body parts flying through the air? The truth of the matter is that we have seen more of what war really looks like in fictions such as Saving Private Ryan than we have seen in the coverage of our real war.

Rumsfeld's infamous Office of Strategic Influence and its progeny have taken the art of information operations to fantastic vistas previously unwitnessed. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler soundly criticized the weak German propaganda effort of World War I, and the work of Joseph Goebbels and Leni Riefenstahl are noted among contemporary information operatoratives as the cornerstone of their discipline. But no one can argue that the fall of Berlin came about because Hitler's propagandists weren't persuasive enough. Berlin fell because the American and English and Russian armies kicked the living Scheisse out of the Wehrmacht.

Yet the Pentagon's approach to warfare continues to drift from efforts at shaping the battlefield to efforts at shaping perceptions. It has eliminated any pretense of a separation between public affairs and information operations. Bribing the overseas press to print disinformation as news has become standard operating procedure, and nobody seriously believes it is possible to erect a firewall between the foreign and domestic media. Any given operational or strategic deception operation is just as likely to target the American pubic as it is to influence the "enemy." (And believe you me, to a lot of these info warriors, the American public is the enemy.)

Members of the press covering the war have little or no military expertise. The military experts" the media hire to "educate" their audiences are, in fact, covert Pentagon information operatives. The nation's most successful general at present is one of history's most adept information warriors. "King" David Petraeus, soon to take over Central Command, has made an exceptional military career out of media savvy and self-promotion. He has managed to fabricate "success" in Iraq out of a three-ring shopping spree for John McCain and his gal pal Lindsey Graham, staged soccer tournaments, and rigged one-arm pushup contests privates (Psst, kid. Remember: the General wins).

Thus it has come to pass that when we score propaganda coups we call them spectacular victories and when the enemy scores spectacular victories we call them propaganda coups.

I hope nobody really thinks Joe Biden lends some sort of foreign policy panacea to the Democratic ticket that will make the last eight years of fakery, fumbling and fiasco go away. I don't care if Joe was with Achilles at the gates of Ilium; no amount of experience can craft a Trojan horse sufficient to alter overnight the brutal reality of the situation we face, especially, now, in the Bananastans.

Don't get me wrong; Obama and Biden are the best option we have by magnitudes. When it comes to foreign policy, Bull Goose McCain wouldn't know reality if it crawled up his bottom and started a family there.

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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hegemon Hold 'Em

It is a senseless policy, apparently meant to intimidate Russia, but why? For the sake of perpetuating international tension so as to strengthen the forces that with Cheney and Bush have been promoting constitutionally unaccountable executive rule in the United States?"

William Pfaff, August 19, 2008.
The art of analyzing international affairs is somewhat like discovering new planets. The astronomer notes the behaviors of observable objects; when those objects behave in a manner that other observable phenomena can't explain, the astronomer begins hypothesizing what unseen phenomena may be present whose gravity could have produced an otherwise irrational event.

So it is with the ongoing monkeyshines between Russia and the Borscht Republic of Georgia. Assuming that Georgia is a "rational actor," it doesn’t make sense for it to have invited invasion from Russia by launching an offensive into South Ossetia.

Georgia's deputy defense minister Batu Kutelia admits that his country's forces were unprepared to repel the Russian attack, but that's a bit like saying Mexico isn't prepared to repel an invasion from the United States. Georgia has a 20,000-man army, built with salvage yard Soviet-era equipment at a cost of $2 billion and trained pro bono by the U.S.

The main reason the Georgians didn't get ready for Russia's invasion, though, is because they didn't think they needed to. "We did not prepare for this kind of eventuality," Kutelia told the Financial Times. "I didn't think it likely that a member of the UN Security Council and the OSCE would react like this." If Mr. Kutelia really thought that, he's sufficiently incompetent to take Condi Rice's job.

In July (yes, just last month) Russia held a military exercise in the North Caucasus region. Georgia claimed that Russia planned to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russia said that Georgia intended to take the two regions by force. The Blind Boys of Alabama could have seen Russia's invasion of Georgia coming.

Hence, one can't avoid concluding that the Georgians were counting on intervention by a higher power to stay Russia's hand, and the higher power they had in mind probably wasn't God.

Help from Below

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has been making "me so horny" overtures to the Bush administration for some time. Described by Helene Cooper of the New York Times as a long-time "darling of [Washington's] diplomatic dinner party circuit," Saakashvili made the rounds in D.C. five months ago to urge the U.S. to flip Russia off and muscle Georgia into NATO. At the White House, according to Cooper, "President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer." Saakashvili called this Washington trip “one of the most successful visits during my presidency.” That may be true, but even a private lap dance from Bush in the Oval Office shouldn't have given Saakashvili the idea that Bush was ready to bail him out if he goaded Russia into invading Georgia. And Saakashvili should have known he didn't have an exclusive thing going with Bush when, three weeks later, Bush was sighted at a Black Sea resort with a certain ex-KGB agent named Vlad.

At this point in our search for a plausible scenario, we can't help but sense that influences emanating from behind the curtain of the Office of the Vice President of the United States might have been in play. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure out that if any country gets invaded these days, Dick Cheney had something to do with it. Here's Cooper's take on the maneuvering within the administration: "Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles, so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression."

I can't decide who among Cheney, Saakashvili and Cooper is dull enough to believe that Georgia could defend itself against Russia with a truckload of shoulder-fired SAMs, but I'm guessing that at least Saakashvili believes it because everything else he's done lately indicates that he's dumb as a quarry.

Hegemon Hold 'Em

Henry Kissinger supposedly remarked once that the reason infighting is so vicious in academic circles is that the stakes are so low. Apocryphal or not, the Kissinger comment reflects the game theory principle that says rational players will take risks in inverse proportion to the stakes involved. That in part explains how the world survived half a century of nuclear brinksmanship between the ideologically opposed super powers.

It also largely explains why Bush's Cheney-centric foreign policy seems so reckless. It's patently obvious that an administration that made John Bolton its ambassador to the United Nations has no interest in diplomatic solutions to any international issue. Like Big Brother's Inner Party in George Orwell's 1984, the New American Century neocons—who at this point encompass Big Energy, Big Arms, Big Media and Big Jesus—seek to maintain a constant state of low level war in order to preserve the social order of which they constitute the oligarchy.

The Big Brotherhood operated in a balance of power environment. Oceanea, Eurasia and Eastasia could fight each other on remote frontiers indefinitely without a decisive conclusion because none were sufficient to overcome the others. The neoconservatives, on the other hand, inherited a hegemony; no other power can match theirs because America already kicked everybody else's can at least once, and nobody wants to go bare knuckles with us again. This simply can't be repeated often enough: America spends as much or more on defense as the rest of the world combined, and the rest of the world combined isn't going to fight a war with us. Russia and China, our closest military competitors, spend about a tenth as much on defense as we do. Iran, the nation that presents our biggest "challenge," has a defense budget less than one percent of ours. Al Qaeda, who after seven years of our woebegone war on terror remains a "strong and competent organization," has a defense budget on par with that of the Campfire Girls.

So it's hard work keeping America at war with teddy bears and paper tigers and Islamo-fabulism, but Dick Cheney and his constellation continue to throw every ounce of influence they can muster to deter peace. And they can continue to be as aggressive in their pursuit of forever war as they like; the threat of the entire planet perishing in a contest between superpowers is over. Oh, if the Cheney Gang gets a little sloppy a U.S. city might go up in smoke, but no big. We got plenty of cities, and there's nothing like a mushroom cloud every now and then to keep the proles in their foxholes. America might go broke financing all these cock and bull wars, but the oligarchs won't, so what, them worry? They're like players at a Vegas poker tournament; they're betting house money so they can raise all they want.

I hope that when Barack Obama and Joe Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party recover from their mile-high hangover, they realize what an enormous job they have ahead of them. Dick Cheney will be out of office soon, but his gravity field will persist for a long, long time. Changing America's trajectory will take a lot more than a three-word slogan.

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.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Warm Beer and Cold War

When young Mr. Bush told Vladimir Putin in June 2007 that "The Cold War is over," we couldn't have gotten more surefire confirmation that the Cold War was, in fact, alive and kicking. The recent monkey business in Georgia has been in the pipeline since at least then, probably since much earlier.

Noam Chomsky used the term "Cold War II" in August 2007. I first mentioned it in February of that year (so there, Chomsky, you snoozer). Stephen F. Cohen referred to a "new cold war" in a June 2006 article for The Nation. It's eminently arguable that President Bill Clinton started the second Cold War when he intervened in Kosovo in part to distract the world from his pants-capades.

It has been the Bush administration, though, that has managed to escalate the second cold war by losing the first one retroactively.

Winners and Losers

It's fair to say that the cause of the second Cold War is similar to the cause of the second World War: the stupidity of the victors of the first one. The boot heel England and France took to Germany's neck set the conditions that made Hitler's eventual genesis possible, much as the bird the Bush administration flipped Russia from its first day in office—most notably by unilaterally poop canning the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty—made the bear's angry reemergence from hibernation inevitable.

You have to be looking an ostrich in the eye to imagine that the deal for the U.S. to build a missile defense shield in Poland being closed as the administration tries to pry Russia out of Georgia is a coincidence. Just last month, the Poles turned our missile defense offer down because it was not "satisfactory."

The missile shield issue is a combobulated one and begs a dram of discussion here.

Heroes and Villains

At first blush—which is the blush the neocons want you to see—a missile shield is an air defense system that, as its name implies, is "defensive" in nature. Ballistic missiles, conversely, are a means of bombarding fixed positions on an adversary's territory, a seeming function of offensive warfare. These things are largely true at the tactical level, but at the strategic level the roles reverse.

Ballistic missiles aren't an effective part of an offensive strategic arsenal. If you're looking to invade and occupy your adversary, or blockade his shipping, or interdict his trade routes or what have you, you'll only use your ballistic missiles if your missileers whine loudly enough about being left out of the reindeer games to get on your nerves.

Ballistic missiles are deterrence weapons, and, depending on your perspective, not especially good ones. They belong in a category I call "you should see the other guy" weapons. If the other guy decides to drive into your capital city and change your regime for you, he'll need a nose job and some dental work and he may walk funny forever because of the punch you managed to land on him before your lights went out. The problem is that by the time you have to use your BMs, they're almost not worth bothering with because you're already on a collision course with the canvas and they've already failed to perform their mission, which was to keep you and the canvas apart. This explains in part why the mutually assured destruction theory worked during Cold War I, and why ballistic missiles didn't do Saddam Hussein a burp's bit of good during Gulf War I.

The U.S. claims the missile defense system in Poland won't be for defending it from Russia's ballistic missiles but from Iran's. Well… You don't need an advanced degree in geography to figure out that Poland can't do squat to Iran that Iran needs ballistic missiles to deter it from doing. Russia, on the other hand, has much to fear from Poland and the rest of the NATO newbies who used to be part of the Warsaw Pact if the U.S. bullies them into, oh, say, cutting off Russia's oil pipelines.

In that light, America isn't being the good guy offering Poland defenses against Russia's offensive weapons. America's being the aggressor by neutralizing Russia's deterrence.

It's so hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys in these post-modern times, isn't it? Here, one second, you're thinking Russia is being a bully to Georgia until you stop and think that Georgia was being a bully to South Ossetia and Abkhazia until the Russians stepped in and set things right, kind of like we did for Kuwait in Gulf War I. And don't you just wonder who told Georgia Peach Mikhail Saakashvili that we'd back him if he goaded Russian into invading him?

War and Peace

By whatever corrupted logic system they used, guys like Hitler and Stalin all arrived at the conclusion that they were doing the "right thing," so it's probably moot who's a good guy and who's a bad guy in the present Georgia malarkey. The major players got what they needed. Putin's Russia is a major player again and the American neocons have a new boogey man they can use to either get their boy elected president or to stick in the other guy's eye.

One occasionally despairs at ever figuring out the neocons. How could a group of such theoretically smart people keep getting themselves—and us—in one quagmire after the next, entangled with nations and other political entities whose measurable power amounts to a slight fraction of ours? Fortunately, someone has already cracked their code:
To understand the nature of the present war—for in spite of the regrouping which occurs every few years, it is always the same war—one must realize in the first place that it is impossible for it to be decisive.

…No Inner Party member wavers for an instant in his mystical belief that the war is real, and that it is bound to end victoriously, with Oceania the undisputed master of the entire world… Their lives are dedicated to world conquest, but they also know that it is necessary that the war should continue everlastingly and without victory.

-- George Orwell
The Inner Party members of 1984 operated with a critical factor that does not apply for the New American Century neocons. Oceana, Eurasia and Eastasia were empires of roughly even strength, and "everlasting" war was fueled by their balance of power.

America, as you hopefully know by now, spends as much on "defense" as the rest of the world combined. Russia and China, the closest thing we have to peer military competitors, spend about a tenth as much on arms as we do. Iran, the nation that young Mr. Bush and his echo chamberlains would have us believe presents our greatest "challenge," has a defense budget less than one percent the size of ours. And as I've said a time or two, the terrorists have no defense budget at all, and no navy and no air force and no proper army to speak of.

That the neocons have managed thus far to keep us in a "generational" war against phantasms that consumes over half the federal budget through two presidential terms is a testament to their ingenuity, I suppose. How much longer they can fool enough of the people enough of the time to keep their agenda in play is yet to be seen. I hate to express too bleak a view of my fellow citizens, but I worry that as long as the beer at 7-Eleven is cold, America will stay tuned to the fear factor rather than reach for the remote.

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.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hegemon Hijinks

On Friday August 15 the Bush administration sent Condoleezza Rice to meet with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili as a "show of U.S. support." Yikes. They sent Condi? Talk about giving somebody the goodbye look. If this were a Marty Scorsese movie, Saakashvili would have been sleeping with the fishes come Saturday morning. You'd think Keystone Kondi would have lent sufficient slapstick to the Georgian situation, but no. Adding to the antics, John McCain announced on Friday August 15 that he would send along as his personal representatives Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, the Bea Arthur and Betty White of neoconservatism. Then, to cap things off, McCain himself dropped the atomic punchline: "In the twenty-first century, nations don't invade other nations."

You could hear irony clawing at its coffin lid.

The bananastans are going bananas, Iran's down the can, al Qaeda is a more dangerous enemy than ever and our "victory" in Iraq has gone off in our faces like a joke shop cigar. Less than a decade into the New American Century, young Mr. Bush and the neoconservatives who promised us an empire have squandered everything our forefathers achieved in the America's first two and a quarter centuries as a nation. Yet, incredibly, bewilderingly, stupefyingly, a septuagenarian Senator who steals Christian prisoner stories from Alexander Solzhenitsyn and promises to protract the Bush foreign policy fumble-rama is a viable contender for the presidency of the United States.

We live in hysteric times.

Wasting America's Defenses

Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin continued to hone their Bush/Cheney act, Medvedev's mouth moving while Putin puffs on a cigarette, the two of them promising to end their military operation and not doing so. Condi got ever so cross about that and demanded that Russian troops "must leave immediately." Condi's ultimatum came after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he didn't see "any prospect for the use of military force by the United States" in the Georgia situation." So what was Rice planning to do if Russia didn't leave like she insisted, get more shrill with them?

The sad fact is that there really is no prospect of bringing U.S. military forces to play in the Georgia situation, largely because they're occupied in too many other places where they're unfortunately doing very little good.

Apparently impatient with the tactic of bombing Pakistani wedding parties with cruise missiles launched from nuclear submarines in attempts to bag terrorists, those ubiquitous top administration officials are twisting young Mr. Bush's arm to order U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan to be more aggressive in chasing terrorists into Pakistan. One has to suspect that all U.S. ground troops can accomplish in Pakistan that they couldn't do in Afghanistan is track the terrorists to Pakistani weddings and call in the submarine strike. Senior administration officials probably want to do things that way because the Authorization for Use of Military Forces that Congress gave Mr. Bush to conduct military operations in Afghanistan doesn't expressly sanction bombing weddings, but since Congress hasn't authorized war in Pakistan, it hasn't banned bombing weddings there either. See how that works?

The problem with this proposed cross-border strategy is that our man in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf, is about to earn a Purple Heart for the bruise he gets where the door hits him on the way out, and he's the guy who's been okay with us bombing his weddings. There's no real way of telling what the new regime's wedding bombing policy will be.

The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated to the point where non-government humanitarian aid is a high-risk endeavor. Irregular militant forces in Afghanistan aren't only conducting the types of hit and run terror operations like the one's we've become accustomed to seeing in Iraq: they're kicking the snot out of formal forces in straight up fights. Afghan security forces recently withdrew from the Ghazni district in central Afghanistan, abandoning the province to the Taliban. Don't think these kinds of bold offensives are only aimed at Afghan forces. In July, U.S. troops abandoned an outpost in eastern Afghanistan after insurgents killed nine of them in a direct assault.

This was something we need to take notice of. It wasn't an instance of American G.I.s getting kiboshed by car or suicide bombers or roadside explosives or random mortar rounds lobbed into their entrenchments or some other sort of asymmetric sucker punch. This was a case where a groups of cave dwellers with less formal education than Rush Limbaugh went toe to toe with a unit of the best trained, best equipped military in and forced it to abandon a defended position. Please don't anybody think we'll wrap things up in Afghanistan up with a pretty pink bow just by sending a few more troops there.

And disaffect yourself of any notion you may have that our puppet government in Afghanistan is any more stable than our puppet government in Pakistan. Musharraf's enemies pressured him out of office. The foes of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are trying to pressure him into the next life, and what's more, the people trying to assassinate him may be our buddies in the Pakastani intelligence service. Of course, the people saying that are our buddies in Karzai's Afghan intelligence service. The only people we have to sort out who's telling the truth are the American intelligence services, so we'll never learn what's really going on.

Our puppet in Iraq, on the other hand, doesn’t seem terribly worried about losing his job or his life. Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is so confident in his position, in fact, that he's told us to present him with a detailed plan of how and when we'll pack sand and vacate his premises.

Journalist and historian Gareth Porter relays an anecdote that says Bush told Maliki "If the negotiations for a force presence agreement] crash and burn, I will be forced to pull out all U.S. troops by Jan. 1."

Hence, gathering every iota of statesmanship at his command, young Mr. Bush told Maliki that if we can't stay in his country, we'll leave. When Maliki tells Bush to go spit in his shoe, Bush will doubtless blame Iran for not talking Maliki into playing ball.

Is it any wonder, given the strategic wasteland that is America's security policy, that almost seven years into our woebegone war on terror, a study by the Rand Corporation has concluded that al Qaeda remains a "strong and competent" organization?

America spends as much on defense as rest of the world combined, yet our military failed to defend the homeland from an air raid conducted by four commercial jets armed with box cutters, we cannot control the military behavior of Russia, whose defense budget is roughly 10 percent the size of ours, the administration says that the nation that presents our greatest challenge is Iran, whose defense budget is less that one percent of ours, and we've failed to diminish al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that attacked us on September 11, 2001, and whose defense budget is zero percent of ours.

Fellow citizens, I say let's vote McCain in and give the neocons another chance to get it right. In for a penny, in for an Armageddon, that's my motto.

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.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Irony Curtain

Vladimir Putin has gone from being Russia's president to being Russia's Dick Cheney. As Prime Minister, he still has all the real power but has shed the accountability that goes with being the head of state. So while Putin is undoubtedly the dastard who decided to put the clobber on Georgia, the guy who has to take criticism for it is Putin's political Pinocchio President Dmitry Medvedev. Being the man in the hot seat sort of makes Medvedev Russia's George W. Bush, except that Bush has never really been held responsible for anything. (Bush is only sixty-something and he's only been on the job for seven and a half years, what do you want?)

Medvedev is like Bush in other ways, though. Tuesday August 12, he told the press "he had decided to end the campaign after restoring security for Russian citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia," so like, Bush, he enjoys acting like he's the "decider."

But even as Medvedev announced he was ending the operation, fresh reports emerged of Russian warplanes bombing the Georgian town of Gori. That Medvedev says things to the media that directly contradict reality makes him frighteningly like our young Mr. Bush.

Kettles, Pots and Presidents

It may simply be that Medvedev has a penchant for saying one thing and doing the opposite, which would make him a Dubya-class hypocrite. There are of course, many ways to commit hypocrisy, and Mr. Bush is adept at all of them. He's especially handy with the kind of hypocrisy that indicates "irony" will be stricken from the next edition of the Newspeak Dictionary.

On Monday August 11, Mr. Bush castigated Russia for having "invaded a sovereign neighboring state" and decreed: "such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century." This came from the man who kicked off the New American Century by invading a sovereign state half way across the world and lied about why he was doing it.

"Russia's government must respect Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Bush said, even as his henchmen ignore the Iraqis of Iraq's demand that the U.S. recognize the integrity of sovereign territory by agreeing to leave it.

Mr. Bush said that Russia's hostile actions in Georgia "have substantially damaged Russia's standing in the world." Will poor irony ever rest in peace? One suspects that Bush still thinks his hostile actions in Iraq have enhanced America's standing.

So's His Old Man

Bush's echo chamberlains joined in the condemnation of Russia. That senior U.S. official we've heard so much from since the New York Times helped Bush sell a false casus belli for the invasion of Iraq said that Russia's use of strategic bombers and ballistic missiles against Georgia's civilians was "far disproportionate" to Georgia's alleged attack on Russian peacekeepers. I'd love to get my fingers on that senior official's throat and ask him how "proportionate" to anything he thinks America's use of cruise missile equipped nuclear submarines to bomb Muslim weddings in the hope of accidentally killing a terrorist is.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad oopsed his way out of staying anonymous when he pulled a John Bolton and lost his cool in front of a group of grown ups. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov apparently told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili "must go." Condi apparently let that item slip out in front of Zalmay, and Zalmay blurted it out in front of the UN Security Council.

Lavrov's answer was pretty good: "Regime change is purely an American invention," he said. He's just about right, and I'm starting to think America is the only country left whose leaders are dumb enough to think that toppling a regime and replacing it with a sock surrogate is a good idea. Look how things have gone in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Bush yahooligans are still raving about "regime change" in Iran. Franklin-class insanity, that is.

The triple reverse knuckleball irony of this situation is that while the Bush scumbags are accusing the Russian scumbags of pulling the exact same scum baggery the Bush scumbags pulled, the Russians' latest scum baggage actually looks more like the relatively heroic measures Big Daddy Bush took in the first Iraq war. If the Bush administration spin merchants were working for the Russians, the story would go that mean old Georgia decided to beat up on poor little South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the big strong Russians swept in to save the day for the underdogs, just like America did when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Irony Curtain

Early on the morning of Wednesday August 13, Medvedev and President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia announced they'd reached an agreement whereby Georgia would make nice and Russia would go home, so we can quit camping out in the backyard fallout shelters and go about our normal lives, I guess.

Russia's field trip to Georgia wasn't likely to amount to much. It was physically impossible for their monkey business to encroach on our monkey business. Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan separate Georgia from Iran, and the bananastans are clear on the other side of the Caspian Sea. The only spillover problem would have involved refugees who would have sought refuge in Russia, and don't think for a second that wasn't a large part of the reason Medvedev stepped in to stop things as soon as Putin thought he'd made his point.

The main signal Putin sent with his Georgia outing was that Russia is indeed willing to go along with the revival of the Cold War that the American neoconservatives are trying to produce. In Cold War II, Iran and Venezuela will assume the parts originally played by East Germany and Cuba respectively, and the U.S., Russia and China will reprise their original roles.

Don’t move back into the shelters just yet, though, fellow citizens. The Cold War sequel will be far more carefully choreographed than the original. What we just saw in Georgia was a reasonably well-controlled rehearsal and demonstration. It gave Medvedev a chance to practice talking while Putin drinks a glass of water, and it gave the Russian military a chance to trot out its heavy hardware. Don't be alarmed. Putin is still really in charge and he still knows how to keep things from spinning out of control. As for the military demonstration: from my decades of close observation of the mighty Soviet/Russian arsenal in action, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the ballistic missiles and strategic bombers the Russians used on Georgia were actually the ballistic missile that had an operable inertial guidance system and the strategic bomber that managed to get off the runway. At this point, the bomber is no doubt hard down awaiting parts that won't be manufactured for another ten years and the missile either blew up or crashed.

The Russians, like the Chinese, spend around a tenth as much as we do on defense at most, and they aren't looking for a rematch of the first Cold War's arms race. They're perfectly content (and wise enough) to sit on the sidelines and watch us spend ourselves into insolvency arming for wars with foes that only exist in the Star Trek franchise.

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.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Petraeus Goes Bananastan

Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to spend $20 billion to double the size of Afghanistan's army as part of a program designed to bring the country that was once the "crown jewel" of our woebegone war on terror under control. We might be better served by simply bribing the Taliban and al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan to take a little breather. That's how General David Petraeus got the Sunni militias in Iraq to play ball with him, and that only cost us about $216 million. As peace making measures go, it's cheaper to buy guerillas than it is to make soldiers, so why not take the path of least resistance?

Of course, the cost of victory through bribery in the bananastans could get twice as expensive now that "top Bush administration officials" are looking to step up ground force forays into Pakistan. I guess the top officials finally realized that bombing Pakistani weddings with nuclear submarines isn't getting the job done.

Not to worry, though. General David Petraeus, young Mr. Bush's "main man," is about to take charge of the bananastans, and if he can't win there, nobody can.

Our Man in Bananastan

As top military official in Iraq, General David Petraeus followed the same formula that he used in his previous tours there, first as commander of the Mosul district and later as the officer in charge of training Iraqi security forces. He gained short-term results by passing out crates of weapons and bags of money to anybody who wanted them (which was everybody), then he posted press releases telling everyone how brilliant he was, and then he shrugged when things fell apart for the poor knee knocker who relieved him.

As top dog in Iraq, Petraeus caught an enormous break in Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr's decision to declare a cease fire in August 2007, and again when Sadr agreed to a second cease fire in March 2008 after Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki launched an offensive against Sadr's Mahdi Army and botched it, and yet again when Sadr recently announced that he'll turn his Mahdi force into a social service organization. For those small blessings, Petraeus can probably thank the influence of Grand Ayatolla Ali al Sistani and Shiite brass in Iran (i.e., the guys he blames for all his blunders.)

The downside to Sadr's peace, love and understanding initiative is that it comes at a cost; his followers will lay down their arms if the U.S. agrees to a timeline to pull forces out of Iraq. That, of course, would deny the neoconservatives of their war aim; the whole point of going into Iraq was to stay there, and the whole point of putting Petraeus in charge of Iraq was to get the neocons what they wanted.

Also note that Sadr isn't talking about having his people throw their weapons on a big bonfire. He's talking about having them not walk around with them. If the time comes to take them back up again, you can be assured they'll remember where they put them.

Sadr—and possibly his Shiite elders—are adeptly executing a "force in being" strategy. A "force in being" is similar to a "fleet in being," which Wikipedia defines as "a naval force that extends a controlling influence without ever leaving port." By staying in port, a fleet in being forces the enemy to "continually deploy forces to guard against it" while avoiding the risk of being destroyed in battle.

Land forces, especially irregular ones like Sadr's Mahdi Army, have certain inherent advantages over fleets; among them are that the force is impossible to sink, and, also unlike a fleet, it can blend into the population. Hence, it cannot be "bottled up" in port the way a fleet can. It can deploy in parts, execute strikes and raids, and disappear back into its hobbiton. A fleet, whether at sea or in port, costs a lot of money to maintain. An irregular army like Sadr's, whether active or dormant, costs next to nothing to keep up. Unlike the fleet that may be lured out of port for a decisive battle, Sadr's army will almost certainly never throw itself enmasse in a head to head confrontation with a superior force the way the Vietcong did in the Tet Offensive.

Sadr has the hearts and minds thing pre-won. He's already done a lot of these community angel operations. The majority Shiite population, on the whole, already doesn't trust U.S. forces, they don't trust Maliki's security forces, which are mostly made up of Shiites from the Badr Brigade organization, and they most certainly don't trust the Sunni militias. By putting his fighters on the street as beat cops/precinct captains/social workers, Maliki keeps them employed and gains them community loyalty, so if the guns come out again, the peeps will cover their backs.

The best hope for a reasonable resolution to our Iraq miasma is to take Maliki's (and Sadr's) offer to go home, and to negotiate, as part of the exit plan, the kinds of economic and security agreements that will make Iraq the "partner" in the war on terror we supposedly want it to be as well as get us in on the ground floor as the senior partner in Iran's regional nuclear energy industry. Unfortunately, that won't go down well at all with the neocons, who want the exact opposite: an eternal occupation with a perpetual low level conflict that will justify the military commitment without producing enough own force casualties to goad the American public into authentic rebellion, or make the middle class realize that, economically, our fruitless wars have made it like the boiling frog that's still breathing but already cooked.

The question is, which way will Pretraeus jump?

The Kitchen CINC

Come September, King David will move upstairs and take the reins of Central Command, at which point he'll be praetorian governor of Egypt, the Arabias, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest of the 'Stans.

He'll be tempted to stick with his strengths and start handing out guns and money in the bananstans, but that's been tried and has failed. We've already tried the puppet government thing too. One of his pet tinhorns—Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf—is about to get impeached, and his other one—Afghan President Hamid Karzai—is a wimp who keeps whining at us to quit killing innocent Afghan civilians before they vote him into the next life. Petraeus might try to replicate our early tactical victories in Afghanistan. Cavorting around the desert on horseback to wow the press would certain appeal to his penchant for self-promotion, but it won't do any more to improve the strategic situation in the banastans any more than more of his beloved one-arm pushup contests will. He'll blame everything that goes wrong in the on NATO the way he blamed everything on Iran, but shirking will produce the same goose egg in the bananastans that it netted him in Iraq.

Ultimately, David Petraeus will most likely pursue a scenario that achieves the ambitions of David Petraeus, and that's bad news for the rest of humanity. He'll probably slap his standard quick fix on the problems in the bananastans and leave a time-release booby trap that will blow off his Obama appointed successor's thumbs.

That scenario creates more of the everlasting low-level conflict the neocons want in order to justify continued U.S. military presence in the region. It also gives the neocons an opening to say they told us Obama didn't have the experience needed to be commander in chief.

Most importantly, though, it paves the way for David Petraeus's nomination as the Great Foreign Policy Hope of 2012.

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.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Barbecue Republic Revisited

Every week I read out of the way, oddly related stories that remind me what an abject barbecue republic America has become under young Mr. Bush's stewardship. Here are a few of the latest ones.

First up is an item that apparently only James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News and MSNBC's Keith Olbermann cared enough about to report. On August 2 Meek wrote "In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks, White House officials repeatedly pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove it was a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda, but investigators ruled that out."

After New York Sun photo editor Robert Stevens died from anthrax exposure in October 2001, Mueller was "beaten up" during Bush's morning intelligence briefs for not manufacturing proof that bin Laden was behind the attack of the killer spores. Meek's source, a retired senior FBI official, said, "They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East."

By the time Bush was bullying Mueller to cook the evidence on the Anthrax scare, according to the ex-FBI man, the Bureau already knew that the anthrax concealed in mail to media figures and a U.S. Senator was a military strain of the bio-weapon. The ex-official said, "They couldn't go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next."

No, and they couldn't go from box cutters to city buster nuclear weapons very quickly either, but that didn't stop the administration from planting visions of mushroom clouds in our heads to justify their Iraq invasion.

The Daily News gave this story 220 words on a Saturday evening. Olbermann mentioned it the next Monday evening. The rest of the print and broadcast media didn't touch it.

He Drove bin Laden to Terror

Seven years after the anthrax affair the administration is still trying to nail al Qaeda for something. Anything. The tallest Arab ever wanted dead or alive by a sitting U.S. president is still at large, but by jingo, we got the drop on his chauffer.

The military trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan convened in a secret session at Guantanamo Bay on July 31 to hear "highly classified" testimony from two witnesses. Critics of the military tribunals being held in Guantanamo contend that allowing classified testimony is part of a system rigged to produce a guilty verdict. Guantanamo tribunals like Hamdan's also allow hearsay evidence and evidence derived through "coercive interrogation methods," critics protest.

Some of the most damaging testimony against Hamdan was unclassified. Naval Criminal Investigative Service Agent Robert McFadden said that Hamdan told him in a 2003 interrogation that he had sworn allegiance to bin Laden, and quoted Hamdan as saying he has dedicated himself to bin Laden's "jihad" against the west.

During the course of my 21-year career as a naval officer, I had many, many, many dealings with and observations of agents of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Not a single one of those cowboys could find their keyster with a map and a seeing-eye dog to read it for them. As a squadron skipper I once complained to an NCIS district supervisor about the slug he had working on a case involving someone in my command. The supervisor shrugged and said he was having trouble finding good agents those days. I said I guessed he would be, what with all the top talent getting snapped up by Miami Vice and Hawaii 5-O.

They used to call themselves the Naval Investigative Service until in the early '90s. After the Tailhook scandal, they had to insert the word "criminal" into their name because they committed so many crimes in the course of the investigation. A colleague at the time told me they threatened him with an IRS audit every year for the rest of his life if he didn't tell them the dirt they wanted to hear about how a buddy of his acted in Vegas during the naval aviators' convention.

So you can imagine the gravity of the oaths I hurled toward the heavens when I read that the NCIS agent who had interrogated Hamdan was the prosecution's closing witness. I can't stop asking myself what string of events could possibly have led to the decision to have Hamdan interrogated by an NCIS agent in the first place. Were Doctor Evil and Dog the Bounty Hunter both out of town? More incredibly, why in the wide world of sports, arts and sciences did the prosecutor choose to make the NCIS buffoon his closing witness? He couldn't get his secret dudes to tell enough lies?

At the end of the day, all this hoo-haw, all this illegal tapping of telephones and Patriot Acts and running roughshod over the Constitution and treaty law so we can nab and nail terrorists resulted in the conviction of a forty-year old Bedouin who can drive a car and put gas in it on a charge of "providing material support for terrorism." The specifications for which Hamdan was convicted included driving bin Laden around, serving as his bodyguard and knowing his goals, which were the things NCIS Agent McFadden "coaxed" him into admitting to. Hamdan was found not guilty of the main charge of conspiring to commit terror, which was the only charge against him until McFadden's interrogation in 2003.

For being bin Laden's chauffer, Hamdan could receive life imprisonment. Hitler's chauffer didn’t get anything. He wasn’t even put on trial. Don’t feel too bad for Hamdan, though. Remember, the U.S. Supreme Court said he could appeal his conviction in the Federal Court system, and there they don't allow evidence gained through "coercive interrogation methods." Plus no self-respecting prosecutor is likely to use put an NCIS agent as a witness in a real trial.

The Bush administration never should have pushed the Hamdan case this far. If they'd really wanted to do a number on the guy, they should have released him in Pakistan, then waited for him to attend a wedding, and bombed the wedding with a fistful of cruise missiles launched from a nuclear submarine. If they couldn't get intelligence good enough to know which wedding Hamdan might show up to, they could just bomb every wedding. Odds are he'd show up at one eventually, and he didn't show up, some other "top" terrorist would. Or they could just bomb a wedding and say they got him. Who'd know the difference?

Top Gun?

"Al-Qaida Admits Death of Top Commander" read the August 4 headline of an Associated Press story at No, we didn't get bin Laden. The top al Qaeda commander in question was actually a top al Qaeda commander named Abu Khabab al-Masri.

Al Masri had been accused by the U.S. Justice Department—the same Justice Department that charged Hamdan with but did not manage to convict him of conspiracy to commit terror—of training the suicide bombers who killed 17 sailors on the USS Cole. According to AP, Masri "is believed to have been killed in an airstrike apparently launched by the U.S. in Pakistan last week." (Apparently launched by the U.S.? Great. Caesar's. Ghost. Who else would have launched an airstrike in Pakistan last week? Barundi?)

Masri is believed to have been killed because al Qaeda posted a statement on the internet saying he had been killed, along with three other "top figures" and their children. Pakistani authorities say they "believe" Masri is "one of six people killed in an airstrike on July 28 on a compound in South Waziristan." The Pakistani "authorities" are, apparently, "two Pakistani intelligence officials."

One has to wonder if these two Pakistani intelligence officials are among the Pakistani intelligence officials believed to be in league with al Qaeda and/or the Taliban and/or believed to be involved with the attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan. One also has to wonder if the Justice Department got the evidence it based its accusations against Masri on from Pakastini intelligence officials. It sure didn't get the evidence from U.S. intelligence officials. Our intelligence officials don't even know if we killed the guy or not. Our intelligence officials are about as competent as, well, NCIS agents.

And based on the recent report by the Rand Corporation that says the Bush administration's strategy against al Qaeda has apparently made the terrorist group stronger, one also has to wonder if the people in charge of America's anti-terror strategy have done anything in the last seven years other than sit in a circle and pull on their potty wands.

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.

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.