Thursday, December 31, 2009

I See London, I See France, I See Bombs in Underpants

So this Lonesome Luke rich Nigerian kid, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, hops on a plane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day with a bomb sewn into his underpants. As the plane begins to land, the kid tries to set off the bomb and it does little more than give him third-degree burns on his tallywhacker, and the entire civilized world goes snake guano.

Many observers have compared the rich Nigerian kid with the skivvy bomb with shoe bomber Richard Reid who tried to blow up an airplane over the Atlantic in 2001. The explosive in Reid’s shoes was the same type the Nigerian kid had in his drawers, PETN. Had Reid been able to detonate his shoes, he presumably would have blown his toes off. The rich Nigerian kid had twice as much of the explosive in his boxers as Reid had in his shoes. Federal authorities say if the kid’s panties had gone boom like they were supposed to, they would have blown a hole in the side of the aircraft. That would have caused something called "explosive decompression," which isn’t as horrible as it sounds. Unlike what you may have seen in thriller entertainments, decompressions don’t suck everybody out of the airplane — unless, of course, the hole is big enough to break the airplane in half, in which case being sucked out of it becomes a minor concern.

The media have been frothing over the prospect that the rich Nigerian kid is connected to al-Qaeda. The kid himself told authorities that he has ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That could mean just about anything. It could mean some huckster recognized him as a screwed up rich kid with radical Islamic leanings, sidled up to him, and said, Psst. Young Man. I am with al-Qaeda. We’ve had our eye on you for some time now, and we like what we see. You want the martyrdom, the virgins, the seat beside Allah? Well, I have a lovely little bomb you can sneak onboard an airplane in your Fruit of the Looms, and for you I’ll part with it for a mere $100,000 US, and believe me, I’m losing money on the deal.

Who are these AQAP hooligans, anyway? They’re described as an al-Qaeda "offshoot." Does that mean they’re a subsidiary of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, kind of like KBR is an offshoot of Dick Cheney’s Halliburton? AQAP formed in January 2009 when al-Qaeda in Yemen merged with Saudi Arabia’s al-Qaeda. Whatever you do, don’t mistake AQAP or Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda with al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which more than anything else resembles a Pittsburg garage band that calls itself "The Rolling Stones of Pennsylvania."

AQAP has taken credit for the rich Nigerian kid’s bombing attempt, which tells us the outfit is a gang of losers. Taking credit for the Detroit plane bombing is like Winston Churchill bragging about his role in Gallipoli: yeah, I’m the schmuck who arranged that unmitigated disaster.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who never met an issue he couldn’t be partisan about, criticized Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for appearing "bored" on the Christmas weekend political gab-athons. "There was no intensity, there was no show of emotion," King said. King obviously would have preferred the female Democrat to appear hysterical and disoriented.

As it was, Napolitano did more than sufficient damage to herself by claiming that "the system worked." Yeah. A rich Nigerian kid who’s on a watch list and whose respected banker father has warned authorities may be a terrorist risk manages to board an airplane headed for America with a pant load of bomb and no passport and the freaking system worked? Napolitano later retracted her statement, but the damage had been done. Like President Obama finally said, there was a "systematic failure" of America’s security apparatus.

Speaking of saying stupid things: I have two graduate degrees in bull crap, I know exactly what it sounds like, and I hear it every time lipstick neocon Joe Lieberman opens his mouth. Like Dick Cheney, Lieberman managed to get himself deferred out of the Vietnam conflict, first for attending Yale and Yale Law School and then for managing to get his wife pregnant. Joe’s only real warmongering credentials are his conspicuous displays of smoking John McCain’s stogie, but that appears to be enough for him to get by. Joe never met a war he didn’t like: except, of course, for the one he managed to dodge when he was of draft age.

Joe told FOX News "Iraq was yesterday’s war. Afghanistan is today’s war. If we don’t act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow’s war." Joe’s always been one for acting preemptively. He was a leading proponent of going off half-cocked into Iraq. He still thinks preemptive deterrence is an enlightened method of foreign policy. Joe might want to stitch his pie hole shut on the subject of military actions and look into what’s wrong with the Homeland Security structure, seeing as how he’s the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and all.

Joe doesn’t seem to understand, however, that we’re already doing preemptive things in Yemen. The US was involved in a pre-Christmas air strike on Yemen’s Sa’ada Province. CIA agents and Special Operations forces began covert ops in Yemen a year ago. This has all been done, of course, without a declaration of war or an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) from Congress, much as the Bush administration blew villages in Somalia to smithereens without authorization from the legislature. We don’t have presidents any more. We have emperors.

Non-G.I. Joe says Yemen is now one of the "centers" of the fight against terrorism, and Joe’s not the only war dog who thinks Yemen is the next military-industrial mother lode.

"Yemen’s security problems won’t just stay in Yemen," says Christopher Boucek, who studies Yemen as an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "They’re regional problems and they affect Western interests."

Lest you think the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is actually interested in peace, be advised that another of its associates is Robert Kagan of the neocon Kagans who include father Donald Kagan and brother Fred Kagan who played a major role in designing both the Iraq and Afghanistan surges. Robert Kagan is also the long-time publishing and ideological partner of Weekly Standard editor and Project for the New American Century founder Bill Kristol.

Keep in mind, then, that Christopher Boucek’s real job at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is to start a full-blown war in Yemen, and the job of everyone else at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is sustain international warfare for as long as humanly possible.

And now we’re all hot to trot off to war in Yemen because of some spoiled, screwed up Muslim kid who, by the way, comes from Nigeria, not Yemen, just as the 9/11 attackers came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, not Afghanistan.

Normal.dotm 0 0 1 51 295 Pen and Sword 2 1 362 12.0

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.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another Surgin' Safari

Devotees of President Obama’s plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan hope to repeat the "success" of our surge in Iraq. That’s likely to prove easier to accomplish than even the most rabid Afghanistan surge proponent dares to hope.

The Iraq surge was already in motion in January 2007, when Bush and Cheney flipped off the Iraq Study Group and decided to escalate the war with David Petraeus, the "Teflon General," at the helm of the operation. A shameless self-promoter, "King David" created the illusion of a successful surge by lowering violence statistics through his usual method of operation: hand out weapons to the bad guys, bribe the bad guys not to use the weapons, and pretend to be shocked, shocked when the bad guys take the bribes and use the weapons anyway.

Petraeus’ personal stenographer, former journalist Thomas E. Ricks, admits that Petraeus misled Congress and the public into thinking he was trying to end the war when he was in fact laying "the groundwork for a much more prolonged engagement in Iraq."

Three years after the surge began, violence shows no signs of disappearing. Holiday attacks were especially brutal. Mosul Mayor Zuhair Muhsen al-Aaraji escaped an assassination attempt on Christmas Eve. (Mosul is the town Petraeus supposedly "tamed" during his first tour in Iraq. Within weeks after he left and the graft well ran dry, Mosul went up for grabs and has been a trouble spot ever since.)

Also on Dec. 24, as the Shi’ite religious festival of Ashura approached, five attacks killed at least 19 people and wounded over 100. The Iraqi government was quick to blame al-Qaeda in Iraq, but I’ll bet you a shiny new Ohio quarter that the Sunni-based Awakening movement that Petraeus armed and funded had more than a little something to do with the attacks.

On Christmas Day, a roadside bomb killed six Shi’ites during a religious ceremony in Baghdad. In several parts of the country, fights broke out between Christians and Shi’ites over competing religious decorations.

Many Iraqi Christians were afraid to make any public celebration of Christmas. Midnight mass had to be observed in daylight. A bomb exploded near a historic Christian church in Mosul on Dec. 23, killing two people and wounding five. Security around Christian churches was the heaviest it has been since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003.

On Dec. 22, a series of coordinated car bombings killed 112 people in Baghdad. This was the third coordinated attack on Baghdad in four months; the bombs struck areas near justice buildings, a Finance Ministry office, and a police checkpoint, symbols of government authority all under tight security after the earlier bomb attacks.

On Oct. 18, a roadside bombing and other attacks killed 10 U.S. troops, making it the deadliest day for American forces in 10 months. (We have, by the way, spent over $14 billion on programs to defeat roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices [IEDs] and have yet to find a solution. The Army’s Joint IED Defeat Organization [JEIDDO] rather symbolizes our entire war on terror: mind-numbing amounts of treasure poured down a rabbit hole to no avail.)

Iraqi security forces have proven unable to provide the security necessary to keep the peace. That should come as no surprise: the man in charge of training them in 2004 and 2005 was Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, who, in that capacity, lost track of over 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols that without question found their way into the hands of militia groups. This happened while the staff at the U.S. Army War College was assembling the new field manual on counterinsurgency operations that Petraeus later took credit for writing, a myth that Ricks and other media sycophants helped propagate.

The best summary of the "success" of the Iraq surge came in the form of a July memorandum from Army Col. Timothy Reese, chief of the Baghdad Operations Advisory Team, titled "It’s Time for the U.S. to Declare Victory and Go Home."

Reese describes the "ineffectiveness and corruption" of the Iraqi government as "the stuff of legend." The so-called anti-corruption initiative is merely a campaign tool for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki’s government is taking "no rational steps" to improve the country’s infrastructure or oil exploration. Sunni reconciliation is "at best at a standstill and probably going backwards." The Kurdish situation "continues to fester." Political violence and intimidation is "rampant."

There is no possibility of implanting a "professional military culture" in Iraq’s security forces. Corruption in the officer corps is "widespread." Enlisted men are neglected and mistreated. Cronyism and nepotism are "rampant." Laziness is "endemic." Lack of initiative is "legion." Iraq’s security force’s "near total ineffectiveness" prevents it from becoming self-sustaining.

Gen. Ray "Desert Ox" Odierno, Petraeus’ handpicked successor as overall commander in Iraq who Ricks laughably claims was the real brain behind the Iraq surge, calls Reese’s concerns mere "tactical issues."

Gen. Stan "The Man" McChrystal, whom Petraeus handpicked to command in Af-Pak, has been charged with leading a successful surge in that theater of operations. Given the corruption that exists in the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the incompetence and corruption in their militaries, and the seemingly uncontrollable levels of violence in both countries, I’d say McChrystal is well on his way to surpassing the accomplishments of Petraeus and Odierno by a wide margin.

In fact, I see no reason why President Barack Obama shouldn’t fly aboard an aircraft carrier tomorrow and declare "mission accomplished" in Af-Pak.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Obama's AfPak Vagina Monologues

(Scene: The Bizarro Universe, January 1942. Bizarro Adm. William Leahy, chief of staff to Bizarro President Franklin Roosevelt and de facto first chairman of the Bizarro Joint Chiefs of Staff, enters the oval office of the Bizarro White House.)

Bizarro Leahy: Mr. President, your national security team has just adjourned after agreeing on what we think is the perfect Pacific strategy.

Bizarro FDR: That’s excellent, William. Let’s hear your plan.

Bizarro Leahy: The entire strategy rests on the vital geostrategic importance of Alaska, sir.

Bizarro FDR: (Pauses.) But, uh, William, what about the Philippines and New Zealand and Singapore and Midway and the Solomon Island chain and so forth?

Bizarro Leahy: Sir, Alaska is definitely the center of gravity of the war in the Pacific.

Bizarro FDR: But it’s not exactly in the center, is it? It’s more toward the top, wouldn’t you agree?

Bizarro Leahy: Yes, Mr. President, but it’s like they say, a fish rots from the head down.

Bizarro FDR: (Stroking his chin.) They do say that, don’t they?

Bizarro Leahy: You see, Mr. President, Midway and the Solomons and Singapore and so forth are important strategic targets, but the Japanese can’t capture them unless they have a sanctuary in Alaska from which to plan their operations.

Bizarro FDR: By George, William, you’ve explained it all perfectly. Thank goodness I have the expertise and experience of you and your Bizarro Chiefs of Staff to explain things to me. Order another 30,000 of our troops to Alaska then, and I’ll speak with Bizarro Winston Churchill about sending an additional 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders and Canadians to help out.

Barack Obama’s Af-Pak strategy must have the real FDR clawing at his coffin lid. The new strategy was cooked up by the same group of stooges Robert Dreyfuss laughably described as "Obama’s Chess Masters" in the April 2009 edition of Rolling Stone, one of the country’s most authoritative voices on military and foreign policy matters.

In March, the pawn pushers announced a strategy that promised to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda, give Afghanistan a real government and security force, establish civilian control of Pakistan, and involve the "international community" in achieving all of these "realistic and achievable" objectives.

Within months of assuming command of Af-Pak, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whose previous combat job had been to command the Joint Special Operations Command, then-vice president Dick Cheney’s personal assassination team, decided he needed a new strategy.

So Obama sent his chess masters back to work on the project and they met and met for weeks and weeks in a "deliberative process," and here’s what they came up with.

The main objective, as before, was to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda’s ability to plan and execute terror operations. This part of the deliberative process largely resembled the deliberative process from March, which included a debate on what the center of gravity might be.

Many of the brainiacs in and around the five-sided puzzle palace considered the Taliban to be the center of gravity. Stan McChrystal and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen considered the Afghan people to be the center of gravity, but that’s largely because they buy the balderdash Gen. David Petraeus’ underlings wrote in the new plagiarized Counterinsurgency (COIN) Field Manual. Sen. John Kerry, not exactly known for his ability to devise and execute winning strategies, thinks the center of gravity in Afghanistan is Pakistan. Now the top dogs with the brass plates in their skulls are saying the center of gravity is southern Afghanistan.

Poppycock. None of these guys would recognize a center of gravity if it pitched a tent in their heinies.

Carl von Clausewitz described the center of gravity as "the point against which all our energies should be directed.” That point must of necessity be the thing most closely associated with our objective. So if our objective is to end al-Qaeda’s ability to plan and execute terror operations, a slow child could correctly conclude with little deliberation at all that the center of gravity is al-Qaeda. Funny how Obama’s chess champs couldn’t reach such an obvious conclusion through their advanced decision-making processes. Maybe the problem was too simple for them. Or maybe it was too hard. Maybe they should take up checkers, or better yet that childen’s card game where you play one card at a time. What’s it called again? Oh yeah – War!

War is, in fact, exactly what Obama’s security team is playing. Long War, to be specific, the Pentagon’s grand strategy to keep low-level conflicts active for another half-century or longer to justify the military budget. That’s why they don’t want to come out and call al-Qaeda the center of gravity. National Security Adviser James Jones admits there are at a maximum 100 al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and probably fewer than 400 in Pakistan. Other studies estimate that there may be fewer than 10 core al-Qaeda members left. It’s pretty hard to justify a 50-year war for the sake of taking out fewer than 500 Islamo-hooligans (at most) who are on the run. The other problem with that approach is that with modern mobile communications technology, al-Qaeda needs a safe haven in Af-Pak to plan terror attacks on America even less than the Japanese needed a sanctuary in Alaska to plan Pearl Harbor.

So we’re sticking with the same game plan as before, even though it’s even more farcical now than it was then. The Afghan president, who is as crooked as the Snake River, stole two elections, his hand-picked election inspectors declared him "reelected," and the Obama administration tripped all over its collective sex organ declaring Karzai the "legitimate" leader of Afghanistan so we can say we have a reliable partner for our counterinsurgency effort that now includes timelines that mean absolutely nothing. ("Depending on conditions on the ground." Where have we heard that load of snot rag before?)

Pakistan’s military and intelligence service have made President Asif Ali Zardari as much of an empty hat as George W. Bush was, and Pakistan is becoming as corrupt as Afghanistan is.

As for international involvement, Obama has managed to bully NATO countries into sending more troops to Afghanistan, but the second our bureaucratic twit Secretary of Defense Bob Gates complains for the umpteenth time that NATO doesn’t know how to fight guerrillas, NATO’s going to tell Gates where he can stick his guerrillas and go home.

Those weeks of "deliberative process" were little more than cover for the fact that Obama was once again going to put on his kneepads and give his generals everything they wanted. I shriek every time Obama gives a speech in which he talks about how brilliant Petraeus is when the facts are that all Petraeus knows how to do is hand out guns to bad guys, bribe the bad guys not to use the guns he just gave them, and then act surprised when they use the guns anyway.

Here’s what Obama needs to change right now. He needs to drop the vagina monologues, get his generals under control or fire them, start acting like the commander in chief, and quit acting like Bizarro FDR.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bring Back the Bad Guys

By Jeff Huber

Conquerors immemorial have known that the secret to successful occupations is to let the guys who surrender stay in charge of the yokels. We are presently bogged down in two quagmires because we haven’t learned that lesson.

Iraq’s government and security forces are incompetent and corrupt, the Kurdish situation remains unresolved, and nobody seems confident that the country will ever be able to function as an independent state again. Oh, for the good old days under Saddam Hussein! Whatever you want to say about the son of a sand dune, he didn’t need a field manual to figure out how to run his country. Neither did Mohammed Omar’s Taliban need a book on how to run Afghanistan. They have lived in the neighborhood for a very long time.

Decapitating regimes through military force is the most foolhardy of foreign-policy acts. The Prussians discovered this the hard way in the Franco- Prussian War. They defeated the French Army at Sedan and took Napoleon III prisoner along with 140,000 of his soldiers. But the war dragged on for months because the French formed a new government and a new army and kept fighting. They didn’t like the idea of Germans occupying their country. Imagine that.

Few military victories have been more stunning than the fall of Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the fighting continues almost seven years later. We supposedly ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan eight years ago, and we’re still trying to oust them. We’d be better off by far if we had never invaded either but worked instead with the power structures already in place. As Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”

See the rest at The American Conservative.

Friday, December 18, 2009

ON the Rapid Mend

Thanks to all for your expressions of concern. I'm on the mend. Just my second full day at home, I ran several errands, cleaned the house, walked the dogs, did about 15 minutes of tai chi, wrote a complaint to the State Department of Health regarding my (former) cardiologist, and got a good start on Monday's article.

So fear not. I'll be back!



Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Sick Leave

I'll be taking some time off to get over the flu. Talk to you soon.


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Get Real about Iran

Iran has announced that it will build 10 new nuclear facilities. Big deal.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the facilities are necessary to meet the country's goal to one day generate up to 20,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, a grand ambition.

That program would require 500,000 centrifuges. Iran presently has 8,000, only half of which are currently producing reactor grade uranium. Experts predict the Iranians can’t get there from here, at least not any time soon.

“We’re looking at an extremely costly 20- or 30-year program, at best," says Gary Sick, a professor of Middle East studies at Columbia University who served on the National Security Council during Iran's 1979 revolution.

Ahmad Shirzad, an Iranian nuclear scientist who is often critical of his government, says Iran has neither the industrial ability to create 500,000 centrifuges nor the basic ingredients to operate them. He says the announcement was a "political decision to make an impression."

The announcement came in response to an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution that said Iran was bad, bad, bad for not exporting the majority of its reactor grade uranium to Russia and France. That was a bogus deal that Iran was wise to stiff-arm. France has screwed Iran on nuclear deals in the past.

No one wants to grant that Iran, like many countries, wants to improve its situation in the world, and that the prize, for them, is a nuclear energy program. To have nuclear weapons would be, for them, a death sentence. Both Israel and America would go snake spit and bomb them back to the Bronze Age.

The impasse revolves around demands by the west that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment program. That’s an outrageous demand, one that Iran says it will never accede to, and well it should not. Having a nuclear energy program that relies on other countries to provide your nuclear fuel is like not having a nuclear energy program at all.

The Iranians will stand their ground. They will not be bullied into giving up their “inalienable right,” as guaranteed in the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty, to refine their own uranium. So why bother pursuing that aim?

The hoopla over their “secret” enrichment facility at Qom, buried under a mountain, the one they revealed before we accused them of keeping it a secret, is not a big deal. As they explain, they wanted a back-up, bombproof facility in case the Israelis blow up their main facility in Nanantz, something the Iranians have ample reason to believe might happen.

To review the bidding, Iranians don’t have a nuclear weapons program. They have never invaded another country. Their conventional forces have limited capability. Their army has never deployed more than about ten miles from its border, and that was only during the eight-year war with Iraq when Saddam Hussein invaded them. Their navy is a coast guard and their air force is a junkyard. Their defense budget is less than one percent of ours. Iran is a pismire.

Iran’s president says unfortunate things; most of them, one strongly suspects, are for domestic Iranian and Muslim world consumption, the equivalent of “Bring ‘em on.” But the Iranian’s are, well, paper Persians. Their growl is much worse than their bite. They are, in fact, toothless.

Iran is part of the multi-tined Long War strategy that the Pentagon and its supporters are cramming up our noses. They’re digging their heels in on Iraq. Gen. Ray Odeirno has been making noises about how we need to keep 30,000 or so troops in Iraq until 2015 or so, and says the insurgency in Iraq may go on for another 15 or so years. So much for the “successful” surge.

Afghanistan, where it looks like we’re going to re-re-escalate in order to develop an exit plan, has become the Long War’s center of gravity. We’ve never seen the Pentagon and its confederates make such a media play to force a president to keep a war going indefinitely. MacArthur’s antics with Truman were tame in comparison.

Iran serves several purposes. It gives the Air Force and the Navy a reason to exist. We won’t bother to invade Iran; we’ll schwack it with air power. Iran is a convenient scapegoat. Whenever something goes wrong anywhere in the region, we blame it on Iran, even though we never have managed to prove any of our allegations. Most importantly, the Iranians give us a perfect excuse to maintain presence in the Middle East, so we can guard Israel from them and keep them from shutting down the Straight of Hormuz.

In all, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan form our Long War trifecta.

I don’t propose that we turn our backs on Iran. There is a possibility that they someday will develop nuclear weapons behind everybody’s backs if we don’t keep an eye on them.

But the sound and fury we generate every time Iran jerks our chain is silly.

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.