Friday, December 23, 2005

Blind Leading the Blind?

Jonah Goldberg makes an interesting point concerning isolationism and America's view of our enemies. In this example, he highlights Time's rather bland description of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as an "unlikely firebrand," as opposed to, say, a murderous fanatic. Beyond that, he brings up the Isolationist tradition in America (and Britain) in the 1930's, when , according to JFK, the events in Germany and Japan were ignored since we didn't want to face reality, especially after the horrors of WW I and the Depression.

But this brings up a larger point. And that is the (in)ability of democracies to remain vigilant for emerging threats. This is a thesis that was espoused by Dr. Harold Rood, professor emeritus at Claremont McKenna College. In his book, Kingdoms of the Blind, he described how democracies too often fail to maintain a strategic outlook. His sub-title says it all: How the Great Democracies Have Resumed the Follies That So Nearly Cost Them Their Life. He compares the inter-war period between the world wars and argues that the same mistakes were being made during the Cold War. Originally published in 1980, Dr. Rood was quite right in his assessment of our Cold War posture at the time. Thankfully, Ronald Reagan came along and saw the Soviet Union for what it was, an "evil empire," and dared call for it to "tear down this wall" in Berlin. While those who were guilty of the follies Dr. Rood wrote about, such as those who argued for peaceful coexistence, feared he would lead us into nuclear armageddon, as depicted in the propaganda film The Day After, Reagan instead led us to victory in the Cold war, freeing millions from the slavery of communism. Unfortunately, as the Time article shows, we have not learned our lesson, even during a war.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Missile Defense on a Roll

I have written about missile defense before, but there has been a lot of news lately, and all of it good.

In the past month, there have been four successful tests of various missile defense systems. On November 17th, we successfully tested the Aegis SM-3 missile, against a separating warhead, the first time this has been done. A week later, the THAAD program got back on track after a six-year suspension without testing. Then, last week, the Ground-based Mid-course Defense (GMD) system was also successfully tested after some high-profile failures a year ago. Add to that, Israel successfully tested the U.S.-funded Arrow II anti-tactical ballistic missile system against a manuevering warhead. And it's not just the missile systems that are moving forward. The Airborne Laser (ABL) system is a chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL) placed on a modified Boeing 747, and it has passed all the milestones to prove the COIL's technical capability to shoot down a missile in its boost phase, and is ready to be mated with the aircraft.

These successes are vital in getting missile defense moving forward, and being fully funded. As the Bush Administration has been cutting spending lately to account for the cost of Iraq and Katrina, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has not escaped its share. In particular, efforts to begin the space-based phase of missile defense may be pushed further to the left indefinately, achieving the "mission kill" that opponents of missile defense want. Ultimately, space-based defenses will be necessary to complete the layered defense that is required to produce a system that can be confidently relied upon. This is especially true as other countries try to defeat our current systems with manuevering warheads. Since space-based defenses can defeat incoming missiles before they deploy their warheads, they make that particular counter-measure, and others such as decoys, useless.

In a recent interview with MDA Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, the current status and future plans were layed out, along with an explanation of why we need missile defense:

...let’s face it, we are the ultimate in arms control. When all else fails, we have to have something between us and a weapon. When attempts to diplomatically disarm other countries fail, we have to perform.

First of all, you have to recognize that arms control assumes rational actors. Arms control assumes adversaries that can be deterred... What we are finding out today in this world is we have folks that are not like that. We have folks that are willing to sacrifice not only themselves but hundreds of people for a particular cause. If those people get their hands on these types of weapons—and there are hundreds and hundreds of missiles out there; many, many, many that are unaccounted for—they are almost undeterrable.
With its recent success, despite the budget cuts, America will be closer to being safe from missile attack.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What Do Iraqis Think?

Many of those who debate the Iraq war state that the Iraqis don't want us there, and that we have made things much worse for them. However, this poll refutes these notions, and shows that Iraqis are feeling pretty good about things, to wit:

71% say their life is good
61% say that security is good
66% say that crime levels are good
74% say their schools are good
70% say their economic situation is good
64% say things will get better
67% have confidence in the Iraqi army
68% have confidence in the Iraqi police
57% prefer democracy to dictatorship or religious rule
47% said the US invasion was right (50% said it was wrong)

In terms of living standards:
62% have a cell phone
55% have a car
58% have an air conditioner
86% have a satellite dish
all are up from a 2004 poll, including a 63% increase in monthly salary

It seems the Iraqis have a better view of the war than we do.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Other Nuclear Threat

Bill Gertz highlights a new book that outlines a looming threat:

A single nuclear weapon carried by a ballistic missile and detonated a few hundred miles over the United States would cause 'catastrophe for the nation' by damaging electricity-based networks and infrastructure, including computers and telecommunications, according to 'War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World.'
Electromagnetic Pulse (or EMP) is a tactic that many of our enemies are trying to add to their arsenals, as they attempt to develop asymmetric warfare strategies to counter American military superiority. The sooner we address this threat, the better.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Iraq Strategy is (Slowly) Working

I haven't had the time to comment on President Bush's speech on Iraq last week at my alma mater, but the one thing that struck me was the criticism by the left that it was "nothing new." That is one thing we agree on, since Bush has been explaining the strategy in Iraq for some time. It's just that the media hasn't been covering it until the Democrats made it issue number one (which it is). Interestingly, the political strategy for the Democrats has backfired, since they cannot give the American people a coherent alternative strategy for victory. A few call for immediate pull-out (aka surrender), such as John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi, but others realize that is bad policy, if not good (Democratic) politics. Meanwhile, Bush is getting an audience he couldn't get before, since the MSM is forced to cover his remarks more widely. And simply put, his strategy is a good one, and is working. Jack Kelly, in this RealClearPolitics commentary agrees, and lays out the unfolding victory:

The security situation has improved chiefly because there are now so many Iraqi troops in the field. The president said 80 Iraqi battalions (500-800 men each) are now in the fight, and 3,500 new police officers are being trained every 10 weeks.

The increasing number and skill of the Iraqi soldiers and cops means that they can garrison communities once they have been cleared of insurgents.

"Clear and hold" is having a powerfully deleterious effect on the resistance, because it means the terrorists (largely) are unable to recover lost ground. The harmful effect on the resistance will multiply in the months to come, as more Iraqi units join the fight, and existing units gain more experience.
While the process is not as quick as everyone would like, that is not the basis for constructive criticism of the war effort. If the Democrats had some of that, we would all be better off.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Why Iraq?

Of the many arguments made about the Iraq war, including by many of my commenters, is why not attack North Korea? Or Iran? There were lots of reasons for choosing Iraq as the next battle in the War on Terror, and the fact that an invasion of Iraq, even with the unforeseen diffculties, would be easier than an invasion of NK or Iran was an obvious one. Jonah Goldberg makes this point in The Corner on NRO:

Of course costs factor into any calculation about when and where to deploy troops. It seems to me this a profoundly obvious point most Americans understand but many elites do not. You do what you can, where you can. If you can't succeed, it is the height of stupidity to try.

No Nuclear Taboo for Terrorists

This article was written by my friend and DSS classmate Kip Holdridge, and is an excellent rebuttle of the idea of nuclear deterrence with rogue states and terrorists:

The October 24, 2005, edition of The Wall Street Journal contained an opinion piece titled “The Nuclear Taboo” by Thomas C. Schelling. In it, Mr. Schelling argues that a universally held taboo has emerged concerning nuclear weapons due to their lack of employment over the past six decades. It is true that on several occasions the nuclear option has been considered seriously and in each case the leadership decided against it. However, sixty years of not using nuclear weapons does not, in itself, prove the existence of a universally held taboo against their use.

Looking towards the future, Schelling identifies Iran, North Korea, and terrorist organizations as concerns the United States may have to face in a nuclear context. The solution, according to Schelling, is to get these actors to buy into the notion of deterrence. Schelling appears almost comfortable with nuclear proliferation under these terms, believing these state actors would never conceivably divert nuclear weapons to non-state actors, and that it would not be in the interests of either to use them. He states, “Nuclear warheads should be too precious to give away or to sell, too precious to ‘waste’ killing people when they could, held in reserve, make the U.S., or Russia, or any other nation, hesitant to consider military action.” The problem with such a notion is that Schelling assumes that these actors will buy into an American style of deterrence. Although the United States has appreciated the influence that can be wielded by possessing nuclear weapons, these other actors may not be interested in this same type of influence; to assume that they would be and to discount automatically all other possibilities is foolish.

Schelling continues his line of reasoning by extending American style deterrence thinking to terrorist organizations, by stating, “They will discover, over weeks of arguing that the most effective use of the bomb, from a terrorist perspective, will be for influence.” If a terrorist organization can demonstrate possession of a nuclear weapon—which Schelling believes they can—he believes it will give the terrorists a status similar to that of a state under which it can engage in deterrence. There are two problems with this line of reasoning.

First, Schelling predicates deterrence on a terrorist organization demonstrating possession of a nuclear weapon, which is necessary. However, a terrorist organization has no way of demonstrating possession of a nuclear device without using it. A video released on the Internet of terrorist leaders crowded around what appears to be a nuclear warhead proves nothing, except perhaps that the Al Sahab Institute for Media Productions has a good prop department. What appears to be a nuclear device on the outside may be empty on the inside: a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Statements of possession likewise have no inherent credibility. The United States, indeed the world, would be skeptical of any such announcement, and terrorist organizations realize this. Further, since they are not states, terrorists cannot—nor would they want to—organize a “viewing” of the device for the leadership of the world’s leading states. Such a viewing would compromise the security and covertness of the organization, opening itself up to attack by U.S. forces. Thus, the only way for a terrorist organization to demonstrate credibly possession of a nuclear weapon is to use it, which Schelling says they will never do.

Second, Schelling believes that engaging in a deterrence relationship with the United States and other nuclear powers is the best and most logical conclusion for a terrorist organization, and one that they will come to on their own. Terrorist organizations have shown no aversion to using chemical and biological agents in the past, and al Qaeda, the unnamed terrorist organization to which Schelling alludes, devised a way to turn commercial aircraft into their own version of a weapon of mass destruction. Just because no terrorist organization has obtained a nuclear weapon does not mean that none are interested in obtaining one with the intent to use it against the United States or our allies. Deterrence is not compatible with the aims of terrorist organizations—al Qaeda in particular—and therefore would not interest them. Terrorist organizations seek nuclear weapons not for the influence that stems from deterrence, but for the influence that stems from detonating them over the world’s high-population centers.

Further, the United States would not—and definitely should not—allow a terrorist organization to engage us in a deterrence relationship. Deterring a state and deterring a terrorist organization are two very different things, despite what Mr. Schelling may think. A state has a bureaucratic structure that provides a degree of rationality and internal controls. Terrorist organizations lack a large bureaucratic structure and are largely under the influence of what would be called an authoritarian leader if the terrorist organization were a state. States also have a vested interest in protecting their population and territory during a nuclear confrontation, concerns not shared by terrorist organizations. Because of these differences between states and terrorist organizations, the traditional model of deterrence cannot be applied. If we engaged in such a “deterrence” relationship, the United States would not be able to deter a terrorist organization, and the terrorist organization would simply hold the United States hostage.

The existence of a nuclear taboo for state actors is an issue open to debate. However, Schelling’s arguments—which are developed with state actors in mind—do not extend to terrorist organizations. The actions of terrorist organizations, past and present, demonstrate no evidence of a nuclear taboo for terrorists.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Tortuous Debate

Let me state right up front, I hate the idea of torture. As a member of the armed services, I am sensitive to the argument that if we torture our enemies, they will torture us. And I share the concern held by many that torture is unreliable. However, the current McCain amendment that would outlaw all torture, all the time, troubles me even more. Finally, I have read a commentary on the subject that well articulates the issue, and why, at least in some cases, we need to countenance torture. Charles Krauthammer's article, The Truth about Torture, explains why we need to debate this issue in terms of reality, and not on pious absolutisms, such as in McCain's bill:

Torture is not always impermissible. However rare the cases, there are circumstances in which, by any rational moral calculus, torture not only would be permissible but would be required (to acquire life-saving information). And once you've established the principle, to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, all that's left to haggle about is the price. In the case of torture, that means that the argument is not whether torture is ever permissible, but when--i.e., under what obviously stringent circumstances: how big, how imminent, how preventable the ticking time bomb.
To me, torture is akin to killing in self-defense. Murder is always wrong, but the law recognizes that one has the right to self-defense, and that it is permissible to kill in order to save lives. Even a single life. Thus, how can we argue that torture is never permissible to save lives (one, thousands, perhaps millions), but to kill is allowed? Obviously, killing in self-defense is an extremely limited legal concept, so as to prevent its abuse, as should any legal torture, but it does need to be allowed when needed.

UPDATE: Richard John Neuhaus provides a counter-argument (scroll down). Also compelling, yet accepts that exceptions must be made.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Are We Winning?

Victor Davis Hanson, in an article on National Review Online, explains the dilemma for Democrats, torn as they are between their instinct to cut and run, as expressed by Rep. Murtha, and the political calculus of betting against a winner:

For now Democrats stammer, sputter, and go the Bush shoulda / coulda route - not quite ready to take the McGovern sharp turn, forever waiting on polls and events on the ground in Iraq, always unsure whether peace and democracy will come before the 2,500th American fatality.

Yet as they hedge - on television praising Congressmen Murtha who advocates withdrawal, but making sure they vote overwhelmingly on the record to reject his advice - they should consider some critical questions.

First, are the metrics of this war in the terrorists' or our favor? Are the Iraqi security forces growing or shrinking? Are elections postponed or on schedule? Are Europe, Jordan, Lebanon, and others more or less sympathetic to a war against Islamic terrorism in Iraq? Are bin Laden, Zawahiri, and Zarqawi more or less popular or secure after we removed Saddam? Is al Qaeda in a strengthened or weakened position? Is the Arab world more or less receptive to democracy in the Gulf, Egypt, Lebanon, and the West Bank? And is the United States more or less vulnerable to a terrorist attack as we go into our fifth year since September 11?
I think the answers to all of these questions are currently in our favor, though not necessarily decisively so. But leaving now could only tip the answers in the favor of the enemy.

Successful THAAD Flight Test

In another test of the Ballistic Missile Defense System, a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor was successfully flight tested yesterday. This is the second successful test for a missile defense system, following the successful Aegis SM-3 intercept last week. This test was just of the interceptor, with no target missile involved, but it is an important step in getting THAAD back on track, after numerous failures in the 1990's. THAAD and Aegis are just two of the critical layers in an effective BMDS (PDF) needed to defend ourselves from ballistic missiles.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Silence is Deafening

I'm sure you have all heard this important news today:

The Missile Defense Agency and the U.S. Navy today successfully conducted a significant test of the Aegis missile defense system. The test involved for the first time a “separating” target, meaning that the target warhead separated from its booster.
No? Well, if the test had been unsuccessful, I'm willing to bet that it would have gotten much more airplay. The Navy component of the Ballistic Missile Defense System is the unheralded real success story of BMDS. While the ground interceptors have received much criticism, some of it earned, the Aegis system has performd nearly flawlessly, with 6 out of 7 tests a success. Once these are deployed in numbers, and if a space component can ever be deployed, we just might someday be close to Ronald Reagan's dream of being safe from missile attack.

From the Front

Sgt. Hook has asked for this to be spread far and wide, and for good reason. Here is the view from the front, which you aren't getting from the media:

My fellow Americans, I have a task for those with the courage and fortitude to take it. I have a message that needs not fall on deaf ears. A vision the blind need to see. I am not a political man nor one with great wisdom. I am just a soldier who finds himself helping rebuild a country that he helped liberate a couple years ago.

I have watched on television how the American public questions why their mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters are fighting and dying in a country 9000 miles away from their own soil. Take the word of a soldier, for that is all I am, that our cause is a noble one. The reason we are here is one worth fighting for. A cause that has been the most costly and sought after cause in our small span of existence on our little planet. Bought in blood and paid for by those brave enough to give the ultimate sacrifice to obtain it. A right that is given to every man, woman, and child I believe by God. I am talking of freedom.
Read it all.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Who Needs the French?

Democrat John Murtha from Pennsylvania has called for surrender:

My plan calls:
To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq
Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.
Murtha has historically been supportive of the military, and he cloaks his surrender in terms of saving the military and its families. Like I said before, bringing the troops home now may be seen by some as supporting the troops, but it dishonors the dead, and while it may save some lives in the short term, it will cost far more in the long term. If our enemies are proved right in their conviction that America doesn't have the stomach for a fight, and will run home whenever things get rough, then we can only expect more attacks, and more dead.

George Washington said, “To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.” We must rebuild our Army.
Murtha wants us to pull out, so we can prepare for the next war??? How about winning the one we are in now? Deterring war is great, but once the bullets start flying, we must do everything we can to win. Yes, the war has taken a toll on our troops and their equipment, but that is sort of like saying we should always practice, but never play the game, since someone might get hurt.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Why We Fight

Another of the left's current arguments is that since Saddam didn't have stockpiles of WMD, the war was a mistake, and of course, George Bush knew this going in, but lied about it. But Bush used many rationales for the war, although admittedly WMD was the single biggest issue. But as Bush said, even knowing what we know now, he would still have made the same decision, since the other reasons are all still valid. Deputy National Security Advisor, and former DSS professor, J.D. Crouch makes this point in a clear and concise editorial in USA Today:

Moreover, the joint resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq — which 77 senators of both parties voted for — explicitly cited Saddam's support for terrorism, his repeated violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, his brutality against his own people, and the promotion of democracy as justifications for the use of military force.
The WMD intelligence was wrong, and the president has acknowledged that. But it is equally wrong to ignore the threat Saddam posed. The world is safer today because Saddam is no longer in power.

Jonah's Challenge

In a recent Corner post on NRO, Jonah Goldberg submitted the following question:

Does EJ (Dionne) think Bush is lying when he says that showing a lack of resolve is harmful to troop morale and/or encouraging to our enemies? Or does EJ think it is true but nobody should say it?

I mean that seems like an important part of the equation, doesn't it?

Moreover, this seems like exactly the sort of thing military bloggers should address in a serious and thoughtful way.
John of Argghhh! put out a general request for answers from the Milblog community to Jonah's question. Argghhh! laid out their views, and I'd like to formally end my hiatus to likewise respond.

There are several aspects to this issue, but one central point is the distinction between supporting our troops, and supporting the war. Many anti-war protesters claim to support the troops so much, they want them home now so they won't continue to die. Democrats seem to be taking up the same mantra, in calling for timetables to bring the troops home. But could you imagine the same arguments made during WWII? Mistakes have been made, but mistakes are always made in war. In December 1944, we thought the boys would be home for Christmas, but our intel totally missed the impending Battle of the Bulge, which cost thousands of lives, and prolonged the war by six months. Not to mention the failure to prevent Pearl Harbor. The recurring theme is a lack of good intel which has cost us dearly, just as on 9/11 and in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

As for casualties, Okinawa was one of the deadliest campaigns in WWII, yet came just prior to victory, which often seems to be the case. If 2,000 sacrifices in this war is cause to abandon the effort, perhaps we should have packed up for home after the Bulge and Okinawa, on the eve of victory?

Finally, as for the difference between supporting our troops, and supporting the war, well, there really isn't a difference, as I have previously argued. You can't do one without the other, despite whether you supported the war or not in the weeks prior. Once the fighting starts, victory is the only option.

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